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When a new and great idea comes into the world it will often simultaneously pop up in lots of different places. I assume that's because something in the environment is triggering people to think of the same solutions.

I've blogged a few times about the need to use the Internet more directly to influence policy debates. And now we have a 28-year old candidate for Congress, David Cole, who is doing just that, by putting his platform on popular software development site GitHub for public editing and debate.

This is a bigger deal than you think because if "showing your work" online becomes the norm, how do lobbyists continue to ply their trade? It would be embarrassing for an elected official to vote in a way that is contrary to the "best" argument on his own website.

I was just watching Niall Ferguson's TV special, Civilization: The West and the Rest. (It's GREAT, by the way.) He explains the factors that caused the West to rise to dominance. Summary: The West had better political and economic systems.

But at the moment, we really don't have the best political and economic system. I think that honor goes to China, at least in terms of projecting their economic dominance. And if you don't buy the argument that China has a better system, at least you can agree that the American system of government is broken, mostly because of big money interests.

David Cole might have just fixed that problem....and changed the course of civilization. Sorry, China. Nice try.

I don't know if Cole will get elected. But his approach got enough attention to become inevitable without him, primarily because it all makes perfect sense. So I'll give him credit, should history every ask me.

____________________________________________________________________________________

Scott Adams

Co-founder of CalendarTree.com

 



 
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Mar 24, 2014
@Ludwig817

"Jaxid and oOOOo, the TEA party, for all who actually care to look, is mostly middle-age middle-income, plus a large number of retired. They are not crazies. It is all about fiscal responsibility ... "

Used to think that way. Conversed with many. Then watched as shrill extremism from the Tea Parties killed viable - but not sufficiently conservative - candidates and allowed the Senate to remain Democratic complete with Harry Reid as majority leader. We didn't get a whole lot of fiscal responsibility from that. Then watched the Tea Parties work way too hard to deny a subset of the population basic equality in marriage. That was and is just wrong. Not to mention, doomed to failure in even the medium run. Worst: the willful bad judgement flat out cedes large segments of independents to the enemies of fiscal responsibility. Which is incompetent politics: bad for the GOP, bad for the nation, bad for the Tea Parties.

I'd suggest you consider the effects of pushing candidates who may win a primary but then be nothing but a speed bump in the general election.
 
 
Mar 24, 2014
There is a bigger picture here.

The industrial age "we tell, you do" methodology is breaking down everywhere.
The social cat is out of the bag. People expect to have a say and to collaborate on anything they are involved in.

Gluu.biz, for example, allows people to create processes for their business collaboratively.
Basecamp allows them to collaborate on projects.
Even Microsoft has a collaboration tool (Yammer) - when they do it it must not be cutting edge!

This isn't just about politics. It is a worldwide change in how people work.
Good for Mr Cole in trying it in stuck in the mud "when we want your vote we'll ask for it" politics.

But if it made a difference, they wouldn't allow it.
 
 
Mar 22, 2014
it is a good idea and it will be interesting to see if one candidate doing something like this pressures others into doing it too.

I have the idea of having candidates voluntarily submit their ads for review by news sites before they air. Then they can include the news sites rating of the ad's accuracy in the ad. The news sites already fact check ads, but they do it afterwards and few people see them. I would hope in a political campaign if one side had their ads pre-verified and the other didn't, people would notice and it would force all candidates to have their ads verified before they showed them.
 
 
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Mar 21, 2014

I will be curious to see if Cole's online discussions follow the pattern of many other online discussions. Devolving off topic and into personal insults.


>It collapsed due to infighting and a struggle over who would get to wield that power and has devolved into a state of constant tribal warfare.

By definition, a lack of government. Without a strong government, you get 'devolving into a state of constant tribal warfare'. The key is to have a government that will keep the peace through strength, while protecting the rights of the minority.

I don't just mean racial minorities, but from all majorities that seek to dominate and gain power over others. (Protecting everyone's rights actually, but the majority usually don't get their rights trampled. Individuals need protection too, so I'll amend that to the government should make sure to protect the rights of the minorities and individuals.)

Saddam kept the peace at the expense of everyone that disagreed. North Korea doesn't have fighting in the streets nor protests, but at a very high price for all of them.

You don't like the Somalia example? Fine, pick any country fighting amongst themselves that has devolved into a state of constant tribal warfare.

