09/21/2019

California Feudalism

California was built by people with
aspirations, many of them lacking
cultural polish or elite educations, but
dedicated to hard work, innovation,
family and community. A large number
came from other countries or poor
backgrounds: sharecroppers from the
South, campesinos from Mexico, people
fleeing communism and poverty in Asia,
escapees from Hitler’s Europe or Okies
and others fleeing the dust bowl.

This proud legacy is threatened. California
has now taken on an increasingly
feudal cast, with a small but growing
group of the ultra-rich, a diminishing
middle class, and a large, rising segment
of the population that is in or
near poverty. Indeed, amidst some of
the greatest accumulations of wealth
in history, California has emerged as a
leader in poverty, particularly among
its minority and immigrant populations
and throughout its interior.

Something is clearly wrong with this
picture. Yet our state leaders, and too
many of our business and civic leaders,
are convinced that California, far from
being something of a cautionary tale,
offers a great “role model” for the rest of
the country.1 The state’s drift towards an
ever more unequal, feudalized society,
characterized by concentrated property
ownership, persistent poverty levels, and
demographic stagnation does not seem
to concern our Sacramento leadership.

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