The crisis our nation presently faces does not stem from COVID-19 alone. That was the match. The kindling was that we have forgotten for decades that “national development” both (a) is perpetual, and (b) requires national action to guide it, facilitate it, and keep it inclusive.

Hamilton and Gallatin, Wilson and Hoover and Roosevelt all understood this and built institutions to operationalize it. Although the institutions were imperfectly operated, they were soundly conceived and designed. Abandoning these truths and institutions these past fifty years has degenerated not only our public health but also our nation’s industrial and infrastructural muscle to a critical point. The same now increasingly holds for our social fabric.

Full national regeneration—Reconstruction in both the post-Civil War and the mid-20th century senses of the word—has thus become a matter of urgent, even existential, necessity. Continuous national development, in the perpetual renewal sense of the phrase, must follow that Reconstruction. This is what “Building Back Better” must mean. Key to any such national project is how it is organized and then orchestrated.

This paper proposes means of both organizing and orchestrating. These means are simultaneously incrementalist in their reliance upon existing institutions, while also regenerative in enabling new synergies among those same institutions—much as our Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) is meant to enable our post-Lehman financial regulators to develop. An FSOC for national reconstruction and development will better use what we already have and augment it with a financing arm linked to the Federal Reserve and the Treasury.

I call the resulting synthesis a National Reconstruction and Development Council (NRDC) and National Investment Council (NIC), which will both rebuild capacity now, and perpetually renew such capacity going forward, as knowledge and technology progress as they always do. Building Back Better means Building Back Now and Forever.