Principles define how we want to go about doing something. Here’s a summary of our core principles:
- 1. We are committed to a better America for all Americans. And this doesn’t only mean “all Americans who are like us,” or “all Americans that we agree with.” It means that we are committed to a better America for all Americans. Whatever our disagreements may be, we are one American family. Our social, political, religious and cultural climate may have divided us in recent years. But the goal of ABetterAmerica.org is to recognize and treat all Americans as members of one family.
- 2. We are an independent voice. Our goal is to listen to (and draw our membership from) all sides. This includes — but is not limited to — Democrats, Republicans and Independents. It includes Americans of all racial and ethnic backgrounds, of all beliefs, and from all walks of life. It includes male and female, rich, middle class, and poor, red-state conservatives, middle-of-the-road moderates, and blue-state liberals. It includes academics, students, business people, those involved in government, and the millions of hard-working Americans who form the backbone of our country. In addition, we will consider ideas that may have worked well in various states, cities, and even in other countries.
- 3. We believe that what we do as a nation should be based as much as possible on the actual likely effects of our laws — as backed up by credible research. We believe in solid research, because experience has shown that good research solves problems. The world we live in today (including all of our medicine and technology, among other benefits) is a product of solid research. For this reason, we’re focused on research that reveals the actual impact of laws and policies passed. How people feel about a law is also important, but the main consideration is what actual impact a law is likely to have.
- 4. We will plan for the longer term as well as for the short term. We recognize that we have a responsibility to our children and grandchildren.
- 5. When considering a law, we will give more weight to the voices of those who will be the most impacted by the law, and less weight to the voices of those whom the law will impact minimally or not at all. For example, a proposal regarding healthcare or Social Security might affect 20% of Americans drastically, 30% of Americans moderately, and 50% of Americans almost not at all. In this case, it’s appropriate to give the most consideration to the 20% of Americans whose lives are likely to be drastically impacted, a moderate amount of consideration to those Americans who will be moderately impacted, and less weight to those who will be impacted almost not at all.
- 6. We’re committed to pursuing, accepting, and acting on the truth — and to encouraging our fellow Americans to do the same. Our goal is to carefully sort out the truth from the far too prevalent political propaganda, hype, misinformation and “fake news” and pass on to our members, as much as possible, a true, accurate, and balanced perspective. We intend to guard against falsehood from any side of the aisle.
- 7. We value liberty, human and civil rights, patriotism, our national security, prosperity, our American heritage, and the well-being of all Americans. We believe that government should be a servant of the People — not the other way around.
- 8. We believe, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, that human beings have the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We recognize that people have a right to self-defense, and that that right must also be exercised responsibly within a context of safety for all of our citizens. We also value the “Golden Rule,” which says that we should treat others as we would like to be treated.
- 9. When thinking of changing a law, we must not only consider whether the change will actually meet the desired purpose, but also consider what unintended consequences the change might create.
- 10. Where reasonably possible, we want to address root causes, not just symptoms, and find real solutions, not just band-aid fixes.
- 11. We want to empower individuals as part of our mission.
We’re committed to a better America for all Americans.
When most of us think about a better life, or a better America, our first instinct is to understand that concept solely from our own point of view. This leads to various interests competing with each other to try and impose vastly different visions of what our country should be like.
Our goal is to try and create a better America, as much as possible, for all of us.
The idea that we are all created equal is in fact at the very core of the American idea. Even though it has too often been suppressed by injustices like slavery and discrimination, that core idea been central to the United States of America since our Founding.
We ask therefore that our fellow citizens also accept this idea:
We don’t just want a better America as defined by my group or your group, but a better America for us all.
We are an independent voice.
Everywhere we turn, we see partisanship and division. We understand that we need all of us, and neither Republicans nor Democrats have every single answer we need. Many of us routinely demonize those of different views, but good people can see things differently. We will listen to all sides, and try to identify the best solutions for everyone.
This doesn’t mean that we necessarily pick the “center-of-the-road” path. We might discover that those on the left really have a good point when it comes to one aspect of an issue, and those on the right have an equally good point in regard to a different aspect of the same issue.
The best solution might be that proposed on the left. It might be that proposed by the right. It might be a middle-of-the-road compromise. Or, quite possibly, it might be a creative solution that combines the best and most effective ideas from right, left, and center.
Something that does great good for some while doing little harm to anyone else is usually worth doing.
Practically speaking, every law we have carries with it a cost. Being required to drive on the right-hand side of the road, for example, is a slight inconvenience to those who would prefer not to have to pay much attention to their driving, and it’s an expense to those who are ticketed for not doing so.
However, this small cost is more than offset by the benefit to all of our citizens of having such a law.
When we think about our existing laws, or think about passing new ones, we need to ask carefully whether the benefit justifies the cost. A law that will bring great benefit to some of our citizens at very little cost to others is probably one we can justify. A law that carries significant cost to many of our citizens without bringing any real benefit to anyone is difficult to justify.
What’s the real impact?
