If you are wearing shoes, are they brand-matched with your socks? Does the brand of your belt match your pants? Do your pants use a patented belt loop system that makes them incompatible with other belts?
Look at what you are wearing. Did it all come from the same store?
Look at your feet. If you are wearing shoes, are they brand-matched with your socks? Does the brand of your belt match your pants? Do your pants use a patented belt loop system that makes them incompatible with other belts?
These days, the barriers to entry are rising faster than Jesus beats it out of the tomb on Easter to get himself a (preternaturally kosher) green eggs and ham sandwich. Even a seemingly mundane industry like farming has Mount Anto scrambling to bind the farmers’ hands and brand their hides.
It’s the same story almost everywhere you look. Businesses trying to subvert the marketplace in favor of their own profits. It’s a recipe for disaster.
Subverting the marketplace is the economic equivalent of deforestation. In the short term you get tons of cheap wood and farmland, but in the long term you have tossed away some of your greatest resources for stability in favor of a few years of profits.
Even our leaders can’t help themselves, though. They have long blocked any real competition for governance, savoring their cushy seats so much that they now increasingly risk their oligopoly due to the ever-escalating war of words they must rely on to keep their constituents in a frenzy rather than letting them calmly pore over the issues.
But it’s harmful. The creation of commerce depends upon diversity and choice. When industries couple themselves together, they remove choice from the market, and they decrease the overall creation of commerce. More precisely, they usurp the individual’s choice and act as a proxy for it.
You might prefer one firm’s shoelaces, and another firm’s shoes, but without the choice to relace the shoes, you must decide which is more important. If the barriers to entry are low, that’s fine, because the firm that’s losing can simply improve on their faults.
But when barriers are high, and many choices are coupled, it’s much harder. Consumers are making thousands of tradeoffs and only choosing amongst a few firms in doing so.
The USA currently has lackluster competition in a variety of key areas (including the political markets), resulting in subpar economic performance. Until that changes, consumers get inferior goods, investors get inferior returns, and stability will remain more fragile than it needs to be.
Since its inception, the Occupy movement has been ridiculed and drawn sideways dog heads from the establishment. That’s kind of cute, in that it shows exactly how baffled the establishment is, which is exactly why the Occupy movement exists!
Since its inception, the Occupy movement has been ridiculed and drawn sideways dog heads from the establishment. That’s kind of cute, in that it shows exactly how baffled the establishment is, which is exactly why the Occupy movement exists! The Occupy movement represents the fact that the establishment is completely out of touch with reality, so I guess it’s acceptable and expected that this is the reaction.
I will now quote the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence:
WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. […]
Now, one piece at a time, of what I think are the most essential parts there:
[…] That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men […]
Why government exists. To allow an orderly state in which we can live without constantly having to assert our rights through violence.
[… Governments] deriv[e] their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed […]
How government exists. It is by the agreement of the people that allows the government to exist, and the reason above is why the consent is given.
[…] that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it […]
Follows logically from  and  above. Given the goal, and the method, if the method is not moving toward the goal, it should be improved or replaced with one which will.
[…] to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. […]
Expands on . The manner of choosing the replacement or the improvements should be according to reason.
This is why the Occupy movement exists. The government is hampering the goals that are the impetus for its very formation and existence. It must either be reformed or replaced. The old guard is unable to grasp this.
What they want, of course, is what they’ve always had. They want Occupy to step up to the microphone and say, “we want an end to the war,” which lets the establishment drag their feet, beat their chests, and blow their noses, then end the war and carry on with the old guard way of doing things.
They want something they can sell back to Occupy.
That’s worked in the past. I’ll claim that every major political struggle in the USA has actually been equivalent to Occupy, but that every one so far has been bought out by the establishment, with the possible exception of the founding of this country.
The case I’ve made here is the motivation for Occupy, and it points to what is truly desired. These protests represent a dire call and strong desire to see the establishment reformed into a useful institution. The movement has no specific demands, because it’s not about specific changes, but general changes that restore the power to the people to participate. To know that their voices count, even if their exact outcomes aren’t the ones that are implemented.
Let’s take an example, briefly, with the social programs. These need to be changed for a variety of reasons, including costs. Those that oppose changes don’t actually. They oppose destroying these programs. They don’t want a vacuum to replace them, or a corrupt system that is even more dysfunctional. But they really don’t oppose changes that strengthen them while leaving the basic benefits intact.
