Friday, June 19, 2015

Sean Jacobs — Principles first, methods second

Sean Jacobs, a libertarian writer from Papua New Guinea, reflects on the usefulness of having core principles.
Sean Jacobs is the co-founder of New Guinea Commerce – a website committed to governance, growth and next generation leadership in the Indo-Pacific.

"What I’ve found over the years, from a career bouncing across sectors and countries, is the importance of core principles. What do I mean by principles? I simply mean a set of beliefs, values and, in a good old fashioned way, actually standing up for something.I feel that young people today have the idea that principles are only for the rigid self-righteous types or aren’t useful for an innovating, modern world. But, looking at things more closely, principles are actually essential in two areas – navigating complexity and responding to change.
After a few years of working across a number of policy areas I soon discovered the importance of teasing out my own set of instinctive beliefs. In government, in particular, I found myself bombarded with complexity – facts, figures, tables, opinions and other information was placed at my feet, which was all designed to help me arrive at the best decision on what path to take. I found that, on any complex issue, it’s easy to be overwhelmed.
But principles can help. It was said of former Prime Minister John Howard, for example, that he broadly approached new policy ideas with the following three principles: does it strengthen the family, expand the scope for private enterprise and encourage individual choice?
Clearly this approach didn’t turn out too badly – Howard’s reign led to record economic growth and unemployment, no government debt (a surplus in fact), productivity growth, tax reform, gun control, the liberation of East Timor and a virtual end to illegal maritime arrivals."