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The New Commoner

A broader form of capitalism called Proprietarianism offers wealth, enhanced lives and greater control of day-to-day living to common citizens. It offers the opportunity to build communities and relationships. The philosophy IS oriented toward business, but NOT necessarily big business. More "Mom & Pop" size businesses give more people more opportunities to conduct their own lives their own way.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Wonders

I wonder if it is possible, in today's climate, for a hacker to arrange for the president to butt-dial a drone attack on a major U.S. city?

I wonder if the NSA database has already been used to persuade some lawmakers, department heads, justices, etc. to think, vote or act in certain ways? That might explain some of the weird stuff coming from D.C. lately.

I wonder if it is possible to get a mulligan or a do-over on our government. Couldn't we just make a new one somewhere and cut the old one loose? Let's see... Omaha is pretty centrally located - how about there? suggestions?

I wonder if ordinary folks (like you and me) could get some local petitions going to amend our (U.S.) federal constitution. The petitions would be meant to persuade our various state legislatures to ask for a constitutional convention. Under U.S. constitution article 5, they can do that. Some amendments I would propose are: term limits (one term each) for Representative, Senators & Supreme Court Justices; Limits on government agencies; Abolish Income tax etc.

I wonder if we could go back to the old designation of "The United States are" instead of the currently popular "The United States is"?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Background Checks for Gun-buyers

Some in our national government and some in various state and local governments are promoting background checks for gun buyers. The stated intent is to reduce violent crimes.

Removing guns from the hands of potential thieves, kidnappers, extortionists, rapists and murderers sounds like a good idea - a really good idea.
But who are these people? Who gets listed in the nation-wide "can't buy a gun" database? How do we know who should not have a gun?
Are they people who have been convicted of violent crimes in the past? Are they people with mental illness? Are they certain races or classes of people shown to have a high incidence of gun crimes?
Who are they and who gets to identify them?

If they are people who have been convicted of such crimes in the past and those people have spent the prescribed time in a correctional system, doesn't that simply and boldly say that our correctional system doesn't work. Perhaps that needs to be examined. Are we allowing uncorrected, potentially dangerous people to mingle freely with everyone else? If those people who had gone through the system were actually rehabilitated, why would we need to continue to penalize them by including them in a "can't buy a gun" database?

If people with mental illnesses are to be put in the "can't buy a gun" database, then which mental illnesses are they? Who gets to decide when an individual's illness is serious enough to qualify? What criteria are used to make the decision?
I am of the impression that there is quite a lot of variation among mental health practitioners regarding such matters. Such variation suggests there would be considerable inaccuracy in diagnosing the people in question. Inaccuracy can put people in the database who shouldn't be there and leave people out who should be included. That sounds like a very troublesome and dangerous situation.

If the people to be included in the database are of certain races or classes who have demonstrated a high incidence of gun related crimes, the problems devolving from that are so many and so great that no such criterion could never be used.

A "background check" of a potential gun-buyer would mean a check against the database. If their name shows up in the "check", the gun-buyer would not be able to complete the transaction and buy the gun they were shopping for. What then? Do they get a visit from some official? Or is the fact they are "shopping" simply ignored?

Such a database may sound like a good idea. But that's just it - it sounds like one. It would be too inaccurate and I suspect it would cause more problems than it would solve.

What else could such a database be used for? Perhaps it could be used to restrict alcoholics from buying alcohol - or over-eaters from buying too much food... many, many other uses can be imagined.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Collectivism vs individualism

Collectivism is a good thing provided that participation is an individual choice.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

If the chicken came first, wouldn't the egg be a lot smaller?

There are a number of articles on the internet relating to an archaeological discovery in Turkey named Gobekle Tebe.

Apparently archaeologists have uncovered a pre-historic temple at this site. While that is interesting, there is something even more interesting to be learned about Gobekle Tebe.

It seems the temple pre-dates everything – even agriculture. What’s so interesting about that? For a long time archaeologists, anthropologists and historians have asserted that communities, even civilization itself, developed to accommodate the needs of agriculture. Now, it seems, that everything, communities, civilization and even agriculture itself, might be by-products of a temple’s requirements.

That suggests that humans were religious beings first then other facets of civilization like government, military, engineering, law, medicine and all the other elements descended from that.

That could very well explain why societies that attempt to move religion away from their center always fail. They fail because human beings are religious beings and cannot function collectively or individually without it. Religion presents the common denominator or central focus of civilization.

Tinkering with fundamental elements of religion may be a very destructive thing to do. One such element comes to mind – marriage. This seems to be element (in one form or another) of religions everywhere. Perhaps changing its definition may remove a common denominator and prove fatal for any culture that dares to make such a change.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Some Word Definitions

"proprietorian".
(Also spelled "proprietarian". Either is acceptable.)
The word comes from "proprietor".
A proprietor is someone who owns (is legal possessor of) a business or other private property.

The proprietorian philosophy centers around ownership – specifically individual ownership and private property. Small businesses (really small businesses) have a number of advantages over large businesses. One focus of this blog is to describe, highlight and promote those advantages or anthropleny.

Here’s another word that could stand a bit of defining –
The word is temporocentrism
The belief in the intrinsic superiority of one time period or era over another, often accompanied by feelings of disdain for other times, periods or eras. Such thinking can lead one to view other times or eras from the perspective of one's own period or to evaluate or judge another time period based on contemporary values.

Occasionally I come across comments like, “The pilgrims should have thanked the Indians on Thanksgiving instead of God.”

Such comments are, in my experience, too often made without any attempt to understand why the pilgrims thought the way they did. Instead, contemporary values are imposed on people who probably saw things differently 400 years ago. Judgements made in such cases must, by their nature, be cloudy or just plain wrong.

Temporocentric thinking can lead not only to wrong interpretation, but re-writing history as well. Sometimes history is re-written to provide support for some current issue – a kind of an Orwellian thing. But more likely, re-writings come from failure to understand the thinking of the period due to time or money constraints or even due to laziness. Temporocentricity seems to be very popular among Hollywood writers just now.

Avoidance of temporocentrism is crucial to understanding why things are the way they are - and that is crucial to understanding the value of propritorianism.
More on this later.

Friday, February 15, 2013

How about a Petition?

The United States seems to have lost its way. Our government is bloated. The citizens are taxed too heavily. And many, many freedoms have been lost. Perhaps a few changes could be made in our constitution that would improve our situation. It appears that Congress is unable or unwilling to make the necessary changes. Perhaps because of fear that some of its power will be lost –– returned to the states and the citizens.

Article five of the U.S. Constitution gives states the right to call on congress to convene a Constitution Convention for the purpose of making changes to the Constitution. Some states have made that call, but some are unwilling. The people could take the first step. Petitions could be formulated in each state signed by their citizens insisting that their state exercise its constitutional right to demand that a national convention be called for the purpose of amending our Federal Constitution.

Here are a few suggested amendments that might be included in such a petition:

Amendment 28: Congressional term limits. Perhaps Representatives could serve for six terms and Senators could serve for two terms. That means twelve years for either Representative or Senator. That should be enough time for them to serve and yet not so long that they completely lose touch with those they represent.

Amendment 29: Repeal the 16th amendment. The 16th amendment gave congress the authority to collect income tax from whatever income it wanted to. Income tax should be replaced by sales tax -- not supplemented by sales tax, but replaced. Sales tax is a fair tax -- those who have more money to spend would pay more tax.

Amendment 30: Repeal the 17th amendment. The 17th amendment changed the way Senators were elected. Originally, Senators were to represent the various states in congress – not individuals. The effect of the 17th amendment was to remove the representation of states from congress. Senators, after the 17th amendment, represented citizens. But we already had that. That’s the point of the House of Representatives. State’s rights were severely limited following the adoption of that amendment. Our nation changed from being referred to as “The United States are...” to “The United States is...”.

Amendment 31: Balanced Budget. This would require the federal Government to produce an annual budget, then live within it. (Hopefully).

Amendment 32: Marriage. Limit marriage to one man and one woman. This would help to reconstitute the basic building block of civilization – the family.

Amendment 33: Voting Ballots - Every ballot issued for voting on any elected official, or public issue must carry the last option of "None of the above" as a choice for voters. Too often the choices being offered are not the ones wanted by the public.

Amendment 34: Legal Status of Government officials - All elected and appointed officials are subject to the same laws and requirements that all other citizens are subject to. Exceptions could be made in extreme circumstances, but only in extreme circumstances.

Amendment 35: Proportional Representation - Nearly all senators and representatives are lawyers. Yet lawyers make up only a portion of our citizenry. The idea of lawyers making laws for lawyers or the idea of lawyers making laws unreadable by anyone outside the profession is only too evident. Lawyers should be represented in congress at the same ratio as they are present in the ordinary citizenry. (The founder's idea of an elected President being our "Military Commander in Chief" comes out of this same kind of logic)

Amendment 36: Campaign Financing - Limit political campaign donations to individual people only and the donation amounts to no more than the median income of the district being represented. Corporations, organizations, political parties and political action committees all contribute money to political campaigns influencing and skewing the outcomes of many elections. It can be almost impossible to determine the sources of money from such organizations making it very easy for foreign and illegal influence. Organizations are not alive. They do not breathe or reproduce. They do not vote and should not have the same rights as living beings. Perhaps a ban on professional lobbyists would be an improvement as well.

