A Telling Sign on the Road to an Initiative War

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

Here’s a telling sentence by Michael Mishak and Anthony York
from an LA
Times recap
of the last minute budget dealings:

"In his cabinet room,
Brown was negotiating with Democratic leaders and members of the state teachers
union…"

What do we make of this? That the teachers union just
happened to be taking their turn discussing the budget at that moment, or that
members of the most powerful public union in the state were in with the
governor and Democratic leaders when final budget decisions were being made?

I suspect the latter.

The Times’ account gives even more credence to the argument
that unions played a decisive role in budget negotiations. In the end, tax
extensions and spending and pension reforms did not end up on a ballot. It was
clear that the unions did not want the reforms on the ballot, and, watching the
poll numbers for taxes slip, they were not eager about a tax vote, either.

With special interests thwarting compromise, the governor’s
war of all against all is closer to reality. Gone from "possible to probable"
as columnist Dan
Walters put it
.

Initiatives by their nature are not about compromise. They
are about creating policy the way one side of the policy debate envisions what
the policy should be. In this way, the policy issues are settled much like
political issues that are decided by armed conflict.

Some readers may recall my analogy between the initiative
process and war, which I have written about on this site before. I repeat it
again below. Think of the governor’s suggestion that a ‘war of all against all’
is coming and see how well it fits into this analogy.

Carl von Clausewitz, the
great student of war, famously said war is "the continuation of policy by other
means." War is decisive. One side wins; one side loses, at least in a policy sense.
A firm direction is taken as result of war. There is no compromising.

Like war, the initiative
process is an establishment of policy by extraordinary means. Initiatives are
decisive. One side wins; one side loses. A firm direction is set. There is no
compromising.

Consider the following
paragraph taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the subject of
War. But every time the word WAR is used in the encyclopedia’s definition I
will substitute the word INITIATIVE.

"…we might say that Clausewitz
was right, but not quite deep enough: it’s not just that an INITIATIVE is the
continuation of policy by other means; it’s that an INITIATIVE is about the
very thing which creates policy-i.e., governance itself. An INITIATIVE is the
intentional use of mass force to resolve disputes over governance. An
INITIATIVE is, indeed, governance by bludgeon. Ultimately, an INITIATIVE is
profoundly anthropological: it is about which group of people gets to say what
goes on in a given territory."

How one group of people – in many instances, special interests – gets to
say what goes on. That’s what the initiative accomplishes and that’s why so
many are turning to the process to get an advantage on never ending policy
disputes that failed to be solved by negotiations.

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