September 30, 2010

California


A few days ago, David Brooks wrote about the good old days in mid-20th Century California when Statal Greatness governors did Big Things. 

Yet, the actual politicians are of minor importance. Of course it was easier to be a leader of California in 1950 when the population of California was under 11 million than in 2010 when it's around 37 million.

As the state gets more crowded, the cost and slowness of infrastructure projects goes through the roof. For example, the only new University of California campus to open in a generation and a half, UC Merced, took from 1985 to 2002 to construct. The whole campus had to be moved when an endangered minnow was discovered on its site. And that’s way out in godforsaken Merced. If they’d tried to build the new UC campus where students would actually want to go, such as in the wine country, they’d still be in the permitting stage.

This kind of thing is inevitable as population density goes up.

It was totally obvious to everybody in 1950 that California was the best deal in the whole world, so people flooded in. That kind of deal can't go on forever, however, and now California isn't such a good deal. 

The big problem with California today is that an awful lot of the population of California can't afford to live in California.

The one big change that could have been made would have been to cut way down on immigration after 1965 so that American citizens, rather than random foreigners, got most of the subsequent benefit of populating California, as they had gotten most of the huge benefits from moving to California in 1848-1965, That would have slowed down overpopulation and fulfilled the Preamble to the Constitution that explains that the purpose of the federal government is to promote the general welfare of “ourselves and our posterity.”

64 comments:

Anonymous said...

That's just crazy talk.

The notion that the American polity is designed to advantage the American citizen is parochialist and denies the rich the benefit of their influence.

Dutch Boy said...

I took a vacation this summer that took me over much of the state. It is still gorgeous when you get away from the third-worldized big cities. There is a lot of ruin in a nation and Rome did not fall in a day.

Pedantic Twerp said...

Sorry Steve, I absolutely hate to nitpick, but the last sentence says "ourselves and out posterity" when it should read "ourselves and our posterity." Most if not all iSteve fans will ignore the typo because they recognize the phrase, but new readers (and heaven knows America needs more iSteve readers) may not understand your crucial conclusion. Could you fix it please so the Johnny Appleseeds among us can tell their friends that they NEED to read you and forward this column as an example?

department11 said...

It's true that a lot people living in Cal. can't afford to live there, but the interesting question is why? For example, the reason that I can't afford to live here is that in the '70's, when I was a teenager, somehow I imbibed the "making money is bad," or "don't sell out" meme, which was then making the rounds. And I didn't even have political parents or friends. I don't really understand how I fell into an anti-business posture, but I did, and by the time I woke up it was too late. I should have become an insurance defense lawyer when I had the chance. At least I'd have gotten flush during the '80's and early '90's.

BR said...

"the purpose of the federal government is to promote the general welfare of 'ourselves and out posterity.'"
That's the practical effect of modern policy, at least the ouT posterity portion.

Anonymous said...

I skimmed Brooks' article and the comments and did not read anything that mentioned immigration in general and illegal immigration in particular. How can one have a discussion about the demise of California without mentioning the largest migration of third world people into a first world country/state in history?

Brent Lane said...

You may already know about this site, Steve, but your readers might find it enlightening:

CA Historical Budget Data

Download the "State of California Revenues, 1950-51 to 2010-11" spreadsheet. It allows you to pick any year out of the last 6 decades and compare it with the current budget, broken down in major categories of income and outflow.

Of course none of the numbers are adjusted for inflation, but in keeping with your original post, consider this comparison:

CA Population, 1950 - 10,586,223
CA Population, 2009 (est) - 36,961,664
Increase: 349.1%

CA Gov't Expenditures, 1950 - $ 672,065,000
CA Gov't Expenditures, 2009 - $86,521,193,000
Increase: 12,873.9%

CA Per Capita Expenditures, 1950 - $ 63.48
CA Per Capita Expenditures, 2009 - $2340.84
Increase: 3,687.5%

Thank goodness that the state is spending about 15% less now than it was just 3 years ago, or these numbers would be worse.

Lugash. said...

I am Lugash.

