I think there are an awful lot of problems with Ross Douthat’s column arguing that the contrasting fates of Texas and California during the recession help make the case for conservatism. In addition to what Steve Benen said, I think it’s important to note that energy-exporting economies around the world have held up unusually well during the recession. Texas is less battered than California, and Norway has probably the richest country left on earth. But public policy can’t conjure up oil fields.
But more to the point, just like when Tom DeLay attributed Texas’ prosperity to its citizens’ propensity for hard work the main reply is that there’s nothing to explain about Texas’ prosperity: Texas is a poorer-than-average state. There’s really nothing surprising about a broad trend toward catch-up growth given how integrated the overall American economy is. If anything the most interesting issue about states’ economic trajectories is why don’t we see more convergence? How is it that the south hasn’t yet caught up with the north given the lack of barriers to trade, investment, and migration?