Category Archives: Politics

Is The American Dream Dead?

I’ve wrote posts about this topic before on Reddit a few times.

There’s truth to the idea that it’s much harder to start a life in the world today than it was fifty years ago, homes are more expensive and wage growth hasn’t necessarily kept pace with inflation over the last fifty years, adding to the fact that less and less Americans live in low CoLA cities means the American experience is even more skewed than it was 50 years ago. Setting that aside though, we also spend our money far differently than we did before, and many would say far less efficiently.

We have all of these relatively modern pulls on our disposable income that didn’t exist before. Keeping up a household in the 50s usually meant 2.5 kids, a family car, power and water bills, a television, etc. we have all that today, but also modern technology expenses: cable/sat subscription, cellphones, multiple TVs in most households, cars for each parent, internet bill. Just these extra things we see as necessities now eat up a huge chunk of the average American’s disposable income. We also buy things much differently than we did 50 years ago. Americans used to save huge amounts of their disposable income, and often paid cash for things. Credit was much harder to come by so you had to be frugal and delay gratification if you wanted that new TV or car. From my research, homes were one of the few things people financed, and revolving credit was very very low, with fairly low interest because it was so hard to get in general. Today we finance our lifestyles with revolving credit and are paying huge amounts of interest, while also rarely keeping a sufficient savings rate to be able to break that cycle.

The next big difference is how we live. 50 years ago the average American didn’t eat out very much at all, you cooked food at home every night from either fresh or frozen ingredients, and you generally were eating fairly inexpensive domestically available products. In modern times we all eat out multiple times a week, and have largely outsourced the role of food preparation to other people. When we do eat at home, many Americans opt for fancier fare, with exotic ingredients, or we keep expensive dietary habits. We also spend money on things like fancy coffees and convenience food that wouldn’t have happened much before. This has greatly increased the proportion of disposable income spent on food in the American household significantly over what was spent in the fifties.

So while the American experience has definitely changed, if you were to live like people did fifty years ago, you’d probably be surprised at how well you could live.
Credit, technology, and lifestyle has had a huge impact on the average American and it largely flies under the radar in these discussions. The beauty is, you can largely make a choice if you want to let them keep impacting your life.

America, a Nation of Laws

America was founded as a nation of laws, laws which should treat anyone equally regardless of race, gender, creed, or beliefs. It is not for the government to decide what society sees at acceptable speech, but to society to use its innate power to curtail and form itself.

Society’s power rests in inclusion or exclusion in the benefits of society. In days past, if you were thrust out of society it meant fending on your own and being forced to eek out an existence on the fringes. Unfortunately today, it’s very easy to live on the fringes of society, and even easier to find others of your persuasion for support and confirmation of your fringe beliefs. People don’t die in the wilderness anymore, but is that a reason to change one of the major foundations of our American institution?

I don’t think it is. I’m firmly of a mind that once you grant the power to restrict speech it’s one of the greatest weapons of the enemies of freedom (Including Nazis). It’s far too easy to use censorship as a political tool, and very easy for society to fall into McCarthyism and paint broad groups as demons to be cast out. Yes, today it’s nazis and white nationalists, but yesterday it was Dr. Martin Luther King fighting for civil rights. No one has authority to judge what speech has merit, but we as a whole decide what is acceptable or not.

Now, if censorship isn’t the way to combat hateful rhetoric how do we tackle it? Do we arm up and go toe to toe? I’d argue again, no, because again we’re a nation of laws. Assault is assault whether you like what someone has to say or not. And furthermore, it feeds into the victimization narrative that these hate groups use to feed the fires of their followers and grow their hateful ideologies. These guys generally use the same recruiting tactics as ISIS and similar groups, and every action people take that they can use to enforce their narrative should be avoided at all costs. Every one of their group that gets punched, arrested, or otherwise becomes a martyr to the cause, a person to be emulated. The guy that gets punched in the face today, wont suddenly have an epiphany that he’s wrong, he’ll just show up next time with a set of brass knuckles, a gun, or maybe a Dodge Charger… Violence Begets Violence. Always.

