L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 78, June 26, 2000
'Hi, What Is The Purpose Of Government?'
by Vin Suprynowicz
Special to TLE
Recently, the editor of the newspaper sent around a memo to the Opinion staff, advising us: "We need to send a questionnaire to candidates. Please give me ideas for questions. ..."
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1) Can lawmakers enact legislation for any purpose "in the public interest," or are they limited to those functions for which they've been delegated specific powers? Can you name some areas where government could probably do some good, but where it has no delegated power to act? If you can't name any such areas, is it still accurate to say Americans have a "government of limited powers"? Does this matter?
2) Can you name any departments or programs not specifically authorized in the state's (or the nation's) founding documents? Should someone who has sworn an oath to protect the Constitution, but who then votes to allocate tax funds to programs or departments not authorized by that Constitution, be punished? If not, why not?
3) Can you name a current tax that you would repeal? A fee?
4) Are residents of our state free to engage in any business they choose? Is operating any local business for profit a privilege, for which a citizen should apply for a permit, paying a fee or tax? Would you favor any changes in this regard?
5) Do residents of this state have a right to buy and keep machine guns? Why or why not?
6) Do residents of this state have a right to carry handguns openly on their hips without applying for or receiving a "permit"? Why or why not? Would you change current law enforcement in this area? In what way?
7) Should judges tell jurors they have a right to decide whether the law in question is constitutional? Is it a fair trial if the judge tells the jurors they do NOT have a right to decide the constitutionality of the law? Should judges be allowed to prevent defendants from presenting any defense they choose? If not, what is the proper recourse in the case of a judge who refuses to let the defendant do so?
8) Should judges exclude prospective jurors after questioning them and determining they do not favor the law which the prosecution seeks to enforce? If so, why do we still call them "random juries"? Does that mean the John Peter Zenger jury should have been stacked with crown sympathizers? Should juries have been stacked in the 1850s to guarantee convictions under the Fugitive Slave Act? Should judges be punished for thus excluding jurors based on "voir dire" questioning? Alfred the Great summarily executed judges who replaced jurors who refused to convict. Would this be a good solution for us to adopt, today? Why not?
9) Should it be legal for police to search automobiles without a warrant? Is it OK for police to tell drivers they have to consent to such a search? If a police officer searches a car without a warrant, should the police officer be arrested and put on trial? If not, why not?
10) If a police officer stops a car in which the driver is carrying a legal pistol, with a permit, should the officer disarm the driver before proceeding to write a ticket? Why or why not?
11) If police serve a search warrant which does not list any firearms, but they find firearms in the house being searched, is it OK for them to seize the firearms anyway? Why or why not? Would you favor a law to alter current practice in this regard? If so, specify.
12) Do we need more "gun control" (victim disarmament) laws? If so, name one new "gun control" law you would favor. If not, can you name a current "gun control" law you would repeal?
13) Can a tax rate be so high that it's not acceptable? If so, name a tax rate so high that citizens would be under no moral obligation to pay it. If you can't name such a rate, are you saying the government has a right to take 100 percent of what we earn and what we own?
14) Is the war on drugs succeeding? Can it succeed? Should all drugs be legalized? If not, why not? Should recreational drug users be committed for psychiatric treatment?
15) Whose powers are limited by the 10th Amendment? Can you think of any ways to improve enforcement of the 10th Amendment? No, you can't look it up.
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Perhaps a few of these questions will make the final list. If so, I'll let you know how our current crop of local office-seekers fare.
In the meantime, if you get a chance to chat with one of your local politicians at a picnic in your hometown this summer, don't fall into the old trap of asking "What are you going to do to get more funding for (insert your favorite government program here)?"
Instead, try one or two of the questions above. If you still believe this is the "land of the free," the answers you hear -- or the look of horror that flashes briefly across that face before he or she spots someone across the way he just has to go see -- may shock you.