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self-defeating

I’m baffled by the shortsightedness of those who seek profit at the expense of the middle class and poor. I don’t understand how it’s so attractive to have more and more of less and less rather than a steady, but small piece, of something that’s healthy and growing.

Or maybe I do understand that: Perhaps it’s as basic as a maligned focus on the short term vs. the long term.

Maximum profit with the fewest jobs

What fascinates me is the seemingly obvious logical conclusion to paying people less and less money to do the same or more work, i.e. the destruction of our union. It’s simply not sustainable.

It seems obvious to me that healthy, productive families are what make America great. They are what produce exceptional people. Not the schools, not the cool technology. None of that. It’s stable, comfortable families that have enough ground under their feet to look ahead to new challenges, or up to the sky.

American thriving sits atop the family, and family thriving sits atop good jobs. To the extent that we destroy high-paying and stable jobs, we attack the family directly. And by extension we attack the very health and vibrance of America.

Trending in the wrong direction

But right now we’re abandoning the American family in the form of abandoning solid, high-paying jobs. And why are we doing that? Because those at the very top can make far more money if they pay American workers less money.

So they will destroy our foundations in order to make a short burning fire that helps only them. It’s sickening to watch. But even more hideous is watching those writhing on the ground after being hamstrung give praise to their assailants.

One path forward

There is but one path forward. Well, only one practical one, for the immediate future. And that is to establish the American job, and the American wage, as primary.

People working a full-time job should make enough money to have healthcare, raise children, pay for their education, go to the movies, to go Disneyland, etc. Jobs that don’t provide this just may be unAmerican.

A job that pays enough to do these things is the epitome of national infrastructure. It’s a bridge and a road and a school all combined into one. It’s a backbone. It’s a soul.

The soul of a nation.

In no ambiguous way, we have sacrificed that soul on a ritual table of corporate profit and greed. And we will suffer greatly for it. We already are, but it may just cost us everything.

Forget the concept of a “living wage”.

One job for one family. That’s the goal. The obvious minimum. One family member works, and the other doesn’t. They stay home and help the children.

What we lose in profitability of our businesses comes back manyfold in the returns from those workers. Workers imbued and energized by the sustenance of a healthy family, and a healthy country.

More than anything, watch for this. Watch for how this crucial foundation is attacked in the form of lower wages, fewer benefits, and disappearing stability in the American workplace.

It’s disguised as efficiency, as a way to make more profit. But the question must be asked: If those profits aren’t coming to the families that are America, then is it really profit? Is it not just hollow coin for those who matter most?

American corporations are seeing their profits accelerate while our country’s soul begins to fade and flicker out. I only hope we can see these are related before it’s too late.

13.10.15-Square_Cash

So if you needed evidence that “free” markets, and lobbying, and the conservative right were a bad mix, your search has ended. Earlier this week Chris Christie moved to keep Tesla out of New Jersey, essentially because of lobbying by the car dealerships.

And the same thing is true in Texas as well. Here you have two Republican figureheads—Chris Christie, and, um, Texas—and they’re the ones saying no to free market competition.

Why?

Money. The car dealerships have a racket. No, they are one. It’s basically a monopoly where they get to overcharge and generally put people over barrels (mostly the customer), and they don’t want it to end.

Along comes a company that sells directly to customers, makes the experience more pleasant, removes the pressure, etc., and the old guard comes in to force (through payoffs) the law to do what they want.

That’s some seriously old-world shit right there. Straight mafia.

And isn’t that supposed to be the big government guys who are stopping innovators from progress? Aren’t the Republicans supposed to be all about open markets and innovation and such?

Yeah, guess not. Not when people also have the “freedom” to bribe the shit out of everyone who matters. That’s not freedom, that’s an oligarchy based on who has the money and access to the legislators.

Get used to it

It’s not a new story.

  • Amazon blew up the bookstores
  • Netflix is blowing up content distribution
  • iTunes took out the record stores/companies
  • Uber is taking out the cab companies

What’s the secret ingredient here? Removing the middle man. Removing the old guard who get paid too much to do too little.

What’s fascinating to me is that in most cases I can think of, it’s the Republicans who are fighting the innovation. Who’s fighting Tesla? Chris Christie, Texas, North Carolina. Lots of old people with money who use it to stifle progress.

The irony is thick here. It’s government (typically not known for innovation) that’s needed here to keep the pro-innovation Republicans from preventing progress.

