Jennifer A. Marshall: The reason for this event is that we are troubled by the extent of social breakdown today. We're troubled by how it afflicts individual lives and how it affects our society in general. We're troubled by the fact that a teenage boy going to school in one of our major cities may learn more about a life of delinquency than he does about a future filled with hope and opportunity. We are troubled that more than three out of 10 children-and nearly seven out of 10 black children-in America are born to unmarried mothers, a fact that will cast a long shadow down the course of a child's life, and a shadow that has a strong possibility of crossing our own paths too in the taxes we pay for welfare support, educational subsidies, or the costs of crime.
We're also troubled by welfare state responses to problems like these. It's not only that welfare state responses assume too much of a role for government in people's lives, that they're economically unsound, and that they've proven very ineffective at solving these problems-although those are good reasons. We're also troubled because they actually make people and society worse in the process. Welfare state programs have hurt the very people they were intended to help.
We need an approach that better reflects human dignity and leads to better results for all concerned. We believe that people make bad choices and that there are and should be consequences attached to those choices. But we also believe that individuals have the capacity to defy the odds stacked against them, that individuals can correct course, and that freedom and opportunity are the birthright of all people.
We believe that successful solutions to social breakdown are those that engage personal responsibility and mutual responsibility: mutual responsibility not through government redistribution, but through relationships. That's why we look first to the vast resources of the family, religious congregations, community groups, and other support networks to tackle social breakdown.
When it comes to public policy, our priority is to cultivate the conditions in which these civil society institutions can flourish. For those individuals who have become dependent on government, policy should create the proper incentives to point them toward independence. The welfare reform of 1996 is a good example, but it only achieved this in one major program among many other welfare-related programs in Washington.
Clearly we have much more to do.
It is therefore appropriate that our keynote speaker is Bob Woodson. Bob Woodson is founder and president of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise. Since its founding in 1981, CNE has provided training and technical assistance to more than 2,000 faith-based and community organizations as they work to reduce crime and violence, restore families, create economic enterprise, and revitalize low-income communities.
Bob's social activism dates back to the 1960s. As a young civil rights activist, he developed and coordinated national and local community development programs. In the 1970s, he was a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. In addition to his neighborhood empowerment work, Bob has contributed to many policy debates over the years. He helped pave the way for resident management and ownership of public housing and has brought together task forces of grassroots groups to advise legislators on welfare reform issues, both at the state level and here in Washington, D.C.
Bob is the author of hundreds of articles and several books, including The Triumphs of Joseph: How Community Healers Are Reviving Our Streets and Neighborhoods. Please join me in welcoming Bob Woodson.
-Jennifer A. Marshall is Director of Domestic Policy Studies and Director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation.
Robert L. Woodson, Sr.: When we founded the Center 27 years ago, we brought together 10 grassroots leaders from around the country to ask them what it is about an institution that would best represent the needs and desires of low-income people, and Heritage was instrumental in helping that to happen. The Scaife Foundation gave Heritage $25,000 that enabled us to incorporate, and Bill Lehrfeld, the lawyer for Heritage, became our attorney of record for about 15 years. We enjoyed that relationship.
I would like to take this time, as a former civil rights activist in the '60s, to reflect with you on our past and how we have addressed the needs of low-income people. There's a prayer that I utter each day and I commend to you: "Lord, give me the strength to tell and pursue the truth, especially when it's inconvenient to me." Dr. King said that the highest form of maturity of any individual or organization is the ability to be self-critical, because if you keep doing what you do, you keep getting what you got.
It seems to me that we have to begin to transcend some of the traditional debates between the Left and Right and look at the past policies, what has worked and what has not. I believe that the character of a nation is determined by how it treats its weakest member. As the Gospel says, "As you do it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me." So I look at how we address the poor through two prisms. Politically and ideologically, I'm a radical pragmatist. Spiritually, I'm a cardiac Christian. I must put that on the table, because that's how I view the world.
Looking back, prior to the 1960s, the responsibility for caring for the poor, those who were dispossessed and isolated, was largely assumed by private institutions and the church. In the black community, when the first welfare systems were started at Mother Bethel Church in my hometown of Philadelphia in 1783, first of all, they collected a shilling a week from each of the members, and then they used that in case families were in need. But you could not be poor as a consequence of your own slothfulness or immorality. There were standards even back then. They wanted to make sure that assistance did not injure with the helping hand.
For the most part, the responsibility was on the private institutions, but with the fall of the stock market in the 1930s and the Depression, the resources of these private institutions were just overwhelmed, so government intervened for the first time in the American economy on behalf of low-income people. Intervention was largely from government to individuals. Intervention was also supposed to be the equivalent of an ambulance system, and it has morphed into a whole transportation system.
But it pretty much left intact the social institutions with one exception, and that is the care for abandoned and neglected kids who are foster kids. In the 1930s, for kids who were abandoned by their parents, who were abused and neglected, the church stepped in and temporarily removed the children from their homes and put them into foster care. But it was also economically expensive for the church to maintain kids away from stable homes, so their moral commitment and their economic interests were compatible. That's important to keep in mind.
When the stock market crashed and these resources of the institutions changed, government intervened and entered into what is called a purchase of service agreement with these churches. When the children were in foster care, there were economic incentives for placing them back into adoptive homes, their own families, or the extended family, but when government intervened, the rules changed, and government only paid for kids who are in foster care.
We saw, then as now, a tremendous rise in the number of children who are isolated from stable homes, because government changed the incentive systems so that a whole plethora of institutions evolved that benefited from having children isolated. Seventy percent of all the people in our prisons have spent some time in the foster care system, and there were the seeds of misadventure when it comes to government intervention.
In the 1960s, with the social unrest that swept the country, Lyndon Johnson and government officials came together and said, "Well, of course, the social unrest is occurring because of racial discrimination, a lack of voting rights, and poverty." In response to those challenges, the government put the Voting Rights Act in place, and civil rights laws were passed. We also spent about $13 trillion in about 40 years on programs to aid the poor, and people of color were elected to office in record numbers throughout the nation.
If those remedies were sufficient, then Washington, D.C., should be a Mecca for social reform, but we know that in Washington, we lead the nation in 21 separate categories of poverty expenditures. We have people of color running units of government, and we have the highest black median income of any place in the nation coexisting with the highest mortality rate for children. The mortality rate for kids born in Washington, D.C., is second only to the mortality rate in Haiti in the Western Hemisphere because of violence.
You've heard statistics that only 30 percent of black families have a man and a woman raising children, and the traditional wisdom is, "Well, that's because of the discrimination and because of poverty." Yet if you go back in history, you will find that between 1930 and 1940, we had a negative gross national product, 25 percent overall unemployment-which meant that the black unemployment rate was probably twice that-and a marriage rate higher in the black community than it was in the white community. Up until 1962, 82 percent of all black households had a man and a woman raising children in the face of these injustices and poverty and racial discrimination.