>if you actually look at the statistics on either a time-series or cross-sectional comparison, they actually aren't doing that bad.

OK, but I'm not taking a cruise vacation near there without the Zumwalt as backup, or at least Phantom II if he still flies. And I'm certainly not investing in a business there, without a stable, dependable government.

I won't invest in Venezuela as they will confiscate private property, I need a stable, dependable government that only gains it's power through the consent of the governed.


>We're conditioned by the powers that be to believe that incredibly minor changes are actually really significant. .... Call me unimpressed.

Agreed.

I agree our government shifts itself slightly one way or the other, but that's the point. I want a government strong enough to stop violence and looting in New Orleans, and stop South Carolina from seceding through war (and owning people), but one that doesn't allow someone like Idi Amin to shoot me in the head. Roosevelt to Reagan. It's peaceful changes in government all the way down until you get to the turtles.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 21, 2014
With regard to the competing arguments advanced in this thread by CliffClaven and Phantom II, the following study may be of interest:

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/earth-insight/2014/mar/14/nasa-civilisation-irreversible-collapse-study-scientists
 
 
Mar 21, 2014
Thats is an idea that I think it long overdue.

I would also like to see something more along the lines of an 'american idol' battle of ideologies. where viewers nominate and vote on arguments/counterarguments for their respective causes.

i would love to see theism vs atheism. each party gets their own thread, so it would be a series of simultaneous discussions of 2(n-1) participants.

I think wikipedia is a landmark IP, but is really incomplete without active discussions pages with upvoted arguments. There is so much more it could be.

Succinctness and other qualities would be in the interest of proponents. You wouldn't get poorly constructed misspelled arguments rising in controversial socially relevent subjects, unless 1 side was full of complete morons.

would be interesting to see a dialogue on racism as well. so much of that topic is so inflammatory that speech is basically censored, and ideas never get to compete on own logical merit.
 
 
Mar 21, 2014
To Phantom II:

[WTF are you talking about? "The size of American government is in many ways made necessary by the size of self-interested corporations?" What does that mean? A government that spends $4 trillion a year is necessitated by the size of a few corporations? You need to back that up with something other than your feelings.]

Okay, the growth of government and laws is also fueled by population growth, technological advances, the need to address social changes, the need to deal with foreign countries (including hostile ones), etc. But I will venture a goodly number of laws and tax code exist because somebody is trying to close a loophole and somebody else is being paid to open and expand loopholes. In fact, a number of self-interested corporations go the tax magicians one better and get major money FROM the government. If WalMart (or its contractors) is paying a significant number of employees so little that government assistance is keeping them alive, my tax dollars are paying to give WalMart an artificial and parasitical advantage over its competitors. And when congressmen rally around a billion-dollar boondoggle the Pentagon doesn't want to protect a comparatively small number of jobs (guess where the rest of the money is going), I'm paying a defense contractor to divert money and resources from actual defense needs -- unless we up the spending even more.

[I hate to break it to you, man, but 2/3 of American employers are small businesses. So how do THEY control the agenda of our government?]

I hate to break it to you, but that remaining 1/3 -- probably a much smaller piece of it -- controls the majority of employEEs along with most of the market. You can say Amazon is just one of thousands of American booksellers, but it may well employ as many people as all the independent bookstores combined. And it's also causing bigger brick & mortar chains to crumble. I respectfully submit that such employers, with control of far greater market share, are better able to deploy lobbyists, lawyers, congressmen and media shills than, say, 90% of all employers.

[And then you go into this "if you can find a way" BS. Those things are what YOU want. It's not what the country NEEDS, Cliff.]

I spoke a bit sarcastically in asking if there was any way for a comparatively weak local government to protect its citizens' interests against an intrusive major corporation. But if you feel American citizens NEED to be at the abject mercy of any entity that can outspend them, that's your privilege.

[If you can find a way to do all the things you want to have happen without collapsing the US economy and driving us into thirld-world status, then let me know. I'd love to hear what your "solutions" are, that don't destroy our economy and drive our citizens even futher into poverty and government dependence.]

