Hugo Lindgren asked me to explain to him why I think Los Angeles is the best city in the world

I wrote this email, which in the interests of varying the “voice” on this blog I have not in the meantime edited:

Best food in the US, no real comparison especially adjusting for price.

Best driving for classic routes and views and also availability of parking along the way (NYC is awful for the latter).

Best walking city in the US (really), and year round.

The city has its own excellent musical soundtrack, Beach Boys, Byrds, Nilsson, etc., has aged better than the SF groups I think.

Incredible architecture and neighborhoods, almost everywhere.

Everyone goes to the movies.

First-rate concert life, including classical and contemporary classical.

Very interesting art galleries.

Few book stores (though disappearing everywhere, these days) and the people have no real sense of humor, but nowhere is perfect!


I live in Los Angeles and I really have to disagree with the claim that it is the best walking city in the US, unless you have some other kind of definition in mind. Here's why I think this:
1) Walking from one point of interest to another takes too long.
2) Public transport is kind of slow and poorly connected.
3) Roads tend to be deserted, affecting safety. I've been mugged once in the middle of the afternoon.

I agree with all of the other points you make. I'm really interested in knowing in what sense you claim it is very good for walking.

Agreed Sid. Los Angeles is such a great collection of neighborhoods that it is still a very good city after factoring in miserable traffic, unreliable and dirty public transportation, and air pollution. But unless you sequester yourself to one area, you have to drive to walk. In New York, Chicago, Portland, Seattle, Vancouver, Minneapolis, Tokyo, Amsterdam, and Paris, all you need is a good pair of shoes and some money.

Pretty sure he means walking for pleasure, not walking to go from A to B. The weather, the low humidity, the colorful flora and the interesting views make it a great walking city. He also says it's great driving city for views, although obviously it's a horrible driving city for getting where you want to go.

The perspective isn't too different from that expressed in Tyler's views on hotels. When you're a tourist and don't really need to use something (a hotel as a business traveler would, or a city like a resident would), your preferences are (reasonably) different.

That said, I'm thoroughly in the LA camp over the NYC camp. Though my reasons have only a slight overlap with Tyler's.

As far as great walking cities go, taking weather into account, plenty of places is southern europe have it beat. Take Madrid, Rome or Barcelona, for example.

"Take Madrid, Rome or Barcelona, for example."

Only if you remember to leave your wallet at home. Barcelona in particular has a very sketchy reputation.

Other than everyone going to bed early, I have to agree with Tyler on this. Even when I lived up the 101 in "The City" I thought this was the case. LA is a better city than New York, London, or Paris. All the other candidates are either too small and provincial or utterly lacking in the cultural diversity required of a true metropole.

Me too. Assuming you live in the right neighborhood (and LA has many), the room-temperature climate makes for great walkability. One problem is that crushing traffic causes most folks to hover in small villages, refusing to venture out even to see good friends. Tyler is right on the movies, food, concerts and art galleries; I would add that the local concentration of actors and directors makes for excellent drama as well. What I find a little surprising is that Tyler, an economist, did not mention that the taxes are ridiculous -- 9.5 percent sales tax in LA County, 9.3 percent marginal income tax kicking in at less than $50k and rising to (I believe but thankfully do not pay) 13.3 percent over $1million. In addition the LA school district, like most in California, is simply unacceptable for parents who care about their children -- with no improvement in sight. Still, New Yorkers have the same complaints.

Traffic is very time-based. It's not a question of refusing to venture out - it's a question of knowing when it is inadvisable to venture out, and when the roads are clear. Generally, anything after 7:30 pm is fine.
And while the wider LA school district is troubled, individual schools hold fundraisers from the community to supplement their funding. A public school in a more affluent area will do rather nicely - and be far more endowed than a school in a non-affluent area. But part of that high sales tax is also to fund schools.

Obviously New Orleans is the correct answer to this question. Best food and bars open 24/7/365

Paging Steve Sailer! :) LA is his fave rant topic.

LA is not a city. It's a giant sprawling dense suburb. And it has no cultural diversity. Its culture is basically lower middle class American culture and Mexican culture. It's lowbrow and the people are dim and dull. That's why they have no sense of humor.

Tyler loves suburban type places so his opinions on cities can't be taken too seriously. You are aware he thinks Brassillia is another great city right?

A neighborhood schoolmate's father was in the State Department, and was stationed in Brasília in the mid 1970s. The schoolmate's description was surreal - avenues simply ending, for example, with nothing beyond at all (because, in reality, there was nothing beyond). Or how it was like DC's Mall in terms of shopping or eating - everything owned by the government, unconcerned about actually meeting customer needs, such as Smithsonian style opening and closing hours.

Undoubtedly it has improved - mainly because such a dysfunctional city would have collapsed if it hadn't.

I was actually not aware of this, but it explains a lot.

All you need to know is the first line of the email. If off the grid (the sf food truck pop up gathering) were large enough and good enough he'd rate it above LA.

Really? This must be the most surprising comment I've ever read on this site. Either Los Angeles has changed massively in the 14 years since I visited, and/ or I went to completely the wrong parts of the city.
Most of Tyler's points are, I suppose, subject to taste, but I concur with the disbelief that LA has good walking. That is literally impossible, there's no pavement to walk on - at least near where I was staying. [Do Americans say pavement? Sidewalk, I think is your word. Anyway, they're missing.]

