ON-Lion Letter

In July, the Conservative Reform Network and the Conservative Reform Policy Center released the first three policy-briefing books of its new Room to Grow series at an event in Washington, D.C.  The released books were on:  startups and entrepreneurship, by James Pethokoukis of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI); the environment and energy, by Steven Hayward of Pepperdine University and the Pacific Research Institute (PRI); and higher education, by AEI's Andrew P. Kelly.

During the event, one panel provided a general overview of the project.  It featured the series' editors, Bradley Prize recipient Yuval Levin of the Ethics and Public Policy Center and Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review, and CRN's Neil Bradley, and was moderated by CRN advisor Kate O'Beirne.  Another panel, on startups and entrepreneurship, featured Pethokoukis, technology entrepreneur Pete Snyder, pollster and The Selfie Vote:  Where Millennials Are Leading America author Kristen Soltis Anderson, and National Review's Reihan Salam.

In his overview remarks, Levin said, "Conservatives and liberals differ about how to solve problems. …  Conservatives think that it's unlikely that the kind of immense body of knowledge that would be necessary to address some of the large national problems we have would be found in the hands of a few technical experts gathered together in Washington, however benign and well-meaning their motives are.  It's not likely they’re going to be able to solve the problem in a centralized way.

"It's more likely," he continued, "that problems like that are going to be addressed in a bottom-up way, by letting people on the ground try different ways of addressing the problems as they confront them.  See what ways are working, let consumers choose, let beneficiaries choose, let citizens choose, and keep what's working and drop what's not working.  The structure of many federal programs doesn't allow for any of that to happen -- doesn't allow for experimentation with different solutions, doesn't allow for people to make choices for what’s working for them, doesn't allow failures to go away.

"A lot of the solutions you find in these proposals involve moving away from those kinds of centralized programs to the other model -- the model that lets people make choices and lets those choices matter," according to Levin.

"These are actually difficult problems, the answers are not obvious.  And the question is how do you address these kinds of challenging problems.  We tend to think that experimenting, letting different kinds of solutions get worked out and tried is just more likely to succeed.  And I think that's a much more aggressive way of trying to transform the way the federal government works than cutting some money off the top."

The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation in Milwaukee substantially supports the Room to Grow series.  Bradley also supports AEI, PRI, and EPPC.

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