Tag Archives: politics

On sovereignty:

Sovereignty is defined as absolute or supreme power (of self-direction). It’s used contemporarily as a state’s ability to self-determine. Recently there has been a push in the north of Spain (Catalonia region) for sovereignty, a push that have been called illegal by Spain, and most EU countries have said they will not recognize an independent Catalonia. It begs the question: What should the criteria be for self-determination of a “people” or county? Currently it’s clearly might makes right, in essence only groups that can martial the economic and martial forces to cast off others are “sovereign nations”, but is that ideal?

Why would a people saying they have a right to self-determination prompt a large show of force and condemnation form the most liberal, pro-democracy part of the world? Like most things it mostly boils down to who gets what… Currently the region is a major economic powerhouse, and Spain is the 3rd largest economy in the EU; losing that would be a major hit to Spain, and may even compromise the finical solvency of the country, so it’s seen as self-preservation. For the other countries, most have regions themselves that like Catalonia are economically strong and stand to gain from secession. None want a precedent set.

So leadership, by and large wants to keep countries big and people (by and large) want self-determination… Historically disagreements between the two have resulted in horrific, bloody affairs (Think Kosovo). What is the ideal?

I think the answer is contingent on the answer to a basic question, are we our brother’s keeper? I’ve address that one here, but setting those thoughts on the matter aside; if we are our brother’s keeper than there is really no sovereignty – he is beholden to us, and conversely, we to him. The most basic interpretation of sovereignty is “I’ll do what I like, you have no say”. It is truly as anti-social as ideas come, that one (individual or nation or anything in between) is not beholden to anything else, and free to act as it sees fit. Looking at sovereignty in this matter there is a basic truth to it; as individuals we are free at all times to do as we like; at least for now if I wish to start tossing out haymakers in the market I very well can but that kind of freedom is as dangerous as it is natural. The ideal is likely the same for individuals as it is for nations, humanity at large is not served by my market punches nor would it be served by the national equivalent (war). The other extreme is as (if not more) frightening- not having that freedom…

Imagine that each though we had, as we had it was evaluated by a 3rd party. If that system also had the ability to alter or arrest such thoughts, it could be used to ensure all actions by all people met a standard. But would the people of that system be free or sovereign? (we are already working hard to understand how to connect thoughts to computers, hardware-wetware interface is in the pipes… so this may be a topic with very real consequences soon enough…) regardless, I see that as the extremes- absolute freedom/ sovereignty, absolutely no freedom/ sovereignty. So again; where is the idea?

It should hinge on consent! Once humanity is technologically advanced to the point where any one of us can fudge things up for the rest (more so than currently at least) it will be incumbent on society to offer at least 2 (likely more) levels of involvement/ awareness: for those who reject the notions of cooperation little to no involvement (or access to knowledge that would enable them to be dangerous). For those who do, a mental monitor and unlimited access. The first group would have their sovereignty, but lack capability to do harm and the 2nd would have capability to do harm, but not the sovereignty to use it unilaterality. The system would be best as a dynamic, real time affair: as moods and opinions change one could move to the group that suits them best. It would maximize both freedom and safety.

Ultimately as individuals we have a level of sovereignty that will always be at odds with others, however protecting that freedom ( to a degree) is in the interest of all; it is at or close to the heart of human experience, and losing it would represent a form of oppression humanity as we know could not co-exist with. As for Spain, it may be better to show love for their sister state and courage to face the fallout than leveraging power to deny a (or any) people the freedom they deserve.