Does the "Best walking city" rating factor in the chance of being mugged?

The Greater Los Angeles Area includes beaches, 11,500 foot peaks, about 20 million people, and lots and lots of subcultures.

The median community is not super walkable, but I have had a good safe time on downtown food hikes. Daylight hours, admittedly.

We do say "pavement", but we use it to mean the part of the street that cars drive on.

Why do you want to walk on "pavement"? What's wrong with grass or even dirt?

I say pavement when describing any concrete or asphalt (paved?) horizontal at-grade surface without regard to vehicles or pedestrians using it.

So a playground's basketball court is pavement, the city street is pavement, the sidewalk is pavement, etc.

Those are great to walk on, but in a city rather scarce.

> Either Los Angeles has changed massively in the 14 years since I visited, and/ or I went to completely the wrong parts of the city.

LA *has* changed massively in 14 years. I would even say its changed massively in the past 5 years. Several factors are at play:

- LA reached the geographic limits of sprawl years ago, and has since been rapidly densifying. Every new project is infill.
- LA is a much younger city than places like New York and London. Everything is in flux and I see a lot of parallels between LA's current period of rapid urbanization and the growth spurt that NYC went through at the turn of the 20th century.
- In general, American tastes have shifted towards urban lifestyles over the past 20 years. LA is no different. Case in point: no one brags about living in suburban areas like the Valley, and the current "It" neighborhood is Downtown LA.

Also, significant gentrification in numerous areas in those 14 years. Places that would have been dumpy / scary and are now filled with people include: Downtown (probably the biggest change, seeing an explosion of housing units, bars, restaurants, and hotels, and opening of Staples Center, LA Live, the Disney Hall, etc.), Hollywood (while still having a few trashy stores, is much more high end and a huge nightlife destination), Silverlake and Echo Park, Venice Beach, the Grove / Pan Pacific Park, Glendale (Americana), Old Town Pasadena, and Culver City.

You have to admire the logic of arguing that it's the best city in the USA and then headlining it as the best city in the world.

Even to a loyal native Angeleno like me, the notion that it's the best city in the world is a complete nonstarter. Florence, for example, is made up of its best buildings from the last 800 years (the lousier ones get replaced). Los Angeles, in contrast, is still largely made up of first generation buildings that were pretty cruddy even when they were first slapped up.

There must be jobs there? It must be cheaper to live in than Northern Virginia? Is DC your actual best city in the world?

DC (and to an extent, its immediately surrounding region) does punch above its weight, but is simply too small to be seriously considered in any ranking of world class city heavyweights.

Personally I can discern no variation in voice between Tyler's email and his usual posts on MR. What do others think?

Clarity. No weasel words. No attempt at not being cornered into a position.

Be careful not to mistake nuance for evasiveness. "It depends" is sometimes a valid answer.

Agreed. Even so.

Well, it depends.

Where is the west coast rap like NWA?

I live here and I would say LA is the most assimilated city in the world.

I join with those who question the view that LA is a great walking city. You might say that Beverly Hills is a great walking sector. But you could say that about Palo Alto or lower Manhattan or Georgetown.

To be a walking *city* you have to be able to traverse a decent amount of it in a few hours. Off hand, I would say that Boston is the best walking city in America. I'd wager that you would be less bored taking a stroll from the North End to Brookline than any equivalent walk in LA.

Boston is the best walking city I've walked in or through in the U.S. Many of the nearest Boston suburbs are also old, dense, and full of character, which I think is a little unusual among metro areas in the U.S.

I understand the walking was exceptionally fine last week.

Agree with Boston being the best walking city. You see actual history as you walk the city and bike the suburbs.

Plus it's small. In many ways, smaller is better for cities.

San Francisco easily takes the top honor for walkable cities in just about every poll I've ever seen. Boston usually ranks 2.

I agree that LA is so large and pleasant that it would be more correct to say it has nice walkable areas.

I walk around downtown Chicago every day and love it. The restaurants here are second to none at every price range. The winters apparently remove it from contention.

I would rank Prague or Budapest above LA for walkability, and perhaps Vienna, Mainz, Cologne, Paris, St. Petersburg.

When I think of walking in LA, I cannot help thinking about the guy driving his car to the neighbor's house in LA Story.

As an Angeleno who went walking around Boston this summer, I'd have to agree with Arnold: the density of interesting buildings in Boston, from giant landmarks downtown to fascinating old doors on Beacon Hill, is an order of magnitude higher per block than almost anywhere in Los Angeles.

On the other hand, it was 95 degrees and 95% humidity in Boston that week.

And I've heard bad things about winter there, too.

Boston is the best walking city in America for the last three weeks in September.

And one week in May.

I think there is some confusion about "good walking city." For most new urbanists, this means a resident can walk around, feeling safe from cars and muggers, to get their daily chores done: get a coffee, get groceries, drop off the dry-cleaning, get to transportation to go to work, get a drink.

Many people here are discussing what makes a city nice for a *tourist* to walk through. Well, that is good to know about too, but they are very different things.

Yes, I agree with this distinction, though I wouldn't rate LA for walking as a tourist - hot, dusty, sprawling. And I can imagine it's poor for locals on that score too.

Other than soundtrack, everyone goes to the movies (who cares?) and obviously the weather, Chicago has LA beat or tied on every measure listed.

