Good riddance to bad initiatives

So the news is in, the trio of libertarian social experiments – initiatives 97, 98, and 154 – have been struck from the ballot by a Great Falls judge.

Sandefur agreed, writing that the signature gathering process “was permeated by fraud and procedural non-compliance perpetrated by paid, out of state, migrant signature gatherers” paid for the initiative backers.

Please don’t start in on how we should let the voters vote on the legislation – part of the democratic process for initiatives is that they should have enough popular support in the state so that citizens will actually gather signatures, and other citizens, once duly informed of the initiatives’ intent, will sign petitions. That way the true dogs won’t make the ballot.

Instead what happened was that a single man threw millions of his own money at signature-gathering companies that hired professionals to collect names while deceiving voters about the content of the petitions they were signing. This was not a grass-roots movement. It was an ideological experiment paid for by an extremist and cloaked in the garb of a true citizens’ movement.

If you’re interested in any of these initiatives, well, there’s another election in a couple of years. Start your own organization, round up your own volunteers, and go to! Get your proposal on the ballot. I’ll applaud your efforts as I skewer your dogma.

In the meantime…

Don’t let the door hit you on the *ss on the way out, Howie.

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  1. part of the democratic process for initiatives is that they should have enough popular support in the state so that citizens will actually gather signatures,

    Oh really? Defined by whome? The democratic process is for the citizens to sign the petition under Montana law. If you have a problem with paid out-of-state signiture gatherers then make it illegal. Until then, you argument begins with the logical falicy of a “false premise.”

    If there was fraud and non-compliance then the initiatves deserve to be thrown out – but not on the basis of out-of-state anythng. At least not until the law is changed.

  2. So…you believe Montanans shouldn’t be involved in the intiative process?

  3. I didn’t say that and you know it. What, are you taking lessons to be politician?

    I was pointing out that the law in Montana does not preclude outside involvement. The democratic process, by such law, involves Montanans actually signing the petition. Is that not involvement? How about the fact that they would then have to vote on it? Democratic enough for you?

    Like I said, change the law if you don’t like it, but don;t assert the law is different than it is.

  4. bluemontanagirl

    “FRAUD” IS ILLEGAL IN MONTANA.

  5. bluemontanagirl

    “FRAUD” is illegal in Montana. Do you have any idea how they obtained the signatures? The false addresses, the fact one signature “gatherer” would have had to collect one siganture per minute over a two-week period in order to get the number of signatures claimed, one signature “gatherer” claimed to have worked for the Attorney General of Montana.
    Change what law? We have laws on the books for FRAUD.

  6. Bluemaountaingirl,

    Read what I said in my first post. No one is arguing that fraud is not illegal.

  7. So you’re okay with the system? Some rich guy can buy his way onto the ballot without involving Montanans along the way? And let’s not be coy about “involving Montanans” in getting the signatures, we both know that if you pay enough signature-gatherers long enough, they will get the signatures.

    It’s a simple question. Do you like the way it works? You think it’s okay for out-of-state big money interests to buy its way onto the Montana ballot with no participation by Montanans?

  8. Yes, I’m fine with the way it works. And you, I propose would be fine with, say, The Natural Resourse Defense Council doing the same thing for an environmental cause. Or, say, Pregressivestates.org spending money to promote an initiaive for an increase in the minimum wage. How about national union money dripped in through week locals to promote this or that cuase.

    And If I put together the inititive for 2008 I’ll likely go to someone like Howie Rich to get the seed moey to organize. Clear enough for you?

    Why? A) Enough Montnans have to participate by signing the petitions and B) Enough Montnans have to vote for it to become law. Do you tthink the voters are so stupid that they can not collectiively decide for themselfs?

  9. Yes, but in those cases you mention, I guarantee you a large number of Montanans will get out and do the actual work of getting initiatives on the ballot.

    That’s the way it should work, IMHO.

    If you have to pay to ship professionals from Oklahoma to do the work for you, then there’s something wrong about that. Sure, it’s perfectly legal. But distasteful.

    If that’s your style, go for it.

