If you haven’t made yours yet, then you had better get on it! We’re here to help. Here are some ideas for resolutions that can help you make 2014 a successful year:
1. Read more books. There’s no time like anytime to read a classic, but here are five that seem especially good choices for 2014:
• Animal Farm (1945), by George Orwell. By all accounts, inequality is going to be a major political issue in 2014. It was a major issue for the animals of Manor Farm, too. After overthrowing farmer Jones, they decreed: “All animals are equal.” In Animal Farm, you’ll learn how their utopian project turned out.
• Free to Choose: A Personal Statement (1980), by Milton and Rose Friedman. In 2014, you’ve got to have health insurance or pay an extra tax (not a penalty, said Chief Justice John Roberts!). What better time could there be to read a classic on the power of individual choice?
• Darkness at Noon (1940), by Arthur Koestler. Last year, President Obama said we should reject voices that “incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity” because they suggest “that our brave and creative and unique experiment in self-rule is somehow just a sham with which we can’t be trusted.” He might as well have sang: “Who hounded 501(c)3s? When after all it was you and me?” In Darkness at Noon, Koestler’s protagonist learns how dangerous it is to think there is only an “us” and not an “I” or a “you.”
• The Naked Public Square (1984), by Richard John Neuhaus. The Department of Health and Human Services, under ObamaCare, has ordered almost all employers, regardless of religious beliefs, to provide insurance coverage for contraception and abortion. Thirty years ago in The Naked Public Square, Neuhaus explained that hostility to faith isn’t just bad for believers; it’s bad for democracy, too.
• The Liberal Mind (1963), by Kenneth Minogue. Last year, liberals focused on issues like the size of gun magazines, the size of the container in which beverages are served, whether health plans offer mental health benefits, the size of the fees banks charge retailers for swiping debit cards, how mean people on the Internet can be, whether the food we buy is grown too far away, and how healthy are the lunches that parents pack for their kids. Meanwhile, you can’t read the news without seeing some article decrying the lack of laws passed by the 113th Congress. What gives? As Kenneth Minogue explained in The Liberal Mind, the liberal needs his dragons to fight, and the dragons keep getting smaller and smaller.
Already read those? Want more ideas? Check out these sources for additional classics: “Read to Lead,” by Morton C. Blackwell, The Leadership Institute; Reading the Right Books: A Guide for the Intelligent Conservative, by Lee Edwards, The Heritage Foundation; The March of Freedom: Modern Classics in Conservative Thought, by Edwin J. Feulner, The Heritage Foundation; The Online Library of Liberty; the Federalist Society’s Conservative & Libertarian Pre-Law Reading List; National Review’s 100 Best Non-Fiction Books of the Century; and the First Principles Page at Heritage.org (click on More Resources to see reading lists in each of the subcategories).
2. Make more friends. If you’re a conservative looking for allies, then you’ve probably got more friends than you realize. There are state-based free market think tanks in every state. Among the newly launched think tanks are Libertas in Utah, the Palmetto Policy Forum in South Carolina, and the California Center for Public Policy. You can find a free market think tank in your state by checking out the State Policy Network’s online directory.
Four key people whose work you should follow for insight on ObamaCare’s implementation this year are Grace-Marie Turner of the Galen Institute, John C. Goodman of the National Center for Policy Analysis, Avik Roy of the Manhattan Institute, and Michael Cannon of the Cato Institute. Cannon and law Prof. Jonathan Adler, as well as folks at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, have helped get a key lawsuit against ObamaCare into the federal courts; this case involves the question of whether ObamaCare’s exchange subsidies are actually authorized in the exchanges run by the federal government rather than the states. Meanwhile, the Becket Fund, the Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Center for Law and Justice, the Thomas More Law Center, and the Liberty Institute have each filed important lawsuits against the Department of Health and Human Services abortion and contraception mandate.
And we think everyone should get to know the folks at the Pelican Institute, a group that’s about five years old and doing great work for energy and education freedom in Louisiana. (We’ll be down in New Orleans in March, by the way. See #3.)
