City Journal is in the process of posting articles from its Spring issue. Most of what’s appeared so far is great…which makes it only average by City Journal‘s standards. This publication so regularly soars beyond excellence that to be an above-average issue it must transcend the mundane limits of reality…which it has, more than once.
Looking at the table of contents, I’m fascinated by an upcoming article by Alain de Botton (author of one of my very favorite books, How Proust Can Change Your Life) apparently about Roman pessimism, and of course I’m eagerly awaiting the upcoming appearance of Theodore Dalrymple’s newest foray into social criticism. As always, the requisite article about the economic situation taught me plenty.
But the standout so far is this one: “Spendthrift Sunbelt States.” Nicole Gelinas is one of City Journal‘s best writers (remember, that’s saying a lot), and her talent for synthesizing a diverse universe of facts, and distilling them into a concise and incisive analysis, is on display here in full glory. Like her colleague Heather MacDonald, Gelinas could find a pattern that offers meaningful commentary in phone books from all the state capitals, and compose a report on it with all the eloquence and precision of Lincoln imitating Montaigne imitating Cicero.
Seriously, why isn’t the staff office at this magazine messing up the Earth’s magnetic poles because it’s so full of metal from their monopoly of Pulitzer Prizes?
But back to “Spendthrift Sunbelt States,” I was drawn to it because I live in Nevada, one of the three nouveau riche states that have squandered their wealth in their desperate attemtps to impress the older kids who get to sit at the cool table: New York and California. Gelinas breaks down the spending trends and the evidence would be irrefutable, if I hadn’t already been observing the shift toward profligacy with my own eyes over the last twenty years. (Hey, Nicole, have you heard about Mayor Oscar Goodman’s latest bit of windmill tilting: his obsession with building a new city hall that we don’t need, can’t afford, and which won’t permanently help the economy?)
After reading it, I sent an email that I hope to see printed in the next issue, sharing anecdotes about home prices and foreclosures in my area, as well as one of my favorite illustrations of our slide from hardy, independent libertarians into big-government dependency: the sign that used to stand at the state line in the 1940’s that said, “No income tax, no sales tax, no inheritance tax, no corporation tax, no gift tax” and “A debt free state welcomes you.”