Reason in Government believes that all levels of government should be reformed. We advocate for more reasoned, effective, and efficient government, with a particular emphasis on improving local, state, and federal policies that impact the Santa Barbara community.
Our call for reason stems from a belief that the rancor and divisiveness so evident in political discourse today results, at least in part, from the outsized and increasingly unchecked voices of the “far left” and the “far right.” We believe that a renewed emphasis on civil discourse, shared principles and goals, and thoughtful consideration of facts and data would enable reasonable people from the “left” and “right” to achieve far more consensus than our current political climate suggests. Sometimes this consensus will favor positions traditionally associated with the “right”; other times those often associated with the “left.” In some instances, neither ideological prism will favor reason. We believe that the process for achieving such a consensus, as well as the process for formulating our positions “on the issues,” begins with a clear statement of foundational principles. As centrists with a point of view, these are ours:
First, government should be reformed in a manner that increases the personal and economic liberty of citizens while simultaneously improving the effectiveness and efficiency of government. This means that government should do a better job of maximizing the freedom of its citizens in all spheres of life. It should also be more limited and restrained in its actions, focusing on core responsibilities and creating the conditions necessary for the responsible exercise of personal and economic freedom. When the government exercises its powers to achieve a desired end, its actions should be more effective and efficient, minimizing the economic and other burdens it imposes on its citizens.
Second, in modern political parlance, we believe that governments should be “fiscally conservative” and “socially liberal” in outlook and action. We believe that governments should adopt more prudent budgets with less reliance on debt and limit taxation to support the efficient delivery of core government responsibilities and functions. This is “common sense” rather than “anti-government” fiscal conservatism. We are, however, strongly inclined against government intervention in questions of religion and conscience. The role of government is to protect the freedom of individuals to resolve such questions as dictated by their own conscience. We also believe in a vibrant marketplace of ideas and recognize that personal privacy is a cornerstone of individual freedom. For these reasons, the government faces a very high burden when it seeks to justify intervention in matters of religion, conscience, speech or private conduct that do not harm others.
Third, we believe government should act with restraint. This means, among other things, that government should favor informed decision making and personal responsibility over paternalism. The less a person’s conduct affects others, moreover, the greater a government’s justification for regulating or proscribing that conduct must be. Even when there is a strong case for government action, it should regulate in the least intrusive and most narrowly tailored way that will achieve the desired end.
Fourth, we believe that government action should be guided by reason. In our view, reasonable government actions are grounded in realism. Goals must be achievable, historical precedents must be understood and applied, forecasts and assumptions must be conservative. These principles apply equally to establishing environmental policies, setting pension contribution levels, and considering overseas military action. In addition, reason demands that decision makers find facts, develop options, analyze the costs and benefits of those options, and then make a clear assessment as to the best “tradeoffs” as they balance protecting personal and economic freedom with other legitimate government interests. We believe that difficult public policy problems are rarely addressed by only one “solution” that neatly conforms to a particular political philosophy or value. Instead, there are typically ranges of solutions “within reason” – solutions that defensibly balance one value (e.g., economic freedom) against another (preventing environmental harm). Governing is the process of developing and then adopting such solutions.
Fifth, we do not believe in compromising the prosperity of future generations for the near-term benefit of the current generation. As President Theodore Roosevelt reminded us long ago: “Of all the questions which can come before this nation…, there is none which compares in importance with the great central task of leaving this land even a better land for our descendants than it is for us.”
These principles reflect our view of the radical center. They allow us to contrast centrism with polarization in all aspects of public policy development. Using this set of principles as a framework for evaluating government action and promoting reasoned public policy, we will engage on a number of local, state, and federal issues affecting the Santa Barbara community.
Santa Barbara Issues
The Santa Barbara area is a California treasure, but our idyllic climate, stunning architecture, and philanthropic spirit all serve to obscure many of the long-term challenges we face in our communities. Reason in Government is examining many of these challenges, ranging from fiscal management and unfunded liabilities, to water security, to balanced and effective environmental protections, to community-led economic development that provides needed jobs and tax revenue consistent with the character of our neighborhoods and local communities.
Grading Santa Barbara County’s Economic Wellness: View Report Card »
California faces many of the same challenges that we face in Santa Barbara, including the need for improved fiscal management, water security, and balanced environmental policy. And decisions on these issues at the state level can have a dramatic impact on our community.
The ongoing drought has highlighted the unique interest that California and many of its communities, including Santa Barbara, have in federal resource management and environmental policies. Reason in Government will examine these issues as part of its overall assessment of water security. In addition, California, its communities, and its citizens (like those in other states) would benefit from predictable, timely, full-year, and sensible federal appropriations, more effective and efficient federal programs, and additional investments in critical infrastructure and important research. Over time, Reason in Government will engage on these issues as well.