Typo Steve. "Ourselves and OUR posterity".

We've populated ourselves out of prosperity though.

I am Lugash.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised that you don't mention how race factors into this.

Lugash said...

I am Lugash.

Another reason for the slowing of government works: the entire process is corrupted in a more diffuse way. You've got to pay off nearly every stakeholder through "campaign contributions" rather than running a bag of cash down to Jesse Unruh's office.

I am Lugash.

carol said...

I was born there in 1949. After my parents broke up, when I was 2, my mother would drive me all over hell and gone, and having no onboard DVD player I just looked out the window at everything..it was beautiful. Until about 1970.

Bantam said...

Joe Sobran passed away.

Here's one of his seminal writings.

Wanderer said...

Brent Lane, here are the inflation-adjusted figures:

INFLATION ADJUSTED
------------------------
CA Population, 1950 - 10,586,223
CA Population, 2009 (est) - 36,961,664
Increase: 349.1%

CA Gov't Expenditures, 1950 (in 2009 dollars) - $5,924,376,632
CA Gov't Expenditures, 2009 (in 2009 dollars) - $86,521,193,000
Increase: 1,460%

CA Per Capita Expenditures, 1950 - $ 559.63
CA Per Capita Expenditures, 2009 - $2340.84
Increase: 418%
------------------------

I wonder what these extra $1,800 per head are being spent on?

It's strange to learn where government money actually goes, as in the shock when people learn that 44% of the entire federal budget goes to Social-Security and Medicare...

Anonymous said...

"I was born there in 1949. After my parents broke up, when I was 2, my mother would drive me all over hell and gone, and having no onboard DVD player I just looked out the window at everything..it was beautiful. Until about 1970."

I first came to CA in 1984, right from an east coast university. It still looked like heaven on earth, to me at least, especially the South Bay and the area around Santa Cruz. I swore I would do whatever it took to settle here and own property. Now that I do, I feel like an idiot. Only in CA can you have a $240K household income and feel like the working poor. Thank God for the modest bits of culture still clinging to some of the larger cities.

Piper said...

California is over. I remember paradise... but the human tsunami washed it away and now the happy California exists only in memories and dreams and old movies and novels and the occasional museum cubby.

In another forty years everyone who personally remembers the good California will be dead or nearly. No one will see its like again.

I recommend those of you who still dwell in the place where California used to be, move somewhere else so you only see the happy California in your mind instead of its sad successor through your windshield.

Maybe one of your kids will watch Adam-12 or something and marvel that you could frighten people in the 1960's with stuff that counts as soothing relief today.

Anonymous said...

OFF-TOPIC WHISKEY ALERT: Someone at Yahoo is once again pushing the bi-racial envelope wit' da' white chicks.

[Original JPG here; phenomenon previously noted here.]

Anonymous said...

Oh wow, that's terrible about Sobran.

He was really awesome on the the authorship question.

And he may have even discovered a new set of sonnets by "Shakespeare".

[PS: Bantam, your HREFs have some extra quote marks in them.]

Anonymous said...

"It still looked like heaven on earth, to me at least, especially the South Bay and the area around Santa Cruz."

It was good there still..I was in socal, and the smog was moving across the valleys pretty badly by 1970. Just unbearable. And the freeways had multiplied and the population had grown accordingly.

In the 50s it was still bright and sunny, except right downtown where the interchange was.

Anonymous said...

"That's the practical effect of modern policy, at least the ouT posterity portion."

"Out Prosperity!" would work as well.

Wilson said...

"A scrimmage in a Border Station
A canter down some dark defile
Two thousand pounds of education
Drops to a ten-rupee jezail." - Rudyard Kipling

The above quote comes to mind upon hearing that the gubernatorial campaign of Meg Whitman, who is worth $1.3 billion and spent $120 million of it on her campaign, has been caught short by the public accusations of a former illegal immigrant housekeeper.

Anonymous said...

David Brooks, what a miserable excuse for a conservative columnist at the New York Times.

Brent Lane said...

Thanks, Wanderer, for the context (and the Inflation Calculator site!)

