Roper: Would you let a class of college freshmen invest your life savings?

By Rob Roper

The “Morning Drive with Marcus and Kurt” on WVMT this morning featured two freshman lawmakers, one Democrat and one Republican, reflecting on what their first year was like in the Statehouse. Both remarked how much it was like going back to school; so much to learn. I’m sure this is the case. It is also at the root of why government should be limited in its scope and why, when it overreaches, government so often fails big time.

Rob Roper

Rob Roper is the president of the Ethan Allen Institute.

Think about this: The overwhelming majority of legislators enter their committee rooms knowing nothing or next to nothing about the subjects upon which they are asked to make laws. They’re just like first year college students in a 101 class. As described in this radio interview, it’s up to the experts (though rather than professors, these experts in Montpelier are trained lobbyists arguing on behalf of special interests) to come into the classroom and teach these empty skulls about their subjects.

This goes on for four-and-a-half months, or about as long as a single college semester. The committees (classes) meet for a couple hours a day four days a week. There is no enforced homework or outside reading requirement. There are no quizzes or tests to determine competency in the subject. But at the end of this “semester,” these students use their newfound knowledge to determine things like how to spend $1.7 billion to educate all of our children.

It’s not that these people aren’t smart (most are), or diligent, or don’t care about what they’re doing. Like any college class, there are the star students and the ones who are hungover and hiding in the corner. It’s just that nobody in their right mind would allow even the brightest bunch of freshmen business majors or biology majors from UVM or St. Mikes to, after one semester of study, design and implement a statewide health care system. Ever. Because they do not know what they are doing. Yet something like that is what happens in Montpelier every year.

Now, I am not arguing against a citizen legislature. What I am arguing for is applying the principle of limited government to the citizen legislature. As Abraham Lincoln explained so well, “government should do for people only what they cannot do better by themselves, and no more.”

The problem is, like most arrogant, ignorant freshmen, the folks we elect too often think that they always know better and can do always do better for us than we can for ourselves. They don’t. The mark of a good legislator is one who recognizes that fact and acts — or more importantly, refrains from acting — accordingly.

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. Reprinted with permission from the Ethan Allen Institute Blog.

Image courtesy of Flickr/Romer Jed Medina

5 thoughts on “Roper: Would you let a class of college freshmen invest your life savings?

  1. I’m not saying this out of any hubris and I will explain in a minute. When I served in the legislature 1983 in my first term I was able to set up the strategy for passing a major piece of legislation in the Fish and Wildlife World something unheard of a Muzzleloader season. In the second year of that by illenium we passed that bill on a Voice vote after losing it in the first year bias can’t 4 volts. Also in my first year I reported out of the education committee as Clerk a major bill on corporal punishment which was overwhelmingly passed and is now banned since that time. In those two terms I was also the major sponsor of a landlord tenant bill which was a bill that Madeleine kunin had failed even to get out of committee while she was in the legislature and we got that bill passed on a Voice vote with tremendous bipartisan support. Now for the reasoning behind this. When I ran I was an educator in the Middle School in Rutland town I was also chairman of the Recreation Commission I just got into major projects including a brand new pool for our town done with 10% Town match money and had written grants involving this project and all the while operating a business in the original great Rutland Mall. I also coached and I’m tired Little League games and was active in the PTO. I had not only the experience the business experience the educational experience and knowledge in a great number of areas but also the desire to learn and a willingness to put myself forward even as a freshman which was kind of unheard of at the time because even back then we were expected to go up there and sit on our duffs for at least four to six years before we ever even spoke on the floor. Not me I wanted to get things done and I was a Democrat that got elected in almost a totally Republican District because the people knew but I didn’t care about their politics wanted to go up there and serve them. Unfortunately in that time. Even though there were ideological issues that we were forced to adhere there was a genuine bipartisan spirit on multitude of issues and a comradery and respect for one another as individuals that didn’t allow the pettiness and one-sided approach that our recent legislators have taken. Back then the winners didn’t get the whole pie they got a good portion of it I majority of it but the losers were well represented on committees and we’re not treated with the disrespect that the minority party has had to face in recent years. This is the saddest thing I have ever witnessed and an abomination in terms of representation of the people of this state. When did it ever become the rule that when you win an election by small margin of even 5 to 10% that the other 40 to 46% of your state or country now counts for nothing? This must change if we were ever get back to progress Financial stability an economic parody that will allow people reasonable means to work play and raise a family in this state and that my friends is sadly becoming only a dream. I apologize for the long post but I thought about this long and hard and I love my state.

    • Don, You were elected because you knew something. Accomplished much
      Now we elect folks who might never had had a job, bored housewives, young activists.
      We no longer respect experience and ability when we vote, and that discourages those of wisdon and experience from even running for office. When good people see the mess that is Montpeculiar today, they run away from getting involved with those actist do-gooders.
      Can we recruit some legislators who might have signed the front of paychecks, who have created something for themselves, who have retired and still have much to offer, who do not run to represent a lobbying group, medical, solar, unions etc.
      We need change and we need it fast – we are drowning in taxes and still drowning in debt.

  2. Here’s the statement ” The problem is, like most arrogant, ignorant freshmen ” in their
    fresh minds we are old an know nothing……Boy, do they have a lesson to learn !!

    I use to work for a major manufacturer and trained plenty of 4.0 Grads, yes very book smart
    and eager and a chip on their shoulder, but let’s just say common sense that was left at the door
    with most.

    Freshman in budget-driven politics, now that’s scary………..But look what we have running the
    show today…..Maybe I’m wrong !!

  3. “How many people have 6 months of savings in the bank? For many in the financial world, this is the beginning of financial stability and independence.”

    I didn’t till I was able to escape the high taxes, fees, and general cost of living in VT . I even have a college savings account now for my 3 kids. Nothing short of a pipe dream in VT. Go figure.

  4. Our populace in general is financially ignorant, I had to learn the hard way.

    How many people have an emergency fund of $1,000 in the bank. If you don’t have this, you very well could be in serious jeopardy.

    How many people have 6 months of savings in the bank? For many in the financial world, this is the beginning of financial stability and independence.

    How many in government are DEBT FREE? Being debt free is one of the most liberating and fulfilling things a person or family can do. How many in office are debt free? Those who have this skill set can determine what is necessary and what is a want. People need to learn the power and freedom offered by delayed gratification.

    There are 20 year olds who have a handle on money, Rob’s right, most don’t. My nephew who isn’t going to college is earning a great living, just bought his first house with 70 acres and has a 10 year note for $45,000. It was stunning, refreshing and very hopeful to listen to this young man’s acumen, if we educated our children in these ways we’d be better off. His family helped him start his business raising cattle at age 8……pretty cool if you ask me.

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