I contemplated a run for public office in 2004, with the goal of seeking a representative slot in the state of Iowa. My political plan was to campaign as a Libertarian candidate with a progressive platform, and this node eludicates this platform, which I describe as modern progressive Libertarianism.
The single underlying principle that describes every policy choice made under this philosophy is that of respect for the individual. An individual should be as free as possible to make his or her own choices, provided that these choices do not infringe upon the rights of others.
Beyond this, the second most important principle in this philosophy is respect for the future. An individual should not be hampered by the restrictions of their birth in terms of receiving a quality education, proper health care, or other such fundamental services.
Let's walk through the ramifications of these philosophies on policy.
Let Individuals Make Their Own Choices
The laws of the land should be such that individuals are allowed to make their own choices as long as those choices do not interfere with the lives of others in any way. This policy provides for the safety of the populace while simultaneously guaranteeing the maximum freedom of others.
Some of the steps to do this are as follows.
1. Refocus the war on drugs to revolve solely around education.
America spends billions of dollars each year trying to stop the import of drugs from other nations and the preparation of drugs within our own borders. This effort only seeks to prevent people from making their own choices, right or wrong.
We should consider redirecting this money into proper education on the damaging effects of drugs on people. Let children see the dark side of drug abuse and drug addiction. Have them meet people who have to talk through holes in their throat because of abuse of cigarettes; meet people whose minds have been unbalanced because of too much use of heroin or methamphetamines.
When the children reach adulthood, then they will have the opportunity to make an informed choice for themselves on whether or not to use drugs.
Should drugs be legalized? My initial reaction is to say that they should be, but that they should be very heavily taxed, which is discussed in the next section.
2. Eliminate speed limits on the nation's interstates.
All nationwide interstates should be widened to six lanes, for starters, and the two lanes that do not involve the merging of traffic should have an elimination of a speed limit. Interstates are designed for speedy transportation over long distances; the roadways are constructed with long straightaways. Often, drivers are forced to mis-utilize these roadways.
An elimination of this issue would allow individuals to drive at a speed that they find appropriate for their own travel. This would increase commerce, allowing trucking companies to carry loads at a quicker rate. It would also allow individuals to decrease their own travel time.
3. Encourage sellers to exhibit a wide variety of products.
Sellers that encourage market diversity should be rewarded with tax incentives. The Department of Commerce should establish market guidelines for specific market niches, then randomly evaluate businesses for their distribution of a wide variety of choices for the consumer within that specific market. This would encourage innovation rather than marketing within specific markets as products will have reduced competition for shelf space and instead will have to compete based on product quality.
This measure will be difficult for large market-dominating companies to agree with; however, these companies only have the ability to complain in terms of stifling competition. In essence, this measure only seeks to guarantee a truly open market instead of the corporate-based socialism that most markets have devolved into.
4. Decrease the minimal standards required for participants to appear in political debates and on ballots.
The goal of this measure is to elimiate the Catch-22 that exists in modern politics (and ironically, it is this very Catch-22 that will likely damage my chances at office). In essence, in order to spread your message, you already have to have widespread support. The only way to gain this is to be part of a political machine, and there are only two major political machines in the United States. This restricts the seeming choices for voters in terms of national candidates to two choices.
To fix this, a lowering of the requirement needed for entry into public political debate is required. A law stating that any public debate involving members of multiple parties must allow entrants from any party who can provide signatures from at least 1% of the constituency or demonstrate poll-based support of 1% of the constituency. Thus, in the last presidential debate, Ralph Nader, representing the Green Party, would have been a member, as likely would have Harry Browne as a representative of the Libertarian Party.
Also, all eligible candidates should appear on ballots, provided they are the sole candidate of a registered party. Once a party is registered with a state, they should have the right to name a candidate for any office and have that single candidate appear on the ballot.
5. Legalize medical choices, including first trimester abortions and euthanasia.
In virtually all cases, more freedom should be allowed in terms of medical choices, regardless of ethical feelings of individuals. In the eyes of the law, an independent entity able to live without the support of others should be able to freely choose the humane termination of their own life with the aid of another. In addition, individuals that clearly cannot survive on their own, such as first trimester babies, should have their futures be totally at the discretion of the mother. If the mother feels as though she is inadequate or ill-prepared to raise the child, regardless of how abhorrent I might personally find the decision, it his her right to choose how to deal with the situation, and the medical community should ensure that her safety is ensured in terms of acting out that decision.
... But Let Individuals Bear Their Own Responsibilities
With great power, though, comes great responsibility. For all the freedoms we now enjoy, we as a nation need to build individuals capable of expressing and representing this freedom.
