California’s Road to Leviathan


At a time when technology and public opinion should be expanding the boundaries of innovation and self-expression, we appear to be entering a new era of ever greater economic and political centralization, Wendell Cox and I suggest in a new paper.

The trend to a more centralized economy is particularly evident in the information and media sectors, once hotbeds of entrepreneurial opportunity but now dominated by a handful of leviathan firms who gobble up competitors and often control markets at will. This trend is also evident in Washington, which increasingly regulates all aspects of our life, under an unprecedented welter of presidential and regulatory decrees, often bypassing the legislative process.

But nowhere is the centralist leviathan being incubated more than in the once fiercely individualist state of California. President Obama’s centralizing can be at least partially justified by the antics of an obstructionist Congress which has shown little desire to work across party lines. But that’s not the case here in California, which functions largely as a one-party dictatorship of crony business oligarchies, an aloof and arrogant bureaucracy, the green lobby and public-sector unions.

From “Small is beautiful” to “L’état, c’est moi”

In his quirky first term, Jerry Brown was skeptical of central control and an open adherent of the decentralist, “small is beautiful” philosophy of the late British philosopher E.F. Schumaker. Now he seems to be enamored with creating a “coercive state” that would have fit better during the reign of France’s “Sun King,” Louis XIV.

California already leads the country in imposing state regulations and laws on everything from gender rights, to cow flatulence, to fair pay, to new licensing requirements for a never-ending panoply of professions. This huge extension of government has already reshaped the cost of such essentials as energy, particularly on the state’s impoverished, heavily Latino interior, and seems likely to escalate already inflated property values to even more absurd levels.

Read the entire piece at the Orange County Register.

Joel Kotkin is executive editor of He is the Roger Hobbs Distinguished Fellow in Urban Studies at Chapman University and executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism. His newest book, The Human City: Urbanism for the rest of us, will be published in April by Agate. He is also author of The New Class ConflictThe City: A Global History, and The Next Hundred Million: America in 2050. He lives in Orange County, CA.