A major question for any law should be: What’s its real impact going to be?
We appreciate people’s desire to feel a particular way. Emotions are important things, and where it’s reasonably doable, we want everyone to feel good. However, emotional impact is only one part of the impact of a law or policy, and very often, it’s not the most important one.
The more emotionally polarized an issue is, the more likely it is for us to pass laws solely on the basis of people’s feelings. But such laws may do little to actually serve the public good. Particularly when it comes to emotionally-charged issues, we should ask: What is the actual effect of a law likely to be, and what will the cost be?
How can we know these things? The best way is through credible research — along with also thinking through all the possible ramifications, where we don’t have research available to shed light on the topic.
And yes, we are well aware that an unfortunately large percentage of research is flawed, simply by the way that it’s designed. And a certain percentage of “research” is also biased, or (in some cases) outright propaganda. And even reasonably objective research can be misrepresented in the way it’s reported.
That’s why we intend to look for the flaws, biases, fallacies, irrelevancies, and falsehoods in research and its reporting, and try to sort out the inconsistencies.
This, of course, is no small undertaking. Still, we believe that solid, credible research should be one of our top tools to evaluate the likely impact of laws and policies.
Research is not a perfect tool. But the only real way we have to discover those instances when the research may be wrong… is better research.
We will plan for the longer term as well as for the short term.
We recognize that we have a responsibility to our children, our grandchildren, and future generations. Therefore, we will consider the longer-term impact of our actions.
This is especially important when considering issues such as the amount of debt we will leave to those who come behind us, the type of society we are creating, and the potential impact of our actions on the environment.
We’re committed to pursuing, accepting, and acting on the truth — and to encouraging our fellow Americans to do the same.
This may seem to some of us to be an obvious principle, but in reality, it’s far from it.
There are two problems here. The first has to do with human limitations. Even with a commitment to the truth, our understanding as human beings is still colored by our own biases, misperceptions, misunderstandings, wishful thinking, and the one-sidedness of our sources of information. This problem is further compounded, for most of us, by a lack of time to seek out information from multiple sources, that will clarify and correct our understanding.
Beyond that, there’s another problem: Many of us actually prefer comfortable illusions to uncomfortable truth.
Our natural preference for comfort helps give rise to political, social and economic illusions and falsehoods that become widely believed and embraced in society. A contemporary example of this (with which the founder of ABetterAmerica.org had extensive personal experience) is the “birther movement” that spent 8 years challenging President Barack Obama’s eligibility to serve as President.
A long, comprehensive and honest investigation uncovered literally no credible evidence at all that Mr. Obama had been born anywhere other than Honolulu, Hawaii. It also uncovered no good evidence of any tampering with his birth certificate, and no good evidence that he was in any way Constitutionally ineligible.
In spite of this lack of any basis in reality, an NBC poll conducted the summer before Mr. Obama left office showed that 41% of Republicans still disagreed with the statement, “Barack Obama was born in the United States,” while only 27% agreed with it.
Even worse than just believing falsehoods, some of us will actively fight for them. The fact is, “fake news,” disinformation, and plain error are major problems in our society.
We will do what we can, as objectively as we can, to help defeat them.
We will consider the unintended consequences.
Too many of our laws have resulted in unintended negative consequences that nobody ever really thought about before the law was passed.
A classic example is the bounty offered by the British government for dead cobras in Delhi, India, back during the days of British colonial rule. The bounty was intended, rather obviously, to reduce the number of cobras and thus make the region safer.
When people discovered there was money to be made by providing dead cobras to the government, they started breeding them, so as to collect more rewards. The British government wised up, and discontinued the bounty. At that point the cobra farms turned all of their cobras loose. The net result was an increase in the number of cobras in Delhi — the exact opposite of what the policy was intended to produce.
Here in the United States, the nationwide Prohibition of alcoholic beverages in 1920 drove small, legal suppliers of alcohol out of business. It didn’t do much to reduce demand, however. The result was that illegal crime syndicates quickly became large and powerful. Prohibition lasted less than 14 years before being repealed.
Many other laws at the local, state and national levels have had perhaps less dramatic but still unfortunate unintended consequences. Before we pass any law, we should ask ourselves: How could this law possibly go wrong?
We want to empower individuals as part of our mission.
We desire a better life for all Americans. We realize that the power to create a better future is divided between our individual actions and what we do together as a community and nation. And a great deal of the responsibility falls upon us as individuals.
This leads to several principles: First, we want to help empower individuals to do things that will make their own lives better — and this, in fact, is a part of our mission.
Secondly, we believe that it’s usually better to teach someone to fish, rather than to give them a fish.
Third, we believe there is a role for government in empowering individuals.
This isn’t actually a radical idea. In fact, it’s a well-established one. Every time an American child goes to school at a public school, or a college student walks into a classroom at a publicly-funded university, we see government empowering individuals to make their own lives better.
These are our core principles. If you have problems with any of them, or if you think we’ve left something important out, please contact us and let us know!