The percentages of the spending increases are reduced from utterly incomprehensible to merely obscene.

Like one of the anonymii posted earlier, I too noticed the total absence of immigration in Brooks' column. Which is not terribly surprising, considering the source.

Anonymous said...

wow! that sobran article was an eye opener- thanks

Chief Seattle said...

It's very true Steve. I was lucky enough to live near the hills of Carlsbad for a couple of years before they were bulldozed and raped for subdivisions. One of the most beautiful places on earth, bulldozed so a bunch of white people could escape the third worlders who took over the parts of San Diego and L.A. that they used to inhabit. Of course now there's no place left to go in California, at least in the temperate zone.

eh said...

The big problem with California today...

The big problem with California today is the same as it was in 2000, when the census showed that one third of the adults in the San Francisco Bay Area (e.g.) were born in another country: there are just too many foreigners.

Eric said...

It's not just that things get more expensive as the population grows. If you can count on a growing population and a growing economy (and a I would argue that was the case until about Pete Wilson), then it actually makes sense to issue bonds for new infrastructure.

Once the population levels out any additional borrowing will come back to bite you, as it has bitten California.

Eric said...

I took a vacation this summer that took me over much of the state. It is still gorgeous when you get away from the third-worldized big cities. There is a lot of ruin in a nation and Rome did not fall in a day.

I agree. Not every part of the state has become TJ North like you see in the Southern part.

Anonymous said...

Up in Novato, a city on the northern edge of Marin County, the place beyond the Goldengate bridge, the natives are getting restless. This traditionally (almost) all white city, the former bedroom community for San Francisco Police and Fire before it got too pricey, Novato is now getting pushed by the State to allow "affordable housing". Developers get tax breaks for including "affordable housing" in their otherwise upscale developments so they build them eagerly but there are not enough poor people in Marin desperate enough to live next to other poor people so to fill the vacant units they have to import the poor from Richmond and other low income, high crime cities outside the county. The result is CoCs in an otherwise white suburban bedroom community. The interesting part is that the locals, even the bleeding hearts, are banding together to stop any further expansion of the madness. Perhaps this "stand" is the result of over population in that, sooner or later, you can't move away from the problem. The problem now moves to you, enabled by "well meaning" people who are still rich enough to be unaffected by barbarians massing at the gate:)

Anonymous said...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXEkjo5Imic

I think this is relevant.

Anonymous said...

Shades of Milton's 'Paradise Lost'.
Only in this case the Devil (ie seducer) was the political class, tempting Eve (dumb white Californians) with gifts of cheap strawberries and tomatoes, with a bit of yard work and baby-sitting thrown in.
Some bargain.

Laban said...

So John Mayall might not find it as appealing in 2009 as he did in 1969.

"Rock-blues singer John Mayall's three-story home was nicknamed "The Brain Damage Club," because of the great parties thrown there. A private movie-viewing room and swimming pool built into the side of the hill made the house ideal for barbecues and parties.
Mayall and a few friends were watching a movie in the house when the blaze started. They were able to escape, but the house with a film library of 2,000 hours of video-taped movies, many valuable 16th century antiques, a pornography collection dating back to the 1800s and rock'n'roll diaries spanning 25 years, was destroyed.

All that remained was a charred foundation and a hand-painted swimming pool, littered with soot and ash. Two cars, including a restored 1958 Volvo belonging to Mayall's son Jason, melted completely in the fire.

"We used to have some great barbecues here," said a blonde in clog shoes and shorts, as she looked down on the remains of the Mayall home. "People used to jump out of the third story into the swimmingpool," she added, looking at a bedroom fireplace, the only remnant of the third floor."

Anonymous said...

"Out Prosperity!" would work as well.

"For great prosperity!" - that would work too, but only from a comedic angle.

Frank said...

New Jersey is similar to California in that natives have been leaving and being replaced with foreigners (so much so that this state remains the most densely-populated one in the union). The one advantage we have here economically is that while you are losing whites and replacing them with 5th grade dropout Mexicans, our native whites are getting replaced with high Q Koreans, better than average IQ Indians, and, to a lesser extent, high-IQ eastern Europeans.

