I traveled extensively throughout the Soviet Union during the early 1980s, both with groups and on my own approved itineraries. I also lived in Moscow, and had a chance to slip out of the ring road with Soviet friends into the countryside, which was not permitted for foreigners without official approval.
My assessment at the time (I have witnesses!) was that the Soviet Union was a first world military sitting on top of a third world country.
Leaving the ring road was like taking a step a hundred years back in time. No modern toilets, donkeys pulling carts, manual pump water wells, and so on. This was a scene repeated from city to city. If all you ever saw were the cities, you couldn’t understand the country.
I commented at the time (I have witnesses!) that I didn’t see how the country could last another decade given its intrinsic third world economy supporting a first world military, and it didn’t.
Fast forward to 2010, and Victor Davis Hanson has a chilling account of California which resembles in many ways the Soviet Union of the early 1980s — first world cities of relative wealth sitting on top of an increasingly third world economy, Two Californias:
The last three weeks I have traveled about, taking the pulse of the more forgotten areas of central California. I wanted to witness, even if superficially, what is happening to a state that has the highest sales and income taxes, the most lavish entitlements, the near-worst public schools (based on federal test scores), and the largest number of illegal aliens in the nation, along with an overregulated private sector, a stagnant and shrinking manufacturing base, and an elite environmental ethos that restricts commerce and productivity without curbing consumption.
As they say, read the whole thing.
Hanson’s description of modern California would be a fitting updated version of my observations of the Soviet Union in the early 1980s. The analogy is not exact, of course, because the political and economic systems, and the root causes, are so different.
But the result is the same. An increasing inability of the economic system to support the agenda of the first world cities and political elites.
Hundreds of thousands sense all that and vote accordingly with their feet, both into and out of California — and the result is a sort of social, cultural, economic, and political time-bomb, whose ticks are getting louder.
It can’t last another decade. You are my witnesses.
Related Posts from my Soviet Archives:
The Revolt of the Kulaks has Begun
Left-Wing Epistemic Closure to Inconvenient History
Celebrating Freedom Without US
Is It Time For Conservatives To Sit Down In The Snow?