The Sacramento Bee called
me a "radical"
this past weekend. Or more precisely, a Bee writer described
my book California Crackup, co-authored with Mark Paul, as "a radical but well-
argued repair manual for state governance."

I was
delighted to be called a radical. Because it’s sort of sexy and interesting.
But as I chewed it over, I began to feel bad about it, because I’m not sure I
deserve such a compliment. (Though that doesn’t mean I’m not sexy, dammit).

because there’s nothing radical about what we suggest in the book. In fact, the
thesis of our book is that California needs reform because it is perversely and
radically governed. This state has a government unlike any other state.
Bizarrely, Californians have combined majoritarian elections, a consensus
governing system of so many fiscal rules that almost any minority or interest
can block any significant budget change, and the world’s most inflexible system
of initiative and referendum. The resulting governing system is unlike nothing
else on planet earth.

"radical" solution to fixing this? Change California’s constitution so it’s not
such an outlier – and looks more like other places. Adopt the sort of election
systems that are used in most of the world’s countries. Get rid of all the
fiscal rules and have a budget system that looks more like the best governed
U.S. states (Virginia, Indiana, Wisconsin). And make the initiative and
referendum system work more like the systems in other states and other
countries, particularly Switzerland, which was the inspiration for the
Californians who brought direct democracy to the state a century ago.

I’d thought
of this as argument – Make California more mainstream — as profoundly
moderate, even conservative, and maybe a little boring. The fact that such an
argument can be called radical – to be fair, the Bee isn’t the first to call us
this – tells a lot about how, well, radical that elite thinking has become in
California. The status quo we have now is radical, in the sense that no one
other place governs itself like California.