Smaller Government Needed in California

As much as the Brexit vote, coming just before Canada’s and America’s own independence celebrations, drove the West’s elitists to call those who don’t agree with them “rubes” and far worse, it also inspired other autonomy movements to increase their efforts to break away from those ruling them from a distance. There is a significant roster of other nations considering leaving the European Union, and some states on this side of the Atlantic have been thinking about going their own ways.

Texas and its designs for a Texit come to mind immediately. The leaders of the drive for independence are simply fed up with Washington’s rules, taxes, spending and mandates. And rightly so. Washington is an unaccountable, remote autocrat, issuing dictums and demanding tribute from tens – if not hundreds – of millions who are neither served nor elevated by the Leviathan on the Potomac. This has happened despite the presence of 435 congressmen and 100 senators who were elected to represent constituencies back home. Most represent Washington instead.

Though not as well-known as the Texit, there is also an NHexit. Some in New Hampshire want to form their own republic, free of federal meddling. Even in socialist Bernie Sanders’ home state, there is a movement looking for “a clear mandate from a critical mass of Vermonters” who want to establish a “once-and-future Vermont republic,” says the Vermont Independent.

Then there’s the talk of a Calexit – and the curious case of efforts to split the state in two, or more, parts.

Partitioning California has been a matter of debate since before it was a state. More recent proposals include lopping the state into northern and southern halves, creating a coastal California by separating the state north to south, and slicing the state into three smaller ones – northern central and southern.

An even more radical idea – carving out six separate states – almost made it onto the November ballot.

Independence movements make sense. When government is physically removed from the governed, in Washington or in Brussels, the governed are typically exploited and suffer from a lack of proper representation. Meanwhile, the officials in power, the elitists who make up their support network, and those who are provided for and subsidized by them thrive.

Without question, there are legitimate concerns with elected officials and their unelected viceroys in Sacramento dictating terms to an innkeeper in Crescent City, roughnecks working the oil fields in Bakersfield and vegetable growers in Imperial County. Government operates more ethically, and is more efficient, when it is close enough to be responsive to the people. Distance is often the ally of tyranny.

But government works best when it is small, no matter where it is – even if it is seated in Sacramento. This state, as physically large, geographically varied and culturally diverse as it is, could still work without being cut open. For that to happen, though, the general assembly could no longer be a top-down, central-planning institution, the governor has to be committed to removing power from Sacramento, and corruption has to be rooted out of local governments.

This state’s rich resources and natural splendor are the qualities that make California California. The state has glorious weather, more than 800 miles of coastline, spectacular mountains, lush forests and wide-open deserts. There is an abundance of energy sources, timber, seafood, and mineral wealth, as well as a thriving agriculture sector.

Should the state be partitioned, much of what is exceptional about California would be lost. The many points of Golden State pride would be divvied up like Halloween candy. Farmers of the Central Valley and residents of the Inland Empire might have to cross state lines to visit the beach. Coastal dwellers would regret California’s mountains and magnificent sequoias becoming part of another state. Urban families would have to leave their state to enjoy the beauty and recreational pleasures of the forests, deserts and parks of another.

It doesn’t have to be this way, any more than the state has to be in the position of contemplating a break-up. Smaller, more reasonable – and certainly saner – government could keep the state and all its unique elements together, and turn it back into the economic and employment dynamo it once was.

With all due respect to those who want to split the state – and much respect is due – this is a better solution. It has no costs. In fact, it would have an enormous payoff. And there are no drawbacks. Electing a new political class won’t be quick and easy, but it will be worth the time and effort.

Nothing contained in this blog is to be construed as necessarily reflecting the views of the Pacific Research Institute or as an attempt to thwart or aid the passage of any legislation.

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