Huntsman Says Nation & World are at Inflection Point

Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman returned to Utah on Friday and praised Utah’s collaborative approach to problem-solving. Speaking at the Envision Utah Corporate Friends breakfast, Huntsman also said the world is at an inflection point, but public policy is not keeping up. Huntsman was chairman of Envision Utah 20 years ago.

He also told a few jokes: “I saw Gary (Gov. Gary Herbert) talking about weed (medical marijuana). But as a former rock and roll musician I have a conflict of interest on that one.”

Huntsman said he will always be interested in public policy, and is willing to serve, but the atmosphere and timing is probably not right to run for political office.

He said Utah has the ability to work toward “big common goals”. But nationally that doesn’t happen. The nation has no big common goals, and no overarching strategy. People with different politics used to be able to come together, use common sense, and make things work, Huntsman said. Ronald Reagan collaborated with Tip O’Neill to end the Cold War. “We don’t collaborate any more. We haven’t put points on board.” The U.S. has spent itself into a deep hole and is stuck in the Mideast, fighting wars against a backdrop of divisiveness.

And the world is at an inflection point that could be tremendously positive, with many national and world problems solved. “The world is moving at lightning speed,” he said. “This is the day before the renaissance. Potential exists to make lives much better and communities stronger.” Changes in the Digital Age between now and 2050 will be “mind-numbing”. So the challenge, he said, is that science is progressing exponentially. Our minds are progressing linearly. And public policy is proceeding glacially. “We’re not focused on what lies around the bend. We must think ahead, stay ahead, and keep track of global trends.”

America can’t withdraw from the world, said the former Ambassador to China. Congress needs to pass Trade Promotion Authority so the administration can develop trade agreements with countries around the world. Isolationist policies brought the Great Depression, Nazism, and another world war. In the first half of the last century 180 million people were killed in wars. In the second half of the century, when the United States built international institutions around growth and stability, only 20 million people were killed in wars.

Huntsman said U.S. security is based on 1947 thinking, and isn’t well-equipped to deal with digital crimes, terrorism, and non-state actors driving the international agenda.

Dramatic demographic changes are occurring. Utah is a young state in an aging world. Countries are losing population and trying to figure out how to  pay bills with more people aging than young people entering the workforce. “How will we deal with migration patterns, including urbanization, the rise of megacities, and the diminishment of the nation state?” Huntsman asked.

Huntsman said he’s an optimistic, and he believes the future can be bright. But it will require people of good will to come together to solve problems, rather than fight ideological battles.