[guest post by Justin Levine]
In terms of radical leftwing academics, I can think of very few who are both good writers and have ideas that should be taken seriously.
However, one such person that comes to mind is Mike Davis, a Southern California historian and author of the bestselling book The Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster.
One provocative chapter in that book is entitled “Let Malibu Burn: A political history of the Fire Coast.”
Naturally, you can challenge Davis on a number of levels, but one of his underlying points seems to be beyond debate at this juncture – wildfires in Malibu are a naturally reoccurring phenomenon that are guaranteed to return to haunt us every few years. So unless we radically rethink how that area is to be zoned and constructed, people will be indirectly subsidizing the Hollywood limousine-liberal millionaires of the area who use a disproportionate amount of state firefighting resources and disaster relief in order to keep rebuilding the area the same way and maintain their lifestyle.
Davis’s own take –
A perverse law of Pyne’s new fire regime was that fire stimulates development as well as upward social succession. By declaring Malibu a federal disaster area and offering blaze victims tax relief as well as preferential low-interest loans, the Eisenhower administration established the precedent for the public subsidization of firebelt suburbs. Each conflagration, moreover, was punctually followed by rebuilding on a larger and more exclusive scale as land-use regulations and sometimes even the fire code were relaxed to accommodate fire “victims.” As a result, renters and modest homeowners were displaced from areas like Broad Beach, Paradise Cove and Point Dume by wealthy pyrophiles encouraged by cheap fire insurance, socialized disaster relief and an expansive public commitment to “defend Malibu.”
Food for thought.
Taking a page from (Malibu resident) Rob Reiner’s own playbook, I would propose a new California proposition amending the state constitution to increase real estate taxes on Malibu homeowners with such funds being dedicated to firefighting resources in L.A. County. We need to do it for the children you understand….