Category Archives: Election 2020

A Long-Term Case for Optimism

“The past can teach us, through experience, how to accomplish things in the future, comfort us with cherished memories, and provide the foundation of what has already been accomplished. But only the future holds life. To live in the past is to embrace what is dead. To live life to its fullest, each day must be created anew. As rational, thinking beings, we must use our intellect, not a blind devotion to what has come before, to make rational choices.”—Wizard’s Seventh Rule, The Pillars of Creation, Terry Goodkind

So, in a bizarre way to treat optimism let’s first look at how bad this is going to get. That may seem very counterintuitive but go with me on this for a minute. “Of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme,” says the Buddha as he calls for an awareness of death (maranasati)…and some research shows that there are emotional and intellectual benefits to contemplating our death. When you have faced the worst end, analyzed it, accept it, and moved on, you are no longer bounded by the fears of the the worst-case scenario.

The same is true of any terrible situation.
So, let’s deal with the worst that this could possibly be. COVID 19 at worst has a fatality rate of 4%, and we will probably have a second round of it next cold and flu season. That is upwards of 8% dead. In the US that is 26.4 million people. Worldwide that is 624 million people.
That is beyond tragic. That is over four times more than communism killed in its entire existence. That is somewhere between 56-100 times the deaths of the Holocaust. It is nearly everyone you know over 65, parents, friends, certainly grandparents, and depending on who is reading this, possibly you. A new word might need to be invented to deal with death at these levels.
I want everyone reading this to take a few minutes, maybe even days to consider this, and let it sink in. It will be horrible.
It’s okay, it’s worth crying over, worth being horrified by, and worth being revolted that more could not be done.
Let it sink in.
Okay? If not, maybe this is a time to stop reading and think about why you’re still not okay with this. Do you need to make amends with people who might be gone or who might lose you? Then why are you still reading and not doing that? Didn’t accomplish all you wanted in life? Again, if that’s what is really bothering you, you might want to deal with that while you have time. Didn’t’ go on that trip or buy that car or retire to that beach…you know these are the kind of moments that are supposed to make it clear that life isn’t things, and you may need to think about what is bothering you.
Okay, have we come to terms with this worst-case scenario?
Now let’s move on.
This is unspeakably terrible, but there is one thing it is not. It is not the end of the world.
The Black Death killed 50 million people in Europe. That sounds like a lot less but it was closer to 35-65% of the population of Europe. (Data on what it did in Asia is a little harder to get, but over the course of centuries it probably did a bang-up job there too). And you know what happened? Europe survived. Possibly two-thirds of the population gone. Two out of every three people dead. And Europe survived. This is a disease that strikes hardest at the elderly, which was a disease that was indiscriminate to age. And they survived. We will survive 8% of the population dying.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t’t care about the people who die, not do every reasonable and even a few unreasonable efforts to save them. But understand this will be tragic deaths of people we love—it will not be the end of the world. If a bunch of illiterate peasants who are civilized only by the barest of definitions can survive two-thirds of their civilization, we will survive. *
This is not the end of the world.
Let that sink in.
Really, let that sink in because to get to the optimism for the future this might come off as a little callous if you haven’t accepted the previous points.

The plagues that struck Athens which led to their conquest by the Spartans led to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The Black Death was followed by the Renaissance. The Napoleonic Wars led to the Industrial Revolution on the European Continent, and the Civil War was followed by the Industrial Revolution in America. WWI and the Spanish Flu were followed by the Roaring ’20s. And the post-WWII economics was nothing short of miraculous. The universe has a way of balancing great tragedy with a spectacular moment of growth economically, intellectually, and spiritually. I’m not saying that everything about these periods was great, but the good certainly outweighed the bad. And granted, not every great tragedy is followed by prosperity. But assuming we get better at what we’re doing (either by toughing it out until January, or maybe blessedly COVID will walk down Pennsylvania Avenue) and learn that the free market with light direction is often a better innovator to our problems, and then hopefully set the groundwork for prosperity when this passes—and this too shall—then we will rise from this better than before.
That might not seem logical, but consider that we’re already coping remarkably well. Restaurants are still serving people via delivery and so while they won’t be in a great situation come to the end of this, they will still be there and ready to grow again. Companies will find that most people can be more effective from home, and will probably find out that 30 hours from home (so long as they have support from the corporate office) will be more effective than 40 in the office for a lot of jobs, which will not only help bring about a new jump in productivity but hopefully give vast new hours for people to spend on pet projects, artistic endeavors, and side business possibilities. This is giving us the opportunity to put in a lot of automated systems that unions and regulation had previously stood in the way of, which will raise the quality of life for numerous people and drop the costs of products worldwide. I’m sure we will see a massive increase in the money for self-driving cars and drone delivery to help reduce human to human transmission of the COVID, which will have an unspeakably massive drop in transaction costs of almost every economic transaction. We have been on the verge of a change as great as the change from an agrarian culture to an industrial one—and it promises to be a world where there is far less poverty and institutional injustice, and it’s sad this is the price we may have to pay for that change, but it is a better world on the other side of this.

