Steven Hayward- Contributor
[Courtesty of Pacific Research
Hayward is Senior Fellow in Environmental Studies for the Pacific
Research Institute. He
is also nationally recognized for his recently released book, The
Age of Reagan: The Fall of the Old Liberal Order 1964-1980 (Prima
Publishing, 2001), and Churchill on Leadership: Executive
Success in the Face of Adversity (Prima Publishing, 1997).
[go to Hayward index]
Beware of unintended consequences
[Steven Hayward] 8/1/03
Everyone except the indifferent seems to look
forward to recalling Governor Gray Davis with relish come
October 7. No one so richly deserves the boot. Davis ran
in 1998 with the slogan, "Experience money can't buy," which
prompted our friend Chuck Bell in Sacramento to suggest the
obvious recall slogan: "Incompetence you can't afford."
knew, coming into office in 1999, that if the stock market
ever stopped its up-til-then inexorable rise, state revenues
would plunge. Yet even after the stock market began its decline
in the summer and fall of 2000, Davis kept on spending like
a proverbial drunken sailor. And there's no need to waste
additional precious electrons recalling his (so to speak) handling
the electricity crisis.
prospect of tossing a profligate pol is delightful, we should
also keep in mind the doctrine
of unintended consequences,
and the broader problems of populist democracy in general.
The recall, and the California initiative process generally,
are outgrowths of the Progressive Era in California, and
are intended to make government more "responsive" and "democratic," rather
than deliberative and republican. The irony, of course,
is that the "Progressive" initiative process
has mostly served conservative policy goals over the last
in California, starting with the event that triggered the
revolt - Prop. 13 - and running through Prop. 209 (ending
racial preferences), term limits, and a state version of
of Marriage Act.
fondness for these Progressive devices in California have caused
them to abandon
or forget deeper
about how republican government ought to operate. It
diffuses accountability for individual politicians and the
Some days I wonder why, if major questions are to be
decided by an initiative vote of the people, we have a legislature
at all. But that thought is not far from Ross Perot territory.
The very form of the recall - featuring a jungle ballot
with multiple candidates, and the winner being the person
the most votes - actually increases the chances that
survive, in which case he would emerge undeservedly strengthened.
successful, the recall could lead to the de facto transformation
of California into something like a parliamentary
In the future, whenever a governor's popularity swoons
(remember that Gov. Pete Wilson's polls were very bad
in 1992 and 1993),
liberal special interest groups are likely to try the
recall route themselves; they have more money and are
than the right in California. Having done it once,
Californians might get used to doing it over and over again
- a populist/Progressive
form of a "no-confidence" vote, and the elevation
of a new prime minister. In a state that is likely
to remain dominated by Democrats, the recall may come
to haunt Republicans
for years to come.
Just a few
thoughts to recall in this recall season.
2003 Pacific Research Institute