A better idea

There’s long been an idea that California is simply too large to remain as an individual and the one state. Instead it should be split up into smaller and more manageable units. The basic thought being that Federalism works, that there are things better managed at more local levels, those others better done at national. A fine idea of course. But California is too many people to be run, as it is, as one of those local authorities. Thus it should be split up into those which make more sense as those local governance units.

There’s a great deal of sense to this. As well as the inevitable politicking. For example, if we slice the state up this way then we get 6 D senators, if we split it up that way maybe 2 or 3 R and others D and so on. But let’s leave the politics aside and think of the efficiency, or economic, arguments. This is the wrong solution:

The proposal is for California to split into three separate states – Northern California, which includes San Francisco, Sacramento and San Jose; Southern California, which includes San Diego; and California, which includes Los Angeles. The new states would later be allowed to change their names.

They’re going to split it on north south lines. But California’s division don’t work that way, not at all, they’re very much more on east west lines. Thus this, the original 6 state solution, is very much better:

A better idea

That’s not perfect either but it is better. Splitting the state according to some reasonable recognition of economic areas. It’s in this sense that CA currently is like the euro, the imposition of a one size fits all solution onto highly disparate economies.

Take the minimum wage for example. There’s no way that there’s not going to be a state minimum wage in California. It’s also going to be set by the more vocal idiots in the coastal areas. And yet – assuming that there even should be a minimum wage or that there could be a correct rate for it – a minimum set by such fools for such circumstances is going to kill certain of the inland areas. Again with the euro comparison, imposing the same interest rate – one monetary system does require this – upon the disparate economies of some 400 million people is just dumb and horribly harmful. A minimum wage set for San Francisco is going to crap all over the unemployed in El Centro.

As, in fact, it does. Here’s the list of unemployment by metropolitan area for the US. You’ll note that 8 out of 10 of the worst places are in California. They’re also all inland, away from those coastal areas which set that minimum wage “too high”.

A much better idea than this three state solution is the six state one, one that actually pays at least more than a passing interest to splitting the place up along the lines of economic areas. So that policies can be varied according to those economic conditions of course. That’s the argument in favour of splitting in the first place and simple division by north and south doesn’t produce a solution to the original point.

Right idea, bad implementation so far.

Support Continental Telegraph Donate


  1. There is no right size for a state; they are in every respect styled as self-contained nations (with a legislature, courts, and an executive) that just happens to cede some powers to Washington, like going to war with Nevada. The model is scalable in size from California to North Dakota.

    California is beset by welfare politics, a giant army of caseworkers with a complete mythology that gifting pre-stolen loot to strangers is valiant and you are responsible for all the good that occasionally happens to the needy. And Mexican citizens are among the neediest, so why not?

    The only reason for the split is to free those doing actual work in the forests and the central valleys from the kleptocracy along the coast, and a north/south split does not achieve this at all (and all its federal representatives are Democrats and so we would never agree to it). The six-state solution is better–but leaves the fundamental problem unsolved.

  2. California is not like the eurozone in the one critical respect – it can make transfers of money from taxpayers in the rich parts to poor people in poor parts (and is part of the USA, which does the same thing). Otherwise you’d have to break the state down into sub-county-sized bits to get areas where minimum wages, interest rates and tax rates were all strictly suitable, and that would be massively inefficient and positively dangerous in some respects. So for the economics, stay big and do transfers. for the politics, well, what Spike says, and qv Brexit.

    • No, don’t do transfers. Let’s avoid welfare for the moment and focus on the minimum wage, a more minor program where a central authority sets prices for other people, one-size-fits-all. Your mental exercise, and maybe Tim’s, is to break California into pieces where one size would fit all. But it doesn’t work even if the unit is the household; the right wage for the breadwinner is not necessarily right for the insolent teenage son who can’t be anywhere on time. Some workers are still going to be thrown out of jobs by mandated wages that they aren’t worth (because they can’t yet produce enough).

      Don’t assume a government program as a given and then try to contrive boundaries to make the population fit it.

      Besides, do you want to be changing “state” boundaries every time these economic measurements evolve? That would be as inflexible as, say, a new Central Valley passenger railway that no one will ride.

  3. I’m waiting for Wyoming to split ten ways giving twenty senators, which is almost one each. Can CA just demand extra senators, demand each sub-state be admitted to the union? Who gets a say? Looks like a convention of states to me.

    • “New states may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new state shall be formed or erected within the jurisdiction of any other state; nor any state be formed by the junction of two or more states, or parts of states, without the consent of the legislatures of the states concerned as well as of the Congress.” — Art. IV, Sec. 3

      So you cannot just decide how many U.S. Senators you would like.

      Fly in ointment: The treaty under which the Republic of Texas was annexed gave it the right to split into up to six states.

      “Convention of states” is the alternate method of amending the Constitution, in the case that Congress does not cooperate. Used only once: to pass the amendment that ended Prohibition.