California is a disaster of epic proportions. Taxes and unemployment are among the highest in the nation. Income disparity between rich and poor is also among the highest in the nation. The state is experiencing immigration outflow, with a brain and capital drain benefitting states like Texas and Arizona. Does this spell the end for California, or the opportunity for a new beginning? Is the disease terminal, or do we just need radical surgery? One Silicon Valley entrepreneur says surgery is the answer.
This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Tim Draper, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, and the man behind Six Californias, a ballot initiative drive intended to give voters the opportunity to decide whether or not to break California into six states. He’s working to get over 800,000 signatures necessary to get the initiative on the November ballot.
I went to meet Draper at Draper Hero University, a unique school for entrepreneurs located in a newly renovated area of downtown San Mateo. The school is built in an old hotel, and Draper started the school to teach “real world” entrepreneurial survival skills to young people who feel inspired to invent their own careers. Clearly Draper is a man of big vision, who is more than comfortable proactively thinking out of the box.
As Draper walked into the room, the main thing on my mind was “is he for real?” Did he really believe he could help break California into six states, and if so, why did he think this would solve California’s problems We dove right in, and Draper quickly turned me into a believer.
Draper’s vision is less about politics than the harsh facts of monopoly. Draper described California government as the ultimate monopoly, essentially the only choice for government services and organization in a vast area of the country. As a monopoly, California provides the worst possible service at the highest possible price. This isn’t rocket science; it’s basic business fact. But the idea is rarely applied to government.
Draper’s idea is that if we break California into six distinct states, each will develop its own tax, regulatory and service scheme, and each will have to compete for California’s vast business community. It’s relatively easy to move a business within California, and so he believes that if businesses found it easier and more profitable to do business in one area of the state than another, they are far more likely to move than if they have to move much farther (and to a much less pleasant climate), outside the existing confines of California.
While there are many obstacles between here and there, the Six California idea is fascinating, and productively disruptive, which means I love it. Government isn’t working in California, despite decades of one party rule promising a Golden State Utopia. The idea of breaking it up, and making it closer and more responsive to local is something we should seriously consider.
Just in case we needed another reason to take Six Californias seriously, this week, veteran Democrat and Republican operatives got together to say they’d oppose Draper with an effort called “One California.” Of course they oppose. They’ve gotten rich and fat off the status quo, while the rest of us have suffered as the state fails.
When both parties get together to support the status quo, citizens can know that they’ve got the knife at the core of corrupt political power. It seems like Six Californias might be just the surgery California needs.