Paul Jacob

Recently, a friend of mine stopped short our banter about the initiative process to say something like this:

“Paul, you and I have given a great deal of thought to government, to politics. I think we very much agree across the board, on free markets and constitutionally-limited government. Yet, when we talk about the initiative process, you seem to see it as wholly positive, while I’m constantly afraid of what the Left might do.

“Aren’t you afraid of the Left? And what the Left can do with the ballot initiative?”

“No,” I said, “I’m not.”

I explained that my stand isn’t one of bravery. It’s one of realism.

There are really two issues: (1) fear of the Left, and (2) fear of the voters passing laws through the ballot initiative process available in 24 states and most local jurisdictions.

If the Left is defined as the Democrats in Washington, then, yes, I’m plenty scared. Policies do have consequences.

But Washington’s enormous and much-too-malevolent power has nothing to do with voter initiatives . . . which, after, don’t exist at the federal level. Not surprisingly, neither partisan pack of congressional leaders are pushing a federal voter initiative.

Furthermore, by this major-party definition, I’m afraid of the Right, too. Look what enormities united government under the Republicans accomplished! (Sometimes it seems that half my time doing my Common Sense radio spots is listing the evils committed by Republicans. The other half, of course, falls against the Democrats.)

But the Left, like the Right, is not so easily defined. The real Left exists much further out than Democratic politicians dare go. And they’ve far less in common with the bulk of the American people than us limited government folk have.

It’s also the case that this “real” Left isn’t monolithically Evil. I’ve worked with liberals, socialists, Democrats, Greens, etc., as well as opposed them. I cannot see them as aliens bent on xenocide, who must be opposed in every measure, as being created to one malign purpose.

In the end, it is issues that matter. And on a number of issues, we in favor of free markets and constitutionally limited government can make common cause with folks on the Left (even if not always with the group, Common Cause). Corporate welfare comes to mind. As do term limits and transparency. Protecting the rule of law. There are plenty more, including opposition to government takings.

But what about the issues on which we disagree? Can the Left tempt the people down dangerous paths?

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.