On the heels of last week's post about California and the strain on our water resources, here is a great if lenghty piece delightfully titled "The Town Los Angeles Drank." It goes into a great deal of detail on just how complex, costly, and increasingly audacious the plans and infrastructure necessary to meet the giant state's water needs are getting.
Aside from the obvious relevance to the current drought and long term questions about the availability of water, the article touches on just how timid governments are these days to propose anything ambitious…anything at all, really. The 20th Century was defined by massive, expensive public works, and where would California be without them (think Hoover Dam)? The 21st is unfolding as an era in which everything the government does is Bad, anything it tries to do with fail, and the only acceptable Big Programs are the ones that take public funds and hand them over to private industry (Bush's prescription drug program or the ACA come to mind). And businesses, of course, know how to do things The Right Way. The only problem is that the free market is incapable of incentivizing them to solve unprofitable problems, meaning that the role of government is to slop enough money into the trough to spur them into action.
If that seems backward and inefficient to you, or if basic questions of accountability are coming to mind, you're a communist.
Fortunately California is a little less beholden to articles of right wing ideological faith than, say, Kansas but they've had their moments over the years. This is a state that made it illegal for its legislature to raise taxes, invented the Three Strikes law, and shat Ronald Reagan and Bob Dornan upon the rest of the nation. When the staggering cost of keeping the water flowing to the state's megacities as well as its agricultural backbone becomes clear, will the state pony up or will the process of governing be derailed by another idiotic ballot proposition? Based on the state's recent history, it could go either way.