There are too many great organizations working for liberty to list in here, but there are plenty of resources to help you find pro-liberty friends. In addition to the State Policy Network directory, check out the Atlas Economic Research Foundation’s directory of groups working for liberty around the world. If you are looking for a liberty-minded scholar, you should get in touch with the Institute for Humane Studies’ Find Scholars service. And The Heritage Foundation’s Policy Experts database lets you search among several thousand experts and organizations by 175 different issues.
3. Travel more. Get out and see the world—and attend some conservative conferences, too! The Heritage Foundation’s Resource Bank will be in New Orleans on March 26-28. Freedom Fest, the world’s largest gathering of free minds, will be in Las Vegas, July 9-12. The Reason Cruise will tour the Caribbean, February 9-16; while the National Review Cruise will tour the Caribbean November 9-16. The Atlas Liberty Forum will be held on November 12-13, and will commemorate the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. And don’t forget the granddaddy of conservative conferences, the Conservative Political Action Conference, which will be held March 6-8 at the National Harbor on the Potomac River.
Other must-attend events include Americans for Prosperity’s Defending the American Dream Summit and Right Online Conference (both usually held in September) and the Values Voter Summit (usually held in Washington, D.C., in October).
Students should consider attending the International Students for Liberty Conference, February 14-16, in Washington, D.C.; and the Young America’s Foundation’s National Conservative Student Conference in July, also in Washington, D.C.
4. Be more optimistic. One way to be more optimistic is to tell stories of success and human progress in spite of bad government policies. The Cato Institute’s Human Progress website amasses a wealth of data that tells exactly that story. Did you know, for example, that in 1990 people in 26 countries consumed less than 2,000 calories per day, but by 2008 there were only three countries whose populations consumed less than 2,000 calories per day?
And here’s a recent chart from the American Enterprise Institute’s Mark Perry:
There is even good news on the culture front. As Leslie Ford notes, Americans are now more pro-life than ever, Americans are volunteering more, and marriages are lasting longer. [The Foundry, December 31, 2013] Spread the good news!
5. Prioritize your spending. We conservatives want government to trim the fat. We should make sure we practice what we preach and be good stewards of our donors’ dollars. By now, you have probably written your budget plan for the year. Will you stick to it? Here is some advice from Lawrence Reed that might help:
It’s both tempting and easy for a new group to fly in all directions, to chase dollars instead of focusing on key issues and core competencies, and otherwise allow spur-of-the-moment impulses to dictate their agendas. But the most successful groups are those that know precisely who they are, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and what they want to accomplish in the way of specific, measurable, short-term and long-term objectives.
Take the time with your staff, board of directors, and key supporters to develop meaningful mission and vision statements. Identify the key “customers” or intended audience for your products. From there, develop a strategic plan that lays out the steps by which your mission and vision can ultimately become reality. A thoughtful strategic plan should be a living document that keeps the organization on track and accountable. When someone suggests a new project, use the strategic plan as a guide in determining whether that new project is in keeping with your agenda or a time- and resource-consuming diversion.
Supplement your strategic plan with an in-house manual of important tasks and functions. You’ll be forever reinventing the wheel, so to speak, if you don’t keep good records of how things are done, where things are kept, what your policies and practices are, and who is responsible for what. For-profit businesses do this all the time, and it’s one good way for nonprofits to conduct their affairs in a more efficient, business-like fashion. [“Thinking Through a Successful Think Tank,” by Lawrence W. Reed, Chapter 9 Think Tank Primer, published by the Atlas Economic Research Foundation]
6. Embrace new challenges. We can already see what some of the major policy battles will be for 2014, and while none of the arguments are entirely new (there are no permanent victories, no permanent defeats, we’ve heard it said) the contours of the debates are evolving.
The Left is more focused than ever on inequality as an issue. Conservatives need to make the case that big government is a major cause of inequality. The Left will continue arguing for higher minimum wages. Conservatives need to make the case that minimum wage laws are really minimum skills laws that lock people out of the job market.
Almost all the major provisions of ObamaCare are in effect this year, including some new taxes. While conservatives have done a good job of pointing out how ObamaCare is failing, they need to do more to make the case for free market alternatives in health care.
