Octavian, who became the first Roman Emporer, Augustus, paid lip service to the Senate as he consolidated power and acquired the title “Dictator for Life”. (That title would have sounded even worse to the Romans than to us — a dictator was, by definition, appointed for a limited task and for a limited duration.)
People on the left who mock right-wingers’ use of the word “tyranny” claim that we don’t know what tyranny is. They seem to think that if youre not being tortured, there is no tyrant. They are wrong, and even fools. Tyranny lives where rulers dominate their subjects without the rule of law. Monarchies are not necessarily tyrannies; democracies and republics can be.
Do we really think such things can’t happen here? Look at the lawlessness of the California legislature and the judicial support for it.
In theory at least, courts and ballot referenda are checks on legislative tyranny. A California appellate court has effectively done away with both by ruling that the legal requirements of a bond measure approved by voters for the state’s bullet train are merely “guidance.” Californians ought to try this law-as-guidance defense when they’re stopped for speeding.
Six years ago voters approved a referendum authorizing $9 billion in bonds for high-speed rail construction, including language with stringent “taxpayer protections.” These stipulations were, among other things, that the state high-speed rail authority present a detailed preliminary plan to the legislature identifying funding sources and environmental clearances for the train’s first “usable segment” prior to a bond appropriation.
The legislature in 2012 green-lighted the bonds while ignoring these stipulations. The rail authority had pinpointed merely $6 billion of the estimated $31.5 billion necessary to complete the first 300-mile segment from Merced to San Fernando. Only 30 miles of environmental clearances had been certified….
The court could require the authority to redo its plan, but the judges say that would be unnecessary since the Director of Finance must still approve a rigorous final plan before the authority can spend the bond revenue. In other words, the law’s procedural requirements don’t matter.
Yet the bond referendum had ordered a preliminary plan for legislative review precisely so lawmakers could force the rail authority to address their concerns before appropriating the bonds. This added a modicum of political accountability.
So here we have the spectacle of legislators ignoring the very taxpayer protections that they had used to gull voters into approving a ballot measure that might never have passed without those protections. The lesson is that politicians will grab any new power or spending authority voters give them. They’ll blow through the caveats and dare voters to sue to stop them.
More at the link.