I’d love to see more data on it. I’d like to see all the various situations where innovation is being prevented, find the people who are funding the lobbying to prevent the innovation, and then determine based on their other “donations” where they lean politically.

I’m guessing it’s mostly Republican. They loves them some money.

Notes

  1. Yes, yes, I know. Not every “free market” advocate is like this. Completely agreed. But it looks really bad when your figureheads (like Texas) are the ones causing the problems.

Screen Shot 2014-02-22 at 9.04.42 AM

Here in the United States we have a problem with our Internet speeds. I’m not an expert on this, but I think I may know the reason(s).

  • Countries that have extremely fast, cheap, and accessible Internet have made it a national priority to do so. They don’t listen to companies who think they can make more money by keeping speeds down and prices up.

  • In the United States there’s virtually no competition causing the big companies to raise their speeds and/or lower their prices.

So the question of a solution to the problem here seems straightforward: Either

  1. Have the government force companies to hit some sort of national standard for the purpose of making the United States look good to others, or
  2. Have the government incentivize and otherwise enable other companies to enter the market and compete against the big boys

Now, this raises the critical question: Who’s fault is the current lack of competition?

People on the right tend to say that government enabled Comcast to take over the industry. People on the left tend to say that something being natural (i.e. without intervention) doesn’t make it right, i.e. that it’s natural for large companies to become even more effective and crushing competitors.

In my opinion the problem is fetishizing the free market. We need to take that off the mantle and replace it with the desired outcomes.

  • We want faster speeds at lower prices
  • We want more competition in the marketplace
  • Etc.

We currently can’t get good download speeds. And now they’re throttling Netflix. Why? All in the name of money and profit.

The answer seems clear: We need to incentivize more companies to enter the market, and we should also consider requiring (via the government) to provide a certain minimum of service speed and maximum of price.

These seem evil and overbearing to many on the right, which is ironic since it’s their Republican leadership who is voting against net neutrality and other initiatives that would improve competition.

It’s cognitive dissonance at full strength.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 9.06.38 AM

I think the most devastating thing that could happen to the Republican party is for the American people to learn what they’re trying to accomplish. Here’s what someone on the left could say in coming elections:

Ok, so let’s explore what our country would look like with the Republicans in power. Let’s go down the line…

Read the rest of this entry »

Libertarians_Love_Freedom_sticker

Conservative, so-called “Libertarian” types love talking about being for personal responsibility and freedom, but so many seem to hate actually doing it.

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image from bastardsofistanbul

I’ve been watching the minimum wage debate from a distance without having an opinion. That was until tonight when I listened to the Intelligence Squared debate on the topic, and I can now at least frame the discussion.

The arguments for the minimum wage

There are a few basic arguments for the minimum wage:

  1. The many people on it need more money than they already make, so if you remove the minimum wage that amount they’re getting will drop even lower
  2. Businesses are willing to screw people over massively, and if there weren’t laws against it they’d be paying people VERY little, and they’d have a massive sword hanging over every worker saying, “I can replace you with someone making $1.00/hour, so you better cancel that vacation.”

In brief, it’s empowerment of the business over the worker, and that power would likely be used in a highly negative way.

The arguments against the minimum wage

  1. While it’s true wages might come down a bit if the minimum wage were removed, it’s also true that many more people would be able to enter the work force
  2. Basically, employers would like to hire more people, but because the minimum wage is so high they can’t afford to
  3. This means that there are millions of people making ZERO money instead of SOME money, and it also means that those people outside of the workforce are not learning valuable job skills that can help them earn (i.e. be WORTH) more in the future

What does the data say?

Ideally we’d just look at the data to see which is more true. But the problem (surprise surprise) is that the data are in conflict. Many studies support one side, and many support the other side.

So it’s a wash right now—or at least as far as I can tell as a non-expert.

So where does that leave us?

My analysis of the main trend

I think both arguments above are strong. They both have their merits, and I’d really enjoy having some conclusive data to steer the conversation, but since I don’t I’ll try to intelligently wing it. Here’s what I see:

  • Computers and automation are taking the jobs of the unskilled, so the value of human unskilled work will continue to fall
  • This means that if a minimum wage is kept in place (or raised) it will continue to produce a gap between what that human is TRULY worth to the company and what they have to pay. In other words, companies will be increasingly paying far too much for human labor, since it’ll become cheaper and cheaper to use automation
  • Add onto this the fact that our population is rising while education is declining, meaning there will be MORE unskilled workers who need jobs
  • This will push the natural wage that an employer would have to pay even lower
  • These wages are not enough for people to live on—much less raise a family on. This is especially true when they’re supposed to be saving for retirement, educating their children, having vacations every once in a while, etc.

