In the featured essay of the new issue of the Claremont Review of Books (subscribe here), William Voegeli examines the long political demise of the state of California, now on the verge of becoming a “failed state.” Voegeli writes: “Rome wasn’t sacked in a day, and California didn’t become Argentina overnight. Its acquired incapacity to manage its own affairs has been a long, complicated story, with many contributing factors rather than a single villain or tragic flaw.”
But no analysis of the California crisis would be complete without an account of the Progressive legacy’s effect on the state. Progressive politics has rendered the state unable to govern itself, he writes, and the Progressive idea that the people must be empowered led to the collapse of the space that must exist between the people and the government for the public to govern and be governed well. California is plagued by direct democracy and too much government as a result.
Voegeli also reviews the damage public employee unions have wrought on California politics. They are in his view the single largest contributor to California’s failing condition.
What is to be done? If conservatives are to present a viable solution, the state’s Republican party must disentangle itself from the Progressive legacy and reclaim the state’s government from the public employee unions that have it in a stranglehold.
Voegeli is the author of the timely study Never Enough: America’s Limitless Welfare State, to be published in May. His account of California’s decline is a powerful case study in the future facing the country at large in the Age of Obama.
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