The question that remains is what happened with social interventions by the government that were intended to improve conditions? I believe they injured with the helping hand. Even in public housing, there were specific policies. Prior to the 1960s, public housing was a privilege. You had to have high standards to get in, and they were reformists. Then government policies on welfare shifted to reward out-of-wedlock births, so the more a person stayed out of school and became pregnant, the more government would intervene.
There were also disincentives for marriage for people living in public housing. If you're a resident in public housing, your rent is 30 percent of your income, while if two households join, if a man and a woman marry, there's a disincentive. Yet for middle-class people, our rent or our mortgage payment does not go up if our income increases. Why are we imposing this on low-income people?
But we did. There was a woman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, who was a single mom, who scraped together and saved $3,000 to send her child to college. When the government found out about it, she was prosecuted and charged with a felony. The message that went out to welfare recipients is, "I'm not going to save, I'm not going to be thrifty, and I'm not going to do all of the things other people do for the life I'm earning for my child."
As a consequence of this, we are in the mess that we're in today. In order to improve it, the question is: What are some of the policies that we must pursue? We cannot find the answer by looking through the prism of the liberal Left or conservative Right. Bill Bennett says that when liberals see poor people, they see a sea of victims, and when conservatives see poor people, they see a sea of aliens. When looking for remedies, we must again look beyond what we have done and recognize that a lot of what we've done to help poor people has injured with a helping hand.
You talk about black youngsters who have been torn apart from families. They experience a 9/11 death rate. It was as if 9/11 had struck the black community every four months. That's the number of young black people that are being killed by other blacks: 9,000 a year. That is more than were killed in the nine years of the Vietnam War. If what we have done is working, how can we have this outrage?
In order for us to move beyond it, a conservative's argument is, "Well, since what liberals have done hasn't worked, then we need to just cut the budgets, open the doors of the free enterprise system, and let meritocracy determine winners and losers." There's an old African proverb that says, "When bull elephants fight, the grass always loses."
What I believe we must do is recognize that we have a moral and spiritual crisis, first and foremost. It is not an economic crisis, but a moral and spiritual crisis.
At the Center, in order to look for a different paradigm, I found in the Bible, in the book of Genesis, the story of Joseph. Joseph, as you know, was from a dysfunctional Hebrew family. He was one of 13 sons, favored by his father, and he had the ability to interpret dreams. He was a very arrogant young man and told his brothers and his father, "I saw you bowing down before me." His brothers, in envy, faked his death and sold him into slavery to the Ishmaelites. He served in Egypt as a slave in the house of Potiphar.
But Joseph never defined himself as a victim, and he was faithful to his God even in his slave state. He became the best steward wherever he was. Potiphar's wife lusted for him, tried to have sex, and he refused because Joseph had lateral integrity and horizontal integrity. He said, "It would be a sin against my God and a violation of the trust of my master," and he went to prison, where he languished for years.
At age 31, Pharaoh brought him before him when he was troubled by these dreams he had, and Pharaoh asked Joseph, "Can you interpret these dreams?" He said, "No, I cannot do it; I am merely a vessel that God uses to interpret dreams." He had become broken and humbled. He told Pharaoh to save up; there would be seven years of plenty followed by seven years of famine. Store up 20 percent and appoint an overseer. They appointed Joseph as an overseer.
The reason that this paradigm is important is because if it were not for the good pharaoh-and history does not identify him-we would not know about Joseph. A responsible leader like that pharaoh is able to dream bad dreams in good times, to look beyond the horizon of power and plenty and look at what the future holds. But he also reached across racial, ethnic, and class lines to empower a Hebrew who was monotheistic. Pharaoh was polytheistic. He had all the reasons in the world not to form a partnership.
So when I look at going back into low-income communities, I believe we must apply the principles of the market economy to the social economy and apply the moral lessons from the Gospel so that they join to help us embrace a new paradigm. When I go into low-income communities, I apply the principles of the marketplace in that 80 percent of all new jobs in the market economy are created by entrepreneurs. They are only 3 percent of the population, but they generate 80 percent of all the new jobs. Entrepreneurs tend to be "C" students, not scholars. I always say that "A" students come back to universities and teach; "C" students come back and endow. That is because "A" students, very smart people, seek security. They want to know what the 401(k) plan is. A "C" student, an entrepreneur, wants to know what the deal is.
Eighty percent of all our pharmaceutical inventions have been gleaned from the experiences of aborigines in Brazil and all around the world. Our great medical scientists go into these villages, find herbs, and develop compounds that we all use. We are accustomed to going to untutored sources in our market economy for wisdom and new knowledge, but in our social economy, we don't. In our social economy, we put everything on its head: We only seek advice from people who are well-educated and certified. We assume that certification is synonymous with qualification.
In fact, 80 percent of all dollars spent on poor people are dispensed by well-intended professionals who parachute their good-intentions programs into low-income communities with the expectation that the poor will participate. When they fail, we don't examine the nature of the intervention. We assume that the people are worse off than we thought and, of course, that we need more money and bigger budgets. We have created an industry out of the servicing of poor people, and that's why we fail.
At the Center, we take the market principles, go into those neighborhoods, and look for the social entrepreneurs. We look for the Josephs. We look for two types of Josephs.
One is the Joseph that has never ridden on a stolen bike. We look for people who are raising children in drug-infested, crime-ridden neighborhoods that are not dropping out of school or in jail or on drugs, and we set them around the table with a microphone to inform us as to what it is that they are doing that is different from their neighbors.
The other type is those young people in those communities who were fallen. They were drug addicts, prostitutes, or drug dealers, but through the grace of God they have been redeemed. They then are examples to others that you can change without your environment changing.
What the Center does, like a Geiger counter, is go into those communities and look for these antibodies. We bring them to the table, and then we inquire of them and learn from them how they do what they do. Then we determine the policies that emanate from these experiences and how we can begin to insinuate resources into their organizations so that someone who has dissuaded 50 young girls from having their first child can influence 500.
We know that venture capitalists tend to look for honest entrepreneurs. What is it that a venture capitalist brings to the table? Money and managerial expertise. They know that entrepreneurs, like grassroots leaders, are visionary but tend to be very poor bookkeepers. So they come in and grow the entrepreneurial event so that it grows along a responsible continuum. Too much money can suffocate it; too little can starve it to death. So someone who starts in their kitchen can become a Fortune 500 company.
