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When the people don’t know best

May 27, 2009

I think you might live under a rock if you have not heard that on Tuesday the California Supreme Court upheld last fall’s vote on Proposition 8, which made gay marriage in the state illegal.  Despite a prior ruling supporting gay unions, the court decided in the other direction, not because they agree with the gay marriage ban, but because they were upholding the people of California’s right to govern by ballot initiatives.  I have to say that I can understand and accept why the court moved the way it did (despite being a strong supporter of gay marriage), but I think that they should not have had to decide on a ballot initiative, because ballot initiatives may be a greater hindrance to democracy then they are help.

 Our founding fathers were correct in assuming that the people cannot effectively govern themselves when allowed to govern directly, hence our representative democracy.  If you take a look at California ballot initiatives in recent yer you get such items like:

  • Limits on Private Enforcement of Unfair Business Competition Laws
  • Election Rights of Political Parties
  • Chiropractors. Unprofessional Conduct.
  • Election Campaigns. Contributions and Spending Limits. Public Financing. Disclosures.


I realize that over the years the ballot initiatives have also done a lot of good and created many necessary programs, but the state is now saddled with a crippling fiscal crisis, not to mention the frankly dumb initiatives that have been proposed over the years.  When legislatures create programs and initiatives they budget for them, but these ballot initiatives create programs without taking into account funding.  Do understand, I am a liberal who supports an active government, but only within reason.  Californians may have finally gone too far, having forced the Governator to beg for federal assistance.   Also, when looking at the initiatives on ballots in the last eight years, you can’t help but notice that many of them are areas usually legislated by the legislature, not te people.

While I appreciate the desire to directly impact laws and government programs, its time for the people of California to let go.  On that note, I leave you with Bill Maher’s comments on this last Friday (the segment on ballot inititiatives begines at 2:58):

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