Building Trust

A high technology world is a world fundamentally based on trust. The lack of this is currently the single largest issue, defining politics within and without national borders.

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Forward, America!

Emmanuel Macron’s La Republique en Marche party is racking up huge gains in the parliamentary elections, verifying the clear message previously sent by French voters – we want something different. Because of their clear choice we also may have an answer to the question posed by restless voters throughout the developed world for the last two years. What is it that they want? Something different, more than anything.

American politics, between elections, is frozen in the choices made last November. All we have to debate is an endless array of minutia, all of which are subject to interpretation for one simple reason – no one can possibly make sense of a lot of details.

We need a distraction, something which takes our focus away from the dazzling details. We need a shinier object that breaks us out of the endless recounting of trees, not forest. And there is nothing Shinier than high technology.

If a political philosophy based on technology seems cynical, consider Macron’s statement, “We need new methods, not ideas.” Let’s take that one step further and make it a platform. Introducing the real Progressives, perhaps called Forward America, likely nicknamed the Technocrats.

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New Line of Thought

This piece is actually from an old blog I had in 1999.  This was before the current Depression, before the Millenium, and indeed before the word “blog” was commonly used.  This is part of a retrospective heading into the tenth anniversary of Barataria this April.  It is presented unchanged from 18 years ago.

Politics is often defined in America by an intense partisan struggle. The language used is one of division: red states versus blue, Fox versus NPR. Not only is most of this nonsense, it is actually dangerous.

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Scalia Scowls – Take Notice

The Supreme Court has released a number of opinions, and it’s been a tough week for conservatives. Most of the focus has been on the big political fights – federal subsidy for state “Obamacare” exchanges was upheld and marriage equity is the law of the land in all fifty states. It was the latter that gave us the most blistering dissent from Justice Scalia:

“A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote in one of the more coherent statements in his dissent.

But another ruling, striking down part of the Federal “Three Strikes” law, illustrates judicial activism even more clearly. All of this begs the question as to where Scalia’s logic was in the “Citizens United” ruling in 2012 that declared corporations to be people, too. There is judicial activism, yes, but it’s more about filling in the gaps left by years of a completely dysfunctional Congress. Someone has to be the adults – even one branch of government has to endure Scalia’s sometimes childish ranting.

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Capital Idea

It was 70F in St Paul today, and my mind is on other things.  This repeat from 2013 is still good, but the numbers have changed slightly since it was written.

Borrowing money isn’t bad.  When it’s used to purchase something big that will last for years, like a house or a car, it often makes sense to do it now and pay the finance charge.  Borrowing to buy equipment or a build to be rented is an investment – as is borrowing money to learn a good trade.

When we look at how the Federal government borrows to keep itself going we can and should be able to ask the same questions – was this an investment?  Did we get anything good for the money?  Unfortunately, the accounting practices used by the Feds lump capital and other investment into the same pot as operational expenses, making it impossible to tease everything out.  It’s a procedure the Founding Fathers would recognize, if you wanna get all Tea Party on the practice.  But it’s still a dangerously stupid way to run things – and totally counter to the way any business or state is run.

As we talk about the need for serious reform in Washingtoon, we should add this to the list.

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The Opportunity Cost

You can’t have your cake and eat it, too.  It’s a silly old saying with a huge dollop of folk wisdom hidden in the middle of it.  But money spent is sometimes more than just money gone – in an integrated world it’s a choice to make one connection when another one might have been a better choice.

Rather than just measure how much money is going in and out, it might be better to understand what we could buy with the same money.  The technical term for this is “Opportunity Cost”, or what we give up by making the choices we do.

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Government 101

What does it take for a developing nation to move ahead and join the ranks of the developed world?  For all the tremendous advances for at least some developing nations in the last decade or more, there is still a gap.  Brazil is not quite developed nation yet on the eve of their 2 year long coming out party due to start with the World Cup next year.  It’s not that the people aren’t trying, it’s not that the nation doesn’t want to be there.  It’s that it’s hard, dedicated work.  It’s that … the problem is almost too simple to understand.

The fundamentals of running a government always seem to slip between the cracks of the politics that define any nation.  The US is no different from any other in that regard – look no further than the calls to first push us over a “fiscal cliff” and now perhaps shut down the government for the lack of a budget (or continuing resolution).  But that’s what it’s all about, regardless.  And in developing nations we can see what the global leadership crisis really looks like – a lack of Government 101.

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