We need the moral equivalent in our social economy. At the Center, we go in and find people who are social entrepreneurs, who know how to fix gangbangers, prostitutes, and drug addicts and transform them, chronicle what they do, and write about it; but more important, we bring money and managerial expertise and help to start nonprofit organizations within those communities so that what starts out in one block can affect the whole nation.
We've done this most recently with the issue of youth violence. We know that throughout the country, our communities are being held hostage to youthful predatory violence, and it's spreading to white suburban communities as well. So, armed with experiences of some Josephs, we have documented that what changes a young person is not coercion coming from the police or the threat of imprisonment. Nor can a young person be changed and made lawful and non-predatory by trying to bribe them with programs or with the promise of a job. Nor can they be entertained into changing by bringing well-meaning people in to have events or picnics.
What we have found is that, among our young people who are growing up in these fatherless households where their mother is sometimes 15 years older than they are, young people are growing up without content or meaning in their lives. Therefore, our grassroots leaders are from the community, and they become antibodies. We know that the most effective way of healing the human body is through strengthening its own immune system. These grassroots Josephs tend to be the moral equivalent of an antibody, and collectively, if you provide the resources, they can come together and constitute a whole immune system that, if properly resourced and properly understood, can begin to heal an entire community.
About 20 minutes from here, there's an area called Benning Terrace that had 53 gang murders in a five-square-block area in two years. The police couldn't change it; they were afraid to go in. We trained some grassroots Josephs who had the trust and confidence of the kids and who shared the same zip code morally, spiritually, and geographically with the young people. They went in after a 12-year-old boy was killed, and they brought these warring factions-there were eight of them-into our office in Dupont Circle. They wore bulletproof vests, came in separate vans, and we sat them down. They said, "No one has ever asked us to be peaceful." And just by bringing these 16 young people together and working with them, they signed a truce and went back into the community.
It's not enough to tell young people what not to do. You must tell them what they can do. And so what started out as a gang mediation ended as a job training, and they were apprentices that went back into their community to reclaim it by removing the graffiti, planting grass, and there was an outpouring of people in the community who used to run from them. Now, after 12 years in January, we haven't had a single gang murder.
We have then exported the principles that we learned to other cities. We have refined it. We now have about 30 schools in seven different cities where these grassroots Josephs have been recruited as antibodies. In the Milwaukee school system, we're in eight of the most troubled high schools, where violence is down in three months by 23 percent and 25 percent in the first six months. We are demonstrating that young people, once they have somebody in their lives that helps them to derive meaning, can effect major changes in improving themselves and their whole communities.
We are seeking now to expand it and grow it because the principle of giving these kids meaning, the secret of it, is having a child connected to someone who becomes a surrogate parent. Some of their parents will never be parents to them; therefore, we must have a surrogate parent, and the persons that serve that role best are people who are five or six years older who share the same moral, spiritual, and geographical zip code as the kid experiencing the problem.
I've had young people give testimony, and we promote them. I've had young people say, "I've seen 13 of my friends die, and I'm 16. I'm not afraid of the police; I'm not afraid of dying; but I am afraid of disappointing Andre Robinson." So we look for people who can reestablish that relationship of trust and use it as a building block not only for restoring those low-income communities, but for spreading it into youth culture.
If you have a school of 2,000 kids, they are influenced by 10 percent, and that 10 percent by 10 percent. So we go in and engage the indigenous leaders who are leading the kids to predatory behavior, and once you transform them, they become agents of change for others. That's how we are able to spread this message. We look forward to taking these principles that we have been working on for the past 12 years and see them greatly expanded throughout the nation, because without a reduction in predatory violence, no program, no economy, nothing will work.
In order for us to do this, we hope to engage the conservative community and the liberal community. I want everybody to understand that we must demonstrate to people that the values that we hold dear have the consequence of improving the lives of people. We're not going to change things through another conference, through another argument, but only by putting in place a demonstration that the policies and values and principles that this nation was built upon can have the consequence of dramatically improving the lives of people. These are the remedies that we're seeking to expand and to deepen.
Questions & Answers
Female Voice: You used the term "moral, spiritual, and geographical zip code." I understand the geographical part; I wondered if you could clarify the moral and spiritual sharing of values.
Robert Woodson: What I meant by that is that you have to have someone who's living by the principles of personal responsibility. In other words, kids are very sensitive to someone who talks one way and acts another. Our youth advisers are held to a very strict code of conduct. They are never off-duty, because we expect them to be morally consistent, which means that they keep their word; they don't go out and engage in reprehensible behavior.
That's what I'm talking about. What kids need is consistency in their life, moral consistency. They don't lie; they don't promise things they can't deliver; they don't promise to take someone out and not show up. The kids need consistency.
Also, usually, people who serve poor people are there for the life of the program. When the program goes, they go. But the Josephs in our communities are not there for the life of a program. They're there because they've made a lifetime commitment to the kids. Money will enable them to do more than they're doing, but the lack of money won't prevent them from being in the lives of these kids.
The other test we use for legitimate Josephs is: I say to people, "Do the kids have your cell phone numbers? Do they have your home address?" That's always a test.
William Stokes: I devoted my life, some 37 years, to starting a humanitarian community service, and I've always worked with poor and working poor communities, and the strategies which you are applying with your effort over the last 12 years is something I've been using for quite a while. One of the things that I'm finding is that, notwithstanding those efforts, there's such a thing as the cost of living, and there's such a thing as normalcy. Notwithstanding teaching a different set of values, there's also a need to focus the government on changing the direction in which the social service programs are actually operating.
One of the efforts I've been working on of late is changing the social policy as it relates to welfare-type programs, primarily because, like you were saying, in the '30s and the '40s, the system sort of fostered supporting family preservation. Today it doesn't. And at the same time, it doesn't support families moving to levels of self-sufficiency. Again, that needs to be a part of the plan as well, and I'd like for you to speak to that.
Robert Woodson: Absolutely. That's why Robert Rector and Jennifer Marshall and others at Heritage have been excellent-and Stuart Butler, of course, who's one of the gurus of public housing resident management. This is why we must join in partnership with people who do that for a living, and what I would say to them is they should not just try to effect change by promoting superior argument or superior analysis; they must reference individuals who exemplify the kind of change that they want.
The one thing that bothers me about some of the scholars is that they don't understand the importance of symbols. The one thing Ralph Nader does well is that he knows how to market a policy. If he wants you to change your attitude about cars, he's not just going to have charts showing you the death rates; he's going to have the weeping parents of a 16-year-old and a bloodstained, wrinkled fender of a Pinto on the table, and he's going to say, "This is why we need to change, and this is how we need to change it."
I'm suggesting that when scholars are writing their papers, they go out and meet some of the people who exemplify the principle that you're writing about. Get to know how they do it. Quote them.
