Integrity tops political virtues list - Researchers offering tips to aid voters

By Chip Scutari
The Arizona Republic

Aug. 22, 2002

How do some of Arizona's leading think tanks judge political candidates? What do they think are the Top 10 qualities or characteristics that politicians should carry in their resume?

For nearly 15 years, the Goldwater Institute has been carrying on the tradition of its namesake, the late Sen. Barry Goldwater. It advocates for limited government, economic freedom and individual responsibility in policy papers and public forums. The institute's research has been cited in the pages of national publications, such as the Wall Street Journal.

Here are the "Top 10 Things Voters Should Look for as They Judge Candidates," according to Darcy Olsen, executive director of the Goldwater Institute.

 Integrity: Integrity is a strong antidote to Lord Acton's admonition that "power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely." With the executive and legislative branches passing countless new rules, regulations and bills every year, it is almost impossible to keep an eye on government. Look for candidates who demonstrate strong personal integrity.

 Respect workers: Governments don't make money - they take money. According to Census Bureau data, Arizonans work an average of 120 days per year just to pay the tax man. It takes one whole month to pay local and state tax bills alone. Find candidates committed to putting money back in your pockets.

 Word of honor: Look for candidates willing to sign pledges and resign if they renege. When we vote for candidates, we do so in good faith - faith that our candidates will keep their campaign promises. Signing a pledge is a simple way for candidates to reciprocate the voters' good faith.

 Stop giving politicians blank checks: Satirist P. J. O'Rourke observes that "giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys." Look for candidates who support expenditure limits, such as a Taxpayer Bill of Rights restricting spending to population growth. Spending limits encourage politicians to set priorities and eliminate waste.

 Respect the Constitution: The Arizona and U.S. Constitutions lay down the rules, responsibilities and boundaries for government action. The restraints on government set forth in those documents ensure that we are a nation governed by the rule of law. The alternative is to be governed by the arbitrary whims of those in power.

 A tight ship: As the potential CEO and members of the board of directors for the state (or nation), candidates should be committed to ensuring that every dollar spent is in the best interests of shareholders. Look for candidates eager to do right by taxpayers by taking a red pen to waste, increasing efficiency and requiring transparency in all government actions.

 Live and let live: George Washington warned that government is like fire: a handy servant but a fearful master. Government serves us well by securing our rights to life, liberty and happiness, but ill serves when it dictates lifestyle. Find candidates that respect the limited role of government in a free society, supporting policies like school choice and personal retirement accounts that empower people, not politicians.

 Courage: Look for candidates motivated by principle, not politics. Throughout his career, Goldwater concerned himself with one primary question: Am I maximizing freedom? Seek candidates with their feet firmly planted and with a backbone to withstand the wind.

 Clean house: Many programs get an automatic raise each year regardless of how they serve citizens. Does the Office for Excellence in Government really deserve a bonus? Seek candidates who support zero-based budgeting, which makes sure no program gets a free pass. This measure requires programs to prove their worth to the Legislature before getting renewed funding.

 Humility: Seek candidates who recognize their fallibility. Adam Smith put the importance of humility this way, "The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capital would assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of a man who had folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it."

On Friday, The Arizona Republic will feature the Morrison Institute's Top 10 list for judging political candidates.

Reach the reporter at or at (602) 444-8069.

In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, any copyrighted work in this message is distributed under fair use without profit or payment for non-profit research and educational purposes only. [Ref.]


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