Californians are sinking themselves
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July 2, 2009: Unable to pay for vital services, the government of state of California has started to issue IOUs to its debtors so that it can be able to function. The current financial troubles of California will cause hundreds thousands of children to stop receiving health care, state employees will be laid off, education services will be severely slashed at every level, social services will be drastically reduced, and most of the parks will be shut down. Finally, some landmarks of California might be auctioned off to raise money.

The article looks at the causes of these financial problems:

  • There are vast political and ideological differences within the state which make it hard to find a consensus.
  • A two-thirds majority of the legislature is required to pass a budget, making it easy for political minorities to block it.
    • This is especially noteworthy with anti-tax, anti-government Libertarians who seem to be willing to go to any length to push their ideology. Not that they have many other ways of shrinking government - if politicians refuse to cut back the state to the level their voters are prepared to tolerate, what can the electors do but cut off the money supply?
  • The relative ease of submitting public initiatives makes it easy to both pass ill thought out laws with significant costs attached, and to block any new sources of revenue for the government, such as taxes.
  • The core of this is the Bread and Circuses Dilemma - the natural tendency of voters is to vote against entitlements for themselves and against duties.

The article points out that to solve the current problems, significant structural reforms are needed - but currently there is no push for them.

See Also



Game and Story Use

  • Of course, all this makes for a far more interesting gaming scenario if California isn't able to solve its current problems. What happens then?
    • Then you get an After The End scenario right in the backyard of the United States as everyone who can afford it flees and only those too poor or infirm remain. Urban prairie begins to cover the cities, and much of the state reverts to wilderness.
    • For a historical parallel, you might also look at the Weimar Republic, where radical political groups (the Nazis and the Communists) were able to hold the legislature hostage and block any new laws until the only way to get anything done was via presidential emergency degrees - until the Nazis were able to attain power, to the relief of much of the citizenry who finally wanted some order for a change. So you would have to figure out which radical faction has both the firepower and sufficient popular support to take over the government of California via non-democratic means…
      • And remember, just because some faction fought to bring the government down it won't mean it will end up in power afterward - as the Weimar Communists found out to their chagrin when the Nazis took over.
    • Alternatively, California could turn into a Cyberpunk setting ahead of the rest of the United States - with corporations taking over because the government is unable to provide any services.
      • Perhaps the corporation could turn unsalvageable cities into gigantic prisons - just put a wall around the city (or parts of the city), drop some food from the air now and then, and otherwise let the inhabitants fend for themselves.
        • Los Angeles would be particularly appropriate for this.
      • Cities whose infrastructure is still largely intact could be converted to labor camps, where the locals are forced to work for low wages - or possibly for company store credit, essentially turning them into modern-day slave labor.
  • The same issues and problems can be transplanted to a setting of your choice - perhaps a province in a fantasy empire, or an entire planet in a science fiction federation.
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