How California’s Paradise Become Our Purgatory

Victor Davis Hanson
American Greatness

California has become a test case of the suicide of the West. Never before has such a state, so rich in natural resources and endowed with such a bountiful human inheritance, self-destructed so rapidly.

How and why did California so utterly consume its unmatched natural and ancestral inheritance and end up as a warning to Western civilization of what might be in store for anyone who followed its nihilism?

The symptoms of the state’s suicide are indisputable.

Governor Gavin Newsom enjoyed a recent $98 billion budget surplus—gifted from multibillion-dollar federal COVID-19 subsidies, the highest income and gas taxes in the nation, and among the country’s steepest sales and property taxes.

Yet in a year, he turned it into a growing $45 billion budget deficit.

At a time of an over-regulated, overtaxed, and sputtering economy, Newsom spent lavishly on new entitlements, illegal immigrants, and untried and inefficient green projects.

Newsom was endowed with two of the wettest years in recent California history. Yet he and radical environmentalists squandered the water bounty—as snowmelts and runoff long designated for agricultural irrigation were drained from aqueducts and reservoirs to flow out to sea.

Newsom transferred millions of dollars designated by a voter referendum to build dams and aqueducts for water storage and instead blew up four historic dams on the Klamath River. For decades, these now-destroyed scenic lakes provided clean, green hydroelectric power, irrigation storage, flood control, and recreation.

California hosts one-third of the nation’s welfare recipients. Over a fifth of the population lives below the property line. Nearly half the nation’s homeless sleep on the streets of its major cities.

The state’s downtowns are dirty, dangerous, and increasingly abandoned by businesses—most recently Google—that cannot rely on a defunded and shackled police.

Newsom’s California has spent billions on homeless relief and subsidizing millions of new illegal migrant arrivals across the state’s porous southern border.

The result was predictably even more homeless and more illegal immigrants, all front-loaded onto the state’s already overtaxed and broken healthcare, housing, and welfare entitlements.

Newsome raised the minimum wage for fast-food workers to $22 an hour. The result was wage inflation rippling out to all service areas, unaffordable food for the poor, and massive shut-downs and bankruptcies of fast food outlets.

Twenty-seven percent of Californians were born outside of the United States. It is a minority-majority state. Yet California has long dropped unifying civic education, while the bankrupt state funds exploratory commissions to consider divisive racial reparations.

California’s universities are hotbeds of ethnic, religious, and racial chauvinism and infighting. State officials, however, did little as its campuses were plagued for months by rampant and violent anti-Semitism.

Almost nightly, the nation watches mass smash-and-grab attacks on California retail stores. Carjackers and thieves own the night. They are rarely caught, even more rarely arrested—and almost never convicted.

Currently, Newsom is fighting in the courts to stop the people’s constitutional right to place on the ballot initiatives to restore penalties for violent crime and theft.

Gas prices are the highest in the continental United States, given green mandate formulas and the nation’s highest, and still raising, gasoline taxes—and are scheduled to go well over $6 a gallon.

Yet its ossified roads and highways are among the nation’s most dangerous, as vast sums of transportation funding were siphoned off to the multibillion-dollar high-speed rail boondoggle.

The state imports almost all the costly vitals of modern life, mostly because it prohibits using California’s own vast petroleum, natural gas, timber, and mineral resources.

As California implodes, its embarrassed government turns to the irrelevant, if not ludicrous.

It now outlaws natural gas stoves in new homes. It is adding new income-based surcharges for those who dutifully pay their power bills—to help subsidize the 2.5 million Californians who simply default on their energy bill with impunity.

What happened to the once-beautiful California paradise?

Millions of productive but frustrated, overtaxed, and underserved middle-class residents have fled to low-crime, low-tax, and well-served red states in disgust

In turn, millions of illegal migrants have swarmed the state, given its sanctuary-city policies, refusal to enforce the law, and generous entitlements.

Meanwhile, a tiny coastal elite, empowered by $9 trillion in Silicon Valley market capitalization, fiddled while their state burned.

California became a medieval society of plutocratic barons, subsidized peasants, and a shrinking and fleeing middle class. It is now home to a few rich estates, subsidized apartments, and unaffordable middle-class houses.

California suffers from poorly ranked public schools—but brags about its prestigious private academies. Its highways are lethal—but it hosts the most private jets in the nation.

