Ask the Right Questions – Get Better Answers.
We’re asking all the wrong questions, thereby incorrectly framing our national debates. It’s no surprise we’re getting lousy answers and really moronic debates. Let’s break this dangerous impasse for the sake of our nation’s survival.
We won’t get good answers unless we ask the right questions. We won’t be able to work through the difficult processes of correcting the many political, economic and social problems facing our nation until we can dispassionately analyze the real facts without resorting to our many unconscious fears, emotions and biases, long-standing prejudices, rigid ideologies, polarizing partisanship, empty narcissism, endless greed, and short-term self-interests.
One of the most difficult things in life is to put our pasts and particular worldviews into proper perspective. It takes a large and conscious effort to see the world from various alternative perspectives apart from our own. We too often jump to narrow opinions and wrong conclusions before we bother gathering all the facts and information.
Political, economic, environmental and social policies do not exist in separate and distinct vacuums. Instead, they are always intertwined into the larger mosaic of life. For too long, the majority of Americans have failed to see this essential connectivity between ourselves and how we relate to the rest of the inhabitants on this planet. However, framing the essential question for the U.S. in the 21st Century is not as difficult as some might claim or fear.
For example, the healthcare debate has been essentially and incorrectly framed by the left as “how do we increase insurance coverage for those who don’t have it” and from the right the principle view has been solely “how do we control and reduce systemic costs.” Both sides are afraid of asking anything of consequence from any of the large players in the healthcare industry for the benefit of national competitiveness, and due to their fear of losing campaign contributions that preserve their own self-interests. We also wandered into all types of extraneous and irrelevant debates over personal choices, human rights, illegal immigrants, imaginary death panels, and various public and private options. The two extreme and incompatible political questions have polarized and debased the real national debate that is still being ignored.
The essential question, which should have preceded the prior two questions in the healthcare debate and that should always frame the discussions of our many national debates on every issue. is simple: “How do we make our nation more competitive globally?”
This simple question also involves the issues of how we preserve our best competitive attributes in the sphere of worldwide economic, political, social and military influence while adopting new ideas from around the nation and globe. In fact, whenever we see ourselves falling into emotional, ignorant or ideological arguments, we should pull ourselves back to reality by constantly repeating this simple question.
The all-important challenge of how our nation can best compete globally does not necessarily stress individual rights or corporate interests. It does not prefer or demean particular solutions due to pre-existing political or economic worldviews. It is not beholden to any pre-ordained fixed political ideologies and rigid economic philosophies long discredited by the facts. It demands that we look at all the facts, not just the ones most favorable to our prejudices, in order to determine the best solutions for our country.
An analysis on the basis of national global competitiveness does not favor liberalism or conservatism; democrats or republicans; government interventionists or anti-government advocates; religious believers or secularists; or socialists or free-marketers. It is results-oriented and demands fiscal responsibility on the part of individuals, businesses and governments.
It is not ignorant of history and it is not closed to the rest of the world. It demands some level of scientific objectivity and an honest openness to new ideas and approaches. It does not pursue change for change’s sake but it does not tolerate failure. However, if the nation is not globally competitive, it demands all citizens to cooperate and make shared sacrifices to make effective changes to meet that overriding national goal without regards to political affiliations and beliefs.
One cannot perpetually espouse and demand complete individual freedom without considering what everyone else is doing on the planet, including those major global countries that are military dictatorships, obnoxious and state-less religious terrorists, and other successful democratic republics that have taken different approaches to similar challenges. While there may be laudable philosophical ideas behind the original tenants of personal liberty, autonomy, and the pursuit of various self-interests, they cannot be perpetually pursued in a vacuum. Such a narrow domestic outlook may be destroyed by formidable outside forces that our society willingly chooses to ignore.
If by stressing social cohesion, cooperation and a shared common purpose that limits some personal liberties has given other countries significant economic and political successes at the expense of our country and its citizens, then all efforts at pursuing unfettered personal freedoms might not make our nation globally competitive and those vaulted ideals will be left to the cruel dustbin of history.
Debates over environmental and energy policies do not have to degenerate into an angry, asinine, pointless and infantile screaming match about whether the earth’s climate is changing or not, and the extent that human activities are influencing the planet’s overall environment. Instead, if we return to the essential question of making our nation more competitive globally, many of the current arguments from the right, left and mushy middle, become completely irrelevant.
Global climate issues, environmental, transportation, urban and energy policies, and international economic and industrial conditions are all inter-related. Policies in these areas require prudent, intelligent and multi-faceted approaches. They also must be simple, straight-forward, equitable and easy to implement. They should not be complex, surreptitious, burdensome or easy to circumvent. At times pursuing multiple approaches simultaneously may be the best means to see what works and what does not over time. Refusing to do anything is just nihilistic and dangerously ignorant from a national or global perspective.
