Saturday, July 19, 2008

Ripe for Good Ideas?

I'm always on the lookout for examples of the type of audience I'd like to reach, and in reading this WSJ story about Labor Secretary Elaine Chao, it struck me that she may be a perfect candidate for activists to target. She obviously has mixed premises, but arguments for a consistent implementation of capitalism (both moral and economic) might well appeal to her. Moreover, she seems to be a "doer" -- so steering her in a better direction could have a real impact on the culture. Here are a few excerpts illustrating some of her better premises and suggesting that she's a relatively principled person:
Ms. Chao seems to be concerned that the country could cease to be the land of opportunity that drew her parents decades ago. Congress appears eager to impose restrictive regulations that could hurt the economy in the name of helping those who don't have the skills to compete. If these regulations are enacted, Ms. Chao fears the "Europeanization" of the American economy.

"I have a whole list here," she says, of what Congress could do to hobble economic growth, and it includes legislation that is gaining traction on Capitol Hill. Every measure would make it more expensive to employ people in America, or would make it easier for unions to capture a larger slice of the workforce.


Ms. Chao says that when she attends meetings with other labor ministers from around the world, "they may not agree totally with our point of view, but they all want to learn about how America creates opportunities and jobs and how the dynamism of our economy, the flexibility of our economy creates opportunities."

What does she tell them?

"That freedom works. It is universally accepted that there needs to be open markets, transparency, low tax rates, less regulation and the rule of law . . . in a world-wide economy if there is not transparency, if there is greater taxation, if there is greater regulation, capital and labor will move."

Ms. Chao is in charge of one of the most powerful regulatory agencies in the federal government. She's also amassed a record conservatives applaud -- for example in year seven of her tenure, her department's budget is slightly smaller than it was on year one, even as workplace injuries have fallen to all time lows.


Blogger Paul Hsieh said...

One question is whether she's a committed evangelical Christian or more of an old-school conservative primarily interested in small-government (as opposed to injecting religion into politics).

If she's the former, then there's probably not much hope of reaching her, but if she's the latter then it might be worth an attempt.

10:18 AM  
Blogger Amit Ghate said...

Hi Paul,

I got the impression from the article that she isn't really either, she's a second generation immigrant who's seen the benefits of freedom (to whatever extent it still exists) and is fighting for it based on her first-hand conclusions.

I'm probably naive, but I'm not yet at the point where I try to figure out if someone is an evangelical absent any positive evidence to suggest they are. Moreover, anytime that I see someone who seems to be looking at the world and drawing conclusions from those observations, I now give them the benefit of the doubt for any false views they may hold, since I see some hope that they might change those views if I can marshal enough evidence to point them in a different direction.

4:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She is married to Mitch McConnell, if that says anything.

2:25 PM  

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