So there’s a massive gap forming between employers and employees. We must remember that having human workers is HORRIBLE for a business. They’re expensive as hell. They get sick. They sue you. You have to pay for their insurance. Etc.

It’s a mess.

But in coming years there will be more and more opportunity to simply not hire people for low-skill work. There will be better computers, more robots, and less need for human workers at all. And those low-skill workers that you do need to hire will be competing with MILLIONS of others, so you can pay them jack shit.

Yay.

Major victory…I think. Good for profits anyway. And that’s good for America. I think. Although I guess I’m a bit unclear about how that’s going to help America, since the economy is based on people buying things, and fewer and fewer people will have any money to do that.

Not only that, but the more people completely out of work the more people we’ll have in our jails, and in our emergency rooms, and on welfare.

I feel like we as a society are going to pay one way or the other: Either we require companies to pay living wages that lead to healthy and prosperous American families, or we’re going to pay to support those same people once they become the poor and crime-ridden.

Our choice, really.

And I’m not being snarky here. I don’t much like the idea of paying people to do work that a computer can do. Or paying people to do work that there are 20 people willing to do for a quarter of the price.

I think it’s unhealthy as well. It’s damn sure not natural. But either is public school or the fire department. In nature you learn yourself up and put out your own fires. Happily, we’re not animals.

Anyway, I don’t see an easy solution. The real truth here is that we have too many people, and we just don’t need them. The number of jobs in the world are about to plummet massively, and this is happening at the exact same time that we’re reproducing like we’re trying to survive in Africa 200,000 years ago.

So I think the whole debate is a bit silly. It’s like debating the size of a bandaid for a splinter when you’ve just caught on fire.

Our problem is that we are not even talking about population control, resources scarcity, lack of education, and the overwhelming influence that technology and automation will have on the number of jobs available.

Those are the things that are making human labor a horrible proposition for companies, and raising the minimum wage is an artificial solution that may be the best way forward, but if that’s true it’s only the best of a bunch of bad choices.

The actual solution

The real solution is to do the following:

  1. Acknowledge population control as our #1 priority
  2. Accept it as society’s responsibility to educate everyone
  3. Figure out how to pay everyone a living wage, regardless of whether they work or not (right-wingers, please see Milton Freeman)
  4. Remove growth and profit as the primary metrics of success in human civilization, and move it to happiness and creativity. Start measuring those instead

More tangibly, we have to say to the American people, as the American people, that the happiness of the middle class is the new top priority. And that means removing power from the big corporations and providing everyone the chance for an ideal American lifestyle.

Only then will we have any hope.

Right now our current path is the following:

  1. More people out of work (fired because they cut into profits)
  2. More people uneducated (education is a for-profit business)
  3. More automation replacing jobs (increases business profits)
  4. More people without jobs, in jail, on welfare, committing suicide (or homicide)
  5. A massive rise in crime and unrest due to a highly segmented dystopia of the highly successful and the unemployed and poor
  6. More highly polarizing politics saying either 1) take from the rich and give to the poor (wrong), or the poor are stupid and lazy and don’t deserve anything (wrong)
  7. People will get on one of those two trains and ride them all the way to America’s destruction

Great, now I’m depressed.

Let me sumarize: We better learn, real quick, that the goal isn’t profit—it’s the happiness of the American family. And that means remembering the basics.

Notes

  1. If you’re not partaking of Intelligence Squared yet, you should get to it. I’ve been saying for years that they’re brilliant.

securitylock

People have good reason to be upset with our government about the NSA. I’m one of those people, and the list of sharp sicks in the American eye are equally obvious and repulsive.

But we’re not having the whole conversation.

We’re only having the obvious part—the easy part. If someone comes up to you and says,

Gee, I think it’s bad when the government does things that violate the American spirit and trust…

What do you say to that other than, “Duh.” Back to the kids table for you. That isn’t substantive. It does nothing. Especially since most of the people creating these vapid word combinations don’t even know who their congressperson is. They talk about “the problem” with pseudo-authority without realizing that by failing to participate in their democracy they actually ARE the problem.

