I attended an event hosted by the James Madison Institute (JMI) in Sarasota, FL. The keynote speaker was Lawrence W. Reed from the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Dr. Bob McClure, the President and CEO of JMI, introduced Larry Reed as a friend, mentor and guiding light in the movement to renew American exceptionalism.
Reed’s remarks dealt with what he calls the Seven Principles of Sound Public Policy. Reed was clear to point out each was not his own idea but he compiled them over the years to show the path to prosperity and happiness for those leaders in business, politics and policy who would embrace them all. One is not enough, all are necessary for any public policy to be successful.
What struck me is that Reed first introduced his seven principles at the Detroit Economic Club in 2001. It is prophetic that thirteen years later we see a Detroit that is an empty shell of its former self. While listening to Reed I came to understand why – for you see Detroit’s leaders had abandoned each and everyone of the seven principles of sound public policy.
I will not go into the details of each of these compelling principles but rather will just list them below:
One: Free people are not equal, and equal people are not free.
Two: What belongs to you, you tend to take care of; what belongs to no one or everyone tends to fall into disrepair.
Three: Sound policy requires that we consider long-run effects and all people, not simply short-run effects and a few people.
Four: If you encourage something, you get more of it; if you discourage something, you get less of it.
Five: Nobody spends somebody else’s money as carefully as he spends his own.
Six: Government has nothing to give anybody except what it first takes from somebody, and a government that’s big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you’ve got.
Seven: Liberty makes all the difference in the world. NOTE: Larry changed this principle to – Character makes all the difference in the world. Character is value based and without a core set of individual values liberty cannot survive.
Detroit is the poster child for ignoring these seven principles and by doing so, set itself on a path to self-destruction.
First, Detroit made it public policy to make everyone equal by promoting unsustainable social programs that bankrupted the entire city. Then the city took control of more of their citizens property (by taxation and seizing) and the city fell into disrepair. Over time multiple city administrations and political/policy leaders did not consider the long-run effects of their policies. Ultimately their programs to help the few, impoverished the many. Then the leaders of Detroit in desperation encouraged failure by further subsidizing it, rather than promoting the bedrocks of any community – family, neighborhood and work. They continued to spend the people’s money until both the people and the money left Detroit. They took from the few to give to the many and thereby started on the long painful road to perdition for all.
Perhaps most importantly Detroit lost its character, its moral compass if you will. Only if Detroit embraces these seven principles can it revive itself, by itself.
It was fitting and proper that JMI would host this event, at this time in Florida. As James Madison wrote, “I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments by those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
Was Madison predicting what would happen in Detroit, MI? Is it happening in America?
EDITORS NOTE: If you wish to see Larry Reed’s full commentary on each of the seven principles please go to this link.
ABOUT THE JAMES MADISON INSTITUTE
The James Madison Institute is a Florida-based research and educational organization (501c3) engaged in the battle of ideas. The Institute’s ideas are rooted in a belief in the U.S. Constitution and such timeless ideals as limited government, economic freedom, federalism, and individual liberty coupled with individual responsibility.
The Institute’s mission is to keep the citizens of Florida informed about their government and to shape our state’s future through the advancement of practical free-market ideas on public policy issues.
The Institute achieves its mission through research, conferences and seminars, and a variety of publications.
Since its inception in 1987, the Institute has remained independent, nonprofit, and nonpartisan. It makes no attempt to aid or hinder the passage of legislation, nor does it accept government funds or respond to special pleadings from any sector.
ABOUT THE MACKINAC CENTER FOR PUBLIC POLICY
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research and educational institute dedicated to improving the quality of life for all Michigan citizens by promoting sound solutions to state and local policy questions. The Mackinac Center assists policy makers, scholars, business people, the media and the public by providing objective analysis of Michigan issues. The goal of all Center reports, commentaries and educational programs is to equip Michigan citizens and other decision makers to better evaluate policy options.
The Mackinac Center for Public Policy is broadening the debate on issues that has for many years been dominated by the belief that government intervention should be the standard solution. Center publications and programs, in contrast, offer an integrated and comprehensive approach that considers:
All Institutions. The Center examines the important role of voluntary associations, business, community and family, as well as government.
All People. Mackinac Center research recognizes the diversity of Michigan citizens and treats them as individuals with unique backgrounds, circumstances and goals.
All Disciplines. Center research incorporates the best understanding of economics, science, law, psychology, history and morality, moving beyond mechanical cost/benefit analysis.
All Times. Center research evaluates long-term consequences, not simply short-term impact.