Are these amendments needed? Are there other needed amendments?

Can we get some petitions started?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

War Against Reason

- Beyonce - lipsyncing ??
- Football player - fake girlfriend ??
- Armstrong - doping ??

What is happening?

Why are these things held to be more important than government incompetence? Those things affect very few of us while government affects us all and in far more significant ways.

Congress is decrying excessive spending -- blaming Obama. Yet every single spending bill must, according to our constitution, originate in the House of Representatives. Obama probably has much to be blamed for, but he can't make legislation.

Do you remember Johnson's "War against Poverty"?

We appear to be waging a "War against Reason" -- and winning.
Who is responsible for that? Why are we letting them get away with it?

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

We can be who we once were

I've said this before -- "This isn't the country I grew up in."
Is it important to get back to that country?
Yup. It's the most important thing confronting the general citizenry of the whole planet.

America was great. We held the torch of freedom high and with that was hope - hope that people could live their lives in their own way and without oppression. We offered hope that every person could live as they desired as long as they didn't injure anyone else. We offered the soul-satisfying idea that each of us could direct our own destinies. Other people wanted to be like us. Now we are mocked and all others seem to want is our money.

Can we get that back? Yes, but it might take a bit.
Where do we start? Here's two things that will get us started:

1. Review every state, local and federal agency and department. Determine first if it is necessary at all. Then divide between, of what remains, that which is really useful and that which is just there to advance government control. I suspect most agencies, bureaus and departments are unnecessary -- and those that are found to be useful can probably be more useful at half their size or smaller. The effect of this is massive reduction in size of government, massive savings in costs and massive reduction in unneeded rules and regulations.

2. Repeal the 16th and 17th amendments to our constitution. There was a time in the early nineteen hundreds when our nation went a bit off the track and passed three amendments that changed our fundamental direction - amendments 16, 17 and 18. We repealed the 18th (prohibition of alcohol) a few years later when we realized it was unenforceable and actually promoted crime.
The 17th amendment changed the way the states were represented in Washington and, in the process, transferred a great deal of their power to the federal government which then began to swell like a giant pustule. Our very grammar changed from "The United States are..." to "The United States is...".
The 16th amendment authorized the federal government to pick our pockets with the threat of prison if we resisted. (No private citizen in a 'free' country should be threatened at gun-point by his or her own government - provided they are not hurting any other citizen.
If we repeal the 17th amendment then we return to the position whereby the House represents the people and the Senate represents the States - fair enough. But won't the government be unable to function at all without income taxes? No problem. We simply fund the government with a national retail sales tax.

Calm down - let me explain.

First, personal income tax is same as the government holding a gun to your head and demanding that you pay them to allow you to walk around freely. That's called extortion.
Second, corporate income tax is essentially a lie. Corporations add whatever taxes the government demands onto the price of their goods and services. The effect is that corporations don't really pay taxes at all - they simply pass that expense through to their customers. They are tax collectors. It's an invisible form of taxation because we customers don't see it as it is. All we see are the prices. We don't get to see that the prices are higher because there's a tax embedded in them.

By replacing income taxes (both private and corporate) with a national sales tax, we citizens actually get to see the taxes we pay. The price of goods and services would go down and the reduction would be made up by the sales tax so the costs to the consumer would be the same if not lower. All the little games, controls and manipulation attached to the income tax system disappear. We regain control of our own finances. We can spend, save or give away however we want to. We are no longer threatened every April 15th. And such a tax is progressive in that the wealthier one is - the more one can spend - the more tax one pays.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Our government (USA) seems to be on a perfect mission to destroy itself and our country as well. (It must be be intentional -- I don't see how they can be so efficient by accident.) If there are any people in our government, elected or appointed, interested in preserving our great nation, their voices are not being heard or felt. Finding ways to work around our Constitution seems to be the sole interest of our legislative, administrative and judicial branches. Those interests appear to be strongly supported by our media - both entertainment and news. I have heard that petitions have been put up in several states asking that they be allowed to secede from the union. I think that's wrong. I think it's a little like looking through the wrong end of the binoculars. There doesn't seem to be much wrong with our states (well, most of them) that a little self-governance couldn't fix. Rather most of the problem seems to be coming from inside the Washington belt-way. So, I might suggest a different approach. I might suggest a national referendum to cast Washington DC out of the union. We could select a seat of government elsewhere and populate it with real Senators, Representatives, Justices and, of course a real President. (By "real" I mean those interested in preserving our nation and working within our Constitution). Our Constitution says Senators and Representative are to be paid from the national treasury. I think that is a good thing. However, our Constitution says nothing about who pays for meals, haircuts, staff, office space, medical expenses, travel expenses etc. I suggest all those 'perks' should be picked up by the individual states. Each state paying for their own. That way elected representatives would feel some allegiance to their constituents on a daily basis and not just at election time. Coupling that change with term limits and a limit on the number of lawyers that can be elected should give us a far more representative government. Next, I might suggest some sort of a judicial recall system. Many of the big social and moral problems in our nation have originated in the judicial branch. (Judges trying to kludge some 'fixes' into the system using their own ill-thought-through ideals.) Judges aren't supposed to be able to do that. They are referees not players. "A house divided against itself cannot stand."

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Shop Talk

I've worked in places where the employee/employer relationship was adversarial and I've worked in places where the relationship was cooperative. I prefer the cooperative relationship. Places of employment with a truly cooperative style are, in my opinion, more relaxed and the atmosphere is much less stressful. It is also my experience that far more gets done with a lot more enthusiasm.
Of course, the employer has the final say in things in both styles, but reason and simple human understanding play a much greater part in the cooperative environment.

Union shops (and I've worked in some) are, by definition, adversarial. So are large work places. But not all non-union shops are cooperative work places. Sometimes you just end up working for a jerk.

Therefore, my ideal work environment is a small, non-union shop with supervisors who are inclined to appreciate and understand human beings. I generally do not stay long in places where I am subjected to mechanical relationships meant only to get a certain job done in a certain amount of time. Such places are often stressful and dehumanizing.

But, you say, "I can't just walk away from my job. My boss is a jerk, but I need the money." If you really and truly must remain in a job working for a jerk, then try to make the best of it. Perhaps you can build a real, functioning relationship with your superiors. If that doesn't help, maybe you are simply destined live the resigned, mundane existence of an indentured servant. I, for one, couldn't do it - I'd walk as soon as I was able. If I had to, and I have, I'd live on less rather than submit to the ego of a miniature Napoleon.

What say you?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Plug it!!

We have a major oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in economic damage to all the states surrounding the Gulf. Our federal government has interfered with efforts to stop the leak and curtail the resulting damage. Their sole effort seems, so far, to have been to make the leak into a political experience for their own gain. I say, “Plug the hole!”

Washington is gushing red ink like a broken oil well. I say, “Plug the hole!”

Aliens are streaming across our borders and inflicting our nation with drugs, crime, violence, debt and driving our unemployment rate up. All the while, the aliens are stealing from us by sending our wealth back to their native countries. Our federal government is taking steps to block any attempts to slow that stream. I say, “Plug the hole!”

The “unalienable rights” of American citizens are seeping away. Our government now has far too many ways to take away our property, our liberty and even our pursuit of happiness. I say, “Plug the hole!”

Our public education system has become far too weak. It is, I have heard and seen, not uncommon for home-schooled and private-schooled first-graders to read at levels higher than public school third-graders. This is a serious “brain drain”. I say, “Plug the hole!”

Drug companies and lawyers were slowly bleeding our citizens into bankruptcy. Our federal government, instead of stemming the bleeding, has taken steps to increase speed of the bleed by saddling us with a public healthcare system and using the might of law and the IRS to force the citizens to contribute to their coffers while simultaneously lowering our level of healthcare. I say, "Plug the hole!"

Each of the above issues constitute a grave threat to our nation. Taken collectively, they represent treason by our own government. Elected and appointed officials have siphoned off the wealth, safety and security of our nation and its citizens for their own personal gain. I say, “Plug the whole!”

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Payment of Elected Officials

Article one, Section 6 of the U.S. constitution says, “The Senators and Representatives shall receive a Compensation for their Services, to be ascertained by Law, and paid out of the Treasury of the United States.”

I believe that is a good way to pay them for their service. That arrangement gives the legislators a sense of connection and responsibility to the Federal Government because it pays them. But, since they make the law, it also gives them control over their own pay. The nation’s founders thought such self-control might lead to abuses and proposed an amendment (along with other amendments – 10 of which became The Bill of Rights) which stated, “No law, varying the compensation for the services of the Senators and Representatives, shall take effect, until an election of Representatives shall have intervened.”

