Really, CA legislators are brain trusts!

by CalWatchdog Staff | June 24, 2011 10:51 am

JUNE 24, 2011


California legislators can’t seem to get a balanced budget passed or fix the state government’s ongoing problems. They are known for passing ridiculous legislation and taxing things you didn’t even know existed, so you would assume they aren’t the sharpest tools in the shed.  Well, interestingly enough, they are some of the most educated legislators in the entire United States.

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently conducted a study[1] finding that California has the most educated Legislature with most legislators earning a bachelor’s degree or higher.  If California’s Legislature is so intelligent and educated, why is the Capitol and the state economy in such bad shape?

Ironically, the 15 states that had the “least educated” legislatures consistently trump the top 15 “most educated” legislatures in six different economic metrics. Comparing the top 15 to the bottom 15 in unemployment rates, employment growth rates, economic freedom, fiscal freedom, economic performance and state economic outlook ratings, the “least educated” outperform the “most educated” group every time.

This recalls the saying from noted conservative William F. Buckley: “I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” That was his way of saying that higher education achievement doesn’t always lead to common sense and perhaps often leads to lesser practical abilities.

“Unfortunately, as people in America become more educated, they tend to acquire a belief that economies can be effectively planned and controlled,” said Lawrence McQuillan, director of Business and Economic Studies at the Pacific Research Institute, CalWatchdog’s parent think tank.  “As a result, more educated legislatures tend to enact dumber big-government policies, which are leading to fiscal chaos across the country.”

California’s unemployment rate as of May 2011 is 11.7 percent, according to the Bureau[2] of Labor Statistics[3], which is higher than every state found in the bottom-five educated states.  Even when averaged together, the top 15 educated states have an unemployment rate of 8.9 percent compared to the least educated which has an average unemployment rate of 8.1 percent.  Obviously, having a higher-educated legislature does not correlate to a better unemployment rate.  The same goes for employment growth in 2010.  States in the bottom 15 were found to have better employment growth rates than those in the top 15.

The correlation doesn’t stop there.  The American Legislative Exchange produces a study called “Rich States, Poor States[4]” that ranks states based on Economic Outlook and Performance ratings. The Economic Outlook Rankings are based on 15 state policy variables that are influenced directly by state lawmakers through the legislative process.  Of the states with the highest State Economic Outlook Rankings in 2011, six of those states came from the “least educated” group, while California ranks a low 47 out of 50.  The Economic Performance ratings are based on personal income per capita, migration, and non-farm payroll employment.  Of the states who received the highest State Economic Performance Ratings, eight of those came from the “least educated group”, while California ranks a 46 out of 50.

When comparing the top and bottom 15 states to the Mercatus Center’s Freedom in[5] the 50 States[6] Economic and Fiscal Freedom Indicators, the statistics show that the bottom 15 educated states have a higher economic freedom and fiscal freedom score than the 15 most educated states.  Fiscal Freedom is measured by spending, taxation and fiscal decentralization.  Economic Freedom is a measure of individual liberty, government spending, income taxes and sales taxes. South Dakota, which has one of the least educated legislatures, ranks number one on the economic freedom scale due to its high fiscal decentralization, and low levels of taxation and spending. California, which ranks 47th out of 50 according to the Mercatus study, “not only taxes and regulates its economy more than most other states, it also aggressively interferes in the personal lives of its citizens.”

The data once again proves that holding a bachelor’s degree does not translate into implementation of sound economic policies.  Despite having an “educated” Legislature, only six of the 100 declared majors of those elected to the California Legislature have a degree in Economics.

Finally, this should speak volumes to the collectivists and Progressive era dreamers who believe intellectuals can accurately plan a society.  California has all of these “educated” legislators and yet they are providing one of the the worst economically sound societies in America right now.   As Friedrich Hayek wrote,  “To act on the belief that we possess the knowledge and the power which enable us to shape the processes of society entirely to our liking, knowledge in fact we do not possess, is likely to make us do much harm.”


  1. study:
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  3. of Labor Statistics:
  4. Rich States, Poor States:
  5. Freedom in:
  6. the 50 States:

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