What is “Moral Government?”

April 18, 2019

by Rob Roper

There has been a steady stream of testimony over the past two years on the proposed $15 minimum wage and the mandatory Paid Family Leave program concluding that they will hurt the Vermont economy – cost people their jobs, negatively impact business, make government more expensive, and negatively impact state GDP. Every indication is that a majority of legislators simply don’t care. Rather than listen to the evidence and reach the logical (dare I say “moral”) conclusion that these things may have sounded like good ideas, but they are clearly not, and move on, they are coming up with emotion-based rationalities to go forward anyway.

The latest expression of this is an Op-Ed by freshman Rep. Randall Szott (D-Barnard) titled, “Toward a ‘Moral Economy’.”  In it he writes, “In much of the testimony on those bills we heard quite a bit about how they would affect businesses and the economy. Such information is important and useful, but I ran for office to consider bigger questions as well,” and opines about “values that don’t fit into a spreadsheet.” That’s all well and good, but his conclusions that inflicting significant pain on a majority of Vermonters because the underlying feeling surrounding these policies is one of “caring” is really twisted.

So, what is the moral role of government and those in power? It is best expressed in the Declaration of Independence, which states (emphasis added):

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed….

In other words, the legitimate functions of government are to keep people safe and leave us alone to pursue our own ambitions as each of us sees fit. Not as government sees fit. We do not elect representatives to make decisions for us about whether or not to purchase insurance products. Their job is to make sure we are free to make these decisions on our own. It is not their job to negotiate a fair wage between employer and employee. Their job is to make sure we are free to reach these agreements on our own, pursuing happiness in accordance with our own vision and convictions. Not theirs.

The wisdom of this can be seen in Rep. Szott’s background. He is a chef with a Masters Degree in fine arts. I have no reason to doubt he is excellent in these endeavors. But what does he know about running, for example, a gas station convenience store in general let alone a specific convenience store dealing with specific challenges? Probably not much and nothing at all respectively. Yet this guy and seventy-six or more people like him have come to the conclusion that making these decisions for us from a position of profound ignorance and lack of expertise is the “moral” thing to do. I don’t think so!

Rob Roper is president of the Ethan Allen Institute. 

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

John Mahaffy April 18, 2019 at 6:37 pm

Rob, nothing you say or write will penetrate the shell of progressive egoism of the kids who have taken it upon themselves to do the right thing by Vermont no matter what happens as a result. They’ve taken their cue from Pelosi et al’s congressional power grab, and received what amounts to a carte blanch from our spineless governor. Once Vermont has been destroyed, where do we go from here?

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Robert April 18, 2019 at 9:54 pm

The problem is they clearly are not doing what is “right” by Vermont. They are doing what is right in their emotionally immature imaginations. Coincidentally it was the great economist Thomas Sowell who said “It is usually futile to try to talk facts and analysis to people who are enjoying a sense of moral superiority in their ignorance.”

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Carol R Frenier April 19, 2019 at 1:33 am

Well done as always, Rob.

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