Tuesday, April 14, 2015

What have I learned?

When I started writing this blog, I didn't know where it would take me.  That was good, it allowed me to learn new things as I kept writing.

I feel like I learned a lot.  So today I want to talk about what I have learned and what I still don't know.

I want to to ask you guys an important question: Why should we care?  I mean, why should we bother getting involved at all?

It's patriotic guys!! It's our civic duty.  You better go vote or the country is going to fall apart!!!

The most important thing we can do, is trying to understand how government actually affects us.  Why should we care about government?  What does it even have to do with our daily lives?

Sadly, there's not a whole lot we can do to directly change government.  What a bummer.  If you try to get involved, you may not end up influencing anything.  The one exception is local politics.  Half the time they are begging and hoping that someone will show up at their council meetings.  But instead of participating in the one place where we actually have a real voice, we run around, chasing ideas about how we're going to fix everything.  I'm criticizing myself here more than anyone else.

It's easy to think you have all the answers, but face it, we don't know shit. Imagine if you became president tomorrow.  You're probably a great person, I'm not gonna argue with that, but I bet you'd fuck up our country pretty quickly.  You might even make it onto the list that includes "great" presidents like John Tyler, Millard Fillmore, and Franklin Pierce.  There's a reason you've never heard of them.  For all you know, one of them could've been a duck.  Millard Fillmore was not a duck.  These were actually some of the presidents that helped support slavery. Their actions and policies lead to the civil war, probably the worst conflict in all of American history.

I'm not saying you would support something morally reprehensible like slavery during your instant presidency.  But if there's one thing we can learn from modern economic lessons, it's that disasters are often caused by morally ambiguous and intellectually confusing issues.  Public policy played a role in the devastating housing bubble, I talked about this in a previous post.  Incomptency or ignorance can lead to disaster just as easily as selfishness or depravity.

You know how when people watch sports, they suddenly become an expert on everything?  You're sitting on a couch, a thousand miles away, eating a slice of pizza.  You haven't played basketball competitively since your freshman year of high school.  The last time you did play, you sprained your ankle, and then went home and watched netflix.  And yet somehow, you are qualified to tell Lebron James how to do his job.

Why do we think we would be qualified to run government?  Why don't we appreciate the hard work and extensive qualifications of our politicians and leaders who work day after day to manage the country.

Let's talk about voting.  We always hear how important it is.  But what are you doing, really?  You're sticking a piece of paper in a box.  Hey guys, I know things were getting bad, but I got this.  I just voted.  Y'all can sleep easy tonight.

Then you go home with a fancy sticker.  Good job.  They might as well have given you a toy.  You never realized why the dentist stopped doing that in the first place.

Knowing most Americans, you probably put more work into picking your fantasy sports team.  You realize the word "fantasy" is in there, right?  Maybe that's how you should think about politics.  I'm sure your picks would win a congressional All-Star game.  At least you would take it seriously.

Protesting is just passively saying we want something to happen.

It's like a preteen letting everyone know how devastated they are when their favorite band breaks up.  No!!! My life is ruined without One Direction!

Voting and protesting are important.  Without them, we'd probably have an american Kim Jong Un running things.  A 28-year-old entitled manchild would be given the keys to castle one day.  The next day, it would be a crumpled mess, just like the half million dollar ferrari he got for his 16th birthday.  Here's a spoiler: The odometer never got very high, but the speedometer sure did.

Ideally, we shouldn't have to get involved much, for good reason.  That job belongs to our leaders and representitives.  We pay them to take care of this.  Let them do their jobs.  They answer for their work in the next election.  We have the power to hire and sack people.  That's about it.

But we do control an important part of the equation, and that's our own behavior.

We live in a country where most of the time, people are free to go where they want and do what they want.  There is the occassional police officer there to enforce the law, but they probably won't get involved unless you're pissing on the sidewalk or they haven't met their ticket quota.

Sometimes when we talk about politics, we inflate the importance of government.  Most of the country is not government, it's regular, non-government people, living boring, normal lives.  Going to work, going home, and then turning on Sports Center.

So do what you do best.  Look after number one first, and then take care of your house and your family.

I've explored a lot of ideas, but most of what I can say with certainty, I already knew before I started.

With minimum wage, there are 2 sides to the same coin, if the government gives you a pay raise, you'll get more money, but you may have to work harder to earn it.

I talked a lot about economics, but most was just speculation.  I did learn a couple plausible explanations for how our rules affect our work options and our pay, but again: speculation.

