A friend of mine asked me a few weeks ago about my libertarian opinion on these committees that were recently passed by the Rio Rancho Governing Body. It was said that the committees were created in the name of open government between the city and the public, and they offer protection from rolling quorums. It was also said that these committees add a layer of bureaucracy while offering only the illusion of protection.
It is true that they offer only an illusion of protection, but only because the Open Meetings Act offers an illusion of transparency. Even the city attorney must admit to this as she herself stated that it takes a level of “self-policing” on the part of governing body members in order to avoid a rolling quorum.
If you happen to be a councilor’s ideological opposite, can you really trust them to “self-police?” I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve spoken about how laws intended to curtail behavior are never effective for long, if at all. Those who truly desire to take advantage of their power will do so regardless of the law. These committees, if they work at all, will at some point fail when the loopholes are found out, and something new will need to be offered.
However, this is not an additional layer of bureaucracy, which, by definition, is a body of unelected officials with decision-making authority. These committees have no such authority. They are, it would seem, limiting members of the governing body from speaking outside of council.
To be clear, each councilor is no longer a mere citizen but is now the government. So these committees are limiting government.
Now where have I heard that before? Bureaucracy is when you wrap the citizens up in red tape; checks and balances is when you wrap the government up in red tape. The official TEA Party response, then, is quite confusing, as I thought “limiting government” was the whole reason for “voting the bums out.”
Thomas Jefferson said, “Let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” A constitutionally-limited government is by its very nature inefficient, and in each councilors’ capacity as elected officials, they are in a state of voluntary servitude to the law and to the people: bound by red tape, as it were — and that’s not hyperbole.
This is why we have elections so often — so that, in theory, fresh blood can offer fresh perspective and cycle through checks and balances in order to keep our government chained to the Constitution. For when the government throws off its chains, the chains inevitably land on the people, and we end up with an oligarchy — which America is now, at least in practice.
The horrible irony about our form of government is that we must rely on our governing officials to limit themselves — to “self-police.”
Of course, the reality is that these committees aren’t even true checks and balances as they only serve in such capacity when the council chooses to use them.
As was also said, they change nothing. So if they change nothing, then a better question than “why have them?” might be “why fight them?”
(Kerry Adams is a libertarian Christian and blogger who writes about politics and religion at mereliberty.com in Rio Rancho. Observer readers can watch for her column, “Mere Liberty,” on the first Sunday of each month.)