The fantasies of a protected enclave of Gavin Newsom, Nancy Pelosi, and the masters of the Silicon Valley universe have become the abject nightmares of everyone else.

In sum, a privileged Bay Area elite inherited a California paradise and turned it into purgatory.

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70 thoughts on “How California’s Paradise Become Our Purgatory”


    Or as I like to put it, “California: Where ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Isn’t a Novel, It’s a Documentary”.

  2. The Democrats intend to make society poorer, because a poorer society consumes less and that’ll supposedly save the planet. Newsom is a prophet, but it runs deeper than him. While it’s a struggle to make the already affluent poor as they have many ways to dodge and weave, it’s proven to be not so hard to keep those who are not affluent down. Ironically, those that are being kept down are young and substantially minority, the very people the Dems claim are their natural constituents.

    You have to admit that the Democrats are accomplishing what they’ve set out to do. Newsom galavants around the country showing pictures of tent encampments says look, this is how we all should live (‘cept me and my friends of course), and I can bring this to your town if only you’d elect me supreme ruler. He’s no slouch. He’d work very hard to impoverish the entire nation if ever given the chance. Big hairy audacious goals indeed.

  3. John Manspeaker

    Meanwhile, politicians in Colorado, Illinois and Minnesota are trying their damnedest to follow California down the drain.

    1. True-blue New Jersey is among the ‘race to the bottom’ crowd. Gov. Murphy tries really hard to emulate California’s policies. He proposed, and the Democrat-ruled legislature, a record $53 billion budget for this fiscal year. Our state Constitution has a 2% cap on property tax increases – passed long ago – but since Murphy wants to spend more, he’s proposing to cut school funding and let municipalities exceed the 2% cap. There’s more, but he could run as Newsom’s VP candidate for prez.

  4. Laura Tierney

    Yes we had to leave the state and now the state we live in is turning into California. Very sad what the leftists and Rhinos have done to this once great country

  5. Truer words were never spoken. I’ve seen it all in my 80 years of living in California. Left wing rule by idiots has ruined this once beautiful state.

  6. Michael Calligan

    I lived in California 51 years, 1948-1999, from Los Angeles to Berkeley to Humboldt, and it was as you described, essentially heaven on earth. But I disagree with your last word, which is a place where souls expiate their sins before going to heaven, and that can’t happen as it has already gone to hell.

  7. Jim j Hoffmann

    Look up ‘feckless leadership’ in the dictionary and there is Newsoms photo!! Same with all the left wing pseudo-intellectual lemmings in the current administration!! I have no doubt that someone in a corner office in the White House is drafting another conspiracy theory against Trump. Probably accusing him of having a sexual relationship with a sheep back in the 90’s!! Say goodby to the principles of right v wrong forever. Keep up the good work Victor.

  8. Right on, VDH. The electorate in California continues to give absolute power to the Democrats in the State Senate and the State Assembly, and they demonstrate continually that they care not a whit about the taxpayers….

    1. Get a copy of “Against the Great Reset”, compiled by Matt Walsh, 18 essays about global trends and the aims of the World Economic Forum under Klaus Schwab.

  9. Its depressing that the above is all true, and not exaggerated. I’ve been Calif longer than VDH, and have observed all the above in progress for the last 4 decades. The “progressive” political leadership has not been good – anywhere – as far as I can tell. Euphemistically-speaking!

  10. hate to say it, but California deserves all of this an more. They’ve voted for it. Repeatedly. They always vote for democrats.

    1. I would dare say widespread, endemic cheating and bribery, is but one of the encouraged hallmarks of being a politician in this state. There is zero expectation of honesty, integrity, decency, honor, trustworthiness, or any other positive trait. At this point, the cartels from Mexico and China are completely in charge.

    2. My husband and I didn’t vote for any of this. For 34 years we actively campaigned for conservative (not just Republican but genuinely conservative) leaders. Ultimately our votes became meaningless and our Southern California life was no longer affordable. So we left. I miss so much about our life there, but the California we loved is gone.

  11. Douglas Lindsey

    Blame “Democracy”, Democrats keep voting for Democrats, may they suffer the pain of their Democracy.

  12. MR. HANSON,




  13. Charles Sherry

    V D H sure calls a spade a spade and California what it has been reduced to. Sure is a shame to all of us who came here to live out our lives in its glories. What a sad disappointment it is now. Thank you Gavin!

