Archive for the ‘california’ Category

No on 20, no on 27, no to the myth of electoral reform

October 26, 2010

Every election in California seems to have some well-intentioned proposal to improve government, and this one is no exception.  Prop 20 would extend the powers of the Citizens’ Commission to draw congressional boundaries and eliminate gerrymandering [they already have this power for the state legislatures], while Prop 27 would eliminate the commission entirely.

Ever since the Roman Republic, people have tried to tinker with the democratic process, generally to little effect.  Saturday voting, open primaries, public financing – the list is long and I suspect the good-government types won’t stop until every elected official is a milquetoast blend of Tom Campbell and Evan Bayh.

Do these reforms do any good?  Well, the early California reformers introduced the recall, which gave us Governor Schwarzenegger, and the initiative process, which gave us governmental paralysis.

Let’s take 20 first.  It abolishes Congressional gerrymandering, so we get fewer Democrats, which is bad.  So no.  But gerrymandering’s not fair, you say?  Who the Hell wants to be fair?!  Was Bush v. Gore “fair”?  Was JFK’s 1960 victory “fair”?  Was it fair when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?!  No, no, and no.

Now on to 27.  This abolishes the commission entirely, so the legislature can continue to gerrymander their own state districts.  If there’s one thing more annoying than a goo-goo reformer, it’s a worthless member of a worthless legislature.  Congress occasionally does something, but would we ever miss a few Democrats in the Assembly or Senate?  Would we even miss the whole Assembly or the Senate?  So no on 27 too.  Let’s give this commission a chance to have some fun on the meaningless state bodies – it’s not like anything bad can happen.

So no on 20 and no on 27 (the same position as the League of Women Voters, incidentally).  And no to the pernicious myth of electoral reform.  California has enough real problems – whether you think it’s the public employee unions or Prop 13, let’s get to work on those, rather than getting distracted with repainting the staterooms on the Titanic.


The New Gold Rush

October 25, 2009

A couple of posts ago, I mentioned that a new California boom was surely just around the corner, maybe in gold.  Turns out I was more correct than I knew – the SF Chronicle claims “a new gold rush is in full gallop all over California“.

California – working as designed?

October 16, 2009

From the U.K. Observer on the left to National Affairs on the right, everyone says that California’s government is broken.  There are many suspects – Prop 13, wealthy people buying initiatives, overregulation, unions, business lobbyists, and, for all I know, there are still some people blaming the Union Pacific.
It’s hard to defend a system where the state has recently paid its bills in IOUs, but is it really broken, or is it working just as it should?  Consider this story:

Sigmund Freud is walking down the street, when he is accosted by a man in great distress who says – “Dr. Freud, I am plagued by horrible neuroses.  My life is unbearable.  If you can take me on as a patient and cure me I’ll be eternally grateful.  I’ll do anything!”  Freud calmly replies, “Please sir, there is no reason to be so melodramatic.  I will be satisfied with my usual fee of fifty krone per hour.”  The man pauses and says “But isn’t that rather expensive?”

Like the prospective patient, Californians would like government to do more, but they really don’t want to pay for it.  Many systems would force us to face up to this and make a choice.  But with initiatives we have a less judgmental form of government.  We can have our cake, eat it, sell bonds to buy more cake and ensure that it uses only local cruelty-free ingredients.  If we get sick of cake, we can mandate that 40% of the meal be in vegetables.  Everyone is happy, without needing to do any of those nasty things politicians sometimes talk about, like raising taxes or expanding offshore drilling.  And if things are still not perfect, we can always blame the legislature.

Some people think that a constitutional convention will “solve” matters, but why should people vote for such a convention or its proposed revisions when it might lead to taxes going up or services being cut?  If people wanted such things, they could vote for them now.  And if a convention did not lead to change in such matters, then what difference would it make?

You might object that eventually the bondholders will tire of California’s unique system, but we have a few tricks left up our sleeve.  While a state must have prison officers and prisons, it need not have prisoners, who only add to the expense of the system without providing any votes.  If we need more revenue, we can always legalize and tax marijuana or even heroin.  And do students really need textbooks and schools, when all knowledge can be found on Wikipedia, and you can get all the social interaction you need on Facebook?  Besides, another boom is surely just around the corner, in biotechnology, alternative energy, or virtual goods.  Or perhaps we could go back to gold – prices have been rising recently, and we can’t have used it all up the first time around, can we?