If I'm Elected Governor, Here's how I Would Like Things to Be Different When I Leave Office

Tom Lowe

 May 9, 2007

My civic club, while it existed, invited gubernatorial candidates to speak and answer questions every four years. I asked the same question of each candidate, and I'm disappointed to report that not only was a satisfactory answer not forthcoming, but usually the candidate avoided answering the question at all. Before the last election, I asked the question of Haley Barbour and he never even attempted to answer it.
The question:

If you are elected governor, how do you expect the State of Mississippi to be different when you leave office four or eight years from now?

This is a perfectly legitimate question. Even though my civic club ceased meeting many years ago,  the question is seldom asked, and, I would wager, never answered.
Political candidates, as a practical matter, do not like deep, searching questions, because most of them are not deep, searching people. The personality structure of a person desirous of elected office is not conducive to reflection. Successful politicians may have doubts, but they do not display them to the public and they do not dwell upon them themselves. The very desire for political power precludes deep introspection.
In an effort to get the discussion rolling, I'm reversing the roles and pretending that I am a gubernatorial candidate whom a civic club member has asked If you are elected governor, how do you expect the State of Mississippi to be different when you leave office four or eight years from now?
Here's my answer:
I would want there to be more singing, more dancing, more music,
and more poetry read aloud in public places;
I would want Mississippians to think of themselves
more as citizens,
less as consumers;
I would hope that there would be fewer prisons and fewer prisoners,
especially persons incarcerated for victimless crimes;
I would want Mississippi to have an effective public health system,
with a strong emphasis on preventive medicine,
a health system that would assure
that all would receive adequate medical care,
irrespective of their ability to pay.
I would hope that the police would be less prone to violence
and respect the persons they are pledged to protect,
and likewise,
That they would receive more respect from the people they serve.
I would like to see us waste less and
reuse and recycle what we discard;
I would like to see a generation of young people
asking us awkward and embarrassing questions
that no one is supposed to be asking,
and demanding that we answer them honestly,
questions like
"Why are we locking up more people
than any other country in the world?"
I would like to see land taxed more and improvements taxed less,
to encourage more efficient use of land
and lessen the demand upon our municipalities for services;
I would like to see more resources devoted to the public schools,
which are now underfunded and poorly staffed;
I would like to see the arts promoted
as one of the highest human endeavors,
rather than as an economic activity to bring in dollars;
I would like to see a people a little less materialistic,
a little less inclined
to equate happiness
with possessions;
I would like for Mississippians to live closer to their jobs,
so that they drive less,
in smaller vehicles
that are more fuel-efficient than they are now;
I would want there to be more opportunity for everyone,
and, therefore, as the economists would say,
I would want there to be higher opportunity cost for crime,
so that people will have something to lose—
a good job,
the respect of their neighbors,
their plans for the future
—by breaking the law;
I would like to see the diverse parts of our society,
especially blacks and whites,
establish more mutually beneficial connections,
so that our diversity can be
the foundation of our strength;
I would hope that by the time I leave office
every policy and legislative decision
would be measured against the following standards:
1. How does it affect the land?

There is no substitute for land.
Our health is ultimately dependent upon
the health of the land,
its purity,
its fertility
and its freedom from contaminants.
It is irreplaceable and destructible.
We depend upon it for our sustenance,
both physical and spiritual.
We came from it; we will return to it.
Without it, nothing else we do or possess
will make as much difference to our destiny.
2. How does it affect the most vulnerable of our people:
the aged,
the children,
the sick,
the disabled,
the mentally ill, and
those in prison?
The measure of our worth,
our humanity,
our civilization,
is not whether the strong and powerful thrive
(because they always thrive),
but how we treat those
who cannot place their hands
upon the levers of power and
move them to their own advantage.
3. How does it affect the general welfare?

Laws and policies that benefit the few
at the expense of everyone else
are little more than legalized robbery.
4. How does it affect the seventh generation?

This question was asked by many Native American peoples.
Because of a our emphasis upon
immediate return on investment,
and our practice of
discounting future cash flows,
we often irresponsibly discount
the future itself.

A dollar to be paid to the seventh generation
has very little net present value,
just as a loss of a dollar
seven generations from now
is virtually no net present loss.

There is no net present moral value, however,
that allows us to discount
our obligation to future generations.

From the beginning of humankind,
we have been spared this moral dilemma
because the earth was large
in comparison to our ability to change it.
What we call "the economy"
is now quite large
in comparison to
the economy of the biosphere, and
we can no longer pretend
that what we do does not matter.
5. Is it just?

This question encompasses
the previous four, but it also includes
matters of fairness, equity, and balance
that make it an important,
in fact, indispensable,
requirement of any law or policy.
6. Is it gentle?

Harsh laws make harsh people.
The harshest punishments make
the most hardened criminals.
The strictures of the law should be easy
for the proper ordering of society.
Montesquieu observes that nations with the lightest punishments
invariably promote the greatest liberty for their citizens.

Copyright (c) 2007 by Thomas Lowe. Published in the Jackson Progressive.

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