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It Also Was Called The Soviet Union

It Also Was Called The Soviet Union

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.

Writes Hanson:

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?

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Comments

If it hadn't been for stimulus money, they would probably have already gone belly up. But liberals aren't going to let California go down without a fight. I would almost bet that there is a huge chunk of money in the Omnibus that is working it way through Washington to keep them going a little while longer.

I traveled through the USSR then, too. I confirm what you said about it. I came back and told everyone it was over, it could not long survive that way. Galbraith and the CIA took a different view. Maybe they never left the tonier (heh) parts of Moscow.

I think California has lots of problems. but it still is light years ahead of the USSR three decades ago.

I recently had dinner with a couple visiting from California.   They were/are in complete and totally denial regarding the economic health of their state.   What a surprise, huh?
.

sort of runic rhyme | December 16, 2010 at 6:30 pm

~
Forget bubbles. CA is a vanity, PC, techno, green, rights, compensation, pensions, housing, business, demographic and hypocrisy aneurism ready to burst.
~
Think Bell.
~

What, the denial and entitlements can't last?

Awesome!

I wonder how many illegals are leaving California for home now tht there are no jobs and how many more would go if the welfare climate were not so much better than life where they came from?

I understand most of the farms in the Central Valley which are now devastated by this elite nonsense were owned by legal immigrants who worked and saved every penny to buy and run those farms.
That's the biggest pity of the water cut off.

A very big part of the problem is the general attitude outside of California that people like me should move out of California and give it back to Mexico. No one ever thinks that logic through and until people abandon that stupid logic (while condescending to us "stupid" Californians who choose to stand our ground and fight while being ridiculed by the "smarter" out-of-state people), we can't possibly reverse the trend. Has Victor Davis Hanson moved away yet? Is he an idiot too?

Why not FIGHT to take it back? Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, Florida, Virginia and other states are also being overrun by illegals. Maybe we ought to give those states back to Mexico too? Why not? Because they aren't California? You guys are in denial. The provincialism is appalling and self-defeating.

If running away is the solution, we will all end up living at the North Pole. By this conventional logic, we should be invading the Arctic and chasing out the Eskimos. They can't possible stop us and once we win, we won't have to worry about being invaded by illegals anymore. Who would want to live in the Arctic except people who deserve to live there? We'll have a new world order where 3rd world dictatorships control all of the prime real estate while the "smart and virtuous" live on the North Pole.

California was very winnable this year but the RINO establishment insisted on selling the governor and senator slots to two billionaires rather than allowing California conservatives to pick our own candidates. Sarah Palin was complicit in this so we don't have much hope for ever getting any help from our "countrymen".

BTW, I can always tell who the ignorant commenters are when they confuse Hollywood for California. If that is the standard, then maybe Austin should represent Texas. Or maybe Corpus Christi?

Or maybe we're just not being smart about all of this. There was a time when remembering the Alamo meant something. We seem to have forgotten.

In a few words… we have left the state (after 35 years). Our income will be now be reported in Texas.

pasadenaphil — The people who ruined California won't let anyone fight to save it. If sane Californians haven't been able to keep them from ruining the state, how are you going to get them to let you save it?

And the rest of the country's going to be fighting to save itself.

I live in Sonoma county, in northern California. My county voted 72% for Obama in 2008. The county and most municipal governments are controlled by "progressives." Their main priority seems to be making life more comfortable for illegal immigrants and adding more bike lanes everywhere. The city council in my town just voted to authorize the sale of 20 million in bonds to build a bike and pedestrian bridge over the freeway. In the meantime, they are laying off police and fire fighters and have huge unfunded pension liabilities. The school board is controlled by the teachers union. The county government recently announced they don't have enough money to maintain more than 150 miles of county roads. The other 1300 miles are going to be "allowed to fail" over the next ten years. We are riding for a fall, here. It's going to get ugly.

You might want to have a look at the prison strike in Georgia (America).

No one of note is covering it and Instapundit has taken no notice of my post on the matter. Maybe if you cover it he will notice (he seems to prefer lawyers over engineers).

My blog:

Power and Control

The hook: the strike is organized by cell phones. i.e. a flash mob for social action.

Mister Snitch! | December 16, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Same deal in Jersey. Same denial, except here we blame the new Republican governor, Chris Christie. Bob Menendez (who, with Rangel now out of the way, now qualifies as the most corrupt UNcensured pol in Washington) calls Christie "a bully" and blames him for the results of decades of wholesale corruption and theft.

