Photo: Jackson Hendry

7 Things the Rest of the US Can Learn From California

California Culture
by Monica Puccetti Jan 9, 2018

It is no secret that Californians love their state. We love our diversity of food, proximity to natural beauty, and bustling $2.727 trillion economy (seriously, if California was ranked as a nation it would have the 5th largest economy in the world), how could any other state compete?

What if the rest of the US took a few tricks from the Golden playbook, might the world be just a little bit better?

1. Putting an importance on the outdoors.

From the mountains to the coast, there are so many different ways to get outdoors in California and we recommend all of them for mental and physical health. One sport in particular, modern day rock climbing, was born in the Yosemite Valley after the famed naturalist John Muir’s first ascent of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows in 1869. From then on the valley would raise climbing prodigies and play host to the post-World War II resurrection of the sport amid the revelry of camp 4. Needless to say, fresh air is in our blood.

2. Investing in education and innovation.

There is a reason California’s economy thrives and that reason is our state’s investment in education and innovation. While Californians do pay some of the highest tax rates in the country, we see that returned to our state in the form of investment in education, because California realized early on that to have a Silicon Valley you need a University of California. Currently, the UC system is one of the most well regarded public university systems in the world teaching more than 238,000 students a year and generating invaluable, cutting-edge research to fuel our state for decades to come.

3. Remembering that tax is not actually the Anti-Christ.

One might ask, “How does California pay for this investment in the future?” The answer is tax. Despite the far right’s deranged war cry that tax will ruin our country, the true blue state of California has had great success using tax revenue to fund social programs, example number one being our cigarette tax. We began taxing tobacco products early and heavily, thus we now have some of the lowest smoking rates in the country and funding for valuable early education programs like First 5. However, even we know we’re still not the best at preventative health taxes, just look at how far Australia has come with a 65% excise tax on tobacco products (the World Health Organization recommends a 70% excise tax on tobacco products for the best impact on public health).

4. Recognizing health as a human right.

As Washington continues to rip healthcare away from young children and the elderly, California has said f*&# that. California has often led the nation in providing healthcare to all of its citizens, from the expansion of Medical to up to 138% of the federal poverty line to the recent debate around a statewide single-payer system, and we won’t stop. We are not perfect, but we are moving in the right direction and the first step in that direction is the understanding that health and healthcare are human rights.

5. Understanding that ganja won’t kill you, but it will help your economy

Remember all those doomsdayers predicting widespread hysteria and crime sprees following the legalization of weed? Well, the West Coast is not one writhing mass of glassy-eyed marijuana addicts pillaging nice old grannies’ purses. In fact, Oregon, who legalized last year, saw $14.9 million in tax revenue from the legalized sale of marijuana. As California just legalized marijuana for recreational purposes on January 1, we have yet to see how much money legalization will return to the state, but for now, it’s business as usual.

6. Embracing diversity, seeing it as a strength.

Here in California, we welcome newcomers with open arms and it shows in our sanctuary cities, languages spoken, and amazing diversity of food (after all, our food scene would be nothing without Mexico). Currently, California has more non-English primary languages spoken in households than any other state and it is not surprising to hear a mix of Spanish, Mandarin, Tagalog, and Vietnamese as you wander through your local supermarket. We settle more refugees than any other state and understand that these new Americans help make our state even greater than it already is. However, it is also important to remember that this diversity is not new and that California is home to 70 indigenous languages derived from 64 root languages and 6 language families. In California, we are proud that our history is written in many tongues.

7. Learning from mistakes.

It’s easy to relax with a (legal!) bowl and pat yourself on the back for California’s progressive policies, but what truly keeps California moving forward is not forgetting to look back. Our history is not perfect, from the unethical internment of Japanese Americans during World War II to the current exploitation of migrant farm workers, and we strive to learn from our mistakes. This state remembers that the fight is not over until all Californians can live good and decent lives.

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