Thursday, June 3, 2010

Time to Reclaim Self-Government from the Political Class

Richard Davis published an interesting article in yesterday's Everett Herald titled "Government by the people needs renewal" from a recent interview he conducted with pollster Scott Rasmussen. I have exerpted a section below.

In an extended essay, “In Search of Self-Governance,” Rasmussen explores the growing disaffection between the American public and the political class.

He writes, “… the gap today between Americans who want to govern themselves and politicians who want to rule over them may be as big as the gap between the colonies and England during the 18th Century.”

The divide transcends the usual political lines of demarcation.

“The American people don’t want to be governed from the left, the right, or the center,” he writes. “The American people want to govern themselves.”

He reflects on the Founders’ commitment to checks and balances, consciously designed to thwart swift government action. In this way, “the Founders created a mechanism that would force society to reach a consensus before” launching major new programs. Until the recent health-care reform, that demand for consensus has largely prevailed.

Our state has even more countervailing influences built into its governing documents. We have initiative and referendum, the plural executive (nine statewide elected officials), and an elected state Supreme Court. Our founders so distrusted government that they did everything possible to render it inefficient and ineffective.

Rasmussen…encouraging more public involvement. He recommends the usual transparency fixes, like posting legislation before a vote and disclosing meetings between lawmakers and regulators. He also suggests giving the public control of the purse strings, at all levels of government.

“With today’s technology and communications capabilities,” he writes, “there is absolutely no rational reason to keep voters out of the loop on tax increases.” He similarly calls for a public vote on tax exemptions offered to individual companies. At the Research Council dinner, he went further, suggesting a national referendum on major policy measures, like health care reform.

He may be on to something. We can quibble with the details, but it’s clearly time to reclaim self-government.

Richard S. Davis, president of the Washington Research Council, writes on public policy, economics and politics.

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