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In Paradise Lost veteran Sacramento journalist Peter Schrag reports on the dark side of populism in America's Golden State. California in the 1950s seemed a land of limitless potential, boosted by world-class public services and Progressive politics; today, however, its future hardly seems unbounded, its services are in shambles, and its politics are increasingly driven by rancor. Schrag places much of the blame on the state's penchant for ballot initiatives, in which citizens can bypass the legislative process and place questions directly to voters. Through a series of antitax and term-limits campaigns, he argues, these initiatives have done serious damage to the notion of representative democracy in the state. Schrag is a liberal, so not everybody will agree with his conclusions, but he is a thoughtful writer who reminds us that the United States often follows California's lead. Says Schrag, "Things had better work here, where the new American society is first coming into full view, because if it fails here, it may never work anywhere else either." [via]