Some writers think Jersey's pols make The Sopranos seem like pillars of society by comparison. As you say, just like the Soviet Union and California – it can't last.

Can't last another decade? It can't even last a whole decade.

After living in California for over 50 years, I'm moving from California soon. I pay more and more taxes for less and less representation in government. No mas, as they say out here.

"pasadenaphil said… "

The USA can take it back–we just cannot allow the California electorate to have any say in the matter. It clearly is as VDH has described…if not worse. My daughter is leaving–while keeping her high-paid job through telecommuting–and glad of it. Even going from San Francisco to Oakland requires virtual guards, never mind about the Central Valley or LA.

Until California is forced to deal with the consequences of their decisions, nothing will change. If the GOP is successful denying bailout funds to the profligate enemy, then it will be another 2-3 years before the economy collapses. Then voters (hopefully legal ones, though that seems unlikely in the third pesthole that California is becoming) will have to decide whether or not to continue electing the lunatic left.

sort of runic rhyme | December 16, 2010 at 8:06 pm

The State of Progressive California (LA, SF, Sacramento and other hip communities), along with the complicity or ineffectual resistance of the rest of the state, has undone much of the promise of its fertile land, imagination and potential.

I'm waiting for Hollywood's sequels to The Grapes of Wrath: The Grapes of Bel Air Wraiths, The Grapes of What We Wrought, The Grapes of Hath-beens, Only 75- An Angry Vintage, and There Are No Grapes in Grape Nuts about the dispossessed middle classes' trek on Route 66 headed east and the hell out of there.

I have thought for a while now that the New York Times reminds me of Pravda in the 1980's, a newspaper for the Nomenklatura. The Soviet ruling class got a great deal of tranquilization by reading Pravda. Those who were curious as to what was really going on read samizdat just as we read
legalinsurrection.

Mike said….

Thank for that perfect demonstration of provincial arrogance I was talking about. Mr. Hanson also admonishes people like you to refrain from thinking it cannot happen to other "red" states and remember, California is still redder than most "red" states.

If people like you keep insisting that we dumb conservative Californians have to do what you superior out-of-staters tell us to do, like vote the Democrats YOU hand pick to run as Republcans in our state, it may be the better course for us to simply have a private revolution and allow the other 75% of the US economy that is not California to fend for itself without us afterward. First thing? Send all of our illegals over to you to deal with.

Provincial arrogance will get us nowhere. If you won't help us, stop asking us to send our money to YOUR candidates.

Until then, California IS bankrupt and will soon default on its debt. It is absolutely essential that Congress not bail us out. We need to bust the unions and then sue to make public employee unions illegal. But it won't work because the Fed and Treasury will bail us out by buying our bonds.

So yet again it's not California that will ruin California but the "superior" outsiders in Washington and the ignorant provincials who let their hatreds govern their ability to reason.

Their main priority seems to be making life more comfortable for illegal immigrants and adding more bike lanes everywhere. The city council in my town just voted to authorize the sale of 20 million in bonds to build a bike and pedestrian bridge over the freeway. In the meantime, they are laying off police and fire fighters and have huge unfunded pension liabilities.

I can tell you this nonsense is not limited to the "progressive" areas of California. Portland Oregon has this kind of nonsense as well. Schools are being closed and police are being laid off due to a lack of funds. Yet, more street cars and bike lanes are being created. The city is also pouring an additional $175 million of public finance into residential high-rise construction (to counter the growth of suburbia) and are building a new bridge over the Willamette River for the MAX train and bike lanes.

I think a lot of this crap is going to blow up in our faces in the next 10-20 years.

"First class military …" Not.

I saw the Soviet military in the 7's & 80's. It only looked first class because you did not know the opposition. The Sovs got very poor return on their military spending.

No point is well-taken nonetheless.

California's situation is unsustainable, but that does not mean it will not go on for a very long time. Unlike the Soviet Union, The People's Democratic Republic of California has Uncle Sugardaddy to bail it out.

California is a deep-blue state (they elected Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer – on purpose!) with a huge number of Electoral College votes. It is ruled by left-wing totalitarians, which makes it the ideal state as far as liberals are concerned. For those reasons the Democrat-media axis will not allow it to go under. Add to that the fact that the GOP has its spineless members willing to assist Democrats (read: Schwarzenegger), and I see little hope that California can be held responsible anytime soon for its recklessness.

