California demonstrates why ballot initiatives are trouble.

California’s style of government is just wretched. They’ve painted themselves into a corner via referendums and gerrymandering, with voters routinely voting to prohibit tax increases and simultaneously demanding increased services. Now the state is insolvent, by the deliberate choice of its own citizens, leaving the state releasing prisoners from unfunded prisons, shutting down most of the shelters for battered women and abused children, reducing courts’ hours, and cutting officeholders’ pay by 18%. Everybody wants something for nothing, and they’ll apparently require just such an impossibility of their government.

There’s a reason why the U.S. isn’t a direct democracy, but a representative democracy. States would do well to heed that guidance.

Published by Waldo Jaquith

Waldo Jaquith (JAKE-with) is an open government technologist who lives near Char­lottes­­ville, VA, USA. more »

6 replies on “California demonstrates why ballot initiatives are trouble.”

  1. Good point Waldo. My understanding of how our system works is that our political leaders are supposed to LEAD, not read polls. And they aren’t supposed to pass the buck for all the hard decisions to the voters. We’ve had some experience with that in Virginia, for example the referndums on taxes for roads in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads and the legislature’s failure to come up with the backbone to pass the lottery without a referendum.

  2. I agree with almost every word you said, except for the characterization of government programs other that highways, police, and fire protection as “services.” Nevertheless, I don’t dispute that the demands of the voters and others who beg for unreasonable government benefits is the cause of California’s problems, and the initiative and referendum process is the chief culprit. And unremittingly bad idea, it gives politicians an excuse for refusing to make hard decisions and take responsibility for them (see 2005 tax increase referenda in Virginia).

  3. How about this having the foresight to say no. Of course the thats impossible since the Democrats are all about buying votes. Screw the consequences.

    P.S. quit pretending to be a part of the oligarchy. This holier than though attitude is really annoying

  4. The problem is not fundamentally with the referendums and initiatives, but with the aftermath of the most famous and pernicious of them, Prop. 13. That prop’s requirement that budgets pass with 2/3 majority in the state legislature, combined with the severe restrictions on raising property taxes, has made it impossible to get agreement on revenue and spending proposals that could move the state out of paralysis.

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