December 15, 2008

THERE IS NO CALIFORNIA:

Is California too unwieldy to govern?: As the state faces fiscal crisis and partisan gridlock, some wonder if this nation-state is so oversized, Balkanized and polarized that it is destined for dysfunction no matter who is in charge. (Evan Halper and Michael Rothfeld, December 15, 2008, LA Times)

Others say this nation-state is so oversized, Balkanized and polarized that it is destined for dysfunction no matter who is in charge. They cite its influx of immigrants, its constant tensions over water supply and its large, self-contained regions that bear little resemblance to one another.

It has even been suggested that the state should break into multiple, more manageable pieces. More than two dozen attempts at that have been tried over the years, the latest by a Northern California lawmaker in the early 1990s. More recently, a blog called Three Californias was created to advocate carving California out of the union and turning it into a new country with three states.

The state's Constitution also makes governing a challenge. California is one of only three states that require two-thirds of the Legislature to agree on a budget. A few lawmakers from the minority party can derail a spending plan -- and they do, sometimes to the point of preventing the government from paying its bills.

And California's heavy use of the initiative system, intended to let voters solve problems when lawmakers don't, has created conflicting mandates that experts say undermine rational policymaking.

Some of the political leaders who for years have been engaged in efforts -- largely unsuccessful -- to make state government run better fret that the current dysfunction creates a fertile environment for more shortsighted ballot measures.

"If this continues, there is the danger that the public will again express itself through an initiative or some kind of constitutional convention or something that will become a vehicle for their anger with elected leaders," said Leon Panetta, a former California congressman and White House advisor who co-chairs California Forward, a bipartisan think tank focused on solving the state's problems. "God knows where that will take us. The danger is it will lead to the wrong steps being taken."


California, with almost 40 million people, is only the canary in the coalmine. America itself will inevitably devolve into smaller states. As is, we are a complete anachronism.

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Posted by Orrin Judd at December 15, 2008 9:38 AM
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