Make It In America: The Case For Reinventing The Economy

In the book, Make It In America: The Case For Reinventing The Economy,  Andrew Liveris, the CEO and Chairman of the Dow Chemical Company, makes a powerful argument for reinvigorating “highly advanced, highly specialized, high value-added” American manufacturing. Liveris states that the manufacturing sector “can create jobs and value and growth to a degree that the service sector cannot.” He states that for this reinvigoration to happen though, we need a strong national commitment to advanced manufacturing. Liveris says, “[E]very business person I know sometimes wants government to get out of the way…that doesn’t mean it should get out of the picture.”

Liveris discusses the importance of investing in modern infrastructure and education. As to education, he states, “Didn’t the United States used to have the world’s greatest educational system?  As recently as 1995, the United States was still tied for the top spot in graduation rates. But by 2006, we had dropped from first to fourteenth. That’s partly because many other countries are investing substantially in education, raising their standards, and often exceeding them. They have longer school days, longer school years, and give students homework over the summer… Other countries are far more serious about getting results.”

And, says Liveris, “Too many [American] students,having done all that was required of them, are graduating from high school unprepared either for college or the working world.” 

Click here to read more.

Looking Back to Move Forward

 “The Founding Fathers, steeped in classical history and morality, feared that America might fall as the Roman Republic had if it failed to guard against the corrosive forces of corruption, petty interests, and the unrestrained zeal of faction. George Washington called upon his fellow citizens to show ‘mutual forbearance’ and follow ‘a middle course.’”

Kabaservice, Geoffrey, Rule and Ruin: The Downfall of Moderation and the Destruction of the Republican Party, From Eisenhower to the Tea Party

During the last few decades American politics has changed in very destructive ways. These changes must be reversed for American government to function again at a level that can effectively address the problems that we face as a nation.  Regardless of whether our government implements traditionally conservative policies, traditionally liberal policies, or some of both (as has been the case through most of American history), our government needs to function well.

I don’t know anyone who thinks that we have good government in America today. This website maintains that resurrecting a Liberal Republican branch of the Republican Party would be a means to return to consensus-driven, pragmatic politics and good government. ‎But how do we do this?

Three steps that I think are necessary to do so are described in the post linked below. The post includes stories I hope you will find interesting about Singapore, University of Alabama versus University of Southern California football history, and a man named Clifton White who played a significant role in reshaping the Republican Party to its current take-no-prisoners form (ironically, using Leninist tactics, and to the shock of President Eisenhower and baseball hero Jackie Robinson, both prominent Republicans of the time).

Click here to read more.

 

Liberal Republicanism as a mechanism to reach cross-party consensus

If Lenin, Mao, Churchill and John F. Kennedy were to walk together down the streets of Shanghai, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Istanbul or Johannesburg (or even Almaty, Kazakhstan) today, they would not argue for a nanosecond about who “won” the ideological struggle among them. The world has become overwhelmingly a planet of people aspiring to live materially rich middle class lives, where substantial personal liberty if not democracy is the norm, and where people realistically believe that working hard will likely lead to a better future for them and their children.  Today there are places all over the world that more resemble America in the Fifties (with local cultures and modern technology) than the overwhelmingly politically repressive, anti-capitalist places they were thirty years ago. These benefits have all occurred on America’s global watch, and many of these benefits have come from ideas and policies of which America has been the chief proponent.

So why does almost no one in America, neither conservative Republicans nor progressive Democrats, nor most people in between, feel like we have “won” anything in the last couple of decades?

Our political dysfunction and paralysis has led to an eroding standard of living for many in America and a lessening of our ability to assure for our citizens – and especially for our younger ones— that things will be better for their children than they were for them.  Since this American Dream is the essence of what has long made America so special, we run a real risk that if upward mobility for most Americans ceases to be a reality, America will cease to be, well…America.
The rebirth of a significant place in the Republican Party for Liberal Republican views would again provide a mechanism for cross-party consensus to be reached on a range of issues that today our increasingly nasty partisan politics is incapable of bridging.‎ Unlike a football game, where one side wins and one doesn’t, life is full of examples where both sides win, such as a good marriage or a successful business partnership.
My goals in creating the Lone Liberal Republican website are modest: (1) to get a decent conversation going about the benefits of resurrecting the liberal branch of the Republican Party, including some of the public policies such a branch might adopt to help us find consensus, and (2) to help mentor others who wish to actively pursue Liberal Republican politics. To help with the first goal, please share this with others who you think may be receptive to the message. To read more, click the link below.
Click here to read more.

