Wednesday 25 November 2009

California to rediscover politics?

The confusion between politics and anti-politics has been a regular theme here on Next Left, and is the theme of my essay in the recent ippr collection on democratic reform.

The Economist's World in 2010 predicts that California will comfortably pass the vote - in a year's time - to call a constitutional convention.

Among the quirks in California’s current document are: 1) a requirement, from 1933, for two-thirds majorities in both houses of the legislature to pass a budget; and 2) the same two-thirds requirement, added by voters in the infamous Proposition 13 of 1978, to increase any tax. Two other states (Rhode Island and Arkansas) have this requirement for budgets and several others have it for raising taxes, but only California has it for both.

The element of direct democracy exacerbates the situation ... Voters pass, for example, “tough on crime” sentencing laws with nary a thought about paying for more prisons. When their elected representatives subsequently cannot muster two-thirds to raise taxes or cut another part of the budget, voters then profess shock at their incompetence.

Thus the state lurches from one fiscal crisis to the next.

Britain's democratic difficulties are very different to California's. Still, a constitutional convention would also be a promising way to attempt to resolve them politically.

PS: The author of the Economist report has an interesting blog at

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