Foundation: There is no “us” and “them,” but only us. We created indirectly our government and our laws; either by our vote, or acquiescence. We can have the peaceful, abundant, reasonably fair world we say that we want by making certain choices in how we act, vote, shop, and what we teach our children. (And what we allow them to be taught).
We must be at least moderately educated in human nature: We are blessed & cursed with mental “heuristics” (logistical / rational shortcuts). They are a survival mechanism allowing for quick conclusions based on minimal data. These mental shortcuts, combined with a few cognitive biases and logical fallacies are largely responsible for the curious way we behave, believe, vote, and which “tribes” we feel affinity for. Understanding and addressing these phenomena with respect and compassion will lead to solutions to many social ills, including wealth disparity & racism.
We must be at least moderately educated in history and natural law. We must know how our government came to be, the differences between various forms of government, how they’ve worked in the past and the basics of our constitution. Mathematical laws such a Pareto’s principle, which in and of itself almost completely accounts for wealth and class disparities.
Many solutions to common problems might seem common-sensical (i.e. taxing the rich a bit more to pay for more services for the poor) but we have a long, rich history replete with lessons from which to draw. Choosing solution “A” might seem like a “no brainer,” but has solution “A” already been implemented in the past? How did it fare? What were the unintended consequences, if any? When using lessons from history to urge caution, the reply is often, “But this time is different.” Sometimes it is, sometimes it isn’t. We must strive to answer that question honestly, and free of agenda.
Certain “truths” should be taught and memorized. For example, Eisenhower’s speech on the Military-Industrial complex: What was he saying, in essence? I think he was saying, “If we have a standing military, and someone stands to profit from it’s function and consumption (i.e. using up bombs and bullets) then the people who stand to profit are going to find something for that standing army to do. Entities have a survival directive just like living organisms. See my article that subject here.
We must take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves and our children, but also insist that our children are taught proper history and politics in school and not be allowed to progress without a rudimentary understanding of both, including the constitution. Thomas Jefferson said, “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe.”
I dream of a world in which a man can sign on with a company, and give that company his heart and soul, knowing he will be taken care of by a pension in his later years.
I dream of a world where we have pride in our president, our politicians, our police and our country. I dream that this pride runs through all generations.
I dream of a world of apprenticeship, where people earn and honor their positions. Where a person must “qualify for and earn” a position. Where older workers are looked up to and allowed to work as long as they have something to give.
I dream of a world where family and people come first. Where wealth is still valued, but not above ethics, honor or personal integrity.
I dream of a world where morality and spirituality are again taught in our schools. This is what our founding fathers envisioned.
I dream of a world where capitalism works well, and there are simple, effective, powerful systems in place to mitigate excess inequality of wealth
Only A Virtuous People
Because our country was founded with the understanding that it would only work with a religious and moral population, we must each promise to do our best to follow a firm moral and virtuous life in all our affairs, public and private. Ben Franklin said: “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters.”
We should make virtue a competitive attribute, the display of which outweighs all other accomplishment and acquisition. Focus on virtue vs. appearance and public performance should be paramount. “Handsome is as handsome does.”
We should have fewer laws that “force” people to be virtuous. This very action may result in more virtue. Why? Because there is little sense of pride or accomplishment in “being good because you have to.” When one can act in a way that is more virtuous than is common, and is not doing so at “the end of a gun,” there is pride. A sense of accomplishment. “I did this but did not have to.” It will have the effect of separating the virtuous from the non-virtuous at which point we can tackle that problem in other ways.
Because “change” in the form of more liberal policy changes, such as regulation, come as the result of complaints of injustice, we must do our best not to do things that might needlessly cause complaints. For example, if we own a business, we must be honest and forthright with our clients and employees and treat them fairly and humanely.
Because the founding fathers were very clear about public school’s duty to teach religion and morals, in order to maintain a virtuous population, both spiritual and moral teaching should return to public schools, with care taken to ensure that the teaching covers a wide variety of spiritual schools of thought and does not favor one over the other. The only thing worse than “no religion” in school is getting hung up on inconsequential issues like how old the earth is, that serve no other purpose but to create divisiveness and inflame self-righteousness, of which there are already plenty.