Anonymous said...

Funny but that's not been my reaction at all. Last Saturday morning I got lost and found myself driving across Oakland. The top was down and the sun was shining. I was stunned by the beauty of the city and the cityscape.

I came to California in the mid sixties. I went first to LA and couldn't see the mountains that were quite near - too much smog. I could however see that everyone had red eyes.

When I settled in San Francisco I went up to Twin Peaks and saw the smog being blown over to Oakland. I vowed never to live in such a place. But a decade or two later the smog was gone - and I live in Oakland, beautiful Oakland.

When I was a kid growing up in Arlington my cousin Willy and I went out riding our bikes one afternoon. Because I had a naughty streak I left my mother a note saying that we were going to go swimming in the Potomac. It had the desired effect - she panicked. Swimming in the Potomac in those days would have been certain death. It was an open sewer.

Now that there are no longer any significant problems with the environment, everybody worries. Go figure.

The land and the environment are great and are if anything getting better.

Albertosaurus

Anonymous said...

I expect some sort of political reversal in the next few years - something like what happened to communism in the late eighties. No one saw it coming and what had seemed to be a permanent way of thinking was swept away overnight.

Meg Whitman is in the news I see today for having an illegal alien as a servant. This is because we have no effective domestic robots yet. We have industrial robots, we have agricultural robots and I hear we will soon have sex robots but we still need illegals to mop, sweep and scrub our houses. When there is a half way decent robotic maid the current accepting public attitude towards illegals will quickly turn. The public will want the fence and deportation. It won't matter what business owners who rely on cheap labor think or want.

Another triggering event might be some sort of Islamic nuclear attack. Just a few years ago when I speculated about such a thing on another blog I was called a crazy extremist and banned. I see in Woodward's new book that Obama and his advisers now consider such an event possible or even probable.

That sort of event could also get the fence built.

We are in the middle (or at the beginning?) of a major economic depression. Public opinion can change rapidly in such crises. The Wiemar Republic became National Socialism at least partly because of inflation. Who knows what direction we will go if unemployment stays up, foreclosures accelerate and liberal government actions continue to be ineffective.

Hitler arose by blaming the Jews. Maybe someone will start having mass rallies and blaming the Hispanics. It could happen. We seem to be in a age of mass rallies.

The whole Tea Party thing sprang up overnight and was just about totally unexpected. Glen Beck - the goofiest TV personality since Chuck Barris - surprised everyone with a half million demonstrators in front of the Lincoln Memorial. The Tea Party a leaderless political movement. This suggests to me that the tinder is dry. Imagine what happens if a leader emerges.

So I don't worry too much about the overpopulation of California by illegals. Populations that grow fast can shrink fast too. Just two generations ago the trucks came out and hauled off the Japanese. They were citizens and law abiding. They also confiscated Joe DiMaggio's family fishing boats. No one saw that coming but very few objected at the time. I don't think it takes much to get the public to accept mass deportations of illegal aliens or Mexican drug gangs.

I'm not advocating mass deportations but we shouldn't forget that the political situation in America today is unstable. Things will certainly change.

Albertosaurus

eh said...

I'm surprised that you don't mention how race factors into this.

I did it for him, more or less: nearly 100% of California's population growth over the last 40 years has been due to immigrants and their progeny, nearly 100% of whom are non-white.

Mr Sailer is a 'citizenist', and seems a little squishy on the 'National Question'; certainly on 'White Nationalism'. One sometimes gets the impression all of this -- this race-replacing human tsunami -- would be OK with him, as long as all of these people were, or became, nice 'citizens'.

Anonymous said...

also went from a relatively republican state to.....

Bantam said...

Joe Sobran passed away.
Here's one of his seminal writings.

Corrected Links.

Thanks, Anonymous.

jody said...

is there really any point to writing about this topic anymore steve?

california is mexico. it's over. time to move on to other topics.

Big Bill said...

