The Spirit of Kurt Andersen

The spirit of Kurt Andersen seems to be alive and well, living in the words and sentiments of Kevin Drum and Matthew Yglesias.

Here is the bottom line:

I mean, have you checked out the Golden State lately, David? “California-style referendums” have not exactly done California any favors.

Matthew Yglesias has a lot more about the rationale for his opinion (which he positions as a change to government structure), but what it boils down to is that California isn’t doing well economically, and due to the rigid structure of one tax provision, that was decided in referrendum, California’s entire model is not worth copying.

Of course, they lay the blame at the feet of the people, while exhonerating the policy elites that still drive policy, even in direct democracy. As you may know, I don’t find this argument persuasive…and I lay the blame for California’s budget mess 100% upon a mix of the policy elite’s (both left and right) hubris, along with the general economic situation (California was, of course, one of the hardest hit markets).

To quote, from Foreign Affairs Magazine:

This volume suggests that referenda are not the threat to representative democracy and stability they are sometimes made out to be. Looking at the record of votes in Western Europe (including Switzerland, which has staged half the known referenda in history), Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Eastern Europe and the former U.S.S.R., and certain American states, this study concludes that referenda have seldom led to impulsive, irresponsible outcomes, and in several cases (for example, Chile and South Africa) have been positive forces for change.


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