All information on this page is a draft subject to change.

What is 21stCentrist.com?

A website pioneering new public policy ideas that bridge the left-right divide.  

What do you mean by "centrist?" And why "21st?"

By "centrist" we are talking (mostly in an American context) about a political orientation that seeks to honor and balance the core values of both left and right.†  These two sets of values seem so opposed,  but if taken together, are simply the original core values championed by the American Founding Fathers: the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, political equality and justice for all.   Right and left merely emphasize some of these over others.  The right generally emphasizes life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, while the left emphasizes equality and justice – including social, enviro and economic justice – for all.

So by “centrist” we are talking about a philosophical grounding in core American Revolutionary values – but ALL those core values, not just some of them.  When core values conflict, and they sometimes do, we should try to find solutions that preserve all core values.  To prefer some core values over others – say justice over liberty, or vice versa – produces bad laws, lopsided governance, and diminishes the fundamental rights of Americans.

“21stCentrist” is, to state the obvious, a play on “21st Century.”  That is so because the goal is to help shape a new political center, and hopefully a new consensus, for the 21st Century, a consensus that values liberty as much as social justice or compassion. Less obviously, the name suggests the historical evolution whereby America has moved from the consensus of 19th Century Liberalism, through the 20th Century age of extremes, and now – maybe – we stand poised at the rebirth of the old consensus, reinvented to cope with the challenges of the 21st Century.  For a fuller explanation, see the post What is a 21stCentrist? 

There are, of course, many flavors of centrism, all of which are useful in crafting centrist solutions. 21st Centrist is inspired by several ancient centrist philosophies: the Middle Way of Buddha, Apollonian moderation, the Golden Mean of Aristotle, the Confucian Doctrine of the Mean, and others.  More modern influences include the developing field of mediation and conflict resolution, and Aikido, a strategic martial art which studies the power of moving from one's center, blending with an attacker and shaping the center of a conflict.   Maybe you have your own ideas about centrism.  All that is up for discussion here at 21st Centrist.

When the issues are more cultural or global, the 21st Centrist approach would be to find solutions that balance the core values of different cultures. 

What is Supply Side Public Policy?

Supply Side Public Policy applies supply side economics to specific public policy questions to find new ways to increase the supply of public goods and decrease public ills. It begins with the observation that most public policy matters can be reduced to a question of supply: we want more of a good thing or less of a bad thing, or both.  So we seek to change the supply of things.  Therefor, supply side economics (which studies the incentives to work, invest and supply stuff) may suggest solutions to certain public policy problems.

Supply side economics suggests that if you want more of something, tax it less.  But that does not mean if you want less of something, tax it more.  It means rather, that you have some options.  For instance, if you want less of a bad thing, instead of taxing it more, you could simply reduce taxes on a good alternative.  You might do that because any tax is a tax on prosperity, and reduces the wealth of the nation.  Tax cuts generally increase prosperity, and increase individual liberty by giving individuals more economic power and choices.

So the potential of Supply Side Public Policy is that it may be possible to increase some good things and decrease public ills simply by cutting certain taxes, while increasing the general prosperity and liberty as a deliberate side effect.  Indeed we can reduce government size, spending and debt by replacing less efficient public policies.  Further this is done without raising taxes, or increasing government, or passing restrictive legislation, and without reducing liberty or prosperity.  It is painless.

This supply side approach stands in stark contrast to the usual tax/spend/regulate approach to public ills and goods: subject ills to punitive taxes, heavily regulate or ban them, create large and expensive bureaucracies to monitor and regulate them – all of which diminishes liberty and prosperity and other core values too. Public goods are often also supplied by means of heavy taxes and government debt to pay for government agencies that often supply expensive goods of poor quality.  All of which is rather painful.

Painful policies attract more political opposition, and so are usually unsustainable over the long term.  Painless policies are easier to adopt, and easier to sustain.  Supply Side Public Policy is potentially then a more sustainable way to accomplish social and environmental goals.

In the aggregate, Supply Side Public Policies could gradually reduce overall taxes and cost of government, and increase awareness of the power of tax cuts to produce positive change.

