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Bear Hunting and Governance Reform

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Opinion: Bear Hunting and Governance Reform

"Meatball" the bear was captured in the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains after repeatedly wandering into residential neighborhoods. The animal was tranquilized and relocated to San Diego.

Los Angeles Times columnist George Skelton last week called for an easing of restrictions on hunting bears. There were so many rules, including restrictions on using dogs to hunt, that the bear population was huge and out of control. George apparently can't use his trash cans in Tahoe anymore. "Let loose the dogs," Skelton pleaded, so that the bears could be tamed.

I'm no expert on animal management, but I like Skelton's philosophy, and wish that California elites would apply it more to governance.

Because it's the same problem. So many restrictions and rules have been put on the discretion of lawmakers and governors that it's hard for them to respond to real problems. As a result, the state has several big, bear-sized problems -- on the budget, on prisons, on health care, education, etc. -- that can't really be managed. The problems themselves run around, and hurt people and communities in uncontrollable ways.

We need to free lawmakers to hunt those problems down. Yes, giving legislators' discretion might not always be pretty, just as letting dogs loose on bears could get ugly. Yes, you might see mistakes -- bad laws, and bad bear kills.

But for a state to be governable, and a problem to be managed, there must be people with the authority and discretion to take action -- both on the state level and the local level. Just as humans are the natural predators of bears, and must be allowed to hunt bears if you want to control bear populations, elected lawmakers and governors are the natural people to govern the state, and must be permitted to do so if you want anything resembling effective governance.

But California prefers to tie the hands of its citizens and its lawmakers. So let's learn from the bear problem. Let loose the dogs, and the lawmakers, on our problems. Let them hunt and govern, on our behalf.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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