Think Freely Media presents Common Sense with Paul Jacob

John Lilburne and Eric Ehst could never meet: They belong to different eras. But they have something in common.

Back in the 1600s, John Lilburne worked as a pamphleteer and champion of individual or “freeborn” rights. He pioneered the use of petitioning for redress against government power and abuse.

Lilburne was a term limits guy, too, arguing that members of parliament should not be able to serve for longer than a year at a time. Unfortunately, he spent far too much time in jail; his support for individual rights bugged both the Crown and then Cromwell. Lilburne’s trials sparked the fire that led to our own Fifth Amendment.

The Citizens in Charge Foundation, a group I work with, has just launched The John Lilburne Award. This monthly honor will go to a citizen working to protect and expand our petition rights.

Eric Ehst is the award’s first winner, for November 2008.

Ehst, executive director of the Clean Elections Institute, formed a coalition that helped defeat Arizona’s Proposition 105. This measure would have severely hampered Arizona’s initiative process by requiring a virtually impossible majority of all registered voters — not just those voting — to pass any initiative that would raise a tax or fee or that mandated any spending at all, even a postage stamp.

Long ago, John Lilburne struggled to establish the peoples’ right to petition their government. This year in Arizona, Eric Ehst defended that same right.

This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.

By: Redactor


  1. Neal says:

    While I’m generally with Paul on protecting the right to petition, Arizona’s Proposition 105, if I’m understanding it correctly, would have protected taxpayers – also a noble goal. Allowing a minority of voters to raise taxes on everyone – isn’t that also an abuse of power?

    Ehst was a vice chair of the Arizona Democratic Party. Groups opposing Proposition 105 included the typical government trough feeders.

  2. Max Kessler says:

    So, he petitioned *against* making it more difficult for the government to waste more money? What next, giving somebody an award for petitioning to ban firearms?

    Democracy is *not* a solution to anything. People, including taxpayers, have rights that should be protected by the government, regardless of what the whim of the majority has to say. Any increase in government spending absolutely must meet an impractically high standard.

  3. C. D. Tavares says:

    Paul, this is the first time I have ever disagreed with you, and I disagree with you strenuously on this one.

    Proposition 105 (“Majority Rule”) was an attempt to stop “public choice” politics in Arizona. A pressure group (often from out of state) organizes an initiative to fund some spiffy new program that no one really needs, and gets it passed during an off-year election. If they can organize all the trough-suckers to get out and vote that year (especially when it involves money for the teachers’ unions), they get their program… and once a tax or appropriation has been passed as part of a citizen initiative it can NEVER be reduced or otherwise modified by the legislature, only by another initiative. Of course, there is never any “organization” organized to REPEAL the tax or appropriation, so the big-government people win forever.

    Six years ago, a special interest ran an initiative to use tax money to build a stadium for a local ball team — yup, corporate welfare. To sweeten the pot, they loaded it with interest-group pork — new soccer fields for one constituency, new riding paths for another, some improvements to the local racetrack, and so on and so on. The initiative passed, the stadium was built, the other stuff either wasn’t done or amounted to a coat of paint, and the citizens were robbed again.

    Proposition 105 was endorsed by groups like these:

    Americans for Prosperity
    Americans for Limited Government
    American Conservative Union
    Americans for Tax Reform
    National Rifle Association
    National Tax Committee
    Arizona Free Enterprise Club
    Arizona tax Research Association
    Arizona Federation of Taxpayers
    Libertarian Party of Arizona

    You will notice these are all “small government” groups.

    Instead, you awarded the opposition, a fellow who works for Clean Elections — a big government group.

    How much more of a clue did you need?

    Please correct this injustice!

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