Tuesday, August 2, 2011

So What Happens After This Debt Crisis?

Now that the current debt crisis is over what happens next with the budget debate? I would suspect that most citizens anticipate a return to the status quo, gridlock of the political process. However, with an election next year I would suspect that the current debt issues to remain at the fore-front of political debates.

This could be an opportunity for both political parties to reconcile what role the government should be playing in the United States. It is important to remember that the shared ideology of all citizens in the United States is the belief in personal liberty for all individuals. Ideally the role of government should be to protect the liberties of citizens and to insure that all people have equal access to liberty. This concept was the pinnacle of our founding fathers belief as they drafted the constitution. It was how the new government would protect and promote personal liberty that sparked the fieriest debates. The debate has never subsided and the United States once again is in embroiled in a battle over the role of government.

What needs to be understood is that both sides of the debate have very valid points but lost in the argument is the concept of how government protects liberty. It is clear that the government has grown far too large to be effective in our society. With all of the laws to promote one group over another through tax breaks or business deals and ignoring the main mission of government has lead to an inefficient system buried in debt. Clearly our government goes past its effective parameters but that does not mean every part of the government needs to be cut. This seems to be were misunderstanding and anger is most prevalent in our politics.

Conservatives want less government but promote a large military. The military has a roll to protect the United States but it spends more that the top 10 militaries of the world combined. It would seem logical that we could easily cut military spending without exposing the United States to a foreign aggressor. Democrats want more social insurance programs such as healthcare and social security. The problem is that often these programs go past insurance for citizens to promising standards of living and taking away citizens voice in the purchasing process of healthcare.

These are just two examples of the current arguments in Washington. Both revolve around the role of the government service and its size. The government has a role in defense, social security and healthcare but few will disagree that all of them have gone past protecting the personal liberty of citizens and ensuring they have access to that liberty. It is in the excess of its role that the government becomes bloated and unwieldy. Focusing on the role of each government service and if it is overstepping its boundary is critical to personal liberty and access to that liberty.

As the new election process starts let us hope that the discussion revolves around the role of government and how to find a way to streamline that role and cut the excess. The issue of debt and spending will be resolved as a byproduct of conscience evaluation of our government services.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

What Has Been Accomplished?

The western world has now proved that when politicians get bored with finance someone is going to get blown up. Think about it, instead of bickering and arguing about who is borrowing froma who the military dominate western civilizations all get together and bomb the shit out of some country that has no air defense. It is a truly great idea and is a trademark play by any good political party. Now of course leaders cannot just say that they are creating a distraction so they need to find justification that hints of compassion. “We are going to drop the most powerful conventional ordnance in the world from a few thousand feet in the name of protecting civilians and that will make things better. Do not worry about those bombs killing any civilians, our bombs are engineered to only kill the bad guys.”

So we have bombed the bad guys but now what do we do? It is clear that public support for boots on the ground is thin and there are few targets left to hit without killing thousands of civilians. Here is the issue western powers now face, they were so eager to support the rebels because it appeared Gaddafi would be toppled quickly. The reasoning seems to have been that by supporting the rebels oil production would be impacted for a shorter amount of time. For some reason no one thought about the possibility that Gaddafi might not be toppled by unorganized rebel crowds and we would have to buy oil and natural gas from him again. He might be a little cranky.

What has been accomplished? By creating a temporary stalemate in Libya are civilians safer or will the bloodshed be worse? Instead of providing aid we slammed the door for civilian safety. We cannot stop Gaddafi without boots on the ground, air-power cannot attack urban battlefields without high collateral damage, and we opened the door for Iran to stir up more unrest which will lead to more deaths.

The thing that bothers me the most is our general mindset as a nation. Instead of thinking about actually helping people, we think about how we can either throw money at a problem so it might go away or how we can prove our airplanes can kill people on the ground easily. I guess history will continue to show that societies have little ability to do the right thing.

