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Be Careful What You Wish For

The state of Oklahoma has California in its sights. People and businesses seeking greater opportunity are fleeing California, and justifiably so. The most humane thing for Oklahoma to do is open our borders and offer economic asylum to the oppressed refugees of the People’s Republic of California. However, I urge caution.

In an age dominated by masked faces and super-sensitivity to the spread of viral conditions, I suggest the California Condition (condition) should be met with great trepidation. 

What is the condition? It is the virulent spread of tyranny and oppression. Common symptoms include limited freedom and mobility accompanied by exorbitant costs of living, energy, doing business, and pretty much everything else. Those suffering under the condition often experience a diminished capacity for reason. Uncommon symptoms may include fever and fits of rage. The condition is progressive. It tends to worsen as reason diminishes and illogic consumes the mind. Many that experience life under the condition desperately seek refuge in states with a thriving environment. However, be advised that the condition is highly contagious. Absent appropriate measures, the contagion can consume the host state as individuals suffering from the illogic vote as they did in California for the same public policies and the same brand of elected officials that gave rise to the condition in the first place. The destructive power of this condition, if unabated, is total. It is a clear and present danger to the health, safety, and welfare of host states. 

From 2007 to 2016 the California exodus resulted in a net loss in population of approximately 1 million people.  According to the Census Bureau, in 2018 alone, nearly 700 thousand people left California for places like Texas (86 thousand) and Arizona (68 thousand). The Oklahoma Commerce Authority suggests a few reasons why people and businesses might be enticed to “leave the coast to get the most.” These include California’s heavy tax burden, increasing cost of energy, unlivable cost of living (groceries, transportation, housing, utilities, health care), and anti-business policies.  

Each of these, by itself, would be sufficient reason to incite flight and each is predominantly the result of bad policy decisions. To avoid the spread of the condition one must recognize the connection between the condition and the policies perpetuated by policymakers. The consequential tyranny and oppression should be a clarion call to California emigrants to execute an abrupt about-face and abandon the policies that led California down a dark path.  

To connect the dots between policy and the condition, consider just one small aspect of the cost of living – the price of gasoline. In the modern economy, transportation is a necessity. The price of gas is likely one of the transportation costs with which almost everyone can relate. Most of us have had to watch the total sale at the pump rise with increasing rapidity over the years. Furthermore, looking at this data point allows us to compare and contrast the two states easily. 

While California and Oklahoma are drastically different in many ways, the two states are actually similarly situated in household and individual relationships to automobiles when adjusted for population. In California, 93.1% of California households had access to at least one vehicle compared to 94.4% of Oklahoma households. Cars were by far the most common way for Californians and Oklahomans to get to work. 83.3% of California commuters chose to drive or carpool to work, while 92.2% of Oklahoma commuters made the same decision. Finally, according to one study, per 100 residents, California had 38.1 vehicles registered while Oklahoma had 32.8. In sum, the automobile is ubiquitous in both states. This similarity will help paint a clear picture of the extent to which public policy has burdened Californians and contributed to the condition. 

Now, if you have ever driven through California, you can likely empathize with the desire to flee the state. The last time I visited San Diego and saw the price of regular unleaded gasoline exceeded $3.00 per gallon, I immediately calculated how much gas I needed to get to the Arizona border to avoid paying for more outrageously priced gasoline than necessary. At the time of this writing, the average price per gallon of gas in California was around $3.18 per gallon, more than a dollar higher per gallon than the national average. This is crazy, especially for Oklahomans accustomed to an average price per gallon at $1.79. A recent publication by the American Petroleum Institute gives some insight into the dramatic difference. Spoiler – it has a lot to do with public policy.  

California tax policy places a high burden on drivers. State-specific taxes (not including the federal excise tax) and fees amount to a nation-leading 81.2 cents per gallon of gasoline. By contrast, Oklahoma is a quarter of that amount, coming in at 20 cents per gallon. Additionally, California’s governmental leaders have displayed a general antagonism toward gasoline-fueled automobiles. For example, Governor Newsom recently issued an executive order demanding that all new cars sold in California have “zero-emissions” in an effort to phase out gasoline-powered vehicles. The burden of such policies is placed squarely on the backs of the state’s working class. Worse still, in California, it’s not just residents’ pocketbooks that suffer, but individual liberty as well. 

Tyranny abounds in California. The state continues to impose some of the most oppressive restrictions in response to COVID-19. If Californians were hoping to have Thanksgiving dinner with the whole family, hopefully they come from a line of only-child families because, if the revelers (including the host) comprise more than three households – the holiday festivities are prohibited. Even if one can manage a small gathering, families better take it outside (the dining room, and the rest of the house – except frequently sanitized bathrooms – are off limits), ensure an accurate census of attendees for contact tracing, and refrain from singing, chanting, or shouting unless such a cacophony is muted by a face mask. Sound bad? This is actually considered “relief” from the previous limit on private gatherings.    

So, yes, please relocate your business to Oklahoma – but please do so responsibly. Do your part to contain the spread of the condition. If you’ve been exposed to it, please adhere to the following guidelines immediately upon entry into the state: 

First, submit to voluntary quarantine for a period of profound introspection. Observe how free enterprise policies foster an environment in which businesses and residents can thrive. 

Second, as the tendencies toward paternalistic governance, aversion to free markets, and love of hyper-regulation begin to dissipate, social distancing is ill-advised. One of the best cures is frequent interaction with large groups of uninfected people. Attendance at church and civic functions is highly recommended. Pray. Stand and sing the national anthem with gusto. Recite the pledge of allegiance hand over heart. Read, and re-read liberty-minded publications which serve as a type of inoculation.

Finally, as the fresh, crisp air of freedom has filled your lungs, take action.  Vote to preserve liberty for yourself and others for generations to come.   

Brad Galbraith is the Land Use Fellow at 1889 Institute. He can be reached at 

The opinions expressed in this blog are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the official position of 1889 Institute.

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