The most im­por­tant ques­tion: Who de­cides?

The Covington News - - THE SECOND OPINION -

Amer­i­cans are rightly up­set with po­lit­i­cal lead­ers who are more in­ter­ested in par­ti­san pol­i­tics and scor­ing ide­o­log­i­cal points than in serv­ing their coun­try.

The un­der­ly­ing prob­lem is the po­lit­i­cal elite’s deeply held be­lief that the fed­eral city ex­ists to write the rules for the rest of us to live by.

That con­ceit is the root of all po­lit­i­cal evil in Amer­ica.

It leads to a men­tal­ity that ev­ery­thing worth de­cid­ing in our na­tion must be de­cided by an en­trenched po­lit­i­cal class in Wash­ing­ton. With so much power con­cen­trated among a rel­a­tively small num­ber of peo­ple ¬-- and with so much money try­ing to in­flu­ence them -- cor­rup­tion has be­come the norm.

The only way to clean up this mess is to em­power the mid­dle class by mov­ing more of our na­tion’s de­ci­sion-mak­ing au­thor­ity closer to Main Street and the prover­bial kitchen ta­ble. This ap­proach has the added virtue of mak­ing prag­matic prob­lem-solv­ing more im­por­tant than pol­i­tics. A sim­ple ex­am­ple can be seen in the de­bate over the min­i­mum wage.

Lib­eral econ­o­mists be­lieve that in­creas­ing the min­i­mum wage would be good for the econ­omy. Con­ser­va­tive econ­o­mists dis­agree. They say that a higher min­i­mum wage would re­duce the num­ber of jobs avail­able.

Both sides have good the­o­ries, but nei­ther side has any proof that they are right.

In a world where all such de­ci­sions are made in Wash­ing­ton, the rules are set by par­ti­san ac­tivists pick­ing one the­ory over the other. An un­rep­re­sen­ta­tive Congress and face­less bu­reau­crats stake out po­si­tions de­ter­mined by po­lit­i­cal jock­ey­ing more than any­thing else. When all is said and done, there’s no way to know if they’ve made the right choice or if it even mat­ters. Par­ti­sans on both sides keep re­fight­ing the same is­sues, year af­ter year. But there is a bet­ter way. On this is­sue, if the rules were set on a state-by-state ba­sis, things would be much dif­fer­ent.

The min­i­mum wage for Mon­tana or Kansas might be much dif­fer­ent than the min­i­mum for New York or Cal­i­for­nia. That’s com­mon sense, not the­ory. There might also be ex­per­i­men­ta­tion with re­lated is­sues. Should the min­i­mum wage be lower for teenagers? Higher for se­niors?

Most im­por­tantly, though, rather than con­sid­er­ing com­pet­ing the­o­ries, this ap­proach would al­low the Amer­i­can peo­ple to com­pare ac­tual re­sults.

That’s prag­ma­tism. Peo­ple could see what poli­cies worked and what poli­cies didn’t.

States that made the right de­ci­sions would at­tract more peo­ple; those with less ef­fec­tive poli­cies would see peo­ple mov­ing out.

The real beauty is that this ap­proach would take the ul­ti­mate de­ci­sion-mak­ing au­thor­ity en­tirely out of the po­lit­i­cal process and em­power or­di­nary Amer­i­cans. As cit­i­zens voted with their feet, the states with the more harm­ful poli­cies would adapt and fol­low the lead of the more suc­cess­ful states.

What would it mean for the min­i­mum wage? I don’t know.

But far more im­por­tant than the spe­cific re­sult is the ques­tion of who de­cides. In fact, that’s the most im­por­tant ques­tion in pol­i­tics. If we get that right, ev­ery­thing else will fall into place. That’s true on ev­ery is­sue from health care and ed­u­ca­tion to eco­nomic fair­ness and im­mi­gra­tion.

As a na­tion, we will be bet­ter off with prag­matic de­ci­sions made close to home by the Amer­i­can peo­ple rather than ide­o­log­i­cal de­ci­sions made by politi­cians in a dis­tant and cor­rupt cap­i­tal.

To find out more about Scott Ras­mussen, and read fea­tures by other Cre­ators writ­ers and car­toon­ists, visit cre­ators.com.

SCOTT RAS­MUSSEN

COLUM­NIST

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