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Process, not politics

Oct. 8, 2012
“Truly consequential matters proceed on their own trajectories, determined by a slow process of evaluation. … let the process work.”

We were promised answers. This issue of FORGING should have included a report on the policies and objectives of our presidential candidates, a project that my colleagues (editors of Penton Media's Manufacturing & Supply Chain properties) and I planned and arranged with the campaigns last spring. A schedule was set; questions of specific concern to forgers and other manufacturing interests were developed; and our proposals were delivered, as agreed. We scheduled time to prepare the reports, and we set aside space to publish them.

Robert Brooks,

We were ignored, and by implication you were ignored, too. Call it the first broken promise of the next Administration, if you wish, but don't worry too much about it. Presidential politics, however fascinating, is diminishing in importance.

You can see this in the conduct of the contenders and their campaigns. Each one has secured about 45% of the available support, and now they're battling over the remaining 10%. That means no risks are to be taken. So, the incumbent downplays his record and minimizes discussions of his future agenda; and the challenger blurs the implications of past positions and burnishes the prospects of the platform he and his party have proposed. And each of them warns of dire results if you choose his opponent. "That's politics," according to the truism.

You may think you deserve answers to your own concerns. You may conclude, as some of my colleagues have done, that your interests – manufacturers' interests – are being ignored or taken for granted, and you may be right. But don't be surprised, because whether this oversight is indifference or ignorance, it is instructive of the way that 'politics' has transformed government into just another routine that demands compliance from individuals or businesses pursuing their own interests.

Someone will be elected President on November 6, but all the contingencies that are said to hang on that election will be decided on their own merits. Truly consequential matters (finance and budgets, economic policy, national security) proceed on their own trajectories, determined by a slow process of evaluation comparable to the one that has 90% of the electorate already persuaded.

The federal deficit will continue to balloon, security threats will continue to loom, and efforts to resolve problems will be delayed or deferred to "the process."  Defense budgets will be cut or energy subsidies will be derailed because the finances of those matters require as much, until the consensus shifts and "something must be done."

Such moments, including the election of a president, create a sense of drama or excitement around the governing process, but thankfully those are rare. Sometimes the process elicits passions: a financial crisis in 2008 brought forth a lot "something must be done" determination, and while the crisis passed the actions undertaken in those trying times have not been especially beneficial. Our debts our greater, our rate of growth is slower. Something must be done about that, and when it must be done it will be done, but let's be certain about our decision.

You might think you'd prefer to have all your concerns addressed and your doubts erased, as policymakers promised they'd done in 2008 and 2009, but that never actually works. I'd like the U.S. to develop its energy-sector opportunities more enthusiastically: domestic coal, oil, natural gas, and nuclear power industries, as well as alternative sources, offer growth opportunities for forgers and all other manufacturers, cost savings to consumers, developmental prospects for science and engineering, and other potentialities not yet defined. Certainly it could happen faster. Eventually it will reverse our economic malaise — but it's a process with its own dynamic. Once the prospects are clear, the politics will adapt to the new consensus.

The tedium of government allows reason and individuality to thrive. It shields us from the passion that opportunists would use to channel our need for answers into their own success. Still, every gauge of human progress — information, technology, finance, commerce, and communication —emphasizes the sovereignty of the individual, not the collective. Let the process work.

Robert E. Brooks I Editor