"I wanted to write a book that would help people come to terms with the existence of Texas," writes Texas Monthly senior editor Grieder of her debut.
Few states would seem to be in need of such treatment, but Texas is a truly controversial place. The author readily concedes that Texas has its shortcomings—dreadful weather, minimal government services, high poverty and incarceration rates, and a tendency to cronyism—and notes that “Texans themselves seem to go out of their way to offend everyone as much as possible.” In this brisk and sassy counterweight to recent book-length complaints about Texas, however, Grieder challenges common prejudices about the state and insists that Texas is a better place than people expect: “that’s why several million people have moved here since the beginning of this century.” Indeed, the economic success of Texas over the past few decades is undeniable. Grieder explains how the “Texas Model”—“low taxes, low regulation, tort reform and ‘don’t spend all the money’ ”—evolved from the state’s origins as a frontier republic and is supported by an electorate that is pragmatic, fiscally conservative and socially moderate. She also delivers an extensive, perceptive analysis of the state’s politics—how it turned Republican in the 1990s and the prospects for a growing Hispanic population to bring it back into the Democratic column. The author attributes much of the state’s prosperity to its constitutionally hobbled government and pro-business populist attitude. Texans “never developed the habit of expecting much from their government,” she declares, but have instead looked to business and private entities to fill the gap. However, just as these attitudes arise from the state’s idiosyncratic history, so they are unlikely to transplant easily elsewhere—nor does the author suggest that they will.
Due to the fact that Texas is thriving while much of America struggles, it might be wise to consider what Texas is doing right.