Hey, Ho! Go With the Flow!


Jerry Brown officially entered California's gubernatorial race today. Last year, after it became clear that Brown wanted to take back the job he had held from 1975 to 1983, I wrote an article about his career and the mixture of idealism and opportunism that has always fueled it. I won't try to summarize the whole thing, but here's an excerpt about Brown's first tenure in the governor's mansion:

We've got a bigger problem now.

He was by no means unfriendly to the Left. In his first presidential campaign, in 1976, he picked Black Panther chief Elaine Brown as one of his convention delegates. But Governor Brown was much more of a fiscal conservative than Governor Reagan, even if he made arguments for austerity that the Republican would never use. (At one point, to get across the idea that a lean organization could outperform a bloated bureaucracy, he offered the example of the Viet Cong.) Reagan had raised taxes several times and boosted spending by an average of 12.2 percent a year. In his first year as governor, by contrast, Brown increased spending by just 4.6 percent, less than the rate of inflation. He wasn't always so restrained in the rest of his reign, but he was thriftier than his predecessor, accumulating one of the biggest budget surpluses in California history. In Brown's first gubernatorial campaign, he had denounced "recycled Reaganism." In Brown's first year in office, Reagan's director of programs and policies joked that his old boss "thinks Jerry Brown has gone too far to the right."

Brown also favored a balanced budget amendment and, though he opposed the tax-cutting Proposition 13 while it was on the ballot, he slashed spending merrily to meet its requirements once the initiative became law. Sometimes his rhetoric seemed to question the very premises of the welfare state. "The income supplement is never going to be enough if people are estranged from society," he told Time in 1975. "But if you have children to take care of you, friends, a nice community, it's a winner."

At the same time, he liberalized the state's marijuana law, decriminalized homosexuality, and strongly opposed the death penalty. This combination of fiscal austerity and social tolerance might seem libertarian. Indeed, Eric Garris wrote a generally favorable piece about Brown for Reason in 1975, and Murray Rothbard praised him that same year in The Libertarian Forum, though his later remarks about the governor were more caustic. Brown even hired the old left-libertarian firebrand Wilson Clark as his energy adviser. But Brown also called for mandatory national service, endorsed the Humphrey-Hawkins full-employment bill, and deployed a series of subsidies and regulations to enact his environmental agenda. In that same Time interview, he turned from denouncing government planning to declaring that public intervention would be necessary to reach full employment.

How much will a second Brown governorship resemble the first one? Who knows? His campaign statements so far have been a mix of good and bad, though I'm not sure how seriously we should take them in any case. As I wrote in the profile, "The man has reversed course so many times before that there's no reason to assume he'll stand by anything he says. When Jerry Brown wants power, he has a good sense of what he has to do to win and maintain it."

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  1. In that same Time interview, he turned from denouncing government planning to declaring that public intervention would be necessary to reach full employment.

    Just so he can show everybody that he’s the contrary image of an economic genius.

    1. If I remember correctly, they used to call Brown “governor moonbeam”.

  2. When it comes to using the power of the Attorney’s Office, Jerry Brown is no libertarian – he’s quite the authoritarian even by Roland Freisler’s standards.

  3. He was nuts back then & he’s still nuts. Plus he’s starting to look like Biden.

  4. OT, but I found this article interesting:


    About how Democrats represent “maternal” issues, and Republicans “paternal” ones.

    I was left wondering if L(l)ibertarianism would represent the “crazy uncle”?

    1. Interesting article and I like your “crazy uncle” hypothesis, Rick.

    2. My nephew and nieces have one of those.

    3. I was left wondering if L(l)ibertarianism would represent the “crazy, gay, alcoholic, abortion doctor, gun-toting, pedophile, uncle”?


      1. The one they always hesitate to invite over for family gatherings for fear he might influence the kids and no one at dinner really takes seriously even though he is nearly always right? Yep, that crazy uncle analogy works great.

      2. I was being kind, but all of those crossed my mind. I almost went with “creepy uncle” to cover a little more ground 🙂

    4. The Libertarians are neither maternal nor paternal. Libertarianism would let you move out and get your own place.

      1. Basically, a disinterested stepdad waiting for you to move out so he can fuck your mom on the kitchen table whenever he felt like it.

