The latest census data show -- for the first time -- that more Californians have been moving to other states than people in other states have been moving to California. Between 1995 and 2000, California had a net loss of more than 600,000 people to other states. People are voting with their feet.
With this nugget as a launching point, and the recall election as an excuse, Dr. Sowell then pastes in an off-the shelf diatribe about excessive regulation in business-unfriendly California. Total effort, maybe five minutes, allowing for about thirty seconds of thought. Is any attempt made to connect the factoid to the current situation in California? No, that would have slowed the estimable freight train.
Dr. DeLong, nobody's fool, slyly illustrates the absurdity if Dr. Sowell's position with the following rebuttal:
But the 1995-2000 period Sowell references--the one during which Americans "voted with their feet" against California--saw employment grow by 14% in California (as opposed to 12% in the rest of the country). The 1995-2000 period saw real gross state product in California grow by 27% (as opposed to by 21% in the rest of the country).
To call the California economy between 1995 and 2000 a failure doesn't pass the laugh test.
We applaud the subtlety of rebutting a non-argument with a non sequitur. Dr. Sowell didn't actually say the California economy was weak over that time period, and since he is based at Stanford, is probably at least vaguely aware of Silicon Valley and the tech boom of the late 90's.
On the other hand, Dr. DeLong probably manged to zip off this rebuttal in four minutes, so we score it as a victory for him.
Here at "Just Too Much Free Time", however, we do things differently. Our sympathies are, of course, with Dr. Sowell - one can not say enough bad things about California, and my only regret is that he failed to chortle at the dismal performance of the Anaheim Angels this season. That, too, we attribute to Gray Davis, and it is our principled reason for opposing the recall.
I find the factoid Dr. Sowell presents surprising, and the "news" from Prof. DeLong that California had a strong economy in the late 90's only increases my surprise. One wonders what this change in domestic migration patterns might mean.
Dr. Sowell presented his conclusion. I have only questions:
What changed? Dr. Sowell desribes behaviors that have been ocurring in California since the 60's. Can he tell us why California hit a tipping point in the late 90's?
Or, what was the pattern of domestic migration by demographic group? Maybe high real estate prices prompted retired folks to cash out and leave California, and discouraged other retirees from settling in the Golden State.
Or, perhaps, high real estate prices and declining public schools had a similar net effect on families.
Maybe the news that California's economy grew by 27%, relative to the national average of 21%, is interesting but incomplete - IF, for example, Washington and Oregon grew by 30%, that might skew domestic migration. Or, for purists, these (and other) states only have to grow faster than normal relative to California to skew the results. Maybe California normally outperforms the nation by 10%, so these five years were relatively grim. (OK, I would not spend a lot of time on that national scenario, but it is a possibility, and the regional scenario is superficially plausible.)
If I were running for Governor of California, I would find the question posed by Dr. Sowell to be very interesting, and the answers presented by both Dr. Sowell and Dr. DeLong to be incomplete. And clearly, if the problem (is it a problem?) is due to high real estate prices and declining schools, the solution is not necessarily to revamp the business and regulatory environment.
But, end the suspense, I am not running for Governor. I am looking for ideas on time management, however.
Note: Census reports here, and here, in a .pdf format that won't load on my computer. Something around here sets priorities, at least.
UPDATE: Kind words and more thoughts from Prof.DeLong; time management observation from Glenn.