@department11:

Sadly, back in the 70s your female peers picked up the "marriage-and-making-babies-are-evil-snares-laid-by-wicked-patriarchal-oppressors" meme, too.

Mexicans do not seem to be afflicted by such suicidal nonsense.

Anonymous said...

"Perhaps this "stand" is the result of over population in that, sooner or later, you can't move away from the problem. "

Hispanics in the CA state legislature regard it as their holy mission to force all white communities to sponsor the growth of a proximate poor Hispanic population by constructing public schools and affordable housing. Once a substantial population of poor move nearby, it's easy for their political leaders to gin up votes for a never ending cycle of construction bonds and tax increases. This kind of economic hostage taking, otherwise known as racial socialism, has been going on in the Bay Area for quite a while now, especially in Berkeley and West Contra Costa County. Welfare, health care, and law enforcement costs for underclass Mexicans significantly factor into the obscene cost of living, particularly burdensome to those struggling in the ever shrinking middle class.

Anonymous said...

For the last 70 or so years, on average, California has also received about $5 from the federal government for every dollar it put into the federal government from taxes etc.. This comes in in the way of defense contracts and other things. This was at the expense of the so-called rust belt states who got pennies on the dollar during this time. Yes it was easy to be governor of California back in the day!

John Craig said...

A requiem for what, back in the 60's, used to be the coolest state in the nation:

California was Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters. It was the whole surfer culture. It was where the Summer of Love took place, in 1967. It was Venice Beach, with its muscle culture. It was the Santa Clara Swim Club, with Don Schollander and Mark Spitz. It was Chuck Yeager breaking the sound barrier up near Muroc, in the high desert. It was Topanga Canyon and Malibu and Sunset Boulevard, where the rich and famous played. It was San Simeon, where the really rich played.

The Doors, the Beach Boys, and the Mamas and Papas were all California groups. So were Buffalo Springfield, Big Brother and the Holding Company (with Janis Joplin), and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young. California was where the Fillmore West was, and where the Monterey Pop Festival took place.

Even Charlie Manson represented a certain California brand of sensationalism. Yes, he was nothing but a stunted little sociopath who had spent over half his life in jail; but the way the media semi-glamorized him, he came across at the time like a demonic cult figure with great personal charisma. He was bad, but in a very California sort of way.

California was also the most physically beautiful part of the country, with the most geographical variety. It had that long coastline, which you could drive the length of. It was Redwood National Forest, Kings Canyon National Park, Death Valley, Half Moon Bay, Monterey, Big Sur, Yosemite, Mt. Shasta, and the Sierras.

The mountains and coastline are still there. But a certain spirit seems to be missing. What you hear from California these days is not the powerful voice of Jim Morrison or the beautiful melodies of the Beach Boys. Instead you hear the whining voices and lies of Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer and Henry Waxman and Dianne Feinstein.

What you hear about California is the busted, ineffective state government. Pension bloat. A state Supreme Court which is rigidly political correct. The Crips and Bloods. Illegal aliens taxing the infrastructure to the breaking point.

The national parks are now used by the Mexican drug gangs to grow marijuana, and they leave their toxic processing chemicals behind. It's virtually impossible to get into Yosemite at peak season. And the freeways, built to accomodate the population in 1945, are always crowded.

It's proven too much for even The Terminator to handle.

The culture which produced the Beach Boys is pretty much dead. Those transplanted Dust Bowl Okies, who would go for broke in so many different ways before, now seem just broken. And the original pioneer spirit has either been driven out of the state or cowed into politically correct submission.

Dan Kurt said...

re: "Bantam said...
Joe Sobran passed away.

Here's one of his seminal writings."

His link is broken:

Here it is: http://tinyurl.com/2cco654


Dan Kurt

MQ said...

Not every part of the state has become TJ North like you see in the Southern part.

conservationists (and liberals) do deserve credit for restricting development in so much of the state and creating so many wildernesses. Most of the coast has been saved (except for the areas right around LA and SF Bay), and of course most of the Sierras as well. Drove up housing prices, but saved natural beauty.

