My wife and chief critic vetoed my recent idea of an article on America’s dumb majority. After some reflection, I concluded it’s not the people — it’s the malady. Democracy, self-government, and freedom’s greatest enemy is . . . ignorance.
I often say, anyone wanting to know about the Texas Legislature should have asked me when I was first elected. As a newly-elected freshman member of the House, I knew everything that needed knowing — at least I thought I did.
The more I confronted big problems with what I believed to be simple answers, the more I learned about how complicated the problems were. A great example of problems faced by our system of government is inadequate funding. The simple solution touted by would-be elected leaders, in order to fund their various promises during the election cycle, is elimination of waste. Unfortunately, once elected, politicians find enough waste very illusive. Most quickly discover that one constituent’s waste is another constituent’s necessity.
Another great example of attacking a complicated problem with a simple solution occurred when I was elected was insurance. As a young man seeking office and listening to voters, one of the main complaints was the fact that automobile insurance in Texas was higher than most other states. My solution was simple — pass a bill requiring our regulatory body on insurance to mandate lower rates. I soon discovered, after being elected, it is quite possible for the Legislature to mandate the sale of insurance at lower rates. Unfortunately, the Legislature does not have the power to force insurance companies to sell Texans insurance. Therefore, if we mandate lower rates, we are left with the problem of insurance carriers leaving the state.
A question each voter should ask themselves is how can those with lack of knowledge become great leaders. Conversely, how can people who are ill informed wisely choose our leaders. Education, probably the greatest responsibility of state government, is a great example. No function of state government will have a greater impact on our quality of life, our living wage, or the future of our children as education. Sadly, I would wager without fear of losing, not one Texan in ten can explain with any accuracy how we fund our public schools. Nor could most voters remotely describe how our colleges and universities are funded. Poll after poll of American citizens reveals a lack of knowledge of how we govern ourselves. A small minority of voters can even name those holding high office — from Lt. Governor to chief justice of our supreme court.
Unfortunately for us, the skills required to be elected are not necessarily those required to be a great leader. Problems faced by our state and national leaders are more complex than they appear. Broad and intricate knowledge of our needs are essential to finding real solutions. Our leaders need to possess great knowledge and skill to meet those challenges.
Boastful and simple remedies and rhetoric will not serve us well. We need to be better informed about issues, qualifications and needs when choosing our leaders if we are to expect our leaders to be better informed of our needs and how to respond to them.
The real key to learning is the realization of how much there is that we don’t know. When we who vote on our elected leaders come to this same conclusion about government, we will all be better off.