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Fixing the Golden State
California Partition: Not as Crazy as it Sounds

The Economist thinks venture capitalist Tim Draper’s effort to split California into six states is a bit of a farce. It notes the Golden State’s disparate population and ungovernable number of cities and media markets, but facts are facts: Even if Draper can collect the 807,615 signatures needed to put the question before voters, it will never make it past the California legislature, let alone Congress. And even if it did, partition would be a nightmare:

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. […]

Proper regional government would be better. Some parts of California already do a decent job running things like transport and air quality across county lines. But deeper devolution would be hard. Local tax-raising powers are seriously limited by Prop 13, which no one will touch. Jerry Brown, California’s governor, wants to make “subsidiarity” his signature theme, but it remains to be seen how far he will go. And California’s powerful public-sector unions will be loth to give up the huge statewide influence they enjoy. For many in the state, big is still beautiful.

These are legitimate concerns, but we don’t think they’re enough to condemn the idea to the trash heap. For one, autonomy from the Bay Area cash cow might not be quite the disaster for California’s poorer regions that the Economist assumes; it’s primarily in poor regions that vast amounts of shale energy remains untapped. The costs of separation from the Bay Area tax spigot might be offset by the benefits of separation from Bay Area voters who insist that a wealth of brown jobs (as in North Dakota) aren’t worth the environmental threats of fracking.

No doubt water, pension liabilities and Democrats (who would let this happen over their dead bodies) pose seemingly insurmountable obstacles to partition. But this is a reform movement we hope gains steam over time. The competing interests and priorities of California’s unmanageable, schismatic population are bad for democracy and bad for Californians.

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  • Jim__L

    “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

    Let the parts of California with water charge the major metropolitan areas for that water, and things would turn out OK.

    • Corlyss

      Well, if that’s a viable proposal, why not let the states plundered for their water to feed So. Ca’s golf courses and other Lotus-eating life-styles screw adequate compensation out of those same areas? Basically states east of Ca. have been robbed of their water to sustain the viperous cretins, destructive illegals, and doctrinally vacuous and pathological politicos in that state, which merits quarantining more than succor.

      • Jim__L

        Let Arizona and Nevada know that’s on the table, and the Senate might end up welcoming a few new members…

        • Andrew Allison

          I can just see the Senate welcoming a California delegation with 10% of its votes. LOL

          • Jim__L

            Depends on which side they’d vote, I would think. If both sides see a long-term gain, it might happen.

          • Andrew Allison

            I think not. Consider the calculus: today, each State is equally represented by two senators who enjoy, broadly speaking, 2% of the power and perquisites of membership. In part, as the Constitution intended, they include protecting the interests of their State against the those of the other 49. I suspect that they would not be happy at the prospect of 11% of the body’s membership representing the interests of the States-formerly- known-as California at their expense. Keep in mind that the Constitution not only prohibits the creation of States from existing States, but that the creation of new States must be approved by Congress.

          • Jim__L

            The interests of the different parts of California are in many ways as different than the interests of the different parts of this country. Individual senators would see their clout marginally decline, it’s true; but it’s at least plausible that both Democrats and Republicans could see the potential to expand their own party’s influence, and each caucus within Congress (agricultural, mining, environmental, etc) could see its own interests enhanced by new senator or two.

            Considering the Senate’s surrender of its perquisites to the Executive branch in recent years, I’m not convinced that defending those perks is their highest priority.

          • Andrew Allison

            Right, that’s why they don’t run so hard for re-election [/grin]

          • Corlyss

            If re-election is in the picture, they don’t have to run hard. Sometimes they don’t even have to have a pulse. All they need is a D behind their names. [And yes I get it you were making a joke.]

          • Andrew Allison

            Would that it were true that party affiliation mattered. Sadly, the primary concern of the great majority of our elected reprehensatives is reelection. That’s why we need term limits [and that’s no joke!]

          • Corlyss

            Priggish perhaps but Jim I have to challenge your use of the term perquisites. If all they surrendered were the incidental privileges of office, I wouldn’t squawk and I doubt if you would either. They’ve been surrendering their Constitutional obligations. Those are NOT negotiable. They can only be abandoned to the voracious Executive appetite for extra-legal power

          • Jim__L

            You’re quite right. Corrected. 🙂

          • Joseph Blieu

            As I recall from history, when Texas was admitted to the Union they were granted an option to split into 5 separate states at a time of their choosing, I think this agreement is still valid. It was not made for any other state.

          • Andrew Allison

            Thank you for this gem. Could another example of the Law of Unintended Consequences be that California’s doomed-to-failure proposal will result in several new Republican Senators? LOL

  • William Ockham

    Why are the Democrats against a partition of California into six new states? It would give them another ten seats in the Senate.

