Transparency

transparency

When we know what's going on we can change it.

 

Knowledge

knowledge

The more we know, the better ideas we have.

 

Rationality

rationality

The more objective thinking we do the better decisions we make.

 

Compromise

compromise

We all live together and and depend on each other.

 

Politics

These items refer to the structural problems with the government institutions in the United States of America.

Competition to win is ingrained in our brains from the beginning of time as a means of survival and well-being of our selves and our progeny. Cooperation has been a key to the survival and progress of our species collectively and has brought many benefits to the individual - in essence letting us all win. When we get out of balance by always having to win or by trying to do everything by consensus, both we and our species lose.

The current U.S. Congress is an example of this imbalance. Winning has become so much more important than cooperation that they, and we, all suffer due do the gridlock created. Winning is important some of the time, but cooperation is just as important some of the time.

Someone who always has to win is considered a jerk. The admired man wins on the sports field, reaches consensus with his partner on what color to paint the house, and willingly lets his child win at Scrabble.

"All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter." ― Edmund Burke

"The god of Victory is said to be one-handed, but Peace gives victory to both sides." ― Ralph Waldo Emerson

The size of government is a convenient slogan that has nothing to do with the issues. The real questions are:

  • Targeted purposes: What areas of society should be government be responsible for regulating?
  • Methods: What should be the goals and methods of that regulation?
  • Effectiveness: Are the goals being achieved in a way that benefits society?
  • Efficiency: Is the return worth the costs?

Few would argue whether government is necessary in providing for defense, food and water safety, law promulgation and enforcement, protection of rights and many other aspects of life. Simply growing or shrinking the size of government does nothing to ensure the resources of government are targeted toward the best goals and methods and toward maximizing net benefits to individuals and society overall. The size of government will find its own rational balance if we address government authority using the four points above.

"Misdirection is the key element. We can create a space where we give them something to look at to take their mind away from what they really should be seeing." ― Chris Conti

Political parties' main goal is to perpetuate themselves and their office holders, not resolve issues or rationally manage government. Voting by party rather than evaluating individual issues and candidates results in accepting rhetoric as fact and electing candidates with the "right" banner, even when you may disagree with many of their positions. The power of parties also causes candidates to espouse and support positions contrary to their own beliefs. Becoming an Independent, in both registration and voting, causes you to analyze the details of issues more objectively and to select better public servants. Labels don't matter; governing does.

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right." ― H.L. Mencken

Senate procedural rules are self-imposed and complicated. The filibuster, which was originally a delay of voting by continuous speaking on the floor, has been effectively changed to the requirement of 60 votes (instead of a majority of 51) out of 100 to make progress on bills (due to cloture rules). This makes it virtually impossible to pass legislation when a minority simply threatens a filibuster (they no longer have to stand and speak on an issue). Senators can change this - if they are willing to support reasonable majority votes, rather than supporting or fighting current filibuster rules depending whether they are in the minority or majority at the given moment.

"Filibusters have proliferated because under current rules just one or two determined senators can stop the Senate from functioning. Today, the mere threat of a filibuster is enough to stop a vote; senators are rarely asked to pull all-nighters like Jimmy Stewart in 'Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.'" ― Evan Bayh

People with strong ideological feelings tend to pull relatively simple issues into the broader concepts they espouse as a forum for argument. Liberty, freedom and privacy are often the cloaks used because they sound "American," even when it is a stretch. An example is traffic cameras.

The three most common arguments against traffic cameras that catch speeders, illegal turns and red light runners are:

  1. It's an invasion of privacy
  2. It's really a way for local governments to raise revenue
  3. It's a Big Brother threat to liberty

In reality, those are obfuscations of simply using technology to perform a common function that has proven to decrease accidents and deaths. Here are rational responses to the cloudy arguments:

  1. Privacy should not be expected when driving on public roadways under public traffic laws.
  2. Traffic enforcement has always been a source of revenue for government, as have fines in many areas of law where they are assessed against law breakers. If the fines are a source of public revenue, help prevent law breaking and decrease accidents and deaths, they are performing as intended.
  3. Liberty is not the right to break the law as you choose.

There many other instances that should be stripped of their artificial Values Shrouds and decided on common sense - we have enough truly complex issues to address.

“Just because something isn't a lie does not mean that it isn't deceptive. A liar knows that he is a liar, but one who speaks mere portions of truth in order to deceive is a craftsman of destruction.” ― Criss Jami

Three percent of Washington legislators used to become lobbyists after their terms. The most recent numbers show that 42% of ex-congressional representatives and 50% of ex-Senators are now lobbyists. Elected or appointed office is called "Public Service." A term (or terms) in office (or on the staff of an office holder) has become an internship leading to a lucrative lobbying job or regulated-industry position. For many people, the career path has become, first work IN government, then turn lobbyist and work ON government for special interest groups.

Not only does this skew government in favor of those able to offer these jobs, but it skews the behavior of the future lobbyists while in office since they are regulating or appeasing their future employer. Government office holders and staff members should be restricted from lobbying or trying to influence actions from businesses and interest groups related to their public service for five years or more until their residual power and relationships have diminished. Coupled with term limits, government could move toward governing rather than pandering to narrow interests.

“When I'm out of politics I'm going to run a business, it'll be called rent-a-spine” ― Margaret Thatcher

Fair, consistent, efficient voting methods should be defined and mandated at the federal level. Local politicians having control of voting rules and methods results in widely inconsistent voting abilities for different citizens and allows political manipulation of the voting process and results.

“The rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.” ― John F. Kennedy

Geographic voting districts should be drawn by non-partisan, non-government entities. Politicians in many jurisdictions draw (and redraw when they regain power) boundary lines to create guaranteed wins for their party. Politicians are forced into divided loyalties between their constituencies, their parties, their donors and their country. That is not conducive to objective administration of processes such as voting.

"I am strongly in favor of common sense, common honesty, and common decency. This makes me forever ineligible for any public office.” ― H.L. Mencken

The active campaigning season has become too long, leaving less time and focus for actual governing. The campaign "season" for active media campaigning should be legislated to be a finite period such as two months for primaries and two months for general elections.

This does not mean that candidates could not focus on disseminating positions and building an organization; it just means that the huge blast of mass media would not be able to overwhelm discussion of substantive issues to the degree it does currently. More face-to-face interaction and communication of more fleshed out positions contributes to an educated electorate than does a deluge of soundbites.

“Thanks to TV and for the convenience of TV, you can only be one of two kinds of human beings, either a liberal or a conservative.” ― Kurt Vonnegut

Term limits for politicians would lessen misguided influences in Congressional bodies, including:

  • Less time to create cozy relationships with vested interests
  • Less party control
  • Less committee assignment/control due to seniority and accumulated power, and more on expertise
  • Less time for corruption and cronyism to flourish
  • Introduces new thinking
  • Conforms with the desires of the public

It would be better and easier to find candidates with expertise and merit if we were not allowed to only choose career politicians.

“In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill... we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one.” ― Plato

“The difference between a politician and a statesman is that a politician thinks about the next election while the statesman thinks about the next generation” ― Hillary Rodham Clinton

For more, see: http://termlimits.org

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