Doug French

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, Joel Kotkin tells of the demise of Los Angeles. No, you won't see Snake Plissken or Rick Deckard racing through the City of Angels just yet. But the city's political machine is doing all it can "to leave behind a dense, government-dominated, bankrupt, dysfunctional, Athens by the Pacific," explains Kotkin.

The fact that government is visibly destroying L.A. is especially ironic, given that government policy made the southern California metropolis what it is — a sprawling sea of tract homes laced with ribbons of concrete highways — providing hope for a better life in the sunshine on the sunset coast.

Los Angeles was once a sleepy Mexican pueblo, Kotkin points out in his book The City: A Global History, but business leaders like railroad magnate Henry Huntington imagined L.A. to be "destined to become the most important city in this country, if not the world."

The Pueblo de Los Angeles was founded in 1781 by Felipe de Neve where the Los Angeles river emerges from the foothills.

The water (which would soon be heavily subsidized) allowed for irrigation, and soon citrus groves and fields replaced the dusty cattle ranches. After agriculture came oil discoveries, and as Robert Fishman points out in Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia, the first of many land booms happened in the 1880s. "From the first, the great migration to Los Angles was a migration of prosperity," writes Fishman, "of people with capital and skills seeking a more comfortable life."

Not all observers are as charitable as Fishman. In fact, most writers view Southern California with contempt. Frank Lloyd Wright once remarked, "It is as if you tipped the U.S. up, so that all the commonplace people slid down to Southern California."

In an article entitled "Paradise" for The American Mercury, James M. Cain wrote what H.L. Mencken judged "the first really good article on California that has ever been done."


Doug French

Doug French is is president of the Mises Institute and author of Early Speculative Bubbles & Increases in the Money Supply and Walk Away: The Rise and Fall of the Home-Ownership Myth

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