Folks, this is a bleg. I need help.
Preparing to interview Gov. Rick Perry for Uncommon Knowledge down in Austin next month, I keep finding the same question coming to mind: What makes Texas Texas?
While my beloved California has raised taxes, imposed onerous regulations, and run vast budget deficits--and all this under both Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, a Republican, and Gov. Jerry Brown, a Democrat, demonstrating that dysfunction here in the Golden State has become bipartisan--while California has been doing all it could to drive business and enterprising citizens out of the state, Texas has welcomed business, keeping taxes low, imposing a relatively light and more or less sensible regulatory regime, and--this is Perry's personal accomplishment--enacting a tort reform that seems to have ended frivolous lawsuits against business. Of the jobs created in this country in the last few years, according to some estimates, the majority have been created in one state, the Lone Star State.
Pretty clearly, Texas is now deep into a virtuous cycle: Conservative policies have created jobs and wealth--and a hunger for more such policies. But how did the cycle get started? Does it all go back to Sam Houston and the hardy, self-reliant Anglos who moved into the state when it was still part of Mexico, then declared independence? Does it have something to do with the willingness of the business class to participate in politics? Whereas here in California loads of businesspeople shun politics--one of the proudest boasts of the Silicon Valley entrepreneur is that he refuses to have anything to do with politics--in Texas, I've noticed, they seem to play a more active role, helping to choose, and fund, good candidates.
The history of the place, the current business culture--what?
I repeat, What makes Texas Texas?
I'd be happy to hear from anyone who thinks he has an insight to offer, but, needless to say, I extend a particular invitation to the denizens of the Lone Star State. Honestly, I just can't figure it out. Say on!