Ballot initiatives: the hopes so high, the victories so hollow.
California is the poster child for the implosion of state governments across the land. What can be done about the crisis? Two general approaches exist. The first is structural and concerns the dividing up of political authority within the states; it holds little promise. The second deals with the concept of individual rights and duties of state citizens. As Americans, we should sense the merit in that approach. But, true to form, California seems to be moving in the opposite direction: tinkering with structure rather than rebuilding the foundation.
Many groups are preparing measures for November’s referendum process, which lets voters have the word on reform. These exercises in direct democracy consciously bypass the state legislature, in which public confidence has fallen to 14 percent—quite generous in light of its dismal performance.
Naturally, many of these proposals take aim at the legislature itself. Some try to slash legislative salaries in half, which won’t do much good because most people who crave their seats spend far more than they earn to obtain them. What drives them to office is the prospect of power: influence that will ultimately pay them far more than the gobs of cash they need to get elected in the first place.