There will be a bailout of California, maybe even several bailouts over the years and decades. And a large number of Republicans will be willing and eager accomplices. You are my witnesses.

it may be the better course for us to simply have a private revolution and allow the other 75% of the US economy that is not California to fend for itself without us afterward.

Good luck with that. I believe the precedent regarding secession was set in 1865…

As a native Californian, I bleed with VDH about the trajectory of our great state. And the current path is certainly unsustainable. But so is your analogy, if for no other reason that, unless I am mistaken, California's military is not first rate. And the people on the coast actually are pretty productive, so I am pretty sure they are not relying on the third world parts for sustenance, as in the Soviet Union.

Brer Rabbit, as one who lives in Sacramento, I'd like to assure you that it is far from hip. Pathetic, yes, and run by leftist incompetents, yes. But Wichita in a blizzard is hipper than Sacramento any day.

I do agree with PasadenaPhil–much as I'd like to be living in Texas tomorrow, it's not as easy to pack up and move out as the lucky souls who don't have to live here would think. And if they really were smarter than us they would know that, for Pete's sake.

I too visited Soviet Russia, in the early 1970's, and my impression was the same as Prof. Jacobson's (though unlike him I was confined to the official tour): there was no way this monumental screw-up of a culture could possibly hold together much longer.

Is California as bad as Soviet Russia? Hard to say. I think they are two entirely different sets of problems.

Brer Rabbit, as one who lives in Sacramento, I'd like to assure you that it is far from hip. Pathetic, yes, and run by leftist incompetents, yes. But Wichita in a blizzard is hipper than Sacramento any day.

I do agree with PasadenaPhil–much as I'd like to be living in Texas tomorrow, it's not as easy to pack up and move out as the lucky souls who don't have to live here would think. And if they really were smarter than us they would know that, for Pete's sake.

I too visited Soviet Russia, in the early 1970's, and my impression was the same as Prof. Jacobson's (though unlike him I was confined to the official tour): there was no way this monumental screw-up of a culture could possibly hold together much longer.

Is California as bad as Soviet Russia? Hard to say. I think they are two entirely different sets of problems.

My Grandfather traveled quite often to the USSR and he told me in 1969, when I visited him in Cannes that they'd never beat the US in anything. He said the average worker had no incentive to work harder or stand out. He said it was just a matter of time.

A couple of things… The reverse "grapes of wrath" are occurring now. California back to Texas only this time it is on I-40 and I-10 rather than U.S. 66.

Others have made the suggestion that the feds allow California to declare bankruptcy and it reverts to territorial status with a bankruptcy trustee appointed by the feds. Seems the only way out.

The trustee is going to have to reform the central valley education system — "a house divided against itself cannot stand."

'fraid so. And I'm not much more optimistic about the country at large.

Sorry, Californians. It's coyote time, and you're the leg. But thanks for being a horrible warning, as the saying goes.

The Russian abbreviation for USSR was CCCP – that must mean California Can't Continue Permanently.

I live in Kalifornia and don't agree the the CCCP analogy. I would think the next generation of californians will displace the hipster doofuses that ran the state into a ditch. If wisconsin can dump its red brigade of Feingold and the statehouse, why not us? It will take bankruptsy to do it, but it will happen. I'm trapped here, I have no choice!

The best-case feasible solution is for California to declare bankruptcy, have it revert to a territory, and readmit self-sufficient, self-governing portions of the territory to the Union piecemeal as no fewer than three states (preferably more). This can't happen while Democrats control the presidency and Congress, but maybe after the elections of 2012 we'll have a chance.

I think we'll get something far worse, though — continued bailouts that bleed the national economy dry and serve as an example to New York and Illinois that they too can get away with rampant irresponsibility.

Bleah.

"The analogy is not exact, of course, because the political and economic systems, and the root causes, are so different. "

Are they? really? California is run by a bunch of incompetent marxists. Is the current situation at all unexpected? Not to me.

I would think the next generation of californians will displace the hipster doofuses that ran the state into a ditch.

Dude, they reelected Jerry Brown as governor. Jerry Freakin' Brown!

Some people can't learn. There's also a Stalin-nostalgia movement in Russia.