We should get to a place where the common citizen is in a state of “shocked disbelief” when a politician is caught doing something immoral, vs. an attitude of indifference, or expectedness. Picture the mythical little boy, looking up at shoeless Joe and saying, “Say it isn’t so…”
Because the Gold Standard gave us more stability in our money supply, as well as more transparency, we should return to it (or something similar) as soon as possible, in a way that is smooth and poses as little hardship for the American public as possible. In short, it should require “work” to add more money supply. We should have to “dig it up” and get dirty! The main reason we began the process of inflation and left the gold standard was to finance the first World War. (Oversimplification) It would appear, from my rudimentary study so far, that War is really the only thing that necessitates the printing of more money than our store of value justifies.
Because there is a need for checks and balances, we should reverse the 17th amendment and Senators should once again be appointed by the legislature. The problems that led to the creation and ratification of the 17th amendment should be addressed with vigor to ensure such an egregious assault on our Constitution not happen again. (I need to study this issue more. I’m sure it’s not QUITE this simple)
Wealth is a common dream. And wealth, in and of itself can be a wonderful condition and effective tool. There are certain contexts in which wealth can be an overall disadvantage. I believe this disadvantage exists in the context of political office, and that disadvantage grows commensurate to the power and influence of the office. A political office should be viewed as the highest honor, held only by a virtuous (and already financially stable and independent) person. There should be no way that wealth (I.e. the prospect of gaining or losing it) can influence a holder of a political office, outside of that which is universal. (ex: raising taxes would result in everyone, including the holders of political offices, to lose a certain amount of wealth.) I’m not sure there is a single person alive today, over the age of 12, who trusts politicians as a class. This is shameful and scary and needs to begin to change today.
We should drastically shrink the size and power of the federal government. There is more pride and feeling of ownership when decisions and power is held closely, for example at the state or local level. I believe that the benefits that would result, directly or indirectly, from more local governing, would outweigh the extra cost resulting from loss of efficiency or scale of economy. Most people resent decisions being made for them by a “distant” central power. This delegation of State and local power is antithetical to a local pride of ownership. People feel powerless. In addition, the founding fathers were clear that the federal government should have a very limited role. Another reason for this reduced role, as well as the elimination of the FED, is that it is a common belief that our wealth as citizens is being slowly and deliberately stolen by the federal government by means of inflation and increased tax and entitlement programs. It is almost “common knowledge” that every dollar given to (or taken by) the US Federal Government will return no more than twenty cents in value to whom it is taken from. It is a common belief that we are a borderline socialist country. Reducing the size of the federal government would reverse this trend and move us back toward a true “Republic” or “rule by law” vs. “rule by mob” Or “rule by oligarchy.”
Putting decision making in the hands of the faraway, whether it be the US government or the U.N. dangerously insulates the decision makers from the consequences of their actions. They don’t see the pain, they don’t have to look into the eyes of the men they put out of work, or deny a life saving operation to. I compare it to the cowardly criminal sniper, sitting in the belltower, carefully taking aim. All he sees is a shape drop to the ground. He does not hear the grunt of surprise, does not see the shocked disbelief of the “shape’s” little daughter or wife. This may seem like a graphic analogy, but I honestly believe that insulating the decision makers from the people they affect is immoral and dangerous.
Politicians in both wings should take care to observe the original intention of both wings of government. The “wing of compassion” (liberals) which is intended to address the problems of the people, is on the left. Its job is to create elaborate plans to solve problems. On the right is the conservative wing which is designed to protect the rights of the people as well as the funds of the government. (hence: conservative). The questions they must always ask of the left wing’s plans are, “can we afford it?” and “what will it do to our rights as protected by the constitution?” If both wings are healthy, the country will fly straight. It is obvious that these questions are being asked, but the answers ignored. We are deeply in debt and our rights seem fewer than they were 100 years ago.
It would behoove us as citizens, and those politicians on the conservative side, to do as little as possible to cause the slumbering liberal giant to raise its head and ask of the people, “How may I protect you?” This entity is doing what it’s designed to do. When too much is asked of it, a zealousness and loss of perspective is the result. Its matronly protective instinct burns hot and it embarks on a mission to take from those who have in order to feed and enrich those who have not on immeasurable scales, and in doing so, becomes master of both…
Lawyers: When a profession is hated and feared, there is a problem. The legal profession, outside of the IRS, is probably the single most hated and feared entity in the country today. The solution, I believe, falls under the premise put forth in “Only a Virtuous People,” we must press the legal industry to reform its ways. The bible also has some interesting and practical things to day about suing people. (read more…)
Because it is valuable to be able to trust what we read (either in print OR online), we should only print the truth, as best we can. We should refrain from putting much of a “spin” on things, or melodramatizing things. Speak and print the truth.
