Legislators need more education

Posted: Friday, November 24, 2006

Alaskans are complaining about political corruption and undue influence by lobbyists. In defiance, current political traditions and ways of doing things are increasingly turning away from people-based government principles.

For example: How to successfully harvest and organize a population’s ideas, contributions and efforts toward state and national goals is rarely practiced, or even understood. This is demonstrated by the common assertion representatives are elected to make the hard decisions for everyone, yet this defines aristocracy, not representative government.

Another example: Alaska Constitution, Article 2, Section 12, last sentence reads: “The Legislature shall regulate lobbying.” Yes! The very thing most Alaskans feel our Legislature doesn’t do enough of is actually constitutionally mandated. In reaction to their negligence, we citizens have to pass initiatives about lobbying and even, in desperation, attempt moving the Capitol.

Furthermore, politicians who rebel against how things are done are suppressed and demoralized by a tradition-oriented political infrastructure. Consequently, it’s precisely why citizen apathy is never actually addressed. Apathy serves benevolent elected aristocrats that masquerade as representatives very well.

There’s a way to change all this. Our Legislature is constitutionally commanded to provide rules to maximize cooperative efficiency for doing the public s business (Alaska Constitution, Article 2, Sect. 12). But current legislative rules fail to include the most successful method of all time at accomplishing just that.

The rules don’t require on-the-job self-education by legislators about the craft of government. Yet true professionals have always proven commitment to results and ethics standards through career-long self-education about their work. Why should Alaska lawmakers be any different?

In remedy, the Legislature could pass this simple rule: Each member of the Legislature shall spend at least three hours per week each session personally studying government forms and lawmaking, including histories of their successes and failures. At the beginning of each term, each legislator shall take a voluntary exam about government to have a benchmark to individualize personal studies. The regularly freshened exam shall be composed by Alaska’s social studies teachers, under the supervision of the lieutenant governor’s office, with Alaska Supreme Court oversight.

Let’s make our government run on educated competence.

Stuart Thompson


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