Well, I've been saying for twenty years, 'Accelerate the revolution, become part of the problem'. I didn't believe in reform by then. Reagan was a moment of hope, soon foreclosed.

Each of those Russians in the old day, had gone on strike. No heroic BS for them. Me too. I deny town/state/fedgov everything I can. I lie to them, always. What are they going to do? Take half of everything I make? Whipsaw me back and forth with debts, taxes, regulations so that any economic planning beyond a month, insures ruin? To work harder is to fatten my enemy so that they can come back tomorrow and abuse me more. No thanks.

Reading Hanson's initial article, the thought crossed my mind to wonder if what he is describing in the no-longer-fertile fields of California might rather be analagous to the stories we hear coming out of Zimbabwe and South Africa the last decade or so; i.e., uneducated new citizens of color taking over previously successful, white-owned farms, and running them into the ground because the new "landowners" simply don't know how to plant and water a seed to fruition.

I suppose the result is the same in that you have a two-tiered civilization teetering on the brink of disaster, but surely there's a difference between a society dying in its own rust that never quite made it vs. a society that had made it (and quite successfully) giving it all away in the name of trying to repeal Darwin's laws regarding survival of the fittest.

When I was a boy I once asked my grandmother, who'd fled the USSR in 1946, why the Russians didn't have a revolution, the way the Americans had done. She said the Red Army was a lot stronger than the British had been, that it seemed invincible, and the people were simply afraid to rise up against it. She told me to watch for the first time the Red Army suffered a defeat; as soon as the people saw that it wasn't invincible, she said, the USSR would fall. And it happened, just as she'd predicted. It's a shame she died two years too early to see it. My grandfather missed it by just a few months.

I was born and raised in California, went to school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, worked a summer for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, and had never intended to leave. But when I graduated in 1990, jobs in Aeronautics were scarce and I wound up in Washington State working for Boeing. Once gone, I never looked back. I understand why people who live there don't want to leave, despite the insanity that is California. It is blessed as almost no other state is by its weather, geographic diversity, and the plethora of things to do. On the other hand, all that is also a curse. It attracted and cultured a rich, liberal class that exploited those benefits and that wealth to build a monstrosity (actually monstrosities if you count the many of the city governments) of a State Government that lives to feed Itself. The formerly healthy body that was California is now hopelessly rotted from the inside but maintains a shell of health on the outside that fools that same rich, liberal class and the dupes that follow them into thinking they can eat away at the interior forever. But eventually the body will collapse into dust. And when it does it will be spectacular.

So, leave or stay and fight? I'm sympathetic to those who want to stay. It's their home, after all. But this last election, I think, makes it clear that far too many Californias are either part of the problem or hopelessly duped. Jerry Brown as Governor? Again? Really? No, I think those who stay will only prolong the inevitable. The best California can hope for now is an complete collapse with no Federal bailout. Collapse will put the lie to the claims of the Ruling Class that has run California for over 20 years. If those still sane in California beat a hasty retreat to greener pastures now, it will help hasten the cleansing fire that needs to sweep through that state before there can be new growth.

I was born and raised in California, went to school at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, worked a summer for McDonnell Douglas in Long Beach, and had never intended to leave. But when I graduated in 1990, jobs in Aeronautics were scarce and I wound up in Washington State working for Boeing. Once gone, I never looked back. I understand why people who live there don't want to leave, despite the insanity that is California. It is blessed as almost no other state is by its weather, geographic diversity, and the plethora of things to do. On the other hand, all that is also a curse. It attracted and cultured a rich, liberal class that exploited those benefits and that wealth to build a monstrosity (actually monstrosities if you count the many of the city governments) of a State Government that lives to feed Itself. The formerly healthy body that was California is now hopelessly rotted from the inside but maintains a shell of health on the outside that fools that same rich, liberal class and the dupes that follow them into thinking they can eat away at the interior forever. But eventually the body will collapse into dust. And when it does it will be spectacular.

So, leave or stay and fight? I'm sympathetic to those who want to stay. It's their home, after all. But this last election, I think, makes it clear that far too many Californias are either part of the problem or hopelessly duped. Jerry Brown as Governor? Again? Really? No, I think those who stay will only prolong the inevitable. The best California can hope for now is an complete collapse with no Federal bailout. Collapse will put the lie to the claims of the Ruling Class that has run California for over 20 years. If those still sane in California beat a hasty retreat to greener pastures now, it will help hasten the cleansing fire that needs to sweep through that state before there can be new growth.

