Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Intersesting Article on California from the liberal New Republic

I have never lived in California (as a resident of Colorado, why would I, and as a matter of fact most residents of my state just hope fewer Californians move here).  But as an American who wants to see everyone succeed the current situation in California is one that has to concern me.  I do not want to see California become a “failed state.” There are certainly some conservatives who want to see California fail because it would be an indictment on the liberal policies of that state.  Lets be honest the state legislature there has been dominated by Democrats for about two decades and the govenors there have been liberal, even the Terminator, who like George W. Bush may have done lasting damage to the Republican brand. 
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I am not one of those who wants to see Californai fail.  First off, a sick Californai is bad for the U.S. economy, bad for the global economy, and bad for the many people at the lower end of the economic scale in that state.  How could anyone want to see the state become failed.  However, before the state can become fixed we have to ask why it is sick.  The author of a new piece in the liberal magazine The New Republic has his own diagnosis.  http://www.tnr.com/article/politics/end-state?page=0,0

He is loath to blame the bad schools there on teachers and the teacher’s union. He points to the large number of non-English speakers in the state’s educational system. This is certainly true, and he quotes the old adage from the late Senator Moynihan of New York that you can measure the quality of a state’s educational system by its closeness to the Canadian border.  Certainly more homogeneous populations do give strength to an educational system (shared history, shared language, shared norms always create internal strength - be it in a military formation - this is why you create Marines and not African American Marines or White Marines, just Marines - or a school environment). But is he not letting the educational system off to easy? California’s teaching establishment fought efforts to make classroom’s English only, even after the results of other states made it clear this was best for students. They embraced every new educational fad, even when the lack of evidence and clear common sense should have kept them from it.  There is more that could be said, but you get the picture

Further he blames the politics in the state for the problems.  What he means is that the political system there protects the minority interests in taxes from the taxation by the majority.  But when the shoe is on the other foot is the author as concerend for majority rights?  He calls the Republican Party in the state far too conservative, but since Republicans have been out-of-power for so long, even with the 2/3 majority requirements, how can they be the problem?  He blames the tiered economic system as the reason for economic stagnation, but he never addresses the regulatory nightmare that keep small businesses from starting up in the state.  He points out how ridiculous it is to suggest the state start drilling near Santa Barbara because of a 1969 oil spill, as if a) oil can be drilled elsewhere and thus cause damage to those places and b) that the protection of the environment from new oil drilling techniques has not improved in 40 years. 

Still it is an interesting article because it shows one of the most crucial struggles our political and social systems are going through right now.  There is an old saying that everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but not their own facts.  But today we indeed do have two sets of facts - blue and red to use the political short-hand.  If we cannot even agree on the problem then we will never agree on solutions.  The writer of this piece has a vastly different set of facts than say Hugh Hewitt who lives in the state and blogs and speak on his radio show from a conservative perspective.

There are a lot of people out there who say that the whole postmodern movement is overblown, that it is does not impact people outside of the university.  But as we see in our political system today that is not true.  The core argument of postmodernism, that all truth is perspectival (and thus ultimately relative) is being played out in every policy debate coming before the nation.  Are insurance companies making obscene profits?  One side says yet, and from one perspective they are (if you believe they should be ultimately non-profit).  But as the AP even pointed out on Sunday, they are not relative to others. http://apnews.myway.com/article/20091025/D9BI4D6O1.html So which is it? 

Or how about global warming (now called climate change).  The data should be clear - we are not nearly as warm as during the medvel warm period.  Additionaly there has been no warming since 1998.  Oh, and since the end of the Little Ice Age we have been on 30 year cycles of warming and cooling.  But then the other side present the now thankfully disgraced hockey stick graph which changes all the data points.  Even without this awful set of data, you get arguments about whether CO2 is bad or good. A growing number of scientist make the point that CO2 is essential for plant life and that in fact we may be CO2 deprived compared to more lush periods of earth’s history.  But on the other side CO2 is evil, as it causes global warming and thus needs to be stopped now.

Until we can begin to agree on the “facts” we can never work together on solutions.  As a Christian who believes that truth is something that can be discovered and shared, the postmodern move, while in some respects true and obvious, sets us up for a world of argument without end.  Instead of creating tolerance it only makes us tribes circling around our own truths. 

And sadly Califronia will continue to struggle until the facts on the ground can be agreed upon.  And with so many people having vested (i.e. power and money) interests, the hope for unified truth of California’s current ills may be as vain as the hope for an end ot war in this current age.

Posted by Christopher on 10/27 at 12:40 AM


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