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Fri Oct 10, 2014, 12:00 AM

Fun DU homework assignment: Describe your version of Utopian America.

Include the following in your description:

1. Basic economic structure
2. Specific economic policies not covered by the structure (optional)
3. Rundown of public sector priorities, with relative weight
4. Rights and responsibilities
5. Methods of accountability
6. Security and foreign policy
7. Checks and balances
8. Flexibility to allow for future change and unforeseen contingencies.
9. Some vague idea of how to get from here to there. No military solutions, no deus ex machinas, and no inexplicable shifts in human behavior should be required.

Describe how each system you prescribe enhances liberty, equality, and opportunity, the three most basic dimensions of liberal values.

I'll go first:

1. Economic concept: Leverage-neutral capitalism. Business negotiations must be undertaken with counterparts of equal leverage, because leverage operates as coercion and belies the "free" market. Create a system of free-flowing associations in order that arbitrarily-sized groups of businesses or employees or consumers can form to do business on equal footing. This way no one can dictate economic terms to anyone else through market leverage - no more having prices forced on consumers, and wages forced on workers who have no viable alternative but to accept. It's a complicated idea, I know, but I'm just putting out the basic concept. The wealth of ordinary people would skyrocket under such a system without compromising the overall profitability of business. Mandate "leverage parity" in the Constitution if possible.

2. (a)National, state-level, and local dividends to all the people for the profits from national resources. (b)Universal $10,000 trust funds for all American children, to be opened at age 21. (c)100% estate tax on each dollar over $1 million, close all loopholes around it. (d)Civil and criminal fines indexed to income in order to be effective and fair across economic classes - thus, a billionaire who gets a traffic ticket may face a $50,000 fine while someone making median income would pay $50. Should be in the Constitution that penalties for the same offense must be as equal as practically possible relative to their effects on individual human beings.

3. Priorities from highest to lowest, though not comprehensive: Coequal (1): Water, power, transportation, and all related infrastructure. (2)Healthcare. (3)Education. (4)Science and technology. (5)Policing and courts. (6)Military and intelligence.

Points worth mentioning: Water should be desalinated ocean water with the plants powered renewably, and the water piped inland - at large economies of scale, the result would be cheaper potable water at far larger volumes than currently exist, the supply would be far more reliable, and deserts could be cultivated into vast agricultural regions (except for those we choose to maintain as desert preserves for ecological reasons). Power would be 100% renewable with whatever storage media are needed to deal with intermittency. All vehicles would be fully electric-powered - ground vehicles, aircraft, boats, and also other systems that use engines (lawn mowers, chain saws, etc.). The US Science and technology budget should be $100 billion to $500 billion per year, which would yield triple- or quadruple-digit return percentages, as has been noted historically. Policing, courts, the military, and intelligence need to be radically restructured for efficiency and fairness, some of which might require Constitutional amendments.

4. Rights and responsibilities: Aside from existing Constitutional rights, we can positively affirm the right to equal healthcare and education, and to equal justice, leading to the various structural changes I vaguely mention. You have the right to leverage parity, the right to a personal share of the profits from gains made through use of public resources, and the right to use public services (including transportation) free of charge. Your right to vote is inalienable and without qualification. In fact, probably lower the voting age to 12, since plenty of kids that age are smart enough to vote intelligently, and the immature ones are no more so than immature adults who vote stupidly.

5. Strict codes of uniform conduct must adhere to all public officials from the President of the United States down to the lowest local civil servant. Memorizing this code and passing a test on it must be prerequisite to assuming office. Penalties for violating the code must be far more severe than for average citizens breaking equivalent laws, and must be more severe the higher the office. A police officer convicted of a crime while in uniform must face triple the penalties a civilian would. In administrative proceedings against officials who wield force (which don't have the force of law) and their superiors, the burden of proof is on them to show they did not break the law and should not be fired. All police officers must live in the communities they patrol, and at any time, for any reason, the people of the community can compel their suspension or termination through a local referendum express a vote of no confidence in a specific officer.

Criminal justice must finally officially recognize that punishment is not its purpose: Public protection is. People may only be incarcercated if they have proven they cannot be trusted to respect the rights of others under more lenient penalties. House arrest probation with ankle monitoring must be the default method of incarceration in lieu of evidence of public danger. Actual prisons do not exist to punish criminals, but to house them under controlled circumstances where they will be less dangerous to the public and to each other. They must be constructed and managed with this in mind, and all violence and brutality against prisoners by guards or other prisoners must be thoroughly stopped. No non-violent offender must ever set foot inside a prison. Since the War on Drugs is ended, obviously, and most drugs are either legal or sanely regulated, most prisons would be able to close. The remainder should be strictly monitored by international human rights observers at all times. End the death penalty, because it's evil, immoral, unethical, cruel, arbitrary, racist, counterproductive, and plainly unconstitutional.