But whatever. That’s another essay.

My issue here is that there are ACTUAL security problems in this country that require powerful surveillance programs to combat.

Read that again.

I’m a pro-privacy and anti-government-abuse person, against the NSA behavior, who thinks we need major surveillance/security programs to help our security in the U.S.

These two things are not mutually exclusive. Or, at least, they don’t have to be.

The need for security

Most people don’t know how much danger our country is in day today. They’re unaware that some terror group spending $2,000 to set of homemade bombs in 10 malls would cause mass hysteria in this country, and probably hurt our economy to the degree of BILLIONS of dollars.

One thousand dollars to do this damage.

And that’s not anything really dangerous (other than to the economy and unemployment and all that livelihood stuff). No, the real dangerous stuff, which is without question being worked on, is stuff like small nuclear devices, dirty bombs, chemical attacks, and maybe even bio.

This isn’t “Oh my god what if!?” No, stuff is:

  1. Natural, logical anticipation of tactics that are fully approachable given today’s technology, and
  2. Likely to be actively pursued by MULTIPLE groups given their own repeatedly and clearly articulated goals

Ignoring these threats isn’t something you do because you’re smart and you’re seeing through our government scare tactics (unfortunately those two look rather the same), it’s something you do when you’re not educated about the dedication, training, and poisonous belief systems of those actually planning to launch these types of attacks.

It’s real, in other words. People are actually trying to do these things.

So, that is where we start.

We now know two things:

  1. The NSA have horribly violated our trust by spying on Americans in a way that’s, well…anti-American and largely opaque to oversight. That’s bad.
  2. There are groups out there who are legitimately trying to kill millions of Americans, on our soil, which will destroy our economy (and basically our country) for 1-2 decades. That’s bad.

A better conversation

So what do we do with this information?

For one, we don’t ignore the problems at the NSA. That’s clear enough. But we also don’t pretend the threat from #2 isn’t real. That’s equally dumb.

What we need to do is change the conversation about the NSA away from THIS SHOULD NOT BE DONE, into:

  • Your program lacks transparency, control, and oversight
  • Your program is INEFFECTIVE

If we’re going to address the REAL threats to our country, we can’t do it through an ineffective program. A program that turns into an Orwellian internal watcher group, or some sort of corporate intelligence apparatus, instead of keeping the purpose in focus.

That’s unacceptable.

The conversation needs to be around the ineffectiveness of the program, and the fact that there isn’t enough oversight and transparency.

But stop doing the analysis? Stop doing the surveillance? When our country is no-doubt full of people waiting to strike?

Suicide. Literally.

And nobody is more pleased right now at the government mishandling of these programs than the actual people who want to hurt us. The NSA basically neutered themselves by changing the conversation away from any GOOD goals they had towards the OBVIOUSLY POOR handling of their program.

So what needs to actually happen? Tangibly?

First, the narrative needs to change to include the actual threat. Then we need to switch the focus on the NSA from evil to incompetence. If there is evil there then it should be removed as well, but I tend to doubt the evil aspect is nearly as prevalent as the waste and lack of focus.

We need a new statement to be made, by someone new, who hasn’t already ruined their reputation. Here’s what I would say:

We messed up. We wasted your trust. We’re fixing it. We’re doing x, y, and z to give you far more visibility into what we do. And our focus is absolutely NOT your personal lives, your affairs, your finances, or anything like that. It’s true that we can sometimes see that stuff, and we apologize for ever pretending that wasn’t true. But that is NOT our focus. Our focus is on the people inside of our country that wish to harm us. They are there. We don’t like to talk about it because it’s unpleasant, and we want you to carry on without worry, but there are likely hundreds or thousands of people in our country who would like nothing more than to destroy the United States forever. They’d like to destroy a city, kill millions of people, etc. And they will try to do this. We intend to stop them. But we can’t do so by lying to the American people. By spying on ourselves (we’re American too) and looking into political affiliations and corporate information and personal preferences, etc. That’s illegal, it’s immoral, it’s anti-American, and it should not be tolerated. We outright apologize for it, and I am fixing it. Simultaneously, we are refocusing our efforts on the actual enemy, so they should know that America just became much harder to attack. I thank you for this gut-check. It’s something America needed, and we’re better for it.

I wrote that in 90 seconds, so you’d have to clean it up, but that’s what needs to be said.