We can also get bogged down with many extraneous intricate and complex details that will continue to invite distortion by the political extremes and from those who are hopelessly ignorant of all the facts and unwilling to use brain cells to fully understand reality. When we see our discussions degenerating into extraneous and asinine debates, we should continually repeat the basic question: “How do we make the U.S. globally competitive and continue to be the pre-eminent influence in every field of global endeavor?”
All issues with respect to federal, state and local taxation, including the various levels imposed on individuals and corporations, and on certain types of transactions, should also be judged on the basis of national global competitiveness. Our policies on all governmental expenditures, borrowing and private subsidies must also pass the global competitiveness tests. Our debates on transportation, energy and educational infrastructure expenditures should be made on principally on this overall basis, not on partisan, parochial or short-sighted perspectives.
Good ideas are found all around the world and from people from all backgrounds and perspectives. They are not solely found in the buildings and the minds of graduates of American Ivy League Institutions. The best societies seek good ideas from all sources and people in order to incorporate them into their nations. They do not engage in angry tirades, endless temper-tantrums, and ignorant xenophobia
Financial, housing, banking and credit reform cannot be determined only by those wealthy and politically-influential players in those industries at the expense of everyone else living in the United States. The same holds true for healthcare, education and tax reform, national industrial policies, and our approach to energy and environmental legislation. It is very easy to determine the self-interests of those in particular industries but their narrow preferences are generally the least likely to promote our nation’s global competitiveness.
Even our approach to public and private unions must reflect a global perspective and not what is solely in their member’s best interests. Contemporaneously we have to balance their specific interests with their corporate and governmental employers so neither is bankrupted. Our national labor policies, including fair work rules for the majority of people not in unionized or public sector employment must also consider our global competitiveness. We cannot tolerate wasting 20% of our human capital to unemployment or under-employment, and tolerate high rates of educational dropouts, as these factors make our nation a very poor competitor internationally.
We will probably find that some of our national policies enacted as a result of following a global competitiveness perspective will initially be unpopular with some, and sometimes they will appear in conflict with each other. Policy critics who cannot successful incorporate the new national perspective should be ignored. If we frame our debates to national global competitiveness, we might find some answers and solutions to be rather obvious, more equitable, and easier to implement than if we approach them from our current discredited partisan ideologies and frequently ignoring all the facts.
The ultimate measure of national success is not short-term profitability, power or expediency for some in our society. Instead we will have to measure the long-term benefits that accrue to the vast majority of our citizens, businesses, households, non-profit entities, and governmental organizations. Thus many policy decisions may not be fully evaluated for several years.
The process of determining the best policies to effectuate our nation’s global competitiveness will require every citizen’s time and brain cells to compare the facts and various options. It will ultimately demand that we all make many shared sacrifices for the benefit of our overall society. If we are unwilling for various selfish reasons to make any compromises and hard choices that involve changing various ways of doing business, our current downward trajectory will simply overwhelm our nation and we will be a failed global empire within the next 20 years.
As we merged our political class in Washington DC with large crony capitalism and wealthy special interests, Washington DC lost it sense of perspective and ability to provide any national leadership. Too many of our large international corporate entities have “uncoupled” themselves from our nation’s future and make decisions without concern for the citizens of this country.
We are now operating in an interconnected and highly competitive world economy without any leadership or any overall sense of collective national purpose. We are no longer an isolated, frontier agrarian society of a few million individuals. We are even in far different economic and political positions globally than we were just 10 or 20 years ago. We are not going to be able to return to the 1980’s or the 1780’s and those that advocate returning to such an outlook today are pathetically delusional. Our nation is similar to a large ship caught in a dangerous and serious storm trying to stay afloat without any captain, navigators or top officers. The ship is bound to sink without competent leadership, shared sacrifice and overall collective efforts by the entire crew and corps of officers.
We no longer have the luxury of time, money and human capital to waste on so many small, bitter, partisan, ideological and fundamentally irrelevant debates that merely espouse narrow and wrong-headed policies from both our political camps. We cannot give up simply because too many of our fellow citizens, politicians, pundits, and large organizations negatively and lazily tell us “It’s not gonna happen.” Life is too short to accept “no” as a perpetual answer.
We have to channel our anger, fears, hopes and energies towards an overall positive worldview completely separate from our partisan bickering and irrational delusions. We are missing the big picture and the rest of the world couldn’t care less if we ever get our priorities straight. They will either work with us or trample us to the ground. If we don’t give a collective damn about our country and children, then we’re pretty much all doomed.
Posted by Marc Pascal ranting happily from Phoenix, AZ