CREATIVE DESTRUCTION….Some good news from the much maligned California legislature:

Gov. Gray Davis on Friday signed a bill that will give domestic partners in California many of the legal rights and obligations of married couples in matters involving children, money and property ? a measure that gays and lesbians hailed as a historic step toward equal rights.

The new law, while stopping short of recognizing gay and lesbian marriage, positions California as a national leader in the rights and obligations it affords gays and lesbians, experts said.

….But minority Republicans, who also rejected the bill in both the Assembly and the Senate, said it undermines marriage….”This is a bill that looks at the people of California and says we don’t care what you think,” said Assemblyman Ray Haynes (R-Murrieta) during a debate in the 80-member Assembly, where the law barely passed by a 41-32 vote with all 32 Republicans voting no.

A couple of days ago I implied that perhaps liberal metropolitan values were associated with dynamic, prosperous, moneymaking states (like California). I don’t have any special proof of this, but think about a bill like this one. If you were a smart, hardworking, and mobile gay couple, would legislation like this make you more likely to move to California? You betcha, and we welcome these people.

On the other hand, intolerant, xenophobic societies that are obsessed with tradition aren’t likely to embrace the change, chaos, and diversity associated with, say, Silicon Valley or Wall Street. On the contrary, they’re rather more likely to drive out smart, hardworking gays who have the wherewithal and guts to pack up and move. Their loss.

“Creative destruction” isn’t just a feature of successful capitalism, it’s also a feature of successful cultures. And cultures that are open enough and dynamic enough to engage in creative destruction of social mores in favor of better ones are more likely to do the same thing when it comes to business and industry. As with capitalism, of course, there’s always the risk of carrying things too far now and again, but the inevitable mistakes are trivial compared to the long-term rewards of being openminded about cultural change in the first place.

That’s why California is rich and Mississippi isn’t. It’s the people, stupid.

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