Prop Zero
The Starting Point for Commentary and Coverage of California Politics

California's Elites Don't Know What They're Doing

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    LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 25: Model, Emily Dixon playing wth the classic Rubiks Cube at the Toy Fair 2011 at Olympia Exhibition Centre on January 25, 2011 in London, England. (Photo by Tim Whitby/Getty Images)

    You'll often hear California commentators talk about how voters don't understand how the state works, and those commentators are right.

    What you don't often hear is that many experts -- including the people we elect to govern us -- don't understand how state government works either.

    But last week, Gov. Jerry Brown let the cat out of the bag. In a visit to the Sacramento Bee editorial board, he acknowledged that the complexity of government has become too much for, well, just about everyone.

    "We're doing a lot, and it's at a level of complexity that mere mortals most of the time don't understand, and it's mostly experts that give us our talking points, and then we talk our points," Brown was quoted as saying by the Bee.

    "It's disquieting to me, because how do you run a country or a state or a city when most of the people in charge don't really have a deep grounding of what they have to deal with? And it's just getting more and more complicated."

    Brown's right of course, which is why the governor and others should be less focused on complicated tax and budget proposals -- and more on systemic reform that makes the rules of governing much simpler.

    In California, elites, while not understanding what they are doing, see intent on doing it. Whether they are conservatives seeking spending limits or liberals seeking tax increases or moderates seeking good-government reforms, everyone keeps throwing new complexity on the system, even though they can't possibly know the results of their tasks.

    Everyone needs to pull back and dismantle the system, instead of adding more initiatives and provisions to it. The bloated state constitution should be replaced with a much shorter and simpler document.

    The complex budget formulas and mandates and supermajorities should be stripped away. And elections should be made simple, with representation awarded to parties based on their share of the votes.

    The goal should be a system that the average Californian can understand. And if that goal can be reached, we might settle for a system that those who govern us understand.

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