letter to the economist “California’s Dysfunctional Democracy”

Sir- thank you for your special report on “Califronia’s Dysfunctional Democracy” – April 23rd.
As a gen-y, born and raised Californian it was a wonderful survey of the political challenges our home state faces.

I would argue that what California needs is not less direct democracy but a better executed one, and I have utter confidence that this will be accomplished through Web 2.0 technology.
Already the buzz here in the valley is about political social media. Facebook Petitions are a first iteration of this, but certainly not the last. Indeed online petitions share most of the problems of California’s initiative process- they involve little to no knowledgeable debate, there is a limitless number of them, and they are constantly being pushed through email or other messaging systems.
What will be created is a way for people to manage their political lives online. This will make it possible for voters to become educated and engaged in their own time and even spread awareness of such political basics as the ins and outs of the state budget.
New legislation can be discussed in forums where eager citizens engage with legislators and surveys are used to refine laws before they are proposed to the general public.

Because the new system will foster greater education, special interests will have a harder time taking advantage of it for their own purposes.
Moreover, the people of California, aware of the need for reform (as evidenced by the passing of redistricting and open primaries), may well prove adept at passing the new initiatives needed to streamline their government.

Direct democracy in California has certainly gotten us into a mess, but it will also speed us out of one.
For all these reasons, I think your next report on California brand democracy will be singing a different tune.

Manu Koenig
Santa Cruz

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