By Bryan Caplan
Every single incumbent Democrat running for reelection to the state
legislature won his race, including a dead guy. In this election cycle
politically active Californians were most concerned that Republicans
would screw up the state. It is true that the Republican Party of
California is a sad lot, but outside of a Governator or two they
haven’t wielded serious power in longer than I have been alive. It
takes a strange sort of mass delusion to worry about the drunks in the
back seat more than the drunks driving the bus. And then reelect all
the drunks driving the bus.
Which is why I propose that we cut the state in half…
We’ll draw a line straight across the middle of the state. San Diego
will be the new southern capital, suiting its popular nickname as “The
Sacramento of the South”. The two halves can fight over who has to take
Now I know some readers may have doubts that this will do any good.
Won’t two insane states be twice as bad as one? They will get two more
senators. And those senators will screw up national policies for
But California governance will improve for two reasons. One argument
comes from the standard case for federalism. Large, remote
bureaucracies are harder for citizens to monitor than small, close
ones. They are also inherently less efficient. The overhead needed to
provide public services scales super-linearly with the number of people
served. At some scale the overhead generates its own overhead and
bureaucracy becomes a self-replicating grey goo.
A second argument for splitting California in two comes from the
late economist Mancur Olson. Olson argued that governments built up
cruft over time, like an artery gradually hardening under the assault
of fast food dinners. This crust is formed by special interest groups
convincing politicians to stick narrow laws onto the books for their
own benefit. Eventually the law is all crust and no substance, its
thousands of pages loses any rational basis it once had and becomes an
anchor on economic growth.