A Few Modest Reform Proposals

We find ourselves at the start of a weekend when there’s no real news of The Controversy between evolution and creationism, so what shall we do? It’s been a while since your Curmudgeon posted about his own peculiar political views, so this is as good a time as any to unload on our long-suffering readers.

It’s not easy being virtually the only Republican blogger on the sane side of the evolution-creationism debate. No one ever agrees with us, but that’s okay — we’re used to it. Your Curmudgeon is always indulgently benevolent toward those who fail to appreciate our superbly correct principles.

The last time we burdened you this way was “Tax the Rich!” That links to several other contentious posts. Besides those, we’ve also posted The Logic Is Undeniable, and before that America’s Future: The Worst Possible Scenario, and before that Evolution, Intelligent Design, and Barack Obama.

We know that such posts cause you some discomfort, but they’re all on topic because they deal with our larger concern — preserving the values of the Enlightenment, upon which our civilization depends.

Today’s post won’t solve all the world’s problems, but it’ll get a few of our ideas floating around the blogsophere. That’s not much, but it’s the best we can do. Feel free to ignore us if you wish. Okay, you’ve been warned, so here it comes.

If it were up to your Curmudgeon, the following reforms would be immediately implemented:

1. Abolish all unions for government workers.

2. Abolish the Civil Service system and re-institute the old spoils system, so that each new administration could sweep out the debris of the old.

3. Have mandatory term limits for Congress, as in the old Articles of Confederation.

4. Each state should have one roster of all living citizens, which would separately list those who are voters and those who are not. A name would appear only once, in one category or the other, and it would be automatically removed from the roster upon death. Those not in the voter section of the list would be in one of three separate categories — those who are: (a) under the voting age, or (b) on welfare, or (c) convicted felons. Yes, you understood correctly, those on welfare can’t vote.

5. All bills in Congress must deal with only one single subject (the budget would be an obvious exception); and — as has already been suggested — bills must clearly state the constitutional authority permitting such a law. Those sponsoring bills must certify that the bill does not specifically benefit a contributor to their election campaign. If a bill fails to meet all of those requirements, everyone sponsoring and voting for it should forfeit his job and pension.

6. Require mandatory military service, with the usual exceptions such as for medical and hardship reasons. We’re thinking about, but not yet insisting upon, making military service (unless properly excused) a requirement for being a registered voter.

7. Abolish the federal income tax and the tax on estates and gifts. Federal revenues can come from sales taxes (ideally collected by the states, as they already have the machinery in place for this), and possibly also a flat, uniform tax on all imports (without exceptions, except perhaps for food and medicine).

8. We’re also considering a system of paying bonuses to Congress for reductions in non-military federal spending.

There’s more where that came from, but that’s enough for now.

Copyright © 2011. The Sensuous Curmudgeon. All rights reserved.

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54 responses to “A Few Modest Reform Proposals

  1. 6. Require mandatory military service

    I kinda like an all-volunteer military; it results in much lower morale problems, and avoids the involuntary servitude aspect of compulsory military service.

    And on a more practical note, I call your attention to the famous debate between Gen. Westmoreland and Milton Friedman, in which Westmoreland said:

    “I don’t want to lead an army made up solely of volunteers.”

    To which Friedman shot back:

    “Well, General, would you prefer lead an army of slaves?”

    It’s a practical question.

  2. 1) Have courage of your convictions and abolish all unions.

    2). Interesting you would replace a bunch of politically connected bosses, with another bunch of politically motivated bosses. Hardly see how this would be any change.

    3). Agree with.

    4). Probably agree with this one too.

    5) Agreed, riders to bills are killing the law making process at the moment.

    6). I would say mandatory government service, which probably you would not like, mostly because a draft no longer suits an all volunteer army. The high command has repeatedly stated they would not like to see a return of the draft, outside of a large scale emergency. in essence my suggestion not much different from yours because a draft would just be given mostly make work.

    7) Possibly if you can show that taxing imports does not drive up the prices too far of all the household domestic appliances which are now mostly made outside the USA, and explain how to handle the free fall from backing out of all the free trade agreements signed.

    8). I would extend it even to military budget, when you are spending more than the rest of the world combined you are probably spending too much. Also you have the example of last year when the military wanted to streamline the command decision making structure, the politicians added a rider to a bill again, that said go ahead, but you could not close one base or office complex while doing so.

  3. The last half of number 5 is a little harsh. How about Congress does what every other responsible voting organization does, namely those with a conflict of interest merely abstain from voting. I don’t even mind those with conflicts introducing a bill. Of course, if a conflict is knowingly undisclosed, then those penalties you mentioned might be appropriate.

    I have often thought about military service being a prerequisite for the franchise. It sounds attractive if the definition of “military” is broadened somewhat. I think that the key is willingness to put you country’s needs before your own, I am not sure that it is necessary to actually put your life in peril. And it must be possible for everyone to get the vote.

