Ballot questions in a puritan state

Philip Greenspun's Weblog 2012-09-24

Massachusetts was founded by the Puritans to b a “City Upon a Hill”. How is that vision from 400 years ago doing? Let’s look at the ballot questions for 2012. One of them relates to IT and automobile repair, which is probably not something the Puritans could have had an opinion regarding. The other two are about medical marijuana and assisted suicide. Though I have not looked at any opinion polls, my guess is that both of these will fail. Nonetheless, they are interesting because they show how tough it is to found an enduring social system (on the assumption that the Puritans would not have supported either initiative).

Separately, I am surprised that nobody proposed a ballot initiative limiting the ability of politicians to grant defined benefit pensions to public employees. If the Massachusetts state employee pension fund does not return 8.5 percent per year for the next 50 years (story; state pensions are about 67 percent funded under this rosy scenario, but the state is plainly bankrupt if the fund delivers returns similar to what bond market participants expect), most of the taxpayers will be needing medical marijuana to stave off depression.