Sunday, June 21, 2009

California Dreaming

I remember way back when I was studying in college, in between parties with Bluto, Neidermeyer, Larry Kroger, and Kent Dorfman and the whole rest of the cast of my crazy Animal House buds, reading the student newspaper. Those were crazy times. Naturally, the newspaper was written by liberal idealists who nobody really knew.

When you're a college kid it's a pretty ideal world with seemingly endless possibilities. Especially in the really good schools, where you're told you can have it all. I remember finding that to be a bit naive even back in the good ole days.

Which brings me to California. For years Cali has tried to have it all. During the good times earlier in the decade, the good times were really good. For some, it was really, really good. They were able to have internet millionaires and a seemingly limitless social welfare system. Well, times don't stay good forever. Every economy has ups and downs. The problem with California is that they instituted so much government that it became like a woven fabric in people's lives. Whether through welfare or the daily high sales and income taxes, in one way or another it was unavoidable. Of course I must confess I haven't lived there. But I've been there and couldn't help but notice that everything seemed more expensive and crowded.

And now the people of California are suffering.

This is really tragic because it affects the least of us the most. You see, capitalism stinks until it really stinks. When you stifle the engine of economic growth and make it onerous for risk-taking people to channel their efforts into potentially profitable ventures you lose a lot more than a wealthy neighbor. When you create an environment where risk taking is lame and business ain't cool because we like ill-defined terms such as "social justice", which doesn't actually mean anything if you try to actually define it, you end up with words that lead to little. Of course, bashing the rich is always fun. Until they sit it out or go out of business. And it really stinks when those same rich people decide to lay you off.

What my college newspaper editors didn't seem to realize is that it is capitalism that makes the school they attend thrive and their experience so rich. Somebody's got to pay for the new lab. Somebody's got to pay for the ornate buildings and the nice facilities. Somebody's got to pay to maintain the luxurious green quad. Somebody's got to pay for teachers to have the freedom to write socialist, liberal blather divorced from reality. When that somebody, whether Dad, rich donors, or the state can no longer pay, you look around and realize that maybe socialism ain't all that good. Socialism can level the playing field and reduce income inequality. It does this by basically bringing the top earners down to the level of the poor earners. It doesn't lift most boats. It doesn't make the poor wealthier or more productive. By essentially eliminating incentives, how can it?

We'll see if all the liberals in California come to that realization. Many of the young will. Unfortunately, dreams in a dreamers head envisioning how they may usher in an ever improving society through government, public service, and clever public relations mobilization campaigns die hard. It's sad when people can't see the forest from the trees. My heart is with the people in California, especially the young students who will lose out on a quality education. I didn't grow up rich myself so I have an idea of what it's like to attend a mediocre public school.

This is not a failure of capitalism. It's a failure of others to allow capitalism to work. Capitalism is not perfect and some tweaks need to be made, especially with debt and complex financial market instruments. But it's still a good system. When capitalism is not appreciated and nourished, we all lose. And some lose bigger than others.

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