Saturday, May 15, 2010

A Tool for Democracy

There is a nasty disease choking off the supply of good sense and good governance of American society. I believe I have a cure. Let me explain.

Politicians invariably claim themselves to be public servants, enumerating with pride the number of terms they have "served" in public office. I believe that to be true even of politicians who, prior to running for office, swore they were doing so at great personal sacrifice.

Typically, people claim to be entering politics solely because they felt an overwhelming need to retake Washington, the state capitol, the city council, or the school board from the "fat cats" who are in office only for their own personal benefit.

I have come to believe that anyone in public any public office of any kind...cannot be trusted. They lie and the truth is not in them. Even if a person truly enters the fray with noble intentions, he or she quickly contract the disease that affects all people who do so: power-drunkeness, or PD. That is not to say that PD directs their every vote. The smart ones understand that, eventually, the public will cast out those who display end-stage PD at every turn (it may take take decades, but the voting public eventually either catches on or becomes confused at the polls). So, the smart ones work hard at creating plausible, if confusing, reasons for their truly self-serving votes and those votes that serve others who have the capacity to offer the incumbent the pecuniary rewards and power-fixes they so desperately crave.

I, who was a rabid supporter of Barrack Obama, now recognize that he was, and is, power-drunk, as are all of his Democratic cronies. The disloyal opposition, the Republicans, are experiencing fits and starts of power-withdrawal and power-hits, making them even more vile than those across the aisle. But make no mistake: all of them are deep within the clutches of power-drunkeness and there is no cure, at least not for them. But read on; I may have the cure for us. I may have a way to prevent their disease from ruining our lives.

It's too bad that the Tea-Partiers recognized the need to "throw the bums out" earlier than their more progressive peers. TPs can claim ownership of the current anti-incumbent mood, which gives them far more power in the gullible public's mind. Fortunately (or unfortunately, if the public is more far-gone than I hope is the case), the TPs' solution is Replacement Republicans who took governance classes in right-wing Baptist encampments. Even if the current Democratic-controlled Congress reverses poles to become a Republican-controlled Congress, symptoms of PD will remain highly visible and the "throw the bums out" mood will renew itself in short order. (Whether that will be early enough to save the country from implosion is highly questionable, though.)

Regardless, at some point...and it must be in the near-term...the voters must, indeed, "turn the bums out." Every. Single. One. But we must not replace them with clones or with reverse-clones, as we have tended to do. We must establish a mechanism that will ensure the selection of people who possess the necessary skills, intellect, moral compass, and vision to lead our country, and give clear example to the world, to greatness. Notice I said "selection" of leaders and not "election." This is an important distinction.

First, we must establish core principles that will guide us. Fortunately, the Constitution and Bill of Rights are available and have not suffered from over-use, so they are good starting points. A few updates here and there and they should be good to go. Those documents might then be supplemented with some additional guiding principles which more clearly articulate particularly important principles, such as:

The Role of Government: I suggest we clarify what government should and should not do. I have a few ideas of my own about what those roles are.

First, it should be clear that government needs money to operate. To secure that money, government must have taxing authority, but that authority must be clear, straightforward, and guided by the principle that taxes should be maintained as low as possible to pay for the services that should be provided by government. Equally important, those taxes must not be set at artificially low levels so that they do not cover necessary services. A guiding principle should be this: a lean, fair tax structure should be established so that all necessary services will be paid for by taxes, either in the aggregate or by taxes to users. Government should not exist to collect taxes; it should collect taxes to provide services that cannot or should not be provided in the private sector. That having been said, if the government cannot establish a tax structure that is far simpler than the train-wreck we have today, I suggest the entire process be bid out to the private sector. The work-product of a retarded sheep would certainly make more sense to use as the basis of our tax codes than those we use today.

Back to the role of government...

For example, government should provide for roads and other forms of access to transportation. This does not mean the government should buy us cars to use on those roads, nor buy us tickets to use on buses or trains or subways. Government, using our tax money, should build and maintain the necessary infrastructure; we, as citizens, should pay for our own personal use of that infrastructure. Now, as citizens, we have the right to expect that government will use our tax money wisely, so that it will not use our tax dollars to construct new roads when more efficient means of transportation that would do less harm to the environment is more appropriate. Who decides? Our selected leaders, based on the framework we provide for them.

