After completing graduate school, I officially launched a congressional campaign in the great state of Texas, a truly entertaining experience that you can read more about here.
My congressional campaign was one of the best times of my life. Obviously, I experienced first-hand all that is wrong with our political system. But I also had a unique opportunity to see everything that is right with this country, and it is truly magnificent.
I know the commercials with politicians shaking hands, kissing babies and eating at diners may seem cheesy, but it really was an honor to meet so many amazing people and talk with them about their hopes and dreams for the future (okay, I can practically hear The Battle Hymn of the Republic playing in the background, so I’ll stop now).
The experience was even more special because I had it in East Texas, back where it all began for me. In my early years, I was “fiscally conservative.” In high school, I regarded the conservative trinity of small government, low taxes and less regulation as the answer to everything.
Now, if you had asked me why I believed these things, I would not have had the first clue. Since I had engaged in zero research, I believed these things probably for the same reason I eat mustard on my hamburgers and order my steak medium well: Because my dad did.
Over time, common sense waged war with these beliefs — if not always with the belief itself, then certainly with the inflexibility.
How, I wondered, can lower taxes always be the right thing in a dynamic economy? If we cut government spending at the expense of investing in our future, won’t our national growth slow and our infrastructure eventually fall apart? If we slash social safety nets, won’t income inequality just get worse? If we always put the needs of the individual over the needs of the collective, won’t we enable a divided, narcissistic society that will ultimately sabotage civil civilization?
My questions were bipartisan. But if we don’t curb spending, won’t we soon face a monumental deficit? If we implement too many financial regulations, won’t we potentially choke the free market? If we expand the federal government too much, won’t we end up with a runaway budget and paralyzed bureaucracy?
And then it hit me: The only way to operate at the most optimal level is to reject the liberal’s fallacy that the government is always our savior and Wall Street is always the enemy and the conservative’s fallacy that individualism, tax cuts and smaller government are the miraculous solutions to everything.
A mature democracy requires a robust and thriving private sector and a strong and stable government, working together to stimulate the economy, promote innovative development, and enrich the public interest.
It’s all about balance.
Republicans and Democrats constantly pit the public and private sectors against one another — like they do everything else — and act as if a choice must be made between the two. That is a losing proposition.
Having a strong belief in the private sector doesn’t require that the public sector be distrusted or that a lack of confidence exist in its ability to greatly advance the common good…nor does it mean that any limitation or regulatory measure automatically obstructs our financial markets’ ability to create wealth.
American enterprise has endlessly proven that individual choice and private initiative provide invaluable enhancements to our economy. While, at the same time, there are numerous examples that show how government spending has supported endeavors that add equal value.
The bottom line is that ALL of us — private sector, public sector, social sector and citizens — better combine forces and get busy, because the rest of the world certainly is (read more here).