  10. I bet the initiative could have been put on the ballot from the grass roots. Dispite your worldview, I have spoken with hundreds of people who supported I-154. I know dozens of people here in Missoula alone that would have worked for free. I wish there had been a call for volunteers. We didn’t, however, even get a call.. But simply becasue the the initiative was bankrolled by a libertarian activists who had the cash to simply hire the petitiion gatherers does not invalidate the merits of the initiative or its potential popular support.

    The biggest downside is that I don’t get to meet you in the public square and rip the buttons off your argument. I was really looking forward to it – to the point that I have just finished reading a 300 page book on regulatory takings. I hope I have the chance at some point.

  11. Initiative was tossed for three reasons: Signature gatherers failed to supply addresses when submitting signatures, as law requires; Signature gatherers certified thousands of signatures, far more than humanly possible to collect, though law requires physical presence when signature is taken; and fraud – witnesses testified to gatherers getting a signature on I-154, and then telling signator that he needed to sign two more times, thus getting sigantures on 97 and 98.

    Anyway, it’s an idealistic pursuit, this I-154, and I don’t think people have thought things through – I don’t think they have thought about the monkey wrench they throw into the people’s only voice, government. I think I-154 backers are short-sighted, thinking mostly of themselves, unable to come to grips with the concept of a greater good.

  12. Budge, the question — and my post — was never about popular support of the initiatives. I fully realize you’re a big fan, and I’ve seen some people around the ‘Net express curiosity on the issue.

    And as I said in the post, “Start your own organization, round up your own volunteers, and go to! Get your proposal on the ballot. I’ll applaud your efforts as I skewer your dogma.”

    In the end, I’m glad to see you agree with me. I’m sorry you had to come and hijack the thread to do so, though.

  13. Well Mark, I’ve thought it through and I don’t have any economic incentive to support it – none. I own no land nor do I have any interest in any concern that does. So, where is my thinking only of myself? The” greater good” is a slippery phrase that has a hard time standing up to logical discourse. I’ll concur that I-154 is an idealistic persuit – but no more idealistic than eradicating hunger, poverty or any of the many other persuits that people are prone to.embrace.

  14. Highjack the thread? Oof dah. I wish you’ld publish you “rules.”

  15. My “rules”? More like my “whims”…

  16. josh d

    “You think it’s okay for out-of-state big money interests to buy its way onto the Montana ballot with no participation by Montanans?”

    It all depends on what is trying to be accomplished through the effort.

    Reducing the power of government over citizens is an “ideological experiment,” you say? Amusing. Just how do you propose to skewer anyone with such flawed thinking?

    The crucial point you miss is that a true ideological experiment has actually triumphed over the past 140 years, or so. It’s called the welfare state. And you can relax; it’s likely not going anywhere, in spite of the efforts of a handful of people spending a few paltry hundred thousand dollars on the effort.

    ( “Big money interests,” you say? You’re being amusing again. Let’s compare the paltry hundred thousand dollars these people spent compared to the BILLIONS spend each and every year by the pro-big government lobbyists in keeping their slice of the welfare state pie firmly entrenched—then let’s ask who are the “big money” interests).

    The groups most opposed to the initiative reads like a who’s who of special interests, feeding at the government trough.

    So what we really have here is the special interests–the real idealogues (worse, they’re demagogues)–vociferously defending their slice of the big government pie, by smearing those trying to roll back the welfare state cancer as engaging in some out of state, nefarious, clandestine conspiracy—oh, yeah–all masterminded by some evil “rich” bogeyman.

  17. Man, no wonder you people scr*w government up every time you get near it.

    These initiatives do handicap government — local government, neighborhood councils, town councils, city management. These are the areas of government where we as citizens have the most say, these are the democratic instruments of our community. What you’re saying with these initiatives is that you don’t trust democracy, that you think business and money should hold sway over our towns and neighborhoods.

    We already have a problem with multinational corporations and big business buying up federal government; why do you want to hand them local government, too?

  18. josh d

    I’m not sure who you’re talking about when you say “you people,” but the only group that causes harm are those who advocate or lobby for state subsidies or favors—whether it’s for big corporations, big healthcare, big labor, big education, or big government itself.

    The issue here is about limiting the size of government, period—not gaining control of it for any one particular group.

    I say let’s get all the special interests out of the government pie—not just the ones you personally happen to be suspicious of—then we won’t have to worry about too little money being left over for communitites or individuals, which currently just goes down the rathole of bloated state or federal government.

