WHAT A GOVERNOR SHOULD REPRESENT
You probably should vote for the candidate who most closely shares your values. But most candidates never explicitly tell you their values—other than to say that they like puppies and children. I am different. I will tell you my values and most importantly, their priority—because in life and in government policy making, values conflict sometimes and you have to choose one over another.
I am also different in that I will tell you, as one who recently raised a puppy to a now 18-month-old dog, that I’m not sure I am that crazy about puppies. They can be annoying. I think I prefer dogs. And I like children, but I am kind of uncomfortable around them. I always just talk to them like adults and I am not sure if that is the correct way to do it.
Here are my values and the values I intend to govern by: in order of priority:
1. Caring for the planet and other species
I believe this should be our first and primary value and responsibility, above even happiness for ourselves and other humans. The Bible says humanity has dominion over the earth, and we do. All other species are at our mercy. We are condemning many to extinction. That is our choice. That is not something that just happened; it is something we are deciding to do. We need to stop doing that.
Those species and the individuals of those species are under our care, just as our minor children are. Since we find ourselves in the position of having dominion over every other species, we have a moral obligation to be enlightened and benevolent rulers, not tyrants. We have a moral obligation to care for the environment and every other species, and that moral obligation supersedes our own interests.
2. Personal liberty
Unless we have a good reason to restrict people’s behavior and the benefits of those restrictions to other people substantially exceed the harms, we should not restrict behavior. If it is a close call, we should err on the side of more personal liberty and let people do as they want. Furthermore, the benefits should be to other people. We should not generally restrict a person’s behavior solely to benefit that person. We should only forbid you from doing something if your action hurts someone else, not if it only hurts you. Thus, smoking, alcohol, and recreational marijuana should be legal and not taxed to death since they mostly only hurt the person consuming them, not other people.
In the COVID lockdowns, the infringement on personal liberty was a real harm that needed to be weighed against the potential benefit of preventing some COVID deaths. Governor Walz took away by executive decree, without even any law from the legislature, our freedom to gather with others to worship God, our freedom to socialize with our friends at restaurants and bars, our freedom to exercise at a health club, our freedom to visit our elderly parents at nursing homes and the freedom of nursing home patients to visit with outside friends and to eat with their fellow residents and enjoy what time they have left in life, the freedom of our children and of college students to attend school, and our freedom to appear in public without a mask on our faces, even our freedom to leave our homes at all for seven weeks. When people objected to those infringements on our most basic freedoms, the supporters of the lockdowns said in essence that freedom counts for nothing, that if all those massive infringements on our liberty prevented even one COVID death, they would be worth it. I disagree. Freedom and personal liberty are very important.
3. Happiness, and specifically per capita happiness, not gross total happiness
It seems self-evident to me that happiness is more important than duration of life or money. Would you rather be rich but miserable or middle class and happy? Would you rather live to 85 and spend 20 years with major depression or die 1 year earlier at 84 but be basically happy with maybe one year or 12 months scattered over the course of your life spent in depression? I think we all would choose the second option in both of those cases.
So happiness is more important than money or a long life.
The Kingdom of Bhutan has made news by changing the official goal of the society to “gross domestic happiness” instead of “gross domestic product.” They are on the right track, but I would choose per capita happiness as the goal, rather than gross happiness. As governor, I will require that government measure happiness, life satisfaction, loneliness, and depression with as much care as we now measure economic statistics. You measure what you care about and what your goal is. Currently we closely measure every aspect of money and GDP but do not measure happiness or depression really at all. If happiness is our goal, we need to measure it and track it and the government should be accountable for it.
4. Human wealth. But per capita wealth, not gross wealth or gross GDP, and income equality above per capita wealth
Money and consumption have a positive effect on happiness and are important. But we have lost the concept of enough. Another dollar for a billionaire does not matter. Another dollar for a poor or middle class person does.
It seems to me that the primary goal of our current system, of society, and of nearly all politicians is to maximize gross domestic product (GDP) of the society, not per capita GDP or average wealth or income, but gross GDP or the total economic output of society. That is so because the powerful in our society—the ultra-wealthy and corporations—benefit when the total economic output grows, not when per capita or average income grows. I do not care about gross economic output; I care about the average per person income and wealth and the income and wealth of the bottom 90% of our population.
5. Duration of life.
It is important we be healthy. I would promote health, and that means principally exercise and a healthy diet. But duration of life is not so important. I would put it below wealth or affluence in my values. We would all like to live longer. But we are all going to die. We are mortals. It is terrible when a teenager or 30 year old dies. It is bad but less terrible when someone dies at age 50 or 60. But whether someone dies at age 85, 90, or 100 does not seem very important to me. In the COVID lockdowns we have acted like duration of life is far and away the most important thing, far more important than happiness or having a job or economic wellbeing; and we have acted like it is an equal tragedy when an 84-year-old in a nursing home dies of natural causes as when a 40 year dies of suicide or a drug overdose. I disagree. I think as a society we should have a goal that everyone live to age 70 and most people past age 80, and health while we are alive is an important goal, but in general duration of life is a far less important goal than happiness and quality of life and a somewhat less important goal than money and affluence.