Is The Election An End Or A Beginning?

Winston Churchill, when asked if the Allied victory in North Africa was the beginning of the end of World War II, replied “No, but it may be the end of the beginning.” Despite yesterday’s disappointing results, American Exceptionalism is not at an end. I’m not even quite ready to say it’s at the beginning of the end.

But this election marks a significant shift in our culture; and that shift is the end of the beginning of this great American experiment. We have gone from a majority that respects freedom and responsibility to a majority that envies success and covets power.

If you’re like me by about 8:00 last night you felt like you’d been kicked in the gut. How could so many of our fellow countrymen and Montanans – Montanans for crying out loud! – be ready to toss out the principles that made this country great and become mere cogs in a vast machine run by government overseers and their cronies?

And why should any of us continue to fight for those principles when most Americans today clearly don’t understand or value them?

I’ll leave it to pundits and shrinks to answer the first question. I have my own ideas on why people so willingly trade freedom for security, confuse likeability with competency, and don’t take the time or mental effort to understand the complex issues we face today. But regardless of the reasons, that’s where we are.

The question is, what do those of us who care about freedom, who understand what makes this country different and great do about it? Do we take our toys and go home: disengage, get off the grid and let the country and culture drive itself off the cliff?

Many of us who have worked hard, saved, and planned ahead in case of uncertain times have the option to step aside, live simpler lives, and watch the train go over the edge.

And I’ll be honest. My first reaction last night was “To hell with them all. If they can’t figure it out why should I care anymore.”

But that’s not who I am; and if you’ve read this far I doubt it’s who you are, either.

I had two maxims during my Naval career that got me through many difficult times: from months of being yelled at by a Marine drill sergeant, to endless months boring circles in and over oceans around the world, to twenty four hour operations in hot zones. They’re simple – almost Sophomoric – but they’re true: “Nothing is ever as good or as bad as it seems,” and “This too shall pass.”

Remember how you felt in 2008. It was bad and we’re worse off now. But we’re still here. The feelings of disappointment, gloom, and even betrayal soften. Thoughts turn to the future.

We’ll survive despite some hard times ahead. But we don’t want to go through this again.

Do your grieving and get on with the task at hand.

It’s the end of the beginning. We’ve entered a new phase in the battle for America and I for one am not ready to surrender.

With great risk comes great opportunity, but not certain success. That’s why they call it risk. We need to recognize that the culture has shifted and meet that shift head on. We need to get past short term political opportunism and invest in demonstrating the inevitable human tragedies that will result from the coming policies out of Washington and the possibility of continued failed policies coming out of Helena (the votes aren’t all in as I write this).

People are voting with their hearts, not their heads. We need to reach their hearts so that we can engage their heads.

We will do our part at MPI to ensure that you and state leaders have ideas and options to return to the principles that made this country the Shining City on the Hill and Montana its crown jewel.  But as we’ve seen, great ideas are not enough.

The culture is the key. Montanans must understand the grave issues facing our state and nation, and how the current path toward centralized control, dependency on the state and decline of the private sector affect them personally. That takes constant engagement and reaching people where they are, not where we want them to be.

And it means playing offense, not defense! For too long we’ve assumed people would do the right thing if they just had the facts. Facts are necessary but insufficient. We need to actively work to create a culture of freedom and build a bench of future leaders whose guiding principles go beyond getting into office. We need to build a Freedom Majority that feels with their hearts and votes with their heads.

The Montana Policy Institute will be on the front lines, informing and persuading taxpayers and leaders to put freedom ahead of free stuff, to win the battle of ideas that leads to victories in the battle for leadership. We need you to continue to stand with us, and to encourage others to help make that effort decisive by supporting the Montana Policy Institute.

You can start right now by forwarding this email to five friends letting them know you care about our freedoms, and asking them to join the battle for ideas that is so crucial to Montana’s future.

Let’s step up to ensure that Tuesday, November 6th 2012 becomes a tipping point for the restoration of freedom in America and a legacy of opportunity in Montana; that the end of the beginning in American Exceptionalism is the beginning of the end for statism and tyranny!

Ten Principles to Guide Public Policy

Ten Principles to Guide Public Policy

Changing the course of human history, this idea – that freedom is a natural right – inspired Americans to want to live their lives in liberty, while at the same time respecting the rights and property of others. Then in 1787, the Second Continental Congress further guaranteed these rights by adopting The Constitution of the United States of America, clearly differentiating the rights and obligations of both Government and its Citizens.

Under the guidance and direction of these two documents, America has become the model of prosperity for the world. It has fed, clothed and housed more people at higher standards of living than any society the world has ever known. All other forms of government have fallen by the wayside and America has become the destination of choice for the world’s citizens.

At the Montana Policy Institute, we use these two “settled truths,” our Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution, as the basis for researching and recommending prescriptions for today’s policy questions.

When we study an issue, we begin with the core assumption that private property and free market economies are superior to state ownership and central planning. This is not simply a superficial opinion; rather, it is now the standard-bearer among people who have their eyes and ears open and for whom reason, logic, facts, evidence, economics and experience mean something.

The “Ten Principles to Guide Public Policy” that follow are pillars in a growing movement among state-based think tanks to reinforce and reinvigorate the application of these two “settled truths” toward defining sound public policy. They are not the only pillars of a free economy, but they do comprise a pretty powerful package. If every cornerstone of every state building were emblazoned with these principles – and more importantly, if every legislator understood and attempted to be faithful to them – we’d be much stronger, much freer, more prosperous, and far better governed.

1. The legitimate power of government begins and ends with the people.

Government exists to serve the people, not vice versa. When government no longer serves the people, but rather becomes self perpetuating or only responsive to certain interests, then it has lost its legitimacy.

2. Government exists to protect rights, not to create them.

We should all be free to live our lives as we choose, so long as we respect others’ right to do the same. Government exists to ensure that we respect each others’ rights, not to create (or destroy) privileges that favor one interest group over another.

3. Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.

Whether through nature or nurture, we all bring different skills, ambitions, ethics, even luck to the table. People who are free to use or ignore their individual strengths and weaknesses will inevitably see different individual results. Since we are all provided different strengths and weaknesses, we can only be made equal by forcefully holding some people back and artificially pushing others forward. Unequal outcomes, because they reward positive behaviors, are an essential feature of freedom, not a shortcoming.

4. Long term and cumulative consequences should be considered more carefully than short term benefits.

Too often we try to fix a current problem with long term solutions that inevitably hold long term or unintended negative consequences. We need to consider all times and all costs when debating public policy, not just immediate gratification.

5. Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody else.

Government does not create things, which is different than saying it does no good. The resources it uses, even for good, must be taken from the productive sector of our economy, and from people’s wallets. We should consider the fundamental fairness of taking from one person and giving to another when looking at policies that use the political process to create winners and losers.

6. A government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you’ve got.

7. Nobody spend somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.

8. One cannot claim as a right that which someone else must provide.

A true Right does not impose a duty on another person. Your right to life and property, for example, does not require anyone else to do anything except respect that right and not cause you harm. A “Right” that imposes a duty on another is actually a privilege granted either by force through government action or by charity through the person providing it.

9. What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one (or everyone) tends to fall into disrepair (nobody washes a rental car).

10. Free people engaging in free enterprise, not the political allocation of wealth and opportunity, are the engines of economic prosperity.