The biggest problem with our legal system and how our country is run, is people’s stubborn refusal to admit when they are wrong and continuing to do things just because that’s how they’ve been done in the past.

For example, it is possible to buy a tax lien on a property from the government for a couple of thousand bucks and if the person ends up not paying you back, you have the opportunity to foreclose and get the property. So you can in theory end up with someone’s house because they were late on their taxes and didn’t respond in time. If they also owed a bank, the bank gets shafted and the person with the tax lien gets the property free and clear.

Naturally this kind of obvious weakness in the law is something people actually have systems to take advantage of. Like looking for tax liens on properties where the owner lives in another city. Of course, as interesting as that might be the key point is that if there’s a $1000 tax lien and a $100,000 mortgage, there’s no way that the $1000 should trump that $100,000 for who will be compensated first… except that that is how things typically work. Insanity? Insanity with hundreds of years of legal history upholding that kind of precedent? Are these people human?

The problem is that these people have no appreciation for what they are dealing with or the fact that money is a currency for exchanging services between people – it is not meaningless!

A lack of respect for money and the effort it represents, by our ruling class and the bungling morons making the laws have led to some rather interesting problems. Because reality moves and all actions have consequences.

So what happened was:

  • Lack of respect for money led to truly unreasonable judgments being made as punishment for actions that were often accidents. Mistakes that are often unavoidable in the normal course of life.
  • Because punishments were often disproportionately harsh and the problems not necessarily avoidable – especially with predators around taking advantage of this kind of flaw in the system – people and companies adapted in the following ways:
    a) Being more risk averse. I know people who won’t help up a kid that falls because they worry that a crazy parent might blame them for the kid being hurt and sue them.
    b) Creating contracts that won’t let you do business with that a party without signing away all your rights. This means that they aren’t accountable, and sooner or later people realize that if the contract makes them unaccountable or if its fuzzy and unenforceable, they only need to be fair in their dealings if they want to be. Theoretically your reputation could be hurt but few people take the right action to make that happen and there are ways around that.
    c) Insurance companies… a necessity in some professions – reduce your personal responsibility. Lets consider the case where someone really hurt someone through serious negligence. If insurance pays for it and that person isn’t punished, he only has to change as much as he himself feels like it. He doesn’t necessarily learn much nor does he become a lesson for others either – especially when few people ever hear about what happened.
  • Basically, excessively harsh punishments have forced adaptation that make people themselves a lot less accountable or punishable. It has created more people who play the system and win.

Generally, the first step to improving after making a mistake is admitting that you made the mistake in the first place. Another major side-effect of this system is that the system actually promotes people not admitting to their mistakes. Because if they admit they made a mistake they become liable and they can’t afford that.

Its not even hard to rationalize why you shouldn’t be admitting fault and taking disproportionately excessive punishment. The livelihoods of many people you care about might depend on your business.

Here’s a story for you: A friend of mine has a relative in jail who is probably innocent of the crime she was accused of. She was torn from her family and her children have spent years without their mother.

Now lets assume that it was in fact a miscarriage of justice. Part of the fault lies in a prosecutor too keen on keeping his reputation and winning and a trial focused on expedience instead of the truth.

But there is also another issue. If they admit fault and allow a redo of the trial or let her go: That means that they are at fault and that they are liable.

So aside from risk to people’s reputations – lets say they get sued for $20 Million for the years that she has spent in prison and for what her kids have suffered. That’s enough to pay for roughly two hundred and fifty cops being on the street paid at $75K per person for a year. Would the state or police department be paying for that lawsuit from their own budget when they already don’t have enough money? What about the sharks that would smell blood and start lawsuits on similar or related cases – maybe other cases that that same prosecutor tried?

If I look at it that way, its not hard at all to rationalize that giving her justice is not for the greater good. But that is greater good as defined by the limitations of a flawed system. Because its not that she doesn’t deserve justice or couldn’t have had it, its because we built the system wrong, and because we won’t admit that what we thought in our brilliance was a good idea, was actually a horrible mistake.

