Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Six Big Ideas for a Better America

Here are my best ideas for societal improvement. As you'll see, some would be described as liberal, others conservative, others apolitical.

Reduce concentration of extreme wealth. Extraordinary wealth is concentrated among a few ultra-wealthy individuals, corporations, and other entities. That is obscene when so many poor people exist and especially so because these entities are involved not in creating better products and services but "financialization," basically moving money around. So I'm not talking here about Amazon, Apple, or Facebook. I'm talking about big banks and hedge funds. These entities must realize some sense of obligation to the public and voluntarily redistribute some wealth or, much as I'm not a big fan of big government, if they resist, some tax increase for them would then be appropriate.

Reinvent how our leaders are selected. The metastasizing length and cost of political campaigns ensures that the best people don't run for office let alone get elected. A wiser system would have our leaders selected not elected. For example, a legislature might consist of the CEOs of the fastest-growing for- and non-profits, winner of Teacher of the Year, Plumber of the Year award etc, the most-cited philosophers and scientists, the most popular novelist, artist, etc. plus 20% selected at random. That would yield an unarguably excellent pool of people, uncorrupted by money from special interests: corporations mainly on the Right and activist groups mainly on the Left. The foxes are guarding the henhouse so the only way this could occur is if society's mindmolders: the colleges and media made this a Cause, so that politicians who refused to sign on, would likely lose.

Restore meritocracy. Starting in the '60s, society's mind-molders (the schools, colleges, and especially media--news (including the so-influential Google Search, entertainment, novels, movies, theatre) have manipulated us into believing that it's wise to redistribute resources from the best-and-brightest to the lowest achievers. Hence, hiring, promotion and college/grad school admission is decreasing emphasis on merit while increasing emphasis on getting more women, minorities, and the disabled.

Less obvious, the nation's financial and human resources are  being redistributed from those with the greatest potential to profit to those with the greatest deficit. That Alice-in-Wonderland thinking is no more rational than the owner of oil wells deciding to put the most money and effort into drilling the poorest-performing ones. That is a formula for reducing the U.S. to its lowest common denominator and arguably will be more devastating to the U.S. standard of living and worldwide competitiveness than most aggressions that Russia and China could perpetrate on us.

I am pessimistic that we'll ever restore more meritocracy. I believe we'll continue to increase our Marxist-derived focus on redistribution toward merit-indifferent egalitarianism because the colleges and media have been appropriated by the Left, which brainwashes the next generation to believe in the redistributive religion. And that cohort later will replace society's current mind-molders. So I see the anti-merit trend not as a pendulum but an inexorable descent into mediocrity's pit.

Reinvent education. Think back to all your teachers and college instructors. How many were transformational, not only teaching you the subject so you really understood it while you enjoyed the process but enhanced your appreciation of of the subject and transformed your life? If you're like most people, the answer is few or none. But in this wide world of ours, there is a small percentage of such extraordinary teachers. Thanks to the wide availability of fast internet, interactive-video online courses taught by these super teachers would enable everyone, rich and poor, from Harlem to Beverly Hills (indeed Aden to Zululand) to receive world-class instruction at a fraction of the cost of the assortment of live teachers, a few of which are transformational, many more of whom are not...or worse. The big obstruction here is not technology but the teachers unions, which fear loss of jobs. Yes, teacher jobs would be lost but more important is our children, our future.

The second part of the one-two punch for reinventing education is to blow up the existing curriculum, especially in high school and college. So few students care about or, importantly, need to derive geometric theorems, know the causes of the War of the Roses, the intricacies of Shakespeare, stochastic processes in chemistry, etc. Indeed, there's little evidence for the oft-cited rationale for teaching such esoterica--that it improves critical thinking. What most traditional-age students need, want, and will work hard to learn and retain are such things as practical conflict resolution, financial literacy, career planning, relationship and sexual advice, the life well-led, etc.

Special mention should be made of entrepreneurship education. Entrepreneurship is the only true source of job creation. Government/taxpayer-funded jobs merely eat our seed corn. I am well aware that many businesses are "ethically challenged." So what's required is a K-20 ethical entrepreneurship curriculum.

Redirect research funding.  I recommend three areas:

Toward an intelligence and an altruism "pill." We should prioritize development of an intelligence "pill" and an altruism "pill," which in practice will be some sort of gene editing. Of course, environment matters but genetics predispose us in the same way as even a poorly tuned Ferrari will win a race against a well-tuned VW. As long as the "pill" were available free to the poor via Medicaid, as is the case with other medical procedures, it would decrease the achievement gap because the poor have more to gain. Clearly, the change-the-environment model has failed. We've spent $22 trillion over the last half century to close the achievement gap and it remains as wide as ever. 

Reducing substance abuse. Instead of racing to legalize marijuana, which is far more dangerous than the Big Tobacco-endorsed advocates would have us believe, we should be doing more social- and hard-science research on how to prevent and cure substance abuse. Alcohol, tobacco, marijuana, opioids, etc wreak unimaginable pain not only on the abusers but on their families, employers, and society. For example, consider the pain and death that come from the victims of accidents caused by impaired drivers. Consider how much of our health care system is overwhelmed by the sequelae of drug abuse both to the abuser and to others.

Nuclear energy. We also must redirect energy spending from solar and wind to nuclear. Solar and wind are nice add-ons  but unless we're willing to live like Stone Agers, we need a far more potent yet clean source of energy. That's nuclear. And not withstanding what the hard-line radical green activists would have us believe, nuclear energy is not Chernobyl or Fukushima. For decades now, much of the world's electricity comes from nuclear energy, and the technology is quite safe and becoming more compact. With sufficient investment, I believe we'll see a time when our cars, trucks, buses, trains and planes are powered by clean nuclear.

Exit the Middle East, with one exception. For 2,000 years, the West has attempted to "fix" the Middle East--from Alexander the Great to Churchill to our recent travails in Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Syria, and our efforts to stop terrorism from Taliban to Hezbollah to Hamas. We must exit the Middle East except for modest support for Israel, the Middle East's only democracy, woman-friendly country, and the tiny nation responsible for very disproportionate medical and technological discoveries that benefit us all. From the PC chip to Waze, tiny-population Israel has won a dozen Nobel Prizes just since 1966. And Israel is surrounded by enemies sworn to its destruction, including from Hamas, the government voted-in by the Palestinian people.

In conclusion
Of course, I don't have the hubris to believe that these solutions are free of downsides or that this is a comprehensive list--Other items I could discuss include no-tax-return taxation, reducing existential-level government debt, etc. But the aforementioned are my best thoughts in a nutshell. I welcome your comments and questions.

I read this aloud on YouTube.

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