Thursday, December 08, 2005

Todd Zywicki on the difficulty of Anti-Kelo reform:
One advantage in California is that the reforms will be proposed as ballot propositions, rather than being generated by the state legislatures. This thus avoids the agenda-setting and related public choice problems otherwise associated with enacting reforms designed to tie the government's hands when it comes to taking property.

Nonetheless, the public choice problems remain daunting, but perhaps not overwhelming. As Tim writes, "Now that this proposition has been submitted to the Secretary of State, it must get enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. That costs money, and that’s one of the big problems this initiative faces. If it gets on the ballot, polls suggest it would pass overwhelmingly. But getting it on the ballot requires money, and who’s going to pay it? There’s little money to be gained in eminent domain reform...."
A little technology could make a big difference here. Suppose the Secretary of State of California---or any other state---were to maintain a website listing all potential ballot propositions that have been submitted. Further suppose this website allows voters to "sign" petitions corresponding to propositions they want to be on the ballot. Then the cost of getting a proposition on the ballot would be almost all advertising. The number of digital signatures required would doubtless be higher than the number of physical signatures required precisely because digital signatures cost less. Thus, the barrier between a propositon and the ballot would be more popularity and less money.

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