Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
What is The Big Fix?
The Big Fix is our nickname for a comprehensive set of plans that would solve all of America’s biggest practical problems. They are constitutional, protect our rights, strengthen markets, and respect private property. They mobilize America’s vast population, resources and capital to make long overdue and logical upgrades to our economy. They tackle big practical problems such as falling wages and labor participation, health care, poverty, lagging education, mass incarceration, crime, gun violence and more.
It sounds like you think you have a magic solution to every problem. Is that right?
Not every problem, just practical problems. Racism, for example, is not a simple, practical problem. It is deeply embedded in hearts and woven into the fabric of our entire society. We don’t have an easy fix for racism. But we have a quick fix for some of the symptoms of racism, for example mass incarceration.
Don’t experts out there somewhere already have a plan?
Oddly, they don’t. Or at least, we haven’t been able to find one — not a comprehensive plan to fix all of our biggest practical problems. If you know of one we’re missing please tell us.
There are some comprehensive plans–or starts in that direction–for certain isolated problems. Our plan relies on many of those.
Why is there no plan already?
For a bunch of historical reasons the 20th century soured just about everyone–from the right to the left–on the idea of big plans. In the 19th and 20th centuries, there were a lot of giant plans under all forms of economic and political systems–capitalism, communism, democracy, and authoritarianism. Many of these big plans worked out well and in fact played a huge role in building the economies of today’s rich countries. But other plans failed, often painfully, sometimes horrifically. So after achieving a certain amount of prosperity most societies decided it would be better to set aside any new giant plans in favor of simply enjoying the prosperity that older big plans had achieved. Also, then there was a very effective campaign, running over nearly a century, by some business people and right wing think tanks to kill the very idea of big plans.
Aren’t all big plans now doomed to fail?
No, how do you think we got here? Do you really think all these massive global industries, highway and railroad systems, airports and power grids all just developed by accident? No, there were huge plans. Big plans are happening right now all around the world still, though not so much in America anymore.
But don’t big plans fail sometimes?
Yes, like everything, sometimes big plans fail. Part of the way big plans got a bad name in the 20th century was when the idea of big planning became associated with big plans that communist governments carried out in Russia and China that caused or enabled massive famines and other disasters. But those societies were always already on the brink of famine. Executing a big, radically disruptive plan in that fragile context was risky. And the only reason those governments were able to force what turned out to be such reckless plans on their people was that they had authoritarian systems left over from feudalism. The people had no defense against wacky or broken plans–or against groups that wanted to sabotage good plans.
A great thing about living in America in the 21st century is that we, the people, enjoy human, legal and political rights. We have institutions and checks and balances that keep us safe and free even while we make big changes to our economy. We also have such a strong foundation to our economy that — barring a huge asteroid hitting the earth — we don’t have to worry about things like famine if we attempt a large plan that fails. The fact is, today without big plans, we regularly experience major crises from financial bubbles that result in people losing their homes and jobs. Big plans that mobilize workers and capital provide jobs even when they fail, and leave behind many workers with new skills and new useful capital.
Back in the 1800’s, it took big planning to build our railroads systems, steel industry, oil industry and other infrastructure and industries. In the stories of most rich countries, the government was the big planner. But in America’s 1800’s, even though much of the funding came from grants of public lands, public debt and non-debt money expansion (a.k.a. printing money) the planners were the great tycoons and financiers of the gilded age.
Often their plans ended in economic ruin for the whole country, and occasionally for themselves. But at the end of those booms, we were left with real industry and infrastructure that provided the foundation for another cycle of growth. Today, not only are we not planning big projects that will make America more prosperous and sustainable like we should be, but we are channeling almost all of our investment into either short-run and non-productive activities such as financial bubbles, or into industry in other countries that are still planning, like China.
Why do we need a comprehensive plan to fix everything, since we’re nowhere near enacting such a plan?
This is a chicken and egg argument. Without a plan to fix everything, how could it ever become politically feasible to execute that plan? If you look at the politicians in charge today, it’s hard to imagine that we could ever execute a plan to fix everything. We need a movement to remove and replace them with a new crop of leaders to carry out the plan. How can we possibly build that movement without the plan to rally people around?
What qualifies you to write the plan?
We believe there are common sense solutions to our biggest practical problems. For example, you want to eliminate carbon emissions? Then build a 100% renewable energy economy. There’s no mystery to what that would look like. Ask any expert (and we asked a bunch of them) and they’ll all tell the same few things: You’ll need to invest a lot of money into wind and solar energy generation, and there are many companies ready to ramp up production. Then you’ll need to build a new smart national power grid to handle all that highly variable energy efficiently. And guess what? A bunch of big companies are already dying to build that and have the plans. Finally, the experts will tell you to have a plan for upgrading all our building and housing stock, and programs for swapping old cars for electric ones. There are a few other odds and ends. There’s no mystery to building all that stuff.
Experts are needed when it comes to building the facilities and the grid, and in designing the full programs to upgrade every home and building in America. Those experts are already at work doing all that on a small scale. Their work needs to be ramped up. Our country doesn’t lack the expertise, it just lacks the political will.
It’s true though, that we’re not an organization filled with people with fancy degrees. We don’t think a stable of PhDs is what’s needed for this job. In fact, there are plenty of think tanks out there filled with PhDs — who have so far refused to put together any big comprehensive plans. We hope that our work will inspire them to both suggest improvements to ours and hopefully come up their own better plans!