Splitting up California: Long division
No one would reconstitute California in its current form if starting from scratch. But unravelling the creation would be immeasurably more painful than dealing with its flaws. Handling water rights is difficult enough within the state, as the current drought has made clear; allocating the stuff across new boundaries would be nightmarish. It is far from clear how the state’s liabilities, particularly pensions, would be redistributed. Mr Draper says internal polls show that his proposal is most popular among California’s poorer regions, but they would quickly lose their appetite for secession if the tax spigot from the Bay Area were shut off. Mr Draper’s plan to appoint bureaucrats to thrash out these issues is less than convincing.
Still, he is right about one thing. Californians pay sky-high taxes and receive mediocre services; per-pupil school funding is among the lowest in the country. Municipal governments struggle to respond to local needs because their powers are so limited; by crimping property-tax rises, for example, the infamous Proposition 13, passed in 1978, made school districts and municipalities wards of Sacramento. California’s institutions are often too large or too small to govern properly.