California Divide: Investor Proposes Six Golden States

California desert wind farm
Tim Draper, one of Silicon Valley’s tech investors, has successfully floated the idea to divide California into six separate “Golden” states in order to alleviate the vast state’s growing financial and population-based troubles. The venture capitalist has said that the cooperative and competitive structure this structure might bring would revitalize the area’s economy and relieve social and cultural pressures.

Draper states that with 38 million inhabitants and with vastly different regions and socioeconomic needs, an overcrowded prison system, a troubled economic tapestry and a shaky education system, California has gotten too unwieldy for a single, in most cases distant, government to operate effectively. Though he has gotten the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures in time for the July elections, it is considered unlikely that California voters would vote to parcel out or cooperatively share the vast network of communications equipment, aqueducts, and roadways linking the thousands of miles of California coast, desert, mission and mountain.

The tech investor, however, argues that a divided Golden State would function better as a collection of six loosely aligned and locally governed states, boosting trade with one another according to regional strengths and competing to outperform socially and economically.
Plans to divide California into two or more smaller parts have been proposed a number of times since the state was admitted to the union in 1850. In this more ambitious six-state plan, however, each smaller state would correspond roughly to a geographical region in the state, and with corresponding regional names.

california divide mapIn this scheme, the northern part of the state from the Redding and Chico up to the Oregon border would become “Jefferson”, the strip across the width of the state and encompassing Sacramento and a good deal of the wine country would morph into “North California”, “Silicon Valley” would take over the coastline from Monterey to San Francisco, “Central California” would range to the Nevada border and would contain Fresno and Bakersfield’s wind farms, “West California” would take up the coasts from San Luis Obispo through Santa Barbara to L.A., and “South California” would command the rest, including Riverside and San Diego, down to the Mexico border.

Each smaller state already has a built-in industry, from the burgeoning Marijuana economy of the north, the California wine country, the established tech farms of what is already called Silicon Valley, the aforementioned wind farms of the central deserts, coastal tourism and the motion picture powerhouse, and the “Inland Empire” and the naval and marine bases in the south. One might think that the only problem would be divvying up the fruits of statewide trade and taxes; and of course figuring out how to apportion the Cal-State and UC colleges.

Not so fast, say economists, who warn that should such plan go into effect, the disparate states with their diverse population sizes would inherit the California’s failing infrastructure, troubled schools and prisons, socioeconomic and border tensions, yet with varied capability to raise the taxes to deal with them.

Of course, in order even to turn the plan into a ballot measure, Draper needs to collect 808,000 signatures by July if he wants to get his proposal on the docket for 2014. Alternatively the investor may choose to wait until the 2016 elections in order to give himself the time to garner more support for the divide-and-conquer six-state proposal and to allow Californians time to see whether he is right that the Golden State as it now stands is doomed to suffocate under its own weight. Despite its many difficulties, however, California has proved resilient, and resistant to similar propositions in the past. However even should Californians unexpectedly decide to forego their collective identity in favor of multiple smaller entities, it is even more unlikely that the plan to break up the world’s eighth-largest economy will be approved by federal lawmakers. For one thing, the region would gain 12 senate seats; a concept that cannot but give the politicos in Washington D.C. pause.

By Kat Turner

NY Daily News
USA Today

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