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In another article he warns churches against being coopted by radical environmentalists. Christians should not be “silent about God’s wonderful gift of creation,” but “economic growth is the engine that has and will drive environmentally friendly goods and services.” In short, environmental protection is a matter of balance.
Poverty, he explains, is a complex and dynamic phenomenon. We have important moral oligations to those around us. Writes Jerry: “Working people who are not earning enough to provide for their basic needs are an appropriate target for concern.”
But concern for the poor does not translate into regulatory micromanagement and big spending by government, whether at the state or federal level. To the contrary, he argues, measures like the minimum wage are counterproductive, an example where policymakers and clerics often “lead with their hearts and ignore what their heads ought to be telling them.”
Jerry obviously is an unusual candidate, consistently speaking truth to the public as well as to those in power. Poverty results from a combination of bad decisions and unjust structures; both must be addressed. He terms the frequent call by liberal clergy for new welfare programs as “using a kind of soft socialism combined with moral language and biblical quotations” to promote the sort of statist “solutions that have failed the poor the world over.” In contrast, he points to mechanisms to increase private solutions, such as tax incentives to encourage volunteering by professionals.
He applies the same lessons overseas. When rich musicians were pushing politicians to tax poor people to fund more foreign aid, Jerry put out a blunt statement entitled: “Why Your Tax Dollars Won’t Fix African Poverty.” Indeed, international poverty has become a particular passion of his, as he has visited not only Latin America but also Africa numerous times.
He has repeatedly pointed out that such factors as defensible property rights, control of corruption, competitive markets, and international investment are necessary for prosperity. He explicitly defends the role of multinational corporations throughout the Third World. In contrast, he writes, too often “government-to-government aid only results in more destruction.”
But as important the role that business plays in society, which Jerry believes to be both moral and essential, he emphasizes that entrepreneurs and managers must help form a society that is virtuous as well as free. Federal regulation “might prevent some unethical acts, but it will not be able to morally shape people.” But shape them we must, and that “is a matter of the development of our culture and society.” Business must not be anything goes.
OF COURSE, FINE CHARACTER and policy smarts usually aren’t enough to catapult someone into the U.S. Senate. And Jerry understands the task ahead of him: he figures it will cost $3 to $5 million to win the primary and $20 million for the general contest. But through his duties at Acton he has worked with political and business as well as religious leaders, developing a personal network that extends far beyond Michigan. There is scarcely a conservative intellectual who doesn’t know of the Institute — and Jerry. This network may help him raise the money necessary to make a winning Senate run.
Much is at stake in the 2006 election. To most Washington politicos, the Michigan Senate race is important primarily through its impact on the body’s overall partisan balance. The Democrats will have to hold this seat to have any chance of regaining Senate control.
But Jerry’s candidacy adds another dimension to the contest. He is the complete candidate, someone who recognizes that freedom is essential to what we are as human beings, while virtue is necessary to inform us how to use that freedom.
He actually gives people someone to vote for rather than against. If he bests his long-shot status and takes office in January 2007, Jerry will have an opportunity to play a genuine statesmen.
After all, no one can deny the importance of the issues at stake. As he said when he announced: “This campaign is going to come down to what we believe about human beings — about ourselves — about the kind of society we want to live in — about the kind of state and nation we want to be.”