Joel Kotkin on the downfall of California

The Wall Street Journal interviews demographer Joel Kotkin, who speaks in despair of the ruin of California that has been leading more people in recent years to leave the former paradise state than to move there from other states. California’s decline is driven by a large set of leftist government policies and social factors which Kotkin describes, including insane anti-business measures in the midst of a fiscal crisis. But some of these—such as tight controls on development, and the growth of the welfare class—have obviously been driven by mass Third-World immigration, the very immigration that Kotkin, in past decades, idealistically and aggressively championed. His desire was to change America from the historical Anglo-European nation which he found inadequate into a multiracial, multicultural society. But in his WSJ interview, he doesn’t acknowledge any connection between the immigration he applauded and the deadly social and political problems he laments.

As Kotkin wrote with co-author Yoriko Kishomito in the late 1980s, using a typical line of open-borders propaganda, the mass influx from Latin America and Asia into the U.S. represented, not a departure from our history, but its fulfillment:

Nor is this [demographic and cultural] transformation contrary to American tradition, Throughout our history, America’s racial and cultural identity has been in constant flux, reacting to each new wave of immigration. Today’s immigration, primarily from Asia and Latin America, continues that pattern…. From its earliest days, the U.S. has always been something of a “world nation.” [quoted by me in The Path to National Suicide: An Essay on Immigration and Multiculturalism, 1990.]

Indulging in his imperial fantasies, Kotkin even presented Alexander the Great’s attempt to create a multicultural empire as the model for America to follow. For Kotkin, it wasn’t enough for America to be a great nation, with an unprecedented degree and amount of diversity; no, America had to be a world-nation, containing all of humanity.

Kotkin, in short (like Alan Dershowitz), evinces the destructive pattern so typical of liberal Jews. He walks down the street, talking with irrepressible enthusiasm about transforming America into a country that will fit his requirements, while houses collapse behind him. He then turns around, is shocked by the spectacle of ruin, moans, “Oh, this is terrible,” and it never occurs to him that he had anything to do it.

* * *

Kotkin’s complaint about anti-development measures reminds me of a conversation I had 15 or 20 years ago with a person who, like Kotkin, thought that America should be open to the world and bring all of humanity here. Now this person was also a free-spirited countercultural type, a lover of nature, a strong advocate of freedom, someone who in particular disliked government bureaucracy, with which he had had many dealings. When I asked him how America, and particularly California, could handle the staggering increase of population that would result from the open borders policy he supported, he said, “Management.” Meaning things like anti-development measures to prevent the increase of population from resulting in too much growth, building, and traffic in particular cities. In order to turn American into a world-nation, he was ready to abandon his free-spirited vision of America and turn America into a crowded country under comprehensive managerial supervision.

Which, by the way, is another example of how the belief in the equal freedom of all human beings leads inevitably to the technocratic management of all human beings.

- end of initial entry -

Ken Hechtman writes:

You wrote:

Indulging in his imperial fantasies, Kotkin even presented Alexander the Great’s attempt to create a multicultural empire as the model for America to follow. For Kotkin, it wasn’t enough for America to be a great nation, with an unprecedented degree and amount of diversity; no, America had to be a world-nation, containing all of humanity.

Do you remember where Joel Kotkin made the reference to Alexander the Great? I couldn’t find it in Path to National Suicide or the Google Books version of Kotkin’s The Third Century.

LA replies:

I thought it was in The Third Century. but perhaps there was another book or article by Kotkin that I read at that time. I remember clearly his discussion of Alexander the Great as the model for America to follow, with his mass intermarriages of his Greek soldiers with Persian women creating a new, racially and culturally mixed, world-society.

Ken Hechtman writes:

Do you remember any specifics of what Kotkin said?

You shouldn’t be surprised to know that I’m interested in the story of Alexander the Great as the first multiculturalist. But I think of that story primarily as a founding myth, a way to make multiculturalism look much older and more respectable than it really is. Oliver Stone’s 2004 movie is the best example of what I’m talking about.

Even today, the Desertec Project invokes the highways, aqueducts and other infrastructure projects Alexander supposedly intended to build to tie Carthage together with Greece and Persia. The consortium doesn’t compare itself to Rome—that would scare the Arabs. It doesn’t compare itself to the Moors, that would scare the Europeans. But everybody loves Alexander the Great. Everybody loves the idea of being part of something big while still being themselves.

That doesn’t mean I see him as an actual model to follow. I don’t, really. Alexander’s conquered subjects saw the value of Greek culture only because they’d been conquered. His Greek and Macedonian successors never saw any value in Persian culture. They went through the motions as long as Alexander was alive. As soon as he died the dream died with him because he’d never convinced any of them to share it. The lesson is that there are no shortcuts to multiculturalism. You can’t impose it by force and you can’t drag people along through pure charisma.

LA replies:

How is it being imposed now but by coercion, which is the twin of force? Can any person with a mainstream career in the West state openly, without the loss of his job and career, that he believes the Western countries should stop bringing in non-Westerners, non-whites, and Muslims? No. We live under liberalism, which is another term for the reign of fear. And you don’t oppose that, you support it, you’re part of it, it’s the air you breathe, which we all breathe.

James P. writes:

The reference to Alexander the Great is from Kotkin’s book The Next Hundred Million—which says that adding another hundred million people to America by 2050 is a good thing.

Rhona N. writes:

I was glad you called him out. When I read the piece, I was astounded that I saw no—no—mention of the immigration dimension to the problems in California, which is likely the number one reason for mess he discusses. I had no idea that he had been an out-there open borders guy. What a coward and a loser not to acknowledge his fatal mistakes. But, frankly, this is typical of liberals, and liberal Jews in particular, never to claim responsibility for their litany of errors and false assumptions. Remember, they always have the best of intentions, right?

Posted by Lawrence Auster at April 21, 2012 11:24 AM | Send

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