, June Atlantic) who found Peter Schrag's analysis of the California initiative process ("California, Here We Come," March Atlantic) overly hostile should avail themselves of the official California Voter Information Guide for the primaries on June 2 of this year. There were nine complex initiatives on the ballot. They occupied twelve pages of double-column text at the back of the guide. Thirty more pages were devoted to summaries, "Analysis by the Legislative Analyst," arguments in favor, arguments against, and rebuttals to each of these.
If one had the time to plough through this material and make sense of it, all might be well, but unfortunately the initiatives themselves are often badly worded, and the accompanying arguments consist largely of hectoring obfuscations by highly partisan advocates with little interest in reasoned discussion. (The guide does not reveal how the drafters of arguments are selected.)
As your correspondent Grant Cogswell, of Seattle, pointed out, the initiative process can be used to good effect, but in California it is more frequently abused.
At the end of "'Discovering' Young Poets" (June Atlantic), Peter Davison muses about the current value of "all male" poet elders "discover[ing] the young," who he mentions are "more than one third female." I was reminded of the May announcement of The Atlantic's Student Writers' Competition winners, three fourths of whom, I noted, were female. Perhaps the sap and wit of late-twentieth-century male talent is being drained by the ever-rising cost-versus-benefit ratio of a liberal-arts education.
Daniel S. Moore
The Atlantic Monthly. All rights reserved.
The Atlantic Monthly; September 1998; Letters; Volume 282, No. 3; pages 12-21.