Led by Marie Kondo, a wave of tidying up is sweeping the nation. People everywhere are going through their belongings, posing some simple tests, and getting rid of the items that fail those tests.
In Ms. Kondo’s case, the test is: Does this item spark joy? If it does, you keep it. If not, you thank it for being part of your life, and send it on its way (to a friend, or a thrift shop, or Goodwill, or the transfer station).
In the case of some ‘minimalists’, the test is: If you didn’t already have this item, would you buy it again? If not, get rid of it.
I think this latter attitude may be the key to getting the Republican party to regain its focus on its primary purpose: preserving the republic.
Here is the most the most important statement in the Republican party’s national platform:
We believe our constitutional system — limited government, separation of powers, federalism, and the rights of the people — must be preserved uncompromised for future generations.
That is, as the party’s name implies, the primary mission of the Republican party is preserving the republic. (As opposed to, say, promoting conservative values, or creating jobs, or policing the world.)
Embracing this mission leads directly to a four-part version of the minimalist test. That is, imagine going through every existing RSA or departmental regulation, holding each one up (like an old sweater, or a chipped porcelain figurine), and asking:
- Does this (a) limit, or (b) expand the size or power of government?
- Does this (a) promote, or (b) undermine separation of powers?
- Does this (a) promote, or (b) undermine federalism?
- Does this (a) protect, or (b) abridge the rights of the people?
If the answer is ever (b), it gets tossed.
In other words: Keeping the mission firmly in mind, if we didn’t already have this statute or regulation, would we pass it today?
Now, the beauty of Ms. Kondo’s test, and the minimalist test, is that they cut through the rationalizations that people might otherwise use to hold on to stuff they really should be discarding, like:
- But it might be useful someday.
- But I paid so much for it.
- But it was such a steal.
- But it would make such a nice gift for someone, someday.
- But someday I’ll have time to finish (or repair, or read, or use) this.
They go right to the heart of the matter: Is owning this thing consistent with who you are right now, and who you want to be in the future?
Similarly, what we might call the ‘missionalist test’ can cut through the rationalizations that some Republicans might otherwise use to hold on to laws that they really should be discarding, like:
- But those people need our help.
- But those people are harming themselves.
- But it doesn’t cost that much.
- But those people can afford to pay for it.
- But the polls say a majority of people want it.
If it expands government, or undermines separation of powers, or undermines federalism, or abridges the rights of the people, then it gets repealed. Period.
Ms. Kondo’s book is called The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up. It’s life-changing, she says, because
basically, when you put your house in order, you put your affairs and your past in order, too. As a result, you can see quite clearly what you need in life and what you don’t, and what you should and shouldn’t do.
Whatever’s happened in the past, the Republican party can once again be the party of small government, the party whose mission it is to first restore and then preserve our constitutional republic, uncompromised, so that future generations can benefit from it.
The first step would be rededicating itself to that purpose.
The second step would be get started on some serious de-cluttering of the government it’s helped create.