| October 25, 2012

Top 5 reasons we do what we do

Welcome to "Thursday's Top 5," a new feature on the OCPA blog!

In any election year, it's easy to conflate political battles with policy battles. As a result, it becomes tempting EITHER to contribute to snide remarks of political discourse OR to tune out important policy discussions because we're discouraged by the snark.

That's especially true in this particular election cycle, which pundits widely agree is the most important in at least a generation. It will, without question, affect policy -- but, no matter who is elected in November (and that goes for candidates up and down the ballot!), the policy battles won't end.

It's helpful, then, to take a minute to remember why, from a long-range perspective, it's vital to consistently advocate for the principles of limited government, individual liberty and free enterprise even -- or perhaps especially -- when others try to draw us into discussions of personalities, polls and strategy.

This week, members of the OCPA staff took a few minutes to reflect on the Top 5 reasons we come to work every morning -- and why we'll continue to fight for free-market principles no matter what happens this November or any November.

1. We really believe in the principles we advocate.

The principles of limited government, individual liberty and free markets work to create happiness and prosperity in Oklahoma.

Think economic freedom, think higher quality of life. In countries with the most free economies, people earn, on average, more than eight times what people earn in countries with the least free economies — and the poor in the freest economies earn 10 times more than the poor in the most restrictive economies. People in the most economically free countries are happier, have better protected civil rights and cleaner environments. They live, on average, about 20 times longer.

Not only are the most economically free countries in the world the most prosperous, but the most economically free states in the country are the best places to do business, create jobs, raise a family and retire ... which is why Americans routinely pack up and move away from high-tax states into low-tax states.

Fiscal Policy Director Jonathan Small wants everyone to experience the happiness that comes with economic opportunities and earned success. "I really believe that the principle of self-governance is repeatedly found in Scripture. I want to help people see how they can improve their own lives and live as God created them to be -- free," Jonathan said.

2. We care about the next generation.

We're a pretty kid-friendly bunch. Six OCPA staffers have 17 children among them -- and our families keep growing. Many of us come to work with our children in mind.

Vice President for Development Karma Robinson has a daughter who is a junior in college and another daughter who is a junior in high school. "I'm genuinely concerned about the future of the economy and the job market," she says. "What kind of economy will my daughter confront when she graduates from college? I'm also concerned about the rising costs of higher education."

Some of us who don't yet have children are no less concerned for the future. As smack-dab-in-the-middle millennials, Interactive Media Director Dacia Harris and I have seen our peers shun responsibility or fail to take seriously the problems that plague our state. "My generation carries labels I'm not always proud to wear," Dacia said. "It is through OCPA’s free-market ideas that I can contribute to the strength of my state today and shape a new, positive generation of American leaders."

3. We're a team and we want to support and be supportive of our co-workers.

The employer-employee relationship is an important one, but the mentor-to-mentee and friend-to-friend relationships are even more important. At OCPA, we treat each other as persons and fellow free-enterprise crusaders. That means that senior leadership takes the troops seriously, listens to ideas and inspires us to strive "onward to liberty." That also means words of encouragement, compassion and, occasionally, commiseration are always forthcoming from fellow staff members.

4. We encounter some of the finest minds in the state and nation.

Working at OCPA enables us to collaborate with some of the finest minds in the state and nation, from our own research fellows like Andy Spiropoulos and the late J. Rufus Fears to prominent politicians like GOP vice presidential nominee Paul Ryan and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, not to mention the outstanding leaders right here in Oklahoma.

As Executive Vice President Brian Bush said, "It gives me great pride to see Gov. Fallin, Lt. Gov. Lamb and other state leaders traveling the country (and even the world), touting the strength of Oklahoma's economy, the resourcefulness of our leaders and the work ethic of our people. And what's more, our elected officials understand that the entrepreneurial spirit – the frontier spirit – that founded our state produces a feeling among most of us that we would much rather be allowed to determine our own destiny than rely on the government to solve our problems. Government certainly has its place today, just as it did early in our history (public safety, infrastructure, and the like), but it is individual initiative that drives progress."

Interacting with the country's thought leaders reinforces our principles and challenges us to refine our case. At our recent Liberty Gala, for example, former U.S. Congressman from Alabama Artur Davis personally urged me to read The Atlantic and The Nation on a regular basis. It's important to read and respond to the very best arguments for big government as advanced by its very brightest advocates, he reminded me.

5. We're grateful.

To paraphrase Cecil Rhodes, "To live in Oklahoma in the United States of America in the 21st century is to win the lottery of life." At least, that's what we think.

In the late 1980s, Karma had the opportunity to visit Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall and she saw firsthand what it looked like to live in a country that anything but free -- and she knew she wanted freedom. To this day, she has a communist propaganda poster hanging on her office wall as a constant reminder that the stakes are high and the fight for freedom is always, always worth it.

We know we could just as easily have been born in another country or live in another state, but we're so glad we are where we are.

"Oklahoma has always been my 'home sweet homa' and I care about its future!" Development Assistant Rachel Hays said. Development Events Manager Jennie Kleese echoed Rachel: "I love our state and I want it to prosper."

Vice President for Policy Brandon Dutcher summarizes for all of us:

We at OCPA are protecting what we love and fighting for what’s right.

How could we do otherwise? If you attended OCPA’s annual Citizenship Dinner in March [2001], you’ll remember Bill Buckley’s words about the importance of showing gratitude for the blessings we enjoy. ...

[According to Cato Institute scholars Stephen Moore and Julian Simon,] “[T]here has been more material progress in the United States in the 20th century than there was in the entire world in all the previous centuries combined. Almost every indicator of health, wealth, safety, nutrition, affordability and availability of consumer goods and services, environmental quality, and social conditions indicates rapid improvement over the past century. ... Even most poor Americans have a cornucopia of choices that a century ago the Rockefellers and the Vanderbilts could not have purchased.”

Gratitude, anyone? ...

How then shall we express that gratitude? Well, as Buckley pointed out, civic engagement is one form of gratitude.


What about YOU? Why do you fight for limited government, individual liberty and a free-market economy? Tell us by commenting on our Facebook page or tweeting @ocpathink using the hashtag #ThursdaysTop5.

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