The punishment, to the greatest extent possible, must not fit the crime, but rather correct the crime - specifically the crime as it relates to the human victim, not merely to the victim's property. Stealing someone's car has made their lives inconvenient, so now aside from compensating them with money and yourself having to live under controlled circumstances with ankle-monitored probation, you are obliged to make that person's life more convenient in prescribed ways and also help make the community a more convenient place in general. So not just the person you harmed, but the ideal you harmed must be served. Spray paint a swastika on a synagogue, you're going to mop the toilets in the Museum of Tolerance for the next few months.

6. Still need to get rid of nuclear weapons, fast. Even a few hundred left on Earth could send mankind into a Dark Age for fifty years if they were used in war, and there are two thousand. Get rid of them ASAP. Form a new institution beside the UN consisting of all free democracies, and let them all have equal votes in its decisions with rotating executives. Ultimately this body will succeed the UN as its numbers grow, or else be able to exert the influence needed to reform the UN into a more democratic institution. US Intelligence apparatus should be under the supreme command of the State Department, so that the tail isn't wagging the dog. Just a few ideas - I have literally volumes.

7. Use modern communications to radically accelerate the process of checks and balances. Allow Executive policymakers to be in constant contact with courts and legislators to get instant decisions and advice so that some aspects of lawmaking, interpreting, and execution can go from taking several years to perhaps being accomplished in days. Moreover, "fractalize" the process so that each action within the branches carries its own trio of legislative, judicial, and executive representatives prepared to instantly assert branch prerogatives if something appears to be in violation. If a disagreement is intractable, then the matter would be referred to larger bodies in their respective branches for resolution. This would have the benefit of preventing a lot of unconstitutional behavior in the Executive branch from building up over time, and also perhaps deter certain types of shenanigans that occur in Congress and in the courts as well.

8. Institute local, self-governing direct democracy units who can advise more traditional governments, or combine to assert superior prerogatives when a sufficient consensus is reached that a government institution or leader has done something that has to be reversed or is failing to do something urgent. These would "lubricate" the process of democracy considerably, and avoid some of the more dangerous and painful separations between the people and the leaders that lead to cynicism and discontent.

9. I believe in the ground-up approach, since that's historically been how it's usually happened. Try things locally and learn lessons. Then try them in some more local places, utilizing the lessons already learned. Then see how far you can scale it up to counties and states, and then you have a solid foundation for national or even international change.

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Reply Fun DU homework assignment: Describe your version of Utopian America. (Original post)
True Blue Door Oct 2014 OP
Prophet 451 Oct 2014 #1
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #9
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #17
mmonk Oct 2014 #2
Javaman Oct 2014 #3
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #13
mmonk Oct 2014 #16
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #18
mmonk Oct 2014 #19
cherokeeprogressive Oct 2014 #4
cali Oct 2014 #5
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #12
BKH70041 Oct 2014 #6
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #10
randome Oct 2014 #7
True Blue Door Oct 2014 #11
Initech Oct 2014 #8
hobbit709 Oct 2014 #14
blackcrowflies Oct 2014 #15

Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 02:24 AM

1. OK, I'll bite

My thoughts are off-the-cuff, so probably not as well thought out as yours.

1 & 2) Essentially capitalism but with a few important alterations.
- Firstly, corporations are banned outright. Businesses can still be formed as small traders or partnerships but a corporation is just a way of achieving private profit while avoiding private responsibility. Small traders and partnerships maintain responsibility.

- Second, minimum wage rises to $17 an hour on the federal level and is henceforth, linked to rise in line with inflation or the CPI, whichever is higher.

- Third, capital gains taxation is abolished entirely. From now, it's all classed as income and taxed accordingly with the sole exception of selling your primary dwelling which is tax-free.

- Fourth, in economics, there is a term called a "captive market". A captive market is one where everyone needs the product (or, at least, the option of it) at all times. That means monopolies and price gouging happen routinely in those sectors. To prevent that, in those sectors which have captive markets (gas, water, electricity, healthcare, mail, telecoms, arguably banking), the state will set up a not-for-profit alternative that provides a minimum level of cash-for-service. That creates a bottom floor below which private industry cannot sink (I call this the "backstop theory" of economics). To use healthcare as an example, that means the state will set up it's own non-profit insurance system (probably be extending Medicare to all) to compete with private insurance. This is roughly how we do things here (UK) and it works pretty well (until the bastard Tories started trying to privatize by stealth).

- Fifth, reorganise the tax structure, adding several new bands at the top end and maxxing out at 50% on household income above $2.5 million.

- Sixth, the creation of the Rebuild America Corps which will directly employ the unemployed to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure. It will work with local charities and rebuilding projects. It will rebuild roads, schools, hospitals; repair infrastructure, both physically and doing stuff like beautifying countryside and clearing graffiti. It will also use on-the-job training so it's workers can get themselves certified in, say, weatherisation as they work. It will be administered almost entirely by unemployed clerical workers.

3) Priorities from highest to lowest: a) welfare. A country that doesn't look after it's poor and sick is barbaric. b) Infrastructure. c) Education. d) healthcare. e) law enforcement (but see note below). f) science & tech. g) Military.

Infrastructure shall be moved to renewable resources as quickly as possible.

