James Thomas

Positions

As I populate this site with position statements, I want to begin with a simple statement of my basic political philosophy.  As you evaluate my positions on a variety of specific issues you will find that each follows logically from this set of core principles. 

  • Communities work best when they have a welcoming and valued place for everyone.
  • Communities share commons which should be managed to provide the greatest benefit to the many at the least cost to the few.
  • Government is how communities organize to address common threats and  to pursue common goals. Taxes are how we pay for it.

We live in communities. From the intimate community of our families through our towns and counties and states and nation, we live together, we share commons, we pursue not only our personal interests but together we pursue our common interests. Together we can accomplish far more than can even the strongest of us can do alone.

The Romans recognized this principle 2500 years ago and today this verity is immortalized on every US penny in circulation with the words e pluribus unum: from many, one. It is for me a cardinal principle that communities work best when there is a welcoming and valued place for everyone in that community. When we consider the social pathologies that trouble our society it isn’t hard to see that those individuals least connected to the community are those most likely to act in ways that are inimical to the community’s interest. This is not to suggest that crime, drug abuse, and other social ills are never seen among well-integrated members of the community – but they are much less common. Those who are embraced by their community, those who have a valued place in it, participate in a quid pro quo that exchanges contribution to the group for security within the group.


Communities organize themselves to address common problems and pursue common goals by establishing governments. Communities can organize around many principles. From the time of the collapse of the Roman Empire in the 5th century until the 18th , most political communities were organized to benefit a monarch and a coterie of nobles and merchants. It isn’t for nothing that much of this period is referred to as the Dark Ages. The Enlightenment spelled the beginning of the end for generational autocratic rule and set the stage for the democratic revolutions that continue to this day.

The foundation of my political philosophy stems from the utilitarianism of Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill. Utilitarianism values policies that deliver the greatest benefit to the many at the least cost to the few. There is ample room to argue the relative costs and benefits of policies, but the object of those policies remains a fixed target and one that all people of goodwill can embrace.


In his first inaugural address Ronald Reagan famously said, “[G]overnment is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” That quote resonated deeply with me at the time. But on further reflection I realized that I was wrong and so was he.

Government is how we organize ourselves to achieve common goals and to address common problems. Taxes are how we pay for it. In a healthy democracy none of us will achieve everything we wish from the government, nor will we avoid everything that we don’t want. The necessity of compromise is baked into our political process.

The process is not perfect, it is more like a drunkard’s walk; the general direction may be clear but the path veers from left to right and back again. In truth there is little alternative to this meandering process. Many of the problems we delegate to government are wickedly complex and perfect solutions are rarely evident. The drunkard’s walk toward the goal is manageable so long as men and women of goodwill can at least agree on the destination, on how success is to be defined. But when politics becomes intractably polarized, we jerk first one way and then the other. We spend all of our effort moving left and right but little forward progress is made.

I have no patience for ideologues and hyper-partisans. There is a time for politicians to argue their perspectives forcefully. There is also a time for politicians to put aside that which divides them from their political opponents and focus instead on achieving solutions – even partial solutions – that don’t give anyone everything they want but everyone what they can live with.

For State Representative, 35th District Position 1
Positions