Who Needs Representative Democracy Anyway?

John R. McLaurin
President of the Pacific Merchant Shipping Association

To put it politely, Sacramento is dysfunctional. It is something that everyone agrees upon. For over a decade the State has enacted budgets that didn’t make any sense. But since we are a State that is governed by media events as opposed to policy, everyone declared victory. This self induced euphoria usually faded by late summer. And now, with a worldwide recession in full force, the penalty for avoiding their responsibilities as elected officials is coming due – and our elected leaders are paralyzed, impotent and afraid to act (some would say govern).

So how do we change things?

Lots of ideas have been thrown out for discussion recently. Some folks want to eliminate our bicameral system of government and narrow it down to a unicameral system. I would argue that despite having two legislative houses, the operational and political reality is that we already have a unicameral system – but unlike a unicameral system it just takes a bit longer for bills to move through our current system. Given the gracious and courteous practice of not killing bad bills (or any bills for that matter unless you are a Republican), we have in effect a unicameral system in place today. Why mess with perfection?

Others are calling for a Constitutional Convention. It springs to life images of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin and the lot holding forth with long drawn out debates to determine the public good. In reality, a state Constitutional Convention will become one long fund raiser. I can see it now, lofty debates involving elected officials, academics, common citizens and 15,000 registered lobbyists sandwiched in between golf tournaments, wine tasting and the like. Rest assured, all of these activities will take place for the good of the people.

I think a better option for governmental reform is the installation of a benevolent monarchy. Sacramento politics in many respects is a family affair. Nepotism and cronyism are alive and well. It’s tolerated. It’s expected. Hell, we’ve got brothers, parents, children, spouses, staff, and friends moving around from office to office in a choreographed term limited dance. The voters elect 120 legislators and a Governor to lead the State. Most years that gets distilled down to the Big Five (some years it is the Holy Trinity when the Republicans become totally irrelevant). I say let’s stop screwing around and institutionalize it with a benevolent monarchy.

According to the authority on most everything, Wikipedia, benevolent monarchs “…embraced the principles of the Enlightenment, especially its emphasis upon rationality, and applied them to their territories. They tended to allow religious toleration, freedom of speech and the press, and the right to hold private property. Most fostered the arts, sciences, and education.” You know, all the things that we don’t have in California.

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