Editor’s note: Assistant Controller Geoffrey Lawrence co-wrote this column.
Geoff’s favorite shoes are flip-flops. For Ron, it’s penny loafers or running shoes.
For Geoff, there’s no better reminder of the care-free summer days of years gone by than flip-flop stems between his toes. They recall warm days at the beach and precious times spent with family and friends. It’s remarkable how such a simple choice of footwear can trigger a rush of warm feelings and fond memories.
Ron finds penny loafers practical, timeless and comfortable, and they go with a wide range of clothes and activities. Running shoes are comfortable and useful for almost everything for which penny loafers are not. He usually goes barefoot at the beach.
Geoff finds it troubling that his preferred foot fashion has become a symbol of the flaws of many politicians. He’s concerned that anyone who runs for office and has, at any time, changed his views on an issue during his lifetime is labeled a “flip-flopper.” He thinks changing one’s mind is not necessarily a bad thing.
Ron thinks Geoff is freighting a pedestrian subject with too much symbolism and meaning. Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, he says.
Geoff thinks the political flip-flop term taints his footwear with the slime of politicians, too many of whom are disingenuous, corrupt and narcissistic. He also objects to criticizing pols for flip-flopping for another reason. He says civic leaders should consider new evidence and learn from past mistakes, instead of continuing to flog stale agendas built on preconceived, false notions.
Ron has little sympathy for most pols and thinks flip-flopping charges are usually accurate.
Geoff says it’s difficult to understand economics, politics and social processes. Most people don’t understand when they’re young, and a fortunate few begin to get it as they gain some life experience. So, it’s good that pols change their tunes as they grow and learn, or else we’d be ruled by authoritarian socialists.
Ron agrees that when he was young and foolish, he acted that way, becoming a left-wing statist Democrat Naderite/Alinskyite green weenie. He did continue to read, learn and think, and so he got over all that. He’s now long been a reliable limited government conservative trying to reverse the damage his former allies continue to do. He wants to leave our children the freedom, opportunity and prosperity previous generations left us. Ron adds that we’re already ruled by PC statists or worse.
Geoff became an acolyte of Keynesian command-and-control economics in graduate school at American University, which was chartered by Congress to train federal bureaucrats. Only through continued study, introspection and a willingness to challenge his own beliefs did he emerge from the intellectual muck. He was inspired by the great economist Friedrich von Hayek and the Austrian school of economics.
Ron was more moved by the great economist Ronald Coase, the Chicago school and public-choice and law-and-economics folks. He also thinks all this economic and policy inside-baseball stuff is neat for nerds like him and Geoff, but the important thing is that most folks care about freedom, individual rights, limited government, etc. because they increase human wellbeing.
Geoff and Ron both note that Ludwig von Mises, the intellectual godfather of modern free-market thought, was once a left-leaning and bureaucratically inclined Viennese lawyer. Ronald Reagan, also, was a lifelong liberal Democrat until he began to study great economists. That changed his views. Reagan frequently cited Hayek and Mises as thinkers who influenced his views, in addition to Milton Friedman.
With another Republican presidential debate this week, we’re sure to hear about how so-and-so has flip-flopped in the past. Is that a bad thing? We’re not huge fans of current — Donald Trump, but we also don’t see Trump’s continuing evolution of thought through the decades as a problem. Instead, we disagree with his current support of single-payer, socialized health care and certain other policy stances.
Our frustration lies with modern liberals and progressives and other statists, who cling to big-government foolishness even as events show all that to be a disaster. Our hope is stoked by the embarrassment of riches that eight presidential candidates provide Republicans this year.
They show the right balance of enlightened change and fidelity to principle. Like flip-flops and penny loafers.
Ron Knecht is Nevada’s elected controller and Geoffrey Lawrence is assistant controller.