Senator Mike Gravel
I like the, I like the Madison idea. I really do. That is that if you’re going to do something fundemental, you go to the People. I hold a view right now: even if we could get the Congress to enact this, I would rather see it enacted by the People. Because one of the great benefits of the initiative process is that you get a consensus of a degree, and it’s a question of degrees, when you have the vote and it becomes a law.
Well, that’s the problems with laws—is the minute you pass a law, you got to have people obey it. And if they, how many people here obey the speed limit? That’s a law. God, we took away once all your highway moneys because you weren’t, you were driving too fast. But that’s a law. I’m a heavy footer; I used to drive a taxi in New York. So I drive, and I’m always looking out for the cops. So I wontonly disobey the law. Well, what’s the big deal?
I was sitting on a finance committee once with, I won’t give the person’s name because you all know him. And we were there for six years, elbow to elbow on markups. And this person turns to me, he says, “God damn it Gravel, you can’t do that. That’s the law.” I turned to him, I says, “We make the law.” That’s the reason why you see a certain mentality in people who have the agency to make laws that they think they can wontonly do what they want because they’re above the law. They make the law. Whoever makes law can hold himself above the law. That’s one of the, the corrupting influences of having power.
[Editor: Senator Gravel covers a lot of ground here. With respect to the speed limit, the Senator feels the limit was imposed upon him by some outside authority. He implies that his lack of involvement in lawmaking makes him disinclined to respect the speed limit. On the other hand, Senator Gravel reports on his own experience imposing laws on others tempted him to feel above the law, again disinclined to respect existing law. He implies that these two examples are both attributable to the representative nature of lawmaking; that law developed by initiative would be more likely to be respected and obeyed than law developed by elected representatives. In the next segment, Senator Gravel explains the fundemental principles underlying lawmaking by initiative.]
All rights have responsibilities. You cannot divorce the two. Where does the awareness of responsibilities comes in? In comes in a sense of morality that we have of right and wrong. Where does that come from? That comes from our spiritual awareness, our religious teachings, that comes from experience. I put my hand in the fire. It hurts. I take it out. I tell my kids, don’t put it. Life is a process of maturation. And, and when we talk of democracy, the first element of governance is the family, that unit.
And so what happens? A child is born. And the child is born into an autocratic system because he has to learn how to use the potty. And it goes from there. And, but, as the child develops and learns more, the secret to parenting is to pay out, pay out rights or powers to the children so they can begin to understand the responsibilities that go with this. And so when they arrive at adulthood, they now are responsible in the use of the power that they have as an individual human being. And so, the kernel of it is that.
Now what do you think of a system where you do not pay out any responsibility to the People and the People think, as a result of that, that they are no longer responsible. I vote for George. I vote for this guy, and if it doesn’t work right, I’m mad at him. Of course, I’m absolved because I think that when I transfer power to him that I’m transferring my responsibility. I am not. And so what we have done is we have obliterated the sense of responsibility to have and the maturation of the citizen. So how are we going to mature the citizens? Is by giving them the power to learn to legislate. And we’ve got 100 years of experience.