The 16 Principles of California Autonomy

Initiatives and petition drives have become one of the main organizing activities in the Californian Independence Movement. There have been two so far that were approved by the California Attorney’s General’s Office.

The first one, filed in late 2016, was a straightforward call for a stay-or-leave style referendum. The second initiative, filed in May 2017, was far more involved and detailed. After arguing the case for Californian Independence, the initiative called for a series of policy changes that would lead steadily in that direction. The AG office titled the initiative “California: Autonomy from Federal Government,” which summed up the sentiment cleanly and clearly.  

Since the main writers of the 2017 initiative are now at Independent California we thought it would be a good idea to boil down key passages of the initiative as a set of principles that we at IC feel still provide a convincing argument and context for the Californian Independence Movement. We kept the original AG title because we think it emphasizes the core meaning of the principles.

So let us know what you think of “The Sixteen Principles of California Autonomy from Federal Government”. Did we miss any items that you think are important?  

TIC Staff


Principle 1

It is the intent of the People of the State of California that California become a fully functioning sovereign and autonomous nation, whether within continued association with the United States of America or as an independent country by means of peaceful negotiation with the Federal Government of the United States

Principle 2

California, while currently a state, has evolved into a nation in its own right, and it is in our best interest as Californians to act accordingly.

Principle 3

California has always been an evolving country and has a rich history as:

  1. a collection of diverse and thriving pre-Columbian indigenous communities;
  2. the province of New Spain in the Spanish Empire;  
  3. the state of Alta California in the Republic of Mexico;
  4. the independent nation of the Republic of California;
  5. most recently, a state in the United States of America.

Principle 4

California’s borders are not arbitrary lines on a map but reflect a coherent and recognizable unit of physical geography. Bounded by mountains to the north and northeast, deserts to the south and southeast, and the Pacific Ocean to the west, California comprises a subcontinental landmass in its own right.

Principle 5

California is connected throughout its massive landscape by interlocking river and valley systems and is tightly integrated by water, electrical, and transportation infrastructure, creating a large-scale internal economic and environmental interdependence that is best addressed by governance on a proportionate scale.

Principle 6

Californians have a shared set of values, distinct from those of other Americans, that form the basis of the Californian national identity, including:

  1. a focus on the future and on personal and social betterment;
  2. a respect for scientific knowledge, innovation, imagination, and higher learning;
  3. a belief that people of all backgrounds are welcome and can live and work together in harmony and enjoy equal rights;
  4. a commitment to democracy in the strongest and most expansive sense of the word;
  5. a sense of responsibility for the stewardship of the Californian natural environment and wider global ecosystems.

Principle 7

California ranks as one of the world’s largest economies, and is a global leader in high technology, pharmaceuticals, entertainment, agriculture, sustainable energy, higher education, and many other fields. California is already an influential and well-known actor on the world stage, particularly in humanity’s collective fight against climate change. 

Principle 8

California consistently loses money in the state’s fiscal relationship with the United States on the order of an amount roughly the size of the state government’s annual General Fund. These lost revenues should, by all rights of fair taxation, go to fixing California’s chronic problems such as repairing neglected infrastructure and environmental degradation. These lost funds should also go to programs to make housing more affordable and to improve California’s education system to make economic opportunities more accessible for current and future Californians.

Principle 9

California is already able to fully administer its own tax dollars, including monies remitted back by Washington. A large portion of Federal funds are already administered by state and local governments. There is nothing that would, in principle, keep Californians from better administering the remaining amount ourselves. 

Principle 10

California citizens are one of the politically most underrepresented populations among modern democracies due to deep-seated Constitutional restrictions that make any attempt to remedy this democratic deficit on the Federal side very unlikely. These structural disenfranchisements include:

  1. the retention of the Electoral College which drastically reduces California’s influence over the United States’ choice of president;
  2. Californians’ underrepresented status in the United States Senate in which the state receives only one-fiftieth of the seats despite comprising one-eighth of the population of the United States, giving us only one-sixth the representation of average Americans;
  3. partisan gerrymandering which gives a minority of voters in small and rural states a super majority advantage in the House of Representatives, thereby diluting California’s otherwise proportionate showing in the chamber.

Principle 11

California’s path to autonomy and full representational status will be and must be peaceful, rational, and mutually beneficial to all sides in terms of promoting a healthy democracy. Without the Electoral College, the possibility of coastal and urban dominance in the American political system is real, yet the answer cannot  be the continued relegation of large states to second class citizenship. Accommodating California’s evolution to a nation-state by creating a separate national and political system for California will also ensure that Americans in smaller rural states continue to have full representational status as well.

Principle 12

If Californians wish to live in a democracy, there are only three possible options: 

  1. fundamental reforms to the American system of democratic governance, with equal representation and an affirmative right of all adult citizens to vote, and, including the abolishment of the Electoral College, the reorganizing of the Senate and the outlawing of gerrymandering;
  2. significant autonomy within the United States for California, including a separate Supreme Court, whereby decisions at the Federal level have little impact on the lives of Californians;
  3. California becoming an independent country.

Principle 13

Due to California’s democratic deficit in the Federal system, Californians have very little ability to lead a re-democratization of the United States since California provides only one of the 38 votes necessary to ratify any such amendment. In the current political context, Californians would be participating in good faith in a system in which other states and their leaders consistently and increasingly game and abuse to the point of political deadlock and a cessation of proper governance.

Principle 14

The People of the State of California call upon our state officials as our only truly democratically authorized governmental representatives to provide these fundamental protections for Californians in the following manner:

  1. assuming for California residents the role of primary insurer and ultimate guarantor of their political, civil, and human rights;
  2. buffering Californians against the chaos, dysfunction, and predatory policies at the Federal level; 
  3. defending Californians from hostile actions from domestic and international actors intent on undermining California’s democracy and civil society;
  4. protecting the life and liberty of California’s residents from terroristic and authoritarian actions from nationalists, populists, and supremacists;
  5. preserving California’s physical environment against exploitation and degradation from unsound developmental policies imposed from outside the state.

Principle 15

In order to obtain a functioning and capable national provenance for California, the People of California call upon the Governor to lead negotiations for Californians to gain ever greater self-determination and autonomy from the Federal government.  The People of California also call upon the State Legislature to enact ongoing legislation to transfer these powers and rights to California’s statewide, regional, and local governments.

Principle 16

If ever terms of a final settlement allowing California to become a fully-functioning sovereign and autonomous nation are negotiated, the resulting settlement shall not take effect until adopted by the People of California by means of a state referendum in accordance with California’s long tradition of direct democracy.