History keeps repeating itself

Sharon Rossie

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


“The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.”

― George Orwell


Orwell certainly knew what he was talking about.

More and more, it seems that an ignorance about the past is responsible for leading us into the same traps and failures that we as a nation have already experienced.

This last week, NPRI’s Steven Miller published a fascinating series exploring the bigotry and deceitful intentions behind the “Blaine Amendment” in Nevada’s Constitution. The amendment was designed as a way to defund and delegitimize the Catholic minority’s ability to educate children — and today it is still used by opponents of school choice to prohibit religious schools from becoming an impactful alternative to sub-par public education.

The case of the Blaine Amendment certainly highlights how important it is to fully understand our own history — and how, lacking that comprehension, we can fall victim to limited freedom and excessive government prejudice.  

Another prime example of history coming back to haunt public policy is the state’s new Commerce Tax, analyzed by NPRI’s Michael Schaus, writing in Nevada Business Magazine.

In the 1930s, during the Great Depression, states flocked to the idea of gross-receipt taxes — essentially the same tax model implicit in the Commerce Tax. Notably, after decades of stagnant growth and substantial harm to local economies, states in the second half of the 20th century almost universally abandoned the approach.

Now, however, Nevada politicians have resurrected this failed policy of the past.  

These are just two examples — among countless others — of history repeating itself in contemporary policy debates. In both cases, the historical record should serve as a forceful warning against the dangers of ever-greedy government.

All too often, however, history is ignored in discussion of alternative futures for the Silver State.

Many of the “solutions” we hear from politicians are nothing more than recycled and refurbished proposals from prior decades.

Maybe with a little more understanding of where we’ve been, as taxpayers and voters, we can more effectively understand where we should be headed.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President and staff 

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