79 How this is done 29 Sep 2020


Illinois Governor Richard Ogilvie put his full strength behind the state’s first income tax that proved vital to the state’s financial recovery. After he lost the next election, he wistfully commented that he probably couldn’t be elected to the office of dog catcher. His many progressive accomplishments included establishing the Illinois EPA which served as an example for the national EPA.

 After Governor Jim Edgar’s second term, it was described as Netsch II because he implemented some campaign promises of his election opponent Dawn Clark Netsch (who had incidentally proposed increasing the sales tax). There is a political adage that second term presidents are more effective because they don’t face another election. In the first term one does what is popular for reelection, and in the second term one does what is necessary.


In the Edgar-Netsch contest, I do not know the minds of the two candidates. They may have been second-guessing each other while looking at the same set of problems. The governor might have planned long before exactly what he would do in the second term, without a push from the other side. What matters is the achievement of the goals regardless of the personalities.

Continuity of government policy is necessary. Analysts wring their hands over the cases where one party votes something in and the next party to hold office votes it out and then fails likewise. Many politicians take credit for a first-term success that built on many years of preparation by the predecessor. Credit is due less to the individual than to the flow of history in a long-term progress.

Whims of demagogues cause mischief without causing progress. The steadying force in society is the collective will of the electorate. When that is based on education, the people will prosper despite changes of officials. President Eisenhower used federal troops to enforce school integration with or without the invitation of state governors. Ultimately the will of the people has aligned with the moral imperative on this issue. If the public refuses to learn, disruption continues.

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A new move-in to my neighborhood explained that he had come to take an executive position with a local company. He had been hired from outside, and the person he directly supervised was the man whose life goal was to have that executive position. Can you appreciate the extreme pressure this put on both parties? Is enthusiastic collaboration the first duty they owe the company? Both need to observe the principle we have been sharing in this blog: get your self out of the way. Blending self and other (article 71, social organism) is putting the company goals ahead of personality and private goals.

Decades ago, I attended programs featuring physicians in favor of single-payer healthcare. They taught the public that all industrial countries except ours had figured out universal healthcare. Funding systems varied, but the distinct pattern was that they achieved comparable or better health statistics at about half the cost (real wealth based on hours of work). Employer-based healthcare costs were adding $600 to $800 to the price of every car built, putting the US at a distinct trade disadvantage compared to the countries that separated healthcare from employment. The key was to have universal input (healthy people pay with gratefulness they don’t need care) in order to have universal coverage. The principle looks like a moral imperative.

The healthcare story weighs on me because for two election cycles opponents have told the public that we cannot afford Bernie Sanders’s approach sometimes called Medicare for all. The complaint contradicts the background facts to which I have been exposed. Who doesn’t want a bigger paycheck because healthcare by taxation (no profit component) is cheaper than healthcare by companies (employers and for-profit suppliers)? I am one of the big losers (of elections and of benefits), and the rest of the article applies to me most of all.


“Pop” ran a vigorous pie-in-the-sky campaign addressing the most popular issues in the election. “Owl” stuck to the wiser development program and told the truth about how much the efforts would cost. The public did not understand the economy of scale and other cost benefits of united effort and chose the flashy tax cuts Pop offered.

After the election Owl came before the Healthcare Commission and pointed out the absence and necessity of early childhood nutrition programs. The new budget completely overlooked that aspect of public health. Owl brought together a group of medical, financial, and administrative experts who drafted specific recommendations for meeting the identifiable need. Owl compiled their work into a set of proposals.

What is Owl’s next step: the voters, the legislature, government bureaucrats? No, Owl went directly to Pop—not to confront him, but to help him. He explained the developmental problems that would impact educational and economic conditions for a long time. He demonstrated the possibility of action. Then he pronounced his greatest wisdom when he said, “Pop, let me help you. Here is the program that will work. I can persuade the legislature to back it. It will make you famous.”

This story puts flesh on the outline of recent articles. Owl promoted the public good instead of his own advancement. Pop was not likely to turn down public accolades. Therefore, it was wise of Owl to steer the credit to Pop. Owl pursued results, not personality, using peaceful tactics most likely to succeed. He was saying privately “I can make you look good” instead of shouting publicly “ignoramus.” He obtained the outcome that mattered.

“Owl” in the story means “wisdom.” Competent people can afford to be generous. There is small joy in fame and greater joy in success, even of someone else.

Personality, individual worthiness, isn’t the only discussion here. I left out telling you the key to Owl’s program. Did you notice that he went outside government? With a strapped public budget, Owl approached the expertise and the funds where they existed (article 56). There are times when the wealthy consider themselves more competent that the government. This was one of those times. The competent people (plural) chose to be generous. Owl did not stop with a single donor. His team of experts was a collection of forces. They were benefactors, not oligarchs.

I hope I am making my readers a little bit jealous of the high regard I have for Owl, my hypothetical idol. I constructed him to represent what I admire in America. We should credit the people here (and anywhere in the world) who embody Owl. Life is too short to spend screaming “ignoramus.” I beg the public to take on the role of Owl: let us find, respect, and make use of the true experts in meeting human needs. This process is possible, and it will bring us to peace through our troubled times.

Photo by Jakub Kriz on Unsplash

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