        1. There are some disturbing scenes children should not have to imagine. One of them is the thought of their paternal Republicans fucking their maternal Democrats on the national kichen table. Holy shit, that would put me off of sex for several weeks.

    5. Yeah, I read that this AM. I thought it sucked. You made it way better with the “Crazy Uncle” addition, however – that I do like!

    6. No, libertarians represent the spoiled child as in I want to keep all my toys.

      1. Fuck off, Edward. Same shit, same asshole. It’s boring.

        1. Edward? Bore you to death? Third time is the charm.

  5. Fuck! Don’t we have have term limits in California?

  6. Best possible thing that could happen to remove California from the union.

    1. I’m sawing as fast as I can!

    2. I wanna play!

  7. But what has he done lately?

    As Attorney General, didn’t he recently sue San Bernardino county for effectively not requiring all new real estate development to account for global warming in its Environmental Impact Report?

    Why yes he did!…..rowth-plan

    Nevermind whether scientists are still arguing about the impact of climate change world wide! Jerry Brown sued San Bernardino County (and by extension every county in the state) to force anyone who develops anything over a few acres to account for their project’s impact on global freakin’ warming.

    Translation–as a developer, I have to pay for a study showing what my project’s impact is on global warming before it can be approved or rejected…and that’s after the report has been made available for the public to comment on, of course.

    I appreciate what Jerry Brown may have done in the ’70s–but since then? He’s been doing some really evil stuff! Really.

    1. It’s the suede-denim secret police,
      they’ve come for your dad’s ground lease!

      1. Awesome, Ken Shultz. Awesome.

    2. I am genuinely curious – what formula do they use to measure the global warming impact of your development projects? Do you have to hire a climate science expert to complete the report?

      1. Developers have to pay for the studies, but not directly. We have to give the money to the city or county and then they, technically, pay for the study from a list of approved consultants. They want the consultants working for the city, not the developer.

        It isn’t unlike what they make everyone do on other studies for an EIR. You have to pay for an archaeologist to do a search for Native American artifacts, for instance, and then you usually get an okay to go ahead if you pay someone from the local band to go through the dirt as it’s being recompacted…as the site’s being graded…

        You have to do reports for Federal State and County wildlife agencies showing that you aren’t impacting any protected wildlife, including fairy shrimp, which are protected as endangered–despite being microscopic.

        I don’t think most people know that microscopic organisms are protected as endangered species, but they are.

        You have to prove you don’t have any on your property and you have to do both a wet season test and a dry season test for the fairy shrimp–it takes a year.

        You have to do the same things for noise pollution, for traffic impact…and the planning commission or city council can vote you down after public comment for any of those reasons…and a lot of others too.

        The whole process of getting your EIR done and approved, it probably averages about two years now. So when you buy land that doesn’t have any entitlements on it, you don’t know if you’re going to be able to build anything on it for a couple of years. The whole process, for a parcel that’s 15 to 30 acres, say, it used to take between 3 and 6 months…but that was way back in 2003 or 2004–things changed.

        All that while, of course, waiting for your EIR, you’re paying interest on a land loan…and the market is changing. Can you imagine buying property in 2006, feelin’ like you know the market pretty well, and then suddenly they tell you, you have to do an EIR and then your ready to build in 2008? Market’s different, for sure!

        There are ways to remediate for a lot of things. For wetlands, for instance, you can sometimes buy wetlands elsewhere at some ratio–say 2 or 3 to 1 for every acre you destroy–if you played by the rules. Noise, for instance, sometimes they’ll make you phase your project when you didn’t want to, so that all that construction isn’t going on at the same time…but that adds to your interest, means you can’t build or sell or rent as fast as you thought…

        All of these reports are subject to planning commission and city council/county approval, of course. meaning that if the locals pressure their politicians successfully–approval’s a public meeting, of course–then your project doesn’t get entitled.

        And although it may seem silly to have people object to you developing your property because of its impact on global warming (when the scientific community is still arguing about whether that’s a problem), that wouldn’t be the craziest objection to a project I’ve seen in a city council meeting.

        And that’s basically why the Sierra Club and Jerry Brown and others did this–it’s another way to crush further development. And these organizations can get their supporters to show up to city council meetings, and your rights as a land owner, whatever you thought those were, are completely beside the point. …they’re basically up to the city council.

