What Direct Democracy Hath Wrought

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I might have got the wrong impression, but I love the sound of a Californian constitutional convention. I imagine it's a late night beach party where the state's political leaders dance, clothing optional, hugging out their differences, singing the re-write of California's failing Constitution.

However being California, our political interest groups are too busy pulling each others' hair with antagonistic referendums. In fact, our state is so fragmented that a constitutional convention would probably be more like the Trojan War than the Age of Aquarius.

When I tell outsiders about life in California, they can't quite believe it. Here we are in the freest of the free world, a place of both invention and re-invention, but the infrastructure is bad, the penal system worse and the school system unspeakable.

Not that the political extremes are entirely to blame for this quagmire. No, the balance is skewed by those dreadful centrists who say things like, "I'm fiscally conservative but socially liberal" -- meaning they want to live in a decent society but are completely unwilling to pay for it.

That's because we're conditioned to believe that taxation is theft, the market more efficient than the public sector and democracy always better when direct.


But there's a reason most progressive Western societies have chosen representative democracy over direct -- because voters cannot be relied upon to determine complex issues through annual yes/no questions written in abstract form.

Our two party system of cemented incumbents isn't a terrific alternative, but direct democracy passed Propositions 13 and 58, bankrupting our state economically, and Prop. 8 and Three Strikes which bankrupted it morally. Sacramento cannot be blamed for these travesties, hamstrung by a two-thirds majority requirement passed directly by, you guessed it, us.

California's unique form of checks and balances has now been choked by vested interests slanting their questions to an unsuspecting electorate unsure of the longer term effects of their 'yays' and 'nays.' I for one would like to "let the light shine in' for the "dawning of the Age of Aquarius." As long as someone stops Arnold Schwarzenegger from ripping his clothes off. I've seen quite of enough of that.

With a Perspective, I'm Lewis Heathcote.