Chicago is great, but after 18 years of driving around Chicago looking for a parking place, I'm happy with LA's adequate amounts of parking.

I don't object to what TC has chosen to include. I object to the many issues that did not even enter into his equation, such as: Air quality, population density, availability/proximity of outdoor sporting opportunities, personal relationships, etc.

The passionate outdoorsman will find little appeal in LA despite any of TC's points. The polite Midwesterner might well find the hustle, bustle, and population density of LA off-putting. Etc. etc.

Overall, TC has laid out a good case for why a certain kind of person might love LA, but not a good case for why LA is the one city in the world that offers the most bang to the largest number of people, taking into account the multiplicity of preferences.

One major difference between LA and NYC is that LA people get outside and exercise. Go to Manhattan and find me a blond girl who looks like she plays soccer... Everything and everyone is grey.

Now, they aren't hunting or camping, but it's better than some of the alternatives.

I like LA better than Manhattan, too. But you couldn't pay me to live in either city. Everyone has their own list of preferences, that's all I'm saying. The hypothetical "best city in the world" offers not only more of what someone wants, but more of what everyone wants. I don't dispute that LA is an attractive choice, but I also wouldn't be the first man on Earth to suggest that other cities throughout the world offer as much as LA or more. There are hundreds of amazing cities in the world. Think of how many we should consider in order to make a choice. I'd rate both Vancouver and Toronto ahead of LA on every criteria on TC's list except the first (food is more expensive in Canada), PLUS they add a lot more wilderness and outdoor activities. Funny thing is, go to Vancouver or Toronto, and you'll hear everyone talking about how great LA is. People are funny.

I don't think we're too far apart. Most anywhere in North America that is not a city is better than most anywhere that is. If you follow the dollars, people seem to prefer modest density to either high or low density.

I've spent a lot of time in Vancouver and Toronto and I often say that Vancouver is overrated and Toronto is underrated. But both are way out ahead of LA and especially NYC for outdoor activities.

Vancouver's great but let's not forget Milwaukee.

Funny thing is, go to Vancouver or Toronto, and you’ll hear everyone talking about how great LA is. People are funny."

"Funny?" Because they get tired of being very cold? Or somewhat cold and damp? And gloomy? I always thought that Canadians were so fond of Florida and SoCal for the obvious reason.

"Everything and everyone is grey."

?! Drive down the West Side Highway: between it and the water, you will see thousands of joggers and cyclists, every single day.

I'm not sure what sort of appeal you expect a "passionate outdoorsman" to find in any city. If you are referring to the immediate environment, I have had no trouble finding, within Los Angeles County, many good opportunities for hiking, camping, mountain biking, flying, horseback riding, stargazing, and diving. Friends who are into such things seem satisfied with the skiing, surfing, fishing (fresh and salt water), sailing, rock climbing, and amateur archaeology. The hunting, I will admit, is poor, and there's no whitewater rafting or kayaking until you get a few hours' inland. But for the rest, the weather is almost universally excellent, some of the opportunities are literally world-class, and the diversity of flora, fauna, and landscape is unmatched by any other metropolitan area I have seen.

If you have a particularly narrow view of what constitutes "outdoors", well, obviously Boulder will give you better mountains. But no oceans. To suggest that Los Angeles has "little appeal" to outdoorsmen in general, either you or I are missing something. What is it you think I am missing?

I think you're missing my childhood, spent in a metropolitan area that was a 5-minute walk from the mountain wilderness. I could literally walk to go camping.

I'm not trying to argue that LA is a bad city, I'm just stating the obvious fact that all of TC's criteria are things that appeal to a narrow subset of people. Widen the net a bit, and LA's disadvantages become obvious. Does that mean LA sucks? No. It just means that it's not perfect. You'd have to really love LA to conclude that it offers absolutely no less than any other city, based on any other criterion. Hahaha. Come on, LA is great, but it's not perfect.

> Come on, LA is great, but it’s not perfect.

For example, don't the schools suck?

A major problem is the vast extent of the Los Angeles Unified School District, which covers not just the main L.A. basin but also the suburban San Fernando Valley. Because LAUSD has such a gigantic monopoly, it doesn't feel much pressure to compete with other school districts for the better sort of young families.

In contrast, the San Gabriel Valley comprises numerous small school districts and thus has better public schools due to competition among districts. The Chinese have picked out various school districts in the SGV to take over and remold to meet their needs, such as Arcadia, which now has 30 National Merit Scholars per year.

'What is it you think I am missing?'

All the driving?

The specific complaint was "appeal for the outdoorsman"; for all of its faults, LA's driving at least does not occur indoors. Usually.

And w/re RPlong's more specific criticism, "five-minute walk to a mountain wilderness campground" is A: a very, very narrow subset of the range of appealing outdoor activities, and B: one which no city can plausibly offer to the majority of its residents. I suspect that the vast majority of the "passionate outdoorsmen" in North America, would prefer a wide range of outdoor enjoyments within an hour's travel time than one specific one five minutes away.

Los Angeles is not a perfect city, and I have made no such claim. I do claim that it ought to rank very highly in terms of appeal to outdoorsmen in general.

The best major city for the passionate outdoorsman is Seattle. We walk around town wearing moisture-wicking pants, fleece and a GORE-TEX jacket just in case someone calls us up and says "want to go on a 10-mile hike this afternoon?"

Incidentally, people in Seattle really hate LA.