    • Dandy1

      I disagree with the premise it would give Democrats more seats. You would be surprised how conservative some parts of the state have been or have become.

    • Kafir

      The two states with LA and SF would be solidly blue. The other four would be purple or red.

  • Andrew Allison

    The Economist has it right, and TAI is mistaken about the political impact — it’s estimated that the breakup would give the Democrats a net of two additional Senate seats at the cost of some Electoral Votes.

    Even if passed by the voters, the measure would have to be approved by both the California legislature and Congress, and I don’t foresee the other 98 Senators voting to dilute their influence. More to the point, the proposal to significantly increase the government overhead (six legislatures, etc. instead of one) in a State which is effectively bankrupt is ludicrous.

    • koblog

      The Texas state legislature meets every two years, which is too often in my view. Legislatures only make mischief. See our federal Legislature.

      The six new legislatures would not have to be as corrupt and unresponsive as the current corruption we call Sacramento.

      • Pettifogger

        As the old joke goes, the Texas legislature meets for 140 days every two years. We’d be better off if it met for two days every 140 years.

  • Corlyss

    Sometimes the Economist is too clever by half. Their American reportage is a joke, esp. the editorialist whose a mouthpiece for Obama and masquerades under the title Lexington.

  • Fat_Man

    If it makes it to the ballot, it won’t pass because the public employee unions, that run the state will be against it. If it does pass, Congress won’t approve, because the GOP would be afraid of handing extra electors to the Dems.

    What they could do would be to create sub-state administrative districts and turn most of the administrative functions of the state, such as schools, and cops, over to the new entities. They would have to be willing to have day zero on things like union contracts and pensions.

    It is more likely that shrimp will whistle, than that the people of California would do anything to solve their problems.

    • Kafir

      In the partition that is spelled out in the plan, the GOP would actually end up getting some of California’s electors and it would add to their Senator count as well. I think at least three of the five are solid red and one is purple. The two with LA and SF would the only solidly blue ones.

  • Eightman

    I think a better idea comes from Thomas Sowell. He has proposed the peaceful breakup of the United States along the blue state/red state divide. Because of geography, the red states could easily form a new United States based upon the principles of the limited government as understood by the founding fathers.

    The blue states could go it alone or form an “East Progressivestan and West Progressivestan” federation. Once the blue states undergo their inevitable collapse under their Marxist tyrannical misgovernment they can be readmitted to the new United States on a case-by-case basis.

    Now the question you may ask, “Is this a realistic prospect”?

    I not only think it is but I believe it is inevitable because of the dire fiscal situation the Federal government has created. Balanced budgets seem to be a thing of the past and there is not a willingness to pay down the national debt anytime soon. The Washington establishment continually does the equivalent of “putting the electric bill on the credit card” and then asks for an increase in the card’s credit limit.

    The Washington set calls this “fiscal responsibility”.

    Sooner or later this will result in the death of the dollar. The death of the dollar will be the end of the Federal government. This will not result in the death of the American nation but a new beginning.

    It can lead to a better America but only if it results in a return to sound government as outlined by the founding fathers.

    • Pettifogger

      I have joked with friends about this. A problem would be that the red states would need an outlet to the Pacific. My solution has been for the red states to take San Diego. That would be facilitated by the blue states’ prompt dismantling of their military in favor of more social programs.

    • Bill McGill

      See, problem here is most of those “progressives” hang onto these iffy studies that the Red states always bleed the Blues. The Media loves this and runs with it all the time. I believe Justin Beiber – I mean Rachel Maddow – said as much last week. And they have some point, as many “red” states are low population states, and in some categories (e.g., highway funding), are over represented, per capita.

  • Paxton Reis

    The “states” with the reservoirs will have a certain leverage against the coastal states.

    • Jeff Gauch

      Not really. Contrary to what The Economist seems to think, we in the West have figured out how to handle interstate water transfers. The coastal regions would retain their existing water rights and the uplands would be legally required to send sufficient water to meet those rights. If the upland regions did close the sluice gates the fines levied against them would be more than enough for the coastal regions to build desalination plants.

      • Nick

        Yes, but these upland states would fight over wasting a million acre feet a year on smelt. Right now, the “One State” agrees with that policy. Multiple states could argue that they could pass over water that each state needs, and it would be up to them to decide if they wanted to flush it down the drain. And a Central Valley State would argue for its rights too.

        Water issues in California are driven by enviro-fascism and the elites in Sacramento. Split it, and many of those problems go away.

        • JollyGreenChemist


        • Jeff Gauch

          It depends on the precedence of the water rights California is using for the smelt. If they’re of higher precedence than the rights used in the Central Valley – and that would probably be spelled out in the severing legislation – then whoever has the water has to send it to the smelt before one drop goes to the Central Valley.

