As the state of California slides into financial apocalypse because the state legislature’s GOP minority refuses to compromise even a tiny bit in the face of a requirement that a budget pass by a two-thirds vote, it’s time to ponder the perversities of countermajoritarian requirements of this sort. Say that things get really horrible in California as a result of this standoff. It’s possible that the voters will respond by throwing out the minority obstructionists. But it’s also possible — likely, even — that the voters’ sense of accountability isn’t that fine-grained. When terrible things happen, the public decides to “throw the bums out” — i.e., incumbents in general, i.e. mostly Democrats since they’re in the majority.
I’m not sure that will be the consequence, but it’s definitely plausible. And it’s one of many problems with this form of government. Given the realities of public ignorance, bounded rationality, etc. you never get a political system in which voters do a perfect job of holding elected officials accountable for their performance. But for the system to work, it’s important that they do an at least “okay” job. And countermajoritarian rules screw that up. In California’s case, it’s long past time that they find some way to scrap their existing state constitution and write a new one.