    Number 8 is dangerous. Just as the current system encourages increased spending and leaving later governments to clean up the mess, you don’t want the converse situation, cut spending and leave the mess for someone else. what we need are responsible adult in Congress.

  4. I agree with all of this except 6 and maybe 4c.

    I’ll agree with with 4c if SS and Medicare are not considered welfare. They are supposed to be government run pension and insurance plans (not welfare) that people pay into and later benefit from. Of course, this could be resolved by my 9) — completely privatizing SS and Medicare (this should be phased in over time).

    Also, I would add a 4d) — anyone on the government payroll shall not be allowed to vote. This would apply at all levels of government. Want to vote? Get off the government payroll.

    As for 6, we don’t normally need a military that large. Unless a national existential threat requires it, I’ll stay with all volunteer armed forces. Especially considering my 4d proviso — draftees should be allowed to vote.

  5. Jack Hogan says: “As for 6, we don’t normally need a military that large.”

    True, but there’s nothing wrong with training a large Reserve. Besides, it’s not healthy if the military is a totally separate branch of society. It’s far better, in my opinion, if the military is really us, not “them.”

  6. Flakey says: ” 1) Have courage of your convictions and abolish all unions.”

    No need. The difference with a government union is that they can’t put their “employer” out of business, so there’s no restraint on them. In fact, they vote for and contribute to their employer, so their power can only grow. If they get cancerous in the private sector, the company goes out of business, or moves overseas.

  7. The reason to abolish government unions is that the people doing the bargaining (management, employees) are not the people paying for the bargain (taxpayers).

    That hoary old reactionary FDR agreed:

    http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/index.php?pid=15445#axzz1aE9lYlYd

    The desire of Government employees for fair and adequate pay, reasonable hours of work, safe and suitable working conditions, development of opportunities for advancement, facilities for fair and impartial consideration and review of grievances, and other objectives of a proper employee relations policy, is basically no different from that of employees in private industry. Organization on their part to present their views on such matters is both natural and logical, but meticulous attention should be paid to the special relationships and obligations of public servants to the public itself and to the Government.

    All Government employees should realize that the process of collective bargaining, as usually understood, cannot be transplanted into the public service. It has its distinct and insurmountable limitations when applied to public personnel management. The very nature and purposes of Government make it impossible for administrative officials to represent fully or to bind the employer in mutual discussions with Government employee organizations. The employer is the whole people, who speak by means of laws enacted by their representatives in Congress. Accordingly, administrative officials and employees alike are governed and guided, and in many instances restricted, by laws which establish policies, procedures, or rules in personnel matters.

    Particularly, I want to emphasize my conviction that militant tactics have no place in the functions of any organization of Government employees. Upon employees in the Federal service rests the obligation to serve the whole people, whose interests and welfare require orderliness and continuity in the conduct of Government activities. This obligation is paramount. Since their own services have to do with the functioning of the Government, a strike of public employees manifests nothing less than an intent on their part to prevent or obstruct the operations of Government until their demands are satisfied. Such action, looking toward the paralysis of Government by those who have sworn to support it, is unthinkable and intolerable. It is, therefore, with a feeling of gratification that I have noted in the constitution of the National Federation of Federal Employees the provision that “under no circumstances shall this Federation engage in or support strikes against the United States Government.”

  8. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    There seems to be a gross misunderstanding about the role of civil servants.

    These employees contract to provide certain services for an agreed-upon wage. Once that service is performed and they’re paid, that money belongs only to the employee, and nobody besides that employee should have a say in how it’s spent. Should that employee choose to spend *their own money* on union dues, well, that’s not up to you and me to decide.

    Disenfranchising public employees is one of the most egregious suggestions I’ve heard. Equating those folks with children or convicted felons effectively make slaves of policemen, firefighters, teachers, prison guards, soldiers, and others who work for the public good instead of a luxurious wage. Frankly, Curmy, I’m surprised you agree with that suggestion.

  9. Slaves? You can’t be serious. I don’t even know where to start.

    They are well paid and no one is forcing them to work for the government. They know what that pay will be before they become a government employee. And they are free to quit any time they want for whatever reason they want. If they do not like the deal they can quit and find another job. If they can get a better paying job in the private sector they are free to take it. This is the same deal every non-union private sector employee has. IIRC, that’s 90+% of the private sector work force.

    Also, we are rapidly approaching the point where government employees are on average paid as well or better than comparable private sector employees. They already are when benefits are factored in. And they also have much better job security. It is almost impossible to fire a government employee. And because government almost never downsizes, even during economic downturns, they are laid off on average far less than private sector employees.

    As Gabe documents, even FDR thought government employee unions are a bad idea.

  10. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams says: “policemen, firefighters, teachers, prison guards, soldiers”

    No problem with those. I didn’t agree to disenfranchise public employees, that was someone’s comment. The only people I’d disenfranchise are those on welfare.

    As for the groups you listed, whenever anyone mentions budget cuts, they’re always the ones mentioned by those opposing the cuts. But they’re outnumbered about 100 to one by parasitic clerks and functionaries who think that we’re the slaves and they’re the masters.

