Thursday, April 22, 2010

On revising state constitutions, the shorter the better?

An interesting post at Marginal Revolution:
Using public choice economics, how might we redesign the Constitution of California? Lawmakers from both parties have proposed this idea, plus there were (failed) attempts to call a new constitutional convention through a referendum. Did you know that the operative constitution from 1879 is the third longest in the world, after Alabama and India?

I see a few options on the table:

1. Eliminate the 2/3 legislative majority required to pass a new budget.

2. Eliminate popular referenda.

3. Move closer to a Swiss-like "veto only" system for referenda.

4. Eliminate the power of referenda to authorize state-level expenditures.

5. Cap state-level expenditures.

6. Regulate state treatment of pensions more strictly, to encourage fiscal responsibility.

7. Amend the constitution to make it harder to...amend the constitution.
As Tyler notes California has the third longest constitution in the world. Reformers should aim for shorter, distinct Constitutions that affirm limited government. I think California needs to eliminate popular referenda that mandate the legislature to spend on specific programs.

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