Great article, but in my opinion the real point is being overlooked: the ethnicity of the invaders. Does anyone think California would be suffering in this way if the state were being invaded by 1.1 million Swedes or Finns or Danes each year?

Reality is often uncomfortable, but it does not cease to be reality because we refuse to acknowledge it. Until we are prepared to acknowledge the fact that some cultures are intrinsically superior to others, and that multicultural societies simply do not work over the long term, things will go from bad to worse.

I think the Professor's Soviet Union analogy has the situation in reverse: California has several First World economies that among other things are supporting Third World parts and aspects of the states.

I don't know much about Hollywood and its economy, but Silicon Valley is a unique in the world phenomena and strangely enough for a legal reason. California is the only state in the union where non-completes are unenforceable and this has produced the most liquid high tech labor market in the US along with fantastic cross-fertilization between companies. The "Silicon" part of it would have never happened without this (Shockley Semiconductor -> Fairchild Semiconductor-> a hundred flowers including Intel).

While high-tech manufacturing is largely dead in the state for the obvious reasons, it's still the best place to start a high-tech firm despite all the negatives (including insane prices for housing); if you can't recruit enough talent to design your stuff, you're simply not going to succeed.

(Another interesting but much more recent factor is that companies can't lay claim to work you do on your own time, with your own resources and ideas.)

Maybe California can kill off this golden goose, but until them it has an unbeatable in the US and the world competitive advantage.

Heinlein reached the same conclusion about
the USSR after his visit there; It helped
that he planned his own itinerary, and that
his wife learned to speak Russian for the trip:
'My husband and I can't have children;
How many do you have ?' Answer: Not enough
to maintain the population.

Policies that make no sense from an economic point of view often make a lot of sense from a political point of view. Peron was a disaster for Argentina, but the Peronist stay on. Detroit remains a one-party city despite or perhaps because of its decay. In a similar way, California has been a success story for the entrenched political class because policies that curb growth yield votes.

pasadenaphil hinted at the necessary precondition to my native state of Karlifornia recovering: eliminate the Federal Reserve. Until the Fed (a private bank!!) can no longer manipulate markets and enable profligate government under the cloak of secrecy, we have no chance of addressing our problems. The Fed and government are an unholy alliance that must be shattered for our country to survive.

Consider this….

A society functioning at this more primitive level is actually more robust than our high tech micro circuit electrical grid powered society. Better able to withstand failing infrastructure, war (nuclear or other), and other assorted aspects of a crumbling society or government.

Let's recognize the silver lining here!

Yeah, we elected Jerry Brown and Barbara Boxer. But it's not like anyone wanted to. It's just that the GOP insisted on running two liberals.

It's not the Democrats who ran this state into the ground, it's the GOP. The Democrats are what they are but no sooner had Reagan left the scene that the Bush Republicans immediately transformed the party into the other Democratic party.

This was the first year where liberals had no problem getting their candidate elected for a state-wide office. Why? Because the GOP fielded two Democrats! They weren't even good Democrats! Seriously, who COULD vote for Meg Whitman? She spent almost $180 million in her campaign and saturated the media with her brain-dead ads without telling us who she was. All she accomplished was to create the appearance that she was the incumbent in a year where the mood was fiercely anti-incumbent.

That may not have been the dumbest campaign ever but it sure was the most expensive dumb campaign ever.

So were it not for the GOP establishment, the CA GOP would have held the governorship and regained Pete Wilson's former Senate seat.

So California voters didn't mess this up and you idiots who simply can't see the forest for the trees shouldn't be blaming us for the results. The Republicans gave us even worse choices than the Dems did.

@ PasadenaPhil – THANK YOU for saying it all better than I've ever read anywhere.
You've pretty much covered everything…so I won't add my emotional lamentations to your well constructed reasonings. I'm a Californian. People love to say, "Learn spanish!". Well, I am fluent. Being a tall redheaded caucasion woman, no one suspects I know what is being said in spanish. I've eavesdropped on many (many!) conversations – information sharing – word-of-mouth instructions to newcomers on how to scam government programs, hospitals, schools. I used to count how many times I overheard the hearty exclamation, "They have to! It's the law!", fervently shared by -illegal- aliens.
Your comments here have saddened me deeply, but only because they are true. Thank you for posting them.

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