Even though law-abiding citizens, taxpayers and businesses are leaving California in droves, most Golden Staters are staying put – at least for now.
For some people, the decision to leave is easy and there are many reasons for it. Who wouldn’t want better job opportunities, tax cuts and a lower cost of living? But for many others, it’s a tough call.
Elderly people in California often stop by for their children and grandchildren. But young people, who would otherwise choose to live in California for the lifestyle and entertainment, are eventually forced to pack up and leave due to ridiculously high housing costs. They can’t afford not to leave.
Those of us who speak and write repeatedly about the state’s legendary dysfunctional governance hear the same question from those who remain uncertain about California’s future: Is there any hope for California and getting the state back? What needs to be done to bring it back on track?
We have no crystal ball, but it will depend almost entirely on the extent to which voters reject the dysfunctional one-party rule that has caused so much damage to the Golden State. If they did, fundamental change could happen more quickly than anyone thinks.
Take Argentina for example. In the early 20th century the country’s name was synonymous with wealth. With vast reserves of natural resources, including minerals and millions of acres of productive land, Argentina was one of the richest countries in the world on a per capita basis. But in the early 40s, the country began its long struggle with inflation. Today, at 211%, Argentina’s inflation rate is the highest in the world. But persistent inflation was only part of the country’s economic problems. The crushing regulations brought about by a harsh socialist administrative state prevented any semblance of a free-market economy.
The Argentines had a lot. Voters recently elected Xavier Miley, a self-described anarcho-libertarian who is attempting to reform the bad economy he inherited with radical pro-market shock therapy. Overthrowing a strong state will not be easy, but it is notable that Miley’s political base is made up in large part of young voters who seem exceptionally motivated to embrace the new president’s reforms.
Another example of a radical transition from statism to free-market democracy in a nation is, of course, the collapse of the Soviet Union, which began with Ronald Reagan’s challenge: “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” While Russia can hardly be called a free-market state – it’s more like a corrupt regime – dozens of former Soviet satellite states are enjoying freedoms they never had when they were behind the Iron Curtain. Were closed behind.
Here in the United States, recent years have seen several historic shifts toward more conservative, free-market-based legislative bodies. In 2016, the state’s lower house, the Kentucky House of Representatives, not only switched from Progressive to Republican control for the first time in nearly 100 years, but also gained a super-majority of representatives.
Although gradual change in politics is probably the norm, these examples show what can happen when a majority of voters reach a breaking point with the way they are governed. And it does not necessarily result only in the election of politicians.
In states with direct democracy, voters can affect major changes through initiative power. Proposition 13, passed by a landslide in 1978, is the best example. Not only did it fundamentally reshape California politics, but it also inspired other states to adopt similar laws limiting the size and scope of government.
Coming back to the question, how bad does it have to get in California before voters revolt and demand more accountability, less corruption and better services for their tax dollars? Although we’re not as bad as Argentina (thankfully California can’t print its own currency), only a third of registered voters think California is headed in the right direction.
According to a recent poll by the Institute of Governmental Studies at UC Berkeley, a 57% majority of Californians think the state is on the wrong track.
Change will not be easy. The entire political structure of California is against change and favors the status quo. But this does not mean that it cannot happen.