Our mistakes as a society are piling up and starting to pull us down because - forget correction and improving – we don’t even admit that we make mistakes.

What we need are new, better, and also more practical principles. In the end, the point is to try to make people’s lives better – Not hold onto the mistakes of the past. And we have to do it in an intelligent way so that our new changes don’t just sound good like many half thought out ideas do, but rather that they actually do good and create lasting positive change.

So how should we try to make things better?

I’d say the right direction is to separate correction of the criminal and the compensation of the victims, in a way that the system is less given to excesses and less likely to invite the attention of people who would twist things to create personal advantage because the potential rewards of abuse are just begging for it.

If someone commits a crime, he shouldn’t be able to just settle if he has money or some other way. If this person is a problem he either needs punishment or he needs guidance to change his behavior – either way something needs to be happen because he is someone who has shown a willingness to commit crimes. He can’t be allowed to get away with the crime or be seen by others as an example of the fact that people do get away with crimes (Gives ideas to bad people and promotes feelings of injustice in good people). The punishment or means of giving guidance obviously also have to be something reasonable.

As for the victim, this is more the domain of insurance – possibly some state sponsored insurance for emergency situations. Responsibility for making things better for a person is probably better off here on this side. Especially because people are more likely to take productive action if they believe that the responsibility for making their lives better, is theirs. Buying insurance falls under that. If your arm got broken, you need some medical help, you might need some employment compensation, and maybe you should get to buy something nice to offset your pain. If you get too much, that’s detrimental for your growth as a person. But also on the other hand, even if the criminal can’t compensate you or if it was just some random accident that hurt you, that doesn’t mean that you don’t deserve some compensation or help so there has to be a reasonable system for that.

We can’t have systems that solve problems by creating long term harm. We can’t go on without reviewing the consequences of our actions. We can’t have a justice system that itself promotes injustice.

$1 Billion is serious money. But more than that, that trial showed the problem with giving responsibility to random juries with little appreciation for what it takes to build a successful business or appreciation for the nature of technology.

Maybe in a village of a hundred people a jury of your peers knows you and has decent perspective, for gigantic companies these juries do not constitute a jury of peers who share any meaningfully similar understanding that would help them make decisions.

On top of that, juries are practically paid minimum wage.

In terms of hack-ish fixes:

  1. A big company can afford to contribute more to trial costs. Have them contribute equally to paying jurors a lot more so that they have reason to be serious.
  2. If the lawyers are fairly sure that the people on the jury have insufficient understanding of a subject to be able to make meaningful decisions at all – they should have the right to pay for and demand the education of those jurors in relevant matters, and prove competent understanding before they can actually help in the trial. That will also give the jurors to gain from their experience on the juries.

Now that may sound ridiculous but a billion dollar judgment in those circumstances was also ridiculous. Our legal system creates plenty of injustices. People should at least have the right to pay themselves to reduce the chances of blatant miscarriages of justice.

Every mistake costs the country something. And lots of big mistakes just accumulate into a gigantic headache.

The thing to understand about government is that whether or not it is for us, it was made by us. It is not some awesome existence that should be responsible for saving us all. It is just an organization and system of organizations that we have built through our decisions over the centuries. Its a jumbled together construct of the decisions and actions of people trying to do the right thing from their perspective. Most of these people over the years however have not been brilliant people who were willing to admit when they made a mistake, and its a rather bloated construct.

It has gotten to the point that its no longer representative of the will of the people it serves. In this most recent election, we have almost half of people not have their voice heard for the other half. What the election basically said was that the will and the path nearly half of Americans would prefer, is irrelevant. A town of a hundred people going with majority rule is a lot different from a country of hundreds of millions from many walks of life and many different social and philosophical backgrounds, being subjected to that same kind of rule.

But before we think about changing or improving government, we need to start with the more basic fact: Government is just a human construct, and so it has the same kind of weaknesses as any other human endeavor. Before we look towards trying to fix that bloated monster, it might make sense to look closer to home to see what we can do to make things better close by.

