It’s OK to Believe in the California Dream Again

Time magazine declares California Dream to be alive and kicking

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It was 1991. The nation was still healing from the Milli Vanilli lip-synching scandal, U.S. troops were in Iraq and the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

And Time magazine thought the California Dream was on its deathbed.

Now it's 2009. The nation is still healing from the Ashlee Simpson lip-synching scandal, U.S. troops are in Iraq and the Pittsburgh Penguins won the Stanley Cup.

The only real change in the last 18 years (besides, obviously, the invention of McDonald's Big N' Tasty) is that now Time magazine thinks the California Dream is alive and well.

According to the magazine, we've come a long way since 1991, and California is "still a dream state."

Ignore the California whinery. It's still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering megastate that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency, health clubs, Google searches, Craigslist, iPhones and the Hollywood vision of success is still the cutting edge of the American future — economically, environmentally, demographically, culturally and maybe politically. It's the greenest and most diverse state, the most globalized in general and most Asia-oriented in particular at a time when the world is heading in all those directions. It's also an unparalleled engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech.

Aw shucks, Time. You're making us blush.

"Whenever we have a problem, everyone makes a big drama -- 'Oh, my God, it's the end. California is over,'" Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger told Time. "It's all bogus."

Interesting point coming from our state's official drama queen -- but he's right. Other than some smog, a little traffic and the occasional joke of a state budget, the Golden State is still golden. Oh, and the earthquakes, wildfires and mudslides. Those are downers too, but c'mon -- it's October and it's 80 degrees outside. We'll take it.

In any case, California is not imploding, which ought to be heartening to Americans regardless of ideology or geography. Because America is essentially the land of the Etch A Sketch, and California is America but more so, beckoning dreamers who want to cook Korean tacos or convert fuel tanks into hot tubs. It's progressive more in the literal than in the political sense of the word. And it's where America is going: a greener, more advanced and more global economy; a browner and more metropolitan population; and, yes, some staggering debts and other governance problems that need to be resolved. It's expensive and crowded -- because people still want to be there! -- and it's recovering from an economic earthquake. But it continues to have a powerful claim on the future.

So, Time magazine, thanks again for seeing it our way. If you'd ever like to move out of New York, you're always welcome here. Things are looking pretty golden these days.

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