As I pulled into the parking lot adjacent to my radio station in Los Angeles, I noticed a Mercedes R500 sitting next to me. Between the Mercedes symbol and the R500 label sat a big, fat bumper sticker: "BERNIE SANDERS 2016."
The Mercedes R500 retailed at $71,000 back in 2006, when the well-off young gentledriver's parents presumably purchased it. Now, their kid pulls up to the pricey Equinox gym (sticker price: $160 per month) with a bumper sticker touting the virtues of redistribution of wealth.
This is the privileged generation of Americans. They've been able to benefit from the free markets of their parents; they can afford to purchase Fine water to sip while running on the world's highest-end ellipticals, then clean off beneath the rain shower head before heading out to brunch at Gracias Madre. Then, that night, they head off to the LA Memorial Sports Arena to listen to a 73-year-old socialist babble on about the evils of the system that granted them their wealth.
America has become so wealthy that its citizens now ignore the source of that wealth. "It's not all about the money" is an easy thing for rich people to say. But ask the billions around the globe living in abject poverty whether trashing a system that guarantees tremendous baseline economic opportunity seems like a great idea.
But this is what happens when no one teaches young Americans the morality behind the system that guarantees economic opportunity: young Americans decide that "higher morality" dictates the death of that system. Young Americans don't desire an Xbox and a car -- they desperately want a feeling of meaning and belonging, none of which capitalism naturally provides.
Socialism, however, does.
The outcome: California. It isn't just the incoherence of bumper stickers and car brands that makes California the center of American hypocrisy. It's the fact that Californians routinely embrace more regulation and higher taxes in order to feel that quick boost of self-esteem, and then spend effort and time attempting to avoid those rules. Nannies expect to be paid in cash, because all the same people who voted for higher employer taxes refuse to pay those taxes. Young Californians only use free market Uber after endorsing higher minimum wage and more restrictions on transportation. Californians take massive tax deductions, but only after voting to raise their own income taxes.
None of this makes California more livable. Instead, Californians live in a fantasy world of their own making: a socialist utopia with a thriving black market, in which the popularly backed economy fails while individuals strive to avoid it. All of which runs fine, until the day that Bernie Sanders actually closes the loopholes and cracks down on the cheating. Then the Mercedes turns into a Yugo, and the bumper sticker finally lands where it belongs: on a product of socialism rather than free markets.