From the New Republic
To the editors,
I believe that Harold Meyerson missed the point (` Falling Down,' May 3). What is really missing in Los Angeles is not more or less politics. Rather, it is the foundation politics is based upon---a feeling of Social Contract.
The reason T.V. stations do not broadcast L.A. political news and events is probably that they discovered a complete lack of interest from their audience. And the reason the audience is not interested in L.A. politics is that the voters have reduced their expectations from the state, the county and the city to a minimum. Meyerson gives the indicators himself: flight from the crumbling public school system, increasing reliance on private policing, walling-in and gating of private communities and dismemberment of the welfare system.
Thus, in contrast with other communities in the United States, voters in L.A. do not expect to improve or resurrect these basic functions of government (protection, education, welfare). Instead, in growing numbers they vote for propositions that effectively dismantle the system by eliminating its funding and opt for any possible privately funded substitutes. These feelings were the basis for the tax revolt and Proposition 13, which in itself accelerated the process. These feelings also explain the reason for the expected defeat of the current measure to increase the number of LAPD cops, or the large support for the California school voucher measure, which may deliver the final blow to the public education system. Southern California, with its multicultural and multi-ethnic structure, is not likely to develop a cohesive Social Contract in the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is not likely to be pursuing the Swedish Welfare State model, or anything close. Instead, new democratic models may need to be pursued, models that would delegate maximum tax and government responsibilities to reasonable size communities---still the functioning backbone of this area. Interest in politics will follow.
Beverly Hills, California
`The New Republic', May 31, 1993
Q48 What do `the indicators' (paragraph 2) point to?
A The dwindling interest of the media in L.A. to report on political disputes.
B The growing incompetence of the L.A. authorities in dealing with crime.
C The shrinking faith of the L.A. population in the public services provided.
D The tendency of sections of the community to place themselves outside L.A. law.
Q49 Which of the following ideas is expressed in paragraph 3?
A In L.A. basic social services are being undermined as a result of voters' preferences.
B In L.A. social unrest has clearly led to chaotic governmental policies.
C The social divide in L.A. has now grown beyond the point of hope for improvement.
D Voters in L.A. are only prepared to consider measures which are aimed at the common good.
Q50 What do Mr Zernik's observations in paragraph 4 amount to?
A Decentralisation of power on a local level will set L.A. on the road to recovery. B Problems such as those of L.A. will dissolve if the authorities step up urbanisation.
C The Swedish Welfare State model is too complex to be acceptable for southern California.