by Robert Maynard
The left-wing blog “Green Mountain Daily” seems to be concerned about what it perceives as a shift to the right on the part of the Vermont GOP. In particular the article in question decried the rise to prominence within the party of “free-market fundamentalists”. I find the concern being expressed by the article to be a bit amusing as it totally misses the underlying dynamics of what is really happening. The Vermont GOP did not just decide on a whim to take a rightward turn, they are responding to the concerns expressed by a growing number of Vermonters about the direction of our state. Many of those spearheading this charge are relatively new to political activism and are concerned about their children’s future at a time when our state and national governments seem to have abandoned all pretense to fiscal sanity. To the extent that they see a return to the fundamentals of a free society as the answer to our current problems, perhaps they can be considered “free-market fundamentalists”. For most of these activists, spending away their children’s future on ill-advised social engineering schemes is an intensely moral issue, as is the lack of trust in the ability of the average Vermonters to make their own decisions that is at the heart of most of these schemes. Taking together such schemes seek to remove decision making power over a wide range of matters from average Vermonters and place that power in the hands of a supposedly all knowing and all powerful political class. Regular readers of True North Reports are aware of this trend, but lets do a review of some of the most obvious examples.
A May 2011 True North Reports article on Vermont becoming a petri dish for the creation of a “smart grid” revealed an interesting mindset among our would be social engineers. Rick Stulen, Vice President of Sandia National Laboratories, explained the goal of the Smart Grid system: “Part of what we’re about here in the next two days is about changing culture,” Stulen said. “It’s about changing human behavior.”
Here we have it. The goal of this endeavor is the “change human behavior”. Such a goal presupposes the notion that those socially engineering these changes know better than the rest of us how we should behave. Unfortunately, such notions are not isolated comments, but seem to be reflecting a pattern of thought that should give Vermonters pause. In a February 2011 article on this site, we noted that a similar notion was expressed as a justification for raising the cigarette tax. Usually the rational for raising taxes is the raise revenue in order to fund the necessary functions of government. Not so in this case: According to Tina Zuk, spokeswoman for the Coalition for a Tobacco Free Vermont: “The overall price per pack of tobacco would have to be increased by at least 10% to be an effective public health tool”. In other words, the purpose of the policy is to control behavior, not to raise the needed revenue. Again, the assumption is that the policy makers know how we should behave better than we do.
The problem is that in order to change the culture by changing our behavior, the would be social engineers need to be put in charge of us. In other words, we cannot be left in charge of ourselves. As pointed out in the following True North Reports Commentary, the problem that the left sees with our current healthcare system is that “No one is in charge”. This perceived problem was explicitly identified at a Democratic Party health care reform forum by both Anya Rader Wallack and Mark Larsen. What they really mean is that no would be social engineer is in charge. How can they socially engineer a cultural change by changing our behavior if we are left in control of our own behavior? The simple answer is that they can’t, they must be put in charge of everything if they are going to succeed in changing our behavior. Whether it is energy policy and the creation of a smart grid, tax policy, or our healthcare policy, the real question is who is to be put in control? The left is obsessed with this issue as they need such control to enact their social engineering schemes. Remember this when the subject comes up again about the five member board of unelected “Czars” who were put in control of our healthcare system.
These are but a few examples, but the theme of whether individual Vermonters and their families should be in charge of those decisions that most impact their lives, or should such decision making authority be given to a rising political class, is at the heart of most of the issues that define the upcoming elections. The left in Vermont have long shown a skepticism over the intellectual and moral capability of the average Vermonter to make their own decisions and seek to empower government approved officials to make those decisions for them. Some figures within the Vermont GOP are standing behind a growing group of concerned Vermont citizens who would like to see decision making authority, and the resources to implement those decisions, returned to the average Vermonters. This is essentially moral issue with fiscal implications, as the central planning of a society is expensive. In November we will be going to the voting booths to chose between two contrasting visions of Vermont’s future.