Modest Proposals for Modern Politics

American politics has become full of bad ideas as of late.  There have always been bad ideas, but to have so many that there’s no room for anything else seems like a new development to me.  And while it’s easy to observe that they tend to either support individualism and forget that we’re a society, or support society and forget that at least some of us are individuals, those observations don’t make the ideas better.  So let me toss out a few ideas that might make things better, if they weren’t so horrifyingly strange.

  1. Unlimited Campaign Contributions are allowed such that we eliminate PACs and Party-Committee campaign spending, but for every $2500 donated, the person (or corporation) donating must also purchase $1500 increments of non-transferable restricted federal or municipal bonds, vesting on the following election day.  So let’s say I donate $2500 to a candidate’s campaign: fine, no change.  But then my neighbor donates $4000 to the opposing campagin: having gone over $2500, my neighbor would also have to pony up $1500 to invest in our society for the duration of the winner’s time in office, regardless of who gets elected.  But this freaks out my candidate because the opposition is raising more money, so they come around shaking their collection can and I donate another $3000 bringing my total to $5500.  Now I also have to pony up an additional investment in our society to the tune of $4500 — $1500 for going over the first $2500 increment, and then another $1500 x 2 for going over the second $2500 increment.  Now I’ve spent $5500 on an election regardless of who wins, but also invested $4500 in the society that’s going to be administrated by whoever wins such that I need to work with the winner to protect my investment in society.  Instead of, you know, suggesting that he’s not a citizen.  That’s what the difference is between having a loyal opposition and an arbitrary filibuster.  To use a more real example, when Bob “Swift Boat” Perry dumps $8M on an election, he’d also be required to invest something along the lines of $7,682,400,000 in the state or nation for the duration of the next administration — which would either be great for roads, schools, and reclaiming national debt from foreign investors, or curb his big-money influence in politics… probably both.
  2. Congressman Akin should continue his campaign.  In America, any idiot can be elected to public office, and we need idiots like Congressman Akin with his feeble grasp on reality to remind us of the danger of voting for people who develop and implement actual social policies based on their fantasy-laden beliefs.  I would prefer it if he resoundingly lost his congressional bid because I don’t want people setting real policies based on their unreal perspectives on the world.  But if he does get elected anyway, I would expect that he serves to undermine our fantasy-laden belief in Governmental Legitimacy: because while the Prairie Muffins are entitled to representation in federal government — or at least they’d say their husbands are — I cannot imagine what sort of legislation I should be beholden to on their behalf.  Other than drought relief.  That Akin can campaign at all should remind us that the doom courted by democracy is the assumption of rational self-interest that gives equal voting rights to people regardless of their capacity for rationality or even, astoundingly, basic self-interest.  But the sharper point is that even though belief-oriented policy makes winning local votes easy, it’s also a horrible way to run a big nation in the real world, and Congressman Akin is a potent reminder of that and as such should not be suppressed.
  3. On that note, I’m wondering if the belief that “Corporations are People too” means that the stock exchange has to be abolished under the 13th Amendment.  The relationship between a board of directors and the corporations they control is seeming rather like a Three-Fifths Compromise to me: “We’re not really the corporation, but the corporation that we speak for agrees with our position on this issue, and that is…”  This makes my position as a shareholder in a corporation a bit dodgy — are my shares indicative of my being part of the corporation such that political declarations from the board are essentially enslaving my position?  Or is there an entity underneath the shares and I am participating in a “peculiar institution”?  How about “Neither, because corporations aren’t really people!”  A couple of years ago, I read that Warren Buffett sensibly defended corporations not giving to politics or charities (after catching flak from shareholders for donating to a family planning agenda) on the very simple basis that the corporation is giving away its shareholders’ money without asking them first, usually to the greater glory of the corporation instead of the shareholders whose money it’s supposed to be.  And that sounds horrible given how much money many corporations do spend on charity, but Buffett is no slouch on personal charitable giving, and if there were a stronger expectation of individual contribution to charity (instead of a stock reply of “I gave at the office…”) coupled with a stronger expectation of profitable corporations paying dividends on their stock, I think Buffett’s perspective would both make rational sense and be socially practical.  But the current point is that anybody who thinks that a corporation is really a person should emancipate the corporations they’re currently enslaving by destroying — not just selling — their stocks and bonds.
  4. In the same way that a board of directors can currently speak for their shareholders without the particular consent of the shareholders, I’m concerned that the $881,000,000,000-per-year U.S. military is being directed by people with experience inadequate to managing, much less commanding, such a thing.  So I’d propose a simple way to reduce our military spending: make it a function of the Commander-in-Chief’s time spent as a solider or officer, counting triple on foreign deployments but not counting time spent not deployed when a major conflict was going on.  There are multiple elements in play here.  Let’s start with this: minorities and poor white people are over-represented in the military and under-represented in politics and that seems like a disconnection between the people willing to serve their nation and the ostensibly rich white people who decide how the nation gets served.  Consider, for example, Madeleine Albright’s complaint to General Colin Powell: “What’s the point of you saving this superb military for, Colin, if we can’t use it?” Because that’s the wrong question: we’re not using the superb military, we’re accepting their service and directing it towards a (more-often-than-not violent and dire) objective on the belief that the exigent consequences of inaction are substantially worse than the projected consequences of action.  And what we’ve seen over the past two decades is a correlation between reduced military service in government (poor people get recruited, not elected, and would anybody care to compare General Powell’s and Donald Rumsfeld’s military service at this juncture?) and an increase in imperialistically-motivated military interventionism devoid of exit planning, such that our military is not serving our nation but, at best, trying to serve a foreign nation and, at worst, serving the grandiose whims of whatever administration is the current one.  (Also, dear Neocons: Please explain to me why it’s okay to spend taxpayer money on foreign nation-building, but not domestic nation-building.)  But if we limit the budget of the military to appropriately match the size of military the Commander-in-Chief has demonstrated their ability to command, it seems to me that we’d start by (deficit-)spending less on our military, and necessarily less on blowing people up and thus antagonizing the world, but may also increase the governmental participation of people who accept the service of the military to our nation rather than to their political agenda.

These ideas are increasingly preposterous, of course, going from the absurd (“I have to invest in the nation and not just the government?”) to the outlandish (“Did we just cut two trillion dollars in taxpayer subsidies from our military/industrial complex economy over the next four years?”).  But I did want to at least make some new-ish suggestions of my own.  It at least beats hearing about the wonders of a Flat Tax again, doesn’t it?