Perhaps more so today than in recent memory, many people are acutely aware of the difficult challenges we face both as individuals and as a nation. This somber reality is impossible to ignore: millions of people can’t find jobs, thousands of companies encounter obstacles to expansion and can’t afford to hire, energy prices steadily rise, deficit spending and national debt loom large, and Islamic terrorists remain vigilant in their war against Americans and the West. These and many other subjects receive constant attention from government and business leaders, media commentators, and everyday Americans gathering around newspaper stands and water coolers.
Yet despite this apparently sober examination of the world around us, there’s much evidence that there remains a nationwide reluctance to face the deeper facts at hand. As much as Americans don’t like what they see on the surface of things, they remain hesitant to dig deeper, to seek the underlying causes of worrying trends, to identify the fundamental principles at work—and to stake a claim on the proper way forward.
In this issue, we present and examine several examples of this paradox and argue that only a deeper, more fundamental perspective can clarify what’s at stake and why conventional wisdom can’t work, even if we want it to.
For example, many Americans say it’s time to have an “adult conversation” about unsustainable government spending and debt—yet they remain committed to the moral and political ideals that necessitate and motivate that spending. (See Noah Stahl’s “Out with Denial, in with Adult Conversation?”)
Most Americans blithely accept the viability of “green energy” and support government efforts to push alternative technology development through intervention in energy research and production—yet they fail to consider the nature of innovation and defend its essential ingredient: freedom from government coercion. (See Alexander Hrin’s “Green Policies Poison Innovation”).
The public is horrified at the violent wave of drug-related crime in Mexico and the southwest—yet they avoid contemplating the possibility that the very existence of such crime is caused by the prohibition of drugs, which they almost unanimously accept. (See Amber Chambers’ “Prohibition Déjà vu”).
Much of America’s youth voiced their enthusiastic support for President Obama’s idealistic vision during the 2008 campaign—yet only two years later, they attend rallies denouncing allegedly over-idealistic politicians and barely muster the energy to cast a vote in a crucial election. (See Valery Publius’ “From ‘Yes we can!’ to ‘Why bother?’: Rescuing Idealism from Today’s Political Cynics”).
In all of these cases and more, what’s required, more than any complex analysis or clever policy proposal, is this: a willingness to think. One might point to the constant media analysis and political debate, and argue that it represents thoughtful dialogue. But too often, such dialogue is superficial and the thinking artificially constrained: people impose limits on what they’re willing to consider, and designate uncomfortable facts and conclusions as mentally off-limits.
Most people agree that thinking is needed to solve our problems and achieve our goals. But taking problems seriously requires taking ideas seriously, which means honest inquiry with a determination to discover the truth, even if that truth isn’t immediately satisfying or uncontroversial.
We hope you find this issue helpful toward that end, and welcome you to join us in thinking our way to a better world.