While I’ve written enthusiastically about some of the accomplishments of the conservative accomplishments of the 2023 legislative session, don’t misinterpret my words to mean it was a “great session.” As legislative outings go, it was better than most. Call it “good.” I have three pages of amazing accomplishments from this session that we'll spend days discussing.
When measured against the yardstick of freedom, the Legislature is still a disappointment, but better than par.
A new class of conservative legislators in the House and Senate did make headway against the special interests and their legislative marionettes. But this Legislature was still beset by the usual mix of ignorance, ineptitude, and cronyism, the fuel of the regime of leftist Republicans and Democrats who have a combined majority. They’re the ones who delivered one of the most blatantly criminal acts in state government history this year.
When I say “criminal,” I mean it in quite the literal sense. Imagine for a moment that you’ve made it home after a hard day’s work. The doorbell rings, and upon answering, you’re greeted by a man who holds you at gunpoint, demanding all your money. This is textbook robbery, taking property from a person, against his will, through the use of force. Nobody reading these words would argue that what happened to you is not a crime.
But what if the gunman doesn’t just demand money? What if he promises that he’ll use the money in a way that’s benevolent? What if he says he’ll use the money to help his neighbors buy health insurance? Or pay his own rent? Or buy some groceries? Would that still be a crime? Most people would agree that it is.
Now suppose as you’re standing there at gunpoint, you recognize your assailant. You’ve met him before. You’ve seen him on TV. His name, you recollect, is Brad. Brad tells you he has a friend, maybe several friends, who have told him that their businesses are struggling to train workers. And he has other friends who are having trouble attracting nurses to rural areas. Brad explains he thought up a great way to help out his friends: he would just go to each of his neighbors and demand money. They would subsidize workforce training and the repayment of college loans for nurses. You politely tell Brad to leave, and you go on with your night.
Brad quickly realizes that virtually nobody is going to just volunteer to hand over their cash. Brad considers hiring some mobsters. Rather than going to individual houses explaining the societal benefits of helping his needy friends, Brad figures if he can get just enough hired goons, they’d go to a number of houses throughout the state demanding money. He wouldn’t need to send a goon to every house; just the threat of a mobster showing up at the door would instill enough fear for people to cough up the money for his programs.
Brad quickly realizes that’s organized crime, and it would result in a lot of people going to prison if they’re caught. And it would just be unseemly. Instead, Brad decides to run for public office. His friends finance his campaign. Once in office, he pleads with legislators to write a couple of laws that say some of the money you earn doesn’t belong to you. It belongs to them. And they can use that money to train workers. Or to pay off someone’s student loans.
This is what Gov. Brad Little’s Idaho Launch program and its smaller crony cousin, a student debt forgiveness program for rural nurses, require of us. They take our money, against our will, and give it to people who didn’t earn it. When gangsters do it, they go to prison. When politicians do it, they and their funders applaud and pat each other on the back.
Both of these government initiatives are what we call “legal plunder,” enactment of a law to commit what would ordinarily be viewed as a crime. The economist Frédéric Bastiat said this occurs “when a portion of wealth passes from the person who has acquired it, without his consent and without compensation, to someone who has not created it, whether this is by force or fraud.”
In politics, this is also known as cronyism, wherein the politically connected get a law passed that benefits them at the expense of others.
Idaho Freedom Foundation senior policy fellow Ronald Nate nearly got arrested for pointing this out last month during testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee. Chairman Kevin Cook ordered a state police trooper to take Nate away for even mentioning how one of the governor’s major contributors was an expected beneficiary of the new Idaho Launch employee training program.
What made this legislative session so good is that there are more legislators than ever who understand why both programs are wrong. Because of legal plunder. Because of government central planning. Because of cronyism. Because of socialism. As a result, fewer terrible bills passed.
Said differently, you were definitely robbed in the last few months but less than usual for this time of year. That’s progress. Good session.