Robert Bennett: Moving beyond political ideology

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  • Dogmatica Pleasant Grove, UT
    March 21, 2012 3:14 p.m.

    Senator Bennett, I agree with much of what you have to say; however, there is one main point on which I have to disagree with you. The proper purpose, role and bounds of our government are already defined and outlined in the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, and Federalist Papers. There is no need to debate the proper role of government, we already know. The problem is that those who are in power have decided in their "wisdom" that they know better than our founding fathers and choose to ignore the law of the land whenever they can get away with it. And unfortunately, the states, congress, and the people have not been vigilant in ensuring that those bounds and roles remain unaltered. Our country's prosperity is dependent on our commitment to living by correct principles. And now our government and society are abandoning those principles. How do you think that's going to end? OWS and the Tea Party are not equal. The OWS movement wants to move farther away from those values, whereas the Tea Party wants to return to the values that made our country great in the first place. The choice is clear.

  • Ajax Mapleton, UT
    March 21, 2012 7:19 a.m.

    Senator Bennett and others are to be congratulated for the time and effort they have spent in explaining the disfunction of "ideological purity", which in the end is rooted in the marginalization and disdain of others. However, there will always be some who for whatever reason just do not get it. Fortunately they are a minority. But for the tail to have wagged the dog for so long in Utah life and politics is unfortunate.

  • Wally West SLC, UT
    March 20, 2012 11:14 p.m.

    @ Baron Scarpia 6:44 a.m. March 20, 2012

    "I’m afraid that extremists on the right refuse to see that these great national achievements were derived from government-business partnerships, where federal investments facilitated America’s industry to do what the free market could never achieve on its own.

    This is the model that built our great nation."

    You mean the military-industrial complex Eisenhower warned about? I think certain elements of the GOP don't mind the partnership so long as its benefits them i.e. Cheney & Haliburton.

  • Hank Pym SLC, UT
    March 20, 2012 11:11 p.m.

    per hmataele 5:30 p.m. March 19, 2012

    "Its too bad that Libertarians/ John Birch Society members manipulated the caucuses."

    Whoa. Whoa. Whoa! Pump those breaks. The aforementioned groups are nothing alike. Its hard core members of the party that participate in the caucuses.

    per Twin Lights 10:51 p.m. March 19, 2012

    "So your alternative is to look to the East India Company model?"

    Yeah. Did you not pay attention during the 2nd & 3rd installments of the Pirates of the Caribbean franchise?

  • Andy Cottonwood Heights, UT
    March 20, 2012 4:25 p.m.

    And what to do when facing trillions of dollars in debt? I like Senator Bennett's tone and open mindedness; however, there is a practical reality to our country's finances. Specifically, we are on an unsustainable course. We really owe trillions of dollars and repayment will slow our economy down.

    It seems to me that the Senator's points are fine when there is space to continue to borrow money to pay for both services and incentivize business growth. But in a state of pre-austerity, these views are far too sanguine.

    We need political leaders who can make hard choices. I'm not ideologically pure, but I do see the consequences of years of Senator Bennett's thinking and I do not like them.

  • Mike Richards South Jordan, Utah
    March 20, 2012 4:15 p.m.

    First, government does nothing except tax us. WE provide the funds and the manpower to do everything. The government is only a "facilitator".

    Secondly, private enterprise provides ALL revenues to the government. The government does not tax itself. It taxes those of us who do not work for the government. No government worker could be employed without the dollars that non-government workers provide.

    Thirdly, roads inside my city are not paid for by the federal government, nor are the roads that connect city to city, nor are the roads that connect county to county. Only when we get to the interstate level, does the federal government build roads. Oh sure, they have been sticking their nose into our road building for decades, but they "give back" less than the gasoline taxes that they take.

    Finally, only those who despise the Constitution would allow the government to do anything outside the enumerated duties that we have delegated to the federal level of government. We, as a people, are perfectly capable of handling all other things without the taxation and the "aid" of a huge federal government.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 20, 2012 12:41 p.m.


    What do you do about local roads? Tolls work for highways but would be highly inefficient for local roads. Is there an advanced economy that has private ownership and operation of local roads?