On Equality of access

The impact of access (or lack thereof) is immense. Being able to directly interact, command the time and attention of an individual can be a catalyst for change, a source of information or even a life line. It’s importance is hard to understate, to illustrate take an example of building a fence:

A fairly simple process as far as land development activities go. Like everything else money comes first, then finding a contractor, then building. Every step of that process can be eased by access to the right people:

Money: Anyone who knows me has access to 1$ (that’s about all I’m good for most days), but there are a select few who know people with FAR greater amounts of money, and far greater complicity to dole it out. Not that people are usually appreciate of being hit up for cash, but it happens all the time. People who have access to billionaires don’t go to the bank for 10k loans, indeed people who know the .001% are usually others in the .001%. For those of us who don’t have access to someone like that, the next step would be a bank (or community organization). Even there access is key, I assure you meeting the owner of a bank for a loan (when the meeting was setup by your billionaire friend) is a decided different experience that meeting with the loan officer at the local branch. Who you deal with is as important as what is being dealt.

Contractor: The CEO of a major company generally do not take orders or work with a single customer (when there are millions of customers there is not enough time). Major clients can usually get face time with the PIC though. The difference is service is staggering (think call center customer service vs concierge)

From getting a zoning variance to getting a transplant, who you have access to is critical, and (took a while, but getting to the point) in government we need to have equal access! All our public officials’ time should be handled by a lottery type system, having the .001 % and those they hire command the attention of our most powerful leaders is detrimental to a fair democratic process. What we get is just another facet of corruption.  (Spending time with the ultra-rich to the determent of the rest of us is a corrupt practice in my opinion)  Should our officials be free to spend their time with whoever they like? NO! Hell no!  They are given power by the masses for the betterment of the masses, in accepting power far beyond that of a normal citizen they should likewise accept limitations on their freedom far in excess of a normal person.

There are some simple things we can do to turn the tide: Make all communication of elected officials public, have all campaigns publicly funded, Prohibit political ads.  Looking further out: Rework entire legal system to eliminate legalese, have easy to understand laws (and just a few of them), add a boat load of government employees.

The old adage “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is as true today as when it was first uttered. Sadly with the common practice of “closed door” meetings, the insanely disproportionate involvement of the super wealthy in government and a few thousand years of history, I don’t think this is an issue that will resolve itself.

On elected officials: Why we just cannot get it right…

It will surprise no one that at the time of this writhing Congress is sitting at a 16% approval rating. Now any explanation of such strong disapproval would be incomplete without reference to gerrymandering, however while that is part of the mix, I believe the root is far more basic, and prevalent. Most of our major political offices are filled by people who win elections, and ( most ) of the rest are filled by direct appointment of the winners, so my main focus here is that our system rewards people who are good at winning elections, not people that are good at governance. These groups are not mutually exclusive, but I am going to argue that the overlap is small, and the difference ( over MANY MANY elections over time) has had and will continue to have a huge impact.

So what do I mean that being good at winning elections and being good at governance are different things? To start just look at the skill sets, what makes a good governor, or leader? Honesty, integrity, concern for others, there are many more, but I’m keeping it basic. Now what traits make a good politician? Access to money, appearance, ability to speak well. Notice the lists are not the same, sure there is some overlap, intelligence would apply to both, but my point is our elections are kind of like holding MMA tournament to appoint a police chief, there is no reason someone good at MMA will not make a great chief, but really that system will ( especially over time) will turn out more good MMA fighters than good chiefs.

So our ( or really any ) election system is a ( hopefully) cleverly devised means of narrowing down everyone who wants to do the job to just one person, I argue that it should output ( ideally) the best person for the job or at least a good person for the job. Given the approval ratting I started with I argue this is NOT the case with our current system, and here is why: The single largest means of narrowing down the pool in an election is money, ask any one you know who would make a good leader, who has potential why they do not run for office. This eliminates an un-told amount of EXCELLENT people from the running, AND gives those with access to money a free pass from the largest cut to the pool. I cannot stress this enough, access to money does NOT equal a good leader! These are two VERY different things but by the time the ballots are printed this is what has in effect decided our candidates. This is why our government has such poor results, our entire election system skews not towards good leaders, but toward the wealthy.

