Of Pomp and Political Privilege

This morning, several state officials elected last November were sworn into office. Most of them did so as part of an elaborate ceremony featuring a 19-gun salute from the Utah National Guard, a military aircraft flyover, and performances from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, a children’s choir, and the Utah National Guard’s 23rd Army Band. The estimated cost to Utah taxpayers was in the ballpark of $30,000.

With a $13 billion annual budget in Utah, it may perhaps seem misguided to fret over such a comparatively small amount. But anybody working to overcome a spending addiction knows that even the small wasteful expenditures must be curtailed—after all, small things add up quickly.

More important than the sum is the determination of whether the expense is justified at all. Should individuals in Utah be forcibly taxed so that politicians can throw themselves a fancy party?

The state legitimately exists only to defend the lives, liberty, and property of each individual. The agents elected to positions within the institution of government must be empowered and constrained only to these limited and core activities. Correspondingly, property confiscated from citizens via taxation should only be used in pursuit of these defensive objectives.

Flying jets and a fancy fiesta to celebrate the re-election of the state’s governor is, according to his spokeswoman, a “historic opportunity to honor the office.” But the office of governor is only truly honored to the extent that the individual within the office honorably fulfills his constitutional duties and defends the rights of individuals within the state. Forcing citizens to “honor the office” by throwing a party for its current occupant is hardly praiseworthy.

Imagine an elected leader opting for a simple, no-frills ceremony to take his oath of office. No taxpayer dollars, no pomp and circumstance, no claims of “honoring the office”—just a dedication to properly using tax dollars and focusing on the legitimate duties of the office. That would be an event worthy of our praise.