The Limits Of Libertarianism: Southern California`s Catastrophe

Writing about
The Alamo


last week
, I quoted historian

Paul Johnson
on America`s conflict with Mexico in
the 1830s and 1840s:

"It made moral as
well as economic and political sense for the civilized
United States to wrest as much territory as possible
from the hands of Mexico`s

greedy and irresponsible
rulers."

Johnson goes on:


"California was an
even greater prize than Texas… Considering the
benevolence of its climate, the fertility of its soil,
and its vast range of obvious natural resources, it is
astonishing that the Spanish, then the Mexicans, did so
little to make use of them."

Harvard student
Richard Henry Dana sailed from Boston to California in
the mid-1830s. In his famous memoir

Two Years before the Mast
, he

recounted with astonishment
that the San Francisco
Bay, perhaps the finest location for human habitation in
the entire world (and, as a native Los Angeleno, that`s
not easy for me to admit) was almost devoid of
settlement. He hinted broadly to his readers that
Americans could make better use of such a prize.

The American
takeover of California resembled an operetta version of
the

more dramatic events
in

Texas
. Political loyalties among

Spanish-speakers in California
were splintered among
representatives of the relatively new Mexican
government; those whose hearts

still belonged to Spain;
native-born Californios
leaning toward self-rule; and those Californios (led by
the impressive

Gen. Mariano Vallejo
) who hoped for annexation by
the U.S.

The most dynamic
element, however, were the American immigrants—typically
New Englanders who had jumped ship and married into
landed Californio families.

In 1844,
California

revolted against Mexican rule
. In 1846, at President
James K. Polk`s prodding, it declared first its

independence
, then its allegiance to the U.S.

In 1848,

gold was discovered
. Hundreds of thousands of
fortune-seekers rushed to Northern California. But
Southern California remained a sleepy, backward

cattle-raising region
until the

Southern Pacific railroad arrived in 1887
, launching
the region into the modern era with its first real
estate boom. (The third main region of California is the
Central Valley, where

agricultural elites
always wanted

cheap labor
.)

Subtle but
important social differences emerged between Southern
and Northern California. Which was the better mode was
arguable—until recently.

Now, however, it
has become clear that Northern California`s traditional
elitism has helped it withstand the onslaught of illegal
immigration better than Southern California`s
traditional populist libertarianism.

Personally, I
always preferred the greater openness of Southern
California society. But that kind of freedom comes at
the expense of quality of life when it`s abused by

millions of foreign lawbreakers.

To use

David Hackett Fischer`s
system for categorizing the

four kinds of British immigrants
, Northern
Californian was largely founded by New Englanders of

Puritan descent
. Southern California was largely
populated by Middle Westerners, whose social roots
typically stretch back to colonial Pennsylvania and to
the South. By the 1950s, it was the paradise of the
common man.

Northern
California went through the typical political evolution
of post-Puritans: into Lincolnian Republicans, then
reformist Progressives, then modern lifestyle liberals
intent, paradoxically, on preserving old-fashioned
amenities like open space, traditional architecture,
higher culture, and wildlife.

In contrast,
Southern California was much more conservative, as the
popularity of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan testify.
But in the 1990s, much of the

GOP base
began to be

driven
into the Great Basin by illegal
immigration-driven population growth. Southern
California`s Republican remnant, in its

gated communities
, is coming around to the Northern
liberal point of view.


Northern California
forestalled much of the
dreariness of Southern California`s

Hispanic areas
by being a high-cost economy.
Ferociously powerful unions kept wages high. Stringent
aesthetic restrictions and large amounts of land devoted
to parks kept housing costs high. Northern Californians
spearheaded the

environmentalist movement
—which had the unspoken but
not-unintended consequence of driving up property values
even further.

Southern
California, in contrast, was not heavily unionized or
environmentalized. It encouraged developers to put up
huge tracts of homes.

Conservatives have had a hard time grasping that
homeowners often use environmental laws to thwart new
developments and enhance the value of their own
property. Conservatives like to think of themselves as
preserving property rights from meddling
environmentalists. But the fact is that property owners
themselves are often among those most intent on
meddling.

In the ranchlands
east of Oakland, for example, housing restrictions mean
that most developments are dense housing pods surrounded
by vast expanses populated only by cows. In the south of
the state, it would all be tract housing.

The Monterey
Peninsula exemplifies Northern elitism, private
enterprise-style. The exquisite oceanfront

Del Monte Forest
is accessible only via the 17 Mile
Drive, which costs an $8.25 toll to traverse, or 49
cents per mile. It`s worth it, though, because much of
the natural beauty has either been preserved untouched,
or enhanced with the finest set of golf courses in
America:

Pebble Beach
, the famous public course with a $395
greens fee;

Cypress Point
, the ultra-private "Sistine Chapel of
Golf;"

Spyglass Hill
, Robert Trent Jones` Sr.`s best
course; and four others.

Tellingly,
Northern California has preserved most of its best golf
courses from the Golden Age of golf architecture
(1911-1933). But Southern California has lost

many
such courses, like George C. Thomas` Fox Hills
in West Los Angeles, to housing during the post-War
boom.

As a native Los
Angeleno, Northern Californian snobbishness has always
gotten on my nerves. Nonetheless, the payoff has become
undeniable. Rather than being inundated with

unskilled immigrants
from one country, Northern
California mainly attracts skilled immigrants from a
wide diversity of countries.

The lesson for the

GOP
is sobering. If it

won`t fight
to enforce immigration laws on the
national level, citizens will try to parry the effects
at the local level.

And the socially
acceptable way to keep out swarms of poor immigrants is
the Northern Californian liberal way: environmentalism,

unionism
, historical preservationism,

NIMBYism
—indeed, the whole panoply of Democratic
Party policies at the state and local level.

It makes no sense
for Republicans to

drive conservative-minded affluent people
, desperate
to keep their suburb from turning into North Orange
Country, into the arms of the Democratic Party.

But that`s exactly
what

George Bush`s GOP
is doing.


[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and


movie critic
for


The American Conservative
.
His website


www.iSteve.blogspot.com
features his daily
blog.]