The point is, we need a strong federal government even if it inconveniences interests who stopped playing at capitalism long ago. If anything, further facilitating the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a tiny and not necessarily competent (let alone patriotic or even moral) aristocracy is the surest road to the mass poverty and government dependence you claim to find undesirable ("freemarket" tyrants will always keep a pet government around to quiet the peasants).

[I hate to break it to you, Cliff, but the $90 trillion we've promised to provide our citizens can't happen. Go ahead and tell me how the evil corporations are doing this to us. And then, tell me why our government spending us into so much debt that we can never get out of it is a good thing.]

Actually, the biggest thing we can do is to stop the redistribution of income. That is to say, stop it flowing upwards and decimating the middle class and devastating the growing class below it. Corporations -- or the stuffed suits who hide behind the legal fiction -- aren't so much evil as shortsighted and greedy. Those are common enough human traits, but dangerous ones when allowed to run rampant. And current "conservative" dogma actually elevates narrow self-interest at all costs to something like a religion. Stop the subsidies, tax breaks and indulgences to the self-appointed masters of the universe. We'll see soon enough who are the real innovators and job creators; the heirs and swindlers will fall by the wayside as they should (don't worry; they'll never plunge to the middle class level of want). Invest in infrastructure, not bailouts. If the economy rewards achievers instead litigators, if employees are paid for increased productivity instead of getting laid off for it, you will see tax revenues rise and the need for government assistance fall.

[I'd love to hear your answers.]

I doubt it.
 
 
Mar 21, 2014
I don't think this is necessary for politics. Basically politicans use happy sounding buzzwords and do what they want to do anyways. What will the internet do? It'll make you use happy sounding buzzwords just like the other guy, we won't be able to tell the difference between candidates, and the winner will just do what he wants to do anyways.

Right now it's already getting too difficult to tell people apart because everyone is using the same buzzwords on 95% of the issues even when they don't want to do the same thing.

At least the politician who says he wants to use taxpayer dollars to snort cr4ck off of a $1,000 an hour h00ker's butt is honest and we'll know what we are getting.
 
 
Mar 21, 2014
Jaxid and oOOOo, the TEA party, for all who actually care to look, is mostly middle-age middle-income, plus a large number of retired. They are not crazies. It is all about fiscal responsibility, so it should be obvious why almost every established politician fears them. They do not mud-sling, or emit garbage as a group. As evidenced by their large gatherings, as a group, they are well behaved, leave the venues cleaner than when they arrived, and don't assault opposing activists who wander into their midst to bate them. oOOOo, the GOP is not infatuated with them. In fact, the GOP establishment feels threatened by them. For example, Mitch McConnell recently offered his firm opinion that the GOP will crush the TEA party across the country. Beware of forming an opinion of any group from the propaganda of others.
 
 
Mar 21, 2014
MTBob,

I would encourage you to do some more research on Somalia. The problem there is hardly "too little government." The previous Somali government had as much power and authority as any other authoritarian state. It collapsed due to infighting and a struggle over who would get to wield that power and has devolved into a state of constant tribal warfare. The problem isn't that Somalians got together and collectively decided to embrace a minimalist state which created chaos. The problem is that factions are warring over who gets to be the central authority, and that no clear victor has emerged.

That said, if you actually look at the statistics on either a time-series or cross-sectional comparison, they actually aren't doing that bad. By almost every relevant measure, they're doing better now than they were under their previous government. They're also doing better now *as compared to similar African nations* than they were under their previous government. Chaotic though the situation may seem, it's actually an improvement over what they had before in almost every measurable way.

Finally, I'm curious as to which nations you believe "allow peaceful changes in government." I assume you would include the U.S. in that, in which case I would beg to disagree. I would suggest to you that we haven't had any significant changes in government since 1913. That one was peaceful (although you could argue those changes directly resulted in America's involvement in WW1). Prior to that, the last major change was probably in the 1860s, and that was hardly peaceful...

We're conditioned by the powers that be to believe that incredibly minor changes are actually really significant. The talking heads would have you believe that Obama's economic policies represent an entirely communist state where the government controls all of the money, resources, and individuals have zero rights. The other talking heads would have you believe that Mitt Romney's economic policies represent total anarchy, and a lassiez-faire environment where the poor are left to starve on the streets and the government does nothing to help anybody. The real difference between them? One wants you to be taxed at 35%, the other wants you to be taxed at 40%. Call me unimpressed.
 
