California is a reminder that democracy, like capitalism, can take many different forms, and that it is intended as a means to an end, the end being liberty. Should it ever mutate into a counterproductive form, reform becomes necessary.This is not to suggest that any other form of government is preferable to democracy, only that the particular form that democracy takes must be judged by how well it advances liberty. No one can argue that our particular circumstances are advancing the cause of liberty nor accountable government, its necessary well-spring. Consider the following facts and their consequences.
- California transfers about 71% of its state revenue to local governments. Because the money comes from the state, local administrators no longer have much incentive to spend it efficiently.
- California has the 35th largest legislature, even though it is the most populous state. This means that the effects of gerrymander are even more pernicious, because it's very hard for a challenger to break through. The state has few state senators than Congressman.
- The responsibility for the budget is no longer really in the hands of the legislature. So many propositions have passed that constrain spending or taxing for particular programs, there is much less room for compromises that mark other states. The state's education minimal funding level formula has been compared alternately to the federal tax code and the general theory of relativity for its complexity.
- We elect any number of positions in the executive branch that are appointed or part of a party ticket in other states. This results in absurd situations where the governor can't travel for fear the Lt. Gov. will sign/veto some legislation or the attorney general and insurance commissioner seeking to burnish their cred and working at cross purposes. Given the situation, no is really held accountable.
- Increase the number of state representatives to 200 and state senators to 100. This will diminish the effects of gerrymander because it will cause the make up of the legislature to more closely reflect the population. It could even be sold as increasing minority representation, which it would. I picked 100 state senators to emphasize to symbolize that in many ways, California is America.
- Only elect the Governor and Lieutenant Governor as a ticket. The attorney general, insurance commissioner, schools superintendent, etc. would all be appointees.
- Repeal all of the ballot measures that require minimum spending, or that direct tax monies on spending.
- Restore the local property tax and sales tax revenue to localities that spend the money. In other words, divorce the local governments from dependency on Sacramento. If local government starts harming the local economy, they will lose revenue. Local control is certainly a conservative virtue.
Cross posted to sdrostra.com.
Digital rights to photograph purchased from dreamstime.com; commercial re-use prohibited.
In the comments section at sdrostra, Erik reminded me of a big reason that the state transfers so much cash to the local governments. It is the Serrano v. Priest decision of 1971, the California state supreme court ruled that funding of public education based on property taxes that resulted in highly differential per pupil expenditures was unconstitutional. Since that time, the state has endeavored to equalize per pupil spending, resulting in the current system of massive transfers of taxes.