Our Opinion: Restrictive pledges limit deliberation

We respect elected officials who keep their campaign promises.

But promises that guide — for example, adherence to the principle of limited government — are preferable to those that restrict, such as the anti-tax pledge now in the news.

As congressmen work to avoid what has been dubbed the “fiscal cliff,” some Republican lawmakers are distancing themselves from a promise not to raise taxes.

The Taxpayer Protection Pledge, or simply “The Pledge,” has been offered to candidates since 1986 by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform.

According to a recent report by The Associated Press, 279 lawmakers had signed the pledge heading into the recent elections, but some signers are having second thoughts. The AP said no more than 212 will consider themselves bound by the pledge when the new House is seated next year.

The anti-tax pledge is perhaps the most publicized single-issue promise sought from candidates, but it has hatched numerous imitators.

Candidates receive countless forms and surveys from interest and advocacy groups seeking to secure a promise on a specific issue.

The problem with making a specific pledge is it presupposes the climate surrounding the issue will remain unchanged.

If we have learned anything about governing and issues, however, it is that the only constant is change.

We appreciate candidates for public office who outline their philosophy of governing and how they will employ those principles to study issues and make decisions.

Decisions is the operative word.

We elect government representatives to make choices based on the most comprehensive and current information available.

We should not elect automatons who already have narrowed and restricted their ability to choose based on pre-election pledges.

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