Unfortunately, the bill wasn’t passed at that time and languished as an unratified amendment proposal until sufficient abuses accumulated to stir the states into action. Finally in 1992 it was passed becoming the 27th amendment to our constitution.

Initially, at the Constitutional Convention, the debate was whether the Federal Government should compensate the legislators or leave the matter to the states. The question was essentially, "To whom would the legislators would owe their allegiance?" The concern was they might not represent their states so well if they were paid by the federal government.

I believe that enough abuses have accumulated that it is time to reexamine the issue. First, I would refine the amendment so that Senators are constrained in the same way as the Representatives – that they also must go through an intervening election. I assume the original amendment was written the way it was because Senators were not, at that time, elected by popular vote.

Second, I would propose an amendment that would limit the Legislators to receiving only their personal compensation from the Federal Treasury with all other perquisites and payments being paid by the state that elected them.

The “other perquisites and payments” would include such things as office expenses, travel, staff, meals, medical and dental costs etc. Such an amendment would place the activities of the legislators under the watchful eye of those who elected them. Such an amendment would encourage legislators to more closely represent their state in the federal mix. And such an amendment would put restraints on things like an unnecessarily large staff or an extravagantly furnished office or apartment. It would also limit villas in the Bahamas, unnecessary jumbo jets for transportation and expensive, non-productive junkets to foreign countries.

Such a proposal does not go to the question of, “Can our nation afford those expenses?” Rather it addresses the question, “Should our legislators distance themselves so far, at public expense, from those whom they represent that they no longer represent them?”

Why not contact your representative and ask him/her if they would like to sponsor such legislation?

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Friday, November 20, 2009

Health Care

One issue really stands out when it comes to health care – it’s expensive. I don’t hear much talk about lowering the costs of the care itself. What I’m hearing are plans to make every citizen buy insurance and pay enough extra so everyone living in America will have some.

Does that sound really strange to anyone else? How do such ideas gain popularity? It strikes me that a vastly better way to help folks get access to medical treatment is to change a few rules. For example, the costs would probably come down dramatically if competition in the medical community were not just allowed, but encouraged.

Here’s what I mean. What do you know about the last doctor you went to? Is he or she a good doctor? I don’t just mean personable, but a good physician - statistically, half of them will always be below average and about two percent will be really bad. Has he or she made a lot of mistakes - prescription errors, procedural errors, diagnostic errors, etc.?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we knew which doctors were really bad? If we knew that, we could avoid them. The effect of such a choice by patients could be remarkable. For one thing the really bad doctors would likely go out of business thereby raising the general quality of health care. There would be fewer law suits and lower damages awarded thereby lowering the cost of medical insurance. Lowering costs not just for patients, but the costs doctors pay to insure their practice which would, in turn, allow them to lower their fees.

The other thing you would need to know in a competitive medical environment would be what the doctor charges for various things. You could know, for example that two good physicians do the same procedure and one charges $100 and the other charges $300 for the same thing. Wouldn’t it be natural to go the one who charges less? That being the case, soon they would all charge less, just to get patients.

That is just changing the way physicians market their services, but the same could be done for hospitals, care centers, nursing homes, drug manufacturers – everybody involved.

It seems to me that after a short time, the cost of medical treatment would become very affordable for most citizens and the quality would go up – probably increasing the general health and longevity of the citizens.

Throw in a few other fixes like legal tort reform and changes in marketing health insurance and there would be low-cost, high-quality medical care for everyone.

This seems to me like a no-brainer, what do you think?

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Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Wind-up Cars?

No terrorist would fly a hang-glider into a toolshed. That suggests that bigger is not always better. In fact, I’ve come to the conclusion that big and small should be much more carefully considered in the things we construct. It appears to me that there is often no really good reason for businesses to become huge. True, really large businesses can be more profitable than small ones. That is usually because, for various reasons, a small business cannot easily compete with a large one. But isn’t competition a major factor in capitalism? Smaller businesses should be a goal in a capitalistic economy – spreading, not just the wealth around, but talent, ability and opportunity as well.

I doubt if mismanagement and greed can be regulated away. I think they will always be with us. And when they bring down a huge business many get injured. Far fewer are injured when very small businesses fail.

Let me use automobiles as an example. Automobiles are a significant part of our economy. Not just their use and manufacture, but the support businesses and cultural things that go along.

We have always thought of automobiles as a monolithic lot. That is one continuum from the smallest to the largest vehicle and those to be made by giant, international corporations. I believe we should begin to think about them differently.

Gasoline Cars and trucks are at their least efficient when they are operated under urban driving conditions. Right? Not only do they get lousy gas mileage, but the pollutant emission levels are much higher than when they are driven at highway speeds. Almost all vehicles are designed for highway use yet we drive them in cities as well. Why not two different kinds of vehicles for those distinctly different driving conditions. We lack vehicles designed just for driving in urban conditions.
Two classes of vehicles! Could that be part of the answer to fuel shortage and air pollution? Urban vehicles and non-urban vehicles. I believe such thinking could make a significant difference in many related issues. Areas of cities could be restricted to urban vehicles only. The advantage of that is safer operation, and because the vehicles could be smaller, more parking spaces and driving lanes.

Today’s hybrid cars typically use a combination of electric engines and gasoline engines. That combination allows the vehicle to operate in both urban and non-urban environments. They are an improvement over the older system, but I believe they fall short of what is possible.

The gas powered vehicles we have now seem to be just fine for highway use so I propose that we continue to make them for that purpose and add a new class of vehicle for urban driving conditions – and limit them to urban areas.

Urban vehicles could be very light weight, one or two passenger and would need a top speed of maybe forty-five miles per hour. Additionally, the distance an urban vehicle would have to drive between re-fueling wouldn’t need to be as great as highway versions. Typical urban driving would allow vehicles to be powered by engines that run on stored energy rather than generated energy. By stored energy, I mean like electric battery powered engines, compressed air motors or even a high speed flywheels. I suppose one could wind up a big coil spring or a rubber band and get sufficient power, but somehow that doesn’t seem right. The key is the energy is generated somewhere else and stored in the vehicle as opposed to generating power on board with gasoline or diesel fuel. Such motors, of course, emit no pollutants and are typically much quieter that comparable gasoline engines.

What’s the advantage to producing the power elsewhere and transferring it to the vehicles? It is much easier to control efficiency and pollution in a few generating plants than in a large number of automobiles.

Lastly, the manufacture of small, stored-energy cars could be done by very small businesses. Many people could be employed in such a system and there would not be a danger of widespread economic disaster if such small businesses fail.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Toward Improving our Nation


Terrorists would never have flown a hang glider into a toolshed on September 11th.
That may sound a bit silly but it illustrates the point that big is not always better. In fact big may often be the worst possible state. Enron was big. Lehman Brothers was big. AIG is big. There is a long list of big organizations, institutions and government agencies that make my point.
I would suggest that smaller, more personal, more diversified is better. To that end and to the goal of a government that is more representative, flexible and responsive to citizens, I urge the following:


  • Small government - our current government is too large and self-protective. We need a government that is small, people-protective and does no more than it was designed to do.
  • Small businesses - Every American should be able to go into business very easily.
  • Term limits for all elected officials - from local dogcatchers to national representatives. Will Rogers said that babies and elected officials need to be changed regularly and for pretty much the same reason.
  • Ballots must always contain the option of "none of the above" for all seats and issues indicated on them - why should citizens get stuck with representatives or legal issues they don't want?
  • A professional education system – teachers should be private contractors not government employees - a teacher should be related to a school the same way a doctor is to a hospital or a lawyer is to a court. A win/win/win situation. It would lower the costs to operate a school district, increase teacher pay and functionality and provide a better education for our children.
  • A criminal law system focused on rehabilitation instead of punishment - when an individual completes a prison term he or she should be a better citizen not a punished ex-con.
  • A civil law system that disallows contingency fees and requires the loser of a suit to pay all legal fees - we need to get away from the fear of a lawsuit around every corner.
  • Replace all income taxes and property taxes with a sales tax. Sales tax rates different for each retailer and based on volume of sales – greater volume, higher sales tax rate - that way little businesses could compete more effectively with big ones.
  • Simplify laws for very small businesses so anyone wishing could easily start and operate a business.
  • Tax and labor laws should encourage very small businesses.
  • Re-establish communities by re-establishing neighborhood schools, libraries, police, fire departments, etc.
  • Automobiles divided into two classes: highway and urban. Urban vehicles designed to operate on city streets at 40mph or less – Highway vehicles designed to operate on roads and highways above 40mph. Highway vehicles operating under urban conditions are inefficient and clumsy.
  • Encourage development of alternative automobile engines – e.g. Sterling, compressed air, etc.
  • Encourage development of low power, high efficiency household appliances - ideally low enough power to be off "the grid".
  • Encourage development of very high efficiency homes and business buildings - hobbit houses might be an example.
  • Reassess all US. agreements with foreign countries to ensure they account to the citizens of the United States

The above proposed changes would reduce dependence of foreign oil, reduce pollution, reduce taxes, reduce size of government and allow small business to compete with large ones.


