California is still a dream state. In fact, the pioneering mega-state that gave us microchips, freeways, blue jeans, tax revolts, extreme sports, energy efficiency, health clubs, Google searches, Craiglist, 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 uparallel engine of innovation, the mecca of high tech, biotech and now clean tech.
Somehow its supposedly hostile business climate has nurtured Google, Apple, Hewlett-Packard, Facebook, Twitter, Disney, Cisco, Intel, eBay, YouTube, MySpace, the Gap and countless other companies that drive the way we live.
If California were a country, it would be in the G-8. With 38 million residents and a US$1.8 trillion economy, it also has by far the most homes and jobs in America. Thre are real differences between (crunchy, techy) Northern and (hipster, surfer) Southern California, and especially (richer, denser, bluer) coastal and (poorer, sparser, redder) inland California. But one generalization has held true grom the Gold Rush to the human-potential movement to the dotcom boom: California stands for change, for disruption of the status quo.
California is the state of early adopters – not only in fashion, technology and design but in politics too. Its voters approved huge bonds for stem-cell research, high-speed rail and repairs to aging infrastructure while Washington was dragging its feet.