Legislative Stewardship: A Strong Safeguard for Good Government

By Josiah Dalke
August 20, 2021

When a government can solve a problem, the best entity to solve it is almost always the elected legislature. This is because they are the officials voted in to enact laws and policies that result in better governing. For in their accountability to the people, these legislators are generally the most in touch with the will of the people.

The problem with many public policy solutions on the state and federal levels is that they adhere to a model that treats policy like a big empty box.  When a problem arises, and a policy solution is warranted, some legislatures will fill that box only to a certain point with only general rules and regulatory schemes about how money should be spent.  The rest of the box is given to agencies and public officials to be filled at their discretion.  While this may work for a time, giving officials and agencies this kind of unchecked legislative power plays with fire and eventually breeds corruption.  Mississippi only confirms this theory.

This is especially true when government utilizes taxpayer funds. This money is highly vulnerable if it goes without legislative stewardship.  Legislators need to take back their own responsibility to govern. There should be a commitment to producing public policies that rely on constructive deliberation in the legislative chambers rather than the whims of unchecked government agencies and bureaucrats.

Yet somehow, many government leaders take the old saying, “money makes the world go round,” to heart when considering political solutions to problems.  While it is true in a certain economic context, this idea is taken to a fault when taxpayer funds are thrown into places with little direction or trajectory for where they are supposed to go.  Good policy dictates where these funds will go and what they will be used for. Leaders shouldn’t simply be throwing money at a problem by raising salaries and funding bureaucratic appropriation.

Mississippi, unfortunately, has taken this philosophy in a variety of contexts, which is notably seen through MCPP’s Fat Cat Report, in which it is found that some education superintendents and other public officials have among the highest salaries in the country. This is all despite the fact that Mississippi is one of the poorest states in the country.  A recent examination of Mississippi’s welfare system discovered similar findings.

The question for those living in Mississippi is the same question that President Reagan built his campaign upon: are you better off now than you were a couple of years before?  It is an important question to consider.  As the government continues to grow and tells us that the same growth is necessary to keep the country functioning well, it would be best to remember that government works for the people.  Ironically, despite the government claiming that it must get bigger, there never seems to be a point at which it is big enough.  People in power will always take the opportunity to get more bloated if the people do not remain vigilant.


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