I admit that this post is just a cheap excuse to post a link to the Dead Kennedys' great 1979 song, "California Uber Alles," which is set in a world in which then-Gov. Jerry Brown enforces a Zen-police-state in the Gold Rush State.
But there it is, draconian limits imposed on water use by everyday people:
California Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday imposed mandatory water restrictions for the first time on residents, businesses and farms, ordering cities and towns in the drought-ravaged state to reduce usage by 25%.
"This historic drought demands unprecedented action," Brown told reporters, standing on a patch of dry, brown grass in the Sierra Nevada mountains that is usually blanketed by up to 5 feet of snow….
"It's a different world," Brown said Wednesday. "We have to act differently."
While it's unlikely the Brown will, per the dark prophecy in "California Uber Alles," assume dictatorial powers and force "the kids to meditate in school" and commit mass murder via "organic poison gas," this is much is absolutely true: California doesn't have a water problem, they've a got a pricing problem. Water is a scarce commodity but it's not priced at anything like its actual price. The result is as troubling as it is predictable: Gallons upon gallons of water are wasted. As Reason's Brian Doherty, a LaLaLand resident himself, noted not long ago:
In my experience discussing this around Southern California, people are quick to demand rationing to be imposed on all, while all too slow to embrace the most sensible way to get people to care about the water they use/waste and to ration minus punitive laws: to price it more rationally. …
To too many people, "prices" are either voodoo or a means for the powerful to harm the less powerful. For those insisting on at least some accounting for "real need," lower prices for some understood (and necessarily somewhat arbitrary) amount of gallons for minimal drinking/cooking/bathing needs depending on number of people in the household and a much higher price for everything over that shouldn't be impossible in a world where water meters exist.
But for certain things that people have decided you can't live without, the notion of a price mechanism seems to stir ancient feelings of taboo, and sense is flushed away. If you seem to be running out of anything, check your prices.
Back in 2010, Jello Biafra, the frontman for the Dead Kennedys, who once upon a time mocked liberal pols such as Jerry Brown and Dianne Feinstein, walked back "California Uber Alles" because deep down he's a tool.