And if you’re still not convinced, let me be exceptionally coldly rational here. The average person over the age of 65 in the US has an average net value of over a million dollars. In the worst-case situation, you’re looking at 20 million senior citizens dead. I hate to be callous but, that’s $20 Trillion being pumped into the economy. Granted a good deal of that is in housing, which that kind of glut on the market will radically drop housing prices (but that is affordable housing that isn’t bad) …but that’s still about $10 Trillion being pumped into the economy in the next year and a half. This is terrible, but it relieves a huge strain on our safety nets which can give us the opportunity to fix them properly without having to cut the benefits of those who depend on them while we fix them to be sustainable.
If we think long term here and amidst trying to save as many as possible, but we also need to work to set the groundwork for the world that comes after. And that world is better with less government (which I think we can easily see how stupid and short-sighted government is), with more guardrails in government to prevent the idiotic and unethical from achieving power over anyone, with more efforts put into the technologies and innovations that can make our lives better, and by using the time to reflect on how much we do need human connection in our lives and how we need to re-establish a greater sense of community with others in our lives after this.

What I am not saying is that we should help those who are vulnerable to this disease, who are suffering from it, or who are afraid. We most certainly should be there for them in any way that we find we are able to without going further than we feel comfortable doing.
That we need to understand that it was globalization that gave us exposure to so many diseases before this that we had better immunities and that this will only be, at worst, 8% and not 20% or 70%.
We should take time to ask if this is the best plan to save the most people unlike right now which only cares about deaths from COVID ignoring that the economic harm we’re causing will also cause death from more suicide, accident, stress, domestic violence…and the fact is that I can’t find anyone seriously asking which will have more death, it would likely be COVID is the greater danger, I would just love to know somebody looked toward the long term…you know in a way the government never does.
That science and free markets are working hard to find solutions while governments dither and sputter in incompetence.
And that life is a mixture of good and bad, and we shouldn’t give up on the good just because of terrible, but undeniably momentary, bad.
The world on the other side of this is easily a better one than behind us. Take comfort in that.

*A caveat. I know there are some older parents out there who are worried that they might not be there for their children. I wish I could transfer my faith that the universe is an ordered place, and that they will not be challenged with anything more than they can take, and any loss they endure will be a loss they knew about coming into this life and that it will give them the opportunity for growth. But I can’t transfer that faith. I can only advise that you seek some reconciliation with your own beliefs. But I understand that logically there is probably nothing I can do to ally your fears.

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What I’m looking for in November…

As I have already said we are living in insane times.
And things aren’t going to get extravagantly better in the immediate future as all the candidates running are far too left of center for any sane person’s taste (except maybe Bill Weld, but I have a better chance of winning the Powerball and Megamillions in the same week than he has of winning the Republican primary, so not exactly an issue there).
So I think for most of us we have two choices to sit out the presidential election and/or write in a candidate’s name as a protest-vote or pick the least evil of the candidates. I’m not sure which camp I’ll be in yet, but here is what I’m going to be looking for.
The biggest problem we have unquestionably seen with the last 20 years of presidential idiocy and corruption is the executive branch has become way too powerful and Congress, especially the Senate, has become way too weak.
And there are ways to fix this.
Now I’m not going to get into heavy detail at this point but here are a few things that could be done:


Establish a Department of Internal Affairs. The Department would investigate government corruption and only have jurisdiction over government employees. It can investigate, subpoena, take indictments to a grand jury, and prosecute government officials it finds has committed crimes. The Department will be split in half with two directors, each side with equal budgets, and the two heads appointed independently by the majority and minority party leaders of the Senate, but with each head subject to Senate confirmation. This will prevent the corruption we saw with Eric Holder, and which has been put on steroids in William’s Barr attempts to turn the US into the Reich. This way no matter what party is in power, they will not be above the law. We absolutely must stop the party in power having the power to ignore its own crimes.
Congress must pass laws making it a crime with severe penalties for the executive branch refusing subpoenas of Congressional investigations.
Congress must remove most, if not all, of the laws that give the president power over trade, tariffs, unilateral military power engagements and control of the budget.
Congress must put in some kind of regulatory and/or veto power over executive orders.
Internally, the Senate needs to reestablish the filibuster and supermajority rules.
Congress must put in rules that take power away from the party leaders and give it back to committees.

