11 Awesome Props: Proposition 37

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

Editor’s Note: Frequent Fox and Hounds contributor, Joe Mathews, will give his unique perspective on all eleven November ballot measures over the course of the next month. He will take them in the order they appear on the ballot.

I’m terribly curious to know what’s in my food, unless it’s certified organic or sold in a restaurant, because that kind of food—who really wants to know?

That’s why I’m 100 percent for Prop 37. Because no one knows what damage if any genetically modified food may do, it’s important to know any kind of genetic modification in certain types of good. That kind of selective certainty about uncertainty can only be a good thing.

You know what’s great about Prop 37? It lays down a hard-and-fast rule in an area upon which we’re still learning more from science. And it puts that rule into initiative law, which in California is hard to change.

That’ll stop the politicians. Legislators like nothing more than to tweak and change laws and regulation as we learn more about the science underlying regulations. The problem with all that tweaking and back and forth is that it’s boring and takes a lot of time and consumes a lot of lobbying money. It’s far better to have a rule via initiative that can’t be tweaked easily by the legislators – for clarity.

Indeed, the best thing about Prop 37 is that it takes the issue of genetically modified food off the table. Instead of building a movement and improving the law over many years, the people behind Prop 37, who are as bored with the issue as anyone, decided to make an initiative so that more legislation and tweaking can’t easily take place in California. They really know how to spare us the hassle.

The other great thing about Prop 37 is the new economic activity it creates. California has many big law firms, and many of them have been struggling, cutting salaries and laying off lawyers. That’s bad for the economy. But Prop 37 creates a whole new class of litigation around food labeling. That means more jobs for lawyers, more billable hours – and lawyers will spend that money. Economic stimulus!

It’s funny that the yes on Prop 37 campaign isn’t advertising this particular benefit in their initiative. But I’m sure that could be fixed with a new label.

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