Air quality? Really? Dude it's not the 70's anymore...

By every measure, LA still has the or nearly the worst air quality in the country:

I especially like the area around 5th and Los Angeles and 6th and Spring. Lots of local color and small entrepreneurs.

"Life is a car" That is what my wife and I (I am a native Angeleno migrated north) about LA. Walking city? Tyler must have been under the influence. You can pleasantly walk around some of the neighborhoods - Venice Beach comes to mind as the most fun - but you cannot get anywhere on foot. Think of cities where you can live entirely without a car and not miss one - NYC, London, Paris. Those are walking cities. In spite of progress in placs like downtown Pasadena on this front, LA is a joke when it comes to pedestrian life.

As for the the rest, it is a matter of taste. LA has much of what Tyler describes and has come a long ways since its earlier days as simply a sprawl of suburban communities connected by freeways. For Tyler's criteria (apart from the walking), he has something of an argument.

The things I would rate a city on are not whether parking was available or whether it had its own soundtrack (!) but how interesting its architecture was or its physical layout (and how "person-friendly" that is), or its parks infrastructure. LA is not in the top ten on any of these lists though its proximity to the ocean earns it some points in the second category.

I would disagree a bit on the architecture, though perhaps I mean something different than you when I say it. LA has a very distinct 'feel' to it, much of LA feels like it's still in the 60s. It may not have tons of "great" architecture but the sum effect of the architecture there is quite great. (Also, the Disney Concert hall hurts my eyes every time I go there. I really think that thing is a blight on LA.)

Here's my tribute to Los Angeles' greatest, or at least most characteristic, architect John Lautner, on the occasion of Tony Stark's Lautner-inspired Iron Mansion being blown to smithereens for about ten minutes in "Iron Man 3:"

Much of Southern California was built in a hurry during the most egalitarian period in American history -- 1946-1980. There was a tremendous housing shortage after WWII, so it was agreed to let developers throw up housing and commercial districts as fast and as cheap as possible. This made for a quite high standard of living very broadly distributed, but it now means that much of SoCal is missing the kind of landmark buildings and showcase parks that are common in cities built in more elitist eras. (In contrast, Pasadena, which was built up by elitist old money before the Depression has lots of those high-end amenities.)

"Featurelessness" is the most noticeable architectural feature of large parts of Southern California. This isn't true for for Pasadena and for narrow strip of land south of the Hollywood Hills, although the west side is lacking any kind of cohesive taste. Nathanael West complained in "The Day of the Locust:" "But not even the soft wash of dusk could help the houses," he wrote. "Only dynamite would be of any use against the Mexican ranch houses, Samoan huts, Mediterranean villas, Egyptian and Japanese temples, Swiss chalets, Tudor cottages, and every possible combination of these styles that lined the slopes of the canyon."

I also would like clarification on this "best walking city" thing...? I live in San Diego but visit LA frequently; I love LA but I don't get this. If it's weather, SD is better at that than LA (LA can get too hot because most of it is pretty far inland).

I'd love to be corrected by someone from LA, but my other impression is that everyone goes to movies but they're Hollywood movies - it's relatively difficult to see the indie movies? That's how it's been explained to me several times.


I live in Los Angeles and that is not my experience at all. Small movies, indie movies, foreign movies that might reach the US market, etc., are often screened in Los Angeles before they are seen in other American cities... or they may never be screened in other American cities at all.

One could certainly argue that with the Internet and all, everyone has plenty of opportunity to experience plenty of movies in any corner of the wilderness, and location doesn't matter much any more. But, to whatever extent location does still matter, Los Angeles clearly offers the best opportunities to see movies of any city in the world. Any competing theory would be pretty weird and counter-intuitive.

New York is slightly better for minor indie films, although the two cities are essentially tied: the typical limited release prestige film opens in two theaters in NYC and two in LA. I don't really know for foreign films, though. LA has lots of Iranian films, for examples, but few Mexican ones (at least until last fall when theaters woke up to playing Eugenio Derbez Mexican comedies).

Whether Los Angeles is a better place for going to the movies than Paris is something I wouldn't know. I kind of doubt it, though.

Definitely not. There are tons of indie theaters here. Hollywood may be located in Los Angeles but that doesn't mean that LA isn't also the center of the independent film industry. It is.

I walked a lot when I lived in LA (1997-2000). The ambient conditions were nearly always good for it, and sidewalks were abudant and good. I worked at UCLA and lived 5 miles south. Half the time I biked to work and half the time I rode the heavily subsidized Santa Monica bus (50 cents to ride). Going home on days I had rode the bus in the morning, I would walk a mile or two or three before boarding the bus. The extensive bus system made not taking a car an option, which made walking an option. One summer day I took the afternoon off, rode a bus from work to the Santa Monica pier, walked barefoot along the beach 10 miles to the Manhattan Beach pier, took a short swim as the sun set, then rode another bus home. (Besides the 10 miles on the sand, I had to put my sandals on and walk three miles around Marina del Rey.)

Los Angeles is the funniest city at present, as I pointed out in my review of "Her," in which the entire city has been rebuilt in the future to appeal to SWPL tastes:

The Museum of Jurassic Technology is in Los Angeles.

When I've visited I've found the bus system very useful, and driving is fun and eventful too.

"Everyone goes to the movies" is a criterion for greatest city in the world?

