Perspectives: Things we should be asking our legislators

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.

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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]

Twitter: @youcancallmebry

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.


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  • tinman February 24, 2014 at 10:17 am

    Rep. Last,
    Could you please tell me why HB384 passed with virtually no debate and zero opposition? A man’s right to his property (which represents his lifetime of labors) is sacred, and this revision of the civil forfeiture law strips the citizen reform initiative from 2003 and now creates an incentive for rogue DA’s/prosecutors to steal private property, as well as compromising Utah’s integrity with the whole criminal practice of policing for profit. I thought Utah was taking steps forward in restoring individual liberties and property rights? Please read:
    I await your reply.
    Your Constituent

  • McMurphy February 24, 2014 at 10:18 am

    Good questions but largely rhetorical. After all, what’s the point of being a state legislator if you can’t use the police powers of the state to enshrine your personal whims in law, to force the citizenry to live their lives as you wish, and to pay back both supporters and detractors? Also, picking up some business for your “real job” doesn’t hurt. The Utah legislature — generally doing badly what doesn’t need to be done at all.

  • Bub February 24, 2014 at 11:35 am

    More generalizing, passive aggressive, libertarian, right-wing garbage..

  • Barry Short February 24, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    I suspect the problem is not so much nonchalance as it is resignation. Utah’s been Republican for a long time – nearly 50 years now with a Republican majority in the legislature – and it is in no way a model for limited government or individual liberty. Other than on a few specific social issues, the Democratic Party certainly offers no hope of limiting government. The switching of controlling parties at the national level has in fact resulted in few substantive changes and gives no reason to think any are likely. As long as the options for voters are Tweedledee and Tweedledum, there’s not much motivation to choose. The percentage of eligible voters who bother to go to the polls is proof.

    On a more anecdotal level, it appears to me that many Utahns don’t contact their representatives because they simply don’t think the representatives would listen no matter what they had to say. The special interest money speaks louder than constituents.

    • Priests February 24, 2014 at 3:42 pm

      Utah has been republican since the mormon church was told to desist with its racist and discriminatory practices against blacks. I believe Carter was president at the time. Since then, mormons have hated Democrats.

      • Barry Short February 24, 2014 at 4:03 pm

        Republicans gained a slim majority in both houses of the Utah legislature in the election of 1962, and haven’t relinquished it since. The majority was definitely solidified in the 1966 election, and some have linked that to the passage of the Voting Rights Act. But regardless of the motivation, the fact remains – there’s Republican rhetoric, and Republican reality. They don’t seem to have much in common.

  • Bender February 24, 2014 at 1:59 pm

    Only when men are allowed to freely associate and govern as they each individually see fit can we hope to achieve utopia. For current examples of such paradises, please see Libya, Tribal Pakistan and Somalia.

  • Bub February 24, 2014 at 3:22 pm

    It’s a funny thing about these right-wingers. They go on and on about liberty and freedoms and some of them have these huge families and then expect society to pay for their kids’ schooling, college, and medical and whatever else. I hope Brian is homeschooling his kids, otherwise he is a hypocrite. What each libertarian needs is their own little island to rule as they choose, and then the big bad central govt won’t be stealing your liberty, and they won’t have anything to whine about. Sorry it’s funny but why would I want to pay for anyone else’s kids public education. Is that not stealing my liberty?

    • Biden 2016 February 24, 2014 at 8:50 pm

      I’ll be glad for those large families when I am old and they are paying for my Social Security. If Social Security still exists then. The children when they are adults will pay many times in taxes what they cost as children.

  • Priests February 24, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Just shut up and do as you’re told. You’ve been living that way in St George the last 20+ years. Stupid sheep.

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