The Finch Formerly Known As Gold

16 August 2003

California, there you go

I need hardly point out that tossing Gray Davis out of Sacramento, while certainly a boon, is only the tiniest of steps toward putting the Golden State's affairs in order. And if that last phrase sounds like California is on its deathbed, lacking only a few formalities before ringing down the curtain and joining the Choir Invisible, well, maybe it is. With half again as many people as any other state, a level of political and cultural fractiousness that would embarrass a middle-school class, and a tendency to regulate not only the things it can but also the things it can't — the timing belt in my car is supposed to be changed at 60,000 miles, unless I'm in California, in which case the Assembly has decreed that it will last until 105,000 — it may be time to put the California Republic out of its, and our, misery, by splitting it in two.

Or, suggests UPI's James C. Bennett, in three:

There are hardly any scale advantages to California's size. Its government is one of the costliest and at the same time the least effective, and almost impossible to reform. Almost any of the small Western states are better-governed than California, and far more accessible to the input of their citizens.

Dividing the state into perhaps an East California of the Central Valley and Sierras, a Northern California of the coast down to, say, Morro Bay, and a Southern California of the coastal regions below that, would create three large but not monstrous states, each capable of substantial economies of scale, but also much more tractable, each less politically fragmented, and far cheaper to campaign in. Six senators would give the region a more appropriate clout in the Senate and reduce the disproportionality of the current body.

I don't really think we're going to see the states of Lodi, Moonbat and La Raza in my lifetime, but weirder things have happened, and there's already a Constitutional provision for the division of existing states, in Article IV, Section 3:

New states may be admitted by the Congress into this union; but no new states shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.

The Congress, I think, will look more kindly upon the idea of three states in place of California than they do upon the idea of one state in place of the District of Columbia, which admittedly isn't saying much. Selling it to the California Assembly will be much harder; just getting them to agree on the new borders will be a major accomplishment. Still, the state is almost forty billion dollars in the hole; what's the alternative? Foreclosure?

(Muchas gracias: Geitner Simmons.)

Posted at 9:51 PM to Political Science Fiction


I wonder whatever became of the Indian medicine men they allegedly called to Squaw Valley in 1960 to make it snow for the Winter Olympics?

Maybe if they could do an earthquake dance, ol' San Andreas might settle the border question with a minimum of partisan wrangling.

Posted by: McGehee at 6:57 AM on 17 August 2003

This idea is not new, although it usually involves splitting into two states. It gets brought up in California every few years and then dies.

I've always wondered if it might be a good idea if some states merged in order to increase the region's clout in Congress. North and South Dakota come to mind. But that probably has less chance than California splitting into two or three states. You can only image the debate over where to locate the capital.

Posted by: Goof Beyou at 11:01 AM on 17 August 2003

I think along the same lines as Goof, I think we're more likely to see states combining to have more clout, not so much in the congress but with business. When you have competition between states to draw large corporate employers then the ability to offer larger "incentive" packages becomes vital. States like oklahoma, nebraska, arkansas and kansas stand little chance of competing individually with texas. Each of the small states have only one or two minor metro areas to draw tax from whereas texas has maybe four or five major metro areas to draw from. Same holds true to smaller western states in the area of california.

In oklahoma its a downward spiral. As your population shrinks due to outward company migration so too does your ability to raise tax revenue to entice new business, you have to raise the taxes on the remaining population or cut services.

States with geographic advantages (coastlines, tropical weather) are also going to be at an advantage. Overall it doesnt look good for the midwest if companies continue to move away from geographically based business to more mobil ones. They will see the tax incentive process as another source of revenue.

Posted by: bruce at 12:43 PM on 17 August 2003

There are some examples of states combining on specific functions — the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey comes to mind — but I don't really anticipate any merger of states, if only because the combined State of Dakota, say, would have its 1.5 million people represented by two Senators instead of four.

The tax-incentive game, I think, is really getting out of hand. Corporations have been playing one state against another for years now, and the one benefit that philosophically could be expected from it — a general lowering of taxes and a gradual leveling of the playing field — simply isn't happening. I haven't decided whether this is due to some problem with the theory or to inept application thereof.

Posted by: CGHill at 1:16 PM on 17 August 2003

True, but the State of Dakota would have (somewhat) more representation in the House. All appropriation bills originate in the House. Better chance for some of those meaty pork projects.

Posted by: Goof Beyou at 3:54 PM on 17 August 2003

[[[ just getting them to agree on the new borders will be a major accomplishment. ]]]

That would be nothing compared to getting the three new states to agree on how to divide up the deficit. Split it equally three ways? No way Jose. Just another reason why it would never happen--not that it's got a snowball's chance anyway, but it's fun to dream.

Speaking of which, check this out:
http://www.insmogandthunder.com/

Posted by: CT at 4:05 PM on 17 August 2003

Lodi, Moonbat, and La Raza? Are those your names for them Charles?

You're putting my Powerbook in danger of coffee spew. You could get sued!

Posted by: Dan at 6:20 AM on 20 August 2003

Just suggestions, nothing more. :)

Posted by: CGHill at 6:28 AM on 20 August 2003