That sounds nice (you may say), but what does it mean? The idea is this: we don’t elect ‘positions,’ we elect people. In the drink-from-a-firehose that is our legislative session, no legislator–no matter how gifted or dedicated–can master even a fraction of the issues that come before him or her. As a result, we must trust those who represent us to apply sound principles to the myriad issues that cross their desk over the course of the session.
So, what principles would I apply as your representative?
Limited Government – As Thoreau observed, “that government is best that governs least.” Government has grown far too big, too expensive, and too intrusive, and this is a problem at the state, federal, and even the local level. Government should be a last resort—not a first resort—and should foster and encourage (rather than inhibit) free enterprise, personal responsibility, and private initiative.
Separation of Powers – The Constitution rests on the twin pillars of Separation of Powers and Federalism, the former of which controls power horizontally (between three co-dependent branches) and the latter of which controls power vertically (between the federal government and the several states). The Constitution reflects a deep mistrust of power, particularly the concentration of power, and, in consequence, carefully divides that power between the legislative, executive, and judicial branches. When we see breakdowns in government-runaway bureaucracies, legislating from the bench, and executive orders in areas that fall outside of explicit executive authority-this principle highlights the defect and suggests the cure.
Federalism – A burgeoning federal government has long threatened the constitutional balance of power between the States and the federal government. Increasingly, federal mandates and programs undermine state authority in many areas. In so many areas, however, we need greater local control, as bottom-up solutions–made with local needs and perspectives in mind–often succeed far better than decisions made by remote and unelected bureaucrats.
Personal Autonomy and Self Reliance – Government must respect the rights of individuals in their persons and property. Too often, well-intentioned but misguided government programs and policies disempower the very people they are designed to help. An over-reaching federal government weakens States; overreaching state governments weaken local governments; over-reaching local governments can weaken neighborhoods and communities; and all of the above can–and often do–weaken families and individuals.
Voluntary Solutions v. Compulsory Solutions — In my experience, voluntary and collaborative solutions endure while compelled or winner-take-all ones tend to be not only short-lived, but also breed resentment, hostility, and conflict. Most people respond as well to positive incentives as they respond poorly to negative ones. In other words, positive incentives and collaborative processes empower individuals and communities while imposed solutions–”my way or the highway”-type solutions–often create far more problems than they resolve.
Fiscal Discipline – As a people and a Nation we have become accustomed to living beyond our means. If we don’t have it, we shouldn’t borrow it. Deficit spending is little better than stealing from our children. On the whole, Utah has managed its finances wisely in tough economic times by cutting spending first, looking to its rainy day fund second, and looking at raising revenue as a last resort. That fiscal discipline has left the state poised for a sustained economic recovery and set the standard for other states to follow.
Rational Incentives – People generally act in their own economic self-interest. As a result, fundamental problems with everything from immigration to bailouts to our educational system can be traced to misaligned incentives. If breaking the law is rewarded while following it is punished, if high risk takers or poor decision makers are bailed out at taxpayer expense, if school administrators are rewarded for anything other than empowering teachers and delivering the best possible results in the classroom, the results are as poor as they are predictable. If, on the other hand, incentives are properly considered, solutions to these problems often become clear.
Openness and Accountability – Representative democracy is poorly served when key decisions are made behind closed doors and without public input. Government decision-making should be transparent, and legislators should make themselves available, open, and accountable for their decisions.
While this list isn’t exhaustive, I hope it gives you a sense of the way I approach various issues, and the yardsticks I would use to evaluate legislation.
My Commitment: To be open and inclusive in the way I evaluate legislation, seeking voter input at each and every opportunity, and to apply sound principles in deciding how to vote on issues that come before the legislature.