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Opinion: Futurists Debate Scenarios for California Amid State’s Short-Term Politics

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The California state flag flies on a flagpole in San Diego. REUTERS/Mike Blake

When UC-Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies conducted one of the periodic polls of California voters earlier this year, found that only 36% of them believed the state was “moving in the right direction,” while 54% had a negative view.

Positive feelings about the state had fallen 10 percentage points from a previous poll just seven months earlier and were the lowest recorded in a decade.

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OK, so Californians are generally unhappy with the direction of the state, which means they’re worried about its future if things don’t change. Negative vibrations may explain, at least in part, why the state is losing population.

There is certainly a lot to dislike about California today, including the highest rate of homelessness in the nation, the highest level of poverty, extreme economic inequality, the housing crisis, water crisisthe fire epidemic, the rise in crime and, of course, the extremely high cost of living.

However, if we don’t like what is or isn’t happening in California, how would we like it to change? One suspects that the 54% of Californians who dislike the direction of the state would strongly disagree about where California should be headed and how it should get there.

However, thinking about the future and how to make it better is important for both people and societies — much better than passively letting it happen.

Unfortunately, politics is a poor vehicle for thinking about—and perhaps changing—the future. For most politicians, the long term is the next election cycle.

There is, however, an effort underway to consider California’s future. Two think tanks, the Institute for the Future and California 100they have develop a “toolbox” of possible scenarios for California 10, 30 and 100 years into the future.

“The stakes have never been higher,” Marina Gorbis, executive director of the Institute for the Future, said in a statement as the organizations released their work late last month. “As the world’s fifth-largest economy, decisions made today in California will have far-reaching implications for the country and the world — tomorrow.”

Karthick Ramakrishnan, executive director for California 100, a joint project of UC-Berkeley and Stanford University, said the project hopes to “engage Californians in possible scenarios with a 10-year, 30-year, and 100-year timeline. This toolkit, our research and our innovation and engagement work, will inform our engagement activities, including work with stakeholders, government agencies, community groups and Californians in the coming months and year.”

The scenarios developed by groups of researchers vary widely, but can generally be described as conservative, progressive, status quo, and self-protective. One of the 10-year scenarios, for example, is labeled “Texas Done Right,” erasing much of California’s notorious red tape and regulatory framework to allow private enterprise to flourish.

Another is the “California New Deal,” which roughly approximates the expansive welfare state that current policies, particularly those introduced by Gov. Gavin Newsom, would create.

The third, more passive, scenario for the next decade is called “Together in the Struggle,” and it doesn’t try to remake California, but envisions making what we already have work better.

Finally, there’s “Protecting One’s Own,” defined as Californians huddling together in enclaves and creating barriers to perceived threats.

These and other scenarios for further into the future are thought provoking, as intended, but also leave readers wondering how any of them will be achieved given the limits of politics. The project would have been more useful if its authors had at least briefly mentioned possible policy changes or other actions that would be necessary.

Still, it’s a must-read for anyone who hasn’t already lost faith in California.

CalMatters is a public interest journalism venture committed to explaining how the California State Capitol works and why it matters.

Opinion: Futurists Debate Scenarios for California Amid State’s Short-Term Politics Source link Opinion: Futurists Debate Scenarios for California Amid State’s Short-Term Politics

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