On the election side, here’s a simple thing that needs to happen:
Just pass a law that every statement made at a campaign rally, in an add, on any social media or basically in any public space other than the floor of Congress (you do need to protect the freedom of debate) every elected and appointed member of the federal government is to be considered under oath and that the penalties for lying under oath as an elected official should be significantly higher than they are for perjury in court. Think about it, not a single thing Bernie Sander, Donald Trump, Elizabeth Warren, and Ted Cruz have said for the last decade would pass this test and they’d all be rotting in the jail cells they belong in right now if we had a law like this. It would be a much better world.
The other thing is that while we need a public record of what happens in Congress, we need to acknowledge there is a corrosive nature of the show of visual mediums. I have no problem with keeping a video record of the actions of Congress, but it should stop being a TV show were people are pandering for video clips for the pundit shows to show again and again. The Supreme Court is correct to only allow audio recordings, a moratorium of two years for House video and six years for Senate video should be enough to turn back into legislators from the reality TV idiots they’ve become.

The next most important thing for the presidency is the need to regain sane foreign policy. Regrettably, Clinton’s short-sightedness, Bush’s ignorance, Obama’s indifference, and Trump’s evil have left the US in a terrible position to be a force for good in the world. So everything here is baby steps at best. But what I’m looking for is the following:
An eagerness to engage in trade deals that lower as many barriers and tariffs while boxing in tyrannies like Russia and China.
A push to restore power such bodies as the WTO which helps to force bad actors to improve if they wish to engage with the rest of the world.
An effort to reduce the power and influence of Russia and China, unlike Trump and Obama who did everything they could to help these two tyrannies.
An understanding that America is the shining city on the hill and has a duty to not just provide an example, but to help the growth of capitalism, rule of law, and liberty the world over.

If at all possible (ha!) a desire for at least the New Democrat ideal that the era of big government is over, and a desire to shrink the government in every way possible.

If I feel that a candidate can at least move the momentum of the country in the direction of these goals then I will hold my nose as I vote for them despite whatever short term problems they may cause. Clearly that won’t be the socialist scum that is Sanders, Warren or Trump. But if I can’t be convinced they will work for these goals then I might as well vote for Mickey Mouse.

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Election 2020–Best Case Scenarios in a Realm of Terrible Scenarios

 

We are living in an age of absolute insanity. Just about every politician out there is clearly out what little mind they have.
Now I have decided that I want to focus more on policy than the ground games of political games from now on because the momentary stream of manure from the politicians is and always be secondary to real policy developments. But we still should have a vague understanding of what is going on.
So I’m going to give out the best to least good outcomes that could happen.
Now the real problem is that there is not really a single capitalist with a snowball’s chance running right now. So in even a vaguely plausible scenario, we’re still left with only less bad options.

So best case scenario (third-least likely) would be that in a rare moment when all three branches (including all the cabinet members) are in D.C. with full attendance of both houses of Congress save Mitt Romney who is out of town, a meteor crashes in D.C. and rids us of all the morons. I would really appreciate if God could get involved in this and clear the slate for us because not one of these asses in either party (save Romney) deserves air let alone their office. Yeah, at the moment, Democrats are aligned with the truth that Trump is the worst president ever and has committed so many crimes and eternity in Hell will not balance the scales…but they had the exact same cult of personality for all of Obama’s (7th worst president ever) idiocy and corruption. So a plague on all their houses. Meteor, volcano, freak Cat 5 tornado, some act of nature to wipe all the scum out of this plane of existence.

The next best, and unquestionably least likely solution, would be for the Libertarian Party to nominate a sane person who has a chance of winning. Never. Going. To. Happen. They never embrace the best parts of the Libertarian party (capitalist economics and laissez-faire social issues) for nominees, they only seem to pick the worst (drug use, isolationist pro-tyranny foreign policy, bat shit crazy attitude). A sane libertarian candidate is the least likely thing I plan to see.

The next best solution would be for the GOP to grow a spine, throw Trump to the gutter he belongs in and embrace Bill Weld’s campaign for the nomination. Sadly the meteor of death is still more likely than this.

Finally, the most likely (still not very likely) option would be for the Democrats not to completely blow it. They need to admit that Biden is not going anywhere and that Klobuchar is not the moderate she claims to be. And that the Sanders/Warren wing is a bunch of socialist scum who unquestionably shares a lot of commonalities with the MAGA crowd and needs to be forcibly pushed out of the party (and preferably off a cliff). Obama needs to get out there and actively campaign for Buttigieg, and publicly state that any African-American who won’t vote for him because he’s gay is a homophobe who is as vile as the racists who have persecuted them. Pete should then probably put Bloomberg as his running mate, making the campaign unstoppable and probably fill his staff with a mix of New-Democrats centrists and Never-Trump Republican, and maybe a sanish libertarian or two, pushing for the realignment we know is coming where it will be the socialist/populist Trump/Bernie people versus the free-market centrists.  He’s not an ideal candidate, not by any measure, but he might have the sanity to put us back on a sane track. That’s the way to win. I doubt the Democrats will have the brains to do that.

Pretty much every other option will either leave Trump in power or put someone worse in.

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