Our path forward: After a year of chaos, here’s how to kick-start America’s revival
FEB 1, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 22, 2021
After the chaos of 2020 — a year marked by a deadly global pandemic, a painful economic contraction, widespread civil unrest, and a bitterly contested presidential election — it’s safe to say Americans are deeply concerned about the state of our nation.
The numbers tell the story. According to the RealClear Politics polling average, more than 67 percent of Americans believe the country is on the “wrong track.”
Only a little over 22 percent think things are headed in the right direction.
Meanwhile, the average approval ratings for Capitol Hill paint an even darker picture: Only 18 percent of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing, with over 69 percent disapproving.
One might think that facing such a dire collapse in public faith in the nation’s governing institutions, our elected officials would focus on positive, forward-looking actions to restore confidence. Instead, they’re obsessed with sowing division and exploiting discord.
What we need is a future-oriented agenda to end the atmosphere of polarization, recrimination and stagnation. The focus needs to be on unleashing the productive energies of American entrepreneurs and workers by getting the government out of the way. It’s the essential condition of human flourishing.
There are four key pillars to this agenda
First, it’s time to relax or end unnecessary and arbitrary business closures. In the spring of 2020, it was understandable that state and local governments might need to take temporary emergency measures to limit the spread of the COVID-19 virus. But no one anticipated that those emergency measures would still be in effect nearly a year later, an economic own-goal with a punishingly high cost. With proper hygienic and preventive measures (social distancing, masking and hand-washing) and the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, we must reopen the economy and get people working again.
Second, we need to liberate entrepreneurs and workers by giving them the right to earn a living. That means taking a hard look at the outdated regulations, laws and occupational licensing schemes that are stifling business growth and locking willing, often first-rung, employees out of the workforce. Given the breadth and depth of our economic challenges, we need to put as many Americans back to work as quickly as possible. That starts with removing the regulatory barriers that are holding them back.
LIT WARNING: THE FOLLOWING IS A PAID ADVERT BY DONOR TO PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION AND BILLIONAIRE REAL ESTATE INVESTOR, CHARLES KOCH.
Third, we need to ensure that the burdens of the pandemic aren’t foisted on unpopular groups.
For months, landlords in cities across the nation have been forced to provide essentially free housing for their tenants owing to an array of questionable and unconstitutional moratoria on rent payments and evictions.
The same is true even of commercial properties — even when the tenant can pay the rent. Many of these property owners, typically small-time landowners, are on the verge of economic ruin, which will only exacerbate the already tight supply of affordable properties for housing and business as landlords exit the market.
We need to restore the rights of property owners to make productive use of their property.
Finally, we need to return the branches of government to their proper constitutional roles. In the early stages of the pandemic, governors and executive branch agencies claimed emergency powers to respond to the virus in the name of health and safety.
But all too often, these emergency powers were deployed in ways that were arbitrary, abusive and unaccountable. Legislatures should reclaim their law-making and oversight powers, and courts should act as a necessary check on these unconstitutional overreaches of executive and bureaucratic power, becoming the bulwarks of liberty they were meant to be.
Twelve months ago, when we had little idea of the scope of the looming crisis, Americans were willing to give elected officials and policymakers the benefit of the doubt as they worked to calibrate the proper response to an unforeseen and poorly understood public health threat.
A year later, it’s past time to enter into a new phase — one that focuses on ushering in a recovery based on getting government out the way, reaffirming the importance of constitutional liberties, and liberating the productive energies of American entrepreneurs and workers.
But that will require fresh thinking and a willingness to look beyond the stale and failed approaches of the past. With a change in administration, it’s time to think about a fresh start — and these four agenda items will help restore confidence and create a better future for all Americans. Let’s seize this opportunity.
Steven D. Anderson is president and CEO of Pacific Legal Foundation (PLF). For more on Rebuilding America, watch “Our Path Forward: Reviving America After a Year of Chaos,” the final event in PLF’s virtual seminar series on America’s most significant challenges.
OPINION: America needs to remember Enlightenment ideals now more than ever
JAN 29, 2021 | REPUBLISHED BY LIT: MAY 22, 2021
Top of the morn’ Charles Koch Fdn. How’s your business plan workin’ out so you can take over the remaining affordable homes in the USA for greed? You’ve stepped up your game over and above Erbey’s https://t.co/dgB2UsEfvL, y’all even have a marketing university!@ckochfoundation pic.twitter.com/FOfiPVvCu9
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) May 23, 2021
Thumbing through my third-grade son’s school materials for a lesson on voting and democracy, I was struck by something that years, maybe even months, earlier would have shocked me, but now seems unfortunately the sign of the times.
