Because California had long been blessed with enormous natural resources and a vital, growing population, it had the wealth to keep the impractical Progressive dream going for decades. It could abs0rb the enormous financial and human losses from almost heroic bureaucratic ineptitude (Chapter 5); laws and regulations that suck the life out of both new and established businesses (Chapter 6); ridiculous educational experiments and an all-powerful teachers union that has little interest in student well-being and education (Chapter 7);* environmentalism run amok (Chapter 8); and public sector unions and pensions that have managed to go wherever one ends up when “amok” is a distant memory (Chapter 9).
Lately, though, things haven’t been going so well for California. Part of the problem is the national recession. The other part is the fact that California’s collection of Progressives, Environmentalists, Educators, and Reporters, whom Laer collectively christens “the PEER axis,” have destroyed the state’s ability to tap into her resources, both natural and human. Take, for example, the Prop. 50 fiasco, which is one of a huge subset of fiascos generated by a California citizen’s right to vote on legislative ballot initiatives.
A refinery fire, a power outage, a uniquely Californian gasoline formula, years of regulating refineries into stasis — all that has finally caught up with the state, as prices soar at the pump. Yet what perplexes about California in extremis is the liberal ability for our state government simply to ignore its own regulations, which it has been using to paralyze businesses for years. For example, a panicked Governor Brown just asked the state air-resources board to suspend the law that requires gas stations to sell our special summer fuel formula through the month of October. The state asserted that a one-time suspension would increase supplies and yet not materially affect our air quality — which begs the question: Why, if that is true, would such a regulation have been passed in the first place?
California has the nation’s highest gas taxes and fuel prices, and the tightest supplies — and reputedly one of the worst-maintained infrastructures, with out-of-date, overcrowded, and poorly maintained freeways. When I head home each week from Palo Alto, I feel like an Odysseus fighting modern-day Lotus Eaters, Cyclopes, and Laestrygonians to reach Ithaka, wondering what obstacle will sidetrack me this trip — huge potholes, entire sections of the freeway reduced to one lane, or various poorly marked detours? If the nation’s highest gas taxes give us all that, what might the lowest bring?