Marking the milestones

Over 25 years, Center of the American Experiment has evolved into a creative architect of market-based policy ideas. And the best is yet to come.

We’re launching this newly updated version of Thinking Minnesota at a time when we are celebrating two significant milestones in the progress of Center of the American Experiment. The Center’s 25th anniversary this year gives us an opportunity to look back with great satisfaction and no small admiration for how Mitch Pearlstein conceived American Experiment and developed it into an elite regional think tank. And we are enthusiastic about building upon the recent Minnesota Policy Blueprint to deliver even more relevant, free-market, conservative policy alternatives to some of the discouraging nonsense we regularly see in St. Paul.

Mitch first conceived of the Center in 1987 from his office in the office of research and improvement at the U.S. Department of Education. With the entrepreneurial zeal and intellectual grit that we’ve come to identify with Mitch (not to mention 17 fund-raising trips between Minnesota and D.C., mostly self-financed), Mitch was able to finally launch American Experiment in 1990. Along the way, the Center has always maintained its reputation for objective substantive research and analysis that reflects conservative principles without engaging in inflammatory rhetoric. Our annual dinners have hosted a Who’s Who roster of conservative leaders, writers and speakers, including Lady Margaret Thatcher and President George H.W. Bush. And, while managing all this, Mitch earned a reputation as one of America’s premier intellectual experts on family fragmentation and also managed to write upwards of a half-dozen books.

Over the last year, the Center prepared and published The Minnesota Policy Blueprint: Prescription for Prosperity. The Blueprint is a package of wide-ranging policy recommendations prepared by our staff and some outside experts, emphasizing personal initiative, free enterprise and a limited, frugal but effective government. It provides a diverse, relevant menu of legislative proposals that collectively constitute a comprehensive and thematically consistent initial agenda for building a culture of prosperity in Minnesota. We published a book containing those recommendations just in time for this year’s session of the legislature. Its impact in 2015 exceeded our expectations, as you’ll see on page 7.

The core idea behind the Blueprint is that transforming policy ideas into laws involves much more than good policy papers. The Blueprint was fashioned to be a go-to resource for lawmakers as well as the whole community of policy intermediaries—lobbyists, activists, professional associations and business organizations. The Blueprint’s real influence will result from building working coalitions of organizations with common policy goals that will combine their ideas and their Rolodexes to build support for new policies in Minnesota. That’s why we took such pains to be so inclusive as we researched, prepared and released each of the papers that eventually became the book.

This coming year we’ll expand that process. Watch as we take our ideas on the road. We’re talking to policymakers and intermediaries about ways to get out into communities to advocate for the policies in the Blueprint, to improve our recommendations and identify ideas to advance a culture of prosperity in Minnesota.

I think we’re making a difference. I hope you agree.