Zócalo Public Square | Ideas Journalism With a Head and a Heart

New at Zócalo


Were Empires Better Than Nation-States at Managing Diversity?

By Respecting Local Cultures, Far-Flung Rulers Fostered Cooperation From Those They Subjected

By Krishan Kumar

Did empires actually serve to protect the diversity of their subjugated people? And if so, what lessons can they offer for the challenges facing modern states?
    Answering these questions might begin with the Spanish conquest of the New World in the 16th century—a moment that changed empires forever, because the Spanish empire became global then in a way that was not possible earlier.
    Although Alexander the Great constructed a vast Eurasian empire, and the Roman Empire regarded itself as ecumenical, neither of them incorporated the enormous variety of peoples and cultures to be found in Spain’s empire. And that variety was also characteristic of the other overseas European empires—the Portuguese, Dutch, French, and British—that would follow it. This presented the rulers of these global empires with novel ...

Connecting California

The Greta Garbo of California Reservoirs Should Be Left Alone

Lake Mathews Is Beautiful, Lofty, and Forbidden. Humans, Keep Your Distance.

By Joe Mathews

Stay away from my lake, Californians.
    It’s too beautiful, and too important, for the likes of you.
    It’s true that, as a legal matter, I don’t own Lake Mathews. But I’ve always felt a special kinship with a Riverside County reservoir that spells our mutual name the correct way, with just one “t.” And, what’s more, Lake Mathews serves as the beating heart of the system that supplies water for me and millions of my fellow Southern Californians.
    Lake Mathews represents an end and a beginning. It’s both the terminus of the 242-mile aqueduct that sends water from the Colorado River at Lake Havasu, and a distribution center, sending that water, via gravity, from its elevation of 1,500 feet, around the region.
    Most intriguingly, it’s a singularly forbidden place. All over California, rivers, canals, ...

Connecting California Joe Mathews

  • Can Taiwan Teach California How to Thrive Under an Authoritarian Power?

    The Island Nation Knows How to Navigate Beijing's Threats. The Golden State Could Do the Same With Washington.

    Is California becoming another Taiwan?
        In asking that, I don’t mean that earthquakes will turn California into an island. Instead, what California and Taiwan share is a problem—the ...

  • Fear and Loathing of L.A. and S.F. on the Campaign Trail

    Our Gubernatorial Race Could Turn on Which City Californians Resent Most

    Which city—San Francisco or Los Angeles—do you love to hate more?
        This is shaping up to be California’s question for 2018. Each of the two top contenders for governor is a former mayor of one of those cities, with each embodying certain grievances that Californians hold about their ...

  • If Californians Won't Ride Trains, How Come Our Family's Amtrak Trip Was Mobbed?

    A Journey on the Pacific Surfliner Shows Why We Need More High-Speed Rail, Not Less

    If any of the conventional wisdom about trains in California is true—that no one ever rides them, that Californians prefer to drive or fly, and that high-speed rail or other train projects are “boondoggles” or “trains to nowhere”—then how do you ...

  • Video Highlights

    In his book "Age of Anger: A History of the Present," the writer Pankaj Mishra examines the 18th-century antecedents of the 21st-century disillusionment with liberal, free-market democratic systems that has triggered voter backlashes and violent outbursts. ...