The consent of the governed (or, who's in charge and why)

Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson

Where do governments get their power? The consent of the governed, according to Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson used the Declaration of Independence to make the case to the world that the British government was tyrannical, listing the grievances which proved the British crown’s loss of American popular consent.

Consent is the foundation upon which representative government rests. Our elected officials have a responsibility to protect the dignity of the office they hold. Often politics becomes about the popularity and personality of the person, rather than the service to the people that the office requires.

Learn more from our new page here at Utah Citizen Network.

Also check out this Slate article on just how young America’s revolutionaries were when they made history in 1176. (Jefferson was 33.)

Infographic: Utah ranks favorably in tax and spending growth

Utah has rightly been recognized as one of the best managed states in the nation, primarily due to its conservative approach to fiscal policy. Two recently published infographics from the Tax Foundation highlight what this looks like.

The first is a map ranking the 50 states based on the rate of growth in state government spending between 2001 and 2011, adjusted for inflation and population growth. As the map shows, state government direct spending, per person, in Utah grew 20.9 percent over that decade, good for 41st highest – or more properly, 10th lowest – in the nation.

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Spending $24,696 per minute: The 2013-14 Utah State Budget

Spending Clock

In 41 hours, the Utah state spending has already burned through nearly $61 million of the state budget.

With the dawning of Utah’s new fiscal year, we’ve reset our state spending clock to show you, real time, how quickly the state spends our tax dollars. We understand governments have a legitimate and vital role to play in our pursuit of life, liberty and happiness. And we also understand the inherent and insidious “spending bias” created by the very nature of our political system.

That system is built to collect tax dollars from taxpayers to “solve” apparent “needs” in the service of the common good. The desires that drive this system are human. Legislators perceive a public need and determine resources to try to solve that need. The issue, of course, is that those resources aren’t created by government. They are created by we, the people. Those resources are otherwise sacred.

What elected officials do with these resources comes, rightly so, with increased scrutiny.

The idea of civil society within a democratic republic is that government provides an ordered framework for a free society to thrive and flourish, and lets the people voluntarily do what they do best: deliver the highest quality of life ever known to mankind. This is a very symbiotic relationship. Unfortunately, governments can turn toxic, hurting their citizens through excessive regulations, overly burdensome taxes, market manipulation, cronyism, preferential tax breaks and government competition with private enterprise. Read more

Why Utah should celebrate being 51st

Construction_BlueprintWhen you read the term “economic security,” what do you think of? The likelihood that you’ll be able to find and keep good employment that will provide for your family? If so, then Utah is a great state to live. We’re tied for the fifth-lowest unemployment rate in the nation at 4.7 percent. Many macroeconomists state that “full employment” or “natural unemployment” is around 3 percent, so in effect we live in a state that has almost no actual unemployment. That’s pretty impressive economic security.

Or, when you hear the term “economic security,” do you think of how much the state is willing to do for you? This would be such things as unemployment insurance, TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) and Medicaid eligibility. If that is what economic security means to you, then Utah is the last place you’d want to live, according to a new report by a group called WOW (Wider Opportunities for Women). The Beehive State ranks dead last with a grade of D-plus for “economic security,” 51st when compared with all 50 states and the District of Columbia. Tip of the hat to Utah Policy for drawing attention to the report.

Where would you rather live? In a state tied for fifth lowest unemployment rate, rated tops as the best state for future livability and ranked first by Forbes as “The Best State for Business and Careers” three years running? Or in a state with individuals and families so needy that your state leads the country in providing various forms of economic welfare?

And by the way, it’s no coincidence that Utah ranks so poorly in the latter and so well in the former. Free market incentives always work more effectively than government redistribution of wealth. The irony is that big-government advocates are so often hurting those they are trying to help in the name of compassion. We do need a safety net – misfortune can happen to any of us – but the most compassionate thing we can do is create an economic environment that actually leads to meaningful and dignified employment, because that will always lead to a higher quality of life than any other alternative.

Paradoxically, cult of privacy led us to NSA problems

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Photo by Cyberuly

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

Are you concerned about the National Security Agency gathering blanket data through cell phone companies and Internet activity? Everyone should be terrified. But why aren’t we?

The answer, of course, is the new nature of war we call terrorism, and the threat of terrorists who often hide in plain sight among us. A central reason we have a federal government is to provide for the common defense. But how does our government protect us in a world where enemies don’t often have an identifiable address, are embedded in any country on Earth and can even live next door to us?

It’s easy to see why an otherwise clear-cut case of unconstitutional powers begins to sound and feel reasonable. Normally, when a government official challenges our privacy by reminding us that innocent people have nothing to hide, we quickly remind that official that constitutional protections were made substantially for innocent people. But under the constant threat of terrorist attacks, in our fears, we begin to think that anyone at any time could be a terrorist. We succumb to fear and, as a result, we seek the secure comfort of government agencies – after all, the job of government is to protect us, isn’t it?

That answer is yes and no.

The federal government provides the common defense for a nation just as a local police force provides a common defense for a community. But those sorts of protective provisions do not exist in isolation, as if they’re independent of every other requirement upon every citizen to help maintain personal liberty and lasting freedom. Just because a local police force shares in the effort to protect a community doesn’t mean that we provide that force with every detail of our lives so it can preemptively stop crime. We don’t let that force live in our home to protect us– instead, we buy guns and security systems for our homes and assume major responsibility for our own protection.  Read more

Obama’s big-government culture breeds scandals

Listen to the audio here:

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.