The food part is right. It's certainly a much better food city than SF, which is massively over-rated (especially it's Chinatown). Whether it's better than NY depends on your preferences in the food hierarchy. The rest of the opinions about LA are probably corrupted by the food euphoria, except the music and art observations, which are reasonably accurate..

The weather is nice. It's 10 degrees right now in Boston, so that seems like a pretty important point.

I live on the western edge of SIlicon Valley, and I've often thought of moving to southern California. It's too darn cold here. I know my complaint will fall on deaf ears in the 90% of the U.S. that's frozen solid right now, but in the first half of December we had morning temperatures in the low 20's here and that's way too cold for me. Southern California, southern Florida, and Hawaii are the only places that seem like options for me. As soon as I'm no longer tied to this place, I'm leaving!

Rooting for global warming I gather?

Damn right! Burn more coal! Bring back the dinosaurs! I won't be happy until every glacier is melted.

Much of the amusement factor of Los Angeles stems from the density of pop cultural history relative to the lameness of the actual sites: I live near Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia Blvd., David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., and Billy Wilder's Sunset Blvd.; and in a triangle amongst the Brady Bunch house, the miniscule Little Brown Church where Ronnie and Nancy got married, and the Beverly Hillbillies Mansion, not to mention the nearby Playboy Mansion and the "I drink your milkshake" Greystone Mansion.

No city has been more thoroughly and expertly mocked, and no city more deserves it.

Steve Sailer, HBD realist to the stars.

Speaking of which, Patton Oswalt just quoted Mr. Sailer on twitter using his name and everything.


"'Political correctness is a war on noticing.' -- Steve Sailer"

From my new article "World War T:"

I don't really see the benefit of any city where you can't be awed by looking up. Are there parts of LA where that happens?

You're a fan of facist architecture?

Is it? I don't want to know.

Manhattan - the towering achievement of world fascism.

In the same world where Theodore Roosevelt was a national socialist, that is.

This is such a fun comments section, a perfect match to the best satirical web site available.

Anywhere along the base of the San Gabriels in winter. Heck, you can see 10,064' Mt. Baldy from a sailboat at Marina del Rey.

Marie, I took this from my balcony:

Manhattan it ain't, but I quite like Downtown LA's skyline.

In the spirit of economics and markets, I would add this to your list of reasons: NO ONE EVER LEAVES!

But you can check out any time you like.

Thread winner, pencils down.


It's got a net outflow every year

Raise your hand if you appreciate the ironic (and iconic) reference in Tyler's last line!

Los Angeles had a better sense of humor when everyone was from Berlin/Vienna/Budapest.

"I'm a writer but nobody's perfect" is on Billy Wilder's tombstone:

Tyler is inspired by my review of "Her," which is about a Matthew Yglesiafied future Los Angeles:

"Over the generations, this state of affairs has generated numerous novels and countless screenplays lambasting stars as egomaniacal airheads, moguls as megalomaniacal vulgarians, and ordinary Angelenos as starstruck halfwits. No city in history has been more thoroughly and expertly mocked. The talents who have gleefully joined in include Evelyn Waugh, Billy Wilder, Steve Martin, and Larry David."

It's important in an evaluation of Los Angeles to avoid lumping in the qualities of neighboring cities (e.g. the Chinese cuisine of Monterey Park, Temple City, Arcadia, Alhambra, Rosemead, San Gabriel; the clean air and moderate temperatures of Santa Monica, Manhattan Beach, Palos Verdes; the school district in San Marino or Beverly Hills; ) into your evaluation of the city of Los Angeles. Many of the "best things in Los Angeles" are actually found in neighboring cities.

For its part, Los Angeles cannot fix its crumbling roads and sidewalks, cannot patch up its leaky water mains fast enough to avoid significant water loss events every year, has extremely high property tax rates and fees, extremely high sales and business taxes, an extremely large fraction of its population below the poverty line, a mediocre business climate, entertainment production jobs in constant flight to other locales, an inadequate and often brutal police force, low voter turnout, rampant disregard for public safety among its drivers, gridlock out the ying-yang, a high rate of uninsured drivers, a shrinking middle class, a lousy school district, and a government which has been all but captured by public employee unions (Garcetti's victory notwithstanding).

Nice weather though.

The comparison between what Southern California could have been and what it became is depressing, and has lots of lessons for libertarians. As I wrote in VDARE in 2004:

Subtle but important social differences emerged between Southern and Northern California. Which was the better mode was arguable—until recently.

Now, however, it has become clear that Northern California's traditional elitism has helped it withstand the onslaught of illegal immigration better than Southern California's traditional populist libertarianism.

Personally, I always preferred the greater openness of Southern California society. But that kind of freedom comes at the expense of quality of life when it's abused by millions of foreign lawbreakers.

To use David Hackett Fischer's system for categorizing the four kinds of British immigrants, Northern Californian was largely founded by New Englanders of Puritan descent. Southern California was largely populated by Middle Westerners, whose social roots typically stretch back to colonial Pennsylvania and to the South. By the 1950s, it was the paradise of the common man.

Northern California went through the typical political evolution of post-Puritans: into Lincolnian Republicans, then reformist Progressives, then modern lifestyle liberals intent, paradoxically, on preserving old-fashioned amenities like open space, traditional architecture, higher culture, and wildlife.