  11. “Slaves? You can’t be serious. I don’t even know where to start.”

    Well lets see under the suggestions listed so far. they will not be able to vote, not able to spend time and money legally in ways others can, and have a job security of no more than to the next election. If that comes around you think the civil servants are bad now wait to you see what quality of workers you end up with with those conditions.

    Maybe not slaves but a class of worker that would end up with less rights than a prisoner. So please tell me whats below a prisoner in rights, but above a slave?

  12. “Disenfranchising” public employees was my comment/idea.

    Public employees have an obvious major inherent conflict of interest in voting. People almost always vote according to their economic interests. Mr. de Toqueville noted this. Government employees will vote to preserve and perpetuate their jobs. They will vote to maximize their compensation, benefits, job security, and opportunities for advancement. They also have an interest in maximizing the number of government employees. Plus they tend to be more politically active because of this, supporting candidates who will look out for their interests. Public employee unions enormously compound this problem.

    Also, their disenfranchisement is voluntary. They can choose to work in the private sector.

    Hopefully disenfranchisement of those on welfare would be temporary.

    Also, there is a way around this *problem* in many cases. For example, why must firemen, teachers, cops, and prison guards be public employees? Why can’t municipality ABC choose to contract out its firefighting services to ACME Firefighting, Inc. or Nationwide Firefighting, Inc?

    At any rate. This is pie-in-the-sky stuff that will never happen in this country.

    OTOH, eliminating government employee unions is possible.

  13. “4d) — anyone on the government payroll shall not be allowed to vote. This would apply at all levels of government. Want to vote? Get off the government payroll.”

    Strange choice draftees would be able to vote in your system, but not fire men, police and state medics?

  14. Flakey says: “4d) — anyone on the government payroll shall not be allowed to vote.”

    That’s Jack’s issue, not mine.

  15. Large numbers of prisons are now contracted out and growing. Bringing a problem all it self mind you. The firms running these prisons recently tried to get legislation passed in Texas to imprison illegal immigrants (and I do not mean just for a couple of days) before deporting them, mostly as a means of generating more profit to themselves.

    For fire and police it was tried and was found out to cost more. Either in that you paid the money for a good service, plus extra for the profits of the companies, or you paid less and got cheap rent a cops and poorly trained fireman which provided an inadequate service. Which is why most governments ended up taking over the responsibilities directly.

    Also you run into the problem that currently 71% of all fire-fighters in the USA are volunteers. You think they will be allowed to stay since a company can not compete with a free of wage service?

    As for getting rid of Government schools altogether I will leave you to argue that one with the words of Thomas Jefferson.

  16. My apologies Curm, I should have attributed the quote when I posted. All my follow up posts are addressing Jack, not yours.

  17. Flakey, your argument seems to be that government is as efficient as the private sector in providing equivalent services in some areas and that the cost difference for equivalent quality service is “profit”.

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think government is always more inefficient and wasteful than the private sector, and significantly so.

    As for private firms lobbying government for favorable treatment, that will always be a problem. I do not think that argument favors government running anything over the private sector.

    As for “Government schools”, note I did not propose doing away with public funding of schools. I want more competition.

    About public school funding and associated costs… In my neck of the woods the property taxes have gone up over 50% in the past four years. At the same time, property values have gone down as much as a third. 70% of the property taxes go to the schools. And this does not include what the state and federal government kick in.

  18. Ceteris Paribus

    Since the frame of the proposals is the Enlightenment, let me first run a filter to pick out the one most likely to be inspired by Reason, and then make a comment on another proposal that to my mind runs a bit more to the red meat end of the intellectual spectrum.

    Under the heading of the reform most inspired by reason I would put item 6: Mandatory military service.
    By many models of enlightened government, military spending would always be the largest part of the total governmental budget. It is therefore entirely reasonable to distribute both the financial and personal costs of the military across as large a part of the population as possible.

    Unfortunately, as was mentioned earlier, the proposition just doesn’t scale. With a current total population of nearly 309 million, around 4 million reach the minimum military service age each year. But current active duty personnel only totals 1.5 million, and certainly some large fraction of those would always have to be highly trained career military rather than 2 year draftees. Obviously to fulfill the spirit of universal service, a lottery mechanism would have to be instituted for draftees.

    And to make sure that concept wasn’t fudged with, we would also insist that congress would be required to have at least the same proportion of draftees among its members as there were draftees in the general population. If it got out of proportion, the votes of the non-draftee members would be proportionally reduced.

    Next, under the heading of the proposal least inspired by reason, I would put item 7: Abolition of taxes on estates and gifts. We know that the founders took a generally dim view of the idea that simple gene transfer from generation to generation was sufficient to guarantee an enlightened form of government. And since some were actually astute enough to recognize that money and land equated to political power, they wrote an impediment to the passing of inherited wealth, intact, from generation to generation, by explicitly writing the principle of primogeniture out of the terms by which the new lands to the west would be settled under the Northwest Ordinance.

