When Gorbachev set out to reform the Soviet Union one of the mottos he adopted was glasnost, “openness”. Or as he put it, “First we have to stop the lying.” He recognized that the problems with the Soviet system could not be solved unless or until people faced some unpleasant truths. We are in a similar position in the United States and the world today. Our way of life is threatened by our lies and our eagerness to believe them. There may not be easy solutions, or even any solutions at all, but without being brutally honest with one another, we have no chance.
Lies of our leaders
Leave the details to us. Demanding a reform without providing the details is not asking someone to do something for us. It is asking for something to be done to us.
We know what to do. No they don’t. There is not a single person in a position of power anywhere who really understands our problems or knows how to solve them, and neither does anyone else. All we’ve got are guesses and hopes for luck.
Tricky titles. Beware of titles of legislation that promise much and are better designed to be counterproductive: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act that does not protect or care for patients and is not affordable. Patriot Act that isn’t. Jobs bills that destroy more jobs than they create.
Government needs taxes to pay its bills. No, it can always create money out of thin air to pay its bills. Taxes are to remove enough money from circulation to offset the money created so it doesn’t produce runaway inflation that would hurt investors.
Debt-based currency is good. No, it is recipe for disaster and the disaster is about to fall on us. Money not backed by something of stable value that cannot be created out of nothing has always let to disaster, through history. There may not be enough gold or silver for coins, but we could use units of energy to back our currencies.
Judges can be trusted to decide the law. No, most become judges because they couldn't make it as lawyers, and learn law from the cases that come to them, but without having time to research or reflect deeply, and often lack the disposition to avoid bias or political pressure. That is why juries were invented, to review the decisions of judges in rendering a verdict.
Prosecutors and police can be trusted to only go after the bad guys. Not when they advance their careers by getting convictions regardless of injustice. That is also why juries were invented, and if you sit on a jury don't believe any of them.
The income tax, federal reserve notes, and entitlement spending are constitutional. No they’re not. They are nothing but a hoax, and people are gullible enough to fall for it.
Lies we love
Taxing the rich will be enough to avoid spending cuts. No it won’t. Even taxing not just 100% of the income of the rich, but 100% of their assets, would bring in nowhere near enough, and it would drive the money out of the country.
All we have to do is [something simple]. Probably not. Simple remedies will almost never work, and are more likely to backfire. If its simple, obvious, and easy, it is almost certainly a bad idea, and likely a disastrously bad idea. Public policy is not simple, obvious, or easy, any more than medicine or engineering. The simple solutions that work have probably already been in use for hundreds of years.
All we have to do is pass a law against [something].There are only a few countries in the world in which people obey laws without intense enforcement, and most not even then. The United States used to be one of them, but Prohibition and traffic laws have largely wrecked that kind of civic virtue. The reality today in most countries is that the only laws that most people are likely to obey are the ones that just codify what they are already disposed to do anyway. That especially applies to treaties. The U.S. is one of the few countries in which one can go to court to get a treaty enforced. In most a treaty is only enforced by a credible threat of war. That is why most environmental treaties are exercises in hypocritical window-dressing. No one is going to war to enforce them, and therefore they will be ignored in practice in almost every country.
Electing X will save us. Not just one X, and electing better people is only part of what is needed. We need better people in public office, but there are not enough who might be able to at least guess right to replace all the ones that need to be replaced. We need to cultivate a new crop, and it is very late to start. They need to institute fundamental structural and procedural reforms that are very complicated and subtle, reforms that almost no one grasps.
Major party nominees have been vetted. No, in many contests they are just the only ones who filed. Most major party nominations go to the candidate who spends the most money, who may not represent the rank-and-file of that party.
Voters decide wisely. Do you decide wisely? And if you don't, what about others? You and everyone else need to research election choices carefully, not just vote on the basis of habit or vague feelings.
A vote for a minor party candidate is wasted. No, it is not wasted if it influences public policy, and a vote for a minor candidate may do that better than one for a better-known and supported one. The election outcome is very unlikely to depend on one vote.
Spending cuts will save or create jobs immediately. No. They will help in the long run, and may avoid economic collapse in the short run, but in the short term all of the alternatives are likely to make things worse. Our choices do not include keeping things as good as they are now. We had those choices 40 years ago but we don’t now. Our only choices now are between bad and worse.
Deregulation will save or create jobs immediately. Not much in the short term. We have to do it for the long term but jobs have gone off-shore because capital investment has, and there is no easy way to get it to come back unless conditions elsewhere get so bad that this country looks safer. The good news is those jobs are coming back. The bad news is that when they do they will be done by machines.
Reduced emissions and green energy will save jobs. We have to do it, but it won’t do much for jobs other than avoid losing even more of them. China alone is increasing its emissions far faster than we could ever reduce ours. Only something like solar collectors on the moon beaming power to Earth might work, and not enough people understand the merits of that.
The market will save us. It is likely to be better in the long term, but as long as financial institutions are too big they will fail in ways that hurt all of us. No amount of regulation will avoid that, or save their stakeholders from their own mismanagement. They just have to be broken up into very small pieces, and that has to be done everywhere on Earth.
We can feed seven billion people. Yes, but probably not for much longer, because they won’t be able to pay for it, and neither can we. Things are going to get rough.
A good college degree will get you a good job. Get real. The main purpose of a college education is to learn how to learn all kinds of things, and to acquire a common cultural base and civic awareness, not to train for a narrow specialty.
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Jon Roland for U.S. Senate Libertarian Jonroland.net lptexas.org lp.org