It’s hard to believe that November’s general election is just around the corner. Montanans across the state will soon be receiving their absentee ballots to vote in an election that could very well be transformational for our government. With many longtime legislators termed out, the Legislature is sure to have lots of newer faces this time around.
Future Leaders Should Embrace Good Governance
"The starting point for our future leaders should always be: how is government contributing to this problem? Address those issues first. The very last resort should be to turn to taxpayers."
With that in mind, I implore our future leaders to adopt the following three principles of good governance as they prepare to assume office:
1. First, do no harm
In modern times, politicians don’t seem to blink an eye as they enthusiastically volunteer millions of taxpayer dollars for any given pet political project. Growing government has become the go-to strategy to address the big economic and social problems we face.
However, America’s Founding Fathers recognized government at its core is a necessary evil to secure our rights. Montana’s future leaders should remember that every dollar spent by government has first been confiscated from taxpayers. Government should therefore be used reluctantly, with the utmost restraint, and as the very last resort.
In my past job advising Montana’s Insurance Commissioner, I developed the following matrix to guide the agency’s policy decisions. We worked through each of these questions when presented with a problem:
1. Is the private market solving this problem on its own?
2. If not, are there state or local policies that stand in the way of a private market solution?
3. If not, are there federal policies that stand in the way of a private market solution?
4. If not, what sort of government action will best promote a private market solution?
After working through this matrix, our agency found nearly every time that the biggest barrier to solving any given problem was the government itself — whether it be overly burdensome regulations, wasteful bureaucracy, or something else.
The starting point for our future leaders should always be: how is government contributing to this problem? Address those issues first. The very last resort should be to turn to taxpayers.
2. Support and defend ALL of our fundamental rights
When Article II of Montana’s Constitution lays out the inalienable rights of its citizens, the most fundamental of our rights as human beings, included is the right of “acquiring, possessing and protecting property”.
We’ve certainly heard a lot of noise this campaign season about other fundamental rights in Montana’s Constitution like our right to privacy and our right to a clean and healthy environment. But when it comes to property rights, it’s been crickets.
When Montana’s future leaders take the oath of office in Montana, they pledge to support and defend all of our fundamental rights, not just the ones that are popular.
The rights of property owners to conduct business, build homes or engage in agriculture — or any number of other possibilities — on their own land are part of our inalienable human rights and deserve vigorous support.
3. Seek friends, not enemies
Frederick Douglass famously declared “I would unite with anybody to do right; and with nobody to do wrong.” This mantra should be embraced by all of Montana’s future leaders. While Montana’s government has traditionally avoided much of the vicious politics we see play out on the national stage, friendliness can start to fade as election season reaches the home stretch. Remember that people of all political stripes are individuals deserving of dignity. Remember that it’s OK to have respectful disagreements on policy. Focus on finding common ground around solutions.
This column originally appeared in Lee Newspapers