Carl Ostrom: Questions we should ask our politicians |

Carl Ostrom: Questions we should ask our politicians

In the first column, published in June, the concept of a job interview was introduced as part of the political campaign process. Like any job interview, specific questions are asked of the candidate to help define the character, qualifications, and personal perspective of the applicant.

What follows here is a small list of questions that could be asked. This particular list is primarily based on a national office, as opposed to a state or local jurisdiction. For a state or local jurisdiction office most of the questions would be the same, but a few would not be applicable. This is not a definitive list, but an introductory list to be used to initiate the process of defining more questions. The list does not include specific policy, but broad fundamental governance and personal perspective questions.

The first question that a candidate should be asked is the most basic.

What is the purpose of government?

Candidates should be able to clearly identify the purpose of government from their perspective. If they cannot, they have no business running for office. It is like going to a job interview with no concept of the job. But the danger of asking such a broad question is that it is easy to provide an answer that is too broad to be meaningful.

One way to answer that question is to either make a list or take a prepared list, similar to the one below, and rate the attributes of government in order of priority. Any aspect that the candidate perceives as not a function of government would be rated a “0” or not included on the list.

Maintaining law and order in both local and national jurisdictions

Military protection of nation from invasion

Military intervention in foreign nations to protect U.S. security interests

Military intervention in foreign nations to protect U.S. commercial interests

Influence of foreign governments to further nonmilitary U.S. interests

Judicial system to mediate disputes between individuals, businesses, or private entities and government

Balancing the government budget

Financial support of economic sectors to stabilize economy

Financial support of economic sectors competing against foreign competitors

Raise trade barriers to support U.S. industry over foreign competitors

Remove all trade barriers to assure open commercial trade

Prevention or reduction of limiting restrictions on US business

Providing restrictions on business to prevent predatory practices

Providing restrictions on business to prevent economic instability

Consumer protection from business deception and predatory practices

Taxation of business profits to support government activity

Taxation of individual income or activity to support government activity

Flat tax or graduated scale based on income or net worth

Tax relief for business investment

Protection of environment

Define policies of balance for environmental and business impact

Protection and development of national natural treasures

Care and protection of physically and mentally disadvantaged

Protecting minorities from harassment or discrimination

Protect religious freedom

Provide health care

Develop and implement plans for natural disaster response

Provide reliable communications and transportation infrastructure

What is the responsibility of government toward its citizens?

Public Safety?



Health care?


Personal freedom of behavior?

Are freedoms a right or a responsibility?

Is government a ruler of the populace or a servant of the populace?

How does government function to support your answer?

What events or issues would prompt you to support the interference in another country’s affairs?

Is maintaining or increasing the national debt a sustainable economic strategy?

Do you perceive yourself to be responsible for the content of campaign actions from PACs and national party election committees that support your campaign?

Assuming that your opponent and you have identical views of the issues, what makes you more qualified for this office?

Have you learned anything in the past 10 years that has prompted you to alter your ideology or perspective on life?

If so, what was it and how did it change you?

What measurable goals and accomplishments will define success or failure of your tenure?

These are just a few questions covering a broad spectrum that can be asked. The word limit for columns prevents a more comprehensive list in this space. In future columns we will look at specific topics identified in these questions and add some more questions, based on the topic of discussion.

Carl Ostrom lives in Nevada County.

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