What is fair government oversight?

In talking to people across America, there seems to be a running theme, strong divisions in thinking, between portions of the population. The nation — so terribly divided — seems incapable of understanding an opposing side’s view. One issue that seems to divide the most is the question of whether the government should make your life better or whether the government should get out of your way to allow you to make your life better. Often, these are the arguments posed by extreme factions on both sides of the political divide.

At its core, the notion of the government being “them” is at fault. The government is us. We choose, we elect, we support or oppose when the time comes. It is true, as Sen. Ben Sass (R-Neb.)said, that often Congress passes laws which have weak definitions for effecting the law’s principles — and these are subsequently left up to bureaucrats, civil servants, to interpret and put into effect. And, in most of those cases, these definition then trickle down to the courts to interpret what was meant by the laws wording and, thereby, eventually the law is codified by the courts. Like the game of telephone, the end definition may satisfy no one.

Look, if you are a farmer and you want to get on with farming, there are whole reams of paperwork you need to fill out with various government — state and federal — offices in order to proceed. Farmers, rightly, see this as obstructionist to their ability to conduct their livelihood. 

On the other hand, environmentalists, for just one example, may see unregulated use of the land as detrimental to national health (think DDT and other chemical usage). Do the farmers have the right to pollute and poison the land? Does preventative regulation have the right to limit the farmer’s ability to make a living? 

In the end, these divisions of “get out of my way and allow me to thrive” and “somebody regulate these businesses for the greater good” fall down to the poor job Congress and State Assemblies have done for so long. A perfect example was Al Gore proclaiming the need for regulating the “tubes” of the internet. 

His extreme lack of scientific understanding of the technology involved allowed regulation to be written and then turned over to civil servants to interpret — civil servants with less technology understanding than he had. Similarly, the oil and gas exploration legislation on annexed public land (above and below ground) is seriously flawed and, across the nation, is constantly mired in legal action. In court, lawyers and judges (still only legal professionals) argue the technological merits to try and fill the gaps left in ambiguous legislation passed in Washington. 

You may say this is no one’s fault. How can legislators be expected to be experts? Perhaps they can’t be specialists, but their intellectual standard or capacity to learn, their ability to seek expert advice outside of lobbyists can be measured at the ballot box. 

In the end this is not about right and left, the “I wanna do it myself” versus “I want the government to do it” factions now baked into the political landscape. No, this is more about the need for experts to be elected instead of grandstanders, more about intelligence instead of charisma, and more about the true spirit of Americans always eager to explore new ideas and real facts over spin and “leave it for the next guy to figure out.”

There is an original American’s saying, “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.” Which I would amend for all legislators, “Never tell a man what to do until you’ve fully learned to walk in his shoes.” Knowledge, experience, is everything.


Peter Riva, a former resident of Amenia Union, now lives in New Mexico.