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Friday, December 13, 2013
Principles, Principles, and Amnesty

. . . In which I offer amnesty to two good men who are in a challenging position -- and it has nothing to do with immigration.

The post is a continuation of yesterday's and might make a little more sense if you've already read that one. 

Principles and Principles

I've been told for years in Utah politics, by similar zealots to those I discussed yesterday, that I am unprincipled. This is because my principles sometimes lead me in a different direction from theirs. I'm used to it, and it doesn't bother me, because I know it's false. And I'm enough of adult that I don't call the zealots unprincipled just because we disagree. That said, there is a sense in which this is about principles.

The zealots rising in American Fork have a few political principles, to which they cling with commendable passion. Most of them are true principles, by my lights, but they have turned malignant -- which means that, unchecked, they will destroy the organism.

The smaller problem here is that their core principles are insufficiently nuanced.

For example, they're very attached to the United States Constitution, as am I, and to its enumeration of powers and the underlying principle of limited government. But in their minds the principle of limited government applies in essentially the same way to all levels of government, while in my mind it cannot. It must be different for local and state governments, if for no other reason than this: A key motive for the Constitution's limits on federal power was to reserve all other powers for lower levels of government. Read the Tenth Amendment, and for that matter the Ninth. Look up " police power." In this context it doesn't mean what most people think it means, and in the United States the general police power belongs primarily to state and local governments.

Furthermore, the zealots typically speak as if all government were evil, and all taxation too. In my mind, limited government is good and necessary, and I reason that the necessary taxation to support it is therefore also good and necessary. Evil arises when government or taxation gets too large; usually these ills occur together.

The zealots' larger problem is that, while they have firm principles, they don't have enough of them, so they are not forced as they should be to reconcile and balance a larger set of principles. The resulting lack of balance is why so much of what they say and do seems to be . . . unbalanced.

For example, if they understood and valued the essential role of streets, libraries, parks, and other things experience has shown it is sensible for local governments to provide, they would have to balance that principle against their conviction that no tax is low enough and no government starved enough. If economic growth were for them a firm and enlightened principle, they would be better poised to balance reasonably the costs and benefits of things which attract and support economic growth.

This sort of internal balance among numerous good principles would make these earnest people a genuine asset to local government.

Really? ObamaCare?

ObamaCare has become the new progressive, which became the new socialist, which became the new communist, which became the new Hitler, or something like that. It's the word zealots and low-information voters use for anything governmental they don't like, which is almost everything, these days. I hate ObamaCare, too (the real thing). It's about the most ridiculous way I can imagine to pursue an inherently destructive goal.

That said, the zealots are peddling a vision of American Fork which is a lot like ObamaCare -- a city which, down the road, most folks won't even want to live in. But that's okay, because most people won't be able to afford it, either. Insurance rates, lawsuits, neglected infrastructure, collapsing tax base . . . As with ObamaCare, the zealots are promising lower costs now but will deliver unaffordably high costs later. The chief difference may not be left versus right. It may be that some folks in Washington know perfectly well that they're destroying people; it's worth it to them to destroy the private medical industry. Folks here (like a few folks there, I suppose) think they are saving us, lifting us to their higher moral plane.

Heaven forfend. I need an extra savior like I need a hole in my pocket. The One I have already is perfectly, comprehensively adequate, and then some.

Let the zealots rule, and our property values will be harmed. Our economic growth will be harmed. Our taxes will be going up -- because the majority of voters will not fix the roof when the rain is dripping all over the living room, and they'll punish anyone who tries. The sort of neighbors who stabilize neighborhoods -- not to mention city budgets -- will destabilize their neighborhoods by leaving. Businesses will shortly follow, if they don't actually lead the way.

Amnesty. Really.

We'll talk here about reasonable things real people with real lives can actually do to protect our present and future from the zealots and their small and unbalanced collection of principles. We'll also discuss how we might solve our road problem and the political problems which underlie and complicate it.

For now, I have an offer for the two councilmen-elect, Mr. Jeffrey Shorter and Mr. Carlton Bowen. Since I seem to be the one paying the most attention -- in public-facing, written terms -- to American Fork politics and its distempers at the moment, I'm offering these two zealots . . .


Here's what that looks like, if you're one of them.

I'll do my best to forget and stop harping on the crazy stuff you said in the campaign. (I've already given you a pass on some things most voters never actually heard.)  I'll back off between now and your swearing-in in January, and for the rest of the month of January, while you come to grips for a while with the learning curve and the sense of obligation to represent all of American Fork, not just your faction. I'll even give you February 1.

On Groundhog Day, the the free pass ends. Thereafter, I will campaign as hard as my busy schedule allows for good, wise, sensible, adult government in American Fork, which I hope will include you. I'll get as many people to join me as I can. Starting on Groundhog Day, if you insist on being uninformed ideologues or narrowly-principled zealots, your names will come up.

By the way, this amnesty only applies to the councilmen-elect. It does not embrace the whole zealot faction.

Here's why you two gentlemen get special treatment: I need you to govern wisely. I want you to succeed in doing so.


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