The Yin & Yang of Public Policy: Can We Achieve Balance?

The Yin and Yang mosaic
The Yin and Yang.
The Yin and Yang mosaic
The Yin and Yang.

On one hand, the news media often tells us that we are a country divided. Social media fuels this idea with countless stories of political and ideological intransigence despite mounting societal needs.

On the other hand, the news media also often tells us how much the general population agrees on certain topics. For example, although Congressional Republicans have been working for seven years to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA or “Obamacare”) and return to the glory days of market-driven health insurance, polls show an increasing majority of Americans “believe the federal government has a responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.”

An Associated Press story published today reported that “Americans overwhelmingly want lawmakers of both parties to work out health-care changes, with only 13 percent supporting Republican moves to repeal ‘Obamacare’ absent a replacement.”

“Nearly everyone wants changes to the Obama law, while hardly anyone wants to see it abolished without a substitute in place,” according to the AP. If 80-90% of Americans think Republicans and Democrats should work together on healthcare insurance reform, why not do this? Why the complete disconnect between what the people want, what’s good for the health of the population, and what the Republicans in Congress are doing?

Elysium meme
An old meme from 2014 refers to the movie Elysium, where Matt Damon and others are doomed to live on Earth with no workplace safety, no health insurance and squalid conditions, while the rich live on a floating space station (Elysium) with luxuries including a machine that heals disease.

Are unbalanced public policies that favor the rich and big corporations over the needs of the public the reason our country is so divided? Think about it. “Think tanks,” special interest groups, and lobbyists control much of the legislation that goes through the Arizona Legislature (and most likely the Congress). In 2017, many of bills that we heard in the House were designed to benefit one corporation OR just handful of them OR to push an ideological agenda against the will of the people. If special interest groups are writing our laws, no wonder so many laws ignore ignore the public good.

When Senate Republicans failed to pass their mean-spirited repeal and replace bill this week, President Trump chided them and ordered them to “just repeal it!” Really? Repeal with no clue? The Republican Party is poised to throw 20-30 million Americans’ lives into chaos by taking away their health care insurance– just to fulfill a campaign promise. Who does this serve? Obviously not the people. No one wants the return of pre-existing conditions, gender-based price discrimination, widespread medical bankruptcy, price disincentives for preventive screening, or health insurance plans that don’t cover much.

Recently, I have been inspired by Unitarian Universalist philosopher Rev. Rosemarie Carnarius‘ book “Envisioning a New World”. In it, she applies the Taoist concept of balancing the yin and yang to public policy.  The Arizona Daily Star recently published my guest opinion on balanced public policy: “In Politics, Individual Liberty Has Been Promoted Over Social Responsibility.” 

Carnarius proposes consciously balancing yin (responsibility) and yang (liberty) in public policy. If you look at school choice, gun control, banking, and the ACA repeal plans through the prism of liberty versus responsibility, it is obvious that individual liberty is being promoted over the social responsibility and the common good. Other policies like abortion restrictions, voter suppression, or jail for minor drug offenses go the other way; individual liberty is subservient.

The Star editorial focused primarily on health insurance reform, but I will be expanding on the balanced public policy theme in two nonpartisan lay sermons on “Balancing Responsibility and Liberty: the Yin and Yang of Public Policy” at Unitarian Universalist churches this month. Here are the Facebook events.

July 23: Mountain Vista Unitarian Universalist Church, which is temporarily meeting at Green Fields Country Day School. Service starts at 10:30.

July 30: Unitarian Universalist Church of Tucson on 22nd St. Service starts at 10:30.

If your group would like me to speak on this or other legislative topics, contact me through the Arizona House  or Facebook or send me a Facebook Messenger note.

To stay up-to-date, consider signing up for my mailing list or following my blog here.



  1. republicans believe in lowering rich peoples even at the expense of peoples lives. remember the access refusal of funding deaths? I do. I also remember when arizona was the only state without medicade and children were on television and on glass jars in stores begging for their lives. the corporate establishment funds the clinton wing of the democratic party so they can control the bernie sanders wing. another reason I voted for jill stein over clinton. (but not the only reason)

  2. One party believes in higher taxes always, the other believes in lower taxes always. The compromise is to work on the effectiveness of what is already being levied so that more is being done with less – meeting both objectives.

