The New York Times had an article today about the latest round of California referendums. Here is a link to the article:
California is possibly the third-worst run state in the country, after Texas and Mississippi. They have the largest population in the US, the 8th largest economy in the world, and the a budget deficit that puts other overspending places to shame. I have already talked about my issues with referendums, so I will keep this first part short. My primary reason for disliking referendums is that they slow the legislative process in important areas often at times that make the least sense, such as now in a time of crisis. When things are bad, the government needs to be nimble and cannot be if there is a mass of people voting on everything. Californians and Washingtonians are especially bad about this, where they vote for the project they most like the idea of, regardless of its feasibility or cost. This may mean that the public will vote for a project one year and then vote it down another. This lack of constancy is wasteful. My second reason to dislike referendums is that they have usually very low voter turn-out, meaning that the voice of interest groups carries much more weight. This pertains especially to local politics, but is exhibited in state and national politics as well. My third reason is that I view referendums as redundant. We elect politicians to help make and pass laws. They need to be able to do so without people who are ignorant of the larger picture stepping in the way. If you do not like your legislature, vote against them. Finally, I do not like referendums because they are costly.
California, as the article states, is already burdened by arcane budgetary laws. People are able to vote on referendums about anything, and when the governor brought a set of budgetary cut and revenue increasing packages to the voters. They voted all but one, and that was largely a symbolic thing, down. Their reason according to interviews and the news media? They were angry. How absurd is this? Your state is in crisis, you are going to lose your education, health care, roads, security, everything, and you vote it down to express your anger? The only good I can see coming out of this is if California amends its constitution to make their budgetary processes less cumbersome. In today's day and age, flexibility is required, and their policies have stopped this. Basically, people have to make sacrifices for ONCE in that state. We act like going without expensive cable or a really nice car is a sacrifice, it is not. Neither is paying your fair share of taxes or recognizing that sometimes government spending needs to be cut. I applauded the governor when he was willing to offer both spending cuts and tax increases, I see this as the only way out. Apparently, however, Californians would rather see their state collapse before they accept the inevitable.