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bition prior to 1919 appeared general though the prohibitionists showed considerable strength. Outright enforcement was defeated, and the compromise Volstead Act earned the support of only a scant majority. Repeal won a resounding victory in 1932, and since that time consumers of alcohol in California have been repeatedly assured of their continuing bright prospects when efforts were made to introduce local option or local licensing.
California piety as reflected in direct legislation indicates a sense of moral indignation with certain manifestations of the entertainment business. However, the entertainers had their days, especially the boxers. Interference with a man's right to make a living on Sunday is not to be denied even to barbers. Out and out gambling is not to be tolerated in the state, but otherwise the tendency appears to be one of gradually degenerating firmness.
The vote on the alien land law proposals clearly reflects a shift in spirit from outright bigotry and hatred to an attitude more in keeping with a respect for individual rights and human dignity. That the American voting public is not hopelessly blinded by emotional appeal is indicated in the overwhelming defeats regularly handed to the antivivisectionists.
In matters of taxation there is quite evident a strong opposition to limiting the power of the legislature and the executive to determine state fiscal policy. The utopian single tax was even less popular than the antivivisection argument. On the other hand, a wide variety of tax exemptions have been granted since 1952. Perhaps the most bitterly fought issue was the exemption granted to private schools. If a large vote in 1958 means anything, it certainly re moves doubt regarding public support for such an exemption, a doubt which would certainly be justified by the closeness of the 1952 vote.
Financial aid to education started out with a rather checkered career. However, in more recent times the financial support requested was always granted at the state level when the issue went to the people. From the 1958 vote it would appear that the people of California would prefer to continue to keep some semblance of control over education officials in spite of the vague contention by the educationists that education should be separated from politics and handled by experts. Bibles and tenure regulation appear not to have been popular twenty to thirty years ago.
It is difficult to say whether great good has been achieved by direct legislation which would not be possible or even likely through legislators representing the people. The survey of the total operation of direct legislation in California shows that the legislators themselves are the most frequent users. The referendum is a built-in buck passing device. In view of the growing importance of the signature solicitor, it is also quite possible that direct legislation has provided a means of widespread political blackmail, especially in view of negotiations connected with propositions sixteen and seventeen in
the 1958 election. The organized solicitor, with his personnel for signature collecting ready to move in on the city street corners, is certainly in a position to suggest to the unwilling potential customer how unavailable he will be to his potential customer's rival if a contract for solicitation has already been signed. The topic for solicitation of signatures is of no importance. The point is that the big-time solicitor is in a splendid position to play powerful rival economic, political, and religious groups off against one another at no inconsiderable profit to himself. It is conceivable that direct legislation with its sensitivity to the wishes of special interests can be as injurious to statesmanship as the bribe to the corrupt legislator.
On the other hand, if democratic government is based on the consent of the governed, what simpler device than to have the people vote on a matter, regardless of how complex the details. The rights of the minority can be pleaded here, and cynical doubt may be expressed about the wisdom of the people; yet the necessity of explaining issues to a large audience, in an initiative or referendum election would seem to be an improvement over the lobby politics which are practiced in any state capitol.
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