Sunday, October 19, 2014

Platform Diving

Not all of my internet interactions (or face to face contacts!) end with bitter fights and acrimony. Sometimes, people actually like what I have to say, and some will even go so far as to tell me I should be in office.

That's not possible right now, because of the Hatch Act of 1939 - and I doubt I would really want to put my family through the ordeal that even a local elected official has to face. (My aunt sat a city council term a few years ago, and I saw what SHE had to put up with!)

But people don't say encouraging things to be mean, and whenever someone says that I should be "running the place", I do stop and think about what I would do if I were magically airlifted over the election process and sat in a position of power. And that kind of informs what I look for - so far, fruitlessly - in my candidates.

So here, off the cuff and with minimal deep thought, is my own, personal platform. If you find someone running who hits even 60% of these issues the way I do, let me know so I can make THEM take over!

Campaign Finance

I'm with Professor Lessig on this one - regardless of your party affiliation, you have to recognize that money - not speech - has corrupted our system. Clearly, there is a lot at stake in every election, and the ridiculous amounts poured into campaign spending - $7 billion in 2012 - could directly fund solutions for many of the issues being debated - which makes you wonder why, if the donors care about those issues, they're spending that money to make horrible candidates look more appealing.

Like the Professor, I don't think it's too late to do something about it; things are not as stark or as bleak as you might be led to believe. I wouldn't even push for new laws or rules on this one - I'd just use this as my campaign slogan: "I won't take your money."

No donations.  No apparatus. Want to help me? Get involved spreading the word - here's a JPG of my poster and a link to my YouTube channel. Want to sponsor me? Go vote.

If enough of you insisted on this as a standard requirement from every candidate, and refused to vote for anyone taking money to run for office, the amount they could fundraise would cease to matter. That won't make PACs go away, but I can't solve everything!

Free Market Solutions

The phrase "free market solution" implies a "free market problem." There are problems where the appropriate solution for a governmental body is to step back and let people vote with their money; and there are problems where the solution is to step in and create an incentive for them to make a better choice.

Healthcare? That's already not a free market. If it was, people would choose doctors the way they choose mechanics. Green energy? The energy market is already skewed and rigged, thanks to the practice of selling futures on unextracted (and often unlocated) oil and coal. Education? At every level, we see the corrosive effects of allowing "competition" for arbitrary test scores (which equate to money) to trump the real competition of acquiring skills, knowledge, and work in the desired field.

The point is not "I don't believe in the free market" - the point is that most of the people who scream for so-called free market solutions don't actually believe in the free market. That whole "government shouldn't pick winners and losers" idea is a great, flashing sign that they don't believe in the ability of informed adults to make the best decisions for themselves. What they really believe in is convincing you to give them free reign to continue picking the winners and losers their donors are paying them to pick.

Don't feel bad - this country has been trying to get this right since the founding.  (I'll spare you the lengthy history lecture about Alexander Hamilton, Andrew Jackson, monetary policy, and the evolution from tariff-based protectionism to subsidy-based protectionism.)

Shorter version: if you have a simple, common sense answer to a complex problem, it should by definition be easy to demonstrate it. And if it works, I'd support it.

The Role of Government

Not to oversimplify, but the point of having government is to give us all a controlled, non-violent mechanism for dealing with each other. We have a great founding document that lays out that mechanism; it has flaws, but it's designed to let us fix it, which is why women are voting now, and African-Americans count as 5/5 of a person, each. We still have work to do, as some of the compromises made to get the Constitution ratified still cause us problems, but we've made a good start.

I have no patience for anarchists who try to convince me that the government we have is "too Big" - if your goal is to live a lifetime in which you always get your way, your problem isn't government. That said, I live in Maryland, where they pass laws the way I pass gas* - frequently, and with obnoxious, invisible side effects.

Legislators should take a gander at The Death of Common Sense before they start drafting new laws, and representatives at every level of government should think hard about the rules they put into place... and even harder about removing those that are in our way.

(Of course, that will be easier for them if they follow my Campaign Finance platform, and aren't beholden to any powerful, wealthy donors.)

Social Issues

Most people I talk to agree on one thing when it comes to "social policy" - the government shouldn't meddle with personal affairs. Most of those same people also agree that the government should be protecting us from each other. One favorite quote I frequently hear is, "Your right to throw a punch ends at the tip of my nose."

That's pithy, but Social Issues are so thorny precisely because it's rarely easy to tell where the "tip of the nose" is.

Gay marriage seems like an easy one to me, since other people getting married has no effect either way on my marriage. But because marriage is tied to so many other rules (see "The Death of Common Sense") many argue that it has an effect on theirs. I would err on the side of freedom and equality - let people do what they need to do, and if the rules get in the way, remove or rethink them.

What about public health policies, such as mandatory vaccinations? I don't want your infected children spreading disease to my family - so I should be able to make you get vaccinated, right?  Except... what about finding the balance between allowing patients to refuse treatment (including vaccinations) on religious grounds on one hand and preventing child endangerment due to that refusal on the other hand? What about abortion policy - balancing on those same grounds? What about "end of life" decisions? Where is the line between the fist and the nose in each of those situations?

I've never believed that the role of government extended to teaching morality. Government is necessarily limited to what facts and evidence can prove, and when the question is a moral one, government has to give way to the individual. Will your child die without that transfusion or chemo - that your god tells you they can't have? Will you decide to continue or terminate your pregnancy? Will you endure six more months (or years) of deterioration and agony with an unforgiving and expensive disease or go out on your own terms? I can't even tell you what I would personally do in each of those situations - if it were me, my wife, my parents, my children at stake - how could I possibly presume to make a law telling you what to do?

The best I can tell you is that given a choice of what to do with my vote, I'll do what anyone else should do: ask a lot of questions, make a lot of suggestions, and if it's still a no-win situation, I will lose.

The Common Sense Fallacy

The really tough challenge facing anyone trying to represent any group of you has little or nothing to do with common sense, or moral character, or family values - none of these popular and populist catch phrases that are designed to put you at ease and win your vote should actually put you at ease. If you're ever 100% confident in a candidate and you feel safe trusting them to make decisions on your behalf, that's probably when you should begin asking harder questions.

I've left a lot unsaid here, because this was supposed to be superficial. Since I'm not actually running for anything, you can argue with me or ignore me as you see fit. But you shouldn't be satisfied with any of your candidates if they aren't willing to talk about any of this stuff. Or worse, if they claim to have neat, tidy, uncomplicated answers. You need to challenge them, and their platform. And you need to do it all the time.

Because at the end of the day, I don't really believe that the blame for all our problems lie on the Government. There are certainly poor representatives and appointees, but every two to four years, you get a say in whether they keep their jobs. If you're compromising yourself when you vote for them, you have only yourself to blame.  That's the only Common Sense solution - paying attention, and holding yourself accountable.

Did you vote for a mainstream candidate because you thought your third party choice would lose, and you didn't want to "waste your vote"? Guess what - you wasted your vote.

Did you vote for a known criminal who will rip off your state's retirement fund because his opponent seemed "too young"? Guess what - you wasted your vote.

Did you not vote at all because "they're all criminals and liars, and I won't waste my time"? Guess what - you wasted your vote... and your time.

So, what do you think? Still want to put me in charge?

*Oh, yeah - did I mention that I'm unelectable because I'm a biological organism? And I make sick jokes, listen to obnoxious music, use bad words, laugh at everything, and annoy most of my friends. Just so you know.

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