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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Edelman's Moral Quandaries (Pt. 3)--B.P.F.&.D.W.

The acronym stands for: Balancing Personal Freedom and Division of Wealth.
Edelman wrote:
Westerners are inclined to see the political landscape as a spectrum between hard-core loony socialism (all the world’s wealth should be divided equally among its population, regardless of merit) and equally loony hard-core capitalism (everyone go grab your share of the pie, and if that results in radically uneven distribution of wealth, so be it). In Infoquake and MultiReal, I called these two poles governmentalism and libertarianism. Somewhere in the middle, theoretically, is a society where nobody’s starving and everyone can afford basic medical care, yet we still have ample freedom to make our own individual choices without governments taxing us to death. We’ve got to find that place, and figure out how to sustain it long-term.
And here is what I have to say: YES! I live in a country that is so extremist and radical it's scary. On the one side, as Edelman points out, there are the folks who want the government to pay for things that, quite frankly, it can't afford, in exchange for sacrificing ones rights and taxing the crap out of anyone who so much as tries to earn a decent wage in a country that is growing more and more expensive. On the other side are the folks who want complete control of the government in exchange for the huge gaps we are already experiencing between the rich and the poor. This second area is one in which personal freedom means nothing even if people want it. Why? Because corporate entities have the power.
    Right now we don't have a balance between the two. We have corporations trying to control things, and to some extent they do, and then we have the people who seem to want things that they really can't have at this point. I'll use healthcare as an example.
    We all want it. We all want to be able to afford it, but the problem is that the government can't afford to adopt a socialized medical program. It can't. You can try to run your little figures all you want, but right now, we can't afford such a program. It will bankrupt us, and at this point we need to think of better solutions. With the Iraq War still going and Afghanistan not exactly complete, though forgotten, we have to make sure our troops have the money they need to do what they have to do. No, we cannot pull out of Iraq. I'm not a crazy Republican, but I'm smart enough to realize that pulling out at this point would permanently damage what little reputation we have. Iraq is weak because of us. Can any of you live with the idea of simply walking out of a situation we created without making sure that Iraq can defend itself from extremists? If you can, then I propose that every time some innocent Iraqi dies a letter be sent to you with that person's picture and any relevant information about his or her life so that you'll always know that someone died due to a cowardly act of simply walking away. We can't walk. That's just one problem we face right now, and one that isn't going to go away for a few years at least.
    The next financial issue is social security. Baby-boomers are going to bankrupt that program so that all of us younger generations won't have anything when we retire. Granted, you shouldn't rely on SS for retirement, but some people need it to supplement other retirement funds. We have to fix this problem now before it can't be fixed. That means finding new solutions that don't involve raising taxes that can fund newer generations. An option might be a 401K type plan in which funds produced by your SS taxes are placed into considerably safe and secure stocks, i.e. low-risk companies that might lose you some money, but are very unlikely to ever just flat-out disappear. Why would this be a good idea? Well, for one, by having vast amounts of new money invested into our businesses we can expect to see our economy benefit from it, which will actually help secure your new SS funds for a much longer period of time. You'll also be earning money just as you would in a 401K employer plan, which is good. You're willing to take a risk there, why not with SS? If it means that more people might have even better lives in the future, so be it. That's just one idea and there might be far better ones out there.
    The point is that we can't afford universal healthcare right now, and honestly, we shouldn't have a fully socialized health program. What do we need? The middle ground. We need a healthcare system that ANYONE can afford so that EVERYONE can get basic medical care and emergency care and not have to worry about if they can pay the bill. This means finding ways to reduce the costs of insurance programs, reducing prescription drug costs, etc. The whole lot of it has to be reduced. We need a system that still has you pay, but not pay until you can't afford to eat anymore. How do we do this? I don't know. I wish I did know, but I don't, and I don't have any viable solutions. I don't know enough about the medical field to hazard a logical guess. I've dealt with considerable bills, however, and I understand what one has to deal with when you only have one health insurance card and it can't cover the whole cost.
