Say this for the tech titans of Silicon Valley—they are unafraid to air out some pretty stupid ideas in public. And though most of them end up on the scrap heap—remember when the Segway was going to make us never walk anywhere again?—there's a bolt of brilliance like the iPhone.
We hate to say it, but the Charles Xavier of the Draper School of Heroes is a little off the mark with today's proposal to split California into six separate states. Don't just believe us, though. See what he offers in its defence.
Here are the five reasons that Draper gave for his plan. Let's take those ideas one at a time, to see just why six states are no solution.
1. "It is about time California was properly represented with Senators in Washington. Now our number of Senators per person will be about average."
With two Senators per states, California is demographically screwed compared to tiny states like North Dakota or Vermont. To some, this, in the programming world, is what they call a feature, not a bug, since it keeps each state equal to each other in one of the houses of the legislature. But let's grant Draper's point, and it isn't hard to do, that it's a screwy system. Going from two to twelve Senators would be great, right? Sure. As long as their votes don't cancel each other out. Which is what they would do most of the time if we split up, since Draper's map would probably elect six Democrats (from the Bay Area, LA, and the area around Sacramento) and six Republicans (from everywhere else). A party would have to run the table 8 to 4 before the net gain would be larger than simply grabbing the two existing Senators. But since those votes would be diluted in an expanded Senate, they would be worth proportionally less. It's the same problem with the Electoral College in Presidential races, too. The net result would be a diminishment, not an increase in California's power in DC. Draper's not wrong about the problems in the Senate, but this measure doesn't fix them.
2. "Competition is good, monopolies are bad. This initiative encourages more competition and less monopolistic power. Like all competitive systems, costs will be lower and service will be better."
True as far as it goes. In fact, the 50 current states do a pretty good job competing with each other already. Would adding five more change the calculation very much? Maybe—but the loss in efficiency would be real too. Instead of one state government, we'd have six. Think it's a pain to run one Department of Motor Vehicles? How about six separate ones. Six prison systems. Six Departments of Transportation. Six educational bureaucracies. 50 states might not be exactly the right number—but could you imagine if we had 500? There's clearly a point where the gain from competition is offset by the loss in system efficiency.
3. Each new state can start fresh. From a new crowd sourced state flower to a more relevant constitution.
California's constitution is a freaking mess. In fact, it's the third longest in the world. Efforts to give it a major overhaul come around every few years, some of them supported in part by tech money. So why propose breaking up the band because we need a new record contract? If Draper thinks the state constitution is the biggest obstacle, it's probably smarter to address it head on. (Oh and, by the way, "crowd sourc[ing]" a constitution? Hate to tell you, but that's just what a Convention is. Same as it was when did it the first time in 1849.)
4. "Decisions can be more relevant to the population. The regulations in one new state are not appropriate for another."
Sure. But a smaller state is that much more vulnerable to capture by powerful interest. Just who do you think would run the show in Draper's Silicon Valley state? Hint: It wouldn't be the film industry. They'd be too busy running the state of Los Angeles. And would liberals really want to give power to right wingers in outlying areas to craft regulations that they wanted? Say goodbye to the spotted owl And vice versa? Hello, international Marxist conspiracy. At least in one state, both sides have a chance to contest the ideas of the other.
5. "Individuals can move between states more freely.”
Really? More freely than the current system? We don't know what happens to Draper when he drives back home from Ashland, Oregon or Reno, Nevada, but we haven't had much trouble moving between the existing states. Like ever. Sometimes they ask us if we have any apples in the car. That's about it. This isn't the Soviet Union. We don't have internal passports. This point doesn't make a lot of sense, frankly. Unless Draper thinks that individuals would be able to move more freely because the states would be smaller. To which we'd say: You ever been on a plane? It's not that hard already. It's going to be even easier once the Hyperloop comes on line.
Here's the real problem with Draper's plan: Like too many ideas that come out of Silicon Valley, it takes an old idea, slaps some buzzwords on top of it, and sidesteps any real issues. How are the water rights going to work? Does San Francisco get to keep pumping water from Hetch Hetchy—even if the new state that encompasses Yosemite doesn't allow it? What would happen to folks with same-sex marriages who live in conservative regions that would likely undo marriage equality? Do the richer parts of the state that currently subsidize public works in the poorer parts have to keep paying? Or are we willing to let the roads in Imperial County disappear?
Sorry, Draper. We like you. But archipelago California isn't going to cut it. See if Peter Thiel will let you onto his island.