Steve Forbes uses his latest Forbes column to probe the prospects for a California secession.

THE MOVEMENT AFOOT in California to have the state secede from the Union–advocates call it Calexit–is gaining publicity if not support. One poll shows 32% of Democrats ready to vote yes on a pullout referendum. Petition signatures are being collected to get the question of ditching the good ol’ U.S.A. put on the ballot. One secession-advocate group has received financial support from–you guessed it–Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

The whole idea is preposterous. …

… Even though outright secession isn’t in the cards, the Golden State today is ripe for demagogic mischief. California has always felt it was different from the rest of the country, priding itself on being in the vanguard of social, economic and cultural trends. Millions of Americans saw it as the land of opportunity and moved there because of its beauty, benign climate, rapid growth and lifestyle diversity. It had everything: Hollywood, high tech, manufacturing, mobility, aerospace, oil, bountiful agriculture, and abundant and affordable housing.

But in recent times the state has become a tax and regulatory backwater, imitating the worst practices of stagnant Europe and such global powerhouses as Argentina. Bureaucrats in Sacramento have worked hard to crush small businesses with silly and costly rules, such as mandating mandatory time off for employees after four hours of labor. Minimum-wage laws unrelated to reality proliferate. No environmental rule or law is too inane, no matter how unrelated to science or conditions in the real world. Such decrees are ruining agriculture. With a straight face, regulators are issuing edicts to reduce effluents from cows, in the name of saving the planet from overheating.

The state’s water shortages are self-inflicted: Billions of gallons are flushed into the ocean, because that supposedly helps preserve a tiny, endangered smelt; new reservoirs aren’t built, and existing ones are attacked as unnatural. While Israel rapidly built state-of-the-art desalination plants, California dawdled for 15 years before a far smaller and more expensive one came online. It’s no surprise that places like San Francisco have banned plastic bags and are taxing paper ones, and are contemplating prohibiting free soda refills at restaurants. (The quality of life in San Francisco has deteriorated, with residents being constantly accosted by ever more aggressive panhandlers.)

Regulations have turned California from a housing mecca for working people into a high-cost hell. Its school system, once one of the nation’s best, is now a national laughingstock.