An Agenda for Popular Reform

While meta-politics may be fun and interesting, sometimes having an actual agenda is helpful. Seeding ideas into the right wing blogosphere can seed a million blog posts. Telling politicians (and would-be politicians) what they have to do to earn your support also isn’t a bad idea. Finally, some people just need more concrete ideas to get on board with a political programme. Some people still subscribe to that old-fashioned idea that they actually want to hear ways their lives can be made better, their country stronger, and their future brighter.

To those ends, I’ve got two big categories on the agenda: reform of non-democratic institutions, and promoting a positive vision of American life. The first category deals with the problem that government power has been outsourced to institutions which can’t be controlled through democracy. You can’t vote for new bureaucrats (you can’t even vote to fire them en masse), you can’t vote for who runs government-accredited universities, and you can’t vote on corporate policies which affect your neighborhood and life. The second category focuses on the things that make life worth living, and how we can change the way government inhibits and nudges us away from realizing these ideas, which include: family, community, normalcy, aesthetics, and vitality. We are going to start with the second category, because ultimately reform means nothing without a vision of what it will accomplish. By starting with how a re-aligned elite can use its powers to make life better for American citizens, it damns the existing elite for their inability to deliver for Americans.

There are three additional important notes. This list is subject to revision according to my own whims, but I’ll make sure to put a note up on top when I do. Second, the goal of this is to lay out items for reform, not items for remaking the country, or re-imagining the structure of the executive branch or anything so bold. My goal is merely to align the people who are good at that sort of thing with the goals of governing the United States, and every one of its citizens, well. Finally, this is intentionally non-ideological. The reforms that I am proposing work within the existing infrastructure, and it isn’t my intention to change the powers of government. There are limits to what can be done by changing numbers, adding clauses, and shuffling things around, but as a conservative minded individual, I’m willing to accept it as a first attempt.

Furthermore, I’ve chosen to avoid issues which have already been well-debated in the political sphere. For one, there’s no need to waste your time on issues you probably have opinions on, and I don’t intend to take the effort to change them. Secondly, the issues which politicians and the media make a fuss out of for the cameras are both apt to cause a reader to fall into thought-terminating cliches which smother any attempt to persuade, and are also part of the system of theatrics which are used to distract from straightforward, popular policies like I intend to propose.

So, without further ado, here is an agenda for popular reform:

If Government Must Promote Something, Promote the Good

In the Declaration of Independence, it is said that the foundation of good government is laid on “such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to [the People] shall seem most likely to effect their Saftey and Happiness.” In other words, good government is government that fosters good works among its citizens. Obviously, a government that encourages evil things is not a good government, but neither is a government that claims to have no preference for good or evil. Therefore, the first thing we must ask of our government, before we worry about the structure, how the powers of the state are divvied out, and even before we ask our government for rights and privileges, we must ask our government to stand on the side of good.

So I would ask you, do the major powers in society promote what is good? If the answer is no for any major power within society, some sort of reform is demanded. We’ll get back to that later, but imagine for a moment that the major powers in society were aligned with the good? What policies might such a government, enjoying the support of a media that wishes to see good done in the nation, with academics scrambling to figure out how to best promote the good in their country, and businesses wanting their customers and employees to achieve the good?

Before we try and answer that question, I’m going to cut through the philosophical arguments, and declare what sort of good our society might be oriented around that the majority of Americans could get behind. This is, after all, a fundamentally populist project. For the sake of this agenda, I am going to declare that the good, from the government’s perspective is: promoting strong families, fostering community, making it easy to plan for the future, creating and protecting the beautiful, and energizing the spirit of individuals to achieve greatness.

Now one objection you may hear is: why can’t government be neutral? After all, people have differing views on what is good and what isn’t. Well, for starters, if you think one thing is good and another thing is evil, you don’t wish to see any compromise between good and evil. Even more important is that to create a policy that’s neutral, you have to determine which sides of an issue are legitimate, what measures you use to determine what is and isn’t neutral, and once implemented that policy will inevitably end up favoring something you didn’t anticipate. This process ends up creating a policy that’s decidedly not neutral, but perhaps in unintended ways. So I say, if government must promote something through its policies, it should aim to promote the good within society.

Building Stronger Families

The pillar of any healthy society is the family. It is within families that we learn how to take on the roles of a leader, a follower, and a peer. It is where we learn to pursue common goals, and to support others in their goals. Family is where we learn how to help others and where we learn to accept help. In other words, family is how we learn to be a part of a community that extends beyond ourselves.

In a well-functioning society, people are made stronger by their families. All too often today, family is a source of pain and frustration, and don’t provide the society-in-miniature necessary to cultivate good citizens. Even more often, good families are physically seperated because of rootlessness driven by government-distorted markets. Sadly, many people who want to start families are unable to because of the seemingly impossible finacial hurdles associated with student debt, the cost of homeownership, and the cost of raising children. In addition, the dissolution of communities, among many other social changes, have prevented or delayed the efficient pairing of like-minded and compatible people who would like to start families.

To some extent, this whole agenda is focused on what it takes to strengthen the family, both because it is so central to the task of fostering a good society, but also because the arrangement of social, political and economic power in the United States all contribute towards degrading the family. So the items I propose here are the most direct and most obviously attached to the promotion of healthy families which form the foundation of a healthy society.

Bowling Together Again

A Return to Normalcy

A Big, Beautiful Country

Nourishing the National Garden

Stop the Outsourcing of State Power

In a society, there are many institutions which hold power, and those institutions exercise their power within their domain. However, over the past century, Congress, in particular, has outsourced their power to the executive branch (and its accompanying bureaucracy), to the judiciary, to private corporations, to non-government organizations, to universities, and to private credentialing organizations. Congress, as the most democratic power center in society, has reduced our capacity for effective democracy by refusing to wield its own power. By pushing many important issues: censorship of political speech, what constitutes illegal discrimination, who may and may not practice medicine and law, what is and what isn’t a legal marriage, and what firearms laws law-abiding gun-owners must submit to, are all things which are said to simply be outside the hands of Congress to modify or change. This abdication of responsibility has been purposeful. By placing these issues out of reach of democratic processes these issues are settled by members of the mandarin class, who are more likely to favor the attitudes and opinions of the social class that Senators and Representatives are drawn from.

Reigning In The Federal Bureaucracy

Re-Aligning the Government-Academia Relationship

Embracing Competitive Markets

Non-Government Organization is an Oxymoron

Clip the Mickey Mouse Act’s Tail

Free Speech As A Social Value

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