Our governments (especially elected ones) are mired in the never-ending cycle of getting reelected. This leads to the never-ending cycle of creating polarizing issues that place candidates on the side of a cash-rich and moron-filled fringe who will donate $$$ to the campaign; and even more insidious, the never-ending cycle of creating ever more pointless laws, oversight, and pandering to feign congressional value-add.
Lest this be a rant on the depths to which politicians have sunk, let us take another tack. How does one help government be less ...pendulous?
Why not reboot the country every century or so to eliminate incumbency, any laws written by Congress, the tax code, all departments, etc.? Let us revolt and create a new system with a clean slate!
Whether we like it or not, some governments are already there with bankruptcies, and others are close behind. If the US national debt continues to grow by more than $4 billion per day, it's seems pretty certain that a reboot is impending.
I would design the next government around very clear and specific boundaries; being explicit about what government will and won't do for its citizenry. Here are the five things my government would do (and NO more):
- Education - Free, and starting at age zero (yes, zero), to where the student has completed their undergraduate certificate (2-year/4-year), or until about age 22.
You start organized education at birth because we know it makes a HUGE impact on a child's development. You also do this to ensure that every child is well cared for and nurtured. The fruits of this are more independent (economically, physiologically, and psychologically) children/adults; less youth crime and hopefully less adult crime; healthier kids ('cause they'll learn about health, eat better food in school, etc.); and hopefully things like less teen pregnancies, gang activity, etc.
This will require more teachers, more classrooms, etc. It will also require an education system that imparts knowledge in practical facets of life (how to prepare for and participate in a job interview, communication skills for the workplace, diet, fitness, banking, parenting, birth control, etc.) - these must all be mandatory for every student. It is through these last that we make the rest of the system less expensive.
- Healthcare - full coverage for all residents from pre-natal to death, including medicines.
Prioritizing diet, preventative care, and a mindset of quality service for all is fundamental. The system should be completely free to all residents of the country (IMO it should be free to anyone that needs it, irrespective of status), and include medical, vision, dental, prescriptions, etc. Elective work for purely cosmetic reasons will not be covered. This implies there will no longer be a health insurance industry, physicians, nurses, etc. will likely make less money as most will be federal employees.
- Security - from creating laws, to enforcing laws, to civil and national defense.
First - the primary motivation for Congress should NOT be to create new laws, but rather to ensure that the existing Code be well-adhered to, and that the citizenry be incented to better behavior. There should be one law-enforcement body in the country spanning local, regional, transportation, organized crime, etc. There will be an emergency response system that includes fire departments, ambulances/paramedics, nature-related calamities (weather, volcano, earthquake, etc.), and any other type of civil support. All of these capabilities will be linked and operate as one unit.
National defense will focus on protecting the nation from others, not proactively engaging any nation in armed conflict. Since the system is rebooting, there will no longer be mandatory minimums, or idiotic wars (drugs, etc.) on anything.
- Civil Service - core professional/infrastructural services plus employment for those that aren't easily employed in the private sector.
This is the most complex organization, and one most at risk of untamed growth. It delivers all national services to the country, including infrastructure (roads, rail, , airports, ports, etc.); utilities (energy, water, etc.); foreign and economic policy; and things like election systems. It also includes an employment machine aimed at those unemployable in the private sector; the work done will span a variety of public service/peace-corps/disaster relief-type services. If you wish to earn a living, you must contribute. There will be no welfare system.
Limits on the size and scope of this organization will be one of the most critical and contentious pieces of legislation that the new government will write. The core set of services performed will be enumerated in the new Constitution, along with a mechanism to control budget and organizational size. Amendments to this part of the Constitution will require a mega-majority (at least 75% of Congress).
- Taxation+ - a simplified (progressive flat income tax mechanism to cover the costs of #1-4, basic government operations, and a bit extra for an emergency fund. There should be no sales tax, state tax, or local tax - just a simple income tax. The "+" connotes other forms of economic oversight like the SEC.
Yes, these are expensive and complex undertakings. Fundamental to this is a Constitution that rewards government (and government officials) for being as small as reasonable and no smaller.
To help rein things in, the government is NOT allowed to give money away (bailouts, unemployment benefits, social security, welfare, etc.), it is also not allowed to pay for things like food and shelter. It encourages a simpler service delivery model - one police force across the country; one school system; one healthcare system, etc.
Human nature is such that when a thing is given, it is expected (entitlement); and when you get one thing, you also expect related things. For example - if you get food stamps, you aren't as desperate to work because you know it's available; then you wonder why there aren't "home stamps" so that you can "afford" better accommodation. Thus begins the dependency-cycle.
A system where people willingly abdicate responsibility to society is not acceptable.
If you've read this blog at all, you know I believe a fundamental precept of society is to care for those that can't. But every parent knows that you also have to teach your children certain lessons; they have to fend for themselves, not always look to others to bring them food from the kitchen, or walk them to school, or whatever. At some point, they must be pushed out of the nest and allowed to fly on their own. This is also a form of caring for those that can't. It is more difficult to do, so society instead throws money at it. Wrong.
People need to take responsibility for themselves and their destinies; if you're living hand-to-mouth now, why bring a child into the world? Why not heed what you were taught about family planning and contraception, and take advantage of the healthcare system (free contraception) to prevent bringing one more child into your already difficult reality? Today you might want to have children because Social Services is more likely to care for you - that's the wrong incentive.
Similarly, if you have a job and are worried about how a disability might prevent you from keeping food on the table and a roof over your head, invest in insurance to reduce your risk. If you wish to change careers and need training and some help tiding you over, save or borrow what you need - it's not the government's role to help you with that.
Systems that promise everything for everyone are not sustainable. Almost every government on the planet is facing a significant budget squeeze; whether we like it or not, a reboot is in order. Let's not repeat the same mistakes in the next cycle.
If there is absolute clarity about what government will and won't do, people will use what's given (education, healthcare, security) and find other means bridge any gaps - this too is in our nature.