My week began with a celebration: The centennial of Californias initiative process.
I wrote about it at Common Sense, the daily commentary Ive penned since 1999 (you can sign up for the email version on the Citizens in Charge website). The enormous impact of Californias initiative process can hardly be disputed, scribbled I. Perhaps the best known and most consequential initiative has been Proposition 13. I concluded by noting that politicians tend to hate being checked by citizens, and that Californians still support this limited form of direct democracy by the same margin they passed it a century ago.
Drik, one of my regular commenters — and intelligent Townhall blogger — offered a somewhat caustic addendum: And it still didnt stop the politicians from bankrupting the state.
No, Drik, it didnt. The initiative and referendum process didnt prevent Californias politicians from spending the state to the brink of insolvency.
Ive written about this before. Unlike some analysts, I dont see California citizens as the cause of the states bad spending habits, or the initiative as their nefarious instrument. Evidence suggests otherwise: legislators, for example, have dramatically hiked spending over the last decade without help from voters. Additionally, the more than 82 percent of ballot measures in the past 20 years that have required greater spending have been placed before voters by legislators, not through the states citizen initiative process.
Of course, if you assume that politicians are always right, that every bit of spending they desire is a good thing, then the initiative has hampered their mission. Without Proposition 13, for example, state taxes would be much higher. And maybe the state government wouldnt be nearly bankrupt.
But the people would. Many, many people.
Theres a reason Californians have repeatedly demanded tax limitation measures and that Prop 13 remains as popular today as it was when passed by voters in 1978: Their politicians insatiability.