The Atlas/21stCentrist New Idea Challenge invites proposals seeking to develop the theory of Supply Side Public Policy, and potential new applications thereof.  Pro Bono Medical Reform and Supply Side Environmentalism are both applications of Supply Side Public Policy.

Can you cite any examples of existing supply side public policies?

Reduced income tax rates and other benefits for married couples are an example of a public policy designed to promote marriage using supply side means. Also, the various income tax deductions and exemptions for non-profit charitable giving reflect a public policy designed to increase the supply of private charitable activity using supply side means.

What is Pro Bono Medical Reform?

Pro Bono Medical Reform aims not just to revive but to supercharge the traditional American pro bono medical system for treating the poor and uninsured. Just as some tax deductions are designed to encourage charitable giving, fair value tax deductions for pro bono health care can determine that doctors and heath care providers will find it makes financial sense to treat ALL the poor and uninsured that need care. Such a system would be a simple, human, common sense, private alternative to unsustainable, bureaucratic schemes such as Medicare, Medicaid and public health insurance.

In the early 20th Centurty, America had a pro bono medical system that worked. Doctors would regularly treat patients who could not pay. It was part of the medical ethic. That system, however, was destroyed by Medicare, subsidized insurance and malpractice litigation. That loss coincides with the rise of our current health care woes: millions of the poor and uninsured jamming emergency rooms; medical costs out of control on both personal and federal levels and everything in between.

Reviving the traditional American pro bono system can reverse those problems.  And fortunately, it is possible.  Increasing the supply of free, pro bono care for those who cannot pay is essentially a supply side problem, amenable to supply side solutions. If you want more of something, tax it less. So if you want doctors and other health care providers to supply care to those who cannot pay, then simply reduce their taxes (to zero if necessary) for doing so.

For more information about this proposal, see Super Pro Bono Now! Free Health Care, Tax-Free

What is Supply Side Environmentalism?

Supply Side Environmentalism begins with the observation that the most pressing eco-energy questions we face today -- how to increase our supply of clean energy, how to decrease atmospheric carbon, how to diversify our energy supplies -- these are all supply side questions.  As such, they are all amenable to supply side solutions.

Supply side economics suggests that if you want more of something, tax it less.  So if we want more clean energy, clean vehicles, clean machines, just tax these less.  The more those tax rates fall, the more these become irresistible investments, provided the underlying business model is sound.  The capital flows from private investment will dwarf what government spending alone can do.

But not all tax cuts are equal.  Supply side economics recommends in particular cutting marginal tax rates that investors face if we need more of a good thing.  Corporate income tax, bond interest income tax, dividend and capital gains taxes: these are the main supply side taxes where prudent cuts will safely boost supply and prosperity.   While a sales tax cut is also a safe policy tool to use, other demand side stimuli (such as tax credits and state investments) blur into subsidies and price supports.  That is demand side environmentalism, and it is not a wise tool to use.  In general, subsidies will reward failure, and create industries dependent on continuing subsidy for survival, while supply side tax cuts will reward success, and will only benefit viable businesses that can stand alone.

But the good news is, supply side tax cuts for clean energy is all we need to do.  We don't need demand side subsidies. We don't need to raise taxes on carbon and dirty energy, because that would hurt the economy, and we can accomplish the same tax differential with a tax cut on clean energy – which will boost the whole economy.  We don't need burdensome regulations like the new CAFE standards, which already drove Caterpilar out of the diesel truck engine business in 2008.  We don't need complicated big government schemes like Cap-and-Trade.  We don't need to spend trillions fixing this problem.  Quite the opposite. We can make money fixing it.

Which brings us to more good news: You don't need to believe in global warming to embrace this solution.  Who cares if the climate crisis is real or not?  This is the only effective proposal on the table that boosts prosperity regardless of whether global warming exists.  Supply side tax cuts will boost the whole economy, even when applied to part of the economy.  Furthermore, the economic and national security dangers posed by dependence on oil are enough reason to look for a prudent diversification strategy.  So this is a good idea even without the climate crisis.