In contrast, Southern California was much more conservative, as the popularity of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan testify. But in the 1990s, much of the GOP base began to be driven into the Great Basin by illegal immigration-driven population growth. Southern California's Republican remnant, in its gated communities, is coming around to the Northern liberal point of view.

Northern California forestalled much of the dreariness of Southern California's Hispanic areas by being a high-cost economy. Ferociously powerful unions kept wages high. Stringent aesthetic restrictions and large amounts of land devoted to parks kept housing costs high. Northern Californians spearheaded the environmentalist movement—which had the unspoken but not-unintended consequence of driving up property values even further.

Southern California, in contrast, was not heavily unionized or environmentalized. It encouraged developers to put up huge tracts of homes.

Conservatives have had a hard time grasping that homeowners often use environmental laws to thwart new developments and enhance the value of their own property. Conservatives like to think of themselves as preserving property rights from meddling environmentalists. But the fact is that property owners themselves are often among those most intent on meddling.

In the ranchlands east of Oakland, for example, housing restrictions mean that most developments are dense housing pods surrounded by vast expanses populated only by cows. In the south of the state, it would all be tract housing.

As a native Los Angeleno, Northern Californian snobbishness has always gotten on my nerves. Nonetheless, the payoff has become undeniable. Rather than being inundated with unskilled immigrants from one country, Northern California mainly attracts skilled immigrants from a wide diversity of countries.

The lesson for the GOP is sobering. If it won't fight to enforce immigration laws on the national level, citizens will try to parry the effects at the local level.

And the socially acceptable way to keep out swarms of poor immigrants is the Northern Californian liberal way: environmentalism, unionism, historical preservationism, NIMBYism—indeed, the whole panoply of Democratic Party policies at the state and local level.

It makes no sense for Republicans to drive conservative-minded affluent people, desperate to keep their suburb from turning into North Orange Country, into the arms of the Democratic Party.

But that's exactly what George Bush's GOP is doing.

"Rather than being inundated with unskilled immigrants from one country, Northern California mainly attracts skilled immigrants from a wide diversity of countries."

Huh? I have worked with tech people from a dozen countries here in SoCal.

Sure, Silicon Valley is Hollywood for tech, but we do better than most.

And Hollywood is still Hollywood. What you see as critique of the city was often just a convenient local shoot.

Sure, L.A. has lots of diversity, but much of Southern California is overwhelmed by poorly educated Hispanics: something like 4.5 million in Los Angeles County, which is about an order of magnitude more than even Tyler would require for restaurants. Outside of food, they contribute very little creatively to cultural life in SoCal other than long lines to buy tickets at whatever blockbuster movie is opening this weekend.

The thing about such claims is that they are self-referental.

If I had great interactions in post-racial SoCal today, and I did, that would just be me and my openness to it.

That would be MY reference point.

No, you can actually quantify the lack of cultural contributions by Mexican Americans.

For example, the last person of at least half Mexican ancestry who was at least partly raised in the U.S. to be nominated for an Academy Award, glamor or technical, was Edward James Olmos in the 1980s. That's about 2000 nominations ago.

In contrast, Mexican nominees like Cuaron, del Toro, and Lubezki are from Mexico City's cultural elite.

Mexican Americans _used_ to be more represented among Oscar nominees: e.g., Anthony Quinn, who was born in Mexico and raised in SoCal, was nominated four times. Heck, the guy who posed naked for the Oscar statuette 80 years ago was a movie director from Mexico nicknamed El Mestizo.

For data, see:

And there's Sailer's LA roots showing: Oscars = only way to quantify cultural impact.

Also, your facts aren't even right. Salma Hayek, 2003 Best Actress nominee.

The reason I did not try to "quantify the lack of cultural contributions by Mexican Americans" was that I saw through your rhetoric.

You have set yourself as judge of any "contribution", already narrowed in your terms to "cultural," etc.

I meet people of every ethnicity every day in greater LA. When a friendly, funny, lady at the dry cleaners improves my morning I don't really worry about which country she came from, or what else "important" she might be doing. (Let alone her performance on standardized tests.)

Not only was that that authentic frontier gibberish, it expressed the courage little seem to have this day in age.

Oscar nominations. After flogging the English language mercilessly, you cite Oscar nominations as conclusive evidence of relative cultural contribution. Maybe written social commentary isn't for you.

Also, your facts aren’t even right. Salma Hayek, 2003 Best Actress nominee.

She moved to the US as an adult. Doesn't qualify.

And there’s Sailer’s LA roots showing: Oscars = only way to quantify cultural impact.

Yes, mentioning one way to do something means you think it's the only way it can be done. That's how things work.

All you non-foodies don't get that it's the food that drives Tyler's appreciation. In keeping with his (accurate) theory about the best ethnic food being in strip malls where the food is the star, not the setting, L.A. is loaded with an awesome variety of great restaurants and great cuisines.

In 20 square miles of the San Gabriel Valley, there are more interesting standout Asian restaurants than dozens of states combined.

I agree that there is a wide variety of interesting restaurants in Los Angeles, many at affordable prices. I also agree that there is a fantastic selection of Asian culinary gems in the San Gabriel Valley.

But I would gently emphasize that the San Gabriel Valley's top Asian restaurants are _outside_ the city of Los Angeles. (Sorry to bang that drum again.)