In sum, ignoring the violations is not acceptable, but neither is ignoring the threats that these organizations are there to combat. We can, and must, address both.

Jesus-beggar-280-245x300

The richest 85 people in the world now have equal wealth to that of the bottom 3.5 billion.

Seems fair.

What got me thinking, though, was how religious conservatives tend to be the most comfortable with this. They say things like,

Well, if they’re creating the value…

Sure, and by that rationale we can keep going. Why shouldn’t the richest man in the world make as much as the other 7 billion? Walk your theories to their conclusions.

I’m struck by Matthew 19:16-24:

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 8.48.08 AM

Seems rather unambiguous. Let me help:

I tell you the truth, it is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. ~ Jesus, Matthew 19:23

But I have religious conservative friends that I regularly talk to who have all sorts of jujitsu to get out this kind of stuff.

Well, you don’t know how to read the bible. He was actually talking within context there, which meant, in that time, Phonecian camel urine. He wasn’t talking about money wealth! Silly secular person. Jesus actually loved rich people. Here, let me find some other quotes for you…

Fair point, sir. I stand corrected. I guess it’s my fault for even bringing it up.

Anyway, my point is simple: Those who should be most angry about income and wealth disparity should be those following a man from heaven who said you should give your possessions away and help the poor.

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. ~ Jesus, Matthew 23:27

This seems obvious to me. But instead the supposedly1 religious conservatives are the licensed and flag-waving proponents of this disparity.

How far are they taking it? Here are three ways from recent conservative politics:

  1. The religious conservative republicans just voted to stop unemployment benefits to millions of people (and their children)
  2. They’re fighting relentlessly to keep those who ARE working from a living wage
  3. And now, after crushing a bunch of unions that are there to prevent this type of abuse, Wisconsin republicans are proposing a 7-day work week.

I’m no New Testament scholar, but I think Jesus would be pissed.

Notes

  1. I say “supposedly” because I think there is a brand of religious conservatism that, quite apart from religious claims of the supernatural, is internally consistent (and moral) with regards to how it treats the poor and otherwise less fortunate. In other words, I don’t think that “religious conservatism” means “wrong” on this point. I think it’s quite possible to have moral views on this issue that come from religion. The problem is that the current flag bearers of religious politics are doing precisely the opposite.

.01% vs. 38%

January 14th, 2014 | Politics | Science

See that black sliver? That represents the percentage of scientists who have concluded that climate change is not manmade, or is not happening at all, over the last two years. ~ vice.com.

So how many scientists deny global warming?

.01%

So that’s not 10% who disagree. That would be a 90% majority in favor of global warming.

But no. It’s not even TEN TIMES less than that, which would be 1%. That would be a truly tiny number.

And it’s not ten times less than that, which would be .1%.

No, it’s ten times less than that, at .01%

But Republicans in congress? Almost 40%.

Shame and ridicule. That’s what these people need. Shame and ridicule.

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A conservative (free markets and such) friend and I were having a private conversation about healthcare when he asked why there was so much waste in our healthcare system, i.e. why was the cost of actual care so low compared to how much we spend.

Here’s my answer, edited for clarity:

The waste you’re alluding to is caused by the injection of greed and profit into the system. There are thousands of “medical” companies that do nothing but figure out how to charge the absolute most for their products or services. What else would a business do?

Essentially, the goal of high quality healthcare at a low cost is not in harmony with a free market approach for the simple reason that the incentives are not aligned. Businesses are there to make money, and if they make MORE money by charging way too much for services, then that’s exactly what will happen.

Case in point: we pay far more for healthcare in this country and have worse outcomes. The problem with healthcare in the US is simply that it’s being destroyed by parasitic profit seekers. Doctors. Hospitals. Companies. They see medicine as a way to make money, and they act accordingly.

Profit and core services should be mixed extremely carefully, and in very small amounts.

He then goes on to say that he doesn’t agree with people being told what to do, in virtually any form. My response to that was:

Here’s a remarkable secret: people don’t magically become educated and wise when they turn 18.

If kids want to play in the street at age 17, and adults are allowed to tell them not to, then what REALLY changed when they turn 18 and want to spend all their money on lottery tickets instead of education for their children?

Your position of assuming that all adults are equally capable of making good decisions, and therefore need no guidance, is simply and fundamentally flawed. It is a fiction.

