There is reason to be optimistic about the future. It’s true that the world is a safer place than it has ever been, that the world is a better place. Crime is down, the stock market is higher than ever, and the standard of living seems to just keep improving. To predict the next ten years on these statistics alone we’d say that things are looking up, the world is going to be better, and the good times will just keep rolling. But rarely is this not the case. When the times are good, why would anyone question that they will always be good?
The truth is the country can turn a corner and find itself in a very different place that no one would have predicted ten years before despite it being the path we were following all along. The truth is society is more than GDP and crime rates and people know this. People know that all is not well, that the country stands at a precarious point, that the worst is yet to come. The world is a better place but everything that helped get us to this point has crumbled. Like a business that fired all the employees and sold all its assets to report one last profitable quarter. How is it that the people know this when our experts and analysts and political leaders can’t even begin to comprehend it? It’s because the people are closest to the matter, they’re on the ground. You could call it intuition but the truth is we’re living it.
The world is changing, events are unfolding faster and faster in ways we cannot predict and are rarely prepared to handle. This is not new, it is simply our nature. From time to time in the course of history a moment presents itself, a moment where a civilization, a people have the opportunity to shape the future for better or for worse, when the choices made in that moment will define generations to come. Throughout our history, the American people have faced these moments: The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Great Depression, and the Second World War. While it might seem an exaggeration at best or the height of narcissism at worst to compare our time now to these great moments of crisis it is worth remembering that in these moments, especially early on, those experiencing it could never fully grasp how pivotal they were. In these moments, the future, the heart, the very survival of our country was at stake. Whether we recognize it or not we have entered one of those moments.
Over the last few decades we’ve lost our social cohesion, the fabric holding society together has been torn apart, and we’ve lost all faith in the institutions that used to hold the country up as they became gridlocked, corrupt, and unable to fulfill their duties.
Our public education is no longer an institution that seeks to improve the next generation, a grand effort to make the country better, instead it is a strict, bureaucratic system designed to push children through a series of hoops and tests. It is devoid of creativity and spirit and is purely mechanistic. Our higher education is just as bad, a machine that profits off students and produces an abundance of worthless degrees and debt.
Our criminal justice system is no longer designed to keep the innocent out of prison and stand up for society. Now it is a tool being run for profit and used to punish or threaten the innocent. Millions undeservedly have their lives and futures stolen from them. At the same time, many are protected from ever facing justice by their wealth, corruption, or other influence. This is not justice and people know it. They know they live in a society that cannot be trusted to protect the innocent or stop the criminal.
Our government is run by lobbyists and party insiders with dedication not to the people or the country but to win elections, to win for their party, and to make money. We no longer have dedicated public servants, we no longer can elect regular people who just want to do good for their family, neighbors, and country. We elect politicians who work for corporations and interest groups, not the people. Politicians who would rather put the government in permanent gridlock than work together to pass laws that work. Our government is corrupt, it is gridlocked, and it does not represent us. How can we believe in it?
Our businesses have changed their models away from innovation and building a lasting business to monopolizing industries and maximizing shareholder value. That is not how the free market works, that is not how capitalism should work, and that’s not good for business. People know this, they know businesses are as likely to cheat them as to benefit them. In the 2008 economic collapse people saw just how tenuous the new, global economy was, how insecure their investments, their jobs, their savings, their lives were and they have not forgotten. The bankers, the politicians, the economists can go on and on about how GDP is up, the stock market is soaring, and unemployment is down but the people know that nothing changed, the underlying problems were not solved, and the economy is one bad month away from crashing all over again. The reality is we have a U6 unemployment rate, which includes the unemployed, discouraged, and those forced for economic reasons to seek part-time unemployment, of 9.2%. That reality is unacceptable. 2008 should have been a wakeup call, instead we glossed over it with bailouts and economic predictions of prosperity based on the same economic models that completely failed to predict the economic collapse to begin with.
Such degradation of our country’s institutions has a far greater side effect than just their own collapse. Social trust is at an all-time low. When social trust is low we won’t invest in each other, we won’t invest in our country, we won’t invest in our future. It all seems too complex; our problems are so monumental and so entangled that it seems no solution will ever present itself.
In these times it is expected that at least one of the major parties would step up to lead. It is clear this isn’t going to be happening so it falls to the people to lead. That is the goal of the Heartland Party, to be the political apparatus for the people to retake their government from the corrupt, the ideologues, the authoritarians. For we believe people should have control over their own lives and over their government. We are not left and we are not right and we are certainly not some mushy center. It is inevitable that pundits and politicians will spend endless effort on trying to place and pigeonhole us somewhere on the political spectrum. Conservatives will attack us as liberals, liberals will attack us conservatives, moderates will attack us as radicals, it would come as no surprise if we are called everything from libertarians to socialists. It does not matter because we have broken with the old, destructive political paradigm and will define a new path, our own path.
The answer is not to turn away from the world or to turn against each other. Scapegoating will only serve to divide us without bringing about vital transformations. Turn away from hate and revenge even though they might seem at first glance appealing. To accomplish great things, the things that we could not accomplish alone, we must commit to each other, to our country, and our community. This point was in fact well made when our country began, in the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence, “we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor”. The Heartland Party believes we will recommit to this pledge. We believe that when America faces its greatest challenges it digs deep down and finds what made it great, the commitment to the idea that collectively we are strong, that we were the first country to prove that the people could govern themselves, and that the United States of America is greater than the sum of its parts. We believe in us.