As an enthusiastic practitioner of the pedestrian arts, I also would like some clarification on how LA is a great walking city (apart from its near-ideal walking weather). In my trips out there (several a year) I can only think of Santa Monica and points south as fine walking areas. Everywhere else that I've tried yields walks that cover areas of interest interspersed among much larger areas of little or nothing.

Please explain so I can have more walking fun on my next visit.

It's a lousy place for walking, but there are lots of good places for hiking: e.g., bucolic Franklin Canyon is at the exact geographic center of the city of Los Angeles.

Baldy from the Village - 6000 ft in 6 miles.

The trailhead is only ten miles from the freeway.

I can walk a half mile to Trader Joes, three quarters to the beach, but yes, I drive to Baldy.

As others have said, our walkable neighborhoods don't always translate as tourist destinations.

The best plan for a walker visiting LA is to get a rental and do hikes of appropriate interest and ability. You might even get in on a MeetUp hike at Griffith Park or to the old MASH television ranch.

The old MASH television ranch in Malibu Canyon State Park is utterly lovely in the spring, or at least it was in the 1970s. The one time I went in the 2000s, sadly it was overrun by illegal alien families disposing disposable diapers on the ground.

Same for a 2013 visit to the Stony Point rock climbing cliffs in Chatsworth where Yvon Chounaird of Patagonia got his start: too many people, too many of them Mexican peasants uneducated in America ideas about trash belonging in trash cans:

Fortunately, there are more remote spots in SoCal that the illegals haven't discovered yet, but it's a drag that many of the best bits of nature are inundated with litter.

"The best plan for a walker visiting LA is to get a rental and do hikes of appropriate interest and ability. You might even get in on a MeetUp hike at Griffith Park or to the old MASH television ranch."

Good advice. For example, the 2.7 mile walk around Lake Hollywood under the Hollywood Sign has recently re-opened after 8 years of repairs (oddly it only took 2.5 years to build the dam in the 1920s), and it's a lovely stroll.

But, it's a long climb up from public transportation so you really need a rental car. And LA is not a particularly friendly town, so getting involved with Meet-Ups or other organized outings is good advice.

Visit DTLA next time. 5 square miles of walkable goodness.

"... no real sense of humor (?)" WTF are you talking about? Of course we have a sense of humor (senses of humor?)

And if you don't think so, meet me out back and I'll prove it to you!

On the soundtrack of the city point, absolutely. There are more great country and rock songs about LA specifically than Nashville and New York combined. Even a lot of east coast artists (still today even) record albums out in LA and ultimately write about the city.

The music and sports scene are excellent IF you can find a reasonable ticket, parking, and get to the venue on time. Uber probably helps on that point. But it can be frustrating in LA to have so many events you want to see but can't because of practical concerns.

Agree on food, adjusting for price.

If I were independently wealthy I would live in LA over any other city.

"Los Angeles" by X

Better food than NYC, Boston MA and Providence RI? I find that hard to believe. Sure the Mexican food is good but is there anything else in LA?

LA is great for weather though and for access to the ocean and to skiing.

Not an LA food booster, but yes it is better than Boston and Providence. Those are a both high mid-level in the US and LA has better product and diversity which pushes it across to the bottom of the top cities. Better food than NY, Chicago, SF, and an enormous number of international cities? No way.

Chinese in Rosemead, Indian in Alhambra, Ethiopian downtown, ..., down to Belizian in south LA.

Yelp works pretty well here.

Hands down LA food is far and above anything in NYC. Greater variety of vegetables, fresher ingredients, far more innovative chefs and kitchens. NYC has a few OK places and a million mediocre overpriced hyped places. Having endured the past 4 years here (Manhattan) I have have developed fellow Californian Bob Welch's opinion of NYC: It is a prison without walls. And for the most part, food is they serve in Riker's is the same you get at Per Se. just a little pricier.

Mind you I prefer the the backcountry of California to any city in the world, and I've been to many of them.

Top 100 restaurants list:
NY 5 LA 0

Top 20 list:
NY 11 LA 1

Top 45 list:
NY 18 LA 3

In short, you are wack.

Some of those lists are rather strange. Obviously tastes are subjective, but it's difficult to fathom how Animal and Bazaar rank above Urasawa, Providence, Yamakase, N/Naka, and the like. But I definitely agree that New York offers the best fine dining scene in the United States. However, Los Angeles cuisine is so eclectic. You can find top shelf versions of almost every cuisine at mid-range and below prices. The San Gabriel Valley is like a chinese food gold mine. Renu Nakorn and Jitlada are great thai restaurants, and there are numerous Thai options in Thai town. If anything, Los Angeles food might be underrated because you really need a guide to navigate ethnic communities like Koreatown, where a restaurant may offer mostly mediocre food, and then two astonishingly well made dishes.

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Apparently liking LA is "a thing" right now, which is probably why Cowen says LA is great since he tries to ape the right and trendy opinions and fashions.

"Reasons Why Los Angeles Is the Worst Place Ever"

Liking LA also seems to be "a thing" lately. I've seen a bunch of articles about it, like this one by Joseph Gordon Levitt that people keep sending me. In it, he talks about how LA is superior to New York because you can sing in the car when you're stuck in traffic, and also he once saw the movie Swingers here.

Anyway, below are the main things that have been annoying me since moving to LA.


In London, the worst that can happen while you're out walking around is maybe stepping in a puddle or getting happy slapped. Here, I have to worry about drive-bys and forest fires and mountain lions and "The Big One" and rattlesnakes and brain-eating parasites and home invasions and fucking TSUNAMIS! Why did someone think it would be a good idea to build a city here?


