In 1850, California finally gained its statehood. A little over 160 years later, this American desire for creating new states has not yet been quenched. In an effort to send more Californian senators to Washington D.C., unconventional technology investor Tim Draper is attempting to gain support for a 2014 ballot initiative to split California into six separate states: Silicon Valley, West California, South California, Central California, North California, and Jefferson. Considering that California now boasts a population of nearly 40 million and has an economy so large that it would rank among those of the top 10 countries in the world, Draper’s proposal does not sound too radical, at first. Claiming that California is “nearly ungovernable” by social and economic changes, his ballot initiative calls for six smaller state governments that would serve the people. And increasing the number of states would allow for more representation in Congress, which allots two senators per state. Draper’s proposal would enable each of the six new states to have their own two senators, therefore increasing California’s senator count from two to twelve.
However, this so called better representation would come at a cost. One particular problem that would arise is the already touchy subject of the division of water rights in Southern California. If Draper’s proposal were to succeed, Southern California’s water supply, which comes mostly from the Sierra Nevada and Central Valley rivers, would be cut off, leaving cities such as Los Angeles and San Diego without adequate water sources. Furthermore, this proposal would enable residents of any county to vote to join a different contiguous state other than the one Draper has pre-chosen for them, which could completely muddle his entire plan. Luckily, Draper may not even get a chance to follow through with his theory, as this division of California raises many constitutional issues. For example, the Constitution implies that new states can be formed out of the territory belonging to two or more states, but nowhere does it mention that a single state can be split up into multiple ones. And even if this bill somehow passes through the House, it would most likely cause tension and disagreement within California itself. Professor Vikram Amar of UC Davis explains that although California “has endured problems in self-governance over the last decade-plus, whether Californians are ready to make such a radical change is far from clear.”
Draper’s recent suggestion is not the first time that a Californian has proposed something radical for the Golden State’s future. PayPal’s Peter Thiel envisioned floating sea colonies free from government jurisdiction, and former Facebook executive and venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya once proclaimed that the Silicon Valley “doesn’t need a government.” Even though Draper’s proposal would most likely benefit Silicon Valley businesses, it would jeopardize the well-being and futures of other areas of California. Nice effort, Mr. Draper, but try again.
Note: Featured image used is copyrighted by Mickey Mellen’s Google Earth Blog. This picture was used because there is no free alternative available.