    On public education, Jefferson said:

    "Now let us see what the present primary schools cost us, on the supposition that all the children of 10, 11, & 12 years old are, as they ought to be, at school: and, if they are not, so much the worse is the system; for they will be untaught, and their ignorance & vices will, in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences, than it would have done, in their correction, by a good education."

    Adams said:

    ". . . the preservation of their rights and liberties . . . depend on spreading the opportunities and advantages of education in various parts of the country, and among the different orders of the people, it shall be the duty of legislators and magistrates in all future periods of this commonwealth to cherish the interests of literature and the sciences, and all seminaries of them, especially the university at Cambridge, public schools, and grammar schools in the towns . . . "

    Public education is a building block for our economy and our republic.

  • SoCalChris Riverside, CA
    March 20, 2012 11:32 a.m.

    It's ironic that purists on the right routinely invoke the Founding Fathers and Ronald Reagan. Our Constitution was the result of hard-fought battles and compromise. Reagan understood the need to compromise and work with political opponents as well.

    For those who don't see a difference in the parties, if nothing else please understand what kind of Supreme Court justices we will get if Obama is re-elected.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    March 20, 2012 9:04 a.m.

    RagnarL4 - I get where you are trying to go here, but again, nothing is as simple as it sounds. "Duke" Francis Egerton inharited most of his wealth at the time of his older brothers death. He was a visionary in looking for economical was of getting coal off of his families estate (gift of the crown) to southern users. The fact is that it took nearly all of his wealth to build it, and he spent many of his years deeply in debt because of it, only to recoup and make money off much later in his life.

    It was a huge risk, and one that did eventually pay off for Egerton. But lets not forget that this was funded and supported by one of the most oppresive industries ever. The english coal industry at the time relied heavily of child labor. Children as young as 10 and 12 worked in extremely dangerous conditions providing "affordable" coal to the cities. It is a model I don't see us ever moving back toward.

    The canal did provide a lot of value to cities like Manchester, but the "costs" were hugely at the expense of the lowest in society.

  • RagnarL4 Kaysville, UT
    March 20, 2012 7:46 a.m.

    @Twin Lights,

    I'm not sure how you took my comments decrying government economic interference as an endorsement upon government-backed monopolies.

    The East India company is NOT an example of British Industrialists I was thinking of. In 200 words I could not provide specifics. But here is one: Francis Egerton, coal industrialist. He built a canal WITHOUT government loot: the Bridgewater Canal 1761. This became an unspeakable benefit to tens of thousands who could now afford extra comforts thanks to cheaper coal.


    Mr. Hill's Great Northern Railroad may have benefited from some land grants, but this was not his motive for building and he was never an advocate of such programs. Of course we can't say for sure, but my money is on that he would have succeeded in it regardless.

    Most of us have been convinced that without government roads and schools, we'd have no transportation and couldn't read leaving only the rich to travel or enjoy a book. This is pure rubbish. Mr. Bennett appealed to this normal perception among us to imply "of course we have to have taxation". Again I say, Rubbish.

  • Jonathan Eddy Payson, UT
    March 20, 2012 7:06 a.m.

    What is missing in American politics? Perfectly balanced government; Constitutional obedience; something that got Mr. Bennett into trouble and ultimately got him removed from office. Mr. Hatch is teetering on that same political tightrope today.

    You see, most people are fooled into believing that Republicanism vs. Democracy is the same as right vs. left and conservatism vs. liberalism. It's not. Imagine the Constitution (good law) as a perfectly balanced scale. Now, alter that balance by allowing self serving Republican and Democratic Constitutional law breaking to tip the scale up or down, (left or right). No balance equals bad law. Bad law equals political lawlessness and corruption.

    With no ill will toward Mr. Bennett and Hatch, we let them get away with breaking the law because of our ignorance of the law and lack of vigilance. We allow those we vote for to be more influenced by anti Constitutional Washington and Wall Street power brokers.

    Misunderstanding of the law or refusal to learn our responsibility and police our elected officials may be the thing that is most blatantly missing. Fortunately I think we are becoming more informed and politically agitated. Mr. Hatch has reason to be concerned about his electability.

