Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Split Opinions on Splitting California

Tim Draper, the moneybags venture capitalist  who financed Hotmail and Skype, is floating a proposal to split California into six smaller states.  Now, what has me interested in this is the predictability of the Leftist response, but first let's take a look at why this isn't a nutty idea.

Let's start with the obvious. Under the US form of government, we have two chambers of the Legislature: the Senate and the House of Representatives. The existence of these two chambers is to strike a balance between popular opinion and states' rights.

The states send a number of Representatives to Congress proportional to their population, each of which is elected for a period of 2 years. This allows states to respond rapidly to the will of the People. It's pretty easy to see that a huge, densely populated state, with many representatives, could send enough representatives to pass legislation detrimental to the interests of sparsely populated states. The populous states would enact this legislation, proposed by their people, who do not live in the sparsely populated states, and frankly do not know, understand, nor are affected by the legislation they propose. A purely Democratic process would produce a "tyranny of the majority" that would be patently unfair to small states.

That's why each state sends exactly two Senators to Congress, each of whom is elected for a period of 6 years. That's a long time in political terms, and this provides stability. It also gives small states equal footing in the Senate when discussing legislation. Populous states still hold an advantage because of their dominance in the House, but the composition of the Senate reduces that inequity.

Why a breakup?

Now, the announced reason for this proposal is that California is "under-represented in the Senate". That having merely two Senators for such a populous state is unfair. Granted, this completely ignores the fact that the Senate composition is itself intended to correct the problems of California's dominance of the House, but let's roll with it... I can certainly accept that when you reach some threshold, the people (not the "state") are not adequately represented and the state should be split.

This brings up the second reason for a breakup. California is actually far more politically diverse than the news accounts would lead you to believe. But because the most densely populated areas dominate California politics, rural areas... the vast farming communities, really don't get much say in anything. This is exactly the problem we would see on a national scale but for the 2-Senator limit.

This isn't a new problem. In 1941 the idea was proposed by Gilbert Gable, the mayor of Port Orford, Oregon, that a new state be created called "Jefferson", and it be made up of rural counties on either side of the Oregon/California border. 
Contrary to a Slashdot comment on the name, "Jefferson" as a name is not "inexplicable". It was Thomas Jefferson who sponsored the Lewis and Clark Expedition that explored the extent of the continent. Like "Washington", this state name would honor a prominent American.
Now, the purpose of the state of Jefferson wasn't to increase California's representation in the Senate, but to provide the rural population of the Jeffersonian counties adequate representation in general; the proponents of this plan having felt for generations that the tyranny of the majority has ridden roughshod over their interests.

Now, the new plan, as Draper shares with, is for the following reasons (and here's the actual proposal: [link]):
1. It is about time California was properly represented with Senators in Washington. Now our number of Senators per person will be about average.
2. Competition is good, monopolies are bad. This initiative encourages more competition and less monopolistic power. Like all competitive systems, costs will be lower and service will be better.
3. Each new state can start fresh. From a new crowd sourced state flower to a more relevant constitution.
4. Decisions can be more relevant to the population. The regulations in one new state are not appropriate for another.
5. Individuals can move between states more freely.
OK, so maybe he's not thinking clearly about reason #1... it wouldn't be "our" representation in the Senate... it would be the representation of each of these new states, each of which would pursue its own interests. So it wouldn't be multiplying "California's" influence, as there would be no "California" in the present sense. Reason #2 and #5 don't make a lot of sense, as you cannot get a competitive bid for services from a state in which you do not live, and there is no impediment in the USA to moving freely between states. Reason #3 is half fluff. A new state flower is not compelling.

The real reasons are the other half of #3 and the entirety of #4... in other words, the reasons that have been given for decades for the formation of Jefferson. More relevant local control. A state government and constitution that is relevant to the populace. In two words: Home Rule.

It's a purely political stand and it makes sense. The state is too big. It has become self-segregated in to areas of wildly different interests, and each of these areas needs to be represented. That's not what's happening in the Senate now. Also, the representation that California does have does not need to be provided by an increase in the number of senators taken "at large" because that would not fairly represent the diverse interests of Californians. Therefore, we have this proposal to sever California into smaller, more effective states.

As a citizen of a smaller state, I'd love to see it, and would urge my Congressmen to actively support Federal ratification of such a split, as then there would be less monolithic screw-ups coming from "California", and more rational differences of opinion.


