Why Should California Bother to Secede?

There’s been a lot of focus about whether California can secede.  The better question, perhaps, is, why should it?

Think about it.  If you live in California, you already live with silly taxes that you don’t have to live with in other parts of the country, beyond the infamous, highly-progressive state income tax.  For instance, do you want to bag your groceries when you check out at the grocery store?  In California, you have to either bring your own bags, or declare how many the store provides for you, because you’re charged $0.10 for each one.  It’s a state-sponsored sin tax for your wicked destruction of the planet (or the state is saving you and the planet from your own non-biodegradable plastic gluttony, however you wish to frame it).  Want to buy a 2-liter container of soda?  Well, that will also be another $0.10 tax per unit.  Consider it the sin tax for your wanton desire for sugary drinks.  Fill the coffers, Californians.  The highest, most progressive state income tax and oppressive business taxes are not enough to satiate the California government’s need for your money, collected to absolve you of your sins, but practically applied in the state’s redistributionist endeavors.

And guess what? All of that is absolutely fine in the context of our constitutional republic.  You have the right to live in any other state in this country, and you might find all of that to be stupid and ridiculous.  I live here in California, and also find it utterly ridiculous.  But California’s people chose to enact these aforementioned taxes by recent popular ballot initiatives. 

If the highly-progressive income tax, all the silly social and environmental regulations, and the insanely high cost of living become intolerable, Californians can move to another state.  And millions have done so in the past decade, moving to lower-cost, lower-tax, lower-regulated havens across the country.  But California, and Californians, do not have to change simply because other states find their policies disagreeable.

This is the beauty of federalism -- it works, both for Californians who want their heavy taxes and silly regulations, and it also works for those who don’t (because they can move).  And here is the most intense irony of it all.  California, in spite of Donald Trump’s presidency, can still institute all the freedom-smothering, production-killing laws it wants -- like minimum wage increases, more steeply progressive income taxes, taxes on sugar and fast food, etc.  It can do all of these things because our constitutional republic allows them to do so.  Our Constitution allows this because it was always meant to be California’s decision on these matters, not the federal government’s.

I’m quite sure that a great number of Americans would welcome California’s secession.  And personally, I think that California should have the right to secede, should it wish to do so.  But the simple fact is that it is unnecessary for California to do it.

What is it, exactly, that Californians wish to do that they cannot do within their own state?  Another recent popular ballot initiative also banned the sale of high-capacity firearm magazines within the state!  I believe that this initiative does indeed run afoul of the Second Amendment, but that’s not the issue here.  The real issue these Californians have is not in what they’re unable to do amongst themselves, but what they are currently unable to impose upon the rest of the country with Donald Trump as president, a Republican Congress, and a Supreme Court which is likely to lean conservative.

American governance demands that California is free to be California, and do all the silly, leftist things it wants to do, should that be what its people desire. It’s free to do that without secession.  They are just not free to impose their will upon the rest of these United States that clearly doesn’t want those silly leftist policies.  They cannot demand expansive federal social programs, federal exoneration of criminal aliens across the board, federal minimum wage increases, etc.  And they’re unhappy that they and their politics have been so firmly rebuked by their countrymen in the recent election years.  So some among them are throwing a childish fit about it, calling for secession.

And ultimately, that’s why these calls for secession are most curious to me.  Most Californians likely hate the fact that Texas can outlaw late term abortion, or that Arizona can have laws to identify and deport illegal aliens, or that North Carolina can have laws regarding transgenders’ usage of bathrooms.  They hate all of that so incredibly much, and wish the federal government would enact California’s unique desires across the United States by federal fiat.  Yet neither Republican leadership nor the existing form of our federal government is inhibiting California from instituting their unique laws that the rest of the country might find silly or offensive. 

And California has the American Founders, however much Californians might currently hate them, and the government they formed, to thank for that.

William Sullivan blogs at Political Palaver and can be followed on Twitter.