California’s water and the reality principle

Drought map USASource: Business Insider.

Bertrand Russell once wrote that democracies would always triumph in the long run over dictatorships because dictators had the power to ignore unwelcome facts while democracies did not, thanks to contested elections, freedom of the press and the loyal opposition.

In short, although Russell did not use that word, democracies had a better system of feedback.

I hope this is true, but I wonder about American democracy’s ability to face reality, as I look at the lack of U.S. response to global climate change, the failure to keep the nation’s physical infrastructure in good repair, the erosion of civil liberties and the continuation of failed interventionist policies in the Middle East.

Drought-2-650x435The California water crisis is an example of what I mean.  During the past few weeks, journalists have reported that California has only a year’s supply of water in its reservoirs at current rates of use.

That’s exaggerated, because the supply can be stretched out by means of rationing and pricing schemes, but most of California, left to its natural state, would be a desert, and that is a real possibility.

California voters last year approved a bond issue to pay for long-range solutions, such as large-scale water recycling and ocean water desalinization from the ocean.  But these will take years to implement.

drought600The state didn’t reach this point overnight.  Presumably somebody was aware that the water supply was running low.  Why did it take so long to wake up to the problem?  I don’t think Californians are different from other Americans in ignoring long-range problems.

The drought doesn’t affect California alone.  The irrigated regions of the state produce half of the USA’s fruit and vegetables and require 80 percent of the state’s water.

It’s said of us Americans that we never react to a problem until it reaches a crisis, but then we respond magnificently to the crisis.   We’ve got several approaching crises just as bad as California’s drought—climate change, exhaustion of easy-to-get natural resources, a dysfunctional economy that’s becoming intolerable to many Americans.   I hope we don’t ignore them until it’s too late.


California’s About to Run Out of Water.  We Have to Act Now by Annie Sneed for Wired.

The Economics of California’s Drought by Matt Schiavenza for The Atlantic.

The Economics of the California Water Crisis by Alex Tabarrok for MARGINAL Revolution.

California Water Wrongs by John Pennington.


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One Response to “California’s water and the reality principle”

  1. informationforager Says:

    Yep. Things look pretty bad. On the water issue they keep saying things like “these isn’t any light at the end of the tunnel, there are no foreseeable solutions, etc. etc. …….” That pretty much means that things are going to get a lot worse before they get better. California will go through a big catharsis problem that’s beyond our imagination of the problem.


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