1. Eliminate Social Security payments for all individuals born after 1970.
Social Security was a strong program in its own time when the nation was mired deeply in an economic disaster; it helped to ensure a brighter future for those without hope because there was no time to build a program that would help individuals to build a future for themselves.
That time has long since passed; it is seventy years in the past.
We need to throw away the shackles of Social Security for future generations. Individuals should be allowed to make their own retirment choices with the understanding that the government will not take care of them if they make poor choices. Government-handled individual retirement accounts will suffice for most workers; others may find that their retirement works best in a 401(k) or (like me) a 403(b) or an IRA of some sort.
2. Apply a large vice tax to vices of all sorts.
A special sales tax should be applied nationwide to nonessential goods, ranging from video games to music to movies to alcohol to other consumptives. The less essential the item, the higher the tax. At the same time, the sales tax should be lowered on fundamental products such as hygiene products.
This serves two purposes. First, it serves to raise money for some of the far-reaching plans described in the subsequent section. Second, it enables low-income families to more easily afford the essentials; this affords more disposable income on other items.
3. Eliminate the welfare program as a state-sponsored activity.
The welfare program, when it works, provides a necessary safety net for those down on its luck. However, this safety net simultaneously has a lot of holes (allowing people who truly need aid to fall through) and supports a great number of undeserving people.
The solution is to eliminate the program altogether and support the development of tax-free unemployment insurance. This would allow workers to contribute a small amount of their pay to a fund that would be repaid upon their unemployment for any reason, whether retirement or resignation or termination. Thus, to earn the benefits of welfare, an individual must work.
4. Create a comprehensive program for supporting single working parents.
Parents who choose not to cohabitate, are unmarried, and are gainfully employed deserve some special consideration for their burdens. These individuals are demonstrating a willingness to face a great burden on their own, as demonstrated by their willingness to work. Thus, much of the money saved by the elimination of welfare could be redirected into a voucher program in which single parents meeting the criteria of the program are supplied with much less expensive child care.
This program encourages individual initiative in terms of staying gainfully employed while simultaneously ensuring the safety of children in such situations.
5. Eliminate the "bailing out" of failing industries.
If entire industries are failing, the cause is either that every business in the market has adopted a business model that doesn't work or that the market is shrinking. In either case, it is not the role of the government to use taxpayer money to support these industries.
Money should never be given to failing businesses or industries in order to keep their faulty practices alive.
Solve Our Own Problems First
There are a lot of problems in the world, but the tax dollars of the United States should focus on the problems of the United States. Thus, principles such as the following should be considered:
1. Eliminate our economic, political, and other sanctions and influences upon foreign governments.
By this I mean that we should clean our slate in terms of exerting our national influence on other states, especially in terms of military and economic threat influencing the internal policies and markets of another nation. A clear example of this is the early 2003 mobilization and conflict with Iraq; it is a conflict directed at internal policy within Iraq, something with which we should not greatly concern ourselves.
2. Privatize much of the aid America provides to other nations.
If individual Americans or American groups wish to donate food, clothing, labor, or other items to other nations, then this should be allowed, but the government should not be involved in the active donation of anything to other governments. The focus of the American government should be the optimum welfare of citizens of the United States and negotiation of fair trade policies with other nations, not in the outright support of other nations.
I am strongly in favor of giving to charities which support individuals who do not have a chance in life to be successful. However, I am strongly opposed to the government making such choices for me. If I am giving aid, let me choose to whom the aid goes.
3. Expand the concept and practice of such programs as the Peace Corps.
The government should allow the growth of such organizations such as the Peace Corps and encourage participation in such volunteer programs through benefits similar to those offered to military personnel. This would involve expansion of the GI Bill and other such measures to include individuals who agree to nonmilitary volunteer work abroad building opportunities for individuals.
The purpose of such programs, however, should be to help individuals and families, not influence governments. These programs should volunteer labor to build homes, schools, and places for hygiene in the most impoverished places, and seek to educate individuals in these areas about how to feed themselves using the resources available.
This is the type of influence that America should spread, not one of military action.
4. Refuse involvement in all military operations that do not pose a direct threat upon the United States, and make this a clear and public policy.
Under this policy, the only military conflict that the United States would have been involved in in the 20th century would have been World War II. No other war offered a direct threat to the soil of the United States, and no other war can claim a direct and tangible benefit to the citizenry of the United States. Why? Because war that does not directly protect the soil of the United States does not benefit the citizenry of the United States.
In World War I, we helped resolve a conflict revolving around European internal politics. In the Korean War and the Vietnam War, we fought Communism, which was not a threat to the American government in any direct way. In the Gulf War, we fought for Texaco; the war had a purely economic basis and was nominally fought because of a regional struggle.