The “sandpile effect” in political and economic worlds

The term “the sandpile effect” was coined by the Danish-American physicist Per Bak and his co-authors Chao Tang and Kurt Wiesenfeld to describe how, as someone builds a sandpile by dropping one grain of sand on another, the pile eventually becomes so steep that little sand slides occur and then, eventually, an avalanche. But it is impossible, or at least very difficult, to predict which single grain of sand will create the cascading avalanche. One grain of sand is dropped and nothing appears to happen. Then, the next grain of sand is dropped… and there is an avalanche. (Think about California immediately before a devastating earthquake, or Texas before a devastating storm–all appears stable, but a moment later comes vast destruction.)
In‎ The Age of the Unthinkable, Joshua Cooper Ramo illustrates how the sandpile effect exists in political and economic worlds as well as the physical world, and how seemingly small and random events can undo complex political and economic systems in momentous and unpredictable ways.‎ Query whether our national tendency to “kick the can down the road” on many of the problems that confront us–our decaying infrastructure, our mounting national debt, our disappearing social cohesion–may lead us to a sandpile effect ending. Everything will appear pretty much the same as yesterday–infrastructure decaying just a little bit more, the debt getting just a little bit bigger, our social fabric getting just a little more frayed as politicians, the media and others pound away at their adversaries. But then, bam, that one additional grain of sand causes an avalanche. One only needs to remember the onset of the 2008 financial meltdown to see the vast and long-lasting harm such an avalanche can cause.
A good motto for Liberal Republicanism would be the words of Singapore’s famous Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew,”Let’s start thinking about it now.” This is how America should face it’s problems–not by kicking the can down the road, nor by continuing to engage in the degree of political partisanship we do today. Neither families, businesses, religious congregations, nor sports teams stay strong if they are divided against themselves, and neither can a nation. We need to change the political culture in America so that our politicians are only reelected if they compromise and succeed in enacting broadly-supported legislation– together they “think about it now” and do something. As John McCain stated on the floor of the Senate recently, “Stop listening to the bombastic loudmouths on the radio and television and the Internet. To hell with them. They don’t want anything done for the public good. Our incapacity is their livelihood.”
Read more here.

“The Disuniting of America” by Arthur Schlesinger and “E Pluribus Unum.”

The book The Disuniting of America‎, by Arthur Schlesinger, ‎is now more than twenty-five years old. While in some respects the book shows its age, it’s message is even more relevant today than when the book was written.

In the book, the late historian Arthur Schlesinger asks what is it that holds a diverse nation together. His answer is acculturation and integration–and he advocates for the continuation of one of America’s founding principles, “E Pluribus Unum.”

Trying to advocate for “E Pluribus Unum” (“Out of Many, One”) is no easy task in America today. I hope that if you are reading this post you will do so in the spirit in which it is written–to make E Pluribus Unum more real for more people in America than ever before–not to subsume anyone’s identities in anyone else’s, but to create an inclusive nation of opportunity for all, that is accepting and respectful of our differences.

Sadly, at the moment America is moving in the opposite direction, with more people on both sides of the political aisle questioning the worth of loyalty to common values and ideals. Thankfully the majority of us, of all races, ethnicities and religions, still recognize that we are all in this together.‎
Click here to read more.

Have Both Progressive and Conservative Americans Lost Sight of ‎ What the Terms “Liberal” and “Liberalism” Really Mean?

•“He dislikes reporters and writers…If he feels that he has been criticized unfairly, and he considers most criticism unfair, he doesn’t hesitate to pick up the phone and complain to an editor…[I]n general, he views the papers as his enemy. The reporters, specifically. They want to know things that are none of their business, because they are little men.”

• “Then a rumor was spread in white neighborhoods that [political opponent] Merriam’s second wife, who was born in France, was part Black…Letters from a nonexistent ‘American Negro Civic Association’ were sent into outlying residential areas, urging a vote for Merriam because he would see to it that Blacks found homes and building sites in all parts of the city.”