Goals and Structure
The Heartland Party understands the political, social, and economic realms are fundamentally linked, parts of a larger whole. We live in a complex world with complex problems, to make advances on any front we must advance on all, we need complex solutions, we must take a holistic approach. We also understand that in such a complex world solutions cannot come from the top down but must be built from the ground up, they must be emergent. Sometimes in government and politics the best plan is no plan.
This is less a party platform and more a political grassroots how-to. We aim to provide the tools, the infrastructure, and guidelines in which anyone who sees the need and has the motivation can create a local chapter of the Heartland Party to develop solutions to their community’s problems and then get those solutions enacted, to put real representatives of their community in elected office, and to connect with other chapters to develop regional and statewide solutions from a grassroots perspective.
Of course, without some common beliefs to unite us the Heartland Party would not really be a party and so we have laid out a few guiding principles to inform our decision making and strategy:
- Collaborative solutions that bring together many perspectives and expertise to address our problems.
- Conducting policy at the lowest practical level of government and society to more accurately address regional and local instances and to allow for a greater diversity of solutions.
- Ending ideological division and focusing policy as much as is reasonably possible on reality and facts on the ground.
- Building policy to the great benefit of people; because in the end, the goal of any Heartland Party policy is not to prop up an ideology nor to enrich specific individuals and corporations nor to corrupt and seek power for our party or ourselves but to build a better world for all of us, to serve the people.
These are not specific policies themselves, instead it is the intellectual and moral framework within which we will design innovative and effective policy. In many ways, this requires more than just changes in officeholders and policy, it requires shifts in culture of our government and our society. It means changing the dynamic from top down policy making and powerful central government to emergent solutions from a decentralized network and collaboration between all levels. With these principles in mind we can have real change for the better.
While the Heartland Party believes the best solutions are emergent and grassroots we understand there is still value in outlining the party goals and the framework in which those goals could possibly be met. While some of these goals may seem lofty and at times unattainable they remain worthy goals and we are confident that great strides can be made in achieving them when we unleash the potential of human ingenuity and determination.
Presented in no particular order:
- Ending poverty – We live in the wealthiest country in the world. With the resources at our disposal there is no reason we can’t eliminate poverty once and for all. This will be difficult and take time and can’t be done with top down, broad policies. Often it will require tailoring policies on a case by case basis for every community. But when we listen to the peoples’ needs and create grassroots solutions it can be done, we just need to trust in people and give them the right opportunity.
- Ending food insecurity – Too many people in the country today, the majority of them children, live with food insecurity, not certain what meals they’ll get and often unable to make healthy food choices that they would choose to make if they could. We can put an end to this and we must. We will explore different ways for lowering the cost of food and eliminating food deserts.
- Ensuring quality education and or learning – Increasing the total sum of knowledge and the transfer of information is the basis for all advancement and all innovation. Human knowledge is part of the commons, a resource anyone can and should be able to utilize. We want people to best be able to use and grow the knowledge at their disposal and that means quality education. We are long overdue for a transformation in our educational system. Whether it is the revitalization of public education, market innovation in private education, MOOCs, homeschooling, or some other form of education or a mix of all or none we must spark the next transformation in education to spark the next revolution in science and technology.
- Ensuring the availability of cheap and limitless energy – Energy is what keeps civilization growing and advancing. The more energy the better. It is the Heartland Party’s goal for new energy sources and infrastructure to be developed. Many new energy sources have presented themselves in recent decades and much can be done to utilize them for the good of industry, technology, and the consumer.
- Building a culture of Innovationism and Entrepreneurship – Innovation is essential to our welfare and the explosion of wealth in the world over the past few centuries. Innovation has the incredible power to transform any society from one of destitution to prosperity. Innovation is a very difficult target to aim for and is outside the realm of what a government can achieve but we can still try and provide the right conditions for innovation. Innovation requires experimentation, the combination and recombination of new and ideas and new technologies. To some extent this can be achieved with a strong social safety net so people feel more free to take risks and moderately strong copyright and patent laws so people can see a return from their work but not too strong as to limit the ability of others to experiment and innovate. It is a delicate balance and much more can be done on a case by case basis but it is an important goal to achieve.
- Ensuring affordable and effective health care for all – The cost of health care in this country is out of control. Fair and cost effective access to health care must be considered a right. This can be accomplished and like most of these goals there is never going to be one clear, top down solution to achieve it. Most likely it will be some combination of unleashing market forces, innovation, and socializing of some costs or another to achieve real results. There isn’t going to be a one size fits all solution and it will have to be tailored and experimented with at the community, regional, and state level but it can and will be accomplished.
- Ensuring the Opportunity Society – Giving people the opportunity to participate in government, in the economy, in science and culture and all aspects of our society will revolutionize our society. The best solutions are found, the greatest innovations are made when people can explore and experiment and make choices they know are best.
- Ensuring Liberty and Justice for all – This seems straightforward, this country was founded on principles of liberty and justice, we cannot lose them. People have a right to personal choice, this is the basis for our democracy and the free market economy so it is doubly important to protect. What’s more we need a justice system focused on protecting the innocent and rehabilitation, not mass incarceration and punishment.
None of these goals can be achieved alone, they are all integral to a better, stronger, more resilient, more prosperous, more equitable society and must all be done for any to be truly accomplished. These goals won’t be achieved with grand schemes and top down plans. They can only be achieved through emergent, grassroots solutions discovered by constant experimentation and change done by the people closest to the problem and not some bureaucrat in DC. This is the future we should live in, this is the future we can live in, this is the future we will build together.