Monday, February 28, 2011

America and Libya and Cause and Effect and Breakfast

I know I live in a country that has been blessed with material goods that allows our society to pretend nothing ill ever happens, at least not to the majority of the population. Of course, a quick look at mass media informs the public that we are the blessed nation by demonstrating the devastation that takes place daily across the globe. “Glad I live in America” is how we accept the fact the world is not perfect. What the fuck? Profanity, by the way, does place a important emphasis on what I feel is truly ignorant. At some point in my life I will find a better way to articulate my dissatisfaction with ignorance but for now profanity fills my literary gap fairly well. Back to my topic, what the fuck?

There is no such thing as American exceptional-ism. Instead there was a series of historical and geographic coincidences that allowed The United States to become the sole super-power. This in no way means that we should be shameful of our country or lives but instead be aware of what we can claim as our creation or success. The road of trying to outline cause and effect in regards to nation building is paved with complexities beyond human comprehension. To compensate for our lack of biological computing power humans are forced to simplify complex and variable subjects. It is rare to find a quality simplification mental model that allows for flexibility against the unknown. Music is a good example of how a complicated piece of music can be created from simple notes on a page but allow for infinite combinations of mind bending works of beauty.

As I stated, music is a rare successful human simplification process. Most of our attempts to simplify are wrought with strife and unhappy endings. Humans were built to survive in the world and not to understand complex systems. Our range of understanding cause and effect is limited to one or two moving variables. Understating what would kill us and what would help us live was the most powerful tool prehistoric humans possessed. Somewhere along the line the human race found ways to farm food supplies that increased our chances of survival by tending to and raising plants that could be easily stored. With this discovery out vast intellect was allowed the free time to think about other subjects other than pure survival. We still have the need to understand but often fail to understand our limitations.

This post was sparked at breakfast this morning in Frisco, Colorado at the Log Cabin Cafe. Heather (my wonderful and understanding fiance) and I have a wonderful habit of people watching and eavesdropping on tables around us. Sometime between my hash-browns and the incredible eggs-Benedict my attention was grabbed by the conversation at the nearest table. A young women in her mid-twenties from Boulder, Colorado was talking about the recent outbreak of violence in the country of Libya. Her well intentioned but closed statements on events in Libya are a common form of simplification gone wrong.

She was talking about how wonderful it was that revolution had risen so rapidly against Gaddafi and that the rebels in the country would help provide freedom to the people of Libya. “This is a cause Obama should support because these people want freedom, these protests are going to spread and change the Middle East for the people.” She suffers (we all do in some form) from a condition I call the compassion complex. This condition causes people to act on the principles they perceive to be moral but fail to account for different views of truth.

What happens in Libya when civil war breaks lose in the country and blood fills the exposed highways to Gaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli? Or if the United States enforces a no-fly-zone and traps fleeing refugees? In addition, Iran at some point will take advantage of the situation and stir up revolts in other nations to add to the destabilization of the region so that Iran can be seen as a stabilizer when it provides help to neighbors. What happens when the rebel movement only leads to another dictator and the people have died in vain? Will we still support the rebel movement or realize our compassion may have killed more people than prevented?

Her regurgitated CNN stance on the crisis in Libya is not a singular event and public compassion can bring great harm to a seemingly simple truth. There is no simple answer, ever. The best humans can do is find a plan that creates the least amount of unintended consequences yet still provides flexibility for unknown factors and variables that most certainly exist. For example, start with helping the people caught in a conflict they do not want. The United States has the ability to marshal unrivaled humanitarian aid, yet, we contemplate our military options instead. Bombs have a strange property of killing innocent people and creating large and negative unintended consequences. Easing suffering has fewer quagmires.

The main point to all of this is that the human world is complicated, violent, unfair and ruthless. Cause and effect is never clear cut. Our focus on the individual and national level should always be focused on understanding the properties of unknown and the preservation of the liberty of every human . We will fall short, of course, but our attempts will allow for more people to be spared the cruel fate of unintended consequences