Hello again, I’m Blaine Winship, author of the book Moralnomics: The Moral Path to Prosperity.
Are you angry about the way things are going in Washington? Are you upset about the sorry state of our economy, our declining military readiness, our failing public schools, and the relentless flood of immigrants about whom we know next to nothing?
You should be angry. More than that, you have a right to be angry.
But what are you going to do with your anger? This being an election year, how are you going to channel your anger into choosing a candidate to support? Or are you so angry that you’re going to sit out the election?
Let’s face it. We need to find the best ways to translate our anger into something positive. This election is the most important of our lifetime. We’ve got to get it right this time.
Let’s start by acknowledging that we have good reason for our anger. The economy is a colossal mess: Wall Street is tumbling, Main Street is dying; employment participation remains at its lowest point in 40 years; more small businesses are closing than opening; the housing market is stuck in a rut. From a social standpoint, crime is on the ascendancy, racial relations are at their worst in decades, and immigration is out of control. Internationally, America has never been less respected, as we weaken our military readiness, distance ourselves from our allies, and embolden our enemies, most especially the radical Muslim jihadists who want to behead us. Amid it all, our national debt keeps skyrocketing as our federal government spends at levels far exceeding our means.
On the political side, can you remember a campaign season with so much bitter divisiveness? Like us, millions of Americans are filled with anger and frustration at the status quo:
we’re angry that the American Dream of a vibrant and well-to-do middle class—a dream that any American could aspire to join—is being destroyed;
we’re angry that the special interests inside the beltway are getting outlandishly rich as middle class living standards fall;
we’re angry that massive federal government programs and spending seem geared to helping everyone else at the expense of the middle class;
we’re angry over how much we’ve spent on public education over the past several decades, and how poor the results have been;
we’re angry that our children are graduating with dismal prospects for jobs and upward mobility;
and for those of us who are working, we’re angry that our job security seems so fragile.
In the face of all this, what can we do? We could just take a deep breath to calm ourselves, say “there, there,” and go on as though everything is okay. Or we could undergo lobotomies, or stick our heads in the sand, or chant lama-like slogans: “Mmm—no worries, no worries—mmm.”
These approaches may lend us an air of outward serenity. But they won’t fix any of the problems—very real problems—that have made us so angry.
Okay, if we’re not going to get lobotomies, then what else can we do with our anger? Vote to throw the bums out of Washington and replace them with the angriest candidates, because we relate to them and we believe that they relate to us?
The problem is that anger alone doesn’t build anything positive. It’s a raw emotion that can lead to improved or worsened conditions, depending on how we channel it.
It’s vital that we recognize the limitations of anger as we look to fashion solutions that go beyond the immediate causes of our discontent. If we don’t embrace the right solutions—if we’re so deep into our anger that we cannot also be guided by reason—we’ll almost surely make things worse. Then we’ll get even angrier, and do what? Embrace even angrier candidates?
Look, we’re not the first nation whose peoples have faced major crises and major turning points. Sometimes, the outcomes have been for the better, as for example with the American Revolution. But often they’ve been disastrous, as with the French Revolution, and with the rise of communist and fascist dictatorial regimes in the twentieth century. In all of those cases, there was plenty of anger, and it powered the changes that resulted. But those changes—toward bigger, more powerful central governments that controlled the people and their economies in top-down fashion—only made everything worse. Living standards plummeted, and the people’s anger gave way to a pervasive sense of hopelessness and futility.
So before we take the force of our anger and project it toward supporting this candidate or that idea, we need to pause to consider where we’d find ourselves if we got our way.
But even then, we need to start thinking further ahead than just the next day or the next year. To fix our problems, we need to think in terms of basic project management. Here’s how it works. Effective project management begins with envisioning the ultimate outcome that we want to achieve. Then we devise steps to take us from where we are to where we wish to end up. This is true regardless of whether we’re filming a movie, writing a book, preparing a lawsuit for trial, creating a new product roll-out for a company, or—in this case—restoring a vibrant economy to a nation.
By keeping the end-vision firmly in mind, we can avoid wasteful and possibly harmful missteps as we move forward. We can guard against having huge and costly amounts of our film’s footage tossed onto the cutting-room floor. We can prevent having to dump hundreds of pages of our manuscript into the wastebasket. We can anticipate the closing arguments we’ll need to make to the jury, and better ensure that our trial evidence fully supports those arguments. We can sustain our focus on producing a new product for our company that is desirable to customers in its utility and price, and that is properly promoted so customers know about it.
The same is true when it comes to moving our nation in the right direction. In my book, I set forth our best end-vision. It’s a vibrant America, in which:
we embrace universal moral values in all facets of our lives, and we try to persuade others to do the same;
we judge others by the content of their moral character as individuals, rather than by group-wide externalities such as race and gender;
we exercise our economic freedom to engage in commerce, and we earn greater rewards by bestowing greater values of benefits on one another;
we exercise our political freedom through limited, bottom-up government that protects us from harm and provides infrastructures to foster our personal growth, our economic freedom, and our right to pursue our happiness as we choose;
we raise our children to understand and appreciate morality and freedom, and to take their education seriously because it’s the ticket for them to grow their capacities for caring about others and for earning greater rewards in return;
we accept the responsibility for being role models, as individuals and as a nation, for morality and freedom;
and we share in the conviction, held by so many who laid down their lives, that America must be strong enough to withstand those forces that would take away our freedom, no matter where those forces originate.
This is the Moralnomics end-vision, justified and defended throughout my book. It’s the true American Dream. And it’s where our anger, informed by our reason and our love and our caring and our hope, should be taking us.
So when it comes to our political candidates, let’s look past their anger. Let’s challenge them to share with us their own visions for what America should be, and share their ideas for how to get us from where we are to where they think we should go.
Then, let’s make our own judgments as to who deserves our support.
Along the way, I hope you’ll give my book a chance. I’m confident that if you do, you’ll be better prepared to make sound judgments about our candidates and about America’s best end-game. And then you’ll be able to channel your own anger into something really worthwhile.