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The secret about failed initiatives

By Nicholas Beaudrot
Medical Marijuana
By Nicholas Beaudrot

If you're looking for quick and simple argument for the defeat of Proposition 19, California's ballot measure to legalize marijuana, probably the quickest and simplest one you'll find is that it was an initiative and most initiatives fail.

People tend to have a bias toward the status quo, meaning that initiative opponents tend to be more motivated to spend time and money than the supporters. What's more, voters in states that make frequent use of ballot initiatives — a friend of mine calls them "extreme democracy" states — tend to be cynical about supporters' motives. Perhaps the best illustration of this phenomenon is in Washington state (another "extreme democracy" state), where I-1098, which would help close the budget gap by raising taxes on income earned in excess of $200,000 per year, and I-1105, which would have cut the state's liquor tax and privatized sales, both failed on the same day.

The composition of the electorate matters as well. As Matt Yglesias observes, Prop 19 failed to lift youth turnout, but might have passed in an election year. But the basic fact of the matter is that "more of the same" is good enough for voters more often than not

.

(cc photo by Flickr user Troy Holden

Nicholas Beaudrot is the joint author of Donkeylicious, along with Neil Sinhababu.

By Nicholas Beaudrot  | November 5, 2010; 4:20 PM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: The helicopter drop
Next: What do health insurers want now?

Comments

Perhaps CA's Prop 19 failed because it was poorly written and people figured that out.

Posted by: tcram | November 5, 2010 4:58 PM | Report abuse

OT: Some of you Plum-liners already know I wrote a Troll Hunter script that allows you to ignore problem commenters.

Fortunately, that's not a problem on Ezra's blog.

However, it also puts commenters names above the comments, rather than below, which is kind of neat. And I just added a feature so that links with a return before and after them:

http://userscripts.org/scripts/show/89140

Turn into clickable links that open up the link in a new window. Which, given the preponderance of links commenters share with one another, can be a handy thing. The script can just be installed on Google Chrome by going to the page above, or used with Firefox via the Greasemonkey add on.

And, if it ever turns out there is someone you want to ignore, you can do that, too. And, if you don't like it, easy to turn it off.

Let me know what you think.

Posted by: Kevin_Willis | November 5, 2010 5:08 PM | Report abuse

This is a fine theory if you ignore the fact that four propositions out of nine passed in California on Tuesday, an unusually high number, and Prop 19 wasn't one of them.

Posted by: dday212 | November 5, 2010 5:20 PM | Report abuse

Well, except the reason 1105 and (1100 as well) went down was because the liquor wholesalers backed the opposition. We also had a proposition that dropped taxes on candy, soda, and bottled water. It wasn't because people don't like propositions; it was because they wanted lower taxes.

Posted by: nstearns | November 5, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

The washington income tax thing would have been a great case study.

Future President and Current Governor of Texas Rick Perry was actively recruiting Washington business to come to Texas. Would have been quite interesting to see how many jumped on that.

Ah, well. Washington residents, even if they elect Patty murray, are smarter than the union thugs.

Posted by: krazen1211 | November 5, 2010 9:23 PM | Report abuse

I have pretty mixed feelings about "citizen" initiatives. Obviously, it really lets State legislators off the hook, so they really don't take their jobs seriously; and I doubt they're taken very seriously by their constituents. Seems the case here in CA. The irony is that CA Gov Hiram Johnson advocated for them in the early 20th c. to break the hold that the robber barons had on the CA legislature; and yet now corporations are using the initiative process to pass their own laws. We're all happy that Prop 23, an anti-climate change initiative, was defeated, despite or perhaps b/c it was so baldly sponsored by oil companies Tesoro and Valero (and the brothers Koch). But another prop did pass, which requires a 2/3 legislative supermajority to pass some fees. Which might include carbon fees.

But people don't even seem to remember that if you don't like what a legislator has done, you can and should vote him/her out. And, some of these issues are super complicated, and we don't have staffers to make head or toe of them. 'Course, that's the ostensible raison d'etre of lobbyists too. Publicly financed elections are the only way to go.

Posted by: Lonepine | November 6, 2010 4:20 AM | Report abuse

"A whopping 64% of voters’ aged 18 to 34" backed Prop 19 because they know it is overkill and morally bankrupt to arrest nonviolent people for making a safer health choice, cannabis or marijuana, compared to other medicinal/social drugs.

How can anyone think drug prohibition makes our children or streets safer? Brutal, morally bankrupt, prohibition supports despicable people who sell drugs to children, recruit them to sell to their peers and arm them to kill the competition.

I am afraid; murderers and other violent predators roam free, while we police nonviolent adult social, medicinal and religious drug use. Across America paramilitary drug raids trigger violence rather than lessen the risk. Again, overkill!

Drug war violence is a policy created problem.

Less than one per cent of population are actually addicts and drug treatment is at least five times less costly than prison. Change to ethical policy and show fiscal responsibility!

Posted by: ColleenMcCool | November 6, 2010 11:21 AM | Report abuse


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Posted by: 158168 | November 7, 2010 11:09 AM | Report abuse


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Posted by: 158168 | November 7, 2010 11:10 AM | Report abuse

Cannabis/Hemp/Marijuana is plant. For the course of human history, its fibers have been used for productive ends, as hemp has tens of thousands of applications. One of which is smoking the substance to change one's perspective. While this is not for everyone, the activity should not be criminalized.

Prohibition has ruined the lives of GOOD people, while enriching the most evil. Prohibition has stagnated the American economy, while criminal enterprises control this untaxed cash-crop. Prohibition has left America ignorant of the most logical solution to a number of problems...medicinal, industrial, chemical, agricultural, ecological, commercial...

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Posted by: freetheleaf | November 8, 2010 3:14 PM | Report abuse

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