I believe that citizens feel a broader sense of “ownership” when laws, regulations and solutions to problems are created at the local level (town/city/state) vs. at national or global level. This is especially true in educational, environmental and agricultural arenas. This philosophy supports a small central government and a return to the libertarian-type doctrines of our forefathers.
Earn and Honor Rank (apprenticeship & pride of work)
There was a time when moving from “fry cook” to “broiler” was cause for celebration in a young person’s life. It was an accomplishment because a certain amount of time had to be invested at a lower level before climbing to the next. Skills had to be mastered and demonstrated. This is certainly not a “dead” way of life, but it is far less prevalent now. People instinctively knew they had to perform first, rewarded later. Now we see a lot of “entitlement” thinking. “Show me the money!” People working only as hard as they feel they should given the pay they’re receiving. This situation fits hand in hand with (and is perhaps caused by) the degradation in our pension environment addressed in the vision statement, which reads, “I dream of a world in which a man can sign on with a company, and give that company his heart and soul, knowing he will be taken care of by a pension in his later years.”
Long-term capital gains: The realization of any long-term capital gains (and therefore the tax paid on it) would be stretched over a number of years commensurate with the time it was held. That is to say if a family buys a 4-unit apartment building for 100K and sells it 5 years later for 200K, and had an 80K capital gain after other deductions, they could pay the tax on that gain over five years instead of all in the year they purchased the building. This would allow people to free themselves from asset ownership without unintended catastrophic tax consequences, and minimize the need for complex or risky solutions such as installment sales or seller financing. It’s common for families to be “held hostage” in the apartment rental or other similar asset-based business simply because selling these assets would push them into a higher tax bracket for one year. Someone who normally pays 22% of their income in tax would fork over fifty percent or more of the sale of an asset they’d toiled over for twenty or more years. It doesn’t even approach “fair play” and this sort of solution might fix this situation without creating an unfair “loophole” for any particular economic class. (i.e. it must not create what would be perceived to be a “loophole for the rich)
With regard to the estate tax, the perceived problem is always that by bequeathing appreciated property generation after generation, wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a few families. This is true in part, but history shows that often one generation mismanages that wealth. That is to say instead of an estate tax, there enters a “stupid tax” for lack of a better word. However, if we still fear that the world will be overrun by five families by virtue of this repeated generational bequeathing, we could apply the same logic as we did for the capital gains tax above. If the family farm has been running for 40 years, the new owners could have 40 years to pay whatever tax is due. This would give the government a source of revenue, albeit spread out over a number of years, and would also solve the unacceptable problem of families having to liquidate multi generational family businesses simply because of an egregious estate tax come due.
The rich and “their fair share”. Now without going into too much detail, I believe that the rich arguably already pay their fair share of taxes. History (and this article https://www.theatlantic.com/notes/2019/01/who-is-paying-their-fair-share-more-on-the-history-of-tax-rates/581407/) will show that the majority of taxes are paid by the top 20% of earners. Additionally, despite higher marginal tax rates in the past, due to loopholes and deductions, the actual amount paid over time has remained fairly static. (i.e. they closed the loopholes, then lowered the marginal rates). This is a gross oversimplification, but honestly, politics and social problems could benefit by a little simplification. But perhaps there’s an equitable solution: Anyone earning more than 2 million in a year would have to put 100% of the amount over into a special charitable trust, which they themselves controlled, with some restrictions of course. (i.e. they would have to make reasonable distributions, that is to say the trust would have to benefit society in some way.)
I don’t have much fleshed out here yet, but despite my belief in free capitalism, I get a twinge in my gut when I think of banks. How can they make so much money just storing and lending money? I do believe there’s some unfairness and imbalance here that needs to be corrected. If I’m unable to earn more than a tenth of a percent interest on my money, it bothers me that the bank I’m “storing” it at is making money hand over fist. I don’t like it, and I think it needs to change. It may be as simple as a more restrictive fractional reserve ratio or a compelling reason to offer higher interest rates to the general public.