  14. My parents (education levels: third and eighth grade) got us out of Long Island in 1969. Things were bad then.
    Husband and I (education level: some college) left Santa Cruz in 1993. We were called cowards but we knew things were bad then.
    Education doesn’t automatically translate to wisdom. Watch the patterns, pray, and act accordingly.

  15. Power-hungry politicians like Barbara Lee, Nancy Pelosi and her nephew, Gavin Newsom are a few of those at fault in turning paradise into purgatory. You’ve heard the saying “misery loves company”. People like these three are miserable human beings. God is not mocked! They will receive their “just” rewards. Enough said!!!

  16. When I was a kid growing up in the 60s on the East Coast, everybody wanted to go to the California of the Beach Boys and the Mammas and the Pappas. California Dreamin’, Ventura Highway, Surfer Girl, Surf City, etc. So sad this has happened.

  17. VDH, grew up in Fresno but left mid ’70s. Came back to visit mid ’80s and could not believe the changes. It was a wonderful place to grow up and almost unrecognizable now. That makes me sad.

    1. I grew up down the road in Hanford and left in the 80’s for the Military and never moved back because I could see what was happening compared to other States that I lived in. This doesn’t make me sad, it pisses me off to no end that politicians and criminals have taken all the blood, sweat, and tears of multiple generations work and effort and have destroyed it plundering the State!!!! The total lack of common sense, critical thinking skills, and lack of responsibility is preposterous and most likely criminal……

  18. Priscilla Hammond

    Excellent article! It is just tragic what has happened to a once beautiful state. For the Left, California is the blueprint of what they want to transform the rest of the country into. There will be the bi-coastal elites and the rest will be poverty-striken, beholden to the Government for survival. There will be no middle class.

  19. I used to live in California as I was stationed at NAS Alameda on board the USS Enterprise from 1983 to 1987 and then at 32nd Street in San Diego from 1995-1996. I created lots of memories while I was there but that is all it is, memories. California now is a dystopia, either like Orwell’s 1984 or Rand’s Atlas Shrugged. If they can turn things around by rejecting the political elites who have run the State into the ground, I would consider going back but not as it is now.

  20. What Newsom and company has accomplished could not have been done without training. I don’t know if you mentioned it, I didn’t read through it completely, I dislike cheap horror stories intensely. The fires are not accidental. There was a story circulating about a secretive group that owns a very large piece of land that is suppose to have lots of tunnels and subterranean rooms where children go to disappear and the point of this wild rant is, as the story goes, those wild fires are purposely set to get rid of those nasty trailer parks and 30,000 dollar homes and thus drive out of state the contemptibles. It’s the perfect formula. Destroy the dams, release the water, burn the properties, bring in criminals to rule the streets, release them back on the streets if and when caught thus chasing those useless eaters out of state; bring in the military to remove most of those that snuck in, sell the property to those who deserve living in the new feudal country with just enough brown people to clean the toilets and prune the bushes. By electing or appointing those whose philosophy of life is genetically locked in a grass hut, one provides the racism shield and then later setting them up to do what they do best which is embezzle. It’ll take atbe twenty years but only millionaires will be allowed in – you know – like what they’re doing on Maui.

    1. Bingo! All by design and Cali is just the starting point. Get everyone out of the rural areas where they can be self sustainable, wipe out all the farms, wipe out the cattle, poison the air, water and food, create economic instability. It’s called the great reset. UN agenda 21/2030. Where only the globalist puppets have money and land and everyone else lives in smart 15 minute cities eating bugs. Straight out of a dystopian novel

  21. The most important barometer of California is whether or not Professor Hanson is compelled to leave his multi generation farm and home?
    One can only hope that Newsome is consumed by his devil’s brew.

  22. Lived in California for years. No longer. Still visit family couple times a year. It used to be an awesome state. No longer. Victor captured it perfectly.

  23. We fled California in 2003… glad we didn’t wait. The truth is, even then, CA was to expensive to live on retirement income, but the amazing decay and destruction that has occurred since then is sickening. I will never return, even though I love the land. The “Progressives” have destroyed it with their insane Utopian policies. R.I.P. California.

  24. Was this written article taken down from the verbal podcast done by VDH? There are errors in it which I find it hard to believe were the working of Mr. Hanson. It is excellent as to content, but perhaps needs a go-over before it goes out in this written form.

