“[S]olutions do not adhere neatly to liberal or conservative agendas. The left has, in the past, overemphasised the ability of the government to achieve change. The right, mistrustful of state intervention and too convinced that a free market will automatically bring universal well-being, has done little creative thinking.”  The best way to eradicate poverty in America is to focus on children The Economist, September 26, 2019

“Donald Trump is not a conservative. He’s not a traditionalist, institutionalist, or incrementalist. He’s not a free-trader. He’s openly hostile to meritocracy, accountability, and the rule of law. He does not advocate for smaller government or smaller deficits. His views on free expression, privacy, and due process are frighteningly authoritarian…I think it’s still an open question of whether Republicans will bring ideas back to politics…” George Will quoted in George Will: Conservatives Would Win if Trump Loses by Scott Porch/ The Daily Beast, September 22, 2019

By no mean are American conservatives a monolithic lot, but as a whole they do tend to appreciate the following principles:

Problem is, an abundance of caution often leads to an excess of timidity and inaction. Sometimes sudden surgery is just what the patient needs. But good surgeons aren’t reckless: they cut with care. They use surgical checklists to avoid medical errors and achieve the best outcomes. They constantly monitor the patient’s condition, adjusting their movements and procedures as necessary. In other words, good surgeons aren’t hostage to their initial assumptions and plans. They are open to new information, make sure they have safeguards in place to avoid mistakes, and self-correct as needed.

Likewise, good policymakers. Mindful of costs, trade-offs, and the possibility of unintended consequences, good policymakers establish procedures to closely monitor policy outcomes and are willing to change course should those outcomes disappoint. They don’t approach policies as the “right thing to do” but as a possible means to achieve specific goals. They make sure what they’re trying to achieve is quantifiable so that progress can be measured and tracked. Good policymakers consider the political implications of policies and avoid policies that would be hard to “walk back” due to the resistance of powerful interest groups.

There is no reason conservatives can’t embrace goals like universal healthcare, affordable housing, elimination of poverty, or increased social mobility. With the above safeguards in place, they may go forth and advance bold policy initiatives without violating their core principles.

Adult Student Basic Income! Housing for the Homeless!   Affordable Universal Healthcare! Parental Leave! These may not have been doable or desirable in the 18th century, but times have changed. Time for conservatives to update their algorithms.