Weekend WSJ Interview with Joel Kotkin: The Great California Exodus

The Once-Golden State
By the Left Coast Rebel  

As a California native, I can personally attest to every single point that Mr. Kotkin asserts in this excellent WSJ interview. The decline of California is simply breathtaking. Government ruins anything it touches — even the most abundant, bountiful, beautiful state in the Union…

Like Kotkin, I will never forget or forgive what the state has done to my state:

‘California is God’s best moment,” says Joel Kotkin. “It’s the best place in the world to live.” Or at least it used to be.

Mr. Kotkin, one of the nation’s premier demographers, left his native New York City in 1971 to enroll at the University of California, Berkeley. The state was a far-out paradise for hipsters who had grown up listening to the Mamas & the Papas’ iconic “California Dreamin'” and the Beach Boys’ “California Girls.” But it also attracted young, ambitious people “who had a lot of dreams, wanted to build big companies.” Think Intel, Apple and Hewlett-Packard.

Now, however, the Golden State’s fastest-growing entity is government and its biggest product is red tape. The first thing that comes to many American minds when you mention California isn’t Hollywood or tanned girls on a beach, but Greece. Many progressives in California take that as a compliment since Greeks are ostensibly happier. But as Mr. Kotkin notes, Californians are increasingly pursuing happiness elsewhere.

Nearly four million more people have left the Golden State in the last two decades than have come from other states. This is a sharp reversal from the 1980s, when 100,000 more Americans were settling in California each year than were leaving. According to Mr. Kotkin, most of those leaving are between the ages of 5 and 14 or 34 to 45. In other words, young families.
Read the Rest at The Wall Street Journal.

Also Read: My 2010 essay at Pajamas Media: “Missing the California of my Youth

Via: Memeorandum.


  1. It's good to see this site is consistent. One and a half years ago I left two comments discussing how a similar post was misleading:


    This post is similarly misleading, as is the linked article. They're misleading by not mentioning the key reason for CA's problems. See the earlier comments for what that is.

    1. And that key problem is… illegal immigration?

    2. Exactly. Domestic outmigration has been matched by illegal international inmigration, not only from Mexico but from Asia.

      I admire people who want to work long hours at low pay, but obeying our laws is essential. We need a better legal immigration system. Better yet, we have lots of unemployed transfer recipients who need to pick vegetables and make hotel beds.

      Start by eliminating minimum wage and cutting social assistance payments. Pay their moving expenses out of the cities and into the rural areas.

  2. My family came to California in the Gold Rush. I am just sick at what has happened to the Golden State.

    I have a book of California stories and illustrations from national magazines in the 1880s to 1920s. I am ready to puke when I see what was beautiful farmland in 1900 now paved over and a ghetto of gangbangers sitting on top.

  3. Let me add, I went to the downtown Bakersfield library recently. They have bound Sunset Magazines going back to 1903.

    Tons of photos and stories of a long lost California Eden. Beautiful farms in Hollywood, dairy cattle in Santa Monica etc.

    So very sad.

  4. The reason for California's 'decline' is the de facto open borders policy pushed by both the WSJ and the California elite. The idea that California could remain an "Eden" with 30 million people is absurd. No doubt in 10 years it will have 50 million. But, yeah, lets pretend its "Big Government".

    1. I don't disagree with you. But which came first, the chicken or the egg? I ran to the polls in the 90's to vote for prop 187; that would have perhaps saved this state. The fact remains though, without socialism here, illegal immigration would not have ruined this state. Not enforcing immigration law is a form of big-government socialism as well — one in which the elite oligarchy benefits from cheap labor/votes, promises and delivers illegals goodies and normal people (me and I assume you) are left holding the bag AND paying for it.

  5. Over population is the major problem.

    There is something to be said for a QUALITY of life. Countless millions of people being packed together in an urban ant hill is not a life worth living.

    It is a "Jeremiah Johnson" thing. Many people want the wide open spaces.

    Ah what California must have been in 1870. Taking a riverboat for transportation from Sacramento to the Bay area. Open spaces everywhere. Wildlife everywhere. Beauty everywhere.

    Today it is a God Damn traffic jam on the 5 freeway, smog and fucking Costco outlets.

    1. I agree, Gary. It's chaos everywhere here.

  6. *** Old fart alert ***

    When my wife were dating in the olden days (Jerry Brown's first term) we would drive to San Diego to visit her dad.

    Wide open spaces in Orange County and Lion Country Safari. Malls and ugly tract housing does not a life make.

    A historical group I am a member of camped a few years ago at one of the last ranches left in Orange County just outside San Juan Capistrano. You felt like you were in the Twilight Zone. In another world. . . . a better world too.

  7. Yup. I was fortunate to have been born in the great Pacific Northwest, a resident of Washington state from 1952 until 1969 when I left for a small stop off of two years in Illinois before moving n to Massachusetts.

    First, the most beautiful area state in the union is Washington state, At lest it was nback then.

    Second I was fortunate to have traveled the entire length of the Golden State visiting and enjoying the climate, culture, and the people back in the mid to late 60's. Indeed California then was much different than you describe today. At least that's how I, and my father remember it.

    A point… It is not "the state" per se that ruined the prosperity of California and the beauty of the state. Rather it was (is) the people of the state that allowed themselves to be lured into complacency by the siren song of the progressive social engineers.

    But maybe I'm just projecting my personal interpretation and prejudice not having actually lived in the state.

    1. California was a Republican state until the 1960s as was San Francisco.

      Ironically, it was WWII racism against blacks and hatred of gays that caused them to collect here. After WWII, we demilitarized the Golden State, except San Diego, and it became more and more liberal.

      Demographic trends are not looking good, politically. As the state grows, it grows more liberal. Not many ways to turn that around except a plague, tsunami, or Mormon invasion.

      The state has enough good people. We just need to get rid of the bad by removing their reason for staying here.


Commenting here is a privilege, not a right. Comments that contain cursing or insults and those failing to add to the discussion will be summarily deleted.