So how would an election that is designed to elect good leaders look? Well we start out with a big pool and then eliminate people based on our criteria for good leaders. So start with everyone interested in the position as a potential candidate, then have the first round eliminate who simply cannot do the job, a BASIC civil service exam would suffice . Of those remaining ( which would be a HUGE pool of people) hold conferences of a few hundred each, maybe 8-12 hrs each where the pool will narrow its self down, remember we are looking for people who can build consensus and work together, I think that we record everything and that process will replace the campaign, just put 100 people in a room and ask them nicely to come up with 5 or so people who would be best for the job, Record EVERYTHING! And have the 4 or so people named form the next 100 or so person carcass, so on and so forth until we have the desired amount of candidates. When a caucus fails to produce 4 ( or any ) names the recording will be INVALUABLE in showing exactly who said what and who was not working towards consensus. There would also have to be a STRONG prohibition on “outside” political activity, IE: campaigns as we know them. Ideally this system would produce one person who all agree is the best ( or at least good) for the job, it would assuredly produce FAR better leaders than our current reward the best at winning elections system, not that 14% is a very high bar…

On hopes for science

Demons, in your head! In different parts of our history there have been places where hearing that phrase would strike TERROR into people’s heart! I assume, for it was uttered in earnest belief of such things and the cures were… un-pleasant. I firmly believe it was the work of the truly best among us to both put in the work and share with the rest of us, because that is how science is done proper. In the future many people like that might lead us as well…

I will start with the idea of “debate”: both the political and scientific communities have a long and varied history of debates. They are different however; political debates tend to be short 2 hr. affairs, marked by one liners and the most broad of platitudes. Scientific debates, conversely, are most often long drawn out affairs with every angle of an issued researched to the point of consensuses ( or the debate rages on). The outcomes of these two different approaches are clear, one is meant simply to give and impression on an audience, a show or kind of performance for personal gain, the other is intended to find the truth, whatever it might be however it might be understand. Oh, and to share that information with eveyfuckingbody. Now I have a clear preference for one kind of debate over the other, but that is not where I stop insisting we model our political system on an older scientific one.

Consensus, getting people of wildly different opinions to agree:   In the scientific community disagreement is sometimes heated; accusations of conclusions driven from funding are not un-heard of.  On the whole however it has agreed on some fairly major stuff and come a HUGE distance in the last 200 years or so. From spontaneous generation to aether to schrodinger’s cat and the LHC. In contrast the political system we have is 200 years old, and while quite good, it is like most old systems: it’s getting the living daylights exploited out of it. If you don’t understand how fractional reserve banking is allowing a very small part of the population to live like kings at the expense of the rest of us; you do not understand how the only way money comes into the economy is through loans…with interest, Not that money is not corrupting of science, I just argue a bit less so. But I have digressed, the political system serves it purpose by being divisive, Inextricably divisive, never, outside a large enough 3 party will people who identify themselves as either democrat or republican chose to cast off their affiliations and truly work together. This is super counterproductive, because it forces people to argue about the dumbest stuff: no matter how long we discussed it a final agreement on who’ god has the biggest dick will not a single person feed, humanity needs to agree to table some issues for now and find agreement on simple things first, like “everyone should have food and water”. Sadly it seems that politicians of today seem far more interested in how to exploit masses than serve humanity. I see a history where scientist of the most bitter disagreements still held respect for the truth of what their opponents say. As I opened with science has come a LONG way, think of the progress made, now compare that to progress made in other areas, in America we are just now being ok with gay people getting married, that is progress to be sure but now think of any emerging technology. I do not think sciences huge progress in the last 200 years and our social/political … lack thereof, coincidence, science has made grate strides in making people lives easier while the political system has dug in it’s heel and lied, cheated and just acted in a manner that is horrid, this has happened far to consistently for far too long across many cultures it must be systematic! I think the pursuit of truth if a far more noble aim than the pursuit of power, to me at least it is simple, we stop putting people who pursue power in positions of power, and rather we place people who simply want the truth. This could lead to reasoned global government and a chapter in human history where for the first time ever we don’t butcher each other for personal gain…