• The owner of a small restaurant, Harry, put up a sign for his friend, who was running as a Republican against the Democrat’s incumbent politician. The day the sign went up, the local Democratic Party head came to the restaurant. “How come the sign, Harry?…I’d appreciate it if you’d take it down.” “He’s my friend…it’s staying up” said Harry. The next day the local party head came back and asked again, but Harry wouldn’t budge. So the next day the city building inspectors came. The plumbing improvements alone cost Harry [more than $17,000 in 2017 dollars].

None of the three stories above have anything to do with liberal governance–they all evidence illiberalism. And, if some of the quotes and stories above remind you of our current President, that is because our current President is illiberal. (The quotes and stories are all from the wonderful book by Mike Royko, Boss, about former Chicago Mayor Richard J. Daley.)

As a nation we have lost sight of what the terms “liberal” and “liberalism” really mean and, in doing so, we arguably have also lost the capacity to distinguish liberal from illiberal politicians. For instance, one side of the political aisle accuses former President Obama of being illiberal, while the other side of the political aisle accuses Senator John McCain of the same. In fact, they both are advocates of liberal values, as are many other conservative Republican and progressive Democratic politicians. In our confusion, we have now elected an illiberal person as President, and face the risk that he will govern illiberally, with all the abuses of power and intolerance that fundamentally distinguishes an illiberal government from a liberal one.

So what does it really mean to be liberal? Click here to read.

A Poverty Reduction Platform

This week’s post describes a straightforward Liberal Republican poverty reduction platform. It is centered on what Isabel Sawhill, one of America’s leading social welfare economists, calls “having children by design, not by default” (that is, by accident).
In her book Generation Unbound, Sawhill sets forth some sad facts regarding the decline of the American two-parent family and its often-devastating effects on children. She explains that over forty percent of all children in America are now born outside of marriage. She further notes that about three-quarters of those children will not even be raised in a stable single-parent family, where one parent valiantly struggles to raise children alone. Instead, such children will experience “the constant comings and goings of new boyfriends (or girlfriends) or the addition of new half-siblings…” (This is in contrast to as recently as 1950, says Sawhill, when seven percent of all families with children under age eighteen were headed by a single parent. That is, it used to be that almost all children in America, whether rich or poor, grew up in two-parent households.)
As most of us can imagine, the single parent merry-go-round households that Sawhill describes are often a hideously unstable way for children to grow up. This is especially so when one considers the abuse that temporary adult partners sometimes bring into a child’s home and the fighting and depression that often precede and accompany the breakups of adult romantic relationships.‎ Such children also experience poverty much more frequently than children growing up in more stable environments. Sawhill states that forty-seven (47) percent of children living in single-mother families were living below the poverty line in 2012. This is more than four times as high as the eleven percent poverty rate that she describes for children living with their married parents.

 

Sawhill states:

“The key fact to understand about pregnancies and births to unmarried women in their twenties is that a large portion of them are not intended. Roughly half of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended.”

Sawhill believes that political conservatives have generally avoided the issue of how to deal with so many single parent families because they believe separating sex from childbearing and marriage is morally wrong or undermines responsible behavior. Sawhill states that political progressives also have avoided this issue because they are overwhelmingly focused on what happens to children once they are born, “ignoring the fact that the circumstances of a child’s birth matter, too.”


Sawhill believes that government has a role to play but that, without more personal responsibility, it will be impossible to turn the tide. “For every child kept out of poverty by the earned income tax credit or some other program, another child is about to be born into poverty because of the wholesale breakdown of the American family.” She states, “To keep pace with this demographic trend, the safety net would have to expand continuously. To reduce poverty we must slow down entries into poverty, not just speed up the exits.” Sawhill states, “[Progressives] are asking voters to support an agenda that is more expensive and less consistent with the American value of self-sufficiency than ‎most American voters will accept.”‎

Sawhill explains the relative ease of avoiding poverty in America. She states that she has long argued that “To stay out of poverty, individuals need to follow three steps: graduate from high school, work full-time, and wait until after age 21 to get married and have children (in that order)…[I]f people followed these three simple guidelines, only 2 percent would be poor.” [Emphasis mine] These do not seem to be unachievable goals; in fact, they are remarkably straightforward and politically uncontroversial.

Click here to read more.