    But even without legal proscriptions on inheritance, most of us are familiar enough with family enterprises that simply ran out of steam within a couple of generations of the passing of the family patriarch or matriarch. Grand children seldom have the same fire in the belly as the original entrepreneur. Henry Ford is an example. Old Henry made autos on a grand industrial scale; his descendants made Edsels or were contented to furnish habitually losing football teams for stadiums paid for by taxpayers.

    The trick is to have the ne’er do wells cause as little havoc for the genuine entrepreneurs as possible, without actually setting out to pick winners and losers. In a rational world, each generation simply has to run its own race, and so there is no sense to have the government reduce the necessary competition by permanently granting a head start to those whose only real claim to success was choosing the right grandparents.

  19. “Disenfranchise people on welfare” – why? People are not all born to achieve. Why are you ignoring the less fortunate?

    #2 is also silly. Clearing out the civil servants every few years just wastes money in training and experience.
    Also – how can you have “more competition” for schools? Some school districts where I live only have 90 kids – how can you possibly divide that up further when resources are already extremely short.

    You people are living in an irrational daydream ignoring reality.

  20. Ceteris Paribus says:

    they wrote an impediment to the passing of inherited wealth, intact, from generation to generation, by explicitly writing the principle of primogeniture out …

    They didn’t abolish inheritance. Primogeniture was an ancient rule that made land inalienable — it had to stay in the family, and it was automatically inherited by the oldest son. By abolishing that rule, land could be freely sold, and it could be freely willed to all sons, or all daughters, or to anyone. As for the family business being inherited by feckless heirs, I don’t see that it’s an improvement to have a dead man’s business seized by feckless government agents. It should be up to the owners of property to decide to whom to give it. If they give it to foolish heirs, they’ll lose it sooner or later and it’ll get recycled. That’s how it goes.

  21. Tomato Addict

    No need to be modest Curmie, we know you love this stuff, and we love you for it.

    1) A favorite professor of management used to say “I don’t like unions, but if your company has a union, they probably deserve it.”
    Unions are, at best, inefficient, but they exist for a reason. Do you really think disallowing public sector unions won’t cause other problems?

    2) This would also allow each new administration to do the maximum damage, and is likely to cause as many problems as it solves.

    3) Agree.

    4) Umm … well, we do live in an age where such a list is possible.

    5) OK. But I bet every bill becomes a budget bill.

    6) Have you been reading Starship Troopers again?

    7) I don’t income tax is ever going to go away. It’s simply too good of a way for government to fund itself.

    8) Consider having a beer instead. I will.

  22. +1 for Tomato Addict.

    (Love the Heinlein reference, btw. It’s definitely confirmation bias at work, but I had the same thought.)

  23. Tomato Addict asks: “Have you been reading Starship Troopers again?”

    No need, because it made a big impression the first time. Heinlein and Rand are two of the most important writers of the 20th Century. Anyway, Heinlein didn’t require military service; it was voluntary, and if you didn’t serve you didn’t vote. I haven’t copied that idea because I’d require service — but not for women. However, I have no problem with women voting, so I can’t make service a voting requirement for men. I’d re-think the mandatory part of service if there were something besides voting that could be offered as an incentive — free college tuition, room & board might do the job.

    It’s a sufficient reform, in my humble opinion, to remove welfare recipients (and dead people) from the voting rolls.

  24. Hmmm…Are soldiers counted as government workers, or welfare recipients? Considering I have been labeled as both in my time of military service, and now as a veteran, I am curious. Also, I am a teacher. Since there is a particularly interesting intersection between public and private service with the teaching profession, especially when we are talking about pay, benefits, and decisions of curriculum…..Where would I stand as far as voting?

    Finally, in order to enact such sweeping, draconian changes, you would have to get rid of the Constitution, and write up a new one on a napkin. And it would be about as durable.

  25. Ceteris Paribus wrote:
    “Grand children seldom have the same fire in the belly as the original entrepreneur. ”

    That turns out not to be true. A recent study found that family businesses tend to be more successful than equivalent non-family businesses, as long as the new generation’s CEO is competent. Unfortunately, it is often the case that after a few generations, one isn’t and runs the company into the ground. But then, the vast majority of businesses don’t even last that long.

  26. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    Curmy said, “I didn’t agree to disenfranchise public employees, that was someone’s comment. The only people I’d disenfranchise are those on welfare.”

    True, you said that. I shouldn’t have assumed you share someone else’s opinion on that issue.

  27. Cheryl Shepherd-Adams

    Not coherent today. I shouldn’t have assumed you share the opinion that civil servants should be disenfranchised; you only targeted welfare recipients. I’d like to discuss this with you, but duty calls me elsewhere for the day.

  28. RetiredSciGuy

    1) As FDR stated and was pointed out by Gabriel Hanna, government employees should be prohibited from striking. However, it would be unconstitutional to prohibit them from forming unions (freedom of association; right to peaceably assemble).

