Paradise Lost

California’s Experience, America’s Future

In the years after World War II, California, always regarded as an experiment for the American future, became an encouraging model for the nation. It was admired and envied for the quality of its education system, its environment, and its progressive social outlook. However, beginning with the passage of the tax-cutting Proposition 13 in 1978, and continuing through a barrage of voter initiatives, the state has pursued a determined course of retrenchment and reaction, sending it tumbling to the bottom of the nation’s“quality of life” ratings.

In Paradise Lost, Peter Schrag examines the relationship between the politics of that retrenchment and the great demographic changes of recent decades. His book makes a powerful case for reinvigorating our traditional structures of representative government against the increasing power of “populism” that is often disdainful of minority rights and interests. It shows that California is still a test for the nation, and a frightening indicator of our society’s readiness to assimilate and serve its new citizens.


“The prodigious reporting and profound insights in Paradise Lost illustrate why Peter Schrag continues to be the most thoughtful journalist in California.”
—Tom Goldstein, dean, Columbus University Graduate School of Journalism
“For better or for worse, the destiny of this nation lies largely in the hands of California. Peter Schrag’s book is a masterful depiction of the forces that shaped his glorious state and made it the alluring menace it is.”
—David S. Broder, columnist, The Washington Post
“An incisive and compelling analysis of initiative government and its effects on California. It is particularly important as a guide to understanding how fiscal initiatives like Proposition 13 have created serious structural problems for contemporary lawmakers.”
—Bruce E. Cain, Institute of Governmental Studies, University of California, Berkeley

Books by Peter Schrag

Final Test
The Battle for Adequacy in America’s Schools

Peter Schrag

Goodreads Reviews