  19. And I say there’s already a democratic process in place. Just because you don’t like certain gov’t subsidies doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t.

    Let the voters decide.

  20. josh d

    “Just because you don’t like certain gov’t subsidies doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t.”

    This I didn’t doubt for a second. But I didn’t think you’d so readily admit to such a blatantly statist viewpoint.

    So then you place yourself in the camp of those who would manipulate government for their own benefit? If this includes you, it makes you no different than the special interests whose actions you decry, “democracy” notwithstanding. Robbery is robbery, whether it’s accomplished through lobby, government contract, or the ballot box.

    I feel remiss to place someone I’m discussing these issues with in a position from which they can’t back down from their flawed viewpoint (you passed up my olive branch when I called for an end to subsidies for all special interests), but this essentially points up the fundamental difference between our views.

    Possibly without realizing it, it sounds as if you hold the government-as-basically-free-for-all view—anything can be legislated, just as long as some “good” is advanced (as defined by you), and the majority favors it. What if you’re in the minority? Tough. Now pay up.

    To the contrary, in my view, the only legitimate function of government is to protect individuals from aggression or harm from others. Period.

    When government becomes the aggressor—forcefully imposing an agenda on some at others’ expense—its actions are not legitimate, regardless of who is lobbying the government (the “majority,” any other special interests) and regardless of the ends.

    To the extent the initiatives Americans for Limited Government promotes are consistent with this view, their actions, and the local groups they support, are eminently legitimate.

  21. I hardly think it’s unreasonable to, say, provide health insurance to the children of low-income families or help seniors with their heating bills. I think roads, schools, and transportation are also essential service govt should provide.

    Essentially we have a fundamental disagreement on government. You take an extreme view that you share with the ALG et al.

    Let the voters decide.

    When government becomes the aggressor—forcefully imposing an agenda on some at others’ expense—its actions are not legitimate, regardless of who is lobbying the government (the “majority,” any other special interests) and regardless of the ends.

    This is, of course, a ridiculous conclusion. Are you advocating throwing out our entire code of laws? Making murder a crime is an “agenda” under your worldview.

    I often don’t like some of the things my citizens vote for. The gay marriage ban, for example. But I can work to change it. The initiatives you espouse would take from Montanans the power to decide what their communities will be like.

    To assume agendas won’t be driven down our throats in the absence of government is extremely naive, to say the least. I’d rather have a say in what our communal agenda should be instead of having one shoved down my throat.

  22. josh d

    “You take an extreme view…”
    ”This is, of course, a ridiculous conclusion. Are you advocating throwing out our entire code of laws? Making murder a crime is an “agenda” under your worldview…
    “To assume agendas won’t be driven down our throats in the absence of government is extremely naïve…”

    Simply put, you do not demonstrate an understanding of that which you seem to be arguing against.
    You sound like a person who acts in good faith, so I’m not trying to sound condescending, but it just doesn’t sound as if you’ve done your homework on the subject. If and when you ever spend the effort to understand the smaller government/free market arguments, you will realize no one on that side is trying to force an agenda down anyone’s throat, nor are they saying any of the silly conclusions you ascribe to me.
    My original draft of this post was a line by line refutation of your previous post. I abandoned it. I didn’t see much point to it when I realized it’s all stuff I already know, so I wouldn’t be learning much (I don’t care much about “winning” an argument), plus you’d probably miscontrue or misunderstand much of my argument since you demonstrate so great an unfamiliarity with it.
    You really owe it to yourself to do a little homework on the subject. You can’t expect to skewer someone’s view if you don’t understand what that view is. Hey, you may even find that there’s a lot there that you’ve agreed with all along, but just didn’t realize it. Also, you stand a better chance of understanding it if you pursue it on your own, instead of me browbeating you with it.
    There’s so much to recommend, it’s hard to know where to start, but if I could recommend just one book on the subject, this would be it.
    Here’s a
    short article

    Thanks for the discussion.

  23. josh d

    I posted a reply, but it hasn’t shown up yet. Is a delay normal? I don’t want to risk double posting. Thanks. JM

  24. hang on…looking to see if it got shuttled into spam…

    there it was! sometimes if a comment has links, it’ll get sent to my spam bucket…




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