Acton Institute Powerblog

Social Justice and the ‘Third California’

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In his New Geographer column on Forbes, Joel Kotkin looks at the “profound gap between the cities where people are moving to and the cities that hold all the political power” in California. Those living in the growing “Third California” — the state’s interior region — are increasingly shut out by political elites in San Francisco and other coastal cities.

Kotkin observes that the “progressives” of the coast are “fundamentally anti-growth, less concerned with promoting broad-based economic growth — despite 12.5% statewide unemployment — than in preserving the privileges of their sponsors among public sector unions and generally affluent environmentalists. This could breed a big conflict between the coastal idealists and the working class and increasingly Latino residents in the more hardscrabble interior, whose economic realities are largely ignored by the state’s government.”

He interviews economist John Husing who describes San Francisco as “a bastion of elitist thinking due to a large ‘trustifarian’ class who have turned the city into favorite spot for green and fashionably ‘progressive’ think tanks.”

Trustifarians, apparently, don’t like to get their hands dirty in factories and fields. More:

This thinking is increasingly influential as well in a rapidly changing Silicon Valley. In the past the Valley was a manufacturing powerhouse and had to worry about such things as energy prices, water availability and regulatory relief. But the increasingly dominant information companies such as Apple, Facebook, Twitter, Google and their wannabes are widely unconnected to industrial production in the region. To be sure, they have created a financial bubble in the area that has made some fantastically rich, but according to researcher Tamara Carleton they have contributed very little in new net job creation, particularly for blue-collar or middle-class workers.

There’s a bit of a snob factor here. Fashionable urbanistas extol San Francisco as a role model for the nation. The City, as they call it, has adopted the lead on everything from getting rid of plastic bags and Happy Meals is now considering a ban on circumcision. When it comes to everything from gay rights to bike lanes, no place is more consciously “progressive” than San Francisco. So why should that charmed city care about what happens to farmworkers or construction laborers in not-so-pretty Fresno?

Class and occupational profile also has much to do with this gap between the Californias. Husing notes that the Bay Area has far more people with college degrees (42%) than either Southern California (30%) or the Central Valley (where the percentage is even lower). Green policies that impact blue-collar workers — restraining the growth of the LA port complex, restricting new single-family home construction or cutting off water supplies to farmers — mean little distress for the heavily white, aging and affluent Bay Area ruling circles.

But such moves could have a devastating impact on the increasingly Latino, younger and less well-educated populace of the interior. Outside of the oft-promised green jobs — which Husing calls “more propaganda than economics” — it is these less privileged residents’ employment that is most likely to be exported to other states and countries, places where broad-based economic growth is still considered a worthy thing. “By our ferocious concentration on the environment, we have created a huge issue of social justice,” Husing points out. “We are telling blue collar workers we don’t want you to have a job.”

Read “California’s Demographic Dilemma: A Class And Culture Clash” on the Forbes website. (HT: RealClearMarkets)

John Couretas John Couretas is Director of Communications, responsible for print and online communications at the Acton Institute. He has more than 20 years of experience in news and publishing fields. He has worked as a staff writer on newspapers and magazines, covering business and government. John holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in the Humanities from Michigan State University and a Master of Science Degree in Journalism from Northwestern University.


  • Mike McLaren

    With all due respect, where have ya been. I’m one of the 58% in the bay area that does not have a college degree and I could have told you this years ago.

    Voir dire…I have lived in the bay area all of my adult life, am one of the few conservatives, and am a retired police officer…so I have some insight into this.

    Most of the Hispanics that live in the central valley (and for the most part the rest of California) are by any definition conservative, socially and economicaly. Most of them are devout Catholics whose life styles are 180 degrees different from the “trustifarians”. They honor and respect hard work, faith and family. By all accounts they should be supporting consrvative republicans.

    The left, however has been able to convince them that conservatives hate them because of the immigration issue. The left therefore continues to get their vote and as a result continues to control Sacramento, which they need in order to maintain their illisionary lives.

    It’s a sad and tragic irony that the Hispanics, who will within a generation be the dominant political force in this state, (if not already) will continue to support the leftist elite, who really have no respect for them and who are leading them and this state to ruin.

    I love this once great state, and it’s heart breaking to witness these champions of the cultural of death destroy it.

    If it’s true, and I believe it is, that before true conversion is possible one must be thoroughly emptied out, this state still has alot of suffering to endure.

  • Patrick

    Mike, as a life long Californian, myself, I agree with you that California needs to “hit bottom” before it takes any significant steps to rectify its financial and cultural meltdown.
    As a resident of the Antelope Valley, I watch businesses move to other states, or openly discuss it, because of CA’s anti-business legislation. There are amble calls for public service workers to lobby for tax increases, without the slightest acknowledgement about killing the goose that lays the golden eggs.
    I no longer contribute to the diocese for it’s educational/cultural work because they produce liberals.
    I was pleased and somewhat surprised that Prop. 8 passed, as the LDS coordinated with the Knights of Columbus and Catholic groups to promote the bill. Yet, even this recognition of the obvious nature of man, and the will of the voters, is under attack in the liberal courts.

  • Regressive America: Joel Kotkin on Elitist Efforts to Destroy America’s Standard of Living

    From PJTV: Could it be that progressive politics are actually reversing American living standards? North Dakota is booming, but California is not. What accounts for the difference? Is North Dakota focusing on the basics, while California be losing its sense of optimism? Joel Kotkin thinks that older people in California are benefiting from rich pensions and inequitable tax laws, but young people are not. Find out more as geographer Joel Kotkin talks about demographics and geography with Glenn Reynolds. Watch the interview here.