Improve our lives by improving education, reducing law suits, reducing crime, re-establishing communities, reducing commuting to work, reducing costs of health care, eliminating professional politicians and reducing the need for government welfare and bailout programs.

Above all, the proposed changes should always put the welfare and concerns of citizens ahead of government and business.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

There is a Way

We, here in the United States, are slipping more and more into the economic structure of socialism. Why is that happening? It seems to me there is one primary force working in that direction: socialism appears attractive because it looks like citizens get something for nothing.
It concerns me because I love individual freedom and I love what that freedom can do. Socialism is for ants - it denies individualism and forbids the freedoms that go with it. If one takes a quick glance at socialism through the Marxian slogan “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”, it looks beautiful. It looks like we are all the same (no class differences) and all take care of each other - no one goes hungry or unsheltered. The problem with “from each according to his ability” is no one can be allowed to stand out from anyone else and if you really have ability, you will stand out. Socialism must, by its definition, minimize differences to prevent class structures from developing. Individualism must be pounded down flat with an ideological hammer or cut off at the root with a legal sickle. You cannot be other than a worker in the hive.

The other end of Marx’s slogan (“to each according to his need”) also appears beautiful and diaphanous, but in reality it casts a dark shadow over the whole socialist concept. It is my understanding that in virtually every instance where socialism has been tried, the needs change. In particular, one seemingly minor need changes – the need to produce. Granted that it is not directly related to the physical needs Marx was referring to, but in a socialist environment people quickly learn they don’t need to produce anything because someone else will. The cumulative effect is that products aren’t produced and services aren’t provided. In this way Marxist economies are arrested in a collective fashion, yet the citizens starve individually.

Labor laws and labor unions, while they can provide elegant solutions to desperate problems, tend to Marxism in their function. When a labor union first begins at a company, it is usually in response to a problem with the business owner. The very first order of business for the union is to establish a clearly defined adversarial condition between employees and employer. Any cooperative relationship between employees and employers must be eliminated. Working conditions, pay and job security are frequently issues labor unions can improve. But what happens after the problems are corrected? Unions usually continue to make themselves valuable to employees (or at least appear to be valuable) in order to exist. When a better response might be to step into the background in the role of monitor. Instead they work to make sure that no one worker stands out too much from any other worker – every one doing the same job gets paid the same no matter what their skill level or amount of effort; everyone gets the same amount of leave time; no one gets fired (not even for being incompetent); everyone gets healthcare, education and retirement benefits. Remember the adversarial condition? That gets maintained and amplified - class distinctions are established and hardened and there can never again be a cooperative effort in those companies between labor and management. It is in that disjunction between labor and management that unions exist. (Wouldn't it be a vastly better situation if the unions would, instead, create and increase cooperative efforts between the two classes). The demands of the union increase to maintain the appearance of usefulness. The overall process is called collective bargaining, and each bargaining unit is a miniaturized form of socialism. Socialism works well for ants – not so well for humans. While I am not completely anti-union, it seems that collective bargaining will, sooner or later, turn any group of enterprising humans into an anthill - but an anthill with an internal purpose of disabling all classes except the workers. Perhaps some sort of mechanism could be devised to allow unions to function in a non-adversarial way once major employment issues are resolved.

Curiously, few labor unions appear more Marxist than those that function within our various levels of government. Because of that, the government of the ”land of the free and the home of the brave” operates internally as a socialist institution. We can see the effects of Marxism in our education system, our postal system or, in fact, nearly any other government agency.

My little tirade against Marxism and labor unions is somewhat unfair, I’ll admit. Marxism is meant to be more than an economic system. It is meant to be a more fair system for society in general. It is proposed as an alternative to unfair economic systems such as feudalism, monarchy and, in our case, the effects of rampant, big capitalism. We can easily understand why feudalism and monarchy can be unfair, but why is capitalism unfair? Everybody has a chance to own their own stuff – right? The owners and controllers of big corporations tend to make decisions based only on financial profit. The economic power of large corporations can become sufficient to enslave entire communities and wield control over not only our own government, but other governments as well. Big capitalism, as it is practiced today, is increasingly becoming what some have called neo-feudalism. Capitalism, as it is practiced today, also relies on its own growth to keep it functioning. Growth means ever increasing markets and an ever increasing quest for profit and power. This is only a slight departure from historical feudal nations and monarchies that depended on military conquest for expansion of profit and power. The problem is that markets and profits cannot continue to grow indefinitely. There must always be a point when a market becomes saturated. When that happens, growth stops, economies stagnate and poverty envelopes the affected area. To prevent that, markets must be found, manufactured – even synthesized.

What else makes big capitalism unfair? Because under big capitalism laws are made to benefit big corporations not citizens; entire blocks of citizens are economically abandoned when markets shift; and in the course of it, citizens often become the functional property of the corporations.

We have laws to prevent monopolies and monopolistic behavior among corporations. Such laws indicate that lawmakers recognize the problems of corporations becoming too large and powerful – at least some of the problems. But power and control can be approached from different directions. It is impossible to regulate the nearly infinite number of creative approaches that can be devised. One of the more favored work-arounds in use today is for corporations (or entire industries) to send representatives to influence elected and appointed people in government. Those representatives can offer perks and persuasive arrangements that the average citizen can not. The result is laws, regulations, taxation and enforcement of each favors them. The citizens (the actual residents of our nations - and electors) seem to get marginalized except during election time whereupon they are, reportedly, simply patronized. All this is not to say that big business is bad. It is to say that big business is too frequently getting away with more than their fair share of the American pie. America is, after all, a nation of people – not a nation of corporations serving an elite class.

Much is currently being said about a global economy and a single world government. Such an economy is doomed if built upon either socialism or contemporary capitalism because of the same things that doom the smaller-scaled economies. That failure will subject, not just citizens here and there, to poverty and starvation, but every human being - including the very wealthy.
There is another way. Another way which is neither Marxism nor neo-feudalistic capitalism – a way that neither stymies the economy with governmental favors nor hinders the economy by crippling the desire for productivity. There is a way that is eminently fair to the citizens, promotes their freedom and does not require excessive market growth to sustain it (thus reducing imperialism) – a way that extinguishes the need for most of our present social welfare system and actually gets things done.

That way is Proprietarianism. Proprietarianism is a social and economic system focused on the very small proprietor and based in the simple idea that every citizen has not just an opportunity, but an equal opportunity to own and operate a business and derive his livelihood from it if he so chooses. If that sounds familiar, it is because that is the system our national founders were working toward. Such a system was more assumed than spelled out in our foundation documents because the founders had no notion of socialism nor of corporations as they exist today.
A fundamental tenet of Proprietarianism is it must be no more costly to be poor than it is to be wealthy. Here is are some examples that illustrate what that means:
  • Suppose a wealthy individual purchased a recent model automobile. That individual simply goes to a car dealer, hands the money to the dealer and the dealer hands the keys to the individual. Now suppose also that a poorer individual purchases the exact same model car. That individual goes first to the bank and secures a loan (with interest), and not being wealthy enough to self-insure must purchase automobile insurance. At the end of the automobile’s life, the poorer individual may have spent twice as much for his car as the richer individual.
  • A wealthy individual may easily purchase a house in which to live. A poorer individual may not be able to afford to buy such a dwelling and may have to rent a house or apartment from a landlord. In fact, if an individual is poor enough he or she may not be able to afford the necessary up-front damage and utility deposits usually necessary to rent such a living space and may be forced by those circumstances to pay the weekly or daily cost of a hotel room. In the course of a year, a poorer person may pay many times more for housing than a wealthy person.
  • A large business may be able to manufacture and distribute a product at a much lower cost (due to what is called economies of scale) than a smaller business. Hence their profit for the sold product will be much greater than the smaller business. This situation usually results in small businesses being unable to successfully compete with large ones.

These examples illustrate that the current economic playing field is not even – that it is biased unfairly toward wealthy people and big business. Under such unfair influence it is extremely difficult, in the land of opportunity, for the small business or individual to achieve the American dream. The philosophy of the New Commoner (Proprietarianism) attempts to correct the competition imbalance through regulation, incentives and market and business strategies. The intent is to allow less wealthy individuals to compete more effectively with very wealthy people and very small businesses to compete effectively with very large businesses. For example, under Proprietarianism, a local mom and pop store could sell plastic spoons for approximately the same price as a giant retail chain store.

We already have laws, regulations and practices controlling formation and operation of business monopolies as well as trading and marketing issues. These things are each meant to improve the fairness of business competition. But regulation surrounding the fundamental ability to compete have been unjustifiably overlooked. I propose laws, regulations and practices to correct such imbalances.

One such proposed change is in taxation. I propose that all corporate and private income taxes and property taxes be replaced with a single retail sales tax. All taxes involved in the manufacture of goods and the productions of services would then no longer be hidden in the costs of goods and services, but become visible to the only real tax payer – the citizen. Under such a system, each business would be assigned its own tax rate which would depend on its volume of sales – the higher the sales volume, the higher the tax rate.

