As pundits attempt to analyze California’s financial meltdown, there’s talk of how it has become an “ungovernable” state. Some blame the 2/3rds majority required for tax increases, others disparage the tome-length state constitution’s complexity, and still others fault the initiative process. The budget agreement this week between Governor Schwarzenegger and the Democrat-controlled legislature does nothing to extract California from the pit of ungovernability into which it has fallen.
What makes a state ungovernable? Something that is ungovernable cannot be controlled; it is ruled by chaos. Ungovernability is also characterized by lawlessness—ironic, considering California is swimming in the red tape and over-regulation of too many laws. However, in California chaos and lawlessness are not found amongst the people, but amongst those who are supposed to order society through lawmaking. The chaos is at the top, in the government itself. From petulant legislative leaders boycotting budget negotiations, to committee hearings in which legislators bicker about cow tail docking, to the state’s chief fiscal accountability officer spending millions on office furniture during the budget crisis, disorder is rampant in Sacramento.
Such chaos is the hallmark of a bureaucratic state. Bureaucracy by its very nature is ungovernable because its end goal is to preserve itself and constantly grow. Under Arnold Schwarzenegger, California’s spending has increased by over 32 percent. Yet Schwarzenegger came to office during a recall of his predecessor for spending too much. Instead, California’s spending has increased from $78 billion in 2004 to $103 billion in 2009. The leviathan’s appetite increases every year, and now with alarming capacity.
Amid the arguments over which programs to cut or what taxes to raise, there is an underlying, fundamental issue that only the honest and courageous will address head-on. California—and Washington, DC—has become ungovernable because there is a war being waged between two ideologies. One seeks to preserve the freest form of government in history; the other seeks to abolish that freedom. There can be no compromise in a war, only retreat.