Once one realizes this it becomes abundantly clear that helping others through policy is not just acceptable, but a morally self-imposed requirement.

One should not sit back and watch the ignorant flounder in their own misery. We should try to help them.

stethescope

Conservatives are known for their belief that free markets are the answer to all problems—including those like healthcare. The idea is elegant: you have a problem and you unleash the free market upon it. Companies will compete, and you’ll have the best outcomes. Done and done.

It’s been intuitive to me that there is an inexorable conflict here, but it’s important to isolate and call it out explicitly. The issue is that these free market companies are designed to make money, not to provide the best services, and the mistake made by the free market religionists is believing that these are the same.

Healthcare is a demonstrative case in point. Quite simply, the so-called “healthcare” companies are all “profit” companies first—they simply have a healthcare theme. If ACMEHealth can make more money by providing worse care, they will do so. And so will all their competitors.

“That’s why there’s choice…”

The rebuttal made by free market believers is that in situations where companies are putting profit before outcomes, competitors will surface that provide better services, and consumers will have the option to reward those companies with their business (assuming government doesn’t get in their way).

This is fantasy.

This unicorn company they’re referring to will face one of three obstacles:

  1. They will not survive because they can’t make enough money providing the healthcare that the people require
  2. The now-established industry will leverage powerful corporate lawyers and lobbyists to attack the newcomer and ensure they cannot survive
  3. The naive company will replace its idealists with realists, i.e. those willing to cut services to make more money, and will over time become just like the others

The gravest threat is #1—it might be bad business to provide the healthcare that people actually need.

Well…there’s your problem.

This is the fundamental discord between business and core services: for a core service, profit isn’t the goal—outcomes are. Yes, do it as efficiently as possible, but never take your eye off the outcomes.

With business, the thing to never take your eye off of is profit, not the product (healthcare, education, etc.) This is a conflict that cannot be fixed by adding competitors who have the same conflict.

The lack of this fundamental conflict, and the incentive to focus on the outcomes, is precisely the reason government is the best entity to provide core services. Do they lack the aggressive sense of efficiency and optimization that the private sector has? Yes, they often do, and it’s a perpetual opportunity for improvement.

But if you’re going to build a society based on one of these two flawed models, go with the one that is properly incentivized, yet struggles with inefficiency, vs. the one we know to be rotten at its core due to the conflict between profit and outcomes.

democracy
Image from www.nationalhellenicsociety.org

Everyone seems to know the American experiment is failing, but what we’re not hearing is a crisp reason followed by a solution.

Allow me to propose one.

The two conflicting forces

There are two primary forces in motion within human individuals and human societies:

  1. The Selfish Forces are given to us by evolution. They compel us to bite and claw our way ahead at the expense of others.

    There are benefits to these forces—not least of which is that they propel our survival as a species. They also drive innovation, as they are heavily called upon in capitalism and free market enterprise. These are good things, and we should not discard or disparage them on account of misuse.

  2. The Advanced Forces are given to us by our higher selves. These enable us to desire self-sustaining communities, to be kind to those not within our inner circles, and—more than anything else—put others before ourselves.

The problem with America’s democracy could not be more clear: our current government is composed of a dangerous mixture of these two elements.

  • Lobbying is designed to make money. It’s a selfish force.
  • Campaign contributions are designed to make money. They are selfish forces.
  • Politicians leaving office and becoming lobbyists is designed to make money. It’s a selfish force.

These simply cannot mix with the advanced nature of building a government that promotes the welfare of millions or billions. This requires attributes steeped in the Advanced Forces.

  • Putting the good of others above your own
  • Forgoing the pleasures of the luxurious and exotic
  • Quieting the inner desire to acquire and become more powerful

This doesn’t mean that those who cannot, or do not, make this choice are inferior human beings. Someone needs to invent the next generation energy capture and storage, and financial incentive should be there to attract those who are so inclined. And we should celebrate are revere these types as well.

What we must avoid is combining the two. We cannot allow the financially motivated, the power-ambitious, and the selfish to enter government due to it being equally (or even more) lucrative than the private sector. This mixture of matter and anti-matter is so obviously destructive as to be comical to anyone looking from the outside.

Yet this is precisely what we have today.

A way forward

Fixing this is conceptually quite simple: Being a politician, and being part of government in general, should have basic rules associated with it. And these rules would be understood and respected by everyone in the union.

