Here's a very insightful assessment of how our state governance got to be its current dysfunctional self, and don't be put off by the fact that it was prepared by outsiders - namely the Economist. In one of its special reports, the magazine describes California as "an experiment in extreme democracy gone wrong." And of course it's true. The beginning of the end came with the passage of Proposition 13 - along with the ascension of rabid anti-tax crusaders - that created a kind of ramrodding citizen legislature.
Many initiatives have either limited taxes or mandated spending, making it even harder to balance the budget. Some are so ill-thought-out that they achieve the opposite of their intent: for all its small-government pretensions, Proposition 13 ended up centralising California's finances, shifting them from local to state government. Rather than being the curb on elites that they were supposed to be, ballot initiatives have become a tool of special interests, with lobbyists and extremists bankrolling laws that are often bewildering in their complexity and obscure in their ramifications. And they have impoverished the state's representative government. Who would want to sit in a legislature where 70-90% of the budget has already been allocated?
The magazine notes that California's style of democracy is precisely what James Madison and the other founding fathers were trying to avoid:
The federal constitution is based on checks and balances within and among three and only three branches of government--executive, legislative and judicial. That is because Madison feared that popular "passions" would undo the republic, that majorities might "tyrannise" minorities, and that "minority factions" (ie, special interests) would take over the system. America's was therefore to be a representative, not a direct, democracy. "Pure democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention," Madison wrote, "and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths."
This notion did not travel well to the vast emptiness of America's frontier. The likes of August Schuckman were rugged individualists who trusted themselves more than any representative to run their affairs. So they instinctively embraced a direct and participatory form of democracy which they imported (with consequential alterations) from Switzerland, adding a fourth branch of government to the three existing ones. For much of the 20th century the resulting governance structure did no harm because voter initiatives were used sparingly. But then, starting in 1978, the culture and system mutated.