NEW GEOGRAPHY–California is widely celebrated as the fount of technical, cultural and political innovation. Now we seem primed to outdo even ourselves, creating a new kind of socialism that, in the end, more resembles feudalism than social democracy.
The new consensus is being pushed by, among others, hedge-fund-billionaire-turned-green-patriarch Tom Steyer (photo above). The financier now insists that, to reverse our worsening inequality, we must double down on environmental and land-use regulation, and make up for it by boosting subsidies for the struggling poor and middle class. This new progressive synthesis promises not upward mobility and independence, but rather the prospect of turning most Californians into either tax slaves or dependent serfs.
California’s progressive regime of severe land-use controls has helped to make the state among the most unaffordable in the nation, driving homeownership rates to the lowest levels since the 1940s. It has also spurred a steady hegira of middle-aged, middle-class families — the kind of tax-burdened people Gov. Jerry Brown now denounces as “freeloaders” — from the state. They may have access to smartphones and virtual reality, but the increasingly propertyless masses seem destined to live in the kind of cramped conditions that their parents and grandparents had escaped decades earlier.
A green people’s republic?
There is some irony in a new kind of socialism blessed by some of the world’s richest people. The new policy framework is driven, in large part, by a desire to assume world leadership on climate-related issues. The biggest losers will be manufacturing, energy and homebuilding workers, who will see their jobs headed to other states and countries.
Under the new socialism, expect more controls over the agribusiness sector, notably the cattle industry, California’s original boom industry, which will be punished for its cows’ flatulence. Limits on building in the…