California Crack Up

I just finished California Crack Up by Joe Matthews and Mark Paul.  For me, the book was not quite fulfilling, and it took determination to read the final 30 pages or so.  There was some inconsistency.  The authors argue that Proposition 13 led to a concentration of power in Sacramento, but only a few pages later they claim Sacramento is powerless because of the initiative.  It is also slightly irritating that they assume that the legislation subsequent to Proposition 13 was inevitable.  In fact, many responses were possible, and it may be that the actual response was the worst possible.

The final 60 percent of the book is devoted to discussions of proposed political solutions.  These chapters are often in-depth expositions of various voting schemes, with sample ballots, most of which are designed to decrease extremism and increase representation.  These schemes are excessively complicated.  It seems to me that a simple, and large, increase in the number of legislative districts, combined with the authors’ proposed unicameral legislature would achieve the authors’ goals far more simply than would their proposals.

In spite of my quibbles, I recommend the book.  It will help many readers understand the political aspects of California’s predicament, and it provide enough proposed options to help propel the discussion of California’s future.

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