Among those who don’t tend to think that the state government of Rhode Island should be tasked with completely ordering the lives of the people who live within its borders, the conversation about the relationship of the recently announced Brookings Institution study and RhodeMap RI has already begun. Some think that RhodeMap was the framework to which Brookings will add specifics. I don’t think that’s quite right.
Consider these two disconcerting paragraphs from Ted Nesi’s WPRI article, yesterday, drawing out some details of the intentions:
“This is an opportunity that you don’t get that often, to take a shot at putting the state on a different trajectory,” [Mark Muro, director of policy for Brookings’ Metropolitan Policy Program] added. “It’s been a rough decade.” …
“I think in most parts of the U.S. it’s still, the government does this, the corporations do that, the universities are somewhere else,” [Bruce Katz, the nationally-known head of the Metropolitan Policy Program] said. “In the successful places around the world there’s a seamless interaction between all these different sectors, and if they’re all on the same page – then that’s when you get the bigger returns. So it’s not just the policy … it’s this foundation of collaboration.”
This study will be part of the same ideological program as RhodeMap, but they’re distinct pieces. RhodeMap is concerned with controlling where people live and how they structure their lives. Brookings is going to instruct the state government about what professional activities Rhode Islanders should be engaged in while they live here and how to bring the private sector into alignment with the central plan. (Whether they’ll go into detail about what laws to pass to force compliance, or just make friendly-sounding suggestions about how to create incentives to benefit special interests that are aligned with the program or are willing to adjust, we’ll have to wait and see.)
Consider this carefully, Rhode Island. Even in a small state of about one million people, you can’t have “seamless interaction.” Our entire government system is (or was) set up so that we can interact in a way to ensure the maximum freedom while allowing us to work together peacefully. That’s the central challenge of a free society; progressives can’t just ignore it away.
When they skip over that challenge, what they’re really assuming is that they will be able to pick people in non-government sectors — in business, in academia, and in cultural institutions — who will stand in as if they speak for their whole sector and who will agree to follow the plan. You may be able to live your life your own way, but it will become progressively more difficult to the extent that you want to do something of which the pointy heads at Brookings and the control fanatics who invited them in disapprove… or even that they don’t quite understand.
If what you want to do conflicts with the powerful people, well then, you’ll have to be banned.