5 questions with Rick Morgan

Rick Morgan is a partner in the Minneapolis law office of Bowman and Brooke. He has worked as outside counsel for four Minnesota governors. He currently serves on the board of directors at the Center of the American Experiment.

What drew you to public policy?

I’ve always been interested in public policy. I did a joint program in public policy at the Humphrey Institute when I was in law school. Then I was fortunate to get an internship with Governor Rudy Perpich. I was fascinated watching how that office operated, and how the governor conducted business. When I got out of the Army, I worked for Governor Carlson, doing outside counsel work with Tom Heffelfinger. Governor Ventura hired me to work on the “Jesse Doll” and a few other issues. After that I decided not to be involved in political work any longer—until a fellow named Tim Pawlenty called and said, “I’d like you to be my lawyer.” I was his outside lawyer for several years. So I’ve worked with four different governors. I continue to be active in political and public affairs.

How would you describe the evolution of public policy during your experience?

For better or for worse, government policies infiltrate almost everything we do. I think that’s generally a “worse” thing. We need to promote policies that encourage individual freedom, limited government, and the private sector. The American Experiment is about these core values. The Center’s role is increasingly important because more people are demanding government solutions to every problem.

What lesson do you take from your experience in and around government? 

The unrealistic expectations placed on our government and public officials. Money and good intentions are not enough. There are many problems government can’t solve, and government intervention can make many problems worse. Collectively, we have done a poor job educating the public on the inevitable disappointments, unintended negative consequences and risks we face in expecting government to solve every problem. It’s remarkable how little education there is on the benefits of limited, localized government and free market economics. It’s not done in the public schools any more, certainly not at most of our universities and not in most of the media.

What most surprises you in your experience?

What is most remarkable to me is how public discourse has so little to do with policy and how much of it is about polls and entertainment. I remember asking Tim Pawlenty what he learned when he ran for President. “It’s not about policy any more,” he said. “It’s about entertainment.” That’s a problem. It’s surprising to me that we continue to embrace politics that reward the outrageous and the unworkable.

Was there a least favorite moment?

Not so much a least favorite moment as a least favorite trend. I think the lowest point is the lack of seriousness in discourse on public policy right now. It’s distressing. The American Experiment, to its core, remains the best hope for our country. We, at the Center, need to develop and present our policy proposals in a way that appeals to the best in human nature and in a way that shows we have the public’s best interests at heart.