It's a matter of how you market policies. A lot of scholars don't take the time to do that. The point is, just offering superior arguments isn't sufficient. People have got to be convinced by understanding what you mean, by having an example before their eyes.
Christina Bereli: I'm really impressed by your program. I've seen other very successful programs like yours in Latin America and here in the States, but the challenge I find is, how do you replicate that? How do you replicate these very successful programs? Could you tell us a little about how you train your trainers and how you ensure that as you expand, you maintain that same quality?
Robert Woodson: Again, we apply the same principles of the market. Replicating it is the easiest part. I have not been to a single city where there are not indigenous grassroots Josephs. The qualities that make them effective also make them invisible, because they're not whining and complaining, and they don't have proposals they're marketing; they're just busy doing the work. They're not going to find you; you must find them.
Some years ago, someone at the Bradley Foundation said, "I had my consultants here in Milwaukee tell me that your Josephs don't exist here." So I went to the hairdressers, went to the barber shops, and I talked to young people, and I asked them, "Where do you turn in times of trouble and in crisis?" They told me, "individuals."
I knocked on their doors and said, "Your name came up 10 times in 20 interviews," and then they led me to a second person, and from there I met 30, and from that 30, I met 60. Now the Bradley Foundation is investing $5 million a year in those groups we introduced them to. We trained their staff so that Alicia Manning and Bill Schambra know how to go out.
In other words, what we say to funders is that the right people tend not to have the capacity, and the people with the capacity tend not to be the right people. What you must do is, like a venture capitalist, go into those communities, look at who is effective, and then help to generate their capacity so they can make reports and account for money and participate in evaluations and do these things.
That's the easy part. We took what started here to Milwaukee; we're now in eight schools. We're in Atlanta; we're in Dallas, Texas; Antelope Valley; Baltimore, Maryland; Richmond, Virginia. That's the easy part. There are all kinds of grassroots Josephs if you just know where to look and how to look.
This is what scholars tend not to do. You'd be hard-pressed to ask most scholars, regardless of their political stripes, how many had done applied research or even gone into these communities to look for strengths. But Don and Rachel Warren at University of Michigan years ago went into five low-income communities and asked people where they turned in times of trouble and in crisis, and the answers were friends, relatives, and local church groups. They were all people within their zip code. The eighth institution they turned to was a professional service provider.
So, in light of this reality, we tend to deliver services through the institution of last choice of the poor and wonder why we fail. Millions of dollars are spent on delivering services through people that represent the last place that they choose.
Those of us who are middle-class choose our institutions, and we reward them with our money. The poor are at a disadvantage; the government and private foundations tend to select people not based upon their competence or outcomes, but based upon their celebrity or their grade or their degrees. That's the biggest challenge we face.
Jennifer Marshall: Bob mentioned that he had quite a bit of collaboration over the years with my boss, Stuart Butler, here at The Heritage Foundation, particularly about the idea of tenant management of public housing. Stuart is himself an immigrant to the United States from Britain and brought those ideas with him. We have been undertaking a similar exchange of ideas over the course of recent days and past years between countries that face similar challenges of social breakdown and welfare-state erosion of the social structures that could help solve these.
We've been exchanging ideas and trying to work out the application of our common principles to how we might solve these common problems of social breakdown, and we have a few of those representatives here today to share more with us. I'm going to introduce them all and then ask each of them to speak for about five to seven minutes, and then we'll take some questions from you at the end.
Our first speaker is Kevin Andrews. He was elected to the Australian Commonwealth Parliament in 1991. He has served in a number of leadership posts, including Minister for Aging, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations, and, most recently, Minister for Immigration and Citizenship. Mr. Andrews has been heavily involved in policy related to family and welfare reform, and he's joined by his wife Margaret today.
Our next speaker is Greg Fleming, who will be sharing the New Zealand perspective. Greg is CEO of the Maxim Institute, which he cofounded in 2001. The think tank's mission is to foster ideas and leadership that enable freedom, justice, and compassion to flourish in New Zealand. Greg began his career in finance as a chartered accountant before entering public policy.
Our next speaker is Philippa Stroud, who is the executive director for the Center for Social Justice in Britain. Before joining the CSJ, she spent 17 years working full-time with disadvantaged individuals and communities, including two years in Hong Kong and Macau fighting poverty among the addict community. Following that, back in Britain, she pioneered a four-stage residential support project to help homeless people move off the streets and become contributing members of the community. These and other experiences contribute to the incredible work that she and her team at CSJ are doing to implement very well applied policies to fight social breakdown.
Our final speaker today is Monte Solberg. Monte was elected as a Reform Party member of the Canadian Parliament in 1993 and was later reelected as a Conservative MP in the 2004 election. He most recently served as the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development before announcing his retirement this fall and has just recently vacated that post, so he's a private citizen and able to come and join us today.
Kevin Andrews: Can I just say to Bob at the outset that that was a wonderful presentation in which the years of experience have shown through in the words that you said, and I think there's a great deal for us to reflect upon.
As a policymaker, I'd like to offer some tentative thoughts in the follow-up to your comments, and as a guest of your country, can I begin by quoting another observer of American society-this time more than a century and a half ago-who said that "among the laws that rule human societies, there is one which seems to me more precise and clear than all others. If men are to remain civilized or to become so, the art of associating together must grow and improve in the same ratio in which equality of conditions is increased."
That was Alexis de Tocqueville in the famous book Democracy in America. He was speaking about something which I believe is crucially important to democratic societies; namely, the role of institutions of civil society, or the third sector in society.
When we think about the welfare state, it's motivated by good intentions, by noble aspirations: to take people from poverty, to do the best that we can for them. Nonetheless, it has some problems. It hasn't reduced the incidence of poverty to the levels that planners of the welfare state envisaged, for example, in LBJ's Great Society back in the 1960s. Often it's because the consequences of dysfunction within society are addressed, but not the causes, and I think that if we are to do what Bob has illustrated today, we need to go to the causes of various dysfunctions within society and not just the consequences of them.
The welfare state in its various manifestations was introduced not because there was a failure to provide a range of services to people, but because it was seen as inadequate and not universal. In my country, for example, a century ago, there was a great flourishing of institutions of civil society. We had friendly societies, we had credit unions, we had building societies in which people came together out of a sense of mutual responsibility toward each other and contributed to the building up of their local communities and their local societies.
It seems to me that what we need to look at today is how do we again empower individuals and empower communities in order to undertake that sort of work in the modern conditions in which we exist today? I think what Bob said was a good example of that.
