First Principles

In search of the Unified Theory of Conservatism

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How To Turn Disagreement Into Better Policy In Three Easy Steps – Bonus Features

January 31st, 2015 · 3 Comments

My latest for the Reno Gazette-Journal is now up on line – please check it out!  I’m especially excited for this one, as it’s the first column that will go to print in the paper paper.  But even if you’re like me and prefer your pontifications in the form of pigment-stained dried pulp, please take a minute to click through the link.  It’s hard to do readership metrics with the paper itself, as the RGJ’s spy drones are still in their testing phase…

In the meantime, a couple of related thoughts:


It’s always amazing to me that so many people don’t understand that HOW we do things is at least as important as WHAT we do.  In politics, personal relationships and likeability have huge impacts on policy.  We don’t teach our children manners, grace, and discipline because it’s fun to boss them around, we do it because without those things, they’ll be less successful in life.

"Strike First!  Strike Fast!  Read the budget before complaining about it SIR!!!"

If the Cobra Kai dojo would have taught grace along with their discipline…  well, it may have been a less interesting movie.  But then Johnnie Lawrence could have grown up to be a great Speaker of the Assembly!

This is what John Adams meant when he said that out Constitution was made only for a “moral and religious people.”  It’s not that we all have to be practicing Christians, but forgetting all sense of our adversaries’ humanity and sincerity will eventually destroy our society – it’s worth remembering that self governance is still an historic abnormality.  It’s especially worth remembering for folks who claim to have a special knowledge of and respect for the founding principles of the Republic.


Asking, “Do you have a better idea?” is not a new way to respond to critics of policy, of course, and the Governor did exactly that last week.  I’ve seen a lot of people purport to take him up on his challenge – but none actually did.

I saw one particularly tiresome wag whine that he’d come up with a better idea if only he had the Governor’s staff and retinue of budget analysts.  But that’s not a better idea.  It’s not even an idea.  If anything, it’s a mere acknowledgement that the Governor is the best informed policy maker in Carson, which hardly bolsters the ideas of his critics.

And such a thing is not required.  Here’s a hint – you don’t have to guess at what the budget is going to look like from year to year.  Our state is changing, but not that fast.  Two years ago, the governor also proposed a budget.  There was another one two years before that, and on and on.  And with about 30 seconds of diligent work at the Google machine, they’re pretty easy to find.

That also means that there’s a template that’s been out for two years.  I know folks in the Legislature have day jobs, but they also have staffers, NPRI folks, weekends, and two whole years to carefully consider how general conservative ideas actually pencil out.  No such projection will be perfect, but you can’t beat something with nothing.  And on some issues, like estimating the cost savings of school facility maintenance/construction with prevailing wage reform in place, are fairly straight forward.

Long term thinking is critical to running a large organization, but it’s a sadly absent trait to be found in our political class these days.


Think of the time and money that will be spent in vain on these absurd recall efforts for people who have yet to cast a single vote.  Imagine if that was put towards, you know, independent policy and budget analysis!

But then, that won’t make little people who are constant failures at life feel big and important.  Sometimes it’s worth remembering that not everyone in our party has the same priorities.

By their acts, you shall know them indeed.


Update:  Now THIS is what I’m talking about!  You don’t have to agree with everything in here to appreciate this evidence-based approach.

Tags: Nevada Politics