“I could have fit this all in my [Chevy] Suburban,” commented this state’s perennial campaigner for unnecessary if not mischievous change. At the time he was pulling up in a rental truck before the state’s Victory Building.
It was an impressive arrival. But once he stopped and opened the vehicle’s rollup door, it turned out there were only a paltry 15 office-supply boxes inside. Talk about anti-climax.
David Couch then claimed the petitions inside the truck bore 69,413 signatures —more than enough to present his proposal to raise the state’s minimum wage to $11 an hour. All it lacked was a good reason to put that proposition on the ballot when these boom times were already assuring skilled labor in this state of that much without making that figure a state law.
For no law can be as effective as the workings of a free economy when left to itself. Which is one reason the floor Mr. Couch & Co. proposes for wages in this state could turn out to be a ceiling in practice. Such is the fate of unnecessary fiddling with the economist’s iron law of wages.
Meanwhile, supporters of two other initiatives proposed — one to expand the number of gambling casinos in what once was a generally bucolic rural state and another to shorten term limits — were also claiming to have collected enough signatures to get their proposals on the ballot before the deadline. The clock was ticking and all the would-be authors of new provisions in Arkansas law busied themselves hustling signatures on behalf of their proposals. The idea that what state law might need was a good leaving-alone never seemed to have occurred to any of them.
This is not to say that some of the propositions to be put before the state’s electorate might be unworthy. For example, there’s the constitutional amendment to shorten term limits, an idea that should have been adopted some time ago. But the proposed constitutional amendment to add new gambling casinos to those already permitted in Arkansas is a loser. For it invites compulsive gamblers just to lose more and dig themselves ever deeper into a hole they can’t climb out of. Oh, will these mortals never learn? Instead, they trap themselves in this midsummer night’s endless dream.
Lest we forget, not all those promoting these ballot initiatives are motivated by self-interest or a purely parochial ideology. Consider the case and good example of Little Rock’s Thomas Steele, chairman of the Arkansas Term Limits Committee, who solemnly swore in his affidavit that his group had turned in 135,590 signatures on at least parts of 19,714 petitions to the Arkansas secretary of state’s office.
His is a good cause and deserves all the backing it can get. Let’s celebrate with him and keep on truckin’ to improve this state, which still has a way to go but, slowly and surely, is getting there.
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Paul Greenberg is a Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial writer and a columnist for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.