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Why California Needs to Be Less Like the Yankees, More Like the A's

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    Oakland Athletics' Josh Reddick, left, receives high-fives after scoring on a single from Seth Smith during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the Texas Rangers on Wednesday, Oct. 3, 2012, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

    Prop Zero and your blogger write often about what's wrong with California governance and the budget. We do this with great urgency.

    But if the state's governing system has been broken for so long ( and was never all that coherent to begin with), why does it suddenly matter so much that this system be fixed now?

    The answer to that question lies in two places: demography. And baseball.

    Think about this. For virtually all of its history, California has been a state of arrival. That means that most of the people living here were born and raised someplace else -- in some other state or country.

    California thus was like the New York Yankees: a state composed not of homegrown talent but primarily of free agents. California, because of its great and cheap universities and its climate and its various wonders, managed to lure away top people from other places.

    Since so many people and so much energy and wealth was from outside the state, it mattered a lot less than the governing system of the state wasn't all that strong.

    The problem is that, right now, California's demography is changing. We are no longer a state of arrival.

    Indeed, we are in the process of becoming a state with a homegrown majority -- a place where our adults were mostly born and raised right here. As a result, we have to make more of our own leaders and citizens. This makes our governing system, and our budget system, more important, since a much higher percentage of our people will be educated in our own schools and will grow up in our own cities.

    In baseball terms, that means California needs to be more like the Oakland A's, a successful baseball team that doesn't have the money for top free agents. The A's have to develop their own, by identifying young ballplayers and developing their skills (or by finding underrated older players that other teams missed).

    The path is tougher for teams like the A's -- and states like the new California. (We saw that in baseball, as the A's bowed out of the playoffs in the first round while the wealthier Yankees and all their free agents advanced).

    Which is why reform is so urgent.

    Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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