    So, let’s look at what is being controlled by democrats – the city of tucson, phoenix and the Tucson Unified School district. These are all three very expensive entities – no shortage of taxes anywhere. For forty years, 12 to 16% of Phoenix citizens have rated the quality of Phoenix City Government excellent. That’s, at best, a mediocre number.

    Tucson is even worse. The National Research Council did a measure a few years ago, 7% of Tucson residents rated their neighborhood an excellent place to raise a child.

    Do we even want to start a discussion about the chaotic mess called the Tucson Unified School district?

    Improving outcomes for government organizations, be they school districts, cities or state agencies, is hard, hard work. It requires that you know the science of management and that you relentlessly apply it; that you give up your personal identity to act as policy making team and that you support your people.

  3. The party out of power always has an epiphany and concludeds that compromise and collaboration are needed because being out of power makes that their only hope for some victories. The party in power rejects compromise because they have a voter mandate to rule their way. When their roles reverse, their positions do too.

    In addition, why would Republicans want to collaborate with you when you accuse us of favoring the rich and corporations and being controlled by think tanks, special interest groups and lobbyists? Do you make nice with people who insult you?

    And regarding ying and yang, what yang concessions are you willing to give up on abortion, guns, voting regulation and criminal justice? Would you vote to ban partial birth abortion for some choice gains? Would you be OK with more vouchers in return for more school funding? How about voting for CCW permit holders having guns in public buildings in return for gun show background checks?

    I would be interested in how far you would go in collaboration.

    • We don’t “accuse” you of anything. We just point it out.

      Have you or anyone you know every submitted legislation originally created by ALEC? And who funds ALEC?

      Is ALEC a local group? No you say?

      Have you or any governors you know been supported with money from the Koch brothers? What do billionaires from Kansas have to do with Arizona’s needs? Aren’t they buying Arizona’s votes for themselves?

      Have you ever over-ridden local laws with state laws? Were there hundreds of your constituents demanding plastic grocery bags, for example?

      And where were the screaming voters demanding that our Internet Service Providers be allowed to collect our personal data and the data of our children?

      And my personal favorite, have you ever given the GEO group 900k of my tax money because, what were your words? “They weren’t going to make ‘enough’ profit”?

      You kinda’ vote like you care more about out of state corporations than you do about the people who actually live here.

      And FYI, the party in power, the GOP, running 30 states and the federal government for the last 7 years, and now in full control of the federal government, whining about mean Dems is pathetic.

      You run everything, stop whining, it’s embarrassing to watch.

      • It must be very comfortable living in you black and white world constructed with spun facts.

        • What did I spin?

          I think America has about had it with conservatives shouting “fake news” and never addressing the real questions.

          After awhile the tactic becomes transparent.

          What did I spin?

          • What did you spin?

            Conservatives go to ALEC to make government more effective. Liberals go to Council of State Government to see how to make government bigger.

            We aren’t whining about “mean” Dems. We are just pointing out competency issues.

            Funding? Hillary and company raised $1.1 billion by raising extortion to a fine art. The most corrupt candidate in history.

            The National Research Center did three City polls in Arizona. Scottsdale, Chandler and Tucson. As a part of that poll, they had the respondents rate state government – Arizona state government ranked 4th in the nation in customer satisfaction.

            The Joint Legislative Budget Committee compared all 50 states, Arizona state government ranked 48 in cost per citizen.

            You don’t get more cost effective than that.

            How about we talk about Tucson and Tucson Unified School district?

  4. in polls most people agree on the common good. but that is not how they vote! tom hartman before 1480am went off the air had a laundry list of things most people agree on. election after election they voted the other way. this is because the things voters don’t agree with YOU on is more important to them. four states tried to explain that to democrats in 2016 iowa, pennsylvania, michigan, wisconsin and almost minnesota.

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