Developing Clear Principles and Values

Dana.Criswell.jpgBY DANA CRISWELL

This article first appeared on Mississippi Conservative Daily on October 10, 2017

Last week we discussed the importance of electing political leaders who put principle above personal relationships. It is extremely important that a legislator have a clear set of principles by which every piece of legislation is judged if they are going to be successful in adhering to their values. If the principles are clear it makes judging legislation much easier.

During a legislative session each legislator is asked to cast over a thousand votes either on the House floor or in a committee where the bill first comes to life. Often these votes come fast with little time to research and study the purpose or consequences of the bill which is a tactic used by those in leadership positions to force legislation through the process. A clear set of principles makes these decisions easier and faster.

The Mississippi Republican Party has a platform on which it claims to stand and all politicians who run for office under the Republican name profess their allegiance. That platform is a good place to start when developing a set of principles to judge legislation. If all Republicans in the Mississippi House of Representatives had referred to this platform during the debate over increasing the gas tax or implementing an Internet sales tax the decision to oppose these would have been easy.

Here is an excerpt from the Mississippi Republican Party’s platform on taxes:

Mississippi Republicans believe that people, not government, know best how to spend their own money. When people keep more of their hard-earned money, jobs and economic growth will flourish in the free market system. 

Mississippi Republicans support the reduction of the tax burden on our citizens. We believe our tax burden is too high, our tax code is too complicated, and our tax system is inefficient. We believe in the reduction of taxes to empower taxpayers, to create a more competitive environment for job creation, to incentivize work, entrepreneurship, and investment, and to prevent the excessive growth of government.

Clearly the Republican Party Platform opposes an increase in the gas tax or the implementation of an Internet sales tax.

Another great resource when developing a personal set of principles is the Mississippi Legislative Conservative Coalition ( This group of legislators has developed a set of principles that uphold basic conservative values.

Politicians without a clear set of principles and values hate going on record with an opinion and will often “take a walk” during the vote. Taking a walk generally means they actually walk off the floor of the House during the voting process to avoid taking a stand.

I have developed my personal set of principles over the past couple of years by which I judge each bill. They are as follows:


Protecting the personal liberty and freedom of our citizens is the primary role of government. Government does not exist to create liberties, but to protect those that were granted to us by God. These liberties have been defined in the constitution of the United States, the constitution of Mississippi, and within the Word of God. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness is a God-given right that must be protected and cherished.


Government by nature grows stronger, left unchecked it erodes the freedoms of its people, therefore we must be constantly vigilant to control the growth of government and make efforts to reduce its size. Governmental authority should be concentrated at the lowest level possible because local government is the most responsive to the people.


Taxation should be restricted to the lowest possible level that allows government to accomplish its purpose of protecting individual liberties and freedoms. Government does not exist to provide charity, recreation, or to redistribute wealth. Individuals, not government, are best equipped to spend their money, promote economic growth within the community, and help others less fortunate.


Our nation and our state depends on its people and its leaders adhering to the values given to us by God. The freedom to worship God and to raise a family is key to our existence. All decisions such as education, medical treatment or discipline are reserved for the parents not government. Government must not interfere with the parent’s decisions as they rear their children in the nurture and admonition of God.

Representative Dana Criswell represents House District 6 in Olive Branch, MS.

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