And the northern third or so of the state -- once you get significantly north of Santa Rosa/Sacramento -- remains fairly unpopulated, although this is rough and rugged and has more in common with Oregon than the paradisical parts of Southern California.

The Anti-Gnostic said...

Hey Steve. Mexicans apparently take their borders a lot more seriously than we do.

Pirates shoot American tourist in Mexican waters.

helene edwards said...

A picture of Cypress Point isn't really appropriate to the issue. Better a photo of a clean, orderly suburb, like Daly City in 1980. Incidentally, does anyone remember Louis Gossett, Jr. in The Laughing Policeman? He tells a small-time crook to leave town, "and I don't wanna see you in Richmond or Daly City either, "because I go to those places too." If only.

Jim O said...

Here's a better link (I hope) for Sobran's For Fear of the Jews column. He paid a huge professional and personal price for expressing views like these, not all of which I agree with. But they are certainly not "anti-semetic" views, unless his proposal in this column for the redefintion of the term is to be accepted.

He was also very convincing on the Shakespeare Authorship controversy. He was probably, during his time, the world's premiere advocate for the Oxfordian view.

Anonymous said...

California seems to have been destroyed by an alliance of the rich and the poor against the middle class. It's not a formal alliance, but a de facto one. The folks in wealthy Marin County happily vote for people who want to spread the urban poor into middle-class suburbs. They feel better about themselves, and then go on living in happy ignorance of the cruelty that they inflict on their lessers.

There are countless numbers of people who have seen their California neighborhoods turn from quiet middle-class bedroom communities into crowded welfare-class immigrant neighborhoods. Some escape, but others are trapped. They can't afford to move anywhere within driving distance of their jobs, because their homes are now worth less than anything in a still-decent area. And if they are retired, they often have to weigh living near their children and friends against moving to a safer place.

Many California neighborhoods (and whole towns) now consist of a few elderly Americans living in houses that they have owned for years, surrounded by houses occupied by young immigrant underclass families. The demographic reality is right before everyone's eyes.

But the people in Marin never see this. One wonders if they would care if they did.

helene edwards said...

To John Craig:

I can tell you about Kings Canyon. Was there about a year ago and the parking lots were full of Mexicans blaring their car speakers. I'd never before been to a national park where there was any noise at all.

Dutch Boy said...

I liked Sobran but I don't think he ever fully recovered from his Randoid youthful ideology (which affected his views on immigration).

alonzo portfolio said...

Thanks to Jim O. for the Sobran link. I've always been interested in the break between Sobran and other conservatives. It seems to me that with respect to Israel, Sobran talks out of both sides of his mouth at the same time. First he says that 9/11 is the proof that the interests of Israel and the U.S. can diverge. Later, he says that his problem at National Review was that Israel never came in for any criticism, and even friends of Israel ought to be able to criticize it at least occasionally. These positions cannot co-exist. If 9/11 points up a conflict between Israeli and U.S. interests, it can only be because Arabs see U.S. support as what ensures Israel's continued existence in their midst. But by definition, even plentiful criticism of this or that Israeli policy, from whatever corner, does not affect the question of support for that existence.

Anonymous said...

Laban, the second I saw Steve's picture and post title, Mayall's song came into my mind.

Anonymous said...

is there really any point to writing about this topic anymore steve?

california is mexico. it's over. time to move on to other topics.


I understand your 'beating a dead horse' take on Steve's post, but for people who lived there during the heyday, in what was certainly a contender for one of the greatest places on Earth, it's not over, because the grief is still acute. It's like saying to someone who lost a loved one ages ago, "Get over it, already!" You're ready to move on, but he isn't. Neither are a lot of people with the same memories. Playing arm chair psych, when someone brings up the same thing over and over, it means he hasn't reconciled it. Steve hasn't reconciled it, I haven't, a lot of people haven't, and you just have to indulge these posts that I, for one, really appreciate. If you're bored, scroll on to another post.

Anonymous said...