  25. Jaime Contreras

    Thank you David for youd keen insight into the overreach and willful change of best standards of life in thd nation. I would lovd to hear how an empower person and governor such as Newsom do and undo all that you describe and yet he remains on top while aspirations to the highest office in thd USA. How? The check and balances are blind and deaf? Are Californians so mad that want to self destroy? Such tunnel vision and selfishness of the people is at unbelievable high levels. David, would you mind sharing your thoughts?


    I moved to California in 1963 and it was truly a “Golden” state.
    Life in the Central Valley, the garden of the world, was just so special
    Fresh and affordable fruits, veggies and all the rest.
    Yosemite just an hour away! Life was good.
    3 years ago I left, now living in Arizona where the roads are smooth, go in logical directions, gas is cheaper, utilities are reasonable, state income tax is 2.5%, no graffiti, no homeless camps.
    I hate to dross that river when I must go back on business or to see family and friends.

    Alas California…… you had the best of everything, now you are a national disgrace.

  27. The state needs to be taken over by a governing body that can restore it. How can a nation allow its precious states and cities be subject to such perverse, corrupt, destructive outcomes; a nation can not allow this.

    We can not allow politicians to destroy and invaders invade. Criminals must be sought and incarcerated. Schools need to teach real studies and end anti-patriotic, Marxist, hedonistic perversion.

    Vote Donald Trump!

    1. Unfortunately it’s not just the Dems. Two roads to the same destination. It’s a scripted dog and pony show. Voting Republican wint change the outcome. They’re all in on it

  28. Andrew Averill

    I graduated from Hastings College of Law in 1968. I worked nights mostly in the US Post Office. I became a resident of California for my 2nd and 3rd years so the tuition was minimal, I just needed to earn enough to live. By the end of my first year I had more money than I started with. I have written the school to stop asking for support. I haven’t taken the final step of mailing back my diploma. The school is totally DEI, and not the same school I graduated from. I’m sure they are participating in grade inflation and a massive bureaucracy exists at the school. I thank you for your service to the cause of justice and the American Way.. San Francisco was a beautiful city during my years there, 1965 to 1968. I purchased a signed edition of your “The End of Everything”. I graduated from The University of Maine in 1965 majoring in European History. I don’t recognize that school anymore either. Thank you for your contribution to civil society and please don’t give up. I had Covid once, I had to take a test and it came up positive. I had no symptoms, but appreciate your issue, my daughter had long COVID. I come from a working class family although my mother was a school teacher. I am82 years old and do not expect to live much longer. I hope you persist in your efforts to expose the radical Jacobins who only want power and provide nothing of value to our country. In the long run, even Robespierre last his head, we can only hope. A Peter Averill

  29. The march to failure accompanied by zero accountability and a mainstream media wedded to a powerful but corrupt Democrat party using public funding as a pied piper of permanent government benefits and profligate spending In cockamamie agendas leads to a new dark age descending upon the people described as progress by the dagger of one party government.

  30. Lois E Schmidt

    Dear Victor,
    You paint a sad but true picture of California, and there doesn’t seem to be much hope for a return to common sense, decency….or any of the other attributes we Americans experienced growing up.

    I don’t know what I can possibly say, all I can do from here, in Milwaukee WI, is to pray…and hope that somehow President Trump can win in November and at least put those entities in our Country that hold to the original standards and values back in charge.

    God bless you, sir!

  31. Stephen A. Hill

    Prof. your book, “The End of Everything,” explored the extinction of civilizations by war.
    Science Fiction from the 1960s explored the extinction of Western Civilization by Nuclear War.
    Arnold Toynbee’s “A Study of History” explored how the saved culture of an extinct civilization can be the seeds of a new civilization.
    Now, the Nihilistic Iconoclasts are eating the seed corn of culture, so that our civilization will be the last civilization.

  32. Well-reasoned and well said Victor, as always. Keep fighting the good fight, please.
    It is ironic bordering on criminal, even treasonous, that the most important audience for this article – Gruesome Newscum himself – would flat-out refuse to read it, even if his most ardent supporters begged him to. And given the 50-year Dimocrat monopoly on power in the state, and the mind-bogglingly weak bench of state leadership after Greasy is termed out, things are not going to end well for us.
    The last person to leave won’t need to worry about turning out the lights, because on present course and speed, the lights won’t be on anyway.

