It should be no surprise that an organization interested in individual liberty and private property is more fundamentally concerned with life. The three are inseparably and inherently connected; a person cannot fully enjoy one without the others.
We are shocked and appalled to read some of the details from the grand jury report of the case against Dr. Kermit Gosnell, a 72 year old doctor who ran two lucrative abortion practices. He is accused of seven counts of first-degree murder, and is standing trial in a courtroom with very little media attention.
The gruesome details contained in that report bring to light years of alleged abuse, late-term abortions, and the killing of babies who were born alive and healthy, contrary to the wishes of their mothers. We will spare our readers the explicit content contained in the report. Suffice it to say that the alleged actions are heinous beyond any sense of human decency. If the accusations are proven accurate in court, then we do not hesitate to consider Gosnell a monster and murderer.
For all the brewing outrage in this case, it should be noted that the issues in play have more application than Gosnell alone. Indeed, the entire abortion system and its cheerleaders are implicated by Gosnell’s abortion scheme.
So to you, the members of the House of Representatives, I’m pleading with you to remember this one word for the next 45 days: restraint.
Restraint, representatives. Make sure to take a second and third look at that legislation you are proposing. Do we really need it? It’s been said that we each commit three federal felonies a day whether we know it or not because of the complexity of federal code. Do we as a Legislature really want to be in that kind of company? Creating so many regulations, complicating so many issues, that the average citizen can’t help but run afoul of the law?
Restraint, representatives. Read through the bills brought to you by outside influences. Ask tough questions, even if what you’re being asked to carry sounds innocuous. Especially then! If you hear anyone say, “This is really a very simple bill,” that should be your first warning. A little restraint today, means a lot less trouble down the road.
766 bills and resolutions were introduced in this past session—one more than last year. By that metric alone, it appears that no noticeable restraint was shown in comparison to last year.
I’ve lost track of the number of times the “think of the children!” argument has been used during this legislative session. From just the committee meetings I’ve listened to and attended, we’ve easily exceeded double digits. This is a problematic trend.
Of course, it’s not at all worrisome to be concerned about kids and ensure that public policy protects their rights as much as anybody else’s. But the undue focus on protecting children from harm too often comes in conjunction with an illegitimate violation of an adult’s liberty. Such is the case with many of the bills presented in the past few weeks.
Consider a bill which cleared its final legislative hurdle on Friday: HB13. This bill, sponsored by Rep. Arent, bans individuals from smoking in their vehicles when a child is present. Supporters repeatedly emphasized that children need to be protected against second-hand smoke, and that the government must act on this compelling interest. In the name of “the children,” and assuming the Governor signs the bill, adults will now be penalized for participating in a legal activity (smoking).
The same logic used to promote this bill would necessitate (for consistency’s sake) banning smoking inside homes, criminalizing parents feeding their kids too much sugar, putting a cap on the number of hours children watch TV, and even mandating daily exercise. After all, if the state has a compelling interest to ensure that children remain healthy, free from interference even from their parents, then HB13 is only a small step in a much larger array of actions required.
Exactly 70 years ago today, an innocent young woman was executed. Sophie Scholl, a 21-year-old university student at the University of Munich in Germany, had defied the Nazi regime and for her supposed crime had her head severed from her body by a well-used guillotine.
During the height of the Nazi party’s power, Sophie and a few co-conspirators produced and distributed a series of six leaflets condemning the government and calling for an end to the war. These were branded under the name “The White Rose,” the name of their non-violent resistance group promoting peace in the shadow of Germany’s tyrannical state.
Once they were caught and arrested, Sophie, her brother, and a friend were given a “show trial” and within mere hours were beheaded. While thousands of Germans were likewise charged with treason and sent to their death, Sophie’s story is inspiringly unique.
Two weeks ago marked the beginning of the 2013 general legislative session in Utah, where legislators, lobbyists, and citizen activists converge on the Capitol to promote their personal, political, and corporate interests.
To educate and remind Utahns of what this means for them, we decided to post a billboard along I-15 which clarifies the situation more forcefully than many seem to understand. It’s taken from a well known quote by Gideon J. Tucker: “No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
In an 1866 ruling as a “surrogate” (judge) presiding over a lawsuit against the estate of a deceased individual, Tucker used the quote above to highlight the importance of constantly monitoring what legislators were doing. This is made more explicit in a preceding sentence where Tucker indicated that an issue at the heart of the lawsuit ”arose from want of diligent watchfulness in respect to legislative changes.” In other words, somebody had violated the law because they didn’t realize that the law had recently changed.
This point is a perfect example of what James Madison wrote nearly a century earlier. In Federalist 62, Madison decried the constant changing of “laws” which had no solid foundation and which were altered for unnecessary reasons:
The internal effects of a mutable policy are still more calamitous. It poisons the blessing of liberty itself. It will be of little avail to the people, that the laws are made by men of their own choice, if the laws be so voluminous that they cannot be read, or so incoherent that they cannot be understood; if they be repealed or revised before they are promulgated, or undergo such incessant changes that no man, who knows what the law is today, can guess what it will be tomorrow. Law is defined to be a rule of action; but how can that be a rule, which is little known, and less fixed?
