California’s ballot measurement system provided vital control over the grand governing ideology of the state legislature. The defeat of Proposition 15, which would have dramatically increased corporate taxes, and the passage of Proposition 22, which keeps hundreds of thousands of contract jobs legal, are big popular victories for economic freedom.
Yet, at the end of this long season of proposals, a brief overview of the dangers of this system of direct democracy is in order.
The result of Proposition 15 may amount to little more than a stay of tax enforcement. Supporters of the tax increase will almost certainly be back with another referendum in 2022 to try their luck again. Considering how close the results are this year, it seems like it’s only a matter of time before they succeed. With unlimited strikes, almost anyone can hit a home run.
It seems unfair that voters can reject multiple efforts to overturn the tax protections in Proposition 13, only to see them disappear from a particularly well-funded or lucky measure victory in the years to come. If voters adopt a version of prop. 15 in 2022, shouldn’t there be some sort of rubber match to determine whether the voters’ will is fleeting or enduring?
Supporters of the status quo would likely say opponents are being asked to challenge a new tax in a future election with a voting measure of their own. Yet is this back and forth really the best way to govern?
“Majority rules”, hidden in popular calls for “democracy”, are a fundamental tenet of the philosophy of government of the left. But should a simple majority be enough to tax the property of a minority of Californians? Pure democracy is little more than two hungry sharks and a surfer deciding what to do in the water. When are individual rights to property and liberty more important than the will of the majority?
The Founders recognized the threat of pure democracy to feed populist passions and violate inalienable rights. As a result, they created a republic. They made amending the U.S. Constitution extremely difficult, requiring a two-thirds majority in both houses of Congress or support from three-quarters of state legislatures. Yet in California, the state’s constitution can change with just 50 percent plus one of the votes.
Even the “majority rule” rationale for the status quo of ballot measurement fails on its own merits. Proposition 15 received 7.7 million “Yes” votes and 8.3 million “No” votes. If he obtained the simple majority of the votes necessary to pass, that represents only 33%, or only a third! – the 25.1 million eligible voters in the State. Majority rule in theory is almost always minority rule in practice.
This minority rule is particularly problematic when you consider that a small number of government labor leaders initiate and fund many of these voting efforts that undermine the freedoms of Californians. Two labor giants, the California Teachers Association and SEIU, spent a combined $ 30 million to try to pass Proposition 15. (Mark Zuckerberg added an additional $ 12 million.)
Changing the poll’s measurement threshold to successfully pass tax hikes to a two-thirds majority (as required by the state legislature) or even 50% of all eligible voters appears to be good protection. sense against the tyranny of the well-funded union minority. In fact, this reform seems like an excellent idea for a future electoral measure. To pass, he would only need the votes of about a third of eligible voters!
Jordan Bruneau is the director of communications at the California Policy Center.