I think the most telling line was in answer to the last question when he said that what we do is provide a means of assistance which is the last resort in any other circumstance for individuals in terms of where they go for help. We all need help, and we all need intervention from others in our lives, but who do we usually go to? To family members, to friends, to trusted people within the communities in which we exist. If that works naturally and that's the way in which we approach these issues, as we do in our own lives, and that's replicated time and time again, then why should not that be the first resort rather than the last resort in terms of what we do?
So how we value those institutions of civil society seems to me very important, and they're based on some very significant values. They're based on the value of relationships between individuals, between mutual recognition and mutual respect and mutual trust upon which we build the foundations of those relationships, the mutual responsibility which we bring to the task. This is important because neither the market nor the state, in my belief and observation, can deliver a just society.
Now, I'm a believer in the free market. One only has to look at the incidences in the last century of the suppression of the market to see some of the worst examples of totalitarianism around the world. There is a tendency sometimes, particularly when there's been failure of regulation, for some to say this is a total failure of the market. I don't believe that for one moment. Obviously there are instances of failure of regulation, but the market is important.
But the state also is not the answer to all of our questions. Just as much as the market can lead to a consumerist mentality that, if it's allowed to go to the full extent, can undermine a free and just society, the state can too if it suppresses the market, and therefore, you have a tendency toward totalitarianism at that extreme.
What, it seems to me, balances those two things and is so crucial for a society which is free and democratic and in which we can exist as individuals with dignity and live with freedom-not just political freedom, but economic freedom as well-is that we do empower these institutions of civil society. Bob has given us an example of how we actually achieve that, and I know in my own country there are examples of that: people, for example, in Cape York working with the indigenous population in that area, people like Noel Pearson, who are very much there with people from that community, working with the members of that community.
It's not that bureaucrats and social workers are not seeking to do a good job, but they come with a different perspective, and they are the last resort. They're not the first resort, and we need to look to the first resort again.
My own experience in coming into Parliament was motivated partly by work which my wife Margaret and I did in relation to young couples contemplating marriage and trying to help them to have the skills and the preparation in order to make a good transition and pathway into marriage. That was a motivation very much from the community itself- not from some government program, but from the community-to actually assist people, and that's just a minor example of what is replicated across my country, and I'm sure by all my colleagues here on the panel and right across your country.
If we can find ways to bring together that policy, that belief in civil society, with the real practices which Bob has given examples of today, then I think we will make all our countries better places for all of us to live.
Greg Fleming: New Zealand is in a somewhat different situation, I think, than many of the other countries that I've had the opportunity to interact with over the last couple of years. In some ways, my prepared comments pick up on a couple aspects of Bob's presentation that were particularly fascinating.
At the beginning, you spoke about pragmatism, and later on, in your answer, you spoke about how we sell ideas. I just want to pick up on a couple of those things because they have been the issues that we've faced in New Zealand.
My wife and I have four kids and another on the way. A couple of years ago, I picked up my eldest son from a friend's house, and as we drove away I asked him if he had thanked them for having him stay. He sighed and told me that he didn't need reminding anymore because he was now eight and a half years old.
I apologized, but he wasn't done. He carried on and said, "Dad, I'm always well-mannered and on my best behavior with other people, because I wouldn't want them to think that I hadn't been parented properly."
I appreciate his commitment to image and perception, but I'd like to think that he actually is being parented properly. I think the description of reality, of the way things are, is a part of the debate in New Zealand that we've had to engage in quite intentionally during the last two to three years in terms of the definition of our work.
When we first encountered this approach toward a just society, of conservatives engaging in this, I must admit that I was intrigued, perhaps skeptical; but two years on, I can say with clarity that what we have termed in New Zealand a prism of social justice to our work properly applied has actually become an accurate description of and framework for everything that we do. In the five minutes remaining that I have here, this is the one point that I would like to make and to illustrate.
New Zealanders are a compassionate people. Consider our national icon. Most of you probably won't be aware of it, although if you buy shoe polish-I bought some the other day in Houston, and I see that there's the picture of the little bird on there; it's the Kiwi bird. It's a small, half-blind, timid, flightless little bird totally incapable of defending itself, and we call ourselves kiwis. What is that about? I think it's perhaps that we feel compassionate and want to take care of it.
I think the reality of it is that New Zealanders are a compassionate people. I also think that deeply ingrained compassionate nature is what, in the absence of compelling alternatives in New Zealand, allows or even requires government to be the default provider and in the process disempower individuals who so desperately want to directly take care of their neighbors.
At the beginning of last year, we worked with one of our universities, Canterbury University, to research what New Zealanders thought about this concept of social justice. Every one of the 230 respondents loved the concept. Nearly all of them, literally, had a different idea about what it was, and particularly about how it was delivered and achieved, but the one common theme was that social justice in our country is about people having a fair go and being looked out for. Who can possibly disagree with that?
In a time in my country in which impersonal government is seen increasingly across the political spectrum-we've just elected a new government about a week and a half ago, and this comment is absolutely true-as the answer to all of life's challenges, it's vital that the few of us who hold the hope for a better, truly compassionate way are found in the middle of the debate and not on the periphery.
The framework of what we call social justice, we have found, allows us to participate in, and in some cases even lead, debate on issues on which alternative voices have for too long been ignored. The substance of our work has not changed, but the way that we are selling these ideas, to use Bob's phrase, is changing. On educational underachievement, effective welfare, and restorative justice, we have been able to speak of and illustrate opportunity instead of equal outcomes, community instead of government, and redemption instead of fear.
Last week, we had the privilege of hosting Dr. Samantha Callan from the U.K.'s Center for Social Justice. It was remarkable to see Samantha in action. She spoke publicly on the importance of strong families and of the need to value marriage. You don't do that in New Zealand and get listened to, and yet instead of the usual cold derision that greets such discussion, Samantha was met with a genuine engagement, from government representatives to skeptical public policy combatants. She was heard. They engaged with her.
The difference? She spoke from a framework that connected to, at a deep level, those who ordinarily flee from such topics. She spoke from a real, lived compassion. She spoke of the struggling, and she spoke of real hope. I think she described accurately the way things really are.
When the strengthening of relationships is at the heart of all of our policy, when we speak boldly of our motivations, about our compassion, rather than from an argument around ideology, we not only surprise people; we actually engage them. At the same time, we find ourselves rearticulating what it truly means to be conservative: our understanding of human frailty, our understanding that real compassion requires real community, our understanding of where authority and goodness ultimately flow from, and our understanding of what it truly means to be human.
Philippa Stroud: It is a great pleasure to be here this morning, and Jennifer has been an absolute stalwart supporter of ours in bringing us over here and allowing us to interact with one another. It feels like the iron-sharpening-iron process, and it has been a real privilege, so thank you.
