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Principles for examining Nevada policy

What do you feel when you hear the name Donald Trump?

Now, what comes to mind for the names Aaron Ford, Michael Roberson, Jason Frierson and Paul Anderson?

For most Nevadans, those four men will have a larger impact on their day-to-day lives than President-elect Trump, despite their lower name recognition.

That’s because they are the Democrat and Republican leaders of the state Senate and Assembly. They, 59 other legislators, and Gov. Brian Sandoval will make decisions affecting the roads you drive on, the money you have to spend, and the schools your children can go to. The influence of local laws is why this column will focus primarily on Nevada policy issues.

As with year 2017 that was ushered in today, this column is new, but I’m not a stranger to these topics. They’re what I’ve been researching, studying and writing on for the past eight years while working as the executive vice president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a nonpartisan, free-market think tank.

I’ve produced a line-by-line alternative state budget, empowered dissatisfied union members to opt-out of union membership, and written on the unsustainable nature of the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada.

I’m also a member of the Nevada National Guard and spent most of 2016 deployed to the Middle East. The time away made me even more grateful for the freedoms we have and the need to protect them from government encroachment.

Before diving in, here’s how I approach issues.It’s important to look at a policy’s second-order effects, not just its intended purpose. Often, the short-term and long-term implications of a policy are polar opposites. It’s like when your toddler is throwing a tantrum in the grocery store to try to get candy. Do you give in, so you look like your child is well-behaved but ensuring future outbursts, or do you refuse, knowing that the temporary embarrassment is worth your child learning that whining won’t be rewarded?

Because policy outcomes are complex, principles are essential. Sometimes having principles gets a bad rap in politics — usually by those pushing poor policy — but principles bring clarity. When you teach your child not to steal, you don’t tell him to weigh the odds of getting caught versus the payoff, you give them a principle, “It’s wrong,” to cling to when tempted. As 19th-century economist Frédéric Bastiat wrote, “The purpose of the law is to prevent injustice from reigning. In fact, it is injustice, instead of justice, that has an existence of its own. Justice is achieved only when injustice is absent.” That is a guiding principle for me.

Examine assumptions. Do you question the fairness of some being so rich while others live in poverty? It’s a natural query but contains the idea that individuals inherently deserve a certain level of wealth. Man’s natural state, however, is poverty. The better question is “Why is anyone rich?” You can’t cure poverty if you attack the very things needed to create wealth.

I look forward to discussing with you the issues that most affect Nevadans.

Victor Joecks’ column will appear in the Nevada section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. You can contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com, or follow him on Twitter: @victorjoecks.

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