Pity the reason-bereft public policy perverters

Pity the reason-bereft public policy perverters

In the rough and tumble world of public policy formulation, it long has been far too convenient for far too many to forget the fundamentals of sound governing.

And it should never grow old brushing up on such grounding precepts.

To wit, it was Thomas Jefferson who reminded that “The art of governing consists simply of being honest, exercising common sense, following principle and doing what is right and just.”

Jefferson also reminded that “A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain from injuring one another … shall leave [the people] free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. That is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.”

But Plato also admonished that “If you do not take an interest in the affairs of your government, then you are doomed to live under the rule of fools.”

And C.S. Lewis warned that “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive.”

Said Hugo Grotius, “A man cannot govern a nation if he cannot govern a city; he cannot govern a city if he cannot govern a family; he cannot govern a family unless he can govern himself; and he cannot govern himself unless his passions are subject to reason.”

Back to Jefferson: “Were we directed from Washington when to sow and when to reap, we soon should want bread.”

Per Voltaire, “It is dangerous to be right in matters where established men are wrong.”

And, of course, “You need only reflect that one of the best ways to get yourself a reputation as a dangerous citizen these days is to go about repeating the very phrases which our Founding Fathers used in the struggle for independence,” reminds Charles A. Beard.

That said, it was George Washington who noted that “The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments.”

Never mind, as Louis Brandeis cautioned, that “Experience teaches us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when government’s purposes are ‘beneficent.’”

These are just a few of the foundational precepts that should guide the formulation of sound public policies. Tragically, too many of today’s public policy formulators smear them as either “antiquated,” “extreme” or both.

Pity the reason-bereft.

Colin McNickle is communications and marketing director at the Allegheny Institute for Public Policy (cmcnickle@alleghenyinstitute.org).