          • JollyGreenChemist

            The Central Valley Project was built to send water from the San Joaquin-Sacramento delta south to cities and farms. Water has been diverted for the smelt only as the result of lawsuits by the enviro-fascists.

          • Nick

            And their idiocy has reduced the cumulative storage amount by almost 5 million acre feet. That could supply over 70% of the yearly domestic drinking water supply…

            And with Sacramento out of the picture, the Red Californians would go back to building dams. Something that has been blocked by coastal elites in the last few decades…

          • Nick

            Only because neither the state nor the feds are fighting over it. It has to do with standing, and the feds have to give state’s standing, no matter how much they don’t like it.

            And if you think that the Central Valley would allow allow the Smelt to take precedence over it in “severing” you haven’t been there. And frankly, you haven’t paid any attention to the real cause –


            The delta smelt are not the only smelt in decline. Rainbow smelt in Maine are also in decline. The envirofascists have spent years throwing water down the drain when they should have been insisting on better wastewater treatment in the upstream areas of Sacramento, where population growth has strained the existing WWTPs. Science has never been their strong suit, not when an easy answer that hurts their enemies is at hand.

          • Jeff Gauch

            I imagine the severing would contain language along the lines of “Upstream must send X acre-feet of water to Downstream after supplying A, B, and C their water rights.”

            I guess it could be argued that the natural waterway has precedence over any artificial water project, but that argument doesn’t seem to do the Colorado delta any good.

  • iconoclast

    hmmm, bodies of dead Democrats. Sounds positive regardless of whether or not Mexiforniia is returned to the USA.

  • Tom Smith

    I think partition will occur anyway as a result of radical demographic transition.

    Much of the state will devolve into Little Mexicos, while others will become European colonies, American city-states, and Asian enclaves. What’s not to like?

    We can do it peacefully, or via civil war.

    What happens in California today, happens in the rest of the country tomorrow.

  • Bill McGill

    As one of the 6 registered Republicans in Pelosi’s district, I say good luck and godspeed. Long before the next earthquake, the local supervisors will drive us all into the sea (figuratively and literally). Break Sacto, and the PC agenda f[___]’s from here and LA, let the rest frack, and dig and mine (and make a fortune).

  • Chuck Pelto

    TO: All
    RE: Division of States

    This wouldn’t be happening if the Supremes of the Warren Court had not destroyed the balance of legislative and judicial power with their infamous Reynolds v. Sims (1964) ruling.

    With that decision, the Supremes overthrew the state constitutions of every state in the nation, except Nebraska, by ordering that state senators must be elected by population and not by geographically. This gave the metro areas the preponderance of power in the state governments, able to elect governors, representatives and senators and the control of who is appointed to state-level courts, i.e., Advice and Consent on judicial and executive appointments by the governors.

    In Colorado, the state senate, before the ruling, the Denver area had about eight (8) senators of the thirty-five (35) senate seats. NOW THEY HAVE SEVENTEEN (17) of the thirty-five (35).

    Last session, the Democrat-dominated state legislature began robbing the rest of the state of water they want to increase the growth of the area. They did it by passing legislation that overturned court approved water rights in the semi-arid southern part of the state. This puts a serious crimp on development in THAT area.

    In norther-eastern Colorado, they’re talking about separation because the politically correct Denver metro area is hampering their economic growth by passing laws restricting their oil and gas development.

    I’m confident that California is suffering the same onerous restrictions by the population-heavy south. I’m equally confident other states less-populous regions also suffer.

    UNTIL REYNOLDS V. SIMS IS OVERTURNED, the metro areas will continue to make life worse for everywhere else in their states.

    It is time to restore the balance of governmental power that we enjoy at the Federal level, in Congress, with the Great Compromise, where the House is elected based on population and the Senate is elected geographically,


    [Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. — Abraham Lincoln]

    P.S. That includes the state-level as well.

    • Eightman

      I like your thinking on this. Every state should have a right to form a legislative body like the original U.S. Senate. This right is implied in the United States Constitution under the right of every state to have a republican form of government.

      Mark Levin has advocated the use an “Article V convention” vehicle to amend the Constitution. I think an amendment to overturn REYNOLDS V. SIMS would be a good candidate for Mr. Levin’s idea.

      • Kafir

        Mark Levin’s a smart guy, but I think and Article V convention is a bad idea. You can’t control it. I think a better idea is to petition Congress to pass an amendment that makes it easy for states to propose amendments without having to have a constitutional convention.

        There’s one in Randy Barnett’s Bill of Federalism. We should use that as a guide.