To understand how such a tax rearrangement might work one must first understand that it is only the end consumer who actually pays taxes under our current tax system. All taxes paid by companies, corporations, businesses, etc. are included in and recovered by the cost of the goods and services they sell. Suppose a company manufactures widgets and sells each one at retail. In order for the company to earn a profit, the sales price must first recover all of the expenses of production which includes all of the taxes it pays – corporate income tax, property taxes, permits and inspection fees as well as tax items it pays for its employees such as Medicare, Medicaid and social security.

Suppose the above widget manufacturer buys the parts it uses to make widgets from other companies and those companies, in turn, buy from other companies. Each of them, in turn, must recover the taxes they pay by passing on the expense embedded in the cost of the goods and services they sell.

It should be clear at this point that the only one not passing on the cost of taxes to someone else is the last one in the chain – the consumer. The consumer doesn't see all those taxes because they are embedded in the cost of the widget. If all the embedded taxes were removed, a widget that now sells for $10 might instead sell for $3.

Under this tax proposal, all of the taxes would be added back in at the end as a single sales tax so the consumer would still pay $10 for his widget (that way the government still gets its money – reducing that is a separate issue). However, each company would have its own tax rate depending on its volume of sale. A high volume of sale would mean a higher sales tax. A low volume of sales would mean a lower sales tax rate. A mom-and-pop company may be able to produce, distribute and sell widget for $4. Whereas a bigger company, due to economies of scale, may be able to sell an identical widget for $2. Recall that the consumer still pays $10 for his widget no matter which company he buys it from because of different tax rates. The big company may still earn a greater profit from each widget it sells, but the really small company can effectively compete – at least in terms of retails sales prices.

Tax reform represents one part of the Proprietarian strategy – it allows very small businesses to compete economically with very large businesses. There must also be changes in other laws. Especially the the laws regarding vertical monopolies and vertical pseudo-monopolies. An intended effect of any monopoly is to limit competition. A vertical monopoly is a situation where a single entity owns all steps in the production of an item or a service – from raw material to finished product. A vertical pseudo-monopoly is a situation where a single entity has exclusive trade agreements with other companies at all steps of production of an item or service. Either arrangement can be used to control a market and inhibit or block competition.

Suppose Joe & Sally wanted to sell widgets in their small store. They contact the wholesaler to make arrangements to do so, but are told the wholesaler only sells widgets in lots of a thousand or more. Joe & Sally only have warehouse space for twenty or thirty widgets. The wholesaler's policy limits their product to sales to large businesses only and would effectively contribute to limiting the competition of those businesses. Such restraint-of-trade agreements would not be allowed under Proprietarian philosophy.

Other laws that make it difficult or impossible to start and operate very small businesses such as zoning, operating permits, labor laws and insurance requirements would also need to be reviewed and discarded or modified with the intent of making it easier for such businesses to be started and operated profitably.

Why are the tax changes so critical? Such changes not only allow businesses of all sizes to compete more fairly, it also makes taxes visible to the people who pay them. However, there are other objectives that are important. Redefining the taxes from income taxes and property taxes to sales tax removes the burden of regularly filing complex government reports from the average citizen. It also removes the threat of the government forcibly taking property and freedom away from ordinary citizens for failure to pay such taxes.

Why is it important to allow very small businesses to compete effectively with large businesses? Effective competition would enable many people to own and operate their own small businesses thereby dramatically reducing unemployment in our nation. Easy proliferation of very small businesses means small towns, communities and neighborhoods can, once again, flourish and move beyond being bedroom communities. That translates into shorter commutes to work and shopping for many. It allows rebuilding of neighborhood principles and relationships – and that translates into safer, more stable communities and means a more stable economy and a safer nation.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Save Gas & the Environment

Gas prices over $4.00 per gallon! Whatever shall we do? In my way of thinking, we need to make the price come down or at least make it be a good deal less important. We can do that by reducing our gasoline consumption. There are probably dozens of ways to accomplish that goal. Some ways would be a good deal less popular than others – like lowering the speed limit on our highways. Some obvious ways would really take quite a while to become effective – like manufacturing cars with better mileage and getting enough of them on the road to make a difference. One very long-range plan might be to re-engineer our businesses and communities so long drives for employment and acquiring essential goods and services were shortened. While those may be good ideas, the problem is with us now and we really can’t wait as long as they would take.

I have a few suggestions that would yield a much quicker reduction in our national gasoline demand. One strategy which would yield very quick results would be to require stores to be closed one day a week – Sunday perhaps. Such a move would impose a need for strategic planning for such things as shopping excursions. Such planning should result in fewer such excursions thereby reducing fuel consumption. It could also aid in reconstruction of families and neighborhood relations, but it too might not be very popular in our material culture.

Another suggestion that would likely yield much better results, but a little less quickly, is to make a distinction between driving on city streets and highway driving. Cities and states can legalize and encourage operation of golf cart-like vehicles on low speed (45 mph or less) city streets. Many such vehicles are in production right now and with some slight modifications could be made to be more comfortable and safe for street operation. Many of these vehicles are powered by electric motors – very quiet and efficient. Others are powered by small gasoline motors which can get remarkably good gas mileage. (Other engines designs should be explored such as Sterling engines and compressed air engines).

The automobiles we drive now are least efficient in city driving conditions - most get much better gas mileage at highway speeds. So why not take advantage of that knowledge and replace the least efficient driving modes with more efficient cars? Depending on their needs, people could own both an urban vehicle and a highway vehicle or they could own one kind and rent the other as needed.

I suspect that shortly after enabling such a program, we would have thriving industries manufacturing new vehicles as well as upgrading and refitting existing ones. Within a year, our national gasoline consumption would be dramatically lowered as would the price per gallon. Additionally our dependence on foreign oil would be reduced and correspondingly the influence such foreign nations can exert on our culture and economy would be reduced. (Some of those countries seem to be our enemies and I’ve never been enthusiastic about making our enemies wealthy.)

Really small, efficient urban vehicles, would provide the means to a substantial improvement over our current situation. They would use far fewer resources than conventional cars – cost much less, cost much less to operate, allow for narrower traffic lanes and parking spaces. They could even reduce city street maintenance needs. Noise and pollution levels would be greatly reduced in neighborhoods. Who knows where such thinking could lead?

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Tiny Cars

Probably not for everyone, but for those who would like an inexpensive car just for getting around town.

Little cars. Not what we commonly call small cars, but really little cars: inexpensive, one or two passengers, small gas or electric engine, maybe 40 mph, 80 mpg. Little cars with heaters, A/C, stereos, etc, but limited to driving within the city.

Ordinary automobiles are at their worst when operated under city driving conditions. If we are really serious about reducing air pollution and gaining independence from foreign oil, little cars could be a viable answer. If just a small percentage of people were to drive such vehicles to work, shopping, dropping off the kids, etc., there would be a huge reduction gasoline consumption and an even greater reduction in air pollution.

Such vehicles would be safer, cheaper to manufacture, operate, maintain and repair than ordinary cars. Some of the very first cars made were little cars. They have been around a long time. They could be built easily and made to be very durable and comfortable. Plus, they could be made locally in just about any community by an adventurous soul or two with minimal startup capital.

How about special streets just for little cars? Special parking lots? Restricted areas for little cars only? Wouldn’t it be worth the effort?

Passing laws to allow such vehicles on city streets would, I think, quickly ignite a fire under America that would allow our natural ingenuity to solve a few problems that ambassadors and missiles seem unable to handle. Here are some problems that could be solved or alleviated by small cars:
- Dependence on foreign oil could be eliminated
- Air pollution from motor vehicles could be dramatically reduced or even eliminated.
- Noise pollution in communities could be dramatically reduced or eliminated.
- Crowded driving and parking problems could be alleviated.
- Less land area would be needed for driving surfaces.
- Maintenance expenses for driving surfaces could be reduced.
- Young people and old people could drive more easily.
- Vehicle costs could be dramatically lower than conventional cars.

There are quite likely other benefits I haven’t thought of. Is any community even experimenting with such a thing?

If not, why not? Many problems our nation faces today could be eliminated in five years. The materials, technology and know-how are available right now and they have been tried and tested. What are we waiting for?

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Garbage

The average American throws away something like 6.5 pounds of trash and garbage every day. Anyway that’s what I’ve heard and because of that we are accused of being extremely wasteful.
I don’t know anyone who willfully throws away as much as they can for the sheer joy of it. Rather it’s more a situation where people have no choice. Here’s the problem as I see it –
I buy a toaster that lasts a year then breaks. It cannot be fixed so I have to throw it away. Virtually all manufactured consumer products are made that way today. So part of my 6.5 pounds is manufactured products that I would not throw away if they had not broken or if they could have been repaired.

