Recently, I was challenged for my constant ragging on Massachusetts. Why am I so tough on the state? I thought about it, and I came to the simple answer: I don’t trust them.
And I come by that distrust honestly: they don’t trust themselves. Not on almost anything.
The people of Massachusetts have, for years, elected and re-elected their chosen representatives to the legislature and other leaders. They have chosen and reaffirmed their chosen as lawmakers on numerous opportunities — and those representatives have consistently shown their disdain and distrust for the people that granted them their authority.
They don’t trust the people to own guns responsibly. The Constitution, in its 2nd Amendment, says that “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Now, some can make a principled argument that this right is a “collective” right, an authorization for National Guards and registered gun-owners who agree to be a part of a “militia,” but they don’t even bother with that fiction in Massachusetts. They just pile more and more restrictions and conditions and just outright refusal to comply with the Constitution. They can’t keep the guns out of the hands of the criminals, but they figure they can at least keep ’em out of the hands of regular citizens.
They don’t trust the people to be responsible about their own safety on the roads. Motorcycle riders cannot choose to do without a helmet, and those in cars WILL wear their seat belts. The legislature has gradually ratcheted up their seat belt laws, with each step accompanied with a promise that they will go “this far, and no farther.” We’ll have seat belt laws, but only for children under 18. The law will cover everyone, but it won’t be a primary offense — the police won’t be able to pull you over based just on that. The law will be a primary offense, but not a surchargeable one — it won’t affect your insurance. And that’s just three examples off the top of my head — the long and sordid history of seat belt laws in Massachusetts has many more chapters.
They don’t trust the people to have any say in major matters. For years, opponents of gay marriage have fought to have the matter put to a state-wide vote, in a Constitutional amendment that would go before all the people and vote simply up or down on this fundamental matter. And every single time, the legislature has taken that proposal, with thousands of signatures of registered voters, wadded it up unread, and tossed it in the trash.
They don’t even trust the people when the people work within the law and pass their own referendums. The people of Massachusetts were promised that the income tax increases to 5.3% and 5.8% would be “temporary” back in the 80’s, and they’re still on the books. It took tremendous public pressur and one very brave lawmaker to work language into the law that made the 5.8% increase “voluntary” and allow people to choose which rate they wished to pay — and less than considerably less than .01% have opted to give the Commonwealth more than they are minimally required. (To the best of my knowledge, neither of the Bay State’s Senators, Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, pay the higher rate. No, both millionaires who always argue that the government “needs” more money chooses to pay one penny to their home state than they absolutely have to.) The people even passed a referendum rolling back the tax rate, but the lawmakers looked at their billion-dollar surplus and simply decided to ignore it.
The legislature of Massachusetts has consistently, at nearly every turn, decided to ignore or openly defy the wishes of the people who put them in office. And the people of Massachusetts have consistently, at nearly every turn, rewarded those who spit in their faces with re-election, often without even bothering to find another candidate to offer token opposition.
There’s an old saying that in democracies, the people tend to get the government they deserve. And that old saw is proving to be damningly accurate in the Bay State.