In London, or New York, or Paris, or any other city on Earth, going out means either walking/taking public transportation to a bar or club, then maybe walking to another place after that, then taking a cab home. This becomes problematic in Los Angeles, because public transportation does not exist. And I'm pretty sure cabs don't exist, either. This means everyone drinks and drives, and I'm not sure if you've seen those ads about it on TV, but drinking and driving is really, really, really not OK.

Joseph Gordon-Levitt is, like me, a Valley Dude and, like me, he's a loyalist to his native turf. People tend to imprint on the terrain they lived in during puberty, and the southern edge of the San Fernando Valley (the north facing [and thus oak covered] slope of the Hollywood Hills) is particularly imprintable.

But, yeah, it's not a good drinking city. I went out all the time when I was at UCLA B-School, but, thinking back, I just didn't drink much at all because I usually drove my friends. The east San Fernando Valley is filling up with ex-Warsaw Pact types from the old Soviet Empire, and the hit and run deaths on Ventura Blvd., which were so minimal in the past that there was almost no LAPD presence, are on the upswing.

Yeah so how does that work? Unless you're wealthy and have a chauffeur or always have a designated driver, how do people go out and drink? Even most wealthy celebs seem to drive themselves in LA. So does everyone just drink and drive or what?

People dress terribly in LA. Even the people there with money are tacky and dress badly. In fact the people there with money tend to be tackier than everyone else.

There are no bookstores there and everyone goes to the movies because there's no intellectual life there. The basis of their culture is Okie and Mexican after all.

I live 1.25 miles from a huge bookstore on Ventura Blvd that I've walked to maybe 1,000 times in this century. On the other hand, most people don't live in as walkable or literate a corner of L.A. as I'm fortunate to do.

It's interesting that there have never been many Spanish-language bookstores in L.A. Here's a May 12, 2012 L.A. Times article:

"Finally, LéaLA attempts to help make amends for a bizarre L.A. cultural phenomenon: the city’s near-absence of Spanish-language bookstores. Apart from public libraries, university bookstores (which stock course-related titles) and a handful of small shops like Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore in Sylmar and the Libros Schmibros bookstore/lending library in Boyle Heights [not owned by a Mexican-American, as you may guess from the name of the store], Los Angeles -- with the United States’ largest Spanish-speaking population -- has virtually no place to find and buy Spanish-language books."

If you don't like Los Angeles today, you aren't going to like America in 2050 because you've bet the country on Hispanic immigrants and their descendants. They don't much like reading and they really like Hollywood summer blockbusters.

"People dress terribly in LA."

True, but people work out more in LA, so their bodies look better. Even the 4.5 million Hispanics in LA County are a lot less obese on average than their cousins in Texas.

A lot of the Hollywood Hills area is filling up with Iranians and other Middle Easterners who wear clothes that, in the words of South Park, "would only seem cool to a Persian."

Contemporary white American hipster clothes are all about "The Dream of the 1890s Is Alive in Portland" so they are heavy and wool and don't fit the SoCal climate.

Back in the 1970s everybody in America tried to dress like they lived in SoCal, and practically suffered frostbite because of it. As SoCal has become more immigrant-dominated, however, its influence on culture has waned, while whiteopias like Portland and the nicer parts of Brooklyn have become the trendsetters.

You're right that Hispanics and Iranians dress especially badly, but I wasn't really talking about them or hipsters so much as mainstream, white adult working professionals and the well-off.

People dress so much better in New York. It's night and day. This mainstream in NY dresses so much better and it filters down to the non-whites and ambitious, striving poors who work and want to appear respectable, and to the hipsters who seek serious jobs or have to be in more mainstream, non-hipster environments.

In LA you see well off, grown men wearing skateboard shoes. Why does a middle aged man own skateboard shoes? I cringe every time I see something like that in LA. People in LA walk a lot less than New Yorkers so comfort is no excuse.

I'm sure part of it is the weather, though NY gets worse than LA in the summers due to the humidity.

To summarize, Los Angeles is a huge city of 4 million people, while Los Angeles County is 10 million, and the five county Los Angeles metropolitan area is about 17 million. Opinions differ radically on "Los Angeles" in these comments in part because people are thinking of different things. Much of what people think of as Los Angeles is the part visited by Woody Allen in "Annie Hall" (i.e., Beverly Hills and environs). Most of what is actually Greater Los Angeles are places that Woody Allen wouldn't visit if you held a gun to his head.

By the way, the most obvious advantage of the part of Los Angeles that Woody Allen would visit is something unmentioned in any of these comments although it undoubtedly influences opinions: the abundance of beautiful women (mostly attracted by four generations of the entertainment industry). In the 1980s, I would have argued that the glitzy part of SoCal had more more beautiful women than any placed I'd seen in America or Europe other than Milan.

Today, however, I'd say that Manhattan, fueled by Wall Street money, has overtaken Los Angeles in the struggle for lovely women.

There are many beautiful women, true, but a sizable percentage are vapid bores who chatter nonstop about yoga, natural foods and/or their demo reels and little else.

Sorry Tyler but Dhaka has Los Angeles beat in every category you list -- it's easily the most walkable city in the subcontinent, the climate is pleasant year-round and the food is delicious and safe

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