    4) Although I’m not against the idea per se, but what would be the constitutional authority used to disenfranchise welfare recipients?

    7) Congress passing a law to abolish the income tax??? Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!!!

  29. We do not really have a teacher’s union here in Oklahoma. This means that I buy ALL of my own office supplies, I can be made to substitute teach on my planning periods, work times not outlined in my contract, and have no job security whatsoever. Oh, yeah…and “temporary” class size cap exemptions mean I have an average class size of 33. I can be fired at will without cause. Period.

    So tell me again why I should not be allowed even the meager protections I have?

    Tell me the constitutionality of disenfranchising large classes of people on a whim?

  30. RetiredSciGuy asks: “what would be the constitutional authority used to disenfranchise welfare recipients?”

    An excellent question. I suppose a sudden law expunging all such people from the voter rolls would be a problem. However, I don’t think any state has a constitutional obligation to pay welfare to anyone. They can — and do — provide various criteria for qualifying. They require, for example, that you have to make efforts to look for a job. Of course they can’t say that welfare won’t be paid to people based on their race, religion, etc. But a state could — perhaps — say that if you want our money, you must agree to being temporarily removed from the voter roll while you’re receiving it.

  31. Jack Hogan wrote:

    I think we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think government is always more inefficient and wasteful than the private sector, and significantly so.

    You don’t need to look any further than Medicare (public administered insurance) and Medicare Advantage (private insurance, government subsidized) to see that isn’t necessarily true. A 2006 study by The Commonwealth Fund found that Medicare Advantage cost 12.4% more than Medicare. A similar study by the Kaiser Family Foundation put it at 14% more.

  32. Tomato Addict

    I particularly liked Heinlein’s justification for the military service requirement to vote (or hold public office); there wasn’t any justification. It was simply the system that was instituted “when the revolution came”, and it worked as well as anything else. He also wrote how this system could easily disenfranchise a person for a simple youthful mistake (whatshisname who punched Sgt. Zimm).
    I think you took a wrong turn by only requiring service for males too, that simply builds in inequity (IMO).

    A little Googling* and BOTE calculation tells me that requiring 2 years of active or reserve military service would (at least) double or triple the current size of our military – and that’s only males fit for duty with no more than 2 years service. Our current military costs us about 5% GDP, so this mandatory service is going to cost another 5-10% GDP (double that if females serve too), AND these people are not contributing to the GDP (the military doesn’t produce anything) which will increase that percentage further still. It seems that mandatory service would be hugely expensive**.

    I didn’t have a strong opinion against mandatory service before looking at this, but I do now. Even a silly liberal like me can see we would be better off leaving this money available to the free market economy.

    * My sources:
    http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/00000.html
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_Armed_Forces
    ** Also, if you think government is inefficient, talk to some people in the military.

  33. @RTS:“what would be the constitutional authority used to disenfranchise welfare recipients?”

    The same that disenfranchises felons. Nowhere in the Constitution does it say that every person is entitled to vote. In 1789 there were property qulificatios and women could not vote, nor could free blacks. Section 2 of the 14th Amendment explicilty provides for restricting the vote:

    But when the right to vote at any election for the choice of electors for President and Vice-President of the United States, Representatives in Congress, the Executive and Judicial officers of a State, or the members of the Legislature thereof, is denied to any of the male inhabitants of such State, being twenty-one years of age, and citizens of the United States, or in any way abridged, except for participation in rebellion, or other crime, the basis of representation therein shall be reduced in the proportion which the number of such male citizens shall bear to the whole number of male citizens twenty-one years of age in such State.

    Really everyone should read the Consitution some time, it doesn’t say half the stuff people think it says. There are restrictions in the Constitution on how the states can decide who is eligible to vote. You can’t disenfracnhise women for being women, for example. But other than that it is up to the states to decide who can vote. It always has been. There is not, and never has been, universal sufferage under the Constitution.

  34. Tomato Addict

    @SC: I realized my comments were not entirely fair – you were talking about “earning the right right to vote”, and I don’t think mandatory military service is a feasible way to do that. Perhaps other forms of volunteer service could be included? Some possibilities: Peace Corps, Americorps, Police/firefighter/paramedic, teaching, nursing home or hospice. Heinlein would have included ANY form of volunteer service (ie: medical experiments).

  35. Ceteris Paribus

    The Curmudgeon Says:
    “They didn’t abolish inheritance. Primogeniture was an ancient rule that made land inalienable — it had to stay in the family, and it was automatically inherited by the oldest son. By abolishing that rule, land could be freely sold, and it could be freely willed to all sons, or all daughters, or to anyone. ”

    Exactly so. Preventing the power of family wealth from passing intact from the patriarch of one generation to a single member of the next generation was a reasonable safeguard against re-establishing here the hierarchical structure of government that the Enlightenment sought to abolish. In fact it appears that the writers of that anti-primogeniture rule were saying it would be preferable that the power of accumulated wealth be diluted, even to the extent of distributing some of it to women who were largely not eligible to vote in spite of ownership of property.