People talk about revolutions, but revolutions break things. Throwing the good out with the bad and causing chaos. Like how we built government, we can also create something better to replace it. One step, one area and one issue at a time because that is the only way to do a good job. We just need to create momentum for positive change and be willing to learn from our mistakes. America became a great nation through the actions of many over time, and to be greater will also take the actions of many over time.

And now for the sudden twist: Lets look at Mormons.

Ignoring the religious aspect, lets look at the tithe system and what it does in the real world. What it is, is basically another 10% tax, but tax being used by an entity closer to home. Its no doubt wasteful also, but it adds something to what the government offers these people. An additional support net that helps make people’s lives better in various ways. Insurance companies, assuming people buy into them, offer a similar benefit, except that not everyone can afford them.

The thing that we often both do and don’t understand is that even a small amount of money and effort from a bunch of people can be used to create systems that help support them in ways that they care about. And in the long run that is what we need, to build new systems that work better to replace the services that the government offers.

If we have problems with our roads that bother us and we get together and get them fixed ourselves, we then have a right to ask that we not have to pay as much tax for those or that some tax money be given to our companies instead of some contractor who doesn’t care, because we are handling that governmental responsibility better – And we can say that after we have proven that we actually can do a better job. There are countless avenues of improvement that matter to us, better to just take action and get what we want than wait for someone else a thousand miles away to remember us and do something.

Whatever we want, this is the core of how it has to be done, we have to build the thousands of better systems that will make up a better government that better serves the needs of the people. Because that over bloated monster is too big to change in one go, but we can definitely change and improve things around us. Government was created by people and we can create better examples for the government to follow, and do it in ways that create positive change that matters to us – after all, that’s the only way to prove that we actually do know better. Ultimately, we have to be the ones who show government the way! :)

Going with the point from the end of my Obama rant:

After all, lets say you had to put Romney or Obama in charge of Apple or just friggin’ Walmart! Would you even trust them to do a good job managing all the different services of any one of those companies, raising profits, making people’s lives better and providing the vision it needs to do better in the world tomorrow? No? Of course, not! Because they aren’t qualified, and its too big for them!

The first thing to understand is that the government really is like a company. It provides services in return for payment (taxes). The government unlike most companies however, has far too many responsibilities and areas where it should ideally be doing a good job. Unfortunately, few of the people in charge of those responsibilities are the kinds of people who can make sure that those services are provided well and for cheap (so that we have to pay less taxes while still getting as much or more stuff)

Businesses in general are more accountable in that they know they need to make money. Without money they can’t pay their people, they can’t pay for the services they themselves depend on, they can’t build new branches to try to make more money. Without the right kinds of investments and more profit, they can never have enough money to make the lives of their owners, shareholders and employees better.

Well Walmart might not make their average employee’s life great, but as they expand, they create more jobs so that people who might not otherwise have a job, have one. That’s not a small service to perform. If they weren’t profitable, they wouldn’t be able to create more jobs.

Anyway, lets assume that like our country, Walmart was just not making a profit, but still had a decent amount of money and credit left. What could it do if it wanted to not have to fire people as well as become profitable again?

First, define goals clearly:

  1. Survive – this is paramount. The company can’t help anyone if its dead.
  2. Become leaner – save money where you can so you have more capital to work with. You can’t force people to buy your stuff, but you can cut extra expenses.
  3. Trim the fat – if a store is just never going to be profitable, stop spending money on a lost cause. Bad times are times for decisiveness.
  4. Find more ways to make money and reduce costs – research, negotiate better deals, find better partners.
  5. Make better use of people and avoid losing jobs or hurting morale in these hard times – as opposed to pushing the unemployment burden on government. Retrain and relocate people who are willing to move (Especially the more dedicated and capable ones). And make sure that you have the best people providing leadership to all the key areas. Move the more talented people to be in charge of things that are more important for success.

Actually that sounds more like a Japanese company, where both the leaders and the workers are more loyal to each other. But anyway. Stating the goals is good because you have to know your priorities and because putting it out there makes you think it through and see if there are any obvious errors in your assumptions.

