Why California is a Hell Hole and Why the Rest of the Country Will Become One Too


In his USA Today column, Glenn Instapundit Reynolds looks at Joel Kotkin's new book, The New Class Conflict. Kotkin says the wealth distribution in the U.S., starting with California, is breaking down into a lot of poorish folks and some oligarchs. Reynolds explains:

The oligarchs are assisted in their control by what Kotkin calls the "clerisy" class — an amalgam of academics, media and government employees who play the role that medieval clergy once played in legitimizing the powerful, and in implementing their policies while quelling resistance from the masses. The clerisy isn't as rich as the oligarchs, but it does pretty well for itself and is compensated in part by status, its positions allowing even its lower-paid members to feel superior to the hoi polloi.

Because it doesn't have to work in competitive industries, the clerisy favors regulations, land-use rules and environmental restrictions that make things worse for businesses — especially the small "yeoman" businesses that traditionally sustained much of the middle class — thus further hollowing out the middle of the income distribution. But the lower classes, sustained by government handouts and by rhetoric from the clerisy, provide enough votes to keep the machine running, at least for a while.

This process has gone very far in California, but it's well underway across America. As the Federal Reserve noted last week, despite a booming stock market and several years of "recovery," most Americans aren't doing well. In fact only the top 10% saw their incomes rise between 2010 and 2013.

Read the whole column.

While I bow to no one in my willingness to trash California as essentially unliveable, I think it's time to recognize that it is not the bellwether of conventional wisdom anymore. It's an odd place, with many great attributes, but is it really any more representative (or even as representative) than, say, Ohio or Florida or Texas of where America is headed?

More important, I'm not convinced that the country's economic distribution is as much in the shitter as either Kotkin or Reynolds. There's actually suprising agreement across the researchers who follow this that economic mobility has "remained remarkably stable" for decades now. Seriously.

You can (and probably should) argue that mobility rates can be higher than they are. But you can't in good conscience argue that they are going down. As Scott Winship of Manhattan Institute puts it:

upward mobility from poverty to the middle class rose from 51 percent to 57 percent between the early-'60s cohorts and the early-'80s ones. Rather than assert that mobility has increased, I want to simply say — at this stage of my research (which is ongoing) — that it has not declined. If I include households that reported negative or no income, the rise in upward mobility I find is only from 51 percent to 53 percent, which is not a statistically meaningful increase. But the data provide absolutely no evidence that economic mobility declined, whereas the president said it had fallen by ten percentage points.

For more on all this, go here.

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  1. Well now that makesa lot of sense when you think about it. Wow.

    1. userve32 not banned yet?

      1. His ban would make him downwardly mobile, messing up the charts and invalidating flat income mobility level theory.

  2. But the lower classes, sustained by government handouts and by rhetoric from the clerisy, provide enough votes to keep the machine running, at least for a while.

    It’s a good thing Reynolds didn’t apply a specific percentage of the voting population to that group – like somewhere between, oh, I don’t know, 46 and 48 – or he’d be pilloried here at reason.

    1. +1 binder full of wimminz

      1. Couldn’t Romney be selling copies of that binder to help pay down his campaign debt?

  3. Ring the doom bells (again). World ending, women and children hardest hit.

  4. Uh, we object to the term “urine-soaked hellhole”, when you could have said “pee-pee soaked heckhole.”

    1. (Also note that hellhole is one word, not two)

  5. The window’s dirty, the mattress stinks.
    This ain’t no place to be a man.
    I ain’t got no future, I ain’t got no past.
    And I don’t think I ever can,

    The floor is filthy the walls are thin.
    The wind is howling in my face,
    The rats are peeling, I’m losing ground,
    Can’t seem to join the human race.

    Yeah, I’m living in a hell hole.
    Don’t wanna stay in this hell hole.
    Don’t wanna die in this hell hole.
    Girl, get me out of this hell hole.

    I rode the jet stream, I hit the top.
    I’m eating steak and lobster tails,
    The sauna’s drafty, the pool’s too hot,
    The kitchen stinks of boiling snails.

    The tax man’s coming, the butler quit,
    This ain’t no way to be a man.
    I’m going back, to where I started,
    I’m flashing back into my pan.

    Yeah, that’s what I’m doing,
    And why not?

    It’s better in a hell hole.
    Know where you stand in a hell hole.
    Folks lend a hand in a hell hole.
    Girl get me back to my hell hole.

    1. Kindly enlighten me as to the authorship.

      1. You’re too young and I’m too well hung!

      2. Bruce Springsteen.

      3. Lionel Richie from his album, Shit Sandwich.

    2. And honestly, can you say a nicer thing about California? Yes its a hellhole, but you know, what isn’t these days? Semantics. Don’t get me started about Sexism. Or Stonehenge.

      1. Isn’t that the Baron Haden-Guest? I didn’t know he was an expert on Stonehenge.

  6. So, our positions of power tend to go to people from specific powerful families, our thoughts are shaped by a group of clerics who seek out and eradicate heresy with zeal, our laws are enforced by knights who are primarily concerned with mandating respect for authority among the lower classes. Aren’t we just a soft medieval society?

    The enlightenment was nice, I’ll be sad to see it finally completely go.

  7. Anyone who has ever played Monopoly knows this is how it turns out. It may take a long time, but one dude ends up with all the dosh.

    1. Except in Monopoly the market doesn’t set the rent. You’re forced to visit Boardwalk with a hotel, even if you’d rather rent a house on Mediterranean through Air bnb.

      1. and you’re forced to play Monopoly, even if you’d rather play Life or Chess.

      2. On the flip side, if you land on Boardwalk and I own it, why can’t I just say $1,000,000?

  8. Didn’t Milton Friedman say something about a society that put equality before freedom getting neither? But I guess he’s just some old, dead, white man.

    1. Maybe it was Milton Bradley.

  9. In fact only the top 10% saw their incomes rise between 2010 and 2013.

    Further proof of the evil rich fucking over the poor and downtrodden. Warren/Biden 2016!


  10. “Warren/Biden 2016!”
    Warren as in Buffett? The political policies he advocates do fuck over the poor and downtrodden and make it more difficult for those in the middle class (income wise) to move up.

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