Jerry Brown: California Can Afford 11 Million More Immigrants if Everybody Adopts a Zen Lifestyle
Print Friendly and PDF

From the Los Angeles Times:


Gov. Brown says ‘spaceship Earth’ approach will see California through drought


Even as the state struggles through an epic water crisis, Gov. Jerry Brown assured residents Tuesday that technology, adaptation and “a more elegant” way of living would ultimately preserve the California dream for generations to come.

In a broad-ranging conversation that touched on the “existential threat” posed by man-made global warming, as well as the arcane laws delineating state water rights, Brown said Californians must learn to live more frugally when it comes to their most precious resource.


If they did so, the state would not only support its current population of 39 million, but probably could accept at least 10 million more residents, he said.

“We are altering this planet with this incredible power of science, technology and economic advance,” Brown said. “If California is going to have 50 million people, they’re not going to live the same way the native people lived, much less the way people do today.… You have to find a more elegant way of relating to material things. You have to use them with greater sensitivity and sophistication.”

To understand long term shifts in ideology, it’s interesting to compare what Jerry Brown says now to not only what his pro-population growth father, Gov. Pat Brown, said in 1959, but to what anti-population growth Jerry himself said in the 1970s, most famously about California in its new Era of Limits when E.F. Schumacher’s “Buddhist economics” about “small is beautiful” was his mantra.

When Jerry left office in 1982, the population of California was 25 million. It’s now 39 million. But now Jerry seems fine with adding 11 million more people in California. Why?

First of all, because they would be immigrants, not Americans, especially not white Americans. Immigrants are holy.

Not Zen

Second, because we are supposed to assume that immigrants have extremely refined minimalist tastes.

Instead of wanting water-hogging lawns for their children to play on, they will, of course, install zen gravel gardens for meditating.

Instead of buying pickup trucks, they will drive Priuses, and so forth.

Do you not believe that?

Not Zen

What kind of racist are you?

You deserve a Two Days Hate on Twitter.

Third, this will create lots of billable hours for environmental consultants, environmental engineers, urban planners and the like. For example, Jerry mentioned yesterday that his proposed Bay Delta Water Conservation plan:

The proposal, Brown said, was the result of more than 1 million hours of work, and “the best that human beings, employing the best science possible, can come up with.”
Fourth, Democrats like to impose rules on people over niggling lifestyle choices. They find it fun.

Fifth, immigration helps the Democrats import ringers to win elections for them, and what’s best in life is to crush your enemies, see the Republicans driven before you, and hear the lamentations of their women.

In reality, California suffers from increasing marginal costs for infrastructure due to its huge population. This has been disguised in the past because far-sighted California builders like William Mulholland and Pat Brown invested in infrastructure that could support far more people than California had at the time. It was cheap to build massive amounts of infrastructure in a fairly empty state.

So, for a long time, California has been living off its patrimony.

But now, just renovating the existing infrastructure is immensely costly, much less adding more infrastructure to support a higher population due to immigration.

For example, for a half dozen years or so, I’ve been blogging about how the streets in my neighborhood are all torn up to install a new water main to replace the 100-year old Chinatown water main William Mulholland installed in 1915. In contrast, using guys with picks and shovels, aided by mules, Mulholland built his water main across the San Fernando Valley in about a year.

Mulholland’s water main has served well for a century, but it now springs leaks, and would likely fail catastrophically when The Big One Hits, threatening that Los Angeles would burn down like San Francisco did in 1906 for lack of water pressure to fight fires.

But building a replacement water main, even with modern equipment, is taking about an order of magnitude longer to finish and who knows how much more money. Why? Because the San Fernando Valley has a couple of million people in it now, and that makes the job much more complicated and costly than a century ago when the Valley was open fields for Mulholland to dig in.

Yeah, I know Ed Glaeser and Matthew Yglesias talk about how cheap higher density living is, but that’s actually only true if you have the infrastructure in the ground already to support modest increases in density. Eventually you run out of the legacy of the past. Then, adding more infrastructure in an already densely populated region is immensely expensive, assuming you have post 1960s levels of environmental regulation and a litigious population.

Print Friendly and PDF