After defining goals, you generally need to define measures of success. Like: Cut costs by 35% in one year across all of xxx departments. What good does this do? It also helps you set milestones and see if things are going according to plan so that you can take action before its too late. If six months have gone by and you’ve only cut 5% costs, you know your approach was wrong and you’re probably not going to meet your objectives and its time for a change. Better to know that you acted like an idiot while you still have time to make things better.

The other and often more important benefit of defining goals: It lets you and others see what you’re thinking and thus helps avoid stupidity. To illustrate that point, lets take the example of using happiness or lack of pain to determine the value of your life. Many a drug addict has run himself into the ground by using that incomplete measure of what constitutes a good life. Let that be a lesson:

Only by having the right priorities and by correctly defining what constitutes success can success be achieved.”

… More on how to apply above principles to saving the country at a later date perhaps. But ultimately, like a business, the country needs to make more money in a sustainable fashion or we’re all screwed. That requires improved efficiency, greater creativity, and sacrifice where necessary. So that the country can be healthy again. If the country has more money, it can afford to create better education, better environment, safer lives – but it all boils down to money. We have to make the country work better for it to make people’s lives better.

Unemployment rates are going down. That however is partially a fake out because unemployment is measured by people getting paid unemployment benefits, and some people are just falling out of the workforce or into welfare.

There is the concept of people that become unemployable. What that means in part is that they lose their motivation and will. Their habits change and they adapt to living life in a different manner – one without much hope.

How did they get there? In part this is because they have failed too often, been rejected too often, and just don’t want to experience the pain anymore. In part, its because they just don’t know how to do better. Some people don’t even know how to write resumes or interview properly – not their fault, they were never taught.

Of those who find jobs – many find jobs that are far below where they should be working, and over time they lose hope for better. In reality, as far as the economy is concerned, the effect of that isn’t that different from someone being jobless because ultimately their ability to add to the whole is still lower than what it should have been.

The key factor here is motivation and knowing how to succeed – like knowing how to interview or do your job better. Its feeling good and having a positive opinion of yourself. Even for those who are receiving unemployment, if they have to give up too much they may be losing some of the pleasures of life that give them the will to fight.

What is needed to really turn things around, is a focus on the people.

People must be helped to feel better and perform better.

Starting solutions could be as simple as creating motivational websites and creating awareness so that people go there to find inspiration. Start initiatives to help communities learn how to strengthen themselves.

And maybe have places where people who are unemployed or on welfare can go to enjoy themselves… if they take some kind of productive action. They do need to get back into the habit of earning their happiness – but the demands made on them have to be practical based on their situation. Like going on a website, reading up and then passing a test on communication skills that they can then solidify through practice in a community group… That’s a practical improvement and it would make sense to have a reward for that. And through such actions they can improve their habits, work on regaining their self-esteem, and then make their lives better so that not only are they themselves able to be happier but they also once again contribute to making the country a better place.

There is a simple sort of fact about talented American professionals… They aren’t particularly loyal. Even someone brilliant can make mistakes that have unfortunate consequences – that doesn’t mean that the companies (or the government) are going to find someone better than them to fix the mess. They probably understand it better from having seen all aspects of it while it was evolving and probably thought about how to fix it even if nobody would let them – yet.

The key issue however is motivation. People have to feel motivated to do their best work. They have to feel acknowledged and respected. And if you don’t treat high level professionals like you think they are awesome, they will go work for someone else who does. At the least, they won’t give you their all.

Ultimately, these are still the kinds of people who need to be more passionate and working at higher levels to help make things better overall because there is no one else who can. And ultimately, it wasn’t just a few people who were at fault for our current economic mess. Everyone down to the people who took loans they should have known they’d never be able to pay back – is at fault. Millions of people made mistakes and that many people have to contribute to fixing things.

Its not like a lot of people weren’t happy earlier that they could buy homes for their families. It just didn’t work out. There’s no point in trying to put all the blame on one party. Nor is there any reason to be upset if you were a part of the problem, since a lot of other people made similar mistakes. We just need to make the most practical decisions we can and move forward.

Let me start by saying that we should move to the Fair Tax system. You can click on that and it’ll open in another window.

