I spoke yesterday afternoon to the Constitutional Law Quarterly 37th Annual Symposium at Hastings Law School in San Francisco. The title of the event was “Waking from the California Dream: The Past, Present, and Future of California’s Fiscal Constitution,” and the discussion revolved around the state’s fiscal crisis.
Unsurprisingly, I was the only pro-taxpayer speaker, with the other 15 or so speakers ranging from center-left to far-left. So it was a fair fight. Not because I had some special talent, but rather because the evidence is so overwhelming that California has taxed and spent itself into a fiscal cul-de-sac. It is the Greece of America (though Illinois is providing some stiff competition for that dubious honor).
But the facts did not have much impact on the other speakers, who said that the state’s fiscal crisis exists because of Proposition 13, the supermajority tax-increase requirement, the initiative process, or some combination of the above.
I simply noted that California has very high tax rates, a bloated and expensive government bureaucracy, and one of the largest public sectors (as measured by government spending as a share of state economic output) in the country. This excellent report from the Pacific Research Institute has plenty of details.
The students who organized the conference took all the speakers to a nice dinner at the Asian Art Museum, where I did my best to rescue the ones at my table from wasted lives of statism. I suppose only time will tell whether I saved any souls.