The Economist: California Ungovernable

By Ben Cohen

According to the Economist, things don’t look rosy for the sunshine state:

California has a unique combination of features which, individually,

are shared by other states but collectively cause dysfunction. These

begin with the requirement that any budget pass both houses of the

legislature with a two-thirds majority. Two other states, Rhode Island

and Arkansas, have such a law. But California, where taxation and

budgets are determined separately, also requires two-thirds majorities

for any tax increase. Twelve other states demand this. Only California,

however, has both requirements.

If its representative democracy functioned well, that might not be

so debilitating. But it does not. Only a minority of Californians

bother to vote, and those voters tend to be older, whiter and richer

than the state’s younger, browner and poorer population, says Steven

Hill at the New America Foundation, a think-tank that is analysing the

options for reform.

Those voters, moreover, have over time “self-sorted” themselves into

highly partisan districts: loony left in Berkeley or Santa Monica, for

instance; rabid right in Orange County or parts of the Central Valley.

Politicians have done the rest by gerrymandering bizarre boundaries

around their supporters. The result is that elections are won during

the Republican or Democratic primaries, rather than in run-offs between

the two parties. This makes for a state legislature full of mad-eyed

extremists in a state that otherwise has surprising numbers of

reasonable citizens.

Ben Cohen is the editor and founder of The Daily Banter. He lives in Washington DC where he does podcasts, teaches Martial Arts, and tries to be a good father. He would be extremely disturbed if you took him too seriously.