The list is very long, though. Improving environmental protection, internalizing market externalities, improving education, improving the culture of work/life balance, improving regulation in general, improving contracting processes, and many more.
The solution is much simpler. There are two basic problems with our government:
Lack of populist representation in the legislature
Lack of scientific process in producing and executing legislation
The House of Representatives
In the first case, the Senate bestows equal representation per state, while the House of Representatives is supposed to provide representation proportional to the population of the country.
The original twelve amendments proposed in what became the Bill of Rights included as its first proposed amendment the rule that the House of Representative would increase in membership in proportion to the size of the population. That would have protected the purpose of that body.
Without it, that body has become a second Senate.
Since 1911 the number of Representatives has remained constant, but the population of the United States has roughly tripled over that time (Wikipedia: Demographics of the United States shows that the population in 1910 was around 98 million, and in 2010 it was 308 million). That has diluted the value of your representation in the Congress, which means there’s less and less reason for your representation to care what you think.
They are your representative in the collective governance of our country, and when they don’t have to care about you, the government is broken. That’s their purpose for their position to exist: to represent your interests.
Science in Government
There are a variety of fields that use scientific principles to improve outcomes. The field of accounting, when practiced properly. The military. Actual scientific inquiry and research. Business, to some extent.
The techniques in question are meant to preclude corruption and bias and error. They are things like separating the power that people have, so that one man can’t turn and lose a war for us all. They are things like double-blind experiments, to prevent bias or error.
Our government even has some of this built in. The three branches represent an example of separation of duties/powers. The FDA does require some amount of double-blindness in drug testing. Many of the other scientific parts of the executive branch use these techniques, too.
But our legislature does not, and our contracting processes do not. The bidding process know which company is bidding, and political favors can be used. The SuperCommittee didn’t put out their proposals, get them ranked, and then vote based on the outcomes. Likewise, they didn’t separate the pieces of proposals, and take a closed ballot to decide which provisions were live options, then form those into a proposal for evaluation by the CBO.
Kids in school learn about the government, they learn about the lauded Separation of Powers. It escapes me (but apparently not the establishment) that this good idea, which, I reiterate, is praised and learned in school, is not properly expanded to its maximum usefulness throughout our government.
I don’t think my ideas here are particularly radical. But I don’t think they’ll be implemented anytime soon. I hope they will be. I don’t think our government is a bad idea, I just think we have neglected the good parts.
The establishment doesn’t get it. Big surprise. If they got it, Occupy wouldn’t exist. Take that to your bank, withdraw your money, and put it in the vault of someone that gets it.
This is an experiment in writing a brief synopsis of developments in the Debt Ceiling Crisis while maintaining party-agnostic language.
Note: This is an attempt to write a brief synopsis of the Debt Ceiling Crisis as it exists to-date. The experimental aspect is that it is written in a party-agnostic manner.
Latest analysis points to a basic deal to raise the debt ceiling, possibly including some extremely modest budget cuts, as more ambitious talks continue to falter and time runs short.
Over the past months (since February 2011), the US Congress and US Executive sought a plan to resolve the decade-long trend of increasing public debt in the USA. As we approach August 2011, the consequences of inaction grow more dire. Threats from credit rating agencies that bore some responsibility in the recent economic recession have served to escalate the feeling of urgency.
The president called for a major reform deal that would include a mixture of tax raises and budgetary cuts, but several influential representatives abandoned that idea quickly. They cited philosophical opposition to taxes, though failed to provide any substantive philosophical underpinnings for the claim. They instead sought plans focused entirely on cutting spending. This, despite the reports that one of the major contributors to the rising debt were tax cuts put in place by the government a decade ago.
Several in congress offered other routes. One bizarre scheme by a normally influential Senator called for the president to sign into law an action that would allow him to veto a follow-up action. Another plan would tie the debt ceiling increase to the future passage of an amendment to the US Constitution, which analysis shows would likely never happen.
These plans, designed to shirk responsibility, evoked ire from the public. Many complained of Congress still arguing over a months-old issue while hiring legislation failed to materialize. Others still felt the more ambitious approaches should revive and be enacted, noting that justifying the length and cost of the negotiations required broader action.
Part of the lack of culture change in Washington is driven by both the habits of the media to report in a certain way and their choice to quote politicians without questioning the partisan rhetoric (or only questioning it for political reasons). I suspect that having more media move away from those styles of writing would have a beneficial impact.