Such a move would likely result in a reduction in the necessary size of the military. This money could be used in some of the other policies described here.
In these wars combined, we lost over 100,000 Americans. For what? Did we prevent any threat to American soil? No. Did we anger other nations because of our interference? Yes.
5. Adopt a policy of never offering long-term aid in exchange for better trade opportunities.
We should never mortgage our future for a better trade deal today. All trade deals should involve trade for now or equal trade in the future, but we should never offer more in the future than we will receive in the future.
Such policies have led to the rampant export of United States funds directly into other nations, often supporting them in exchange for minimal benefit for us. This is not a solution that can be supported over the long term.
Investing In The Future
I believe strongly in long-term investments that may not bear fruit for us, but will bear tremendous fruit for our children and our grandchildren.
1. Reduce public school classroom sizes to 12 students per class.
Approximate cost: $12 billion per year
According to a 2002 report by the Department of Education, it would require a hiring of 300,000 additional full time teachers and the facilities to support these teachers to reduce the class size in the United States to a maximum of 12. The cost of this was estimated to be $11 billion per year, a cost that the department found unacceptable.
But the cost is more than acceptable.
Reducing class sizes to 12 would bring in many of the benefits of home schooling (individualized attention, focused learning plans for students) along with the social benefits of public schooling. Each teacher would be able to devote as much as 60% more time on each student (and likely more on students who are at risk), giving them the opportunity to learn, raising test scores, and building a better tomorrow.
Another $1 billion should be spent annually on a merit teacher program. At the onset of this program, 50,000 teachers (at most one per district) would be identified by test scores and peer reviews as exceptional teachers and would receive a permanent $20,000 annual bonus to their pay. This would bring the pay of these merited teachers to approximately the level of administrators and demonstrate that teaching excellence does merit financial reward.
Such a program would provide a goal for young teachers striving to become the best as well as provide recognition and reward to the truly great teachers out there.
Together, these measures would inject new life into the tired education system of the United States.
2. Guarantee three nutritional meals a day for all individuals under the age of 18 in America.
Approximate cost: $20 billion per year / 20 years
Mostly, this involves a massive overhaul of the school lunch program in America. The purpose of the program would be refocused on covering the dietary needs over the entire childhood of the youth of America, providing three nutritional meals a day throughout the year for students involved in the program.
Any youth under the age of 18 may sign up for such a program; it would not be denied for any reason other than potential harm to other students. Meals and dining space would be provided for the children, and the meals would be designed to each provide much of the daily requirements needed at each sitting.
The cost here comes from a mix of food preparation and administration costs as well as the costs of the additional food itself.
3. Guarantee top health care for all individuals under the age of 18 in America.
Approximate cost: $20 billion per year
Nationwide health care in the United States has seemed like a pipe dream for a long time, but the right place to start is with the youth of America. Quite simply, anyone under the age of 18 should not be denied health care in America.
All hospitals should be supplemented by the government with the necessary resources to provide health care to anyone under the age of 18. Children should be able to just show up at the hospital and receive strong medical care for their elements.
The costs would revolve around additional staffing and supplies at the existing hospitals and the construction of some additional hospitals especially in high-density areas.
4. Develop a dietary supplement that, if mass produced, can provide a full day's worth of nutrition to an individual for pennies.
Approximate cost: $6 billion per year / 10 years
The development of such a supplement should be funded by the National Science Foundation and, when such a discovery is made, all patents on it are free for use at no cost to any entity who wishes to use the technology. The goal is to create an idea that truly helps the food needs of mankind and can help solve the many food distribution problems by first greatly reducing the cost of producing the food.
In conjunction with the national dining program for youths described above, this development could ensure that no youth in America is malnourished.
5. Complete not only the Human Genome Project, but fully support the Human Proteome Project and Human Transcriptome Project.
Approximate cost: $4 billion per year / 10 years
The goal here is to provide a complete dictionary of the biochemical workings of humankind. If we are able to comprehend the purpose of every pathway, protein, and gene in the human body, then we can make drugs that are able to target very specific areas, resulting in highly effective medical treatment with little drawback. In addition, we will be able to defeat most major diseases through genetic treatments that can knock out faulty genes. This includes cancer, aging, Alzheimer's Disease, Parkinson's Disease, and countless others.
6. Construct a non-polluting engine that runs on fuel easily produceable within the United States.
Approximate cost: $5 billion per year / 10 years
Development of such an engine (ideally with fuel that could be reproduced in the home using home waste) would eliminate our dependence on foreign interests for oil as well as reduce much of our own environmental destruction. If the developed engine strongly reduced or eliminated the production of environment-damaging wastes, we would go a long way toward cleaning up much of the environmental damage done by us and our forebears.
