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November 12, 2012

Now What?

If there is to be a reinvented Republican Party or a new party which gives a home to those who have been abandoned by the extremists in both parties, what should it be? How should it describe itself?

The word "conservative" has to go even though I like it. It is too much like, and too often used, to protect the status quo and those who benefit from it. "Liberal" would be good in its traditional sense but has been co-opted to mean maternalism. Independence? Freedom? Too tea party. So I don't know the right word. Call it xxx

The principles are easier:

Xxers are positive and optimistic. This is an American dawn because of America's resources and spirit AND (as always) immigrants. Those in search of the dream make the dream come true for all of us. The best of America shows up in Vermont's recovery from Irene, in the miraculous restoration of the NYC subway in a week, the invention of the Internet; the thousands of volunteers who've poured into the Sandy-savaged area; the veterans whom we all ought to be thanking today; and in the Stowe Electric crew restoring power last week to Groton, CT and the sub base. Can do is our muscle. Innovation is our brain.

An xxx economic policy is one in which government ensures a level playing field (antitrust, weight and measures, enforcement of contracts, prosecution of extortion) and forbids the exploitation of externalities (you can't save money by dumping that in the river) (this can, of course, be a slippery slope, but that's life). Government does not pick winners and losers. Government does NOT save the losers – that means you, banks, and you, auto companies and unions. Bankruptcy does work its magic on unrealistic contracts. We are on the verge of huge American prosperity based at least on the maker movement and cheap energy and a lot of other stuff being invented in garages. Let 'er rip.

An xxx government is lean but effective. Its agencies don't create work by suing each other or opposing each other in regulatory cases. Its critical regulatory functions (you can't dump that in the river) are carried out on a predictable and speedy schedule which cannot be coopted or delayed by opponents, who get just one chance to make their case – and sometimes will make it. Its employees get compensation and benefits equivalent to those in the private sector. They probably get paid more than now but cost less because of lower benefits and less people.

An xxx government provides demanding and effective public education. Social mobility matters critically. An informed electorate is a necessity. It is more important that employees of the public education system be held to high standards and rewarded for accomplishment than it is with any other sector of government.

An xxx government build infrastructure. How much and where is a fit subject for debate.

An xxx social policy gets government out of the bedroom and IMHO out of the pharmacy. Marriage is a function for churches to define. "Civil union for mutual support" (also needs a better name) is a contractual relationship and may have certain tax benefits. Not sure those would be needed in a simpler tax code. Huge savings in enforcement and corruption is available by legalizing drugs; also huge tax revenue; and cuts off seed money (literally) for all sorts of bad activities. We lost the war on drugs. Bring the troops home.

Individual freedom means that individuals can sleep with whomever wants to sleep with them; can smoke any herb they choose; make good or bad investments with their money and their time (Republicans have gotten this very wrong). But individual freedom requires individual responsibility for consequences. Individuals are responsible for keeping themselves and their partners safe from sexually transmitted diseases; for supporting their children; for keeping themselves sober and drug-free enough to work, drive, and parent; for living with and/or recovering from the consequences of bad decisions (Democrats have gotten this very wrong). You can't have freedom without responsibility.

Xxxers are populists as, I suspect, most Americans are. Banks should be free to make risky loans because progress depends on risk. But this means that banks which make too many bad loans, whether by bad planning or bad luck, have to be allowed to fail (Republicans and Democrats have both gotten this wrong; bank bailouts have been almost the only bipartisan actions Congress has been able to take). Crony capitalism should be an oxymoron; it isn't. Plutocrats of the left and right have used government to further their own interests and feather their own nests. The tax code shouldn't be used for redistribution; it also shouldn't be riddled with loopholes to benefit those who share part of their loophole-enhanced wealth with the politicians who create the loopholes.

An xxx government doesn't ban abortion; it is regulated like any other medical procedure. An xxx government shouldn't force those opposed to abortions to perform them or those opposed to contraceptives to supply them. But what if the institution which wants to exercise this choice is, itself, government-supported? Hmm… tough question. Decisions have consequences.

An xxx foreign policy focuses on America's vital interests. Fortunately, this soon won't include Middle Eastern oil. Punishment for harming Americans must be swift and sure. We have demonstrated how effectively we can take countries apart; we get in trouble when we try to put them back together; maybe just not our problem. A strong economy makes for a strong country.

Are we going to repair the current political parties, replace them, or move to a post-party social-media-connected world? The only certainty is change. And change has always been good for America. We will have the government and the economy and the society we deserve.

A special thank you to veterans, without whom we wouldn't have the privilege of making tough choices.


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