While we're trying to establish democracy in Iraq, we have quite the opposite problem in California — what you might call too much democracy.
California is being run by referendum (search). Every two years, the ballot is loaded with propositions, which — if passed — lock the legislature and the state into laws, which can only be overturned by the courts.
So if the issue is after school childcare, and the voters make it law... the legislature has to spend the money, no matter what other budget considerations may be.
If the voters vote for "three strikes and you're out," the legislature must build prisons and hire prison guards for an ever-increasing population of petty crooks. Meanwhile, more dangerous criminals are released to make room for the newcomers.
Now ... some ballot propositions have done very good work for California. The Coastal Act (search) of the early '70s is the only reason you can go to the beach in California. Otherwise, it'd have been oceanside property from Mexico to Oregon.
But it is clear that the voters at the ballot box are running the state, leaving the legislature to try and deal with the mess.
This is the legislature's fault. If they weren't taking special interest money (search) and ignoring the public, voters wouldn't feel the need to sign petitions to put one thing or another on the ballot.
But California is too big and too important to be run this way. It may be time to end or limit the reforms of 100 years ago that led to proposition mania and — by the way — this very recall.
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