Utahns have the good fortune, compared to other states, of being ruled by a legislature which is only in session 45 calendar days per year (excluding infrequent and brief interim sessions). This part time status significantly reduces the harm that could otherwise be done by full time career politicians. (Ahem.)
But a lot can be done in 45 days, and Utah’s legislature being only part-time does not mean that liberty is never violated in this state. The opposite is true, and there is much that needs to be done to correct it. The laws in Utah are indeed “mutable” (constantly changing), and often in a direction inimical to individual liberty.
This is seen most easily in our Legislation Tracker, where we sift through the hundreds of proposed bills being proposed in the legislature and highlight the ones that strongly support or oppose liberty. At the time of this writing, there are 38 ranked bills, 30 of which the Libertas Institute opposes because they violate life, liberty, or property. That’s not a very good track record for this session so far.
A sign in the office belonging to the Speaker of the (Utah) House of Representatives, Becky Lockhart, states: ”Never underestimate the power of stupid people in a large group.” This power, the not-so-proverbial “tyranny of the majority,” is one which year after year, decade after decade, has methodically and increasingly been used to violate, and not protect, the liberty of individuals governed by the “large group” of politicians.
It is for that very reason that Tucker noted that one’s life, liberty, and property are not safe when the legislature is in session—the very people who in theory should be securing individual rights are the ones who actively violate them. Our billboard will be on display along I-15 for the next two months, standing as a reminder of the legislative threat to liberty that will exist for the next several weeks.
The hallmark of any good politician (which is not something to which one should aspire) is the ability to take credit for successes not of your making, and deflect accountability and responsibility for problems of your doing. It is a skill endemic to the political class generally, and rarely are people with significant power immune to it.
The fruits of this skill were visible in last night’s State of the State address by Governor Herbert and in past speeches and statements he has made. The existence of this trait does not necessarily mean that Herbert is immoral, incompetent, or ignorant; he is certainly not alone in exhibiting this trait. Really, Herbert’s taking partial credit for Utah’s greatness and sidestepping Utah’s problems says much less about Herbert than it does about the rest of us—those who buy into the flowery rhetoric and sound bytes without challenging claims and pressing for more substance.
We are often told how great Utah is—that it is the best managed state, that businesses are flocking to our state with jobs, that low taxes and regulations earn the state one accolade after another. And while outside organizations do offer their praise, many of the successes with which politicians pad their campaign mailers come not because of government involvement, but in spite of it. Many of these benchmarks do not indicate how well the government is doing, but rather how well private industry and society are faring despite the state.
Last night’s address painted a picture of a mythical Utah. Those who wish to truly understand the nature and condition of the state cannot be content with fairytales and incomplete descriptions. The truth is much different than what was said last night. For that reason, Libertas Institute has decided to provide Utahns with a more accurate State of the State—no rhetoric, just reality.
Senator Stuart Reid has sponsored SB39, titled “Parental Responsibility for Sex Education Training,” which requires the state of Utah to develop and promote materials for parents to teach their kids the “birds and the bees.” If this isn’t a prime example of big government doing what it shouldn’t, we don’t know what is.
It’s common sense that, as the bill’s title says, parents have the responsibility to teach their children about what sex is. That hardly offers any justification for the government to force taxpayers to cough up money to fund the development and promotion of sex education materials. If some parents are perceived to be failing in this responsibility, then private organizations—churches, non-profit groups, parental support institutions—should be encouraged to help provide materials.
This morning, several state officials elected last November were sworn into office. Most of them did so as part of an elaborate ceremony featuring a 19-gun salute from the Utah National Guard, a military aircraft flyover, and performances from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a children’s choir, and the Utah National Guard’s 23rd Army Band. The estimated cost to Utah taxpayers was in the ballpark of $30,000.
With a $13 billion annual budget in Utah, it may perhaps seem misguided to fret over such a comparatively small amount. But anybody working to overcome a spending addiction knows that even the small wasteful expenditures must be curtailed—after all, small things add up quickly.
More important than the sum is the determination of whether the expense is justified at all. Should individuals in Utah be forcibly taxed so that politicians can throw themselves a fancy party?
‘Twas the night before the Fiscal Cliff, and all throughout the House,
Few stood on principle, most cowered like a mouse;
The reality seems obvious; we’re free-falling off the cliff,
Why this is so hard for them to see has really got me miffed;
Our children are nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of the American dream dance in their heads;
Lower taxes, prosperity, and less government intrusion,
I’m starting to wonder if it’s all an illusion.
The answer is there for all who take heed,
Just follow our founders and they’ll take the lead;
The federal government has outgrown itself,
We should either trim it down or put it on the shelf.
In a 9-3 vote yesterday, the Utah Judicial Council voted to allow audio and video recordings of proceedings in trial courts around the state. This is a win for transparency in the court, and helps a variety of interested parties better understand what is going on behind the government’s closed doors.
Prior to the vote, Utah was one of only 15 states that prohibited TV cameras from being present in the courtrooms. While yesterday’s decision still allows judges to prohibit recordings with cause, this general allowance now affords outside parties, including all Utahs, the ability to see and hear what judges around the state are doing.