This booklet — remember, for elementary school students — wasn’t trying to evoke good feelings about how voting gives every American the right to direct how their government works. Instead, the booklet focused almost entirely on what populations didn’t initially have the vote in America. (And, strangely, it threw in a section on César Chávez’ unionization of farm workers.)
Now, it would be one thing if this was simply one booklet for one class in one grade in one school system. But it’s not. It’s part of a much larger attempt by various academics, public intellectuals, and the like to dismember the ideals at the core of our nation’s founding. There’s no doubt America is imperfect—what nation isn’t?—but that shouldn’t mean we should discount or discredit the foundational principles that our country is built on.
What my son’s booklet could’ve focused on instead was the consent of the governed, the idea that power comes solely from those who are ruled, not by the whims of a ruler. It could have celebrated the fact that in America, we have every ability to change the way rulers operate when they get out of hand. The booklet could have highlighted these classic, though modern, concepts that we derived from the Enlightenment era — the ideas that made their way into the fabric of most Western democracies and most devotedly to our shores.
There may be much to discuss and debate about the men who started this nation, but there’s something on which we cannot compromise:
The emblematic ideals of the Enlightenment that all men are created as equals, government exists to protect our inherent and individual natural rights, and we should be ruled by reason.
These principles have made this country, for all its flaws, the greatest that mankind has ever known — providing economic, religious, social, and political freedom at a level unseen in human history. The conceptual focus may have differed depending on the Enlightenment philosopher you might have been reading, but each of these ideals led to various political and social revolutions in their home countries: equality, sovereignty of reason, liberalism, tolerance, objective truth, and individual liberty.
But what’s amassed against these ideals is a fierce, loud, and sometimes violent opposition. What’s more, the challengers explicitly reject the foundational ideals contained in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.
And it doesn’t really matter whether you speak of its origin in terms of postmodernism, critical race theory, or some other formerly fringe discipline that’s entered the cultural milieu. Because each of them, at some level, share a critical feature — that truth is relative and arguments can only be evaluated based on the identity of the person advocating them, not on the merits themselves.
The philosophical foundation of all our work at PLF is individualism.
That each person has value, that each person should be treated equally, that each person has distinct hopes and dreams, and that each person should have the opportunity to flourish.
Because our work derives its purpose from the sanctity of each person as an individual, so much of the rhetoric and activity — whether through cancel culture, overt discrimination, or even the rejection of reason, merit, and property rights — hoping to tear down our institutions is frightening.
And there’s a plain reason to be alarmed: it exalts group identity over the individual, allowing a simple characteristic to define the complexities of each human being. The collective is more important than each of us.
Discussions of sensitive topics, especially race, can quickly devolve from reasonable arguments about principle and policy into ad hominem attacks on the messenger.
One of the great classical liberal values is the free exchange of differing ideas, the time-honored thrust and parry of words. Debate should be encouraged. And, as a nation of individuals, there can be no calls to hew to today’s orthodoxy — or else.
Furthermore, we reject the belief that words or inaction can be violence. There is no other way for us to settle differences — in fact, there may be no way to do it without actual violence — unless each of us is allowed the ability to use the written and spoken word to persuade and convince. It is the marketplace of ideas in which our words can offend, compete, and ultimately win out as knowledge.
That’s what we intend to continue doing to defeat the anti-Enlightenment threat.
We’re in the liberty business and, through ligation, outreach, and communications, we achieve the promises made — even if yet unfulfilled — at the founding of this country of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness as reflected in the Declaration and protected by the Constitution. And we do this through the peaceful means contemplated by our liberal tradition.
Thankfully, we’ve been successful, winning hundreds of cases that have vindicated the rights of thousands of people across the country, including a dozen wins in 14 tries at the U.S. Supreme Court.
We’ve always been freedom fighters, so you can expect to see ever-more PLF devotion to counter this growing, existential menace. We also know that we’ll win in the end.
Steven D. Anderson is president and CEO of Pacific Legal Foundation. Republished from the Pacific Legal Foundation.
A PAID AD FOR THE ONE PERCENTERS @ishapiro “The plaintiffs in some of the lawsuits against the eviction moratorium are represented by the Pacific Legal Foundation, where my wife works. I myself have played a minor (unpaid) role in advising PLF…” https://t.co/jSXN4381j6 pic.twitter.com/Ncz8SA7JcN
— LawsInTexas (@lawsintexasusa) June 5, 2021