    That's a little off the mark, but back to the topic at hand. Edelman is proposing that we find a middle ground where corporations can still bring in profits, as they should, and everyone still has a roof and food and is able to find work or get an education. One thing we should be doing is monitoring corporations, especially energy/fuel companies that claim shortages, but still bring in record profits. Corporations need to have more requirements placed on them to feed their financial earnings into the market to bring costs down. Of course, you should make a lot of money, but it doesn't make a lot of sense when you bring in massive profits during a supposed "shortage" and then keep that money and not put that into the industrial infrastructure (if I'm using that word correctly). For oil companies, it's creating new facilities to refine oil and getting their hands into alternate fuel sources NOW rather than later. They seem to believe that in 50 years we'll still be working on oil, or perhaps even 10 years from now they think this. The reality is that eventually the U.S. is going to wean itself off of oil, so why aren't oil companies trying to get their greedy hands on it? I don't know. Perhaps some of them are and are being quiet about it.
    We also need to drop programs and laws that remove personal freedoms from people. These laws were initiated by a scared public, and it seems somewhat unethical to use fear as a mechanism for removing personal freedoms. Such things should be dropped. We also need to foster confidence in the government, which won't happen any time soon, but must be done. People should be more concerned about whether their children have food on the table or can go to college, not whether their government is spying on them or doing something nasty and illegal behind the curtain of law.
    It was once a Republican ideal to have less government. What has happened in the wake of 9/11, however, is a surge of new-Republican (or not-real-Republican) ideals that have actually removed many of the freedoms we once cherished. The Patriot Act can actually be used against any American under the guise of 'national security', so long as someone believes you to be involved in terrorism. Our government has been caught wiretapping phones without warrants, etc. These are not Republican ideals. Our founding fathers were real Republicans (minus the slavery bit) in that they believed government to be as non-obtrusive as possible. We need such a government again, to some extent. A government that will take care of its people when it has to and one that ensures that future generations will still have a great place to live. That's what we need. Government should only be called into action when the people are incapable of solving an issue. Racism, for example, couldn't have been stopped without government intervention. Slavery as well. Without banning slavery we'd still have slaves today.
    We also need a government that encourages innovation and encourages people to become better earners, because such people drive the economy. But we don't have that right now. We tax the living hell out of anyone that makes over $100,000 a year all to provide social programs, many of which we don't actually need. Why are we so drastically punishing the wealthy? I understand the impulse, and I certainly get irritated at filthy rich people that seem to treat society like peasants, but by taxing too much we become too socialist and inevitably we become a society without innovation. Innovation, mind you, was what gave us the lightbulb, the car, the airplane, the computer, the Internet, and Nintendo (no, Sony doesn't count, even though both are Japanese). What happens when we stifle innovation? Other countries take up the job and beat us to the punch. More advancements in technology are being done in countries where such breakthroughs are encouraged. We need to take a step back and think about what we're doing. How is innovation good for us?
    Innovation creates new jobs, for one. If some new product comes out that revolutionizes something, a new market will open and jobs will follow. The economy benefits from all of this in that new products can be sold across the world, and here. Innovation is, essentially, so vastly important to our economy the idea that we stifle it, even a little, is frightening. The last major advancement in technology, I would argue, was the Internet. That was, some 10 or more years ago (commercially viable Internet, I mean).
    This is why we need that middle-ground society where we have the ability to advance while still providing the aid necessary to make sure people can survive. We need that middle ground to find solutions for healthcare, social security, and the economy. Our economy isn't doing well, contrary to what we hear on the news. It's not dying, but the dollar has lost significant value in the world, which is a concern. Don't worry, I'm not saying we're going to being a third world country. We're far from that. The point is that a middle-ground government that draws influences from both conservative and liberal policies is the way to long as it's good for the country as a whole.

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  1. Thanks for these commentaries on my original article. I have been reading them, though I'm a little too frazzled at the moment to comment back intelligently.

    I've put links to your commentaries on the original blog piece.

  2. You're most welcome!
    I've had that post of your linked ever since you put it up and as soon as I saw it I knew "I have to expand on these concepts". I have two more to go though. The nuclear one is going to be an interesting take on my part I think.

    Thanks for dropping by and I look forward to more comments from you :P.