Shoots from the Grassroot Institute – Jan. 12, 2004-Political Arithmetic – Can They Add or Only Subtract?

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“Dick Rowland Image”

As a long time observer of politics, including the unintended, often awful, consequences of public policy actions and the posturing that accompanies the mostly hopeless search for someone or something genuinely responsible and accountable for all the ensuing mischief, I have grown completely bored with the meaningless labels — left and right. The same goes for “conservative” or “liberal.” Prior to 1900, “liberal” was the term used to describe what are now called “libertarians.” So I say off with all that language. Instead, why not concentrate on the end result whether intended or not.


It seems to me that every public policy advocated has as its probable bottom line (intended or not); either more individual autonomy, responsibility and accountability or less. If it falls on the “more” side it should, according to the U.S. Declaration of Independence, be a move in the direction the nation’s founders envisioned. Thus, I would assign it a plus (+) as something moving us in a moral direction. On the contrary, an action or policy that denigrates personal choice and accountability, giving additional power to a central authority at the direct expense or decrease of personal accountability would be a minus (-).

Today, a “rightwinger” wants to dictate from on high what substance an individual might decide to ingest. On the other hand, the “leftwinger” wants to demand price controls from above for gasoline, etc. In general terms, the “rights” want less personal freedom in social areas while the “lefts” are obsessed with putting government power to work controlling individuals in their economic endeavors. Both are very industrious in calling for creating more laws, most of which produce more crime. They are, in essence, “Crime Creators.”

Quite frankly, I am sick of both sides, in particular their holier than thou posturing as they claim to be promoting morality by limiting human options instead of expanding them. Here are the critical questions:

*”Is personal choice an essential element in defining morality?”

*”Is it moral to do or not do something solely because someone puts a gun to your head and says that is your only choice?”

*”Is all law moral?”

*”If you decide to do or not do something because you perceive it the proper way, fully prepared to handle the consequences, are you acting morally?”

But there exists a significant problem in this (+) and (-) formulation. Humans, most notably political ones, are great at rationalizing. Since it is conventional to be “for” human freedom and “against” tyranny, most of them cloak their remarks in language designed to make negatives appear positive. It is as the Lou Boyd Revisited column in ”’The Honolulu Advertiser”’ recently observed: “Some say ‘down escalator’ is an oxymoron, some don’t.” Those who are focused on destroying liberty want to ignore the potential oxymoron. When they direct you and me to the escalator, and it goes down instead of up, any complaints are handled accordingly — “it is an escalator, isn’t it?” And, as in George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” some pigs are more equal than others. Or, per his “1984”; “War is Peace” and “Peace is War.” So, to these people, plus is minus, and minus is plus. That’s the way they talk. Thus, our mental scorecards are a mess causing confusion to reign supreme when we consider “political” things.

At GRIH, we are considering labeling each piece of proposed legislation with a (-) or (+) according to our opinion of the probable real world long-term results if the legislation became law.

Do you think it would be useful for GRIH to label pending legislation plus or minus?

Click here to vote:

”’Richard O. Rowland is president of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii, a non-partisan, non-profit public policy institute focused on promoting the free-market, individual freedom and liberty. He can be reached via email at:”’ ”’More information about the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii can be found at its Web site at”’

”’This editorial is intended to provoke thought, discussion and an examination of issues. It does not reflect official policy of the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii.”’

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