The only course of action I can see that doesn’t make things worse is to show these hateful people (and the world) that 1) They are so grossly outnumbered and outmatched that any thoughts for their hateful revolution or otherwise, would be a futile effort. and 2) That society has heard, and rejects their views.

One of the dangerous things I am seeing right now is the media taking up these demonstrations and blowing out the numbers to make it seem like they were way bigger than they are. By all accounts there was 200-300 of these guys in Charlottesville, and thousands of counter protesters, these guys were probably outnumbered 20 to 1 which is awesome. This was a nationwide, highly publicized callout from maybe different hate groups, and people answered the call, but were still outnumbered 20-1. They should be made to feel small, feeble, and petty. But they shouldn’t be attacked with violence, or have their rights restricted. They claim there’s a war on the white race, don’t feed the narrative.

Government run like a business

I wrote the following in response to a view I saw on facebook, you can watch it here: “The CEO President”
The United States is a republic, not a democracy, republics are generally structured similarly to businesses. We do not have a direct say in the organization or operation of our government, we elect folks to do this for us, and there are some really good reasons for this. Yeah it can go wrong from time to time but in general it works pretty well (and has for almost 250 years). You also have to believe it’s the government’s job to provide healthcare and whatnot for this video to make any sense, but lets set aside the role of the government for now.
 
In business, you’re generally tasked with doing for the greatest good for your stakeholders. ‘Stakeholders’ does indeed include shareholders, but it also includes your employees, your customers, society, and the governments where you do business. There’s a complex interplay between the many diverse entities that your business effects that you constantly have to account for in all of your decision making because if some stakeholders aren’t happy it negatively impacts others and hampers your ability to make money as a business (If all your employees quit you can’t make money, if the government hates you you can’t operate, if your shareholders hate you you can’t raise money, if society hates you no one buys your products). This video’s representation of businesses is pretty infantile and wrong in my opinion and really does a disservice to the audience. Government doesn’t need to be run for profit to be run ‘like a business’. If you account for stakeholders it gives governmental organizations a lot of leeway to do things and make decisions that a business probably wouldn’t. Their example of the postal service is a good one for illustrating some of the differences between government and corporations I will admit. I say all this not ignoring the terrible things that some poorly run businesses do. The market punishes these businesses routinely and they do not last very long at all if they stop serving all of their stakeholders.
 
When most conservatives say “Government should be run like a business” it’s not about profit (One would think this would be obvious, outside of hyperbole, we don’t want the government competing with private business) it’s about stewardship of resources. For a business if you’re not operating efficiently, your customers wont be happy and the market has ways to punish you. If you’re the government there’s no similar motivation to do well with the resources you have. For business, you need to maximize the resources you have to produce the most amount of value for your stakeholders possible (Not just profit, all your stakeholders). My vision of a government that’s run like a business is a well oiled efficient machine, effectively utilizing debt to maximize value, serving it’s intended (and limited) purpose, using minimal resources to do it, and anything left over goes back to the people. Think about it like a mutual insurance company or something similar. The people pay into it for the common benefit, but each year a dividend is payed out to the members from the profits or excess funds in the organization. It’s serving it’s purpose efficiently, and giving back to it’s members whatever is not needed. A government that operated in the same way would be awesome! But instead we’re cursed with “use it or lose it” budgeting, constant expansion of powers and role, and constant deficits.
 
If you want a really good idea what our government’s job is, according to the people that founded it, and wrote our governing documents the federalist papers explain every point of the constitution, the federal government, and the reasoning behind all of it. Really good reading for any citizen, honestly I really think it should be required reading every 5 years  .
 
Going back to the governments role, if the government operated as I outlined above, I wouldn’t have any problem with it providing healthcare, security, etc. but it doesn’t, and I personally think that the free market (Truly free markets, not the travesty of crony capitalism we see in those industries today) can do a way better job than the bloated leviathan of a government we have today.