As I write during the final days of the California gubernatorial recall campaign, we are yet to know the outcome and what it will mean for the political future of that state and its implications for the national elections. However, regardless of the results of the election (and incidentally, as a social conservative, I don’t have a “dog in this fight” who can win), the lessons from this experience of the “left coast” should not be lost on the rest of the country. I will begin with the recall process itself, which, along with the concept of initiative and referendum, is an outgrowth of the progressive-era populist notion that our constitutionally based republican structure of governance is antiquated and antithetical to majoritarian democracy. Constitutional traditionalists are repelled by both concepts, but I must admit that these measures do fill a void because they are “customer-driven” and offer an opportunity for real debate on issues that are often perverted by the legislative process or, worse, deferred to the judiciary. To this extent, at least, the California experience will hopefully send a message to the political class that failure has consequences. Second, the most significant policy message is one that I believe applies to aggressive national, state, and local governments everywhere—the future belongs to those regions that are attractive to capital, treat it well, and whose policies are friendly and nurturing to the spirit of enterprise. Here we have clear evidence of the degree to which the incumbent California regime has been an abject failure, as reflected in the way capital and enterprise and the jobs they create express their “vote” with their feet by leaving unfriendly environments. As reported by Daniel Henninger in a perceptive Wall Street Journal essay, California has suffered a net out-migration of over 750,000 people since 1995 and this phenomenon is consistent in all those states that pursue highly progressive tax policies, boondoggle spending, and punitive regulation of enterprise. This is economic illiteracy and it deserves to be punished, if for no other reason so that its emulation will be discouraged.
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