I buy some groceries at the store and bring them home to make a few meals. I carry them home in a bag – I throw that away. Some of the products were in bags inside boxes. Some were individually wrapped. Part of my 6.5 pounds is unnecessary wrapping and containers.
I open my mailbox. Most of the material inside is unsolicited ads urging me to buy products or services I don’t need and never will. Part of my 6.5 pounds is unwanted advertisements.
Whose fault is it that I throw away so much trash? It’s not mine! It’s the economy we live in and I didn’t design it.

Here’s the way it works, as I understand it. If a product breaks or wears out, the manufacturer gets to sell more of them. If the product is fixable, the manufacturer doesn’t get to sell as many. It is far more profitable to manufacture products that break, wear out or are umrepairable. The reason anything works at all is because people won’t buy the stuff if it doesn’t work. And they won’t buy it if it wears out too quickly. (focus groups and product studies can help to get just the right life span for a product).

Does this market approach seem a little dishonest to you? It does to me. It also tells me we are being poor stewards with our resources. If enough stuff gets purchased, used and discarded, the whole world will eventually become a dump. Such a thing probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but can’t we do better than that?

If there were a hundred times more businesses and they could all compete on even ground, such wastefulness would be much less likely to continue. Such would be the case if income taxes and property taxes (both business and private taxes) were replaced with a progressive retail sales tax. A progressive tax is one where the rate is determined by the volume of sales – the higher the sales volume, the higher the sales tax rate. The tax rate would be such that a customer would spend the same for an item no matter if he bought it in the tiny store on the corner or the mega-mart on the edge of town.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Insurance

The United States is awash in insurance. Every financial transaction has some insurance component attached to it. Why do we need insurance? As near as I can tell, we need insurance because we have insurance. If we didn’t have it, we wouldn’t need it.
You ask, "Okay, what’s wrong with insurance?"
Well, for starters, it costs a lot of money. It affects our daily lives, not just because it increases the cost of everything, but insurance companies impose many rules. In fact, the total collection of rules and conditions may equal or exceed the number of laws from our government. Insurance companies represent a shadow government in which we are forced to participate and within which we have no representation.
"So what?" you ask.
Have you been to a doctor or a hospital lately. If you have, you have experienced the downside of insurance first hand. Insurance rules and requirements control what treatment you can get, who can do it and how long your recuperation time is. Do you remember when that was your choice or at least your doctor’s choice?
Insurance affects how you are born, die and nearly every aspect of life in between.
Another problem insurance has created is the deep pocket syndrome. Insurance promises large piles of money to anyone fortunate enough to win a lawsuit. Such piles of money are a strong temptation for litigation and the total effect is, once again, to drive up the costs of goods and services.
The obvious solution is to outlaw insurance companies. The problem with that solution is that we need insurance. We need insurance because we have insurance.
How can we deal with this? I really don’t know. Do you have any suggestions?
Is it possible to wean ourselves slowly?

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Fair Business Practices

Businesses can operate very efficiently and show their greatest profit if they are not distracted by annoying things like competition. However, monopolies have been shown to be economically and socially destructive and have been regulated in an effort to limit their negative effects.

Other business practices considered to be unfair or considered to limit competition are similarly regulated.

Volume discount pricing and special inter-business agreements are common throughout the business community and are regarded by some as essential. Good arguments can be made for their use. After all, economies of scale are very real. Unfortunately these practices are far too often implemented in ways that are unfair and even predatory. They are used as tools to limit competition. They have been used most effectively to limit or inhibit competition from small or new businesses.

Limiting the use of these practices would change the way businesses interact. Businesses, small and large, new and old would be on a more level playing field. Both competition and fairness of trade would increase. Both the business community and consumers would likely benefit greatly from such regulation.

Here is an example of how this might work: Suppose a little store can sell a thimble for a dollar. A nearby big store might be able to sell a thimble for fifty cents because it buys and sells in larger volumes. Suppose the sales tax was higher in the larger store so the customer ended up paying about the same as in the little store. The stores are competing to sell thimbles, and prices and profits are based in their efficiency, marketing and business acumen. The little 'mom and pop' store has an more equal opportunity to compete with the giant super-chain store.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Are U.S. Citizens being Represented in Government?

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America, In CONGRESS, July 4, 1776
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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 to 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. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. —Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain [George III] is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.


It seems to me that our nation has deviated some distance from this vision of our founders. Yet even with so great a deviation, I would not advocate the overthrow of the United States government as did our founders. I do, however, advocate a few changes that might put our government back on the track originally envisioned by them.
Do any of these things disturb you?
-High taxes
-Failure to protect our national borders
-Political Payoffs
-Legislative Favoritism
-Jobs going to other countries
-Poor education system
-Dependence on foreign oil
-High cost of medicine
-Stupid people getting elected to office
-Few opportunities for the little guy
-Corruption in government
-High crime rate
-Too much political influence from large organizations
-Extreme international trade imbalance
-One World government
-Discrimination
-Too much foreign influence in our government

These issues all have something in common. They are all driven by the way our politicians pay for their election campaigns.


Consider these things –
1. Often the first priority for an elected official is to remain in office.
2. Some elected officials will do anything to stay in office – anything!
3. To win an election, a candidate needs the votes of the general populace – the common voter.
4. The better financed candidate will almost always win an election.
5. Money from a few ‘deep pockets’ (campaign finance sources) is an enormous help to getting elected.
6. An elected official owes allegiance to both voters and finance sources
7. The needs of common voters and finance sources rarely coincide.
8. When an issue arises (and there are many) where an elected official must make a choice between representing common voters and representing campaign finance sources, representation of the money sources will usually win (see point 4).
9. Who can become an elected representative is controlled by finance sources.
10. Therefore all citizens are not equally represented in government.


Although these issues are not likely to change on their own, one thing could be changed that would make our government far more responsive to the needs of the people. Suppose an elected official never had to choose between campaign finance sources and common voters. That would be the case if voters and campaign finance sources were the same. It is possible to make all citizens equally influential by regulating the source of campaign money. If money for political campaigns came only from registered voters, then the elected officials would owe their allegiance to them and no one else.


Wealth cannot not make anyone intelligent or wise yet we expect our leaders to have those qualities. Sometimes it appears that even a simple majority of our elected leaders have neither. Representation and leadership must be based not wealth, but on ability, desire and commitment. Ability, desire and commitment are rare enough in the human condition without restricting the pool of potential candidates to the relatively few numbers that make up the wealthy class in our nation. True, sometimes elected leaders arise out of the non-wealthy classes, but almost always it is because they have attracted the favor of a moneyed resource and so it is really the moneyed resource (the wealthy) that gets represented.


If registered voters were the only source of campaign money, then the very wealthy voters would direct political campaigns and the advantage of such a change would be lost. Additional changes must be made. The amount of each individual’s contribution to any campaign must also be restricted to an amount an average voter could manage. Perhaps an appropriate limit would be one half the annual median income of registered voters. While such changes make great steps toward a nation governed by its people, they would not significantly change the potential for the wealthy class to rule. Another step must be taken. The candidates for elected office themselves must be restricted in the amounts they could personally contribute to their own political campaign. Such restrictions would remove many of the issues of money from a political campaign.


What is suggested here would mean a government of the people, by the people and for the people to an extent never seen before in the recorded history of mankind.


It is recognized that deep pocketed money sources will continue to influence elected officials even under the campaign finance reform proposed here. Additional legal spackling would likely be necessary to minimize such activities.


There is a danger with broad representation
Each citizen must live freely and have the opportunity to live a successful life in whatever legitimate way he or she can. Such freedom and equal opportunity is possible under a capitalistic economic system. Socialism, on the other hand, can be defined as an economic structure under which all citizens are equal. It denies individuals the freedom to excel or be different in any way. Everyone must be subjected to the same life to the extent that even their opinions and beliefs must be identical. Such a system is horribly unnatural and un–human. Only under capitalism governed by the common people is it possible to truly live out the concept of "from each according to his abilities – to each according to his needs."


Why bring up the concepts of capitalism and socialism in this discussion? It is common in our current system for political candidates to make grand promises to voters in the hopes of gaining support. One of the most common of these grand promises is to give the voters something for nothing. This usually takes the form of promising to lower taxes and increase government entitlements. Of course the taxes are never lowered, but the entitlements are always increased. This represents nothing more than a direct march into socialism.


The temptation to make such promises to voters would not be less under the legal changes so far presented. In fact, the pressure to do so might be greater. Rules, regulations and laws must be changed or enacted that ensure a capitalistic economy. Unfortunately, capitalism can be just as cruel and un-human as socialism unless economic and regulatory pressures strongly favor small and very small businesses.

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Philosophy

Proprietarianism
(Pronounced: pro-pry-uh-tarry-an-ism. From the word "proprietor". It means the belief in personal ownership)

What is it?
Why do we need it?

