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Monday, April 05, 2004

The Tragedy of the Commons
California shows once again why public referenda are bad ideas.

A generation ago, proposition 13 was passed by referendum (direct public vote instead of through the legislature) in California. It put severe limits on property taxes and resulted in significant and ongoing cuts in school funding. The progressively more ignorant public (my brilliant nieces being exceptions) which resulted from these cutbacks just can't get enough of a bad thing. Other stupid referenda have been passed, making the crisis worse. And then, after these voters twice elected the horrible Gray Davis as governor, they then decided a recall election would be fun, replacing Davis with the even worse Arnold Gropengrabber.

Now, the real axis of evil, Wal-Mart, is trying to use California referendamania to weasel their slimy way into Inglewood after the city council repeatedly voted to keep them out. The vote is tomorrow, and I'm guessing that the typical voter will think "I don't work for those stores that will be closed, but I will be able to buy crap for a lot less!" And they'll vote for the Wal-Mart, putting hundreds of their fellow Inglewoodians(?) out of work, and allow Wal-Mart to continue to make a mockery of labor and anti-trust laws while continuing to destroy what little is left of the U.S. manufacturing base. The grocery workers who went on strike for months to retain some of their medical benefits won't have a chance on the next go-round; most will probably have been laid off by then anyway.

I shouldn't be too harsh on the Californians; anyone who shops at Wal-Mart is supporting the destruction of American jobs, both quality and quantity. The monopoly control exercised by Standard Oil and other late 19th-Century behemoths led to the passing of anti-trust laws in the first place. And Wal-Mart is as bad as any of those.