    Anyway, there is something of an untasteful antique Lamarckian flavor to the whole idea of inherited wealth and power which just doesn’t comport well with our present understanding of the principles behind actual genetic inheritance.

  36. “I particularly liked Heinlein’s justification for the military service requirement to vote (or hold public office); there wasn’t any justification.”

    No so at all. Starship Troopers very clearly says that the reasoning is what I said above, namely that a willingness to place the needs of your country before your own by military service, even up to giving you life, shows exactly the responsibility needed for governing the country by voting. It wasn’t necessarily by being willing to die; the system was in place before meeting the Buggers, when there weren’t anymore wars. It included merely serving your time in the service of your country.

  37. re: Public Unions:

    There is no right to strike against the public safety by anyone, anywhere, any time.

    – Calvin Coolidge, Governor of Massachusetts, 1919

  38. While sympathetic to SC’s aims I don’t agree with most of the proposals. Many of them I think are pointless (disenfrachising welfare recipients, who are not known to vote in droves) or pernicious (reinstituting the spoils system which was abolished for good reason). And mandatory military service is just slavery under another name, I think, not to mention a violation of all the economic principles SC professes.

    The fundamental issue, as I see it, is this: Even the progressives here understand that an organization’s interests are not congruent with those of their members or those they claim to represent. If the topic is corporations, SC’s progressive readership would mock him unmercifully if he said that a corporation would never do anything to harm its employees, shareholders, or its customers. Yet they would object if SC said that unions have interests not congruent with the employees it claims to represent. Unions are always assumed to have the interests of labor at heart.

    Well, government, being comprised of men and not saints or angels, is no exception to the rule. I think most of us could agree that a professional governing class is not what America is about. America is about free citizens getting things done that they want done in a peaceful manner prescribed by laws. A professional governing class, taking away taxpayers’ money and giving it to GE or Goldman Sachs or corn farmers in exchange for political favors and support is wrong. A professional governing class that all went to the same universities and assures us that it knows better than we do what is good for us is wrong.

    And we should do something reasonable to get rid of it, and that reasonable thing is ensure citizen government. No one should be able to make a career out of governing. They should have a day job like a normal citizen that they get back to when they’ve done their time. I’m open to any suggestion that gets that done. Term limits are a start, but only a start. There’s a revolving door of lobbying and government and Tom Delay is only one example of that. People shouldn’t be able to be career politicians in their home states and then go be Congressmen or Senators either.

    If I could wave a wand, I’d probably make it so that government offices were filled by lot from a pool of qualified citizens. What was good enough for Athens and Venice would probably do for us, and (with apologies to William F. Buckley) I’d rather be governed by the first 435 names in the phone book than by people slimy enough to want to make careers out of spending other money and bossing people around.

  39. “Yet they would object if SC said that unions have interests not congruent with the employees it claims to represent. Unions are always assumed to have the interests of labor at heart.”

    Not always no, I have to agree with you there. I just think they are a necessary counterbalance to business. When unions get too powerful, or businesses too powerful, ugly things can happen,

  40. Gabriel Hanna says:

    No one should be able to make a career out of governing. They should have a day job like a normal citizen that they get back to when they’ve done their time. I’m open to any suggestion that gets that done.

    Most people can agree with term limits. but my next suggestion is more difficult — even for me, so I’m just tossing it in for discussion. The idea is that legislators shouldn’t be paid. No salary, no pension. Their expenses can be reimbursed, and staff can be paid, but not the lawmakers themselves. That way it’s not a long-term, well-paying career. There are two immediate objections to this: first, we’d end up with only rich people in Congress. Probably true, but that’s essentially what we had in the beginning, and it’s essentially what we’ve got now, so there wouldn’t be much of a change. The second objection is that if a poor person got elected and he isn’t paid, he’s going to be corrupt in order to survive. But for that reason he shouldn’t be elected, because everyone will understand this.

  41. @SC: I was thinking something more like jury duty. Officeholders would get paid enough that holding office is not a hardship, but because they would not be career officeholders the network of contacts and connections that constitutes “corruption” in Washington would not exist.

    While almost no one in this country is OBJECTIVELY poor, 50% of households make less than $50K and if government is going to actually represent us, maybe 50% of officeholder should make less than $50K at their day jobs.

    What is scandalous under the current system is how much of Congress is made up of lawyers. The conflict of interest there is too obvious to belabor.

  42. RetiredSciGuy

    Flakey wrote, “When unions get too powerful, or businesses too powerful, ugly things can happen.”

    The main thing that can keep a business from becoming too powerful is competition. There is no similar control working on the power of unions. Nor is there a competitive control on the power of government.

    @Gabriel Hanna: Your long post above is excellent.

  43. RetiredSciGuy

    “The main thing that can keep a business from becoming too powerful is competition. There is no similar control working on the power of unions.”

    Of course there is, make conditions overall in your work place attractive enough that people see no need to join a union. Without members a union has no power.

