Newsletter: Tough Choices Ahead

(4/14/20) As the spread of COVID-19 stabilizes—ending “the first phase of containment”—the country is confronted with choices unlike any others it has ever faced. These include incursions of privacy and acceptance of certain levels of COVID-19 morbidity in order to avoid deaths from a depressed economy.

Public trust is vital, to assure compliance and to keep the country together to face this invisible enemy. Trust requires moral authority—a shared belief that leaders are acting selflessly, not for partisan advantage. The poisonous politics in Washington make moral authority difficult to achieve. That’s why Philip Howard proposes in The Hill that Congress create an independent bipartisan commission, on the model of “base-closing commissions.”

Our recommendation for federal and state recovery authorities to cut unnecessary red tape has been broadly embraced, including in this New York Times column by Bret Stephens. As Stephens explained: “Cutting back on big government is not an end in itself. The goals are to give individuals the chance to take responsibility, local initiatives the chance to flourish, and common sense the chance to reign.”

Shining the spotlight on paralytic bureaucracy has also prompted thoughtful observers to suggest that government is long overdue for a spring cleaning. The point of pushing the reset button would not be to de-regulate, but to re-regulate so that government can be effective without suffocating human initiative. This essay by John Micklethwait and Adrian Wooldridge sets the stage. This will be the goal of our forthcoming Campaign for Common Sense.

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