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Replacement Referees Still Govern California

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Opinion: Replacement Referees Still Govern CA

Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

NFL replacement referees, pictured during a game in Miami, came under fire during a lockout of regular professional officials. In California, amateur "referees" seem to be in charge in Sacramento.

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If you're a football fan here in California or anywhere else, there's good news. The regular National Football League referees are now on back the job and the NFL's lockout of its referees are over. The much-maligned replacements -- famous for terrible calls and incompetence -- are off the job.

But don't feel sorry for them. Because there is one state that still loves incompetent amateurs: California.

In matters of government and politics, California voters prefer replacement referees to professional, experienced referees who actually know the rules.

For one thing, the beloved initiative process is all about rule by amateurs. Just listen to radio ads and watch TV ads.

"You can't trust the politicians," says ad after ad; the pitch does not change at all, no matter the specific issue. You should trust the people, the voters, to make the decisions instead, the ads say.

Another major reason why California can't be governed is because our system of governance has been designed to rob anyone with professional experience in the field of their power and discretion.

All our budget and tax rules are designed to tie the hands of experts and pros and instead replace their judgment with formulas designed by amateurs -- voters and the rich folks who tend to fund campaigns for initiatives and other things.

Indeed, to make sure our politicians aren't too professional, we've backed term limits to prevent them from serving more than 12 years in the legislature, or more than eight years in statewide executive office.

Again and again, Californians have railed against the professional politicians -- let's call them referees -- and put replacement amateurs in charge. And, of course, we Californians have been unhappy with the results.

You would think that Californians would react to the poor results of amateur rule just as American football fans have -- by clamoring for the return of the professional referees. But not Californians.

Instead, we keep blaming the professional referees for the problems created by leaving governance in the hands of the replacement amateurs.

It's enough to make you wonder: Have Californians been hit too many times in the head?

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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