I wish government were smaller and more efficient. But I’m
not a spending limit kind of guy. I’m old-fashioned and prefer to be governed
by human beings. Spending limits are formulas, and I can’t call up a spending
limit, ask a spending limit a question, write a letter to a spending limit, or
give money to a spending limit’s opponents.

Republicans want a spending limit. No matter how much Gov. Jerry Brown and the
Democrats whine, Republicans have power in California’s governing system to
make demands at budget time. So if there’s a deal between GOP legislators and
the governor, there may be a spending limit in it. And if there’s not, some on
the right are readying a spending limit initiative for the ballot.

Of course,
the problem with any limit is that no one knows how it will work in practice.
The only result anyone can predict with any certainty is that there will be unintended
consequences. That’s because the spending limit will be another formula,
overlaid on a California budget system that is itself a series of spending and
tax formulas that have been assembled piecemeal throughout the history of the

In effect, this is a giant
algorithm. A new spending limit, thus, doesn’t offer a new system. It’s merely
a tweak for the algorithm.

Now, I don’t know much about
designing algorithms. Neither do Gov. Brown, Democratic legislators, Republican
legislators nor the folks who are filing the spending limit initiative. That’s
the bad news.

The good news is that California is
full of people who do know how to design and manage complex algorithms. Most of
them work for companies in Silicon Valley.

So if we’re going to make our
budget system an algorithm, fine. But let’s not let Sacramento hacks do this
kind of complicated work. Call the engineers at Google and Facebook and let
them program this thing.

And then maybe we won’t have to
bother with elected legislators and governors and other annoying human
middlemen ever again.