This Week’s Column: Begin With the End In Mind

Ten years ago a dear friend introduced me to Dr. Stephen Covey. Not personally, mind you, but through his seminal work The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. As a young State FFA Officer, I wanted nothing more than to be effective. Working with students across the state to help them unlock the potential they each held deep inside would require every ounce of effectiveness I could muster. Dr. Covey’s writing, and his namesake organizational system, became a vitally important part of my service to that organization.



From time to time, I pull out that original book, and have just recently brought my original “Franklin” planner back out of retirement. As a tech junkie, I’d abandoned pen and paper methods to the tools available through my laptop and iPhone. In reacquainting myself with the 7 Habits, I stopped to reflect on one that resonates with me perhaps more than any other: Begin With the End in Mind.



When Dr. Covey advises leaders to begin with the end in mind, he’s talking about having a destination, a goal, a North Star by which to chart our course. We surely can’t arrive where we’re going if we don’t know where there is… The many feel-good axioms about the journey being as important as the destination belittle the fact that too often, parroting the importance of the journey is merely an excuse for not arriving anywhere of substance.



With this critical principle in mind, then, I’ve spent a few days contemplating what “end” various groups have in mind with current issues and agendas related to agriculture and rural America. Top of mind, certainly, is the ongoing escalation between Ohio farmers and the radical vegan activists at the Humane Society of the United States (not to be confused with your local humane society or animal shelter). HSUS successfully passed Proposition 2 in California, so one would certainly categorize them as effective. With CEO Wayne Pacelle’s self-characterization of HSUS as a “sophisticated political organization,” we understand that this group is effective at lobbying legislators and running ballot initiatives at the state level.



But with what end in mind did the organization begin? Again, looking to the CEO’s own words, and to the clear guiding principles on the HSUS website, we can clearly divine that HSUS is looking to the eventual eradication of animal agriculture in this country, and the gradual removal, by force (both political and economic), of meat, milk, and eggs from your diet.



While animal rights activism is very high on farmers’ radar today, another major issue facing food producers is the Waxman-Markey Climate Change bill. While a healthy debate over the validity of global warming alarmism continues, this bill already passed the House of Representatives, if by the thinnest of margins. Mainstream agriculture is rightfully concerned about the ramifications of this bill due in no small part to the generally accepted notion of this bill as a national energy tax. Costs of all energy products, from household electricity to the diesel and propane farmers use in raising and producing our food, will double or triple over the life of the bill, driving up the cost of food, in addition to almost any other consumer good you might purchase.



So if we put ourselves in the shoes of environmentally minded legislators and “begin with the end in mind,” what long-range goal might we discern? I would suggest that in a roundabout way this bill is about social control. Environmentalists want us to drive smaller cars, but you and I like comfortable American SUV’s. By passing a national energy tax that ensures the cost of driving that SUV will be untenable, legislators and regulators attempt to force you into a hybrid that you neither want, nor would buy of your own volition.



Automobiles aren’t the only consumer products for which this scenario is true, by the way. In short, the Waxman-Markey bill is about pushing more Americans out of the “luxuries” of the middle class and into economic strata requiring more government reliance. Ultimately, government is in the business of being in business. Government neither creates nor builds anything; private enterprise alone can do those critical tasks. Government cannot provide anything it has not already taken from the people; government largesse is simply a redistribution of taxpayer dollars from their original owners to the masses.



For a range of reasonable government expenditures such as defense, food safety, and infrastructure that redistribution is part of the deal. We live in an interdependent society. Man may have been created independent of all other beings, but as dependence forms a more closely knit society based on mutual protection and security, mankind are most happily engaged in social and active life. It’s when that same government extends itself beyond those basic necessities that we see legislation like Waxman-Markey. The powers Congress would like to exercise in passing this bill are neither explicitly granted in the Constitution nor necessary to the exercise of those expressly granted.



And so we arrive back at the original question: what is the end goal? In the case of the federal government, it is to maintain (and I would suggest actually to increase) the power, size, and scope of the federal government. By either increasing the number of roles that government plays in our lives or increasing our individual reliance on the federal government, Washingtonians can rest easy at night knowing their jobs are firmly ensconced in our own inability to say “no.”



I challenge you, when you read the paper, listen to our radio program, or watch the evening news, ask yourself with what end in mind the day’s various newsmakers began. I think you’ll find it an eye-opening exercise.