"We on this continent should never forget that men first crossed the Atlantic not to find soil for their ploughs, but to secure liberty for their souls." Robert J. McCracken


Proprietarianism means --
  • Citizens in control of their lives, their families and their communities
  • Lower taxes and crime rates
  • Better education for our children and affordable medical care for everyone
Proprietarianism is an economic, and social perspective that returns ownership of government, businesses, and institutions to citizens. It is a philosophy that maintains we are not just a nation of people, but a nation of people working for our common good.
Three basis premises of Proprietarianism are --
  • A government is the servant of its people.
  • Every citizen has the right to enter into business and expect to profit
  • It should cost no more to be poor than it does to be rich
Our way of Life --
The greater part of history of all hitherto existing society is not the history of class struggles. Rather it is the largely unwritten story of people struggling to get along in their daily lives.
Freeman and slave, patrician and plebian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, have stood sometimes in opposition to one another, sometimes shoulder to shoulder. Often in different classes, but always the common struggle of daily life.
Everywhere in history, we find complicated social arrangements of various groups established to ease our unceasing struggles. In the United States today we are divided into two main political groups. These groups which were initially established as devices to help ease social problems have, in recent years, decayed from within through special interest and intrigue and are actually adding to the burden of the citizen's struggle.
The Republican Party in the United States today advocates, supports and is supported by big businesses and big industries. The Democratic Party advocates, supports and is supported by big labor and big public institutions. Both thrive in governments that are far larger than necessary to best serve citizens. Neither approach represents the average American citizen very well. Both, however, have become machines well suited to removing power and wealth from ordinary citizens and placing it in the hands of a few.
Our national founders set a wonderful table of opportunity for us. We have, in recent years, moved off that table and have contented ourselves with things which have fallen to the floor and in doing so, we miss the banquet. We complain that our schools, medical delivery system, corporations, criminal justice system, government and our political system are failing yet we continue to eat from the floor.
There is another way to carry on our social and economic business. There is a way that returns wealth, power and purpose to the people -- a way that really does help to ease the burden of our daily lives. That way is Proprietarianism.
The word Proprietarianism comes from the word Proprietor and it means a belief in private ownership. That belief establishes the direction of the Proprietarian philosophy and is, essentially, the antithesis of our current failing socio-economic system.
Proprietarianism is an economic perspective, but it is also a way of government, a way of doing business and a way of life.
The Proprietarian philosophy allows expression of our needs as human beings. It is capitalistic in that it assumes such fundamentals as drive, ownership, personal control, individualism, competition and accumulation of wealth, but it also assumes things not commonly found in modern capitalism such as compassion, altruism, honesty, integrity and the common brotherhood of man.
To implement Proprietarianism requires no great economic coup nor does it require structural changes in our government -- it merely requires reassessment, refinement and the willingness to move our current system in a better direction.
Proprietarianism is not new. It has, in fact, been a foundational block in this nation until recent years. It is a concept that is easily grasped and movement toward that philosophy would be understood and welcomed by many people. A few, however, will reject, condemn, belittle and attempt to divert such a movement because their wealth is based in the status quo -- in continuing in a direction that is bad for our nation and especially bad for the majority of its inhabitants.
Many aspects of our current system are failing to deliver the promises left us by our founders. Some of these parts are decaying -- decaying because of stifling regulation and dullness due to lack of competition. With the exception of coloring and trim many of our systems and products which appear to be widely diverse actually suffer from sameness. We are left with few real choices. This is readily illustrated:
  • News reporters tend to report the same things, from the same perspective and in the same style.
  • One can of beans in a supermarket is indistinguishable from another except for the label on the can.
  • Automobiles are essentially the same with minor variations between models and manufacturers
  • One institution or agency is very much like another.
  • One politician is like another.
  • One student is about as uneducated as another.
We content ourselves with a wide assortment of choices that are not real and have been led into thinking that they are. These things have come about through economic pressures. The less variation there is in a product or service, the easier and more economical it is to produce or manage. This rule can be applied beneficially or detrimentally. A large collection of goods or services all made to be the same is a detrimental application. Many small groups of goods or services - each allowed to be different, but containing similar elements is a more beneficial application.
Real competition is a fundamental tenet of Proprietarian economics. If a business, institution, school, agency or organization cannot compete then it probably needs to be regulated. Competition is heavily preferred over regulation. Regulation should only be used when a competitive environment cannot be established.
A democracy is not an efficient form of government in terms of costs and administration, but can be extremely efficient in anthroplenic terms. Anthropleny can be defined as those things in a human society which allow citizens to live long, cooperative, purposeful, fulfilled lives.
While economic efficiency and anthropleny are not mutually exclusive they are often found to be inversely related. Improvements in economic efficiency often result in lower levels of anthropleny.
Proprietarianism is an economic and social perspective that emphasizes giving greater control to citizens.
In the United States we hold out the dream that if we work hard enough we will be successful. That does happen, but it happens so rarely as to be almost non-existent. Making that dream a real possibility for many more citizens is a functional objective of Proprietarianism.
There is a need for large corporations. It would be very difficult to engage in large projects without them. However large corporations can be like the "tail that wags the dog". Large corporations should not be the foundation of our business community. When such corporations change direction, falter or fail, thousands of families can be adversely affected.
There is a cooperative element within the human psyche and there is a need for a complimentary socialist element in our culture to care for and assist those who are not succeeding in their lives or businesses. Such an altruistic compassionate element should be held up as wonderful and necessary function, but it does not function well as the cornerstone of social interchange.
The foundation and basis of a natural human society should be compassionate competition. Compassionate competition is a fundamental element of Proprietarianism.
A Proprietarianistic view would hold that every citizen has the right to enter into business if he or she chooses to do so and it would hold that we are not a nation of individuals, but rather a nation of brothers and sisters working for our common good. Only in this way we can truly live the Marxian ideal "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need."
Smaller businesses may not amass the enormous profits of their larger brothers, but they can spread the wealth of our nation out and provide an excellent life for many more people than the current system is capable of doing.

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Focus of our Criminal System

Recently a Vermont judge made national news by sentencing a confessed child rapist to 60 days in jail. The citizens of Vermont and ultimately the nation were outraged at such a light penalty.
The judge, at the sentencing, justified his decision by saying that penalty wouldn’t correct the problem. Therapy was needed, but there was none available through the state penal system. Perhaps he was right in that sense, but just letting the guy off is even worse. Such a short sentence mocks the victim, the victim’s family, the community and our legal system.

Penalties may be somewhat beneficial in deterring crime - at least some crime by some criminals. Our legislators are continually increasing penalties for various crimes, but the crime rate isn’t going down. Yes, it seems to go down a little here and there, but not much. It also seems that it goes down not so much because of the penalty, but because repeat offenders are getting jailed longer.

I have spoken with many people involved with the criminal justice system. I’ve talked with, lawyers, police, prison chaplains and even people convicted of crimes. I’ve read numerous articles and seen television reports concerning crime, criminals and the criminal justice system. Piecing all that information together makes me think our criminal justice system could function vastly better if it had a different focus.
Our current system is pointed toward the idea that criminals must be punished. That sounds right, but it doesn’t seem to be working. Suppose instead that our system was directed at the idea that criminals must be rehabilitated. That doesn’t sound so right, but I'd like to examine the idea a little more.

One thing I have heard from my different sources is that the great bulk of crime in our nation is committed by a relatively small number of people. I had a local policeman tell me that if he could lock up one hundred people, the crime rate in our community of a hundred and twenty thousand would be reduced by more than half. Of course he was speculating, but his point was well made.

If a man gets caught holding up a convenience store, he could, under most legal systems, get a jail sentence of perhaps five years. He may, depending on a variety of circumstances, spend only a few weeks of that sentence actually in jail. He’ll eventually get released, but now he’s made new friends in jail – people with similar interests and experiences. He will have learned about the police, the court system and the world that criminals are given to live in. Such a system has great potential to make him a much better criminal and far less potential to make him a better citizen. So the question comes up, ‘Which is better to have walking our streets – good citizens or good criminals?’ Our newly improved criminal may continue to commit crimes, but be harder to catch and harder to convict when he is caught. He may, with some likelihood, fall into a ‘catch and release’ cycle that is functionally unlimited.

Suppose that instead of jailing the guy for robbery, he was sent to a rehabilitation center for a prescribed minimum time. At the center, there would be a serious effort made to rehabilitate him. He would be taught how to be a better, more productive citizen – even learning a trade if he had no useful skills. Such teaching would be quite unlike the public school system and would involve real reward and real punishment to facilitate learning. At the end of his training, he could be released to function as a good citizen without distinction or limitation except for a probationary period and one other thing. He would now have an arrest record with a boundary. If he commits a crime again, his training period might be longer and more intense before he is released. If he commits another crime after all that, he could be arrested, tried and if convicted a third time, his boundary would have been exceeded and he would be labeled unrehabilitatable. The unrehabilitatable would be removed from participation in society - possibly retained for life in an uncomplicated, efficient, humane but secure prison with no further efforts toward rehabilitation. The individual would be simply not be allowed to participate in society. I know this may sound cruel and excessive to some, but it does provide motivation to be a good citizen which the current system doesn't do very well.

