Integrity tops political
virtues list - Researchers offering tips to
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
• 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
• 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
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org
or at (602) 444-8069.