But that’s not what we’re here to talk about. To understand why reducing taxes isn’t enough, we first need to understand how the economy works, and to do that lets use the example of … Beggar communities in third world countries:

What happens when lots of people give them money? They develop a lifestyle of begging. But more than that, they now have money to spend. With enough living in an area, small shops start to form, and small service economies pop up to support the needs of these beggar communities. Leaders of sorts, small time entrepreneurs, crime lords etc. pop up to help coordinate, provide safety and take their cut. Predatory money lenders might find people to take advantage of here because these people do have a consistent source of income, and things they feel they need that they will make bad deals for.

Children raised in these situations will likely not receive schooling and even if they do, this is the life style and the kind of people they grew up with so they won’t be able to integrate easily with people outside of these societies. Short of severe external interference and people willing to force their will on them to change their lives for the better, their fate is sealed because few people ever manage to leave their comfort zones – even when those comfort zones are also painful.

… This is an example of the bad that can come from unintelligent use of money. Even if the act of helping beggars out seemed well intentioned to the people giving them money, it has long term consequences.

Now, lets consider an example that’s closer to home: You can invest money or buy products from a new food chain that sells some new random brand of tacos that sounds cool, or you can invest money or buy products from a company that creates more efficient truck engines. In the first case, money will contribute to the expansion of that new taco chain and maybe research into improving the taste. On the other, the company will expand its business and do more research that may produce more efficient trucks.

What’s the difference? The latter case creates the opportunity of building new engines that make all transportation cheaper. That means that the price of food and other goods might drop because it costs less to transport so that even if your salary doesn’t increase, you have more money left over and can buy more stuff that you want. We might be able to sell these new engines to other countries and make some money off of that. The world’s supply of oil might last longer while we try to find alternate energy sources.

If you just reduce taxes all around, the government has less money to be able to take any kind of productive action, and since there is no large guiding principle in people’s use of money, there’s a random increase in the flow of money into the various parts of the economy. Some of it will actually go to stuff that might save our economy from oblivion, while other money will flow towards helping the competition between companies selling different brands of toothpaste and creating that minty new flavor.

Obviously, a random reduction in taxes isn’t what we’re looking for. Some people and businesses can afford to pay more taxes and likely aren’t going to help improve things much. But stuff that has a chance to either make things cheaper for us or help our country make more money internationally – that deserves to have more money flowing to it. Perhaps not just as reduced taxes but also in the form of additional funds – that could be paid for by taxing companies or people that aren’t doing stuff that’s as useful.

And yes, some companies may be able to afford fewer workers or expand less if they have less money. But in the long run, if the economy tanks because we couldn’t stay ahead of the curve, it won’t matter if we saved a couple of jobs in the middle of nowhere today because there will be fewer jobs everywhere tomorrow. The solution for jobs isn’t to try to save every small business today by reducing taxes, the solution there is to create systems to help support moving people to other more valuable jobs more easily and keeping them okay on the way to getting there. Change is uncomfortable but change is necessary and what we have to focus on is making positive change easier.

First, let me start by saying that I don’t think he’s a bad guy. He’s decently intelligent and wants people to get along. Most of the rest of the world no longer think that we’re jackasses like they did under Bush. However, is he President material or what we need right now?

Let  me use an odd example to start illustrating the problem: Drone attacks in Pakistan supposedly attacking militants – actually killing a few militants and a lot of civilians including innocent women and children who likely had hard enough lives as it was – on Obama’s orders.

Now this isn’t necessarily Obama’s fault – he’s following CIA intel. Except, wait a minute… Didn’t we spend a trillion dollars on a war on Iraq based on bad intel from the CIA that they had WMDs that they never had? What’s going on here? What’s going on is simple – its not that Obama is evil or that Bush was evil or even that the CIA is evil (Paranoid maybe, but not evil). The real reason is that there just isn’t enough accountability. We love going into things half cocked, before we know what’s happening.

Now, lets look at a very different example closer to home:

Last year, welfare cost the government an average of $60K per household. The amount actually given to those households on average? $22K. Balls!