  1. When you enter government, you have made a life choice. You have decided to serve humanity instead of yourself.
  2. Politicians are subsidized by government. They and their families will never want for food or shelter, but they will also not allowed the finest things in life. They will receive a modest home, a family vehicle, education for their children, and money for modest vacations, but little more.
  3. They will be prohibited from owning or participating in luxury. Fine jewelry, homes, cars, etc. will not only be technically illegal, but will simply be prohibited by the order of the servant. In short, any representative in this model would be outright shunned if they were to be seen pursuing or enjoying such things. It would be considered a betrayal of their office, and akin to a crime against humanity.
  4. Relatedly, and importantly, it would be considered downright treacherous to attempt to entice those of the political order with gifts or favors or any other incentives towards a particular behavior. This sort of influence would not just be seen as out of bounds, but as a malicious attack on the foundation of human decency.

In short, we must identify and extract the base human influences from our higher-order institutions, e.g., government, with money and government being the most volatile of mixtures.

Put another way, we should train ourselves to look for these combinations and react accordingly when we see them. Government, healthcare, education—these are institutions that call for the Advanced Forces, not the Selfish ones, and we must work to decouple them wherever we find them entangled.

Let’s start with government, as it’s arguably the most important and also determines how easy it is to address the others.

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When something catastrophic happens, like the sub-prime mortgage crisis, I immediately search for two components in the event:

  1. Ignorance: a victim, or group of victims, who should have known better
  2. Selfishness: a malicious agent to capitalizes on said ignorance for his gain

In the housing example it was pretty clear: those people should not have been signing up for the mortgages. They couldn’t pay them. It was a bad idea. Shame on them.

But not quite.

The didn’t know any better. Many of them were quite uneducated—especially in financial matters, and they needed an expert to steer them right.

But that didn’t happen. The experts in this case were sharks there to help the bleeding fish, and they took that ignorance and turned it into fortunes. They knew it would hurt the buyers, or the people who financed them, but they didn’t care.

I just saw another remarkable example of this in an election in Texas. This old white guy was running for office, against a black incumbent, and he went and spent a bunch of money running an ad campaign. The twist was that, using his real name, he put black people in all his television ads.

And he won.

Let’s point out a few things we know about this:

  1. He used black people in the ads because he knew his future constituents wouldn’t vote for an old white guy
  2. He bet on the fact that the ignorance and apathy of the voting population would be so extreme that they’d vote on the impressions of the black people in the ads alone—without doing any research
  3. He was right

This is a strikingly pure example of cynical cunning taking advantage of ignorance. And just like the housing crisis, you needed both faults to be present for it to work.

If the black folks in the town had done any research, it wouldn’t have worked. And if the guy would have had a shred of decency he wouldn’t have done it.

So shame on both of them.

When fighting against malice in this world, it’s best to address both of these components. Immunize people vs. evil through education, and simultaneously imbue a morality that would prevent someone from being malicious—even if they could.

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It’s generally accepted that the left tends to blame corporations for our problems, while the right tends to blame government.

What’s interesting is that regardless of which is more true, both entities fail for the same reason, i.e., in both cases there is a group that each is supposedly beholden to, and then there is the group that actually controls them.

  • Corporations claim they serve their customers and employees, for example, but they really serve their shareholders

  • Government claims to serve the constituents, but it really serves the lobbyists that fund their ability to remain in office

Also identical is the fact that the group they’re supposed to be serving represents regular Americans, while the group that they’re actually serving represents a tiny elite.

These two dragons are not so dissimilar: both involve very few, immensely powerful individuals who are largely disconnected from regular American life, preventing potentially good organizations from doing what is in the best interest of our country.

We cannot fight the enemy if we cannot identify it, and this abstraction from the American struggle is the enemy. With respect to government, we must do two things:

  1. We must make it so that those who represent us live among the people they are serving (those that need the most help)
  2. We must make it so that the only people with influence over our representatives are their constituents

With corporations we must evaluate the degree to which the service being provided actually helps Americans, vs. simply enriching the few at the top of the organization.

In short, whether government or corporation: the primary question should be, “How pure is the link between this organization’s motivation and the improvement of the American poor and middle classes?”

Right now the answer is a terrible one: there is virtually no connection between these two things—for either government or corporations, and that’s why we’re sick.

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I think people might be getting a bit overhyped on this “keep your plan” betrayal story. I’ve not been following closely, so if I’m missing a step be sure to set me right on the path.

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