In the January/February 2011 edition of Foreign Policy magazine, Stephen M. Walt wrote an excellent and enlightened commentary titled “Where do Bad Ideas Come From and Why Don’t They Go Away”. He explained that for more than 20 years prior to the financial collapse of 2008, many influential figures in finance, economics and academics explained away economic gravity. Using state of the art financial models the smart guys concluded, “…improved techniques of risk management like financial derivatives allowed governments to relax existing regulations on financial markets”. This new technique enabled an expansion of new credit with “little risk of financial collapse”. Walt continued by discussing the counterinsurgency war that was Vietnam. Weary products of Vietnam later became leaders within the DOD. One of them cautioned against further counterinsurgency entanglements inspiring the Powell Doctrine. Yet, kinetic engagements have continued in Southwest Asia for 10 years, inadvertently changing the name of Operation Enduring Freedom to The Long War. There is a touch of irony here.
Bad ideas come from a lack of foresight. We hear of or conceive a new strategy, a new concept, or a new technique and because it “sounds good” we generally buy into it as a free people. There are multiple problems that rest with the acceptance of a new and shiny strategy. But the most troubling is when the new strategy, concept, or technique invokes a violation of the timeless principles taught in religious doctrine and the principles that led to the longest lasting free nation on Earth.
The Democratic Party tried a shiny new strategy after losing their majority in the Missouri House of Representatives following more than a decade in power. Since 2004, nearly all Missouri democratic candidates have been afraid of being “painted into a corner” by their republican opponents. To avoid this, democratic candidates have trashed partisan policies adopting centrist, if not conservative, social agendas. More than eight years later, Missouri House republicans have a super majority. So Dems, how is it working for you?
As for the “baby boomer” smart guys, they have constructed the worst financial crisis since the great depression, spilled American blood in the longest war in American history, and led to the unraveling of social programs in Missouri (and elsewhere). It’s time for them to take a seat.
If we don’t change, we stagnate. If we don’t adapt, we die. So change is essential. However, that does not mean we forget, or even forgo, timeless principles, and we should never forget from which we came. The principles of charity, free will, hard work, fidelity, integrity, fortitude, and the faith that promotion comes from your God and not from people should be embedded in the impressionable minds of our youth and cherished by the masses. The democratic principles that are grounded in the Spirit of the Constitution should never be forgotten and replaced by a new strategy that has clearly failed, yet continues.
At the end of the day, let’s remember to pursue our past as much as we strive for our future. As Ken Burns once said, “Insist on having a past and then you will have a future”. Let’s replace cynicism with skepticism. As Paul Hawken exclaimed, “The most unrealistic person in the world is the cynic, not the dreamer”. Let’s remember that public service is a civic responsibility. That doesn’t include running for office and losing. Public service isn’t about one’s ambitious objectives; it is about sustained selfless sacrifice. Finally, let’s heed the warning of our forebears and stop being our own greatest threat.