Seriously, what the fuck?!

Does this sound like a very different issue? Its not. The key issue is the same. Our government is an expert at shoddy workmanship. They throw a ton of tax and debt money at a problem. And when that creates a bigger mess because they didn’t think things through, instead of going back and figuring out what happened, they throw even more tax and debt money at it.

Why is this happening?

  1. Lack of accountability.
  2. THESE DOOFUSES  DON’T KNOW HOW TO DO A BETTER JOB!

And that is the problem. It takes a lot of experience understanding complex systems and getting results before you even understand how to try to fix something complicated. Before you even begin to understand what mistakes you don’t want to make. The only kind of person who could lead this country to a better future is someone who actually has skill in making things work better. And that person isn’t Obama.

In fact, its probably not someone charismatic at all since those people are usually very critical people who dwell on the minute details of problems instead of pretty rainbows. But that is what we need. And we don’t need just one. We need thousands that go into the various areas where things are going to shit and figure out how to fix things individually – you can’t just fix the country, you have to fix all the parts that make up the country.

And really, whoever wins the elections, we need to find such people fast because in all likelihood, neither Obama nor Romney is going to be able to pull our asses out of the fire in the long run. They may be well intentioned, but they don’t know how to get things done.

After all, lets say you had to put Romney or Obama in charge of Apple or just friggin’ Walmart! Would you even trust them to do a good job managing all the different services of any one of those companies, raising profits, making people’s lives better and providing the vision it needs to do better in the world tomorrow? No? Of course, not! Because they aren’t qualified, and its too big for them!

Incidentally, I don’t think we should elect Romney, not because Obama is so much better, but because he has four years of experience learning about and trying to fix the issues, and he has plans in play. Romney thinks he knows better without having any real experience, and he’s going to create his own half-assed changes that likely won’t be any better. So we won’t get anything great from Romney and he’ll fuck up what Obama had in progress so we won’t be able to gain from that either. This is not a time for indecision on top of weak action. Its better we at least stay the course and let him do his best.

Lets keep this short and painful.

Romney

“China has been artificially reducing the price of its currency and I will place tariffs on them”

Reality Check: That means that both US consumers and US businesses get to buy Chinese products for cheap, thus our money goes farther and our businesses can do more. 

Consequences of his brilliant idea: If we did this, Everything in America would be more expensive. Our businesses would have to pay more for anything they buy (laptops, printers, furniture), and most likely instead of local businesses forming to try to be competitive (unlikely and time consuming)… We’d likely have European countries or someone else just have China build them products and sell those to us so that the Europeans could make an extra buck for providing Chinese services to us indirectly. Are you going to put tariffs on England and France too?

Then, we have the problem that right now China and the US need each other and will help each other to some degree. Start an adversarial situation and China has to think about defending itself against us. Maybe offering services to other countries even cheaper so that they can move ahead faster than us. Maybe just by making some things more expensive for us that we don’t want to have be expensive – and seriously if prices are going to rise, China would no doubt prefer to sell at higher prices than let the US gov collect more taxes. Feh.

… And this bungling idiot considers himself a businessman. Where do they get these morons?

Ultimately China and their cheap labor is something we could use to save ourselves.

And here’s an example:

Now we know that people can have more money in two ways: “Make more money, or spend less” – one way you spend less is if stuff is cheaper so that you get as much for less.

So, what if we negotiate with China to help us produce vast numbers of trucks with hybrid engines so that they cost less fuel, and we negotiate down on the price so that its even cheaper than it would be otherwise? What would that do? Practically everything in the US could be a little cheaper because moving goods across the country costs money. We’d spend less to move stuff, so everyone could afford to sell it for a little cheaper… China makes money, and our lives become easier.

The point is simply to say that if we are creative, that cheap labor can be an advantage for us. A waiter in the US and a waiter in China may do the same work, but because our currency is valued higher, the waiter here can buy cooler stuff and overall has a better life. Businesses have similar advantages if they use their heads. If China artificially makes their stuff and services cheap so we can take advantage of them, lets take more advantage of them.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.