The Department of Health and Human Services contraception and abortion coverage mandates are in the courts, but there are other religious liberty issues that should be on everyone’s radar. Do public accommodation laws trump religious freedom? If the courts rule against, for example, the rights of wedding photographers to decline their services, protecting freedom of conscience would require legislatures to pass new laws.
Expect the Supreme Court to rule on President Obama’s “recess appointments” to the National Labor Relations Board. If the Court doesn’t rule the appointments unconstitutional it will be a significant blow to the constitutional design of separation of powers.
In January, Dodd-Frank will unleash new regulations that will reduce the availability of and increase the cost of mortgages, especially for low-income borrowers. Conservatives will have to continue making the case that Dodd-Frank is a bad law should be a priority.
Finally, the Department of Treasury has proposed new limits on what 501(c)4 organizations can do without jeopardizing their non-profits statuses. These proposals are essentially a further crackdown on 501(c)4. All conservative non-profits should strongly consider submitting comments on the new proposals:
Send submissions to: CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-134417-13), Room 5205, Internal Revenue Service, P.O. Box 7604, Ben Franklin Station, Washington, DC 20044. Submissions may be hand-delivered Monday through Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. to CC:PA:LPD:PR (REG-134417-13), Courier's Desk, Internal Revenue Service, 1111 Constitution Avenue NW., Washington, DC, or sent electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (IRS REG-134417-13).
Comments will be accepted until February 27.
7. Get organized. Have your fundraisers had their strategy session yet? Ann Fitzgerald and Steven Kiel suggest every non-profit schedule an in-depth strategy session in January, which should be attended by all members of your fundraising team:
We recommend that your strategy session include, at a minimum: review of the past year’s results; introduction of detailed goals for the coming year, including opportunities and challenges; discussion of each one of your fundraising programs: direct mail, prospecting, online, events, planned giving, and major gifts; development of a communications strategy and mailing calendar; review of each major gift donor in order to develop goals, cultivation steps, solicitation strategies, and trip lists.
We’ve developed a donor profile template for strategy sessions that includes information that should be compiled for each of your major gift donors. Don’t spend your limited time re-inventing the wheel. Use this tried and true template that our clients have successfully used for years. [A.C. Fitzgerald & Associates, December 19, 2013]
For other think tank how-to ideas, check out InsiderOnline.org’s toolkit.
8. Help others and be nicer to people. Recognizing others’ accomplishments is one way to help them, as well as inspire others to do great work. There are many conservative and free market organizations that recognize the contributions individuals and organizations make to the cause of liberty with regular awards. Here are a few to keep an eye on this year: the Reason Foundation’s Bastiat Prize; the State Policy Network and the Vernon K. Krieble Foundation’s Unsung Hero Award; the State Policy Network’s Roe Award; Americans for Prosperity’s Breitbart Awards; The Heritage Foundation’s Salvatori Prize for American Citizenship; the Cato Institute’s Milton Friedman Prize; the Manhattan Institute’s Hayek Prize; the Young Conservative Coalition’s Buckley Awards; the Atlas Economic Research Institute’s Templeton Freedom Award, Sir Antony Fisher International Memorial Award, and Fred Utley Prize for Advancing Liberty; The Bradley Prizes; the American Enterprise Institute’s Irving Kristol Award; and the Becket Fund’s Canterbury Medal.
You should consider submitting nominations for those awards that accept them, and attending the events associated with each award.
Everyone, conservatives and liberals alike, should remember that we owe civility to all our fellow citizens whatever their political persuasion. As Ed Feulner recently wrote, there is a rising chorus incivility that “is driving out citizens of honest intent and encouraging those who trade in jeering and mockery.” Feulner continued: “If we are to prevail as a free, self-governing people, we must first govern our tongues and our pens. Restoring civility to public discourse is not an option. It is a necessity.” [The Foundry, December 29, 2013]
Finally, if, as Ben Franklin said, politics is the art of the possible, then the first thing we conservatives should do is make sure we are not reducing the scope of what we can accomplish by gratuitously bashing potential allies over tactical disagreements. Conservatives have always had lively debates among themselves about the best way forward. Let’s have those debates; but let’s not let minor disagreements prevent us from working together to achieve common goals.