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Another Impractical Guide To Small Government

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Part 2 -- Critically Evaluate Public Policy

A Critical Exam
A Critical Exam
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A Critical Exam by Email address removed" target="_blank">Larry Butler

   The first installment of An Impractical Guide established that critical thinking, as a national value and widespread among an enlightened populace, is necessary to bring about positive change in America.   But once we have embraced the value of critical thinking, we must apply it to an evaluation of the public policies that provide the legal and cultural framework within which our lives are lived, and then we must create new solutions that replace today's inefficient and inequitable public policies.


   People who fail to evaluate their values, attitudes, and actions are unable to learn from experience.   Reflection can be painful, but is a necessary component of personal growth and maturity.   Institutions are no different.

   Errors in the framework of government will tend to be self-perpetuating and self-protecting.   Such errors are typically introduced by interests seeking some special advantage.   For example, Article IV, section 2 of the Constitution provides that any person "held to service" in one state cannot escape into another state without the destination state being held responsible for returning that person.   This was later clarified, perhaps redundantly, by the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793 and the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850.   All of these laws served the powerful special interests of slave holders, and it took a bloody civil war to correct the error.

   We do not need another civil war, so I suggest that all public policies be systematically and critically examined at their most fundamental level for value, effectiveness, and efficiency.   A systematic evaluation of our laws and regulations will require a structure within which the evaluation can be conducted, and the process will certainly take a very long time.   The where and the when of this process are beyond the scope of this article, but American law schools might be a logical place to start.   As to when, there's no reason not to begin immediately, even though the process may take generations.


   To understand the magnitude of the revolution I am suggesting, consider the Constitution of the United States.   We agree that there are things about it that are in conflict with modern values -- things like slavery.   We agree that it has proven to be a pretty durable model for government, over a very long time.   And we agree that the flexibility of amendment has proven valuable in keeping the document relevant and effective.   Military officers and public servants are sworn to uphold this document, in its present form.   So shouldn't the Constitution be excluded from our critical thinking revolution?   Absolutely not!   Evaluating public policy must include -- must start with -- the basics, even the things that are widely regarded as sacred and infallible.

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Thirty five years as a small business consultant, CFO, and university educator specializing in quantitative business and economic modeling - a suite of experience now focused on economic inequality. Carefully attributed data, thoughtful (more...)

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