"The one big change that could have been made would have been to cut way down on immigration after 1965 so that American citizens, rather than random foreigners"

Exactly,Why do all these foreigners get to live on San Francisco and the other cities. Of course there are the Hispanics and Asian foreigners and their children who were born here,but I called a company in San Francisco and an Irishman answered. I have also talked to people from the Middle East there.

It's a joke. Why give away our best state and also ruin it with too many expressways. LA used to have an excellent railway system.

Anonymous said...

Instead you hear the whining voices and lies of Nancy Pelosi and Barbara Boxer and Henry Waxman and Dianne Feinstein.

Help me out here: Is Nancy Pelosi supposed to be the token Scots-Irish-woman on that list?

Anonymous said...

http://www.cnbc.com/id/39458842/

Hahaha. New face of Goldman Sachs. Hiding Jewish power behind a clean-cut black guy. Sound familiar?

Anonymous said...

California is a real tragedy in terms of what it COULD have been like today. Had there been no introduction of the 1965 immigration act and had the borders been properly secured with none of this anchor baby nonsense, Californias' population today would have stabilized at about 22 million people. Much less gridlock, cheaper homes, more open spaces, smaller schools, better environment. Better off in every possible way. Such an avoidable tragedy....

Silver said...

I liked Sobran but I don't think he ever fully recovered from his Randoid youthful ideology (which affected his views on immigration).

Yeah, I'm sure it was his Randoid ideology that affected his views on immigration rather than his Ukranian immigrant ethnic upbringing.

David said...

>the reason that I can't afford to live here is that in the '70's, when I was a teenager, somehow I imbibed the "making money is bad," or "don't sell out" meme, which was then making the rounds.[...] I should have become an insurance defense lawyer when I had the chance. At least I'd have gotten flush<

Not necessarily. You never know until you try.

Anonymous said...

There's nothing inherent about high population density that makes infrastructure more expensive. To the contrary, when people live closer together they need less infrastructure per person and waste less land on infrastructure, which offsets the higher cost of land. (Land prices actually wouldn't be THAT much higher in very dense places but for laws restricting how much you can build on any plot of land. See much Ed Glaeser research.)

It's the system of government that we have built that delays even unopposed development for decades and also makes it possible, basically, for any single person to block any project he dislikes, no matter how massive or important, that makes infrastructure construction so costly.

This system, obviously, makes it harder and harder to maintain a functioning government as population increases because there are more lone people to object to any given project.

But it's a huge and ongoing mistake in your thinking to harp on population density, as if it was an inherent problem, like we're all fighting for scarce land resources. We're not. If we build the country to the density of Manhattan we could fit everyone in a space half the size of New Jersey. If we gave everyone in the country a quarter acre we wouldn't take up Texas.

The problem a broken set of development and construction rules that make it very hard for the government to efficiently do things that people on all sides of the political spectrum think it should do, like build infrastructure.

Yes, population growth does exacerbate the problems that we have created. But the it would be far easier to just switch the laws rather than fruitlessly wishing that the population of America was 160 million again, the way it was when you were a kid.

Singapore has higher density than any place in this country other than Manhattan south of Central Park, a higher per capita income and a cost of constructing new infrastructure that's about 90 percent lower than the U.S. because it has a functional system. And it has wonderful, wonderful infrastructure. Our failure is self imposed. Not inherent.

Truth said...

"> I should have become an insurance defense lawyer when I had the chance. At least I'd have gotten flush<"

Well in all fairness, your mom did warn you about your idealistic decision to be a french-fry technician.

Anonymous said...

Great. Singapore can take our 40 million Mexicans, and we're all good.

Anonymous said...

Frank:"New Jersey is similar to California in that natives have been leaving and being replaced with foreigners (so much so that this state remains the most densely-populated one in the union). The one advantage we have here economically is that while you are losing whites and replacing them with 5th grade dropout Mexicans, our native whites are getting replaced with high Q Koreans, better than average IQ Indians, and, to a lesser extent, high-IQ eastern Europeans."

We North Carolinians haven't been exactly thrilled to have the major influx of you New Jerseyites over the past 10-15 years, plus all the displaced Ohioans, Michiganders, Pennsylvanians, etc.