        You can go legal if you want, but that isn’t going to get the buildings up and sold–no developer ever got rich by wasting a lot of time suing cities. I suppose some lawyers have, but I’m not one of those.

        1. And of course, you greedy developers are partly blamed for the 12% unemployment right? (Snark)

  8. Apart from Brown’s hippie-hipster smiley-face weirdness, what got Jello so pissed at him? I wasn’t quite 10 when Jerry Brown’s reign as gov ended and I’ve never lived in California. Anybody who lived in that milieu got any more background?

    1. Not Jello’s fault. a bone in his ear is tuned to AM radio coming out of Bakersfield. A lot weird shit spews from his mouth from time to time when those power burst need an outlet.

    2. In punk rock/hardcore culture in California in the early ’80s, “hippie” was about the worst thing you could call somebody. (the worst thing being “poser”). Most of the counter culture was about “long hairs” and their hippie mentality, we were being taught by hippies, the music was driven by hippiedom…

      It was a reaction to that. And it’s as true about them now as it ever was, I guess, the hippies of that generation can’t conceive of their own intolerance, despite it being a defining feature…ever hear about how folk music fans have no sense of humor? There’s no dissent allowed in that counter-culture…

      Anyway, punk rock, hard-core, that spot in the middle that DK filled, that was in some ways a direct reaction to popular hippie culture, I think…

      We cut our hair short + We don’t do drugs* = We are not hippies.

      It’s part of why the dominant culture reacted so negatively at first. It was okay to be rebellious–so long as you were rebellious in the way the dominant culture expected. …that was supposed to mean long hair and hippie stuff. This short haired, anti-hippie rebellion came out of left field for them…but I digress.

      *even if we did.

      1. I recall Norman Spinrad writing brilliantly during the 80s on the hippie/punk dichotomy, and applying it to science fiction trends of the time.

        How the likes of Gibson and Sterling were laying down a challenge to the old line Stalinist like Le Guin and in some ways, Spinrad himself. Sure there a was great deal of anti-corporatism in cyberpunk but the rise of mercenary corporate wars that characterized cyberpunk filled in the vacuum created by the lame state institutions dying from their own excesses in those fictions.

        Interesting stuff, though political science in science fiction is typically the least interesting aspect of such fiction.

        I saw Bafra when he gave a speech at a local college about ten years ago. Like a slightly mentally crippled Buckminster Fuller is some odd way, but highly entertaining.

        Anyhoo, off to the coffee party.

    3. Apart from Brown’s hippie-hipster smiley-face weirdness, what got Jello so pissed at him?

      Read the article!

      1. The thing is, Jello is probably glad he wasn’t able to take his words back because as AG Brown’s basically been what Jello feared he’d be.

        Jello’s latest record ripping Obama was available for free on Amazon, don’t know if it still is. But it rocks like old DK’s.

      2. I wonder if Jello’s going to be supporting Jerry this time around.

      3. Sorry! At work. In skimming mode. Read the snippet. Did not realize that the complete article covered it.

  9. In that Reason interview that’s often linked here, Reagan praised Brown’s first term.

    And when he was running for president in ’92, Brown was in favor of a flat tax. It was also during that campaign that he promised to make Howard Stern “Secretary of Vagina.”

    I won’t vote him. But nor will I be terribly saddened if he wins.

  10. jesus christ, 1975 to 1983? how fucking old is this guy?

    also, he probably will win this race.

    1. jesus christ, 1975 to 1983? how fucking old is this guy?

      I haven’t double-checked this, but I’m told that if he wins he will have been both California’s youngest governor and its oldest governor.

  11. At the same time, he liberalized the state’s marijuana law, decriminalized homosexuality, and strongly opposed the death penalty.

    Was it a crime to simply be a homosexual, as opposed to committing sodomy?

    1. I suppose the most accurate answer is that it was a crime to commit homosexual acts. Prosecutions most often resulted from vice cops busting guys in parks and public restrooms.

      If I’m not mistaken, most places the laws were limited to males.

    2. You can be a pot smoker, but it’s illegal to smoke pot.

  12. Yeah but he boffed Linda Ronstadt back when she was smokin hot.

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