4) Rights & Responsibilities. Right to healthcare affirmed. Right to have society support you if you cannot work or find work affirmed. Clinton's horribly immoral gutting of welfare repealed. Goes back to being an unlimited time right but contingent on the recipient actively seeking work. Right to a fair and open trial, no more secret trials, even if it means the jury has to be sworn to secrecy. However, you also have the responsibility to turn up for jury duty and you will be fined (consumerate with your income, we agree on that) if you don't show up without a good excuse.

Tempted to put in an IQ test for voting.

Reorganise the judicial sentencing for crimes to emphasize rehabilitation. I don't go as far as you, I think some non-violent offenders do need to be jailed. However, I also think rehabilitation and education of prisoners should be a much higher priority (except for the lifers, we're just warehousing them until they die). Mental health screening also needs to be massively improved in prisons. I read a study a few weeks ago that suggests up to 20% of American prisoners have serious mental health issues. They need to be screened and helped because at least some of them wouldn't be a danger to society if they were getting treatment.

End the war on (some) drugs, obviously. Possession of banned drugs remains a crime but one treated with rehab, not prison.

Legalize pot. I take four psychotropic drugs a day, all far more powerful than weed (they';re also the reason I don't smoke weed). So pot is legal, under the same conditions as booze: Age restricted and a ban on driving while high. It's an adult pleasure for adults so age regulation. And you shouldn't drive while under the influence of anything that messes with your perceptions. If you choose to grow weed for yourself and/or a few friends, that's just like brewing your own beer and none of the state's business. The state only gets involved when you start doing it for commercial reasons.

I'll get back to teh rest of these once I've thought about them more.

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Response to Prophet 451 (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:28 AM

9. Good calls by and large.

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Response to Prophet 451 (Reply #1)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 02:20 PM

17. I like the idea of banning corporations.

Or at least mandate that they can only exist as parallel associations rather than unified executive institutions. And they must share the wealth with employees.

I'd like for someone with the knowledge to come up with a formulate for a dynamic minimum wage that everyone can understand, that can't be defrauded by employers, and that can rigorously be proven as beneficial. Not an arbitrary number, and not a number tied to a statistic that few people understand.

Like the idea of captive market flooring.

For voting, I think we go to the opposite extreme and make it absolutely universal. If you're capable of reading the ballots or listening to them spoken and understand sufficiently, you are capable of voting - that means the age of voting should reduced to 12 and include felons.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 06:56 AM

2. Fair elections and money out of politics.

Some of us no longer have choices like some of you.

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Response to mmonk (Reply #2)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:05 AM

3. +1000 nt

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Response to mmonk (Reply #2)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:31 AM

13. But how do you get there?

This is a whole ecosystem of changes. You can't say "I want this" and exepct it to draw out of sky. Civics isn't writing letters to Santa Claus.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #13)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 11:17 AM

16. I don't have a vote with any power

unless you mean I can vote against a guaranteed winner from the Republican Party in Congress (House of Rep.) or the legislature that governs me. Better yet, ask yourself that question because it doesn't apply to me by law.

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Response to mmonk (Reply #16)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 02:21 PM

18. You have all the power in the world.

Every breath you take, every step you make, every word you write or speak, ripples outward. It's just a question of how much time you want to devote to a given subject.

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Response to True Blue Door (Reply #18)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 06:55 PM

19. I do through moral Monday protests.

But that doesn't change election outcomes in our new crooked system. So the power is not in our votes. We can only protest their rule.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:13 AM

4. I read the book. I wish everyone who used the word "Utopia" would be forced to read it.

 

I find it odd that people would take a word and create their own meaning for it. Utopia as the creator of the word envisioned it is not a place I'd want to live.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 08:17 AM

5. I don't believe in Utopias. Human nature being what it is, there can be no such thing.

 

and I don't agree with so much in your op. Just sounds like hell to me.

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Response to cali (Reply #5)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:30 AM

12. Care to elbaborate?

The things I suggest just sound like freedom and common sense to me.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 09:17 AM

6. Comedy Gold!!

Thanks for the laughs. I'm going to have to send this to some of my old NYSE buddies.

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Response to BKH70041 (Reply #6)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:29 AM

10. Whazzamawhozit?

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 09:32 AM

7. A population of just under 100 million.

 

[hr][font color="blue"][center]You have to play the game to find out why you're playing the game. -Existenz[/center][/font][hr]

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Response to randome (Reply #7)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:29 AM

11. Ehtiopia has a population of just under 100 million.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Fri Oct 10, 2014, 11:29 AM

8. I love the game Civilization for this reason.

I played as America, created a socialist government, an economy that relied on production and technological advances rather than religion, and won a diplomatic victory - and had a surplus and world peace - all things Republicans hate!

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:34 AM

14. 1. ANY corporation that engages in political activity has its charter revoked.

2. If the U.S. wants to declare war on any country that has NOT physically attacked the territory of the U.S. there should be a national referendum-If you vote FOR the war you automatically signed your enlistment papers, no exemptions.

3. Get rid of Homeland (In)Security and it's minions.

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Response to True Blue Door (Original post)

Sat Oct 11, 2014, 09:35 AM

15. pretty much like Denmark

 

except no sending soldiers to fight in other countries' fake wars.

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