I want to start by telling you a little bit about the United Kingdom, particularly about what's going on amongst the most disadvantaged communities in the U.K. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that hope is almost extinguished in the cities, and the expectation of being able to move from entrenched poverty to a place where you could raise your own family, where you could gain educational qualifications, and where you could aspire to have a job has been all but extinguished.
We've had a number of incidents in the news and the media that have brought not just the consciousness of the disadvantaged communities up short, but also the consciousness of us as a nation. Just in the last week, there has been an instance with a young baby, called "Baby P," who was killed at 17 months. When the autopsy was done, he was found to have had a broken back, missing teeth, and serious damage to his body, and he was killed by his mother and his stepfather. But what's been even more resonant with the British population has been that this happened after Social Services made 60 visits in 17 months to this household.
When that happens, you get a clear indication that something is seriously wrong in our inner-city communities. Last year in London, we had 28 youth murders, but by halfway through the year, we were already on 28 youth murders. Therefore, there is a sense of escalation and that this whole issue of social breakdown is running away from us very, very fast.
I just want to read you some stats. I read you these to show you that this is not a snapshot situation in the U.K., but is a situation that is moving completely in the wrong direction for us.
The number of children born outside marriage increased from 8 percent in the 1970s to 41 percent in 2003.
The number of lone-parent families has increased by 40,000 per year over the last 25 years-that's every year, another 40,000.
The incidence of intentional harm against children has risen 34 percent in four years.
Youth unemployment is higher today than in 1997.
Children's alcohol consumption has doubled in 15 years.
26 percent of children have taken drugs today compared with 5 percent in 1987.
Drug deaths have increased by a hundredfold.
That's a snapshot of what is going on in the U.K. and has been really stunning us as a nation. For the first time, our people are open to the fact that the old welfare reform top-down methods of redistribution are simply not working. You can redistribute money all you want to a drug addict and their family, but it is only going to kill them faster. That realization is very much penetrating our communities.
Those stats are obviously numbers, but to me and to my team, those stats are also individual people. As Jennifer mentioned, I spent 17 years working and establishing front-line poverty-fighting organizations. I have before me the faces of the people that I've worked with all the time, and the question that I ask every day is: Would this policy that we are working on and proposing have helped Vince? Would it have helped Helen? Would it have helped whoever that we have worked with? And if it wouldn't, it goes in the bin. We are only seeking effective solutions to poverty fighting, and I have yet to find a resident of any of the houses that I have led who came from a stable two-parent family, who was well-educated, who was brought up in a drug-free community, and whose parents, or one of their parents, worked.
I know that sounds stark, staringly obvious to us, but actually we found the opposite. We found that the people we worked amongst day in, day out experienced family breakdown, failed education, high levels of addiction, high levels of debt, and high levels of worklessness. Therefore, all our policies must be geared toward addressing those situations.
It's very easy for politicians to reach for the thing that they can control, and the things that they can control are budgets. They can say, "We're going to give X million to this." The thing they can't control is the Josephs that Bob was talking about. Actually, they are the effective reversers of breakdown in our communities, and all our policies need to go toward supporting and strengthening what they do and not making it harder for them.
I want to end with one thought. We talk about the welfare state, but in Britain we're starting to talk about the welfare society. By that, what we're trying to say is, there's a certain amount of care that has to take place in a nation, and it takes place through a combination of the welfare state and the welfare society working in partnership with one another. In Britain, the welfare state has become this big and the welfare society that big.
How we define the welfare society is the nuclear family, the extended family, and then the voluntary-sector groups. What we want to do is so strengthen the welfare society not that we withdraw the welfare state, but that it pushes it back, and it takes the space so that the care delivered is delivered by the people that those in the disadvantaged communities want it to be delivered by: their own families, their extended families strengthened, and the voluntary-sector communities.
Monte Solberg: I come to this issue as someone who was a member of Parliament for 15 years and a minister in the Conservative government in Canada, but I also come to this issue as a conservative who believes that as citizens, we have a duty to help, that those who are struggling have a duty to try, that government is often not effective and too often destructive in addressing the problem, and that the best solution to social problems is to engage the public to assume their responsibilities as citizens.
Over 200 years ago, Edmund Burke praised the ancient practice of chivalry as the "unbought grace of life." He noted that any person, no matter their station in life, could be an honorable person if they practiced virtues like respect, deference, and modesty. Today, the challenges of social breakdown require citizen leaders, no matter their station in life, to step forward and help those who need help and to practice a new and equally beautiful unbought grace of life.
Citizen leadership-sacrificing our own talent, time, and treasure to help others-is the foundation of social change. This is not to say that government doesn't have a role; it does. Government can incent positive behavior through tax deductions and credits, through funding of research; it can fund programming that is delivered by others. But we also know that government needs to be skeptical about its own abilities to get positive, cost-effective outcomes.
As a minister, my department was both engaged and, I believe, prudently skeptical as we increased funding for training programs typically delivered by charities, the private sector, and lower levels of government. We also put in place initiatives that are designed to help aboriginal Canadians own their homes on reserves, something that was almost impossible until now. We believe that our training initiatives will probably help around 70,000 people a year land a job for the first time and experience the dignity and self-affirmation that go with it. Our housing initiative is expected to help 25,000 aboriginal families own a home for the first time.
But here's my point: As a federal government, we have levered the strengths of civil society, the private sector, and governments that are much closer to the problem to address these social ills. To the degree that we are successful, we stand on the shoulders of civil society.
Ladies and gentlemen, civil society is where the real magic occurs. In Canada, the combination of welfare and employment insurance reform, combined with hot labor markets, has caused poverty rates to drop. Typically, the people who remain in poverty have more entrenched problems, and they need deep individual attention that can only come through personal relationships and through tailored solutions.
Consider the example of Simon House in Calgary, Alberta, a drug and alcohol-addiction recovery home for men. Simon House relies on professional staff and volunteers, and the Alcoholics Anonymous model is the foundation of their program. The men pay rent, share chores, and learn to be self-reliant. They provide peer support and are required to take personal responsibility for their progress.
The results are outstanding. After one year, 50 percent of the men who come through the program remain sober, compared to an industry average of 15 to 20 percent. Simon House neither asks for nor receives government funding-partly, I suspect, because they know that with those funds come conditions that would imperil the success of the program.
In conclusion, there are three questions that I think we need to consider as we ask, "What is the conservative vision of a free and just society?"
What is government doing that works against good outcomes, and how do we stop it?
How do we encourage more citizen leaders, or Josephs, who practice that unbought grace of life to step forward with their time, talent, and treasure to help bring about that more free and just society?
What is the optimal role for government in leveraging what civil society does so well?
I look forward to trying to answer those questions with you in our quest for that more free and just society.
