Modest Proposals for the New Year (That Just Might Make the World a Better Place)

Just imagine how much better life would be if we all worked on these 11 simple things. Can you think of any good reason not to?

A New Year’s resolution, the old saying goes, is something that goes in one year and out the other.

I’m as guilty as anybody when it comes to overly-ambitious resolutions. I’ve broken enough of them that maybe I should just say “Happy New Year!” and leave it at that. But I think there’s value in aspiration. The late advertising executive Leo Burnett put it famously well when he said, “If you reach for the stars, you may not always get one, but you won’t come up with a handful of mud either.”

Benjamin Franklin offered perhaps the best advice for a new year anybody ever gave: “Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.” Or woman, of course.

I’ve come up with a few of my own personal resolutions, but I’d like to propose some for all of us. We can make our respective neighborhoods and countries even better ones if each of us takes them to heart. For this new year, let’s resolve:

  1. To criticize less and encourage more. A kind word usually goes much further than a harsh or hasty judgment. We could all get by with less negativity.
  2. To count our own blessings, not the other guy’s, and do it regularly. Studies show that cultivating a grateful spirit improves both your mental and physical health.
  3. To improve our personal character—our truthfulness, patience, courage, honesty, responsibility, self-reliance, and introspection—before we set out to reform the world. If everybody did this, the world would by definition be reformed.
  4. To clean up our language, especially in front of youngsters. Foul language, ever more common and public these days, sets a lousy standard.
  5. To help others who need and deserve it by personally pitching in or by supporting private organizations that do the job well (like The Salvation Army). You’ll likely accomplish more good than by passing the buck and just voting for politicians who say they’ll do it with other people’s money.
  6. To read one or more good biographies of people who were (or still are) excellent examples of the virtuous life. Inspire yourself by learning of their accomplishments. Email me if you’d like a list of some especially good ones.
  7. To go out of our way to show kindness to a pet. Also, teach your children about the importance of kindness to animals. It’s a great start on the way to respecting all life, including that of our fellow humans.
  8. To smile. A lot. A lot more than comedian W. C. Fields once advised when he said, “Start every day with a smile and get it over with.”
  9. To beautify something that otherwise gets ignored. Examples: buff the sidewalk in front of our homes; pick up some litter on our streets; replace that unsightly, aged mulch, or paint the faded siding on our houses.
  10. To get to know our neighbors better. How many of us don’t actually know the folks who live two or three doors away? Go say hello.
  11. Commit now to acquainting at least one person a month with the philosophy of liberty. Choose people you have reason to believe have not heard the message before. Put careful thought into encouraging them to read an article or two, a book, or come to a FEE event. This is how we win the future—as missionaries for liberty, not cloistered monks, as I explained in this article.

That’s a start, anyway. Just imagine how much better life would be if we all worked on these 11 simple things. Can you think of any good reason not to?

From all of us at FEE to all of you who visit our website and share it with friends, all of you who attend FEE programs and support our work: we thank you and wish you the Happiest of New Years!

More by Lawrence W. Reed

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