OPINION – With the Utah Legislature right in the middle of its annual 45-day session, lawmakers are plenty busy.
For a great many of us, all that legislative activity tends to barely register on our radar screens, unless we have a vested concern in a particular issue.
It’s almost forgivable that we would assign such a low priority to knowing exactly what is taking place in the state capitol. Not only do we have our own lives keeping us busy, but also we tend to defer virtually all responsibility to our legislators. That’s why elected them, right?
This nonchalance is an indicator of how lightly we take the role of citizenship. It also demonstrates that too many of us lack understanding of the proper role of government in our lives.
This doesn’t mean that we should drop everything and spend the entire legislative session holding the hands of our elected representatives. But if each voter truly understood the extent to which the Utah Capitol Hill crawls with lobbyists for those 45 days, we might put forth a little more effort.
Assuming that we don’t view our lawmakers as our political Santa Claus, out to dispense taxpayer-funded goodies to us, we need to do our part to keep them on track. This means that if we wish to ensure that our elected representatives are operating government on sound principles, we’d better know for ourselves what those principles are.
This is not as difficult than it sounds. Government is infamous for taking simple things and complicating them. It doesn’t take a law degree to understand that virtually any question requiring a solution will have a right answer and a wrong answer.
This means that the vast majority of questions placed before our legislators must be considered in the context of what is the proper role of that governmental body. In other words, there are some things that fall outside of the limited but proper role of government.
Regardless of the issue, there are some key questions that must be answered before seeking a government solution.
The first is, are there inalienable rights involved? There’s a huge difference between inalienable or natural rights like the right to free speech and invented ones like the “right” to affordable housing. Inalienable rights limit government’s power over us while spurious “rights” expand that power by creating enforceable obligations.
The next question is to ask, what is the lowest level of government that can handle the issue? This is a time-tested principle based upon the understanding that the smaller the government unit, the closer it is to the people and, therefore, the easier it is to influence it and keep it serving the interests of the people rather than itself. Seeking to solve problems from the top down always negatively impacts liberty.
Thomas Jefferson explained why this is so:
What has destroyed liberty and the rights of man in every government which has ever existed under the sun? The generalizing and concentrating all cares and powers into one body.
At the higher levels of political power, it’s too easy for leaders to forget that the people who elected them are superior to the governmental bodies to which they’re elected. Keeping that power divided up among many entities, according to their respective competencies allows problems to be solved at the lowest level.
The next question involves asking, what exactly is the most effective policy? This requires keeping solutions limited to the actual problem and not allowing legislation to become a smorgasbord of political favors through additional riders and amendments.
The final question that must be asked is the most searching. Is the proposed policy wise? This goes far beyond determining the popularity of a particular issue. It means that there are certain things that government should never do.
For example, government should never be involved in what Economist Frederic Bastiat termed legal plunder in his essay “The Law.” Recognizing legal plunder is a simple matter according to Bastiat:
See if the law takes from some persons what belongs to them, and gives it to other persons to whom it does not belong. See if the law benefits one citizen at the expense of another by doing what the citizen himself cannot do without committing a crime.
Keeping our legislators on track means comprehending the proper role of government and being willing to communicate with them effectively. But the bottom line is this–we can’t defend what we don’t understand.
- Urquhart’s anti-discrimination bill tabled for another year
- Bill to raise age restriction to 21 for tobacco products passes committee
- Legislation can’t fix everything (OPINION)
Bryan Hyde is a news commentator and co-host of the Perspectives talk show on Fox News 1450 AM 93.1 FM. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.
Email: [email protected]
Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.