Proposition Q would require an immediate seismic event on the Hayward Fault with a Richter magnitude of no less than 7.0 and a Mercalli intensity of no less than VIII, with certain districts authorized to experience shaking up to Mercalli X, at the discretion of the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. (Source: California Legislative Analyst’s Office.) The fiscal impact would be considerable. Yet the logic is persuasive. Assuming that the quake has to come at some point—and no one is about to deny that, everyone concedes that certain fundamental structural forces are out of our hands—there might be considerable benefit in dictating its circumstances. To the extent that they can be dictated. There are bound to be unforeseeables. But would this not be preferable to absolute uncertainty? Opinions don’t split cleanly along party lines. Some Democrats advocate taking our lumps now, lest we burden future generations; others counter that while a major earthquake might serve the interests of certain groups, this is hardly the time for so draconian a measure. Some feel that the debate throws into relief the irrationality of the popular initiative system, and that the proposal ought to have come through the proper legislative channels. The Republicans, for their part, are on the far side of the hills, burning their usual effigies—you can see the smoke plumes—and nobody wants to actually get on the web to find out what they think. So along comes the day of decision, and early in the morning, or on lunch break, we stand in line at the church reception hall or the middle school gymnasium to cast ballots, nodding pleasantly at our neighbors; and that evening we curl up together on the couch, hitting refresh on the browser every few seconds, with our five-gallon water jug and battery-operated radio waiting beside us on the floor, just in case the foundation starts to slide.