Supermajority Party: What is it Good for? Absolutely Nothing!
In his 1970’s song, Edwin Starr provided his perspective regarding the usefulness of war. Agree or disagree, his song held certain truths about the heartbreaks caused by a military conflict. At a time of jubilatory celebration about California’s one-party system, there are certain truths we must consider.
There are tangible costs associated with one party holding a supermajority, and they are beyond the repression of the philosophical values of those relegated in the superminority. Supermajority rules have been proven useful in restricting the fiscal tyranny of the majority. However, when a party obtains supermajority control, the safeguards instituted by the supermajority rules are de facto compromised and their purpose virtually eliminated.
As stated by Bradbury and Johnson in 2006, once the rules’ safeguard is compromised, the effect of the majority’s fiscal tyranny is once again salient as “[e]lected representatives can transfer tax revenues from the minority to the majority at zero political costs.” These appropriative actions are defined as external costs because without the restrictions of supermajority rules “a majority can force an unrepresented minority to subsidize the consumption of public resources by the majority.” Contextually, in 2012 California’s Governor Jerry Brown, a Democrat, stated that “[t]he center of gravity of the Democratic Party will be restraint, but some people can’t help themselves.
The supermajority is not a permanent condition. It’s something that can be lost far more easily than it can be gained.” We have already experienced the detriments of the one-party system. In 2014, the challenges experienced by California Democrats, have greatly precluded supermajority rules’ full effect in legislative matters. Sen. Leland Yee, Sen. Ron Calderon and Sen. Rod Wright, all three Democrats, have been involved in separate legal scandals leading to their suspensions from the State Senate, therefore restricting their party’s ability to leverage the supermajority status. In 2016, Leland Lee was sentenced to five years in federal prison and Ron Calderon to 42 months also in federal prison. Rod Wright was convicted of eight counts of voter fraud on January 28, 2014, was then pardoned by Gov. Jerry Brown on November 21st 2018.
These conditions can be present irrespective of political ideology, meaning that both sides of the aisle are often well served and guided by supermajority rules. In their 1962 research, Buchanan and Tullock stated that the “existence of external costs (or the existence of any externality) creates opportunities” for transactions and profitability by those astute to operate within the majority umbrella. Hence, this public issue can be exacerbated in the absence of supermajority rules, and furthermore it can become pathological if the majority obtains a supermajority control.
In 2006, Bradbury and Johnson confirmed through a scientific research, that supermajority rules have been effective in mitigating and moderating the actions of the majority. There are implications on matters of taxation, and supermajority rules have significant effect in restricting spending and redistribution when no single party holds a supermajority.
Therefore, there are economical and financial costs that have been paid by Californians as the result of a single party holding the supermajority. The effects of such detriments can have long-term consequences through the accumulation of unilateral obligations unrestrictedly adopted by the supermajority party. Arguably, the cost of the aforementioned conditions is quantifiable in the billions, and a substantial number of individuals are unwilling to pay such price. Agree or disagree, these are truths that simply cannot be ignored.