  • Baron Scarpia Logan, UT
    March 20, 2012 6:44 a.m.

    The federal government has a good history of picking winners for public investment – from Jefferson’s Louisiana Purchase from France that expanded the nation two-fold and procured the Mississippi River for commerce; to the construction of the transcontinental railroads for transporting people and goods across our great nation; to the G.I. Bill that resulted in massive low-cost education to create the richest middle-class on Earth; to Eisenhower’s Interstate Highway system that gave Americans freedom to travel and explore our nation; to the federal government’s development of the Internet that has resulted in Facebook and Google (… yes, it’s true that Al Gore sponsored legislation in Congress to allow businesses to conduct business on the government’s Internet in 1992).

    I’m afraid that extremists on the right refuse to see that these great national achievements were derived from government-business partnerships, where federal investments facilitated America’s industry to do what the free market could never achieve on its own.

    This is the model that built our great nation.

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    March 20, 2012 6:06 a.m.

    RangerL4 - you have obviously given this some deep thought, but unfortunately nothing is a simple as it seems. For example, yes, the Great Northern Railway was a fantastically well run operation for a very long time, but to say it didn't benefit from public land grants is a stretch of the story. The Minneapolis and St. John Cloud Railway, the earliest iteration of the company in fact did have vast land grant assets which were leveraged to build the northern trans-continental railway. It was the old accounting shell game of having a holding company who actually didn't product much of anything fund a second business to keep the second business' books clean. But in essence the Great Northern did far more than most without requiring government seed money.

    The idea though that you highlighted imperial england as a model of what can be done without government intervention though is a bit puzzling. Perhaps government as we know it didn't play a big part, but the Crown absolutely had its hands all over these businesses you use as examples.

    There are examples of some good privately driven projects, but they are far and few between.

  • paperboy111 Lindon, UT
    March 20, 2012 12:23 a.m.

    It's disengenuous to say the Democrats represent the party of Big Government, while the Republicans are the party of Small Government. Whether you spend tax payer money on aiding the 99% through social safety nets like food stamps, Income Tax Credits or tuition assistance, or spend nearly one trillion dollars a year on building up and maintaining the military to be able to invade other countries at the drop of a hat, and/or dictate the morality of society through more, intrustive goverment control over invasive procedures that, for example, server to control a woman's right to manage her personal health care, it's essentially the same. It's simply how tax payer money is spent that's different. Bottom line: Big Goverment is Big Government.

  • Nate Pleasant Grove, UT
    March 20, 2012 12:15 a.m.

    @atl134 "So... I guess the gov't is pretty good at providing healthcare for seniors."

    Without reform, Medicare goes belly up in about twelve years. Yes, government solutions are that good.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 19, 2012 10:51 p.m.


    "Indeed early British industrialists built their own roads and dug their own canals without a dime of government loot and to the great benefit of many other producers."

    So your alternative is to look to the East India Company model? Where imperial monopolies were granted in exchange for the monarchs having a stake in the ventures? The history is replete with private armies, colonization, the subjugation of local populations, and payola to their govt. benefactors.

    Wouldn't that be the worst type of crony capitalism?

    I simply cannot understand how such a system would be an improvement.

  • RagnarL4 Kaysville, UT
    March 19, 2012 10:01 p.m.

    3. "As a Republican, I am confident enough in the productive power of free markets overall that I am not afraid to consider the possibility that a government solution might work in a particular case."

    This makes no sense. True and principled confidence in free markets closes the door on seeking government solutions to market problems. To use a religious metaphor, this would be like saying that your confidence in God overall is so great that you don't mind dabbling in the demonic in a particular case.

    4. "We should start to look at our challenges in a more practical way, and let the ideological chips fall where they may."

    Since when is the ideal impractical? Is your sense of the ideal or the moral so uncertain that you do not also consider it practical? If the moral does not seem practical, reexamine your moral. You may find it's not so moral.

    Unfortunately, democratic and republican policy does differ only in degree, not in moral premise. And what is that moral premise, "that we are our brother's keeper". These parties ensure we do our fair share of keeping. The democrats a little more, the republicans a little less.

  • RagnarL4 Kaysville, UT
    March 19, 2012 9:49 p.m.

