Rick Akin: Who should decide issues?


This is a question that is not asked nearly enough in the case of government action, particularly, it seems to me, in the case of Steamboat Springs city government. As each new issue arises, the City Council, the newspaper, and most of the populace seems to immediately consider the question of how the government should act to address the issue. We seem to have forgotten to analyze the initial question, which is who should be deciding the issue.

This country was founded on the principle of limited government by citizens who had tasted the ill effects of an intrusive and oppressive government from England. As Thomas Jefferson put it, "My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government."

We have to remember that government action is, by its nature, coercive. In the case of regulation, the liberties of the regulated are limited by the actions of the government. In the case of taxes, as Ayn Rand often said, the government confiscates the assets of the taxpayer at the point of a gun. Rand's characterization may seem extreme, but just consider what would happen if you steadfastly refused to pay taxes.

I have often heard the activities of an over-energetic government justified by those who simply say that "the community" should decide. This is a euphemism. In fact, the practical result of this approach is that the government, using its coercive power, will decide. Even in cases where this government action has the support of the majority of citizens, we should all reflect on the words of James Madison, the primary author of our Constitution, who said, "In Republics, the great danger is that the majority may not sufficiently respect the rights of the minority."

You should also consider that often government officials or regulators are simply not well situated to make decisions. Often they simply do not have a good understanding of the activities that they purport to regulate. In this regard, I often remember a story told by my father, who worked all his life in the Oklahoma oil field in a plant that produced propane and butane (referred to as LPG). On the door of the Washington office that regulated this activity were the words "Low Pressure Gas." This is a bit disconcerting since LPG stands for "Liquefied Petroleum Gas." We should not assume that the government's knowledge of any regulated activity is any greater at the state, county, or city level or that less absurd results will be achieved at any of these levels.

Here think of your favorite government boondoggle, like the Bridge to Nowhere, all those government projects in West Virginia named for Robert Byrd, nonsensical zoning, inclusionary zoning fees with no provision for their use, huge consulting fees, endless meetings, etc. You get the idea.

This is not to say that government should never be the party to make critical decisions. Even Adam Smith saw that government had three important obligations: 1) to protect its citizens from foreign invasion and oppression; 2) to administer internal justice and 3) to erect and maintain public works and institution "which it can never be for the interest of any individual, or small group of individuals, to erect or maintain."

In the intervening two centuries, the reach of government has continued to expand to our detriment. In this regard, we should again consider the words of James Madison, "I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations."

And so, when we all hear of the next local controversy, let's all stop to consider, "Why is this a question for the City Council?

Rick Akin is an attorney practicing in Steamboat Springs and Austin, Texas, a former member of the Pilot & Today Editorial Board, and a director of the Conservative Leadership Council of Northwest Colorado.


Vince arroyo 9 years, 6 months ago

Thank You Rick The quotes from Thomas Jefferson and James Madison are to the point. Let's all start by keeping informed and engaged. It's our responsibility!


id04sp 9 years, 6 months ago

Oh. You again? Do YOU even believe this crap?

Jefferson and Madison both owned slaves while serving as President.

How about we not hold them up as models to follow. Our founding fathers founded a nation with the power to hold human beings in bondage without any due process of law whatsoever. They are precisely the cause of many of our current day societal woes.

The legal system within which you operate is designed to victimize low-income citizens. The inability to pay a lawyer in a civil case is the most blatant abridgement of human rights in our society today. If you can't pay, you won't win.

Less government would certainly be a better idea, but let's start with the judicial branch and the sovreign immunity which judges, prosecutors and others with quasi-judicial immunity enjoy. Give me the right to sue a judge who issues a malicious order (one which is unlawful on the face of the order in light of written law of the appropirate jurisdiction) and then I'll listen to what else you have to say.


dogd 9 years, 6 months ago


Your best post ever. That is saying quite a bit, considering that there have been approximately 33,261 of them. Now that you have reached a new level of succinct acuity, maybe you can move on about that case of yours. If you can't fry any of the rascals involved in YOUR case, how bout helping some new victim(s) to do so.


id04sp 9 years, 6 months ago


One of the local conservatives shot off his mouth in print a while back, and the name happened to match a name at the center of my controversy. Turns out they are man and wife. Or, they share the same name and address, so I guess it's close enough.

If you make the leap of convervative => republican => political favors for members associated with the same political party, it all comes together. I was flabbergasted that, apparently, it was the CONSERVATIVE element that has gotten together to sieze the wheels of justice.

I don't know what the motto of the Grand Old Party is these days, but I'm betting, "Hey, Senator, careful with the teeth," is in the running.

I, like so many others, depended on the Party of Lincoln to observe and preserve the law. In fact, the politicians seem to be operating in spite of the law while the rank-and-file hopes for the best.

I think we are going to find that rank-and-file conservatives are tired of the leadership next time around. Fred Thompson might stand a chance but he's going to have to cut like a cancer surgeon to save the Republican party as a viable political organization if he wants to keep our support.

There are plenty of "poor" Republicans around who like the pro-business policies, but are tiring of the scandals. Things had better change PDQ, and these phonies who hang out in Routt County had better get on the cutting edge of making the past wrongs right again if they want to have a voice.


stmbtprof 9 years, 6 months ago

Well said Rick....and i am a bleeding hear liberal, but agree with every word you wrote. Especially enjoyed your ayn Rand Quote ....the best to you and Jennifer...


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