Yay! I've just arrived in California and - extreme jet-lag permitting - I'm off to have dinner in SF tonight with Diane Ellis. What could be nicer?
Well, I'll tell you what would be nicer. Arriving in the world's seventh largest economy (allegedly) and imbibing the up-beat can-do spirit I remember from my first visit in the 1980s rather than experiencing it as it is now: a moribund, failed state.
I talked to my driver on the way from the airport: a cheerful Fijian just 15 years into his 30 year mortgage on a house he bought for $300,000 now worth $130,000. His $3000 take home pay all goes on servicing the mortgage repayments, the insurance and the utility bills. That leaves the $1500 a month earned by his wife to pay for everything else: two young kids, the guy's parents who live with them, everything. Where's the life there? Where's the hope? Where's the future?
Not, of course, that it's much different on my side of the pond. I talked to a Devon dairy farmer's wife on the flight over. The family have farmed there for three generations but they can scarcely scrape a living these days. Feedstuff is prohibitively expensive; the cheese-paring of the supermarkets which buy their produce is such that they make almost nothing from their milk; then there's the ever-present risk of TB which, if detected in their herd, renders the calves unsaleable. Why is there so much TB around? Well the farmers all blame it on badgers. But guess what? It's illegal to kill badgers because the animal rights agitators have decided that because badgers are cute and stripey they trump the right of dairy farmers to feed their families.
This is all tragically symptomatic of our age's warped values. We seem to have forgotten - in the decadent, post-war peace-dividend west at any right - that an economy which does not place as its highest priority the right of the working man and woman to ply their trade unencumbered by tax, regulation and political correctness is an economy which is doomed to fail.
How do we get out of this mess? Discuss.