Initiatives Weapon of Choice in Policy Wars

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

Jerry Brown’s concern that California is facing a war of all against all is moving closer to reality. I believed that Brown would have the ability to convince allies to drop their tax initiatives but as of now he is making little progress.

The Courage Campaign and California Teachers Federation are holding firm to their tax the millionaires’ initiative convinced that their measure has the best chance of passing.

Molly Munger, the Los Angeles civil rights attorney, kicked in $500,000 getting set to start the signature drive.

The California Teachers Association will soon decide what position they plan to take. The association made it clear they have not yet endorsed the Brown initiative. Beyond an endorsement, the key question is where CTA will put its resources.

Let’s not forget that the unions plan to go all out to defeat the Stop Special Interest Money initiative, which would require individual public union members to approve using their funds for political activity.

If a pension reform measure also makes the ballot that would also eat up union funds.

There is also a spending limit measure that will draw attention from both sides of the political divide.

It truly appears to be a war of all against all. That thought once again has me pulling out an argument I have made on this site before that links the initiative process to a true policy “war.”

Carl von Clausewitz, the acknowledged student of war, famously said war is “the continuation of policy by other means.” War is decisive.  One side wins; one side loses.  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.  There are, however, follow up lawsuits.

Look at the terminology used in association with the initiative process.  I don’t know how many times I have heard that certain initiative proposals would bring on “nuclear” war between ideological opponents.

Over the years, I’ve heard of initiatives described as a “take no prisoners” option.

Now consider the following paragraph taken from the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy on the subject of War.  But every time the word WAR is mentioned I will substitute it with 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.”

If you substitute “interest group” for “group of people” in the sentence above and there you have it. Sounds like a description of the initiative process to me.

And, in turn, it seems that the initiative battles, if most make the ballot in 2012, will truly confirm Brown’s assertion that we face war of all against all.

Is it possible that some of these initiatives can be sidetracked before the shooting starts?

Perhaps some, especially if the governor is able to wield some influence. That is possible. But because of the power of initiative, a governor’s influence is not as powerful as it once was. The governor can be circumvented by an initiative.

Strap on your helmets – apparently the war is about to begin.

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