Last revised 8 June 2007
I earlier had thought this might be obvious, but now I'm guessing there are some legislators who might not mind a few hints on how to support liberty in the legislature (and to get a more satisfactory score in this Index as a side benefit). Here are my suggestions.
Many will recognize this concept from medical practice. I suppose the normal urge for anyone going into the legislature is to get things done, but this is an urge that belongs on a very short leash. It's likely that every piece of legislation has unintended consequences, and over time those consequences can be overpowering - the "cure" becomes worse than the disease.
One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.
-- Thomas Reed
It may be that your constituents are even more interested in your stopping things being done, than in your doing things.
No doubt there is a tendency to vote yes on collegues' bills, because if you vote yes for his, he's inclined to vote yes for yours. I recall the term "logrolling" from my old civics class. Try to fight this tendency, especially if you have not spent much time researching the bill or even reading it at all (I know this happens). The fact is, there is about a 3:1 ratio of liberty-harming bills to liberty-helping bills in the legislature, such that a legislator who simply voted "no" on all bills would almost certainly be helping liberty more than any other legislator. Make that colleague earn your "yes" vote, and make sure the bill does not harm liberty first.
The Wyoming Constitution considers an absence to be the same as a "no" vote. Not showing up is the same thing as voting no. How convenient, that doing nothing actually helps liberty; usually that is not the case. One legislator managed to make the top of the index due largely to absence.
Understand what is liberty and what is not. Try to make it something you keep in mind when considering bills. Ideally, make it the first and foremost consideration.
The state, and especially the federal constitutions, were written by people more concerned with freedom, in a lot of ways, than is common now in this time of huge governments. It's clear the constitutions are not paid much attention to lately, but if you do you will usually be supporting liberty.
See also the various writings of the founders.
There are some legislators who consistently show up at the top of the Liberty Index. Like constitutional considerations, they are not 100% reliable advocates for freedom – all have room for improvement – but they can help. Senator Cale Case especially, as an economist, should be able to inform about unintended consequences.
You may have differences of opinion with the LP; I know I do! But their positions are at least worth factoring into your consideration about a given bill. Find out how they stand on the issues. See also the Constitution Party platform.
When you get that urge to "improve" people, stop. It's not that people don't need improvement; everyone needs that. It's that improvement often happens better through persuasion, example and personal experience than from coercion. In fact, one wonders whether improvement via coercion is even real. Don't vote for "Nanny State" legislation. Don't treat citizens like cattle.
When the price tag on the bill is high, that is a big strike against it, where liberty (and the Wyoming Liberty Index) is concerned. Tax dollars are the easiest dollars to spend, but people who don't have much are dinged for that "great idea" some legislator has. Even with the severance tax, someone somewhere has to pay for it. And in a downturn, after all those pretty government programs develop a constituency, it becomes that much harder to tighten the belt. Huge pressures develop to hike taxes, as was done back in the '90's when the state sales tax was "temporarily" bumped from 3% to 4%. If money is coming in, it should be thrown into the PMTF where it will have the future effect of driving tax pressures down, rather than up.
Public money ought to be touched with the most scrupulous consciousness of honour. It is not the produce of riches only, but of the hard earnings of labour and poverty. It is drawn even from the bitterness of want and misery. Not a beggar passes, or perishes in the streets, whose mite is not in that mass.
-- Thomas Paine, Rights of Man