7. Construct a space elevator for inexpensive transportation in space and more efficient deep space launching.
Approximate cost: $25 billion per year / 10 years
A space elevator would allow for very inexpensive transport of items both to and from outer space.
This development, much like the two following it, has what may seem to not be a strongly important goal, but it is in the secondary benefits from such a development where we find major gains.
First of all, if the elevator is constructed by the government and usage is leased to businesses and other nations, then the device becomes a profit-maker for the United States.
Second, in developing such a device, we would likely have to learn and apply a great deal of new scientific knowledge, particularly in the realm of carbon nanotubes, which would likely make up the body of the elevator. These tubes could have countless applications throughout all avenues of modern life, from safer automobiles to safer sporting equipment.
Third, it would make space exploration a lot easier, which provides the foundation for the next two objectives.
8. Conduct a manned trip to a Jovian moon.
Approximate cost: $50 billion per year / 20 years
Many people have espoused recently the concept of traveling to Mars, but this should just be the first step in a longer plan. We should travel to a moon of Jupiter by 2025.
Our knowledge of the Jovian moons is rather limited at this time, but it will grow in the near future when the Galileo space probe visits Jupiter later this year. However, we do know that it is possible to inhabit several of the moons, upon which there are countless resources which humankind could utilize, as well as a great deal of space for humankind to grow in and diversify in.
Beyond this, there are the technical benefits of such a project. We would be forced to engineer more efficient means of propulsion which would greatly benefit transportation on Earth; we would also be required to create new materials, which would again benefit humanity.
Another major gain is psychological; it has been decades since America has been so strongly united towards a single goal. This is our chance to recapture that unity that our nation once felt, so that people with different skills and different abilities could all work together towards one common goal.
9. Construct and maintain a permanent lunar base.
Approximate cost: $25 billion per year / 20 years
At some point, we will have to begin investigation into the techniques of long-term habitation outside of Earth, and the best place to test such mechanisms is our own moon. It is very close by, only requiring a couple of days of space travel now to fly there, but the distance is such that it would be truly isolated in a very harsh environment.
Developing a working permanent lunar base in which civilians could live and survive should be an immediate goal of ours. With the lessons learned from the Biosphere II project as well as our own known abilities to reach the moon, the door to this goal is already open.
How would this benefit daily life? It would allow for the development of technologies that would allow individuals to become more self-sufficient, such as much-improved solar and hydro-based energy sources and renewable production within the colony itself. These developments could be applied within the home to make living easier for all of us.
10. Construct and maintain a nationwide fiber-optic and network that provides cost-free high speed internet access into the home of every American and wireless cost-free medium speed internet access in every square foot of America.
Approximate cost: $12 billion per year / 10 years
With the wealth of information available to the fingertips of only some of the populace, a true "information advantage" is beginning to appear, which is no different than the finance or race-based caste systems of the recent past. Luckily, this can be combated by making access to the information ubiquitous for all of us.
The development of a nationwide wireless network supported by the government (and thus paid for much like a "phone bill" with a small tax increase) providing wireless access for all would greatly enable any individual that wished to get onto the internet and take advantage of the information available there. By making the access available for all, it becomes the responsibility of individuals to get onto the network by the adoption of devices making this possible.
So, how can we foot the bill for this?
Approximate cost: $200 billion per year
With this gameplan, every child in America would have health care, a very strong education, and proper nutrition. We would have safer cars, a cleaner environment, and access to infinite information at all of our fingertips. World hunger and disease in humans would be well on their way to being solved, and we would be making the first reaches into destinations beyond our planet. This is on top of the freedoms already described. This can all happen in just twenty years; most of us could see it in our lifetimes, but it will be expensive.
We will all have to chip in a little to make this work. But perhaps not as much as you think. First of all, many of the other initiatives described in my overall plan would save money, approximately $20 billion per year. This leaves us with roughly $180 billion to cover.
The gross domestic product of the United States is approximately $10 trillion dollars per year. Thus, to acquire $180 billion, we would need to acquire less than two cents on every dollar produced domestically in the United States.
This solves our problem: a 2% tax on all transactions made nationwide of any sort for the next twenty years, funds from which can only be used for the "building America" programs described above.
Beyond this 2% tax, there will be no taxation whatsoever on the people of America to support this plan.
So, for every $1 you transact with in the United States, you drop a couple of pennies into America's future. A future full of freedom, of choices, of a solid and cared for youth, and of possibilities that boggle the mind.
We are at a unique opportunity now to transcend our current role as world leader and truly build an America that is a shining beacon of hope for the entire world. This opportunity is in our hands. We must take this opportunity and run with it.