Questions & Answers
Female Voice: I guess I'm one of the Josephs that Mr. Woodson mentored over the years, so I'm very proud to know him and experience him. I wanted to say to all the panelists, it's been very tearful for me internally just to hear this transformation.
We've talked a lot about change, we've talked a lot about transition, but each government, along with Mr. Woodson, talked about the flaws and shortcomings of the Josephs and the organizations. I think that when we talk about systemic change and the people that help us with those issues, that they also need to be trained in terms of how we work and, as Mr. Solberg said, the most important things that we do well.
That's what I like about Mr. Woodson; he has an open door beyond his technical assistance and understands that our passion is more geared to providing the service, more geared to forging the systemic change. It's not that we don't have the capacity to do those things; it's just that it's not our focus. So I would like to hear more about how we can transform the government, how we can transform our technical assistance partners to understand that and not penalize us and cut our funds off when they know already that is the shortcoming of the organization.
Philippa Stroud: I think that one of the things we have found with our voluntary-sector communities in the U.K. is that they are uncomfortable. They are edgy. They are not your kind of normal-suited business smooth types, and that's why they get the change that they do. When you then get that interface with government, you get a whole series of misunderstandings, and one of the things that we have tried to do is to prepare both sides for working with one another so they can work effectively together.
We've also said that if you believe in the outcome, reward the outcome and don't tie them up with paperwork and reporting programs and all of this. Actually work with them for who they are. Once a year we have something called an Alliance Conference where we bring together all the smaller voluntary-sector groups, and we also try to strengthen them to avoid mission creep so that they are not trying to twist or contort themselves in order to receive government funding and thereby sacrifice the one thing that is their key contribution to life transformation.
So I think there's stuff that can be done on both sides. I don't know if this is applicable in the States as well, but in the U.K., voluntary-sector groups will get one-year contracts, whereas everyone else will get three-year contracts. So we're fighting for longer-term contracting as well. I think we are increasingly understanding, recognizing the differences, that they are working with a different sector group, also strengthening the professionalization where it's possible in the voluntary sector, but not doing that to the cost of the mission.
Greg Fleming: I got an e-mail last night from a Joseph. This was from a group of the Springboard Community Trust in the north of New Zealand, and the e-mail basically went on to say they did their best year in terms of fundraising and operations ever.
They came to us as a think tank about a year and a half ago and said, "This is where we're struggling; could you help us?" Our response, with our limited operations, was to put them in contact with one of our former staff members who's now a stay-at-home mom. She was desperate to do some work, and she had this particular skill set. She's worked with them for around about 10 hours a week now.
It's exactly as Philippa described. The reason these people are bringing about change is because they're not your suited, ordinary people. As a consequence, they didn't know how to gain access within the system. This is what this lady did. I can give three more examples that come to mind, but I won't in the interest of time.
I do think there is that opportunity out there for groups, in particular the ones that had prior involvement, to make those connections. There are people there saying, "I want to work out in the community," but they have a different skill set.
Male Voice: I listened to what Bob said, and I listened to what you have said, and it appears to me that, regardless of what continent you're on or what country you're in, the approach that has been taken to the solution of problems has been somewhat similar, and the result also has been equally abysmal.
I'm just curious as to why, after four decades of abysmal results, either society or government tolerates a continuation of a similar approach. Bob's comment was if you do more of what you do, you get more of what you got. What is it in human nature, what is it in the nature of governments, that allows the approach to continue unabated in the face of absolutely disastrous results?
Kevin Andrews: As someone who spent six years as a minister in Australia, first, the greatest force in political life is inertia, and what that means is it becomes very difficult to ever defund a program. No matter how abysmal the result, there are a series of interests around that program that build up over time, and it becomes difficult politically to defund a program.
It can be done, but the process you need to go through to show that this is a fair and appropriate approach, leaving aside any political influence, is difficult, and I think that's part of the reason: partly because people are compassionate, and the people running programs usually genuinely, sincerely believe that what they're doing is good and right, so we need more testing of outcomes.
Philippa referred to the way in which the third sector, the charitable or voluntary sector, is funded, for example, for one year. I agree: That's not good. You can't plan if you're relying on some government funding for just one year and then you've got to go through the hoops again and all the red tape and process which is involved.
On the other hand, there is a need to be able to test whether or not any particular organization is actually achieving what it sets out to do, and I think this is one of the great challenges for both policymakers and those who deliver programs: to have an understanding about how you can actually measure what the achievement is. Is it really achieving what we want, or have we simply started something that's too difficult to stop? It's a very good question that needs to be the subject of much more discussion by not only the policymakers, but those who are actually the deliverers of service.
But even that expression may not be a good one, because the notion of a deliverer of service connotes in the minds, I think, of government officials that this is just an arm or an agency of the government, and it shouldn't be that; it should be something different.
Monte Solberg: First of all, Kevin and I have discovered that we have a lot in common in our view of how government works. It's very similar in Canada, I think, to Australia.
I think part of the problem is, frankly, that conservatives have done an awful job of marketing their vision for the replacement of the welfare state. In fact, I'm sad to say that I've discovered in the last couple of days that, although people in this audience have been working at this for some time, it's become very clear to me that in terms of a comprehensive clearinghouse of ideas that conservatives across the Western world can refer to and draw on when they need to talk about social issues, it just has not existed up until now.
Part of the reason for Jennifer and Heritage organizing some of these meetings is to help address that. We are just a long way behind, and we haven't taken this issue very seriously up until now, I would say.
So I think we've got to do a much better job of marketing what we do, because what you're asking people to do when you give up the welfare state is to give up something that's not very good, but it's certain, for something unknown. If you can't paint a very clear vision and talk about the results that have been obtained in civil society, then people are unwilling to take that leap.
Sadly, for many people, spending is synonymous with care. It's not true; the results aren't there. But that's how many people see it.
Philippa Stroud: I think that it is much, much easier to deal with the symptoms of a problem than it is to deal with the causes of that problem. People see around them the poverty, so when they hear government say, "Oh, we need to give money to the poor," they say, "Oh, yes, this is a good government; they're well-meaning, well-intentioned; let's get behind them." But when you actually look at what's driving that poverty, a lot of people ask, "Well, what actually can be done? What can be done to reverse family breakdown?" That's a very, very different set of issues to grapple with.
In Britain, we did two big documents: Breakdown Britain, which is an analysis of the drivers of the breakdown, and Breakthrough Britain, which was 191 policy proposals that were aimed at addressing the root causes. No one in the U.K. now can say there is nothing that can be done about family breakdown. But even 18 months ago, people were saying a government's responsibility is to manage the breakdown nicely. Or when it comes to addiction, it's to reduce the harm to that poor addict. Or actually, no, the government's responsibility is to get the addict off drugs.
