McClaughry: The Vermont Proposition and you

By John McClaughry

Two weeks ago I wrote a column on “The Vermont Proposition,” a product of 22 “rural summits” organized by the largely federally-funded Vermont Council on Rural Development (VCRD). While paying my respects to its authors — “well written, earnest, sometimes cogent, and in places inspiring” — I expressed considerable skepticism about such “vision statements.”

Many of the desired outcomes developed in the 26-page document are certainly worthwhile. Uniting to put an end to what racism may still exist is unarguable. Expanding economic opportunity, developing human capital, fostering innovation, creating jobs and creating a tax structure that encourages people to invest in Vermont are worthy goals, so long as the vision stops short of using government to underwrite crony capitalism for favored people and businesses.

John McClaughry

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Having said that, the Vermont Proposition is open to considerable criticism.

First, visionary documents are constructed and promoted by people enthusiastic about grand visions, and who often want to make sure that their pet interests are favorably promoted. I daresay that most of this subset of Vermonters doesn’t spend much time thinking about how these grand visions are going to be achieved, who is going to pay for them, and how much the liberties of ordinary people may be diminished.

Second, while some of the components of the desired vision can only be achieved by cultural and attitudinal changes, the vast majority of the outcomes require mobilizing the powers of government. This latest vision rests on the unspoken premise that it’s our government’s business to tax, invest, encourage, stimulate, empower, combat, protect, expand and modernize, until the people of Vermont are pushed or pulled to fall in line with the vision.

The most popular conclusion in the Vermont Proposition is “we need to invest in …” followed by a list that includes most every cause promoted by liberals.

Full disclosure would require a recognition that “we” are those in control of state government, and the needed investments require extracting money from actual people who earned it, and may have their own ideas about how to invest it.

For example, the document repeatedly points to the approaching terrors of climate change, said to be “the existential threat of our time”, that “left unaddressed, will produce cascading catastrophic impacts on communities, states, and ultimately on world civilization.”

Accordingly it demands that the legislature enact a carbon price (read: “tax”) or a CO2 emissions cap and trade plan — even if Vermont has to do it alone! A lot of Vermonters will not be thrilled with a virtue-signaling vision that drives up the cost of their motor and heating fuel in order to produce no detectable effect whatever on the planet’s future climate.

Third, the vision dwells on the evils of “the greatest disparity of wealth within a democratic society in world history….The wealthiest among us continue to grow their resources.” The obvious remedy for this outrage is to confiscate that excessive wealth and distribute it to everyone who thinks they deserve more. That’s the unstated centerpiece of the Vision’s recommendation for a new War on Poverty.

Fourth, the document extols enlarging preschools to include every child aged zero to five. The state will then have control of everyone’s children until they’re old enough to go to college free at taxpayer expense.

Finally, the vision exhibits a glaring disparity between its enthusiasm for “democracy”, and its even greater enthusiasm for creating utterly undemocratic regional administrative bodies directed by an all-powerful State Planning Office that “would be responsible for the statewide community and economic development and land use plans on a five year cycle.” Presumably you could still vote for governor, but that scheme looks to me more like replacing local democracy with a hugely expanded and unaccountable administrative state.

What does the vision not include? You won’t even find the words “property” and “liberty”, both being unworthy of concern. You won’t find any mention of the state’s $5.6 billion in unfunded state retirement liabilities, or any recognition of the regulatory burdens facing Vermont enterprises, except possibly for housing that complies with “smart growth” dictates (clustered in downtowns). Nor is there any explanation of how Vermont taxpayers are going to pay for anything close to their state’s present $7.7 billion per year government once the present cornucopia of federal spending tapers off.

Paul Costello, the executive director of the sponsoring organization (VCRD), has put out an urgent argument for adopting the vision. “This is the moment for Vermonters to line up for action” … to drive priorities forward,” led by a Vermont Action Team now in formation.

Vision statements are not without some aspirational merit, but the Vermont Proposition seriously needs to be put on the shelf.

John McClaughry is vice president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Image courtesy of John McClaughry

8 thoughts on “McClaughry: The Vermont Proposition and you

  1. It’s not about little Vermont. It’s about the Great Reset. That’s the head; Vermont is just a little toe on the body of this beast.

    Here’s the Great Reset:

    The Fourth Industrial Revolution. What exactly does that mean? That means that technology will be used to track, trace, and monitor everyone. This is where the Great Reset is headed. It’ll be for ‘the greater good,’ but you and I will have no say in what that good is. CRT-ists, leftists, the CCP, and authoritarians everywhere will revel in this new socialist empire. They’re already loudly proclaiming all the talking points of the new order, even if they fail to give credit to its source.

    A clip from the linked video showing Trump at the WEF makes it clear why they were willing to do anything to keep him from a second term.

  2. Whatever happened to liberty, individual self-determination, and tolerance as a vision for America and Vermont?

    The idea of catastrophic climate change is a core idea in the schemes of the left. They can always fall back on ‘saving the planet’ as justification for almost anything. As most readers of TNR know, catastrophic CO2 warming is fiction. But now this adds a sense of urgency and a sense of global thinking into the mix, so that we’re told that we can’t just stand by.

  3. Life plans based on ‘theory’ or ‘models’ is always doomed to NOT have a good foundation in REALITY and LIFE, and have huge HOLES that keep the from functioning in any kind of syntropic or life affirming direction. Doomed to fail.
    When we base our choices and plans on LIFE, then we will see LIFE burgeoning and thriving all around us.
    Right now, we are in a steep spiral of chaos, death cult eugenics (Vermont IS the home of Eugenics and Planned Parenthood), and CCP coup-de-tat that has yet to settle into the complacent lives of escapees from urban insanity that polices the living, not the corrupt leading the lemmings over the cliff, alive and well in this State, as evidenced by fines levied on a store owner for non-compliance with an illegal order…chinese style.
    If we keep NOT talking about the NWO and who is behind that pulling those strings, we will forever be the gerbil in the gerbil cage.
    And it sure seems like Vermonts are quite content to be fed by the feds, and not learn or remember how to feed ourselves.
    But yeah…lets ignore that elephant in the room: the CCP coup de’tat extant in Vermont and now running our state and federal gov’ts (Biden connection anyone?)

  4. Thank you John. Your concise summary explains the expected “vision” of the progressive left Vermont Consigliere. The Democratic liberty of those of us that believe strongly in hard work, free enterprise and entrepreneurship seems doomed in the Social Experiment that is now Vermont.

  5. Kudos to you, John. That is about as clear as statement as you can get about our current reality.

  6. Do any of the desired outcomes include a mention of expanding the availability of School Choice Tuition vouchers to all Vermont parents?

    Hopefully, that “a group of Vermont parents are suing the state and local school districts over unequal access to education under the state’s 150-year-old Town Tuitioning system” (Vitale v. Vermont) will be decided soon. According to the suit (and the facts of the matter) the current program violates the state constitution by allowing children residing in certain school districts to attend the school of their choice and denying the same right to others.

    If ‘expanding economic opportunity, developing human capital, fostering innovation, creating jobs and creating a tax structure that encourages people to invest in Vermont are worthy goals, ‘School Choice is the first tangible next step to getting us there.

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