  33. Joseph Barrett

    There is no reason for optimism. Too many Californians are addicted to their ideology. The great days of Athens quickly passed because of the failures of its citizens. From Berkeley once the Athens of the West.

  34. Zeek Thompson

    “Govern me harder, Daddy!” seems to be their motto. They voted for their own self-destruction and will continue to do so. Red states would be wise to pass laws forbidding new residents that moved in from communist blue states from voting for at least 10 years, otherwise they will spread like cockroaches and spread misery equally among the populace, which is their goal.

  35. Yeah, and all the red states on the federal handout list because they can’t fund their budgets without prosperous ‘other’ state aid better hope other prosperity continues.

    1. Gee, I haven’t seen this mindless canard in a long time. It was proven false long, long ago. Some people are just bitter clingers to their fairy tales. By the way, which states had their hands out in 2021 as Biden and Democrats handed out a couple hundred billion of other people’s money to cover their pre-Covid debts? Oh, yeah: California, ILLannoy, New York, etc.

  36. David Cannady

    Conservatives think this is due to unseriousness and incompetence, but it isn’t. No, this is the Progressive Movement fulfilling its goals. The only possible solution is to extend the blessings of liberty to all, as in “all are created equal and are endowed with certain unalienable rights”. But, Conservatives don’t believe that and so we are lost.

  37. Me and my wife, both born in California in the late 50s, are conservatives met at UCLA in the mid 70s. We got married after and my wife did not like LA since she was from the bay area so we move to Sunnyvale. We ended up having out sons in the 80s in Stockton as my job had moved there.

    California changed so much after Reagan left as Gov and Brown took over. Brown and the environmentalists stopped Reagan’s use of Logging Companies in the forests to clean dead trees, caused less taxes and jobs, and lead to more massive wild fires. Then we had the Wind Farms in Altamont Pass & Tehachapi that many do not work but kill massive amount of birds yearly. Also Solar Farms that keep get added in various areas of California then after a few years are removed or destroyed. All the wind turbines and solar panels are toxic that bad for the environment.

    In 1996 my company moved me and my family to the east coast to work in one of their Subsidiaries. The movement was good financially as taxes in California have increased every year. I retired at the end of 2021.

  38. When things get so bad that the remaining affluent are massively and seriously afflicted, then they enable the state rise from its purgatorial abyss?

  39. I have lived in LA since 1979. I wish I could leave forever. There has never, in my memory, been a time in CA when I thought it could get this bad.

    The irony is the more we speak up, the less chances we have to impeach Newsom.

  40. Marin County above San Francisco has an elected DA, Lori Frugoli, who has Progressive “humane” policies. My daughter’s neighbor in San Raphael is an ex SF detective who retired and coached the local high school team for 15 years. Then he was arrested for “kidnapping” subject to a life sentence because he attempted to drive a juvenile to his home to speak to his parents. The kid had repeatedly been slamming his skateboard on the detective’s front door over a period of weeks. Dean wanted to give the kid a break instead of filing charges. But, the kid lied about his home. He lived in another town and they ended up at a friend’s house, where he was dropped off unharmed. His parents were drinking at a local watering hole and they let him roam. The kid then lied about being manhandled and his parents demanded the arrest -Ring Camera video never viewed notwithstanding. The detective took a plea opposed by the Marin County woman prosecutor. This is life in CA.

  41. I’m sorry, I like VDH but his statement that money for the high speed train(not a boondoggle) was not taken from Highway money, that’s a lie.

  42. I lived in Hellafornia from ’73-’08 when they elected Gov Turd (Brown) again. I sold my home, business & moved to Texas. I wish I would have wised up sooner ! Gov Gruesome has destroyed the ability for a working middle class family to just survive let along enjoy life. Texas is friendly, people don’t flip Y’all off on the highway cuz everybody has a gun in their pickup & they ain’t afraid ta use it. Funny how courteous folks get when there is a consequence for their actions.

  43. This is Biden’s ‘Build Back Better’ plan on steroids. Does anyone really want this for the rest of the country? 😵‍💫

  44. David, if you are serious and pragmatic you will find that “conservatives” want the same things as you.

    “Progressive” is the wrong word! The more accurate word is “Regressive”!

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