I think these are things that people have really grappled with, and I think we are beginning to see some breakthrough on this now. But up until a few months ago in the U.K., the concept of being able to address the causes was not even in people's thinking. It's beginning to be now.
Male Voice: You have all identified programs that work well on the community level and on an individual level, but one of the problems is bringing them to scale to address national issues. You pointed out that we can't bog them down in paperwork, and we can't get into drift of mission, so how do we bring those programs to a scale that we know is effective, that we know works, without sacrificing? What are some strategies we can use to bring those to scale?
Philippa Stroud: I think Bob began to touch on that in his answer, that there are the Josephs in every community and it's about identifying those.
We've just had a change of mayor in London. Boris Johnson is now the Conservative mayor of London, and we were involved in helping him develop his knife and gun strategy for London. One of the things that I did was put the question to him: "How can you identify London's top best social entrepreneurs, and how can we draw them out and then multiply them and what they do?"
What I'd like to do, in answer to your question, is come back in about a year's time, because we currently have an implementation team working on precisely these issues, so that if we have the fortune of having an incoming Conservative government in 18 months' time, we will have the whole of the implementation strategy for the social issues in place. But I do think they're there; it's a matter of drawing them out and upscaling.
Kevin Andrews: Can I just caution against the notion that everything should be brought to scale. That suggests to me that one universal approach will work across the city, the state, or the country. That's part of the problem with the welfare state, because it removes the sense of local responsibility of individuals who are mutually responsible for each other within a community.
This is a tentative thought; I tend to think that we can learn lessons from the way in which others implement programs and policies within local communities, but ultimately it's going to be individuals in local communities modifying them as they need to deliver the best outcome, rather than this notion that one size fits all and will be appropriate wherever.
That's not to say that we shouldn't think about scaling things up, but if it goes to the point of saying one size fits all across the United States or Washington, D.C., or wherever, I think there is a danger in that we actually fall into the trap which we are trying to overcome.
Robert Woodson: Just two quick examples. In Philadelphia, in 1983, small groups of kids started to attack shoppers on the streets, and it spread like wildfire. Newspapers called them "wolf pack attacks." But they spread like wildfire on the subways and buses, knocking people down, taking purses, ripping off watches and everything, and it just spread. Movie theaters, shopping centers shut down early, and the police increased.
I went to four fellows I call OG's, old gangsters, and I said, "What is it that you fellas can do to attack this citywide problem, just four of you?" They said, "Well, Bob, we're going to go with you, just to go talk, to the prison, because if people in there know who are doing it, they can influence who are doing it."
So we went down there and sat with a group of inmates to ask them, and 135 of them signed up to a crime prevention task force. They said, "Here are the names of about 250 young men from our respective corners. They either are doing it or they can influence people who are doing it. Bring them to us."
We rented some school buses on a Saturday, brought 250 kids in. We had a meal because kids will fight when they're drinking together, but not when they're eating. In this huge gymnasium, the kids came in, and then the inmates had seminars with all of the kids. The wolf pack attacks stopped overnight.
That's four people influencing an entire city. City officials gave them all kinds of plaques, a lot of awards, but no rewards. When we asked people to give us the funding, both public and private, so we can institutionalize other strategies that they have to sustain the peace, they said no. They went back to funding the same people who failed in the first place. But we were able to garner some private funding to enable that, to solidify that so the wolf pack attacks never occurred again.
The University of Pennsylvania School of Criminology gives $3 million a year to study youth violence. None of them ever came to any of us to say, "How did you do it?" None of the people wanted to know.
We have other examples of that around the country, so we don't think it's any problem at all. We're doing it city by city. In Milwaukee, we're in eight schools. We've stopped the violence there. So we're going to take a large geographical area on the south side and the north side, get the crime statistics, and then we're going to apply that to a larger scale. It's something that can grow incrementally, but we want to do it by reducing the number of arrests.
I don't think it's a matter of scaling it up, it's a matter of getting the money necessary to do it. If you can do it in one city by engaging just four social entrepreneurs, you can do it nationwide.
If two men, two brothers, have a drug ring that distributed drugs in 23 states and their income was $25 million a month, and now that they have transformed and they're agents of change, we can then take that same skill and say, "How can we export peace into 23 different locations the way you distributed drugs?" They said we can't do that.
Male Voice: Just about every country in the world is suffering from the same social and economic problems, and it seems as though each country is still attempting to solve those problems in the same manner. To me, there's a question of the values that we are operating from that needs to be looked at seriously, because when you think about the existence of poverty in a huge civilization, that doesn't come from the people that are in poverty; it comes from something else.
I'm just saying that there's a need to really look at the quality of the values that we live by as individuals, and I'd like for you to speak to that because some of you have actually been on the front lines in hand-to-hand combat. I've been there too, and one of the things I've noticed is that the biggest problem I'm having is not so much with the people I'm serving, but with the government that I need to help me with the process.
Greg Fleming: I was actually only in finance for about two or three years, and then I ended up in the community seat there for a number of years. Then I came onboard a front-line organization that produced parenting skills. We went into a lot of high schools and started doing values-based programs.
The reason that I went into public policy was because, again and again, I encountered resistance to what I thought was pretty commonsense stuff in terms of saying marriage matters, in terms of saying to high school kids that waiting might be a good idea, that self-control and the strength were there.
I began for the first time in my life to ask questions around the nature of ideas, and in a nutshell, the reason we started this think tank was because I began to appreciate the fact that, ultimately, real battle is at the level of ideology. It is at the level of what we believe it means to be human; hence my rather abstract comments today, because certainly that's what we're finding in New Zealand. That's where the real debate is.
I'll give you a quick example. A while ago, I was on a television show with the top family research professor in the country. She's just been appointed head of our government-funded Families Commission. During the commercial break, she turned to me and said, "You know, Greg, you're talking a lot about marriage," and I said, "Well, that's because it makes a difference to kids."
She said, "Well, no, it doesn't really. I've made an analysis myself, and on the strength of all the social data that I've looked at from around the world, it's pretty clear to me that family structure really doesn't have much impact on the outcome of the children." And for a moment, I thought to myself, "Hey, I'm like Dr. Who; I've just entered into a parallel universe." But no, I had not.
The reality of it is that she is imposing her narrative or her worldview or her ideology, whatever you call it, upon those stats. The reality is that that we're going deeper and deeper in terms of the level at which we are asking these public policy questions. The most recent paper that we did was an in-depth look at the question that Monte raised: What is the role of government? We come at it at the level of deep thinking.
That is why I believe we have the same problems around the world with the same idiotic solutions being thrown at them again and again, because you can confront a lot of people, a lot of people in leadership positions, with all the evidence and all the stats in the world, and they will just simply see something else if it doesn't fit their ideology.