    Competition is also so of the worse causes of the ugly I was talking about. Try reading up on the formation of modern unions some day. Find out about if you wanted a job in a Manchester mill your wife had better not be ugly and be a very accommodating lady. Where a child death a week working in the factory was considered acceptable losses for the factory. These abuses of power were not eliminated by competition, the child deaths were directly related to competition, as children were far cheaper to employ. but by the unionisation of the work force, and public pressure on the Government to do something to stop it.

    The formation of the FDA was finally pushed through when Upton Sinclair published his socialist novel, THE JUNGLE. He meant to highlight the terrible working conditions the people in meat packing plants. What the general public took out of it was the terrible condition of the meat they were buying. Meat sales fell by half, and the businesses were unable to respond. Those that did improve were not believed, and many did not even try, because improving the conditions meant your meat suddenly become a lot more expensive than the other meat plant operators. It took an angry President to force through the FDA bill that finally got around to solving this dilemma.

    If you think similar abuses would never occur again, if allowed, you have a far better opinion of human nature than I do.

    In fact you could say it has already started. Several mid western states are trying to roll back the child labour laws. Starting with abolishing the amount of hours they are allowed to work pre 16 years old. Couched in terms of helping the “mom and pop” store and restaurants of course. Never mind the fact the driving force behind most of the bills are large organisations.

  44. RetiredSciGuy:

    The main thing that can keep a business from becoming too powerful is competition. There is no similar control working on the power of unions.

    Not true. Globalization, in the form of cheap labor overseas, is the competitive balance to unions.

  45. Of course, the only unions anyone has mentioned ABOLISHING are government employee unions. Unions of employees of private companies have a common interest with their employers, namely the survival and profitability of the company. Unions of government employees, however, collude with politicians to extract money from taxpayers who are not represented at the table. For example, the New York City Sanitation Department’s union officials are paid salaries by the city for their union duties despite not doing any work except union work.

    http://biggovernment.com/dloos/2011/01/06/new-york-citys-no-show-seiu-snow-jobs/

  46. So do you guys consider teacher’s unions as government or private? After all, our attempts to improve our working conditions have to do with optimal class sizes for teaching students. Trust me, having 30+ per class is making it impossible to safely do any labs this year, and that hurts. Of course, I live in a Right to Fire at Will state…..Did I mention I have to buy all of my own supplies, including any supplies for labs? I mean, I could write a grant proposal, if I had time to do it. I am working about 14 hours a day now as it is, and the principal is making noises about having before, after and Saturday tutoring…which we “may” be compensated for at 15 dollars an hour.

  47. So do you guys consider teacher’s unions as government or private?

    Is it a public school? Pretty easy to answer that one.

    After all, our attempts to improve our working conditions have to do with optimal class sizes for teaching students.

    Right, it’s all for the CHILDREN. I don’t know, while American teachers do have to work more, and have on the average slightly larger class sizes (24 compared with 21), American teachers on the average make more than those in other OECD nations, and American schools on the average spend more per student than other OECD nations with the money per student having tripled in real dollars in the 1960s.

    Click to access 37392850.pdf

    And yet, when American students get into college, they can’t do algebra or add fractions and they can’t process a sentence more complicated than noun-verb-noun. Where is that money going, Brian? Until I see a satisfactory answer to that question I’m reluctant to see per student spending go up more thant it already has. All my life I can remember American teachers saying they need more money–and getting it–and showing little results.

    Trust me, having 30+ per class is making it impossible to safely do any labs this year, and that hurts.

    The class of 98 I teach does four two-hour labs of 24+ weekly and 4 two-hour discussion section of 24+weekly–30+ might be difficult but I don’t see how it is “impossible”. I’m typically putting in 14 hour days too, and getting about $16 per hour for it. I’m teaching on the college level mind you, and of course the environment is very different. But even with a Ph. D. it’s not as thought I make more than you.

    So if your job is so terrible why don’t you do something else? You’re not a slave.

  48. I left the military as a disabled veteran. I could go back to work in a nice comfy medical lab…but I decided to fight creationism head on. I teach 8th graders, not college students.

    As far as where does the money go? Beats the hell out of me. I am NOT complaining about my pay. That is fine. But my building is falling apart, and there are kids wedged in like sardines. One of my fellow teachers has a class of 36.

    As far as you being unwilling to see more money spent on education…yeah, in real dollars spending has tripled. How much of that has gone to testing mandates under NCLB? How much of that is wasted on the lowest learners, while our truly gifted kids languish in all inclusion classes?

    No, I am not a slave. However, this is a licensed career, not a monastic vocation. Am I being greedy expecting to be able to pay back my college loans (which are not as large as some, because of my GI Bill), or maybe asking for a little respect for what I do?

    This garbage of “accountability” testing is just that. How about a little PARENTAL accountability? Or societal? Every day I deal with issues far beyond teaching science, but I guess I am just a greedy, lazy government worker, right?

