If I Were My Own Representative, Part IV: My Touchstone for Voting

A lot of legislation is pitched on the basis of what it is intended to do, and often on the basis of whom it is intended to help. If I Were My Own Representative, my touchstone for voting would be quite the opposite: whom it was likely to hurt.

(U.S. Capitol dome, from the Architect of the Capitol. Click to enlarge.)

My initial position would be to vote “no” on any bill that had a provision that would hurt some of our citizens, even if it helped some others. I would have to be convinced that the help was worth the hurt; i.e., that the hurt was along the lines as the necessary pain of surgery to correct a life-threatening condition.

If it wasn’t clear what effects some given legislation would have, whether it would hurt some people while helping some others, I would at least ASK. If no one could tell me, again my initial thought would be to vote against it.

Note that I’ve qualified the “help/hurt” question in terms of our citizens, because they should be first priority. We may enact legislation that helps others — especially where our relative wealth can help those in dire need — but not necessarily at the expense of hurting our own people.

When it comes to legislation with the potential to hurt others, the question has an added dimension: whether those others are allies or enemies. It’s unrealistic to believe that we have no enemies, and I think the Romans 12:18 standard applies to international relations: if possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with all people. But we need to be pragmatic when it comes to potential conflict, and it would be irresponsible to fail to provide for organizing, training, and equipping the military forces that defend us.

Why is this a big deal? Maybe it’s not. But I don’t want my Representatives to pass legislation that hurts me or my friends, so I wouldn’t want to vote for legislation that would hurt people.

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