A Jedi Council, Does Need California?

In the Star Wars movies, the Jedi Council was a super-committee of 12 wise and powerful Jedi Masters who guided the other Jedis and advised the Office of the Supreme Chancellor. They had relatively long terms and were supposed to take the long view.

This week, the Think Long Committee -- billionaire Nicolas Berggruen's group that spent a year studying California's governance problems -- recommended what is effectively a Jedi Council for California.

It's an intriguing idea -- in part because it's an anti-democratic proposal in a state in which every new reform policy or proposal is sold as giving the people more power and more choice. Think Long calls for a group of 13 people, nine of whom would be appointed by the Supreme Chancellor... oops, I meant governor... to six-year terms.

While these members would not presumably be able to fly through the air or manipulate a light saber (though since Yoda has appeared on Dodger billboards, one presumes that he's a California voter and might be available to chair the body), they would be charged with thinking and strategizing -- in the best Jedi style -- with the long-term interests of the state in mind.

They'd also have power to act in several economic and budget areas. Perhaps most intriguingly, they could put initiatives on the ballot themselves -- without going through the signature gathering process.

That last reform may sound anti-democratic, but it could actually provide a bit of democratic life to the initiative process in practice. Today, the initiative process is limited to those people and groups with the millions of dollars necessary to qualify a measure and prosecute a campaign. But under this proposal, a person or group with a good idea could get on the ballot simply by convincing the Jedi Council.

Of course, the cinematic Jedi Council had its failures. There was in-fighting, and ultimately the body couldn't stop the rise of the empire. The council proposed by Think Long could face similar problems -- and it also could give considerable more power to the governor. But the idea is a genuinely new contribution to the governance debate in California. And a reminder that here, life can imitate not only art but also science fiction.

Contact Us