Conflict of Interest

Human nature dictates that all people are interested in improving their lives, and the lives of their family. This self-interest is a basic human trait. There is a difference, however, in how people choose to better themselves. Productive means are work and trading; that is the dignified method of gaining wealth and improving a person’s situation in life.Another method is to take from other people, either stealing directly, or indirectly through politics. In a democracy, citizens can become politicians elected to positions where wealth redistribution decisions are made. This opportunity for gain attracts people to politics.Taking from others is a moral issue. When the taking is crude, it is called theft and considered immoral, criminal behavior. When the taking is sophisticated, it is called political plunder which, although legal, is immoral and criminal, as well.

Taxpayers vs. Taxtakers
An Important Distinction

Government redistributes wealth. Some people pay taxes1 and some people take taxes. Taxes increase the wealth of taxtakers2; taxes decrease the wealth of taxpayers. Taxtakers are the fastest growing class in our society in both number and wealth. Wealth of taxpayers is steadily being transferred to taxtakers.

Wealth redistribution is controlled by those who approve government expenditures. In a representative democracy, citizens elect representatives. These representatives then determine government taxing and spending, i.e. who is taxed and who takes the tax.

Conflict-of-interest arises anytime a representative (or his family) is a taxtaker, receiving income from government expenditures. He represents citizens that are primarily taxpayers. There is a conflict between his self-interest and the interests of taxpayers he represents.

The determination of conflict-of-interest is common sense. It is simply the interest of taxpayers opposed to the interest of taxtakers.

Citizens of Tennessee have a conflict-of-interest problem with respect to the County Commissions, an assembly of elected representatives that controls taxing and spending at the county level.Conflict-of-interest among the commissioners is often significant.Commissioners may be employees of county government, work for a state agency., or may have either spouses or children who are government employees. Also, they or their family may receive retirement benefits from the local school system or other government entity.State law widely permits conflict-of-interest by commissioners after they recite a standard oath to disregard it. Otherwise, conflict-of-interest is subject to vote disqualification and may be criminally prosecuted and connected to the TN Ouster law TCA 8-47.Taxpayers constantly face conflict from taxtakers in government.

Every government official takes an oath, swearing to uphold the Constitution of the State of Tennessee. The first section of the first article of the TN Constitution recognizes that government is instituted solely for the benefit of taxpayers. Thus any action by government officials must be consistent with that recognition.

Tennessee recognizes the problem of conflict-of-interest in two sections of state law, namely TCA 5-5-102 and TCA 12-4-101.

The essential parts are: 1) a commissioner having a conflict-of-interest may have his vote challenged and voided;  2) if the commissioner is also an employee, he may vote unchallenged providing he states a standard disclaimer before voting.

These laws are inadequate to deal with the conflict-of-interest which steers government imposed wealth redistribution.

Conflict-of-interest will remain a problem until the State law is changed.

1Taxes – includes explicit payments to government and transfers arising from government economic intervention. Inflation is included on the national level.

Taxpayers & Taxtakers – most people pay taxes and many people take taxes. It is also common for people to both pay and take taxes. Therefore, it is actually the net tax flow that distinguishes taxpayers from taxtakers.