Affecting What We Can
In a November article for National Review (yes, I’m a bit behind), Keith Hennessey offers ten methods by which elected officials can begin “moving incrementally in the right direction” when it comes to the economy. Most of the items deal with particular issues and ought to be considered, but his #2 speaks to a general approach to governance and ought to be elevated above the rest:
Two. Set the right goal: creating the conditions for growth rather than trying to create growth. Policymakers need to get the policies right and let business leaders decide how to run their firms. Corporate leaders are sitting on unprecedented piles of cash, waiting to see what Washington will foul up next. Take Washington out of their decision-making by creating a stable, predictable, low-cost business environment. They will then decide how best to hire, invest, and expand. Your job as an elected official is not to create economic growth or jobs, it is to create the conditions under which the private sector creates growth and jobs. Stick to your lane and let business leaders stick to theirs.
It is accurate as both a slight and a neutral statement of fact to say that legislators and government executives are not qualified to direct industry and the economy. Actually, nobody is, on a macro scale, but politicians are especially unqualified, and moreover, it is dangerous simultaneously to insert powers of specific economic development into the same hands that hold powers of policing and taxation.
The line between setting conditions and dictating mandates can be gray, in spots, but it’s the principle that matters: Let the people investing their reputations and livelihoods on particular endeavors determine the best methods, and make it easier for them to move forward.