The Wyly family knows a thing or two about maintaining success. Headed by brothers Sam and Charles, the Wylys have long been a part of the business scene in the state.
So Sam has good reason to be proud of how Texas has weathered the recession and where it is headed. In fact, he’s so proud that he and his son, Andrew, wrote a book called Texas Got It Right! that details all the ways in which Texas got it … um, right.
A sampling: In five years, the Lone Star State added more jobs than any other state and maintains a lower cost of living than most; Texas is continually ranked as one of, if not the best, state to do business in, and Texas is on the front-end of new energy sources such as wind and natural gas.
On the other end of the spectrum is California, mired in taxes and regulation as people leave the state.
The Wylys examine how deregulation, entrepreneurial drive and prudent decision making have allowed Texas to thrive as other states falter. It's a quick read that is as lively as it is informative.
Sam and Andrew recently took a break from besting the rest of the nation to discuss Texas pride and what others can learn from us.
CultureMap: This book seems to really take aim at California as the antithesis of Texas in pretty much every way. Is California doomed in your opinion?
Andrew Wyly: California is not doomed, yet. We give them, and other states, 10 ways to help turn things around and create good jobs. Some 200,000 Californians left the state to move to Texas over the past decade. This trend will continue if they don’t change their policies.
Sam Wyly: The book also takes aim at Illinois and New York. California has self-destructed, most often by voter propositions. A Greek philosopher said, "Choose between a republic and a democracy.” California is a failed democracy. And Texas is a republic that works. If someone sees a rattlesnake in California, they’ll call a meeting to talk about the rattlesnake problem. A Texan just kills the rattlesnake.
"If someone sees a rattlesnake in California, they’ll call a meeting to talk about the rattlesnake problem. A Texan just kills the rattlesnake," Sam Wyly says.
CM: Is your book meant as a lesson for Texans to keep doing what they’re doing, or an instruction manual for the rest of the country?
CM: There's a saying, "Never ask a man if he's from Texas. If he is, he'll tell you. If he isn't, don't embarrass him." Why do you think that Texans are generally so prideful and how has this played into the state's successes?
SW: Having a positive attitude is usually better than a “doom and gloom” mindset in most everything. It helps us survive disasters.
CM: Your book champions Texas a lot, obviously, but what are the things that the state could be improving upon?
AW: Sure, education needs to be improved. Also, it’s illegal to play Texas Hold 'em in Texas. That just seems wrong.
SW: Texas, along with most other states, needs to do a better job of educating our children. But we are trying to get it right. Maybe we should just give the state money to the parents to take to their choice of the best school for their child.
CM: One of your biggest points in the book is how Texas has really gotten deregulation right while utilizing natural resources. But Texas is a big state with lots of resources. Can other states afford what Texas has done without the same amount of land, energy opportunities, shipping lanes, etc.?
SW: Who dug the shipping lanes? Who farms the land from sun-up to sunset? “Can other states afford it” is a wimpy question. Texas was founded by poor dirt farmers — migrants from Tennessee and European immigrants exiled from the revolutions against the princes and bishops who owned all the land and decreed state religions. Aggie farmers and college researchers have enabled hundreds of millions in Mexico and India to escape hunger and poverty with more productive corn and wheat seeds.
AW: Lots of states have large shale deposits that they are not utilizing, especially in the Midwest. But you don’t need a lot of land and resources to have a thriving economy, just look at Hong Kong and Singapore.
CM: Texas carries a swagger that non-Texans tend to either admire or hate. Does a state need a unifying pride or braggadocio to succeed?
AW: Every state has their own heroes and landmarks — Abe Lincoln in Illinois, the Freedom Trail in Massachusetts, and the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. A unifying pride can’t hurt, but what California and Illinois and New York really need is a change of policy.
SW: As the rodeo bull rider says, “It ain’t braggin’ if it’s true.”