    I wish to expose some flimsy points in this seemingly erudite but diaphanous editorial. Mr. Bennett expects us to accept carte blanche several points which he fails to support and which indeed are unsupportable.

    1. "...but it couldn't have been achieved without government. The roads over which products are shipped, the schools in which employees are educated..." "Yes, a sound governmental structure is essential to the process of wealth creation, so taxes must be paid to support that structure..."

    No, Senator, government is NOT needed to provide roads or education and these are not justification for pillage of the populace (ie taxation). Indeed early British industrialists built their own roads and dug their own canals without a dime of government loot and to the great benefit of many other producers. Likewise, the Great Northern Railroad of the US was built without public plunder.

    2. "When there is too little government, necessary services go unprovided, mobs rule and people flee..."

    No, this was not a result of too little government, but of unprincipled government. Today our unprincipled government is bigger than ever yet drug lords threaten our borders and Iran, the great international mobster, threatens us with impunity. (To Be Continued)

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    March 19, 2012 8:28 p.m.

    Wouldn't it be interesting if we ran a blind ballot where party was not referenced, and people voted on the people rather then the little letter next to their name. It would be a fun experiment - vote for people, not party.

  • hmataele West Valley City, 00
    March 19, 2012 5:30 p.m.

    Its too bad that Libertarians/ John Birch Society members manipulated the caucuses. I think if Bennett would have won as an independent he would have won. He loved is Party more than his people. Utahns have a distaste for extremism and negative advertisments. This was evident in the caucuses that just occured and whenever they go negative against Matheson, he wins. Hatch will win the nomination again, thanks to people who are tired of the negative FreedomWorks campaign and the distaste for such politicians as Sen. Mike Lee. Its too bad we vote along such stringent party lines.

    Scott Howell, who is running for Senate on the Democratic Party ticket actually has more private sector experience and held leadership positions in the Utah Senate. He is an honorable man and would make an amazing Senator, but because he is not a Republican, will be dismissed.

  • atl134 Salt Lake City, UT
    March 19, 2012 3:49 p.m.

    "The Federal government has never been good at providing services outside of those mandated such as defending our country militarily, negotiating with foreign countries and regulating interstate commerce."

    I could've sworn tea partiers shouted out things like "get your gov't hands off my medicare". So... I guess the gov't is pretty good at providing healthcare for seniors.

  • BlueHusky Mission Viejo, CA
    March 19, 2012 3:12 p.m.

    People don't want to be confused by facts. From evolution to climate change to healthcare, the far right simply denies the facts. GOP politicians sign the Norquist pledge to never raise taxes for any reason. GOP candidates run on a religious platform. Santorum apparently hews to the old-line Catholic dogma that sex is only for reproduction and sex for pleasure is sinful, even in marriage. The GOP campaign is about birth control, abortion, gays in military, gay marriage. Romney mouths support for these themes. Romney disavows the very health care plan that he proposed in 2008. None admit that we are paying the lowest tax rates since the Truman administration.

    Meanwhile the major issues are being ignored. We have huge deficits brought on first by Bush's wars of choice, then by Obama's efforts to avert the next Great Depression. While math is apparently not in any politician's portfolio, the math is simple: no amount of tax cutting can overcome the deficit. We need revenue. The simple truth is: both parties contributed to the mess. There is no simple solution. It is time to throw out ideologies and start solving problems.

  • Eric Samuelsen Provo, UT
    March 19, 2012 12:58 p.m.

    A sensible, mature, thoughtful column by a great American. Thank you so much, Senator Bennett, for your past and continuing service to our country.

  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    March 19, 2012 12:23 p.m.

    I think people have it all wrong about America's strength. It isn't ideological purity, its a genius for compromise. The Tea Party crowd doesn't seem to understand that. They want to have candidates for office who are completely inflexible. How do you plan on appealing to Independent voters who are the ones who decide elections? The only thing the Tea Party is going to assure with their "no compromising" purity is to assure Obama get's re-elected.

  • Rothbard Herriman, Utah
    March 19, 2012 12:03 p.m.