800px-Barack_Obama_in_the_Oval_Office,_April_2010The Obama administration has had a rough couple of weeks. CBS News headline: “Top Obama officials knew about IRS probe, says White House.” The Economist headline: “The administration seems to have trampled on press freedom.” Real Clear Politics headline: “Woodward: Obama Administration Did Not Tell the Truth About Benghazi.”

What do all of these headlines from one of President Obama’s worst weeks in office have in common? It is this: Big government, by its very nature, almost always becomes corrupt. This is because big government (in place of good government) is driven by two things: money and power, and both have a tendency to corrupt people … even good people. This is one reason Sutherland counts limited government as one of its core principles.

Take the IRS scandal, which stems from a recently released Treasury inspector general’s report that showed the IRS was improperly scrutinizing conservative and tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status.

The IRS activity is classic big government using its power and authority to target groups it feels are hostile to its ideology. Big government wants more government, meaning more power and money, and tea party groups want less government and more freedom. So big government discourages, interrogates, and targets tea party groups hoping to find inappropriate, if not illegal, activity so it can take action against these groups that it does not like. Sounds more like a move straight from Stalin’s communist Russia than America, doesn’t it? Read more

Large sodas, liquor and a free society

The following post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

If you’ve ever searched for an infamous example of government overreaching its proper bounds, you need look no further than the New York City ban on “sugary drinks.” Last year, on June 12, the city’s Department of Health, through its Board of Health, and with full approval of New York’s mayor, Michael Bloomberg, issued a regulation that limits the sale of “sugary drinks” to containers no larger than 16 ounces. “Sugary drink” is defined as a carbonated or non-carbonated, nonalcoholic, sweetened drink that has greater than 25 calories per fluid 8 ounces of beverage.

Not only couldn’t a customer buy the drink, neither could she buy the cup size violating the regulation for self-service. The Board of Health voted 8-0 to adopt the new rule on September 12, 2012. A multi-party lawsuit was filed exactly one month later and the Supreme Court of the State of New York ruled to overturn the regulation just this month.

In its defense, the Board of Health argued, “There is an obesity epidemic among New York City residents which severely affects public health.” It argued, “The health of its residents affects the economics of a town, village, city, state and nation” and that “New York City … battles to maintain services in light of tough economic times. One of the fiercest budgetary fights is over Medicaid [and] Medicare.” You can start to see the picture – because of the modern welfare state and culture of entitlement it breeds, government must step in to fix us so we don’t break the budget.

And the only way for government to fix us, evidently, is to coerce us. Read more

What the Republican Party needs to champion

The following post is a transcript of a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

There is growing angst in Republican circles over the direction the Republican Party ought to take. While I am not a Republican operative (far from it), Republican concepts of government appeal to me more than Democratic concepts, so I feel somewhat equipped to recommend a course of action for Republicans, especially Utah Republicans, to keep their party relevant and attractive to all people of good will.

First, Republicans ought to champion fiscal prudence that lies at the heart of limited government. Understanding and articulating the proper role of government (even acknowledging that there is a proper role of government in this day and age) should be their constant drumbeat. They must also strive to understand and then articulate the nature of limited government, especially the vital understanding that government cannot be limited if society continues to marginalize and denigrate the power of the private sector to address public problems.

In this spirit of fiscal responsibility, Republicans need to understand and articulate the natural but ultimately destructive spending bias that exists at every level of government. Read more

Obama's utopia

The following post is a transcript of a weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations:

With the second inauguration of President Barack Obama, his speech was impressive – even Reaganesque. He began by citing the Declaration of Independence – always a safe bet and very conservative sounding.

Who said this, Ronald Reagan or Barack Obama?

We have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

Of course that was Barack Obama. His inaugural speech is an interesting mix of traditional values mingled with utopian comments about how the world should be. Listen to this,

We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a measure of security and dignity. We must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit. But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.

Surely every American deserves a “measure of security and dignity.” But when he says, “we must make the hard choices to reduce the cost of health care and the size of our deficit,” Obama actually means “you” not “we.” Read more

Herbert: ‘From adversity comes strength, from strength comes success’

Last week Governor Gary R. Herbert was inaugurated to his first full term as Utah’s chief executive, having first accepted the role in 2009 when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. was appointed ambassador to China.

Conducted in the rotunda of Utah’s magnificent State Capitol building, the ceremonies included outstanding music by a trio of the Governor’s and First Lady Jeanette Herbert’s sons, who beautifully sang the National Anthem, the One Voice Children’s Choir, the Utah National Guard 23rd Army Band, and the Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.

In his inaugural address, “From Adversity Comes Strength, From Strength Comes Success,” Gov. Herbert shared insights that every Utahn would be prudent to remember and embrace:

In times of great strife and difficulty, when our course is steep and we are weary, it may be tempting to take a shortcut, to postpone difficult decisions, to abandon our commitment to principle in favor of political expediency. But as I was taught by my parents, principles are not relative. Whether you are a contractor like my father, or a teacher, or a small business owner, or a doctor, or a farmer; for a family or for the government, principles always hold true. And true principles are the surest foothold for good governance.

In Utah we honor the principle of individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility – the power of people to work, to produce, to innovate, to be self-sufficient, and to be rewarded for their efforts. We understand that the most powerful engine for prosperity in the history of the world is the private sector, operating in a free market system. We believe in the principle that we achieve the best outcomes when everyone is engaged….

…We all know that the correct path is often not the easy path.

Amen, Governor Herbert. We heartily concur.