on Habits

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC) ancient Greek philosopher, scientist and physician

Well we are about to begin a new year: 2013. That means we will be writing the wrong date on our checks and correspondence until at least February. It takes a while to unlearn a behavior that we have grown accustomed to, doesn’t it? Habits, especially bad ones, are difficult to break. Maybe that is why many of us make New Year’s Resolutions – we want a new beginning, a chance to learn to do life better.

So, in that vein, I want to propose a list of New Year’s Resolutions for our politicians, because there are quite a bit of bad habits they need to unlearn. Unlike our personal bad habits that just affect ourselves and maybe those closest to us, their political bad habits affect all Americans, usually with little consequence to themselves:

Resolution #1: I will cease ignoring the U.S. Constitution. I swore an oath to support and defend our founding document that gave clear boundaries to my office, so I will avoid any attempt to substitute the intent of the Founders with the reinterpretations made by past or present professors, pundits, politicians, judges or lobbyists

Resolution #2: I will stop acting like I am the people’s parent, instead of their servant. There are consequences to every choice that we make; as an adult my parents did not protect me from mine, nor should I protect the people from theirs. Thinking that I always know best is the attitude of a tyrant; I was elected to protect liberty. I will remember that true freedom includes the ability to choose wrongly.

Resolution # 3: I will respect the sacred stewardship of the public purse, knowing that every dollar into the treasury represents the sacrifice, hard work, and time away from families of the American people. I will ensure that the government has a budget, lives within its means, does not go further into debt, and does not engage in funding projects outside its Constitutional duties. If I allow the government to make foolish or wasteful choices, then we will find a way for government to make the sacrifices needed to balance the budget, instead of placing additional financial burden on present or future Americans.

Resolution #4: I will be a student of history, so as to humbly learn from it and apply that knowledge to my office.  I will read and research all bills, laws, and regulations so I will not unwittingly impose greater burdens on the people. I will remember that small men make excuses or blame others for their mistakes; statesmen learn from them.

Resolution #5: I will help build up my country by ensuring that our children learn the accurate history of our nation instead of a revisionist one. Our nation has triumphed because of our belief that people can accomplish great things when they live free; it is time to end the obsessive focus on our failures, and the reinterpreting of our history through this lens. Tearing down our nation will not build others up. We set the standard for overcoming failures and doing great things because of liberty; it is time to expect other nations to rise and meet the same.

Resolution #5: I will remember to become smaller so that the people can become greater. I will, above all, seek virtue and strive to be of good character, fearing not to call out those who dishonor the public trust, no matter to which party they pledge allegiance. I will remember that my loyalty lies with the American people alone.

I know that bad habits are difficult to break. Perhaps that is why we keep electing them.

“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong gives it the superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom. But the tumult soon subsides. Time makes more converts than reason.” Thomas Paine (1737-1809), author of Common Sense and American revolutionary

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