Commentary

Flemming: Pearson ‘libertarian’? Not so much

By David Flemming

On May 21, Sen. Chris Pearson (P-Chittenden) testified about H.157 on the Senate floor. H.157 would require that residential contractors register with the state of Vermont, and pay a fee for the privilege for doing so.

Pearson began with this remarkable statement, “I have a sort of “libertarian streak” senators have sometimes seen….”

Sen. Chris Pearson (P/D)

Taking a quick detour into the Oxford English Dictionary’s definition of a libertarian: “an advocate or supporter of a political philosophy that advocates only minimal state intervention in the free market and the private lives of citizens.” Continuing with Pearson’s floor testimony:

“…I have worked alongside contractors (and) I have friends who are contractors. And frankly, I hesitated to support this bill, and then go to a barbecue with my contractor friends and be endlessly ribbed for my nanny state instincts… but what really tipped the scales for me, is the fact that there’s an intersection here with the important work we have to do in the climate sphere. We are investing and helping Vermonters invest with incentives in things. Like swap-outs for high-efficiency wood stoves incentives, for heat pump incentives, we want people to better insulate their homes. We are constantly having small tweaks to code and the joke in the residential sphere is, code is voluntary. It’s not voluntary. It’s not voluntary!”

A cynic might see Pearson’s testimony as evidence he got so annoyed at his “contractor friends” and their jokes about housing codes being “voluntary,” that he decided to vote to make his friends pay a registration fee so they would treat Vermont’s codes with more reverence.

I for one, have yet to see any evidence of Sen. Pearson’s “libertarian streak” on any legislative vote or in any committee meeting. Libertarianism is a philosophy of voluntary action being morally superior to coercive action. When it comes time to vote on just about any issue, Pearson has chosen coercion over liberty just about every time, as you can see from his Roll Call Profile. His insistence on codes being “not voluntary” is just the latest case in a long-standing trend.

But perhaps that cynical explanation should give way to a more understanding one: Sen. Pearson has libertarian instincts which get overwhelmed by his “nanny state instincts” whenever the “climate sphere” comes up.

Only problem is, the climate sphere is ever-expanding with Vermont’s ongoing quest to reduce Vermont’s miniscule carbon emissions. If you buy into the need to prevent immanent climate disaster, it might make some amount of sense that the Legislature is preparing to severely curtail the element of choice in home heating, through tax and through fiat.

But regulating residential contractors? Oh right. Because contractors need to become ‘agents of the state’ for ensuring that customers can only ‘choose’ whatever costly energy efficiency ‘upgrades’ legislators in Montpelier have concocted. Or else these contractors become prohibited from legally working on construction projects. There are few limits to Pearson’s “nanny state instincts” if the only exception to his libertarianism happens to be ‘saving the planet.’

One wonders if some of Pearson’s contractor friends will invite Senator Pearson back to their barbeques after he pulls this on them. It should come as no surprise that finding Pearson’s libertarian streak is a bit like chasing the elusive Bigfoot.

To watch Pearson’s testimony, click here.

David Flemming is a policy analyst at the Ethan Allen Institute

Categories: Commentary

6 replies »

  1. One can ONLY hope that at sometime, Mr pearson will have to pay the EXTRA Money to have any of his own projects completed. Maybe, he won’t even be able to find a State licensed and vetted Contractor to do his job.

  2. Bless his heart — the “…manage their pursuit-of-happiness force…” is powerful in this one.

  3. As with anyone with a serious mental impairment, for his own benefit lets please not indulge Sen. Pearson’s delusional fantasies. Extreme leftists like him seem to like to redefine words to suit their twisted reality; words like “libertarian”, “fascism” and “gender”. Heck, to some of us old timers, gay still means happy and carefree…

  4. Pearson uses “libertarian” almost as a malaprop. How sad.
    His contractor buddys are correct about codes in Vermont. For single family owner occupied dwellings and farms, building codes are scarce, indeed. Check 26 VSA. 882 for clarification on electrical rules you may have codified, Mr. Pearson. Plumbing is in 26 VSA Ch. 39.
    This bill and those like it that get conjured up in the name of “green energy” and “consumer protections” usually don’t accomplish much more than additional fees for state coffers and increased costs for the consumers you claim to protect.

  5. I know Chris & his heart’s in the right place..That said local “Zoning Boards” I’ve seen involve tyranny & corruption/vindictiveness that would make a Chicago war-heeler blush. Only a trip to court may, maybe, get results, maybe not. At least Chris would still allow wood stoves! I did a “swap-out” for an “efficient” one (maker stars w/a “H” & ends w/a “N”), a top-loader, and EVERY time I kick in the “re-burner” fumes come out the top past the gasket & I have a BIG brick chimney. So ALL that heat passes through, gone, until I got a “Magic Heat” unit but THAT is not very efficient..The seller says “call the maker”, the maker says “nothing we can do”..$3500 whizzed away..What would a “contractor” have done? Most “jobs” are done word of mouth & referrals anyways so what’s to stop an owner from pulling a permit then hiring whomever they want after? These laws do NOTHING..A REAL “Libertarian” knows that that governs least governs best. Just leave us alone thank you very much.. SM.

  6. More government regulations without the funding and authority/responsibility of an agency to enforce them is just another law that nobody will pay attention to; i.e. feel good legislation! What a laughing stock our state legislature and administration is to the rest of the country!
    The best that Chris’ barbecue friends can hope for is to be in the good graces of the expanding government and the ability to garner a government contract from the “Nanny State”, Vermont.

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