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Richard Rider

Skepticism: My single most valued trait in a politician

As I’ve mentioned before, perhaps the single most valuable attribute a politician can have is SKEPTICISM. It’s a trait separate from one’s political persuasion. And as rare as hen’s teeth.

Here’s a “tell” that skeptical politicians can use to easily spot bad policy. Like any tell, it’s not infallible, but darn close.

At a legislative meeting, look at how many people in the room favor a proposed law or policy. The more lopsided — and the more populous and boisterous — that side is, the more likely it is special interest legislation that is at odds with the interests of the general public.

EXHIBIT A: When a law involving “bike lanes” (or a similar pro-biking proposal) comes up, the room is FILLED with “bikers.” Some dressed in their spandex uniforms. Most politicians are so impressed with such a turnout that they mistakenly think that there’s a HUGE preference by the public for this policy. So they reduce the car lanes from two to one, reduce the parking for stores and residents, and otherwise screw up our streets for the 98% of the people who get around in motorized vehicles.

EXHIBIT B: When the union bosses all show up, and perhaps a lot of “civilians” who support increases in government employee compensation, that’s a sure sign that whatever is being proposed needs to be OPPOSED. Conversely, if they all oppose a policy, the best response is to SUPPORT that policy!

We need to hold training seminars for politicians — a skepticism school to “sensitize” our elected officials to represent the folks NOT in the room. We’d start by explaining Milton Friedman’s insight concerning the “concentration of benefit, dispersal of cost.”