As a young man growing up in the 1960s and 1970s, I was drawn to comic book heroes. During my teenage years, I particularly identified with Spider-Man.
The overarching theme of the Spider-Man storyline was, “With great power comes great responsibility,” which was originally attributed to the French writer Voltaire. This axiom has stuck with me throughout my life.
As an American, a Hoosier and a Libertarian, I have found that a slight alteration to the axiom is also very relevant: “With great freedom comes great responsibility.” You see, I believe government's job is to secure our individual freedoms.
Thomas Jefferson said in the preamble to the Declaration of Independence, “That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” So, based upon Jefferson's description, government gets its power from the citizens and, therefore, the power belongs to the citizens – “With great power comes great responsibility.”
Over the past nine months, many Hoosiers have been adversely affected by executive orders which they believe were an inappropriate use of government power and exceeded the consent of the governed. Nearly 1 million Hoosiers either temporarily or permanently lost their jobs.
Small businesses throughout the state were ordered closed and many of them have closed permanently, unable to reopen. Hoosiers were prohibited from attending their place of worship and from engaging in certain religious exercises. Businesses were categorized as essential and non-essential with varying restrictions on normal operations.
Many Hoosiers have felt helpless to seek a redress of grievances under their First Amendment rights. Our current situation in Indiana leads us to a genuine need to hold government accountable and maintain the consent of the governed.
If we, as citizens of the United States and the state of Indiana, believe in Jefferson's viewpoint, then we must accept our individual responsibility to secure our freedoms. The most obvious individual responsibility and form of consent that we must exercise is to vote.
In 2016, more than 2 million registered voters in Indiana did not vote in the general election, about 40% of registered voters. Is choosing not to vote the same as consent? If you do not vote, have you given your consent by abstaining?
Voting is a responsibility every citizen should embrace to ensure our continued freedom. I encourage every registered voter in Indiana to exercise their right to vote and view it as a personal responsibility that comes with personal freedom.
Consent of the governed should not be confined to periodic elections. Jefferson also is credited with saying, “When the people fear government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.”
I believe that consent of the governed must be a continuous process. Citizens must always have at their disposal a means to retract consent when government oversteps its boundaries. For this reason, I strongly advocate for Indiana to adopt a political recall process for elected officials. Currently, 39 states allow for some form of political recall; Indiana is not one of them.
The purpose of political recall is to allow citizens to withdraw their consent from an elected official who is abusing their power or failing to perform their delineated duties. The process normally includes the collection of petition signatures and, if enough signatures are obtained, one or more votes involving the following: a yes/no vote on the specific official, a contested vote between the specific official and one or more challengers, or a simultaneous yes/no vote and a vote to select a replacement if the official loses the yes/no vote.
Political recall is a tremendously effective method of enabling citizens to exercise their responsibility to safeguard their freedoms.
Unfortunately, in our current manifestation of government, all too often the citizens' freedoms are disregarded by government because of the influence of special interests.
In these instances, the consent of the governed should be exercised by direct ballot initiatives.
As with political recall, petition signatures are collected; however, ballot initiatives propose legislation that is not being addressed by the legislature. Ballot initiatives give citizens the ability to have legislation placed on the general election ballot for a popular vote by the citizens themselves.
While Indiana does not currently allow for ballot initiatives, I believe ballot initiatives are an important element in ensuring the continuous consent of the governed.
We, the people, must decide to what type of government we will consent. If we are dissatisfied or displeased with our government, we must ensure that we build into our government framework the tools necessary to continuously give or retract our consent.
We must safeguard our freedoms from those who would slowly and methodically take them from us and rule over us without our consent.
As Nov. 3 approaches, I encourage you to remember “With great freedom comes great responsibility” and I would ask for your vote for governor.