The planets align

American Experiment plans aggressive innovative plan to promote free-market policies.

I signed on for my second stint as chairman of Center of the American Experiment in part because I think Minnesota (and America) should (again) heed the wisdom of Milton Friedman, who famously once said that laws should be judged by their results rather than their intentions. I see how liberal policies are increasingly harmful to the middle class, low income workers, and minorities – and I’m astonished that almost nobody talks about it. There are judgments that should be made regarding these ineffective policies, no matter how well intentioned and I believe the Center is well positioned to begin this debate.

We’re in a good position to do it. The Center last year confirmed its place as an objective source of free-market policy analysis when it published the Minnesota Policy Blueprint just prior to the beginning of the 2015 legislative session. In it, our staff covered 10 wide-ranging policy areas and contributed more than 100 substantive policy recommendations that played a significant role in what was addressed in that session of the Legislature. I think that book represented some of the most important work the Center has ever taken on.

Our prospects were strengthened considerably when John Hinderaker agreed to a proposal from CAE founder Mitch Pearlstein that he become CAE’s president. Hinderaker, who recently ended his 41-year legal practice at Faegre Baker Daniels, is also cofounder of Power Line, the highly acclaimed conservative blog.

I’ve known John for many years, since we both first served on the board of the Center some 25 years ago. He’s an articulate policy analyst who has deep access to a who’s who of America’s conservative leaders.

He expects to continue the ongoing policy work being done by CAE staff, but you’ll soon see his fingerprints in other policy activities. He’s already commissioned a top national economist (with Minnesota roots) to examine the realities of Minnesota’s economy (see Friedman, above!) which will be released in early spring. He’s negotiating a similar analysis about the job-killing burden of excessive regulation on Minnesota’s employers. There are ideas in the queue, but it’s too early to talk about them. And, hey, as I write this he’s only been officially on the job for two weeks!

John’s vision for the Center also acknowledges that we can’t unleash the power of good ideas merely by having them; we must expend equal energy selling them. His communications agenda will combine old-school outreach with sophisticated digital communications. He will be emphasizing localized op/eds with an aggressive calendar of town meetings cosponsored by elected officials and civic leaders that will publicize our messages and grow our network of like-minded allies and advocates. John has already created some quick-hit radio ads and has produced plans for Google-based advertising.

We’re also relaunching the quarterly policy lunches that the Center hosted so deftly in its early days. The first will be February 18 featuring pundit Jason Riley, author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed.

In addition, I’m particularly proud of the Center’s new edition of Thinking Minnesota magazine. We previously circulated a couple prototype editions, but this is the first one that will reachwide circulation. The magazine will present the Center’s work in a pleasing, readable format that will give it enduring shelf-life. Let us know if you would like to regularly receive the magazine – or better yet, if you know a young person who would benefit from reading about the value of free-market public policies, sign them up.

As a venture capitalist I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way) that the success of a business startup requires far more than an innovative product or a charismatic entrepreneur. They need to be supplemented by strategic vison, an interested marketplace, disciplined operations, and adequate financing. And there’s nothing more invigorating than seeing those planets have aligned.

That’s also true for policy centers. The early days of my second stint as chairman of Center of the American Experiment show me that the dynamics of leadership, innovation, and market demand have combined to enable the Center to create and promote free market policies that will, among other things, enable Minnesota to regain the economic stature most people don’t realize we’ve lost.