I tried suggesting some new ideas, but I don't know if they would actually work or be a terrible mess.  I was trying to point out that we have a lot of options out there, and we should consider more of them.  Not everything is good or evil, republican or democrat, complete anarchy or absolute tyranny.

Important Issues

What are the most important public issues?  Your list may be different, depending on your experience. But this is my list:
  • Labor regulation
  • Immigration policy
  • Intellectual property

I wanted to share my thoughts and opinions on these issues in this last post.  I've said that before, but this post is really the last one.  Keep in mind, these are just thoughts and opinions, one person's ideas.  It's a fun exercise, but nothing earth shattering or important.


I would really like to see us give individuals more autonomy and control over their own lives.  We need individual freedom and accountability, especially when it comes to how we work and how we earn a living.  That is my feeling on labor regulation.


We shouldn't pretend like we own the world or have exclusive rights to our country's land.  We are all migrants, refugees on a spinning space rock.  We can protect our borders, and have rules and a process for entering the country, but turning people away should be the exception, not the rule.  We shouldn't kick people out of the country without good reason, just because they were born somewhere else.  We should allow everyone who is inside our borders the opportunity to work.  As for government services, everyone who pays taxes should get complete benefits.  And some services should not discriminate based on status.

Intellectual Property

Intellectual property is a question of authority.  The question is this: What does the government have the authority to do and where does it get this authority?  Granting private business monopolies, even with fairly good justification, is a strange kind of authority to have.  I don't get it.


Copyright restricts economic activity and sharing of information for the benefit of the copyright holder.  To be fair, copyright doesn't prevent people from earning a living, but patents can potentially do just that.  Copyright actually has a lot of flexibility.  This is a good thing.  Authors can use it the way they see best.  They can use it to share things, or they can use it to help them earn money.  There may be problems with copyright, but we aren't going to fix them until we realize it shouldn't be hard to earn a living doing physical work.  We can still have time left over for creative endeavors.

Currently there is a huge threshhold between amateur and commercial creative projects.  Amateur projects get a lot less attention because of the huge gap in production quality that is made possible through intellectual property enforcement.  But amateur projects can be rare gems that are more relevant to our lives and provide more opportunities to new artists.  Without copyright, amateur projects would get a lot more attention and operate on a more level playing field.  The ability to enforce copyright may be dwindling, but media companies still make a ton of money by convincing the public it has a moral obligation to pay them for media, even if most people ignore this obligation most of the time.  Not paying for media is rude, but I don't think it's immoral.

We live in a world where some people are desperate and starved while rich and successful media companies complain that they are being cheated by people copying their media.  Media and the arts are vital and important endeavors, but not physcial necessities.  Giving media companies the authority to enforce copy controls is hard to justify.  Media and arts can be funded voluntarily, and people aren't wronged by fans giving their work attention.  That is my take.

But fixing other economic issues is a higher priority.


If gov't wants to get involved with science and technology, they should provide bounties for creations and discoveries that benefit the public.  That would incentivize innovation.

We already have scientific research grants, but we could do something similar with other kinds of technology.  These grant programs could be expanded and improved.  Currently, scientific grants are rewarded based on reputation and promises, but if we gave out bounties for worthwhile results, that would encourage private investment in science and technology.  It would be better to give out money after someone has done the work, instead of pretending we can predict and control the progression of innovation.  Watch Neil Degrasse Tyson talk about the funding of science and exploration, that should convince you this is worthwhile.

We give businesses money for providing services, and then allow them complete discretion to use that money.  Why shouldn't we allow the government discretion to pursue activities like funding science?  It greatly benefits all of us.

The patent office is already a sizeable bureaucratic institution that evaluates technological creations.  What if it rewarded people directly for inventing something worthwhile, instead of granting them restrictive monopolies just because they did something unique?

What's next?

As for myself, I know I'm not in a position to try to represent the interests of the entire country.  That's why I want to shift my focus.

In one of my blog posts I talked about producing basic necessities.  I commented that we should give more people access to the production of basic necessities.

I'm starting a new project.  Not everyone can have a farm in the backyard or build houses, but there are simple things that we can do to provide for our needs with objects readily available around us.  I am calling this new project "Walk, Cook, Clean".  I feel those are the most accessible things we can do to take care of our necessities, improve the quality of our lives, and reduce living costs.  It's all about practical ways to save money on transportation, food, clothing, and housing.  We can take control of our personal welfare.

That's what I'm interested in right now, and it's something that will personally benefit me.  I've been working on it for a while, and now I want to share some things I've learned.

Check out my new blog if you are interested: walkcookclean.blogspot.com