In a recent broadcast of the radio show Which Way, LA? Stanford University Press authors Jim Flanigan - Smile Southern California, You’re the Center of the Universe - and Abe Lowenthal - Global California, Rising to the Cosmopolitan Challenge - share their insights on the current and future prospects for California. Can the most prosperous state in the US , the hub of agriculture, industry and innovation be regarded as a nation-state?
For Abe Lowenthal the answer is a resounding "Yes." Lowenthal’s ideas focus on the fact that California has all the qualities of an internationally active nation-state but lacks the ability to use them in order to further their international interests. Even though “California was born with international DNA" as he put it, it is inwardly focused. The state has the opportunity to influence the federal government, has a large congressional delegation, and has the most internationally diverse population in the country, and has not harnessed the tools to become an actor on the international stage.
Although Flanigan’s book is focused on southern California, he makes the point that global trade is central to California’s economy in particular (the state is the country’s largest exporter and importer of goods and services) and that the state is crucial in developing US trade links with Latin America and China. With a growing population due to second generation immigrants, an entrepreneurial economy, and the largest university research complex in the country, California is primed for interacting at an international level.
Both Flanigan and Lowenthal agree that the political elites of California should come together to leverage the state’s global clout rather than remaining partisan and focused on local issues only. Even in the current recession, California has the capacity to yield a lot of influence.
Flanigan leaves us with a reassuring note, in light of the current economic downturn. He admits that trade may be down and deficits high, but China and other Asian developing countries are not going to stop development. They’re going to continue to develop, and we’re going to have a role in it. Flanigan assures us that the economy and trade of California flourished wildly in the past and even though it’s at a standstill now, “you know it’ll come back.”