How did I get here?

And why you might want to stick around!

I've wanted to do this for nearly four decades. It's time.

"This" is leading a discussion about policy, politics, and society on my own terms and (yes) monetizing it enough to earn a reasonable living. Micropayment technology (Patreon, Substack, etc.) make the move possible. But I have to deliver the goods and find the people who want it. I hope you decide to become part of "the people."

This post also is much longer than I wanted, but reading it costs only your time. So thanks for that investment, if you choose to make it.

I'm Rick. I live in Raleigh with my amazing wife Cara, a nurse who works with geriatric, intellectually and developmentally disabled, and dementia clients at an adult day center here. She's made this part of my journey possible by loving me, keeping me sane, and letting us pursue our dreams.

We have pets. The ruler of the roost is Baxter, a senior Rottweiler/Boxer mix about whom you'll learn more eventually. We tend to rescue shelter pets, mainly seniors. But we do occasionally adopt younger ones.

Professionally: Until Friday, I had spent the past 12 (almost) years editing Carolina Journal, the journalism wing of the John Locke Foundation, a North Carolina-focused, free-market think tank. I was responsible for all the editorial content and tone of our major product, a monthly tabloid; our website (updated several times daily); and our social media outlets. I also managed a staff of about a half-dozen folks, made public and outside media appearances, etc.. It kept my journalism career alive. Bigger picture, I know it provided information and analysis that would never come from the state's legacy media. It helped guide, cajole, and often persuade North Carolina decision-makers to do better things or not do worse things.

Before that, I was your basic journalism vagabond, as a reporter, editor, and pundit for daily newspapers in Denver, Las Vegas, and Riverside (Calif.). Edited front page features and did other tasks for Investor's Business Daily. Did business reporting briefly in L.A. And — my first professional job — spent nine great years as a reporter and editor for Reason magazine, splitting time between Southern California and Washington, D.C.

I've fed the family doing this for more than three decades. I'm eternally grateful to the many people who invested in me.

My POV: Somewhat jokingly, I say a radical-incrementalist-liberal-Whig. According to the State Board of Elections, I'm unaffiliated.

Reason's slogan — Free minds, free markets — fits, basically. But I don't check all the "libertarian/Libertarian" boxes. That's the incremental part. I reside more at the intersection of Burke and Hayek than at the Rothbard/Nozick offramp. (IOW, I prefer marginal social change to radical upheaval. Those making the changes should use democratic processes and be transparent and accountable.)

In plainer English: Society and culture have the best chance to flourish when government sticks to its knitting. Government should do what it does competently, accountably, and at the appropriate level for its functions. The federal government largely should stick to defending the civil and economic liberties of all Americans, providing defense, and handling relations with other nations.

State and local governments (and — more importantly — people relying on formal and informal private institutions) should be guardians of the rest. 

Realistically, that ship sailed long ago. But a boy can dream, right? And we can aspire to restore the basic notions of federalism, subsidiarity, localism, and voluntarism in ways appropriate for the 21st century. (Madison and Hamilton never envisioned public charter schools, let alone Uber Eats.)

This won’t be easy. It’ll take time. We’ll see setbacks and pushback.

It’s why I'm stoked to continue pushing that rock up the hill for as long as I'm around. It's why I chose this career and why I think I have more to offer to the cause.

I’m also ready, willing, and able to talk about it, if you agree or you don’t.

I didn’t support Donald Trump. I didn't vote for him. I thought he was temperamentally unsuited to be president. I thought he lacked interest in doing the job, so long as “the job” entailed more than insulting those who failed to back him to the hilt. (Nor did I vote for HRC. Voting isn't a binary choice.)

I had these views in 2015. Events, sadly, vindicated my views.

If you're still reading, thank you. We can argue about the merits of this position another time. All's I can say is, the past four years it was wonderful to work for a group focusing on state rather than federal policy. Didn't have to engage with the nonsense in Washington very often.

But it's time to write my next chapter.

Why now?

I did an idiotic thing in mid-December 2019. It brought me to what I hope is a not-idiotic decision. Our 50+ year-old house needed a new roof. Roofers were coming on a Monday to do their thing. I had put a tarp over a gap hole in the roof. Sunday, I climbed a ladder to take it down before they came. 

D-U-M dumb. They were coming the next day. All I remember is I missed a step on the ladder coming down, fell (fortunately) into a flower bed, and wound up cracking several ribs. Maybe three, maybe seven. And fracturing my right shoulder. I also may have been concussed, but that was the least of my worries.

