Analyzing Legislation
by David Barton
Posted 7/5/02


  • Briefly state the problem or issue addressed by this bill.

  • What relationships are affected by this bill? (e.g., parent to child, husband and wife, business to business, contracts, state to citizen, state to business, etc.)

  • Does this bill address a general and widespread problem, or is it based on a worst-case scenario? (e.g., because one homeschool parent mistreats his child, not all homeschool parents need to be regulated.)

  • What facts and what sources are documented to prove that this is a widespread, general problem warranting legislation?

  • Is this the least restrictive manner for government to address the issue?

  • What is the philosophical worldview of the bill's chief sponsor?

  • Are there any aspects of this bill, either direct or indirect, which are addressed by the Bible? If so, does this bill contradict any Biblical teaching?

An Appropriate Function of State Government-A Recognition of Proper Jurisdictions

[A]cknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, . . . with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens-a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities. THOMAS JEFFERSON

Does this bill:

  • address an issue which falls under the unique jurisdiction of State government? If so, what is the legitimate State interest?

  • usurp power from another jurisdiction (e.g., family, church, private business, local community)?

Limited Government

Government is aptly compared to architecture; if the superstructure is too heavy for the foundation, the building totters, [even if] assisted by outward props. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Does this bill:

  • limit or expand, government size, powers, or intrusiveness?

  • provide provisions to ensure accountability and observability by the citizens?

  • micromanage the activities or establish an intrusive mandate, either funded or unfunded, on citizens, businesses, families, or communities?

  • make government a provider of goods or services or does it seek a free-market solution?

Empowering the People and Local Communities

I am not among those who fear the people. THOMAS JEFFERSON All political power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their benefit. TEXAS CONSTITUTION

I wish . . . never to see all offices transferred to [the Capitol], where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market. THOMAS JEFFERSON

Here, the people are masters of the government: [in other places] the government is master of the people. JAMES WILSON, U. S. Supreme Court Justice and Signer of the Declaration and the Constitution

Does this bill:

  • take rights from the people?

  • interfere with any inalienable rights?

  • restrict the liberty of the law-abiding citizen in his peaceful pursuits?

  • assume that "everyone" is guilty, and must prove themselves innocent? (e.g., require all employers to prove that they are not hiring illegal immigrants.)

  • protect the people from themselves or their own ignorance?

  • benefit citizens in general, or just a narrow constituency?

  • promote local controls?

Spending and Taxes

I . . . place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. THOMAS JEFFERSON

On new spending: When you incline to have new clothes, look first well over the old ones, and see if you cannot shift with them another year, either by scouring, mending, or even patching if necessary. Remember, a patch on your coat and money in your pocket is better and more creditable than a writ on your back and no money to take it off. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

To constrain . . . the people, the European governments deem it necessary to . . . take from them, as from bees, so much of their earnings. . . . And these earnings they apply to maintain their privileged orders in splendor and idleness, to fascinate the eyes of the people. THOMAS JEFFERSON

On hidden taxes: Direct taxes are not . . . easily levied on the . . . inhabitants of our wide extended country; [but] what is paid in the price of merchandise is less felt by the consumer, and less the cause of complaint. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Does this bill:

  • cost money or increase taxes?

  • provide a visible tax, or a tax hidden in the price or products or services?

  • establish a permanent entitlement?

  • use taxes for penalty, social control, or reform?

Business Impact

Industry and constant employment are great preservatives of the morals and virtue of a nation. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

America, under an efficient government, will be the most favorable country of any in the world for persons of industry and frugality. GEORGE WASHINGTON

Does this bill:

  • discourage free enterprise?

  • discourage entrepreneurship?

  • affect the tax burden on businesses?

  • negatively impact businesses?

  • make businessmen serve as government bookkeepers or file clerks?

  • restrict the employee and employer from deciding between themselves an equitable wage and working environment?

  • restrict the employer from designing, producing, and pricing his goods or services?

  • restrict the consumer in his free choice of services or purchases?

Family Preservation and Strengthening

Marriage was not originated by human law. When God created Eve, she was a wife to Adam; they then and there occupied the status of husband to wife and wife to husband. . . .The truth is that civil government has grown out of marriage . . . which created homes, and population, and society, from which government became necessary. . . . [Marriages] will produce a home and family that will contribute to good society, to free and just government, and to the support of Christianity. . . . It would be sacrilegious to apply the designation "a civil contract" to such a marriage. It is that and more; a status ordained by God. TEXAS SUPREME COURT IN GRIGSBY V. REIB

Whether we consult the soundest deductions of reason, or resort to the best information conveyed to us by history, or listen to the undoubted intelligence communicated in Holy Writ, we shall find that to the institution of marriage the true origin of society must be traced. By that institution the felicity of Paradise was consummated. . . . Legislators have with great [correctness]. . . provided, as far as municipal law can provide, against the violation of rights indispensably essential to the purity and harmony of [marriage]. JAMES WILSON, U. S. Supreme Court Justice and Signer of the Declaration and the Constitution

Does this bill:

  • foster the traditional family structure?

  • strengthen, or weaken, the stability of the family and, particularly, the marital commitment?

  • interfere with the fundamental right of parents to direct the upbringing, supervision, and education of their children?

  • substitute governmental activity for a family function or responsibility?

  • increase or decrease family earnings?

Private Property and Individual Rights

[It] is not a just government, nor is property secure under it, where arbitrary restrictions . . . deny to part of its citizens [the] free use of their facilities. JAMES MADISON

Does this bill:

  • limit, control, or destroy a person's right to own and use his property, and that which lies above and beneath it?

  • use a citizen's property for the government's or someone else's profit?

Strengthening Morality and Individual Accountability

Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters. BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

The great pillars of all government and of social life [are] virtue, morality, and religion. This is the armor, my friend, and this alone, that renders us invincible. PATRICK HENRY

Purity of morals [is] the only sure foundation of public happiness in any country. GEORGE WASHINGTON

Does this bill:

  • strengthen or weaken traditional moral values?

  • require personal accountability for actions?

  • provide favorable treatment of one group to the detriment of another?

  • force citizens to subsidize government-financed expenditures that violate their traditional moral or religious beliefs?

  • promote a positive work ethic?

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