Sunday, February 08, 2009

Broad Brush Strokes

After a heady morning discussing dark energy, dimension theory and so on, our little group of Portland cognoscenti, our visiting MVP, stood in line at Tanh Thao, awaiting a large table.

Conversation turned to politics and the fact that so many USAers were already giving a thumbs down to the perceived stimulus package, and why was that?

Maybe because they didn't believe it would help them fulfill their dreams and aspirations? "How will this help me pursue happiness?" was the question. "Life is short, and we have no more time to keep getting it wrong".

In my view, USAers have had it drilled into their brains that the government is inherently ineffective and wasteful, squanders taxes, whereas the private sector is lean and mean, a pinnacle of know-how and efficiency.

This party line, more associated with Republicans, has been used since Eisenhower's day to argue for privatizing taxpayers' assets, dismantling FDR's "experiment in socialism".

For the public to buy in and consider it believable, it needs to have a private sector look and feel, with "it" being some positive future, some other tomorrow, one wherein the recession turns around and we see a brighter path forward.

When the federal government tries to lead, by growing its own infrastructure, the reaction is negative, because of how government is widely perceived.

The rationale here as that the government is inherently a monopoly, even with all those branches, and branches within branches, whereas the private sector or so-called "free market" is full of cut-throat competitors who must stay wasteless to keep in business.

Missing from this analysis is the fact that these cut-throat companies may feed on Americans like bloodthirsty parasites, leeching off taxpayers and their government alike, as there's nothing in a corporate charter that defines it as needing to think or care about the welfare of Americans in general.

"Just stay barely legal and go out there and make a killing for your shareholders" -- that's the free market mandate. "Raising all boats" was never the goal.

If the government wants to make a comeback, it could maybe offer some valued fee-based services at no profit. We could have government run hotel chains, rental car agencies, banks, even theme parks. Why just run schools? Why not set some standards and compete in the private sector, not as a monopolist but as an alternative.

This is what the military is in fact, an entire parallel economy with its own stores, fleets, health care system, theme parks. You just need to sign away your democratic rights to join, and then you've got a socialized ownership model, access to the people's property (jets, ships, all manner of toyz).

A good way to reinsert government into civilian life in a positive way would be to repurpose some military assets for civilian use, while keeping the not-for-profit design. Turn some bases into training centers for future road engineers, disaster relief personnel. Offer a cut rate inter-base airline.

This all sounds like science fiction today, as the status quo is to let Democrats and Republicans keep their old context, one in which they don't have to invent a real future, only have to debate in monetary terms, a degraded form of discourse, a low IQ banter.

Numbers with a lot of zeros after 'em don't really register, aren't substantive enough to really tell a good story. A trillion dollars isn't worth much, if you can't paint a clear picture of what you'd do with it. Futurism would have to be in vogue again, if these science fiction scenarios were to start holding water.

What it comes down to is a need for role models. The American public has high regard for the new president, for the most part doesn't doubt his integrity or intelligence. But politicians in general just talk about money a lot, and that in itself is a kind of dumbing down.

Take the resources and personnel you already have, a vast network of properties and assets, including public schools, a post office, even a passenger rail line, and do some creative things with them. Show us you're thinking about the future.

Otherwise you're just a cash cow with no brains, which is why the vote of no confidence. Do something smart, or don't do it at all.

For example, what's to stop a public school from sharing about the Fuller Projection, World Game, a concentric hierarchy of polyhedra in a sphere packing context, geodesic domes?

These are "adding spice" memes, not "replace everything" memes. The military is apparently not patriotic enough (unlikely), or too cowed by dino professors, to institute these reforms, but there's nothing to stop a public school from distinguishing itself, standing out as an early adopter of a new curriculum. Or how about an intelligence agency? Do we have any of those?