        • Eightman

          I think you are falling for the “run away convention” canard used against the balanced budget amendment in the 1980s. Don’t feel bad I fell for it too. Mr. Levin has pointed out that the Article V convention can be limited to one topic to prevent a “run away convention” scenario.

          In any event whatever proposed amendment would still have to be ratified by three quarters of the states.

          • Andrew Allison

            Mr. Levin’s opinion is, at best, debatable. As I’ve argued elsewhere in this thread, the decision as to whether an Article V convention can be restricted to specific amendments would, inevitably, have to be decided post facto by the Supremes: the pro- and anti-abortion, NRA, LGBT, etc., etc., lobbies would never pass on an opportunity to enshrine their beliefs in the Constitution. Furthermore, any proposed amendment(s) must be approved by either Congress or State conventions, at the discretion of Congress (the reason that the Balanced Budget Amendment was a non-starter).

    • Will Icare

      Maybe the federal system should return the senate to the states – have senators appointed by state government (as in days of old) rather than popularly elected. Then states would have more voice in what the feds do…

      • Chuck Pelto

        RE: Repeal Seventeenth Amendment

        A separate but good idea. By making it a popular vote instead of state-level appointment with Advice and Consent of the state senate, it emasculated the state level government.

        The corruption it was supposed to eliminate only mutated into a different form of corruption.

        But considering with the destruction of rural legislative power in the state senates from Reynolds v. Sims, it wouldn’t do much good as the Progressive-Liberal/Democrat dominated state senates would only put more power into their hands by appointing only Progressive-Liberal/Democrats to the US Senate.

        First, Reynolds v. Sims must be overthrown.

    • Fat_Man

      The decisions on districting and redistricting were wrongly decided. If Section One of the 14th Amendment addressed voting rights then Section 2 and the 15th Amendment were surplusage. Such constructions cannot be correct.

  • mikekelley10

    I have noticed that Thomas Sowell usually has the best ideas. “Blue America” would soon de-militarize and “Red America” would not. Pretty soon Democrat-America would spend itself into bankruptcy and be at our mercy.

  • arrow2010

    The facts are the the blue counties produce more economic output than the red ones. The rich blue counties subsidize the poor red counties. Has always been that way.

    • JollyGreenChemist

      Los Angeles County (blue) steals its water from Inyo County (red). San Francisco County (blue) steals its water from Tuolumne County (red). Huge amount of shale oil and shale gas lie under Kern County (red) that blue politicians prohibit them from accessing. Coastal Californians have been treating inland California as a vast colony for decades. Get you facts straight.

      • Nick

        Don’t forget that its the coastal elites that keep the “reds” from developing their own resources. I’ve seen the poverty in Humboldt. It wasn’t always that way there, but increasingly out of touch politicians and Californian environmental laws have significantly reduced the reds ability to make a living. California is what the Obama administration would do to the rest of the country.

        • JollyGreenChemist

          Exactly. This year the fish (delta smelt) will get their entire allotment of water while Central Valley farmers will get none. Result; thousands of unemployed farmworkers.

    • Eightman

      I am not sure your assertion is correct given that a lot of this “economic output” is inflated compensation to government bureaucrats and contractors. After all the “richest” region in the United States is Washington D.C. and it consists of nothing but a collection of economic parasites living off the real wealth producing regions of the country.

      But that aside why should the rich blue counties subsidize the poor red counties? Did the rich blue counties give their informed consent to this arrangement?

      And where did the wealth (real wealth) come from in these counties? It is possible that the wealth you speak of comes from the “red people” trapped in a “blue county”?

      Santa Clara county in California is an example that comes to mind in this regard.

      I think you need to reexamine your premise of your comment.

  • MrRedNeckParadise

    You think this sort of separatist movement is gaining ground ONLY in the US? This a global trend. In the end, expect to see smaller nations and smaller governments…and more personal freedom and liberty.

    • Jim__L

      Europe 1919…

  • pabarge

    You want crazy? I’ll give you crazy: Walter Russell Mead voted for Barack Obama.

  • rmkdbq

    Liberalism is like a cancer in that wherever it flourishes, death will follow.

  • Kafir

    I don’t think it’s a far-fetched idea either:

    When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another,

  • Fat_Man

    Here is a deal that the political parties could swallow. Split California into six states. At the same time combine all six New England states into a single state, and get rid of Delaware by merging it into Maryland. The new state of New England would have a population of more than 14 million which would slot it in between Illinois and Florida in population.

    Of course, if you only got five states out of California by say combining the two northern tier entities (Jefferson and North California, which have a total population of less than 5 million) into a single state, you could split New England into two new states. I would recommend a split upon a north south line a bit to the west of Worcester and Fitchburg.

  • free_agent

    OTOH, the interior states would be able to jettison the regulatory mess that the blue areas have supported, so there would be a significant economic boost there.

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