Thursday, November 06, 2008

Creating the Future Together

When I visited the People's Republic of China in 1984, I was struck by the enthusiasm the people had. As one professor at Fudan University put it, "yes, there have been excesses in the past. But look how far we've come in 35 years. And together, we are building the future!"

With the advent of a new administration, there is always the jubilation of the victors combined with the sour grapes of the losers. The victors typically have grand plans, especially for the first 100 days, the honeymoon period.

The challenge for the loyal opposition is to work for the common good, being prepared to recommend alternative approaches to achieving shared goals.

I think we conservatives have a unique opportunity to demonstrate that we too want to live in a peaceful and prosperous country, where the blessings of liberty and justice extend to all her citizens. We just believe that there may be better ways to achieve those ends than the liberals typically propose.

We can help lead the conversation in several ways. First off, remember the first rule of marketing, that people make decisions based on emotion and then justify the decision with reason. It's the emotional connection of the vision that motivates people, and we need to focus on creating powerful positive visions of the future we want to strive for. Fear makes us shrink, while aspiration and hope let us grow.

Second, be willing to challenge assumptions behind policy prescriptions. For example, the whole argument for taxing carbon dioxide emissions (CO2) is based on the assumption that CO2 is a "greenhouse gas" that is goosing global warming. As the IBD Editorial page noted yesterday, evidence is amassing that the overall climate stopped its warming trend in 1998 and we may be entering an extended cooling period. If there's no global warming, there's no need to worry about restrictions on CO2, whether it's a culprit or not.

Third, absent empirical data, suggest pilot studies as experiments to provide guidance in setting policy, rather than wholesale implementation of questionable approaches to achieving stated goals. Capitalists point out that the "market" allows competing approaches to be tested and refined something that Darwinists should applaud! Fortunately, when it comes to economic and tax policy, there are a lot of case studies among the 50 states to provide clues on what approaches are effective and which are counterproductive.

Let me close with a quote from President Reagan's first inaugural address:
It is no coincidence that our present troubles parallel and are proportionate to the intervention and intrusion in our lives that result from unnecessary and excessive growth of government. It is time for us to realize that we are too great a nation to limit ourselves to small dreams. We are not, as some would have us believe, doomed to an inevitable decline. I do not believe in a fate that will fall on us no matter what we do. I do believe in a fate that will fall on us if we do nothing. So, with all the creative energy at our command, let us begin an era of national renewal. Let us renew our determination, our courage, and our strength. And let us renew our faith and our hope.
Related posts:
When Social Justice is Counterproductive
Creating Positive Change
The Vision Thing