    If you are only making 16 bucks an hour teaching college, you must not have rated employment at a better school. See what I did there? We need investment in infrastructure, we need these ridiculous open ended EXPENSIVE AS ALL HELL wars to end, and we need some true investment in education, not tossing money at garbage testing.

  49. SC: “…those on welfare can’t vote.”
    Would I be correct in thinking that your rational basis for this policy would be that, since welfare recipients are, on balance, non-productive members of the community, they should have no voice in the mechanics of running that community? If not, if you are thinking of some other rational basis, what is it?
    I presume that at least part of your basis would be what you would see as desirable outcomes of the policy- have you considered what the possible undesirable (to you or anybody else) outcomes might be? I ask these questions not out ot a desire to engage in what would be a pointless debate on general principles- I’ve already gathered from past posts that you and I would never agree on general political principles, and it’s not what I come to this site for anyway. But I do like to understand the reasons behind the positions I oppose, if they’re rationally based- and, from this site, I’ve come to expect nothing less than rationality.

  50. 9) Abolish the stupid Senate. Why do we need a “House of Lords”? A representative form of government needs only that …. representatives. Just think of the quadrillions of dollars we could save if we didn’t have to duplicate every piece of legislation we encounter.

  51. @Bryan: How much of that has gone to testing mandates under NCLB?

    Not much, since NCLB only went in a few years ago, and spending has tripled over 40 years. You can see the historical trend and draw your own conclusions:

    http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/10facts/edlite-chart.html

    NCLB was not voted in because Ted Kennedy hated teachers. it’s because American K-12 education has not been performing up to expectations for many years.

    No, I am not a slave. However, this is a licensed career, not a monastic vocation. Am I being greedy expecting to be able to pay back my college loans (which are not as large as some, because of my GI Bill), or maybe asking for a little respect for what I do?

    Is there anyone who doesn’t think they deserve more respect or more money?

    This garbage of “accountability” testing is just that. How about a little PARENTAL accountability? Or societal?

    Parents and society are not the ones drawing paychecks for educating young people. Teachers are. There it is.

    If you are only making 16 bucks an hour teaching college, you must not have rated employment at a better school.

    In this economy, I don’t. I’m an adjunct at a small public university and I was lucky to get what I have. I don’t have the sense of entitlement you have.

    we need some true investment in education, not tossing money at garbage testing.

    I hope you aren’t teaching math or history. For thirty years K-12 education got more and more money per student every year with almost nothing to show for it, and that’s why you got “garbage testing”. Because when you take people’s money and have nothing to show for it, they want to see some evidence that you are doing something with it. Evidently NCLB hasn’t made things better, but it went in for a reason. And it went through with massive bipartisan support, coauthored by the likes of Ted Kennedy, because everyone has known about the problems in K-12 for a long time.

    The students I get who can’t parse a sentence or add fractions or do algebra are not deprived inner-city kids. They are middle class kids from small towns and suburbs, with parents who encouraged them to go to college. I’m seeing the top 10-30% of the products of K-12.

  52. aturingtest says:

    Would I be correct in thinking that your rational basis for this policy [disenfranchising welfare recipients] would be that, since welfare recipients are, on balance, non-productive members of the community, they should have no voice in the mechanics of running that community?

    It’s not because they’re unproductive. That’s true of many others who aren’t on welfare. The principal reason is that they’re voting for candidates who promise them ever-increasing welfare, so the system tends to devour itself as people receiving government payments increase in number to the point where they’re a key voting block. This is absolutely destructive. By taking away their vote, then there’s no “welfare block of voters” to whom slimy politicians will pander.

    There’s a secondary reason, which by itself isn’t persuasive, and if it were all I had I wouldn’t suggest it. There’s always been some kind of effort to keep voting among those most qualified to make decisions about political issues. Originally it was limited to males (they were, after all, the militia) and property owners (they were the taxpayers). In recent history, poll taxes were used, not always for proper purposes, so that’s now unconstitutional (24th Amendment). I don’t think literacy tests can be used either, although if not used for racial discrimination, it’s an easy filter to use. And of course we don’t let children vote.

    Well, it’s not crazy to say that those who are incapable of living without government assistance probably don’t have the ability to make intelligent voting decisions. Being employed is no guarantee of competence, of course, but being unemployed AND on welfare isn’t an unreasonable disqualification. Anyway, I wouldn’t even propose it for those reasons alone, but it fits for the same reason as government unions — people are simply voting themselves more money at taxpayers’ expense.

  53. >9) Abolish the stupid Senate. Why do we need a “House of Lords”? A
    >representative form of government needs only that …. representatives.
    >Just think of the quadrillions of dollars we could save if we didn’t have to
    >duplicate every piece of legislation we encounter.

    If the goal is to save money, abolish the House. Much cheaper to support only 100 representatives than 435. We’d save four times as much. Makes much more sense. After all, this is the United States, not the People’s Republic.

    Sorry to see that you apparently don’t understand why we need both a House and a Senate.