I would like to see that…

Political action 2014:

So a new year has arrived, I wish everyone well for the coming year. Sadly for some (not anyone reading this though) the year will bring with it a grate deal of suffering, whether being deprived of life sustaining foodstuffs and medicine, or being deprived of other things desired. I think it is the job of any good government to provide for the happiness of the citizens, all citizens.  I take a page out of Mill’s book on this one, the principal of utility is probably a good one to go on when planning national or state level policy, when we get to the local level it might still hold well, but at that point it might be feasible to think in terms of people, in which case I defer from Mill to Kant. Either way I do not believe it is the purview of government to be solely self sustaining, this is a necessary function, but it should NEVER be the main function.  ( As a side note here I don’t think we as a species need a government, however when the time comes that we no longer need one they will dissolve on their own)

So getting back to the here and now; our current scocil-econimatic and political systems, as you might imange I think we can do better. First the problems, and I think no matter what side of the aisle you are on we can all agree there are problems.  I think the basis of most of our problems comes from conflict, but that aside I will leave it at we have un-happy people, and say that is the problem.  Now I understand that is a odd way to define so many and varied problems, surely the solution to someone upset by inner city crime is different than someone upset by police corruption or someone else upset by out of control local spending… I argue no, those are all the same problem, one of distribution and ownership. People steal, and kill for (most often, when mental illness has been ruled out) for financial gain, in other words they do not feel like they have as much money as they deserve and act in a manner that they think will restore the perceived imbalance. Police corruption is the same thing, only a degree removed, the people the cops are “stealing from” are willing participants, we the public at large pay the real cost of such actions, but still the idea is a cop will not become curopped if he thinks he is being paid fairly, or if he event believes in fairness. Lastly the person who thinks taxes are too high, again the same idea, just the other side of the line. He believes that the amount of money he has is fair, but an amount 20% less would not be.   I could go on, most of the things that make us un-happy can fit this model ( I’m sorry I can’t get your high school sweet heart to love you again, some problems we must face alone ^^).

So how do we make everyone happy? In a word homogeneity, in a few words; we eliminate in-equality as best we can. And with today’s knowledge base and technology our best could probably be pretty dam good. To be specific: people like me and most Americans would see income freeze, or be reduced. We have 6 billion people on the planet, we have to get used to a live that can be lived by everybody, and that means no car, max temp of 58 deg in the winter time, meat only once a week ( I would advocate never, but got to pick the battles ^^)   Like always here is the rub; to the SUPER wealthy this would be a MAJOR shock, and they ( logically so) do not like the idea of massive re-distribution, to the point that if such policies were to go into effect they would be motivated to work against such policies. If you  are a wealthy business owner, who has worked hard your entire life to build a business it would be quite upsetting ( to say the least) for the government to come in and take all your assets by force, or to ( with only the treat of force) tell you how to do your job.  The owner can just make some “simple mistakes” and the business becomes a mess.  This applies to the middle class as well, ( and might to the working class) it would mean less stuff, all around.  There are 2 things to address now, first why reduce the standard of living of the wealthy and increase it for the poor, and 2ed why this is better than the idea that we can all be rich. 1st. the wealthy are in the drivers seat on this one, in a silimler way to the way that whites were in the drivers seat on ending slavery. The poor are not going to take this one with force, in the same way the slaves were not going to rise up and overthrow the government. So the wealthy need to understand why starvation is bad and how by hording resources and living extravagant lives they are f-ing the entire species. 2. I think most wealthy people are capable of reason, that with enough time and expose to suffering (most) will understand and possibly agree with this kind of thinking. On the other hand there is NO amount of reasoning or logic that will convince a poor person he dose not need to eat, or that he is less worthy of being happy than anyone else, so again the ball is in the hands of those with means.

So to close out, we need re-distribution, but more important than that us we need happy people so GOV get your ass in gear.