Later, I overdid things and punctured a lung.

I made two trips to the emergency room, resided a few days in the hospital and spent the better part of nine weeks healing, working from home when I could. Thank the stars this happened before the COVID outbreak.

Recovering from a life-threatening injury concentrates the mind.

My time at CJ was terrific. I've reconnected with my home state in ways I never imagined, especially after The Rocky Mountain News closed and I feared my journalism career was over. 

I've also been at CJ nearly a dozen years. My job grew more administrative than creative. And face it, N.C. politics hasn't really changed much since 2011, when it changed A LOT. (The major positive changes resulted, IMHO, in part to the work done by my former Locke colleagues.)

But it's time to move on. I'm ready to go solo. Explore the issues that motivate me (among them federalism, budgets and taxes, education, property rights, technology, and weird pop culture) inside and outside the Tar Heel State. Itchy feet and whatnot. 

Why you should subscribe

I’ve collected nearly four decades of knowledge and experience from across the country. A lot of contacts, the many smart, innovative, driven people I've met. Some famous. Some seemingly ordinary. All of them special.

I've also been told I do the words thing OK.

Importantly (to me), I want to turn down the temperature of discourse, if it's possible. My tenure at CJ opened with the first Tea Party rallies and the investigation (and eventual conviction) of Gov. Mike Easley. It ended with an assault on the U.S. Capitol and the announcement of a second impeachment trial for Donald Trump. 

In between, a lot happened too. All along, we — people active in politics and communications — got angrier and noisier. I'm a guilty party. (Check my Twitter feed over the past decade.)

I'm ready to be less hostile, a bit quieter, but no less passionate. I hope to engage without insulting, challenge without fighting. Listen, learn, maybe persuade.

I want to feel good about myself at the end of each day. Elevate the level of discourse, at least among the people who pay attention to my little sandbox. Make my wife, family, and friends happy to hang out with me.

Let me quote a guy (sorta) from Scranton, Pennsylvania — where my wife spent part of her childhood.

Politics doesn’t have to be a raging fire destroying everything in its path. Every disagreement doesn’t have to be a cause for total war. And we must reject the culture in which facts themselves are manipulated and even manufactured. 

Endorsed. 1,000%. 

Yes, that's from our 46th president, Joe Biden. I'm also 1,000% confident his administration will attempt to do incredible damage to America's failing fiscal health. Unless he's able to rein in the worst elements of the cultural left in his coalition, we'll spend another four years arguing over issues that should largely be matters of personal responsibility rather than government policy.

But Biden is offering, rhetorically, a chance to chill out. Don't know if it will happen, or how serious he and those around him are about that. We can't survive as a civil democratic republic if we're at each other's throats every time some radio or TV gabber gets out of sorts. 

America — and North Carolina — needs a spell of what the great Jonah Goldberg urged recently

Let democracy work by letting people argue — peacefully and hopefully civilly. Let democracy work by letting different communities arrange their lives in ways that work for them. Let democracy, which is about honest disagreement and not manufactured or imposed agreement from above, work.

Right.

Jonah also has been making an argument that the center of American politics may not be ideological as much as it’s temperamental. People who don’t obsess over tweets but care about policy and how it affects the people around them. And who see people who honestly come to different conclusions as fellow human beings, not monsters who wants to chew your face off.

By the way, the publication Jonah founded with Steve Hayes — The Dispatch — provides the model for the discourse I hope to promote. It's terrific, paid membership is worth every penny, and I hope I can contribute there every now and again. Plus other places.

I'd rather you throw a few bucks my way first, though! Gotta pay the rent, etc.

What do you get?

I'll produce at least three posts (newsletters, blogs, whatever you want to call them) weekly. One will have a strong North Carolina or local focus. The others ... who knows? Whatever I consider important — especially topics or angles that may be unfamiliar. You’ll see original reporting. I'll call it the way I see it.

There'll be free stuff. Most of it may be free. You don't have to pay to subscribe. But you'll get everything if you do. I may choose to add features for the paid members. I've tossed around the idea of a brief, daily solo podcast, an audio op-ed, if you will. I'm open to suggestions.

Consider subscribing. Tell a friend. Buy a gift subscription. Become a high-level muckety-muck supporter.

Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, Instagram. Reach out by email: the.deregulator@yahoo.com.

Thanks for your patience. Let’s roll!

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