Brigid Harrison, professor of political science and law at Montclair State University, makes several observations in her column (The Record) today, “A look at our Legislature’s make up”. Harrison focuses on a new report issued by Stockton University’s William J. Hughes Center for Public policy comparing the demographic characteristics of New Jersey legislators with those of the general population. The report points out that Legislature is 83% white, 15% African American, 8% Hispanic (of any race) and 2% Asian. New Jersey’s population is 69% white, 14% African-American, 18% Hispanic and nearly 9% Asian.
Prof. Harrison concludes, “with the exception of African-Americans clearly the legislature is not representative of the racial and ethnic identities that are its constituency.” In addition, Harrison bemoans the fact that legislature is 70% male to 49% in the general population.
One conclusion can be drawn from the legislatures make up is that’s the way the cookie crumbles. Or, to put it in a Hillary Clinton way, “what difference does it make!” However, Harrison tends to blame mainly on the party bosses who “control the nomination process and legislative districts.” While there is substantial merit in Harrison’s critique of the nominating process in the state of New Jersey, Harrison admits that New Jersey’s gender composition is not that much different from legislatures around the country.
By focusing on superficial characteristics of legislators, Harrison then makes an astonishing assertion in her conclusion, “Parties need to do better in recruiting qualified, diverse individuals to winnable nominations because people from different backgrounds and different experiences bring different priorities, knowledge bases and skill sets to the table. And that kind of pluralism is necessary if we want to solve the considerable problems that exist in our state.” (emphasis added)
Having more women, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians in the legislature will not solve New Jersey’s problems. What will solve New Jersey’s problems is adherence to sound economics and fundamental financial principles, and a commitment of both the Legislature and the Supreme Court of New Jersey to end the redistribution of income and uphold the property rights of people of New Jersey. In other words, better ideas will create a more robust economy in the Garden State—and to use Bernie’s words, we will then have an economy that “will work for everyone,” not just the political and financial elites (my words).
Instead of obsessing over race, ethnicity, and gender, we should be discussing what the role of government should be in a free society. Until we have that debate in the Legislature and on the editorial pages of the state’s newspapers, we will be ignoring the most important issue facing not only the people of New Jersey but also the people of America.
One suggestion to have individuals seeking to be a state legislator, serving on the Supreme Court and of course being governor is a simple criteria, to solve New Jersey’s problems is for them to pass a basic microeconomics and financial principles test–with flying colors. Given the way the state of New Jersey has been run for the past several decades, I would be surprised if very few members of the Legislature, members of the Supreme Court and the current and past governors could pass such a test.