I suggest a small change: Instead of saying “government is the problem”, can we say “Politicians are the problem”? Makes more sense…
Political arguments frequently invoke the “Founding Fathers” to make a point. The Supreme Court justices argue over the intent of the founding fathers in drafting the constitution. Presidential candidates wield the founding fathers as a cudgel, bashing their opponents for having the temerity to stray from the path these esteemed men set us on.
I always get a funny feeling in the pit of my stomach when I hear these types of arguments, but I hadn’t really formed an idea of why until John Siracusa mentioned (in his excellent technology podcast, Hypercritical) that he doesn’t care what the founding fathers thought.
Gasp! Not care what the esteemed and revered founding fathers thought? Yes, we have free speech, but is such a severe blaspheme allowed?
When I heard it, I realized that this was exactly the thought that would quell my anxious digestive system. After all, who were these founding fathers? Great men, to be sure. They challenged the greatest military force on the planet, created an entirely new system of government, and did it all without resorting to authoritarian rule.
But they weren’t Supermen. They weren’t big-brained aliens from another planet who’s intelligence can never be replicated. And in fact, they were solving problems that largely aren’t relevant today. We aren’t lorded over by an authoritarian regime (despite what extreme opponents to Barack Obama would have you believe). We are no longer a new nation, creating an entirely new system of government. We are the longest-running democracy on the planet.
We can come up with good ideas on our own. In fact, we could be hampered by blind adherence to the founding fathers, as they did not, and could not, predict the situations and events of today. The idea of a black president would likely be laughable to them. Thomas Jefferson wrote the line that “all men are created equal”, but also wrote in his “Notes on the State of Virginia” that blacks were, “in reason much inferior” to white people. Clearly Jefferson was a smart man in many ways, but his opinions of the mental capacities of his slaves was not one of them.
Let’s consider the current state of the world as it is, and come up with our own good ideas, irrespective of what the founding fathers thought.
Have you ever driven faster than the posted speed limit? Chances are you probably have. I have. And I was breaking the law. I have also been caught by the police while doing this. My punishment, however, was not jailtime, but rather a fine. The offense is not deemed great enough to warrant jail time and a simple fine will suffice.
Why is illegal immigration considered worse? If someone enters the country without permission, and then breaks no other law, if they are productive workers and good members of the society otherwise, why shouldn’t they be allowed to remain in the country after paying a fine?
This seems likely to result in higher illegal immigration, as potential border-crossers could see it as “if I make it to the US, I can stay”, so this would need to be coupled with completion of the border fence with Mexico or other controls (and why does Mexico get offended at this fence? It’s just an acknowledgement of the current situation, nothing more).
So, the plan is:
- Complete the border fence.
- Allow all existing immigrants to register for this “path to citizenship”, which would include paying a fine.
I’ve enabled comments for this post. What do you think?
OK, I’ll just come out and say it: We should have government provided healthcare for everyone in this country.
“Did he really just say that?”
Yes, yes I did.
To understand why this is the right course of action, let’s first examine the role of government, particularly since so many people think this is exactly the reason government should NOT provide healthcare. The usual argument is, “it doesn’t say that in the constitution”. Well, it actually does. Look at the very first line of the constitution:
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union[…]promote the general Welfare […]
The role of government is to do what is best for the people it serves in order to benefit the union (country) as a whole. “So”, you might say, “I see how giving free healthcare helps my welfare, but how does it benefit the whole country’s welfare?”
One of the keys to a country having a prosperous economy is having a good supply of available resources. One of the resources required in an economy is the people who actually produce the outputs of the economy. If the supply of people (“human capital” in economic terms) is small, this limits your potential economic output. Similarly, if the supply of human capital is poorly educated, the economic output is limited. And finally, if the supply of human capital is in poor health, this also limits the productivity of the economy.
Another, simpler, factor is if the consumers of your economic output are spending a large amount of their income on healthcare, they can’t buy the product of your business.
“But wait”, you say, “government provided healthcare isn’t free! It’s paid for with taxes, so there’s no difference!” But there is a difference. The difference is the motives of each provider. If a private company provides health services (insurance, wellness care, surgery, whatever), they are motivated primarily by profit. I went to the doctor last year because of some chest pain I had after eating. Although there was no real reason to suspect any heart problems (I’m fairly young, with no history of heart problems, and the pain was just after lunch, which generally indicates heartburn), I ended up with a stress test, a nuclear stress test, and a cardiac catheterization, “just to be sure”. While the video is cool, I’m sure my insurance company didn’t like the bill for all of that. Was my doctor ripping me off intentionally? I don’t think so. But it would be easy to justify with, “well, there COULD be a problem, so we’ll just do this extra test to be sure, and if I get an extra $200 for that, well, hey, better safe than sorry.”
Some will argue that the government is filled with inefficiencies. This is true, but if you’ve ever worked in a large corporation you know there are also inefficiencies in business. The difference goes back to motives: When a business is working efficiently, it’s maximizing profits; when government is working efficiently, it is best serving the people. I know what motive I’d rather be aiming for when my health is on the line.
A friend of mine reposted a link on Facebook today. It was an article expressing outrage over this photo:
The text accompanying the post pleads for everyone to spread the news, and speaks of the importance of exposing “Obama’s radical ideas and his intent to bring down our beloved America”.
This photo, by Doug Mills of the New York Times, originally accompanied a New York Times article by Dwight Garner. It was taken in 2008, when President Obama was just candidate Obama, and it caused controversy at the time as well, for the same misguided reasons. The book, by Fareed Zakaria, Newsweek editor and CNN journalist, is about the rise of the rest of the world, and is not about the radical overthrow of the United States.
Is this really where we are as a country? Where such an obviously absurd notion (that the President of the United States is secretly working to destroy our country) is just taken at face value, with no effort to check the facts involved? Is that the level of political discourse we have now? Is that the level of cognitive reasoning we aspire to now? The friend who reposted this article is someone I have worked with. He is smart, well educated, and an overall good person. These types of fringe thinking are no longer on the fringe. It’s now mainstream. It’s reported on FOX news and debated on the floor of Congress.
The world is a complex place. With the advent of modern media we don’t only know what is going on at the corner store, but also in the farthest reaches of the world. The crush of information and viewpoints is so overwhelming that it’s easier to just blindly pick an easy view rather than parse through all of the nuances of the discussion.
I started this blog to discuss my views, mainly on politics, although other topics that interest me may creep in from time to time. The posts will be a mix of facts (as many as I can incorporate), as well as my personal opinions. More to come…