12/00 Referenda: Dagger In The Heart

Referenda: Dagger In The Heart Of Representative Government
Larry Pratt

Referenda and initiatives give the people a direct voice in their government. Sounds great, doesn’t it? What could be fairer than that, right?

Wrong. Plebiscites are the way to hand government over to the elite with the deepest pockets. This was one of the chief reasons the founders set up the United States as a representative republic, not a direct democracy.

Government is supposed to be run by elected representatives, not the people voting on matters directly.

When legislators vote against the Constitution, or in ways that displease the people, they can be voted out of office. That is accountability.

When the people vote against the Constitution, where are the mechanisms of accountability? Is anyone proposing that we deprive the people their vote when they blow it on a plebiscite? Or do we simply accept the notion that the people are always right? Those are heavier questions than most of us want to deal with.

And so it is clear that the Founders got it right when they set us up as a democratic republic.

Let’s look at the initiative recently approved in Oregon which prohibits private sales at gun shows.

Overwhelmingly, the paid advertising came from the deep pocket of Andrew McKelvey, the billionaire head of Monster.com. Ironically, the media spots were voiced by that great hypocrite and enemy of the Constitution, Senator John McCain (R-AZ). Using tons of soft money, McCain, the Senator who would outlaw soft money, spewed outright lies about the initiative.

Gun Owners of America raised thousands of dollars for the pro-freedom cause against hundreds of thousands of paid advertising supporting the anti-gun position. The Oregon Firearms Federation which actually ran the pro-gun ads pointed out that the initiative was much more than a background check. It was a registration scheme to enable the capture of the name, address and complete description of each firearm by the state police.

Anti-gunners admitted that those trying to illegally buy a gun at a store are never prosecuted, so the conclusion was obvious — the object of registration is to know who are the law-abiding who own guns so their firearms can subsequently be confiscated, as in New York City and in California right now.

In 1999, a virtually identical measure as the ballot initiative was defeated in the state legislature by the Oregon Firearms Federation — even in the face of pro-gun groups supporting it. That is because the politicians feared for their jobs.

When the initiative was before the people, the voters were accountable to no one, nor did most of them have anywhere near an accurate understanding of the measure.

Down with plebiscites! Long live representative government!