Thomas Sowell

Maybe it is just local pride on my part, but I think California is the purest example of liberal fundamentalism. New York and Massachusetts have their claims on that title, but California is not called the Left Coast for nothing.

Some recent examples: After an initiative was put on the ballot to curb panhandling in San Francisco, Democratic State Senator John Burton threatened to go into court to fight it, even if the voters passed it into law.

Governor Gray Davis recently added to his Left Coast record by signing into law a bill that will allow illegal aliens to get California driver's licenses. Given our lax election laws, this may enable those illegal aliens to vote.

Meanwhile, Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante, running for governor in the recall election, has denounced businesses for not paying "their share" of taxes and for violating an "unwritten social contract" by not providing enough benefits to their employees.

Just what is the right share of California's high taxes for business to pay? In one word: More. And just what is in this unwritten social contract? Whatever Bustamante says is in it.

This is liberal fundamentalism at its purest: Protect parasites and law-breakers -- and attack those who are producing. The exodus of hundreds of thousands of Californians to other states does not make a dent in this kind of thinking.

Killing the goose that lays the golden egg is a viable political strategy, provided the goose doesn't die before the next election. It could take decades to ruin California completely -- and meanwhile liberals can keep on getting elected again and again.

When the state finally goes down the drain, by then who will remember John Burton, Gray Davis or Cruz Bustamante? By then there will be a thousand other reasons concocted to explain California's problems.

Already there is the all-purpose explanation for the state's problems, trotted out on many occasions -- Proposition 13. Prop 13 kept California homeowners from being eaten alive by property taxes that kept rising as the value of their homes rose, even though homeowners' incomes were not rising nearly as fast.

The only way for a homeowner to translate high real estate prices into actual cash would be to sell the home and either live outdoors or leave California to go to some state where home prices had not yet gone into orbit.

To liberal fundamentalists, the answer to all problems is higher taxes. The very thought of cutting spending is taboo to them.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

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