Another role of government is to provide a safety-net to help people who cannot provide for themselves. Our tax dollars, again, should provide the funds necessary for the government to provide food and shelter and basic clothing and medical care for people who cannot provide those necessities for themselves. Note that I said people who cannot provide for themselves. People who simply choose not to work, even though they are able and could get work if they tried, should understand that the government will not provide them with the basics (except medical care); for all other necessities, they are on their own and subject to the mercy of charities. Note, too, that I said government should provide a safety-net for food and shelter and basic clothing and medical care. Not entertainment. Not vacation travel. Not cigarettes and liquor. Not prom dresses and 3-piece suits. I don't suggest that people who are receiving government support should not have entertainment or vacation travel or cigarettes or nice clothes, only that my tax dollars should not provide them. I have no objection if my contributions to charities might be used to help make the less fortunate more comfortable, but my tax dollars ought to be used exclusively to provide necessities.

Another role of government is to provide access to healthcare to all citizens. While our tax dollars should be used to enable government to provide medical care to those who cannot afford to pay for it (with taxes) for themselves, those same dollars should be used to pay for healthcare for the rest of us. Even that percentage of the population that chooses, for whatever reason, not to look out after themselves, should be protected by governmentally-provided medical care.

Clearly, a role of government...the Federal protection against attack. I expect our government to use my tax dollars to provide for a well-equipped military to provide for that protection and to develop and execute a sound policy for good international relations. I do not want my tax dollars used to initiate wars of convenience or to extend wars from prior administrations simply because it would "look bad" to pull out. Sometimes, protection against attack may well include the provision of international aid to countries whose citizens are in need. Many times, protection against attack may include crafting trade policies that are fair, equitable, and mutually beneficial to all parties.

Fundamental Rights
I wonder if the "founding fathers" wouldn't have gone further on the issue of religion had they known then what we know now. The right to adopt any religion one might want should remain, but I think every one of them should come with required warning labels: "Warning: Belief in this religion's tenets and principles is almost certain to invalidate belief in many fundamental human rights. In addition, if you are not already stupid, belief in this religion's tenets and principles will make it so." Seriously, I think it should be articulated, for all the world to see, that Americans are entitled to freedom from religion, in addition to freedom of religion.

Speaking of which, a woman's right to choose whether to have an abortion should rest solely between the woman, her partner, and her physician, with no role whatsoever by government. This should be spelled out in a constitutional amendment. While I believe people have the right to object to abortion, their rights should enable them only to try to persuade people to decide against abortion rather than enabling them to stop it. While I personally would rather people who are not prepared to have children use other means of preventing pregnancy instead of relying on abortion, a woman should have the absolute right to choose to have, or not to have, an abortion for her own personal reasons.

I could go on...and on...and on. But I won't. Let me get back to my point.

The Solution
I've already said we should throw the bums out and replace them. And I said we should "select" replacements, versus "elect" them. That's where the unique solution comes into play. After clarifying the role of government and clearly articulating what is and is not reasonable for government to do (i.e., setting parameters, much like one does with a position in a company...the employee is given basic responsibilities and then told about what limits are placed on his or her actions), we have to pick replacements.

Because we already know anyone who wants the job is not someone we'd want to hire, we have to use another tool. And that tool has been used by our government before, but not in the same setting. That tool is conscription. Yes, conscription...the draft. We need to give ourselves the authority to limit individuals' rights in the name of what's best for our country. We should identify people who possess the necessary skills, intellect, traits, character, stamina, and understanding of the jobs to be done and require their service in public office. Like the soldiers who are given no choice but to answer the country's call to service when a draft is in place, our new politicans will have no choice but to serve their country by taking a 2-6 year term in public office or be jailed for contempt of country. Because PD may well be transmitted by exposure to public office in general, it will be incumbent on us to keep a careful watch on our newly-selected leaders and to take quick and decisive action if any of our conscripts show signs of PD (the only known "treatment" is confinement in an "asylum" or immediate and irrevocable return to a life utterly devoid of access to power).

Admittedly, there may be some kinks to work out in my system, but I'm willing to talk about how we can make this work.

It's after 8:30 am and I'm no longer in the mood to discuss this issue, but if you're interested, write and I'll respond when my attitude changes.

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