Thursday, September 20, 2012

Election 2012: Social Issues vs Economic Issues

I saw one of those "on the street" interviews the other day, where a woman stated that she's on the fence as to whether to cast her vote based on economics or on social issues. Personally, I think in our current situation, that's a no-brainer for a number of reasons.

First of all, let's be clear about the terms. When people use the term social issues,, they're talking about abortion, gay marriage, religion and perhaps legalizing marijuana. When the discussion is about economics it's about jobs, unemployment, the debt and regulation. Which set of issues is top priority right now?

If you're not sure, ask yourself, would you move to North Korea if they legalized gay marriage? Would you buy a house in Cuba if you knew you could sit on the front porch and spark up a joint without fear of prosecution? I'm guessing probably not. Our economic situation is dire. If it's not addressed, the "social" issues will be trivial.

There's also the question of the proper role of government. Is it the job of our government to tell us what to believe and how to behave? Aren't these things that free individuals can work out among themselves? The truth is politicians don't set societal norms, they follow them and ride them. President Obama was against gay marriage until just recently, because it was politically unwise to be in favor or it. Public support is shifting however, and even former First Lady Laura Bush has said that she believes it is inevitable. We work these things out by consensus and opportunistic politicians follow the trend. They will not be worked out and definitively settled by legislation, at least not until the general population has already moved in one direction or another.

But back to today's reality. We are heading toward economic crisis. However much you may hate the rich, raising taxes in a down economy will not bring in more revenue and will likely cause a deeper recession. If the government's spending is not curtailed, the only way out will be massive printing of more money, with the intended result of massive inflation. This would fix the debt problem while devastating most Americans. It's the cowards way out. The other option is to cut the size and scope of government, make it easier to do business in America and grow our way back to a sane balance between government spending and private sector production.

Putting social issues before economic issues at this particular point in time is like getting caught in a burning building because you couldn't decide which shirt to wear while evacuating. Let's put the fire out first and give ourselves the luxury of having time to debate social issues.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Why I'm voting Romney in 2012?

In most of my political posts, I promote ideas and principals rather than a candidate or party, but the fact is, I'll be voting for Mitt Romney in November and I want to explain why.

First of all, if you believe that the problem with America's economy is that government isn't big enough yet, or that a vibrant economy is not necessary for improved quality of life, vote for President Obama. If you believe a strong and growing economy and restraint on the growth of government are important, here are some things to consider.

When a company is launching a new product, agenda or program, they often appoint a "product champion". The product champion's role is to oversee the launch, keep everyone focused on the goal, overcome obstacles and ensure that the execution exceeds expectations. Is "Hey, things could be worse." a good rallying cry for a product champion? Is "What do you expect? It's harder than I thought." what you want to hear from a leader?

Mitt Romney has set a goal of 12 million new jobs in 4 years. Sounds lofty, but that's just over 300,000 new jobs per month. That used to be normal. President Obama is talking about 1 million new jobs in 4 years. I don't think any presidential candidate has ever set the bar so low. Is mediocrity the best we can hope for? Is 1.7 percent growth the best we can do? Is this as good as it gets?

The President likes to talk about the policies that "got us into this mess". First of all, that's an admission that after 3.5 years on the job, the economy can accurately be described as a mess. Secondly, we've had recessions and even depressions in our  236 year history as a nation. We did not throw out capitalism and free enterprise as a response. The financial sector collapse was brought about by the perhaps well intentioned, but misguided notion from both parties that everyone should own a house, regardless of their cash flow situation. Bailing out industries to remove the consequences of bad decisions did not help the situation in the long term. Mistakes were made, but capitalism and free markets were not the mistakes.

When you look at countries who have gone the farthest to take the risk out of the lives of their citizens, to take the pain out of failure, you're looking at Venezuela, Cuba, Greece. Is that where we want to go? Is the excitement of the discoveries, innovations and growth of the 80/s and 90's something our children and grandchildren will only experience through books and movies about the past? Are you ready to throw in the towel and live to just survive rather than thrive?

Economic freedom is risky business. Along with amazing discoveries, inventions, elation, wealth creation and jobs you get failures, disappointment and despair.  That's what the President and the Progressives play on. They hope you are so afraid of all the bad things that might happen as a consequence of individual freedom, that you'll forgo the good to avoid the bad.  As other countries around the world have demonstrated, it's certainly possible to flatten out the ups and downs, but personally, I'd rather risk utter failure than not be able to take my shot.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Give Reason a Chance

You've probably heard it said that the American electorate is "polarized"; that the environment is extremely "partisan". That's true, but what does it mean, why is it the case and how do we fix it? What it means is that a significant portion of the country has bought into a package of ideas presented by one party or another. It's as if one party is totally right about everything and the other is totally wrong, and you should pick one and defend it to the end. The problem is that political parties are really just infrastructures designed and built for the purpose of getting their candidates elected. That's all. They are not all wise super-entities with the correct answers for everything. Accepting all of the ideas or policies of a political party without question stifles real debate and the search for truth. Partisanship and polarization come about through the use of a technique, often employed by politicians but also by individuals on a day by day basis. It equates being wrong with being bad, or even evil. It's also connected to relationships. People sometimes adopt the ideas or behavior of those they admire, for whatever reason, as a kind of shortcut to working things out for themselves. For example, if you have to cross a raging river, but you don't know how to do it safely. You watch someone else traverse the river successfully and rather than do a lot of pondering and guesswork on your own, you do what they did. Later you come to a cliff you must scale. They person who successfully crossed the river has an idea on how to scale the cliff. You defer to their judgment on the cliff because you observed them successfully traverse the river. In the political world, it might translate as follows; your parents were good people. Your parents belonged to political party A. Therefore political party A is the good party, so you should be loyal to political party A and promote and defend them as well. Of course, political parties change, as do the people that belong to them. Political parties promote some good ideas and some bad ideas. It's advantageous for the parties themselves to convince people to accept the whole package, rather than consider each idea or proposal separately, on its own merit, so they promote that approach. Laying out the logical case and going through the reasoning process for each idea or proposal can be hard work, and time consuming. It's simply easier to convince people that those who disagree do so because they are bad people. You don't want to be a bad person do you? Ironically, this approach only works because most people are, and want to continue to be good people. They just don't always take the time to reason through ideas and proposals on their own. I believe that the vast majority of adherents to all political parties want to see the quality of life of the population in general improve over time. There is, of course, widespread disagreement about how best to bring that about. If we want to truly enable good ideas to come to the surface and be implemented, we must engage in productive debate and discussion. that means we have to dispense with the idea that being wrong means being bad. We must present, discuss and promote ideas, not personalities. We must evaluate performance and results objectively, not emotionally. We must choose elected officials based on competency to carry out the task assigned to them, not based on how much we'd like to hang out with them. Emotions can be useful tools. They serve as both red flags and default settings when your intellect doesn't have enough information to make a reasoned judgment. However, this situation is usually very temporary. In the case of politics, there is certainly plenty of time to put the emotional response aside, gather information and input and employ reason to come to a logical conclusion. A good practice to get into when debating matters of government policy is to refrain from mentioning any politician or party by name. This will help you to focus on the underlying ideas. If your counterpart is unwilling to do so, you're not engaged in a productive conversation anyway and might do better to switch the conversation to the something more benign, like the weather. Do not counter irrationality with irrationality. It's tempting to do so, but it only promotes irrationality. You can't force feed the truth. People have to be ready, willing and able to go their of their own free will. If it's not happening today, save it for another time. There's no deadline on the quest for truth. The world will not collapse if you allow your friend, your family member, your co-worker, even yourself, the space to be wrong for another day.