Of course, there is opposition to it, and that is from the Left. A fairly reasonable description of the plan is found on and is written by Brian Merchant:

Now, Merchant thinks the plan is ridiculous, but he has a very hard time articulating why other than it "is overrun with libertarian-tinged ideology and language", with no explanation as to why that is a bad thing. After all, our United States Declaration of Independence and Constitution are 100% through and through steeped in Libertarian ideaology and language and nothing else whatsoever. You see, Merchant doesn't quite understand the Constitution. I know this because of what he says. For instance, he sees the equal representation of states a problem rather than the solution that it is. He says this "...isn't ideal if you're aiming for a democracy."  Of course, our nation is not a democracy, it's a republic. Localities may be democracies, but not our nation. The United States was never intended to be a democracy. It was intended to be a republic of limited power, leaving most power to the people of the various states, who would then rule themselves in whatever fashion is appropriate to them. It's not a minor point.

But here's the weird thing about Merchant... while he believes the plan is bad, he knows that it's not, when reasoned out. And while Merchant appears to be the reasonable sort who could accept the primary reasons for supporting a split when discussed rationally; unfortunately he reasons it out imperfectly in this particular analysis:
"...Draper's slipshod plan would actually be a step towards that goal—and towards a government that ceases to favor the concerns of rural voters over the urban ones."
Well, no... it wouldn't do that at all. In fact, it wouldn't change any of that, even as it makes things fairer for the citizens of these Californian counties. You see, Merchant's fallen into the "all these states will be California" trap.But that's not the way statehood works. It's not as if all these"Californias" would be putting one over on the rest of the nation, merely calling themselves different "states" in a sly scheme game the system to increase Senate representation. They would actually be separate entities working and voting on their own behalf, including the new rural state of Jefferson that would gain favorable representation as they detach from their masters to the South.

The wishful thinking is where the opposition starts... the wishful thinking of those who could accept the breakup if the same people who are calling the shots today get to dominate politics in each of the new states. They don't mind more Senators, so long as they hold the strings. So given the prospect of a region seceding because they want truly representative local government, the opponents will either obstruct or want to gerrymander so that no truly representative government results. After all, you can't possibly be serious when you suggest that people should determine their own destiny. Thoughts like that are "ridiculous". Acknowledgement of that bias is unthinkable.

Knowing this, I particularly enjoyed reading a piece by Sam Biddle on

Now, Biddle's problem with it is just class envy, plain and simple. He's one of a number of people who have become so used to the idea of stealing from others that he cannot conceive of home rule. He doesn't recognize that it's edicts coming from people like him, forcing people to buy stuff they don't want and services they don't need, that make that kind of theft "necessary".

As I've mentioned before, separatist efforts have been going on for a very long time. As early as 1859 there was a proposal with strong majority support, which was set aside due to the Civil War. This isn't new. Before Biddle continues his lament over the fact that Silicon Valley would have all of this tech wealth while the rest of California would be "out on their own", he might want to stop and ask whether a majority of the people within those regions might not just like that very, very much. At least it's worth a vote, and if Biddle is even remotely right, it would fail even without all his bitching. So what has he got to lose by submitting this to the democratic process for which he proclaims support in other instances? What makes this different?

A thoroughly opinionated rant...

By all the accounts I've seen, the separatists in the "Jeffersonian" counties aren't motivated by some desire for financial gain. Even Biddle would have to allow that they're looking to cut themselves off from the "big money" in Silicon Valley. I say "cut themselves off" because this movement is far older than Tim Draper, and it's never been thrust upon them from outside. No... this is a political move toward self-determination. But folks like Biddle certainly have every appearance of being motivated by desire to gain the power to funnel other people's money into their pockets. The entirety of his mockery is focused on Silicon Valley because that's where that money is. Those rich elitist Silicon Valley snobs want to hang on to their cash. He sees everyone outside of the tech world as homeless, helpless do-nothings, incapable of wiping their noses, and projects this worldview of his very own onto Silicon Valley "elitists". For some reason he doesn't see the people outside of Silicon Valley as being as intelligent and as capable as all those millions who live in other states, and who get along just fine on their own. Nor does he even consider that they might like to get along just fine on their own.

No, he's focused like a bird-dog on the money, not the opportunity. But even as he hates the very fact that the technologists earn a lot (and by that, I don't mean that they're "given" more, but that they earn it), He wants to be dependent on those earnings to make himself more comfortable. The disdain Biddle has for Silicon Valley drips from his every accusatory word. To him, rich people exist as cattle to be milked, and nobody else has to work very hard at all because... hey, free milk! The State exists to make that happen. And fruits, vegetables, and meat are magical things that are bought in plastic at Safeway with Silicon Valley money, and the farmers who raise them aren't worth even a passing thought in his criticism.

No comments:

Post a Comment