    Senator Bennett,

    I asked you a couple of years ago in an email if you had ever read "Economics in One Lesson" by Henry Hazlitt.
    At that time you hadn't ... have you had a chance to read it since?


  • Roland Kayser Cottonwood Heights, UT
    March 19, 2012 11:16 a.m.

    Polls going back decades show that when asked if the government is too big, Americans say yes. When asked if the government spends too much money, Americans say yes. When given a list of everything the government does they are asked what programs they want to cut, by large margins they want no cuts, except to foreign aid, which is less than 1% of the budget.

    That is why Republicans always run on vague promises of smaller government and lower spending. Not one of the GOP presidential candidates have proposed much in the way of specific cuts, because all of those cuts would be extremely unpopular.

    Since Americans support everything the government does, the real question we should be asking is how are we going to pay for it?

  • Riles Midway, UT
    March 19, 2012 11:05 a.m.

    This is all Cheerios except for one minor inconvenience, the Constitution. Someone please show me where in the Constitution (which is explicitly an enumerated document) any of this gobbledygook is authorized. Dept of Education? Dept of Energy? Wall Street Bailouts? Is this what passes for good governance these days? The Patriot Act ignores the 4th Amendment, NDAA ignores the 5th Amendment, just about every law passed ignores the 9th and 10th Amendments. Fighting for purity in maintaining our freedom doesn't mean we're afraid to put the principles undergirding it up for examination, this is a straw man argument. Our history is a witness against pragmatism and experimentation in governing. One need only see the progression and where it has led us to today; where the Constitution is esteemed as "just a worthless piece of paper".

    It seems to me that what former Senator Bennett is advocating is a de facto gradual erosion of our republic in favor of a democracy, of states' rights in favor of federal overreach, of principles in favor of pragmatism, of the free market in favor of central planning. So glad this guy no longer represents me.

  • Florwood American Fork, UT
    March 19, 2012 9:10 a.m.

    I kept looking for the final two paragraphs, where Sen. Bennett would provide a solid example of a current problem that government and business cooperation would have a better chance of solving, or has solved, than either entity on its own.

    I look forward to a follow up column where he gives a detailed concrete example for us to chew on.

  • ShaunMcC La Verkin, UT
    March 19, 2012 8:28 a.m.

    While I agree with a couple of Mr. Bennett's philosophical concepts, I have to disagree with his conclusion. The Federal government has never been good at providing services outside of those mandated such as defending our country militarily, negotiating with foreign countries and regulating interstate commerce. As the Tenth Amendment states, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people." There is a reason for that. Local responsibility for services is more responsive and usually less cumbersome.

    The reason that many people are getting fed up with both major parties is twofold. While Republicans give lip service to limited government and personal freedom, their votes indicate they are still interested in bigger government, more interference in our personal lives and more protection of corporations than individuals. Secondly, both parties seem more intent on gaining or retaining power than in actually solving the problems we face and they do it by trying to destroy each other instead of putting forth solutions. That is why I and many others can no longer support either major party.

  • Stephen Kent Ehat Lindon, UT
    March 19, 2012 7:47 a.m.

    This is the type of mature, rational, and American-spirited perspective that got Mr. Bennett into trouble two years ago, when Tea Party activists cast him aside. It was actually surprising, not to mention heartening, that this time around Mr. Hatch was not subjected to the same treatment.

  • Twin Lights Louisville, KY
    March 19, 2012 5:31 a.m.

    Senator Bennett,

    I could not agree more. Your last two paragraphs are worth repeating.

    "That means we are prejudging how to solve a problem before we have enough understanding with respect to what it is. That should stop. As a Republican, I am confident enough in the productive power of free markets overall that I am not afraid to consider the possibility that a government solution might work in a particular case. Refusal to review any options other than your own is not a sign of the strength of your conviction, it's an indication of fear that your position cannot stand up to scrutiny. The sooner both parties learn this truth, the better."

    "Our politics has become an exercise where candidates seek to secure support in their respective parties by being "ideologically pure" in their approach to all challenges. We should start to look at our challenges in a more practical way, and let the ideological chips fall where they may."

    Though I believe that ideology can (and perhaps should) inform our politics, it cannot be allowed to take it over.