The boundary could be set appropriately for various crimes and combinations of crimes. Under some situations it might be perfectly reasonable for the boundary to be set at one. Other situations might have some higher number. For example, a preditory murderer may have a boundary of one while a simple thief might have a boundary of three. That thief may have his boundary reduced by committing another crime.

The difference between the system I’ve just described and our current system is focus - penalty versus rehabilitation. True, a part of our current penal system is directed toward rehabilitation, but its real goal is punishment - speak to anyone who has gone through the system and you will get that idea described very clearly. I believe that if a criminal were given the opportunity to participate in a real program designed to specifically improve his life he would take it. I believe that continuing a life of crime and failing to live as a productive citizen after having been given such an opportunity should result in loss of freedom and the loss of the privilege to live a life among people who do live as responsible citizens. Such an individual should be confined as cheaply and simply as humanely allowable.

I believe a system focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment would dramatically lower crime rates in our communities. However, I have no information beyond the reasoning presented here that would indicate such a system would actually work. Therefore, I propose that pilot programs to study the effectiveness of such a system be undertaken.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Equality

  • Would you like to own and operate a small business? Perhaps you don't want to be part of a large corporation, but your chances of success are severly limited under our current system of laws.
  • Would you like to have great schools for your kids? It doesn't look like our current school systems can do that.
  • Would like to have a medical system you can afford without having to resort to huge insurance companies? Perhaps your elected representatives don't see it that way.
  • Would you like to see yourself or some people you know free themselves from public assistance? It is very difficult to do under our current welfare system.

What is needed in each of these issues? Equal Opportunity!

Equality

Many of us here in the United States like to think of ourselves not as a ‘nation of equals’, but as a nation of ‘equal opportunity’ for all citizens. The concept of a nation of equals is a socialist ideal which is not only impossible to sustain, but it is difficult to imagine a more boring way to live.
It is within the realm of opportunity where equality is best exercised. When opportunities are equal our human differences can be expressed. Success in an ‘equal opportunity’ system depends on individual skill and drive. On the other hand, personal success in a ‘nation of equals’ system is discouraged. Laws and social pressures are in place to ensure that individual personalities are hammered out flat.
Unfortunately, beyond the slogan ‘a land of equal opportunity’, we haven’t put the idea of equal opportunity into practice very well. We fall short of the ideal in some very significant areas.
Most of us, when asked about equality, think things like racial equality or gender equality. That’s not surprising because we have some folks who are making quite a nice living beating those drums. So we have all heard about them over and over. The actor Morgan Freeman reportedly made a recent comment. He said if we stop talking about racial differences, the issue would go away. Freeman is right, the real issue isn’t racial and it isn't gender.
The real issue is about equalities that supercede issues like racial equality and gender equality. It’s about equalities that go right to the heart of who we are as Americans. There are fundamental challanges to opportunity that are not being addressed at all. It is those differences that lock many people into life styles they may never get beyond.
Two areas that we should be very concerned with are equal financial opportunity and equal representation in our government. We give lip service to these, but we don’t actually practice them.

Equal representation
It is a given in political campaigns that the better financed candidate will always win the office. If a candidate attracts wealthy backers, that candidate will win. So in a nation espousing equal representation it is really the wealthy that get represented. Less wealthy people can’t afford to donate significantly to political campaigns so their concerns don’t get represented very well – if at all. There are far fewer wealthy people than all other economic classes yet that class gets far greater representation in government. Hence, laws tend to favor them which, in turn, further limits the opportunities of others.

What can be done to achieve equal representation? Like most difficult questions, this one has a simple answer. We can come much closer to the ideal if we change the way political campaigns are financed. If political campaign contributions were limited to registered voters, and the contributed amounts were limited to no more than the annual per capita income (candidates similarly limited as well), a great step would be taken toward equal representation. Such a change would help ensure that the concerns of all our people would be represented equally. Such a change would also help to link the allegiance of elected officials to their entire constituency and not just to the more wealthy portions of it.

Equal Financial Opportunity
Equality of opportunity is severely limited because it is so much more expensive to be poor in this country than it is to be rich. A poor person or a small business pays more for goods and services than a rich person or a big business.
  • Suppose a man wants shelter. The rich man can buy a house – live in it – sell it and possibly increase his wealth. A poor man may only have enough to rent a motel room one day at a time. The effect is the poor man may spend a great deal more money for a great deal less than the rich man and be left with even less opportunity to advance his condition.
  • Suppose a business wants to sell a product. A big business may buy a large quantity of widgets and sell each of them at a very low price. A smaller ‘mom-and-pop’ business may only be able to buy a few widgets at a time. Their costs will be considerably higher per widget and they won’t be able to sell them at the same low price the big business can. The wholesaler may even refuse to sell them small quantities. Hence the small business can’t compete with the big business.

These are examples of unequal financial opportunities that we have come to accept as part of life or part of doing business. The concept of capitalism gets tainted when the wealthy have vastly more opportunity than the poor. Yet capitalism doesn’t have to be like that! A few simple changes in the way we conduct business can greatly enhance the equality of opportunities for a much larger portion of our citizenry.

Just as other discriminatory or predatory business practices are regulated, practices such as volume discounting and special agreements and arrangements between businesses could be disallowed. Some examples of these concepts are:
  • If a widget sells for one dollar, a thousand widgets would sell for one thousand dollars.
  • If a dollar can be borrowed for ten cents, then a thousand dollars can be borrowed for one hundred dollars.
If volume discounts were illegal the small business or poorer individual would have the same opportunity for access to goods and services as the large business or wealthy individual.
  • If a company offers an item for sale, it must sell that item equally to anyone who wishes to buy it.
  • If a company offers an item for sale, it must sell it at the same price to anyone who wishes to buy it.
  • If a company offers an item for sale, it must sell it without restrictions on quantity or quality to anyone who wishes to buy it.
When restrictive arrangements between companies and individuals are removed all business and individuals have equal opportunities for access to goods and services. Special deals would be allowed only when they would not restrict or limit opportunities of others.
Many of the potential evils of capitalism are reduced or eliminated when businesses are regulated in ways that protected equal opportunities of all citizens. Many problems in our nation would simply disappear if all citizens were represented by our lawmakers.
These issues are of far greater significance than the issues that are normally brought to our attention. These issues are fundamental to equal opportunity.
It doesn't tax one's imagination to see that our medical, education, and legal systems would be far more user friendly if our elected office holders represented the citizenry more than deep-pocketed institutions.
It doesn't tax one's imagination to see that many more small businesses could succeed if they were able to compete on an even financial footing with giant corporations.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Energy Crisis? Well Duh!

Are we in an energy crisis? I think so. We are buying oil from people who are trying to kill us. In my mind that constitutes an energy crisis.

Some of those people have been angry with us for generations. Now they have enough money through oil sales to put their anger into action.

A similar potential exists around other large-ish portions of our foreign trade. Please don't misunderstand me. I don't dislike foreign trade. However our current situation includes an odd twist. We have also discontinued a large chunk of native manufacturing in favor of purchasing those manufactured goods from cheaper foreign manufacturers. On the surface that seems like a great way to keep manufacturing prices down and increase corporate profits. Everyone makes a profit - the foreign manufactureres and their economy, local importers and our economy plus local retail buyers get better prices. What could be wrong with that arrangement?

Heres' the problem - this arrangement only works as long as the foreign manufacturers and the people they represent don't dislike us too much. News reports strongly suggest a growing attraction for our wealth and a growing dislike for us in many quarters of the world. When we are sufficiently disliked someone will may decide to circumvent the market system and attempt to acquire our wealth through more direct methods. Without the wherewithal to manufacture goods to support our own defense, we may be unable to do so. The world is stuffed with predators.

Another possibility - suppose those who dislike us too much decide not to attack us directly, but decide instead to utilize the market arranagement more to their benefit. For example, suppose we depend on cheap widgits - then suddenly widgits become very expensive and we are unable to make our own, our economy can be shocked. If that happens quickly and involves a number of widgits, our economy could be severly challanged and even collapse.

There are several other possible scenerios that caould be described, but I know of only one that has a favorable outcome - restart the manufaturing segment of our economy / make a little less profit / pay a little more for our goods and be better prepared to defend ourselves if or when we need to.

How can that happen? How can we change the direction in which our nation is heading?
Laws. Enact some new laws. Change some existing laws. Throw out some that don't work and replace them with ones that do. It's as easy as that. :-)

How can our representatives ever be encouraged to do that? We elect our representatives, but they owe allegience to those who pay their bills. The electors and the bill-payers are not the same. The bill-payers are often organizations and associations while the electors are individual registered voters. The payers and electors must be the same so representatives only owe allegience to those who elected them. Representatives must represent people, not organizations and associations.

What bills are being paid? Current political campaigns are extremely expensive. Restricting political campaign contributions to registered voters (more prudently - a reasonable percentage of the annual per-capita income of the registered voters) would ensure that representatives would represent all the voters and not just a few organization and association leaders.

Changing this single political element would greatly enhance the direction of our entire nation. This single change is the key to improving not just our foreign trade situation, but many other national problems as well.