 
Mar 21, 2014
I love the underlying idea, but... How would this guy prevent people who don't vote for him from ruining his platform for the people who did? Wouldn't this inevitably lead to mob rule?
 
 
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Mar 21, 2014

Government is a tough puzzle.
Too much and you get North Korea, too little you get Somalia.
Lean a little too far one way, you get Russia, too far the other, you get Greece.
Reagan. Roosevelt.

There are few countries that get it right, avoiding violence in the streets, while allowing peaceful changes in government.

Keep the peace
Protect minority rights
Allow prosperity

When it's done in secret, when I'm not represented, when money buys the law, it can't work.

How well is Obama's Petition the Government working?
[My administration is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in government. We will work together to ensure the public trust and establish a system of transparency, public participation and collaboration. Openness will strengthen our democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in government.]

I hope they have a fair and vigilant moderator to keep the discussions civil and productive.


Mr. Cole, I wish you the best of luck.

 
 
Mar 21, 2014
Very cool. I think I just suggested that the Cole for Congress campaign work to reverse the recent New Jersey ban on direct sale by auto makers (i.e., Tesla) to NJ consumers. It'll be interesting to see what happens next.

Thanks, Scott.
 
 
Mar 20, 2014
CliffClaven:

WTF are you talking about? "The size of American government is in many ways made necessary by the size of self-interested corporations?" What does that mean? A government that spends $4 trillion a year is necessitated by the size of a few corporations? You need to back that up with something other than your feelings.

I hate to break it to you, man, but 2/3 of American employers are small businesses. So how do THEY control the agenda of our government?

And then you go into this "if you can find a way" BS. Those things are what YOU want. It's not what the country NEEDS, Cliff.

If you can find a way to do all the things you want to have happen without collapsing the US economy and driving us into thirld-world status, then let me know. I'd love to hear what your "solutions" are, that don't destroy our economy and drive our citizens even futher into poverty and government dependence.

I hate to break it to you, Cliff, but the $90 trillion we've promised to provide our citizens can't happen. Go ahead and tell me how the evil corporations are doing this to us. And then, tell me why our government spending us into so much debt that we can never get out of it is a good thing.

I'd love to hear your answers.
 
 
-2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2014
Lobbyists? Really?

Well, maybe. If you include Al Gore and his AGW acolytes. If you include the liberal main stream media that cannot balance a checkbook - probably because they have invested their lives in being interesting for 20-second sound-bytes and are incapable of double-digit math. If you include the Right Reverend Al (of Tawana Brawley Hoax fame) Sharpton and his all victim all the time racist choir which of course includes the New Black Panthers of poll intimidation and bounties for George Zimmerman renown. If you include the IRS Director Lois ("I invoke my fifth amendment rights") Lerner and her cohorts all too willing to bureaucratically attack those with whom they disagreed - or feared reform from. If you include the immortal Clinton Jugger-naught with its amazingly ineffective reset buttons and paralysis by analysis. If you include the two-headed Reid/Pelosi monster and the "vote for it to see what's in it" insanity. If you include the Occupy Movement, their back-to-nature rhetoric (as long as they have their iPhones, iPads, power, cell network access plus free wifi) and their toxic waste leavings.

Pretty sure that's not who Scott meant.

Scott probably meant lobbyists for say, the insurance industry. You know, the ones who very nearly had their rice bowl crushed by Obamacare. (Notice the Chinese metaphor?) Or perhaps the military industrial complex, the complex getting all kinds of things cut. While I'll agree this executive branch and Senate are pretty awful, don't think that lobbyists getting their way thingy is a slam dunk. Tort lawyers? Yeah, those lobbyists definitely ripped all of us off. And then some. There's a 1% I could be persuaded deserves extra taxation - except that such would open many other 1%s to retributive taxation.

Not entirely surprised to see Scott give props to the Communist Party of China Politburo. Scott also is rather smitten with broad sweeping diktats. Oddly in contrast to how Dilbert views the pompous inanities of his nominal leadership. Personally I don't want Red Chinese Communist Party hacks - or Scott - deciding how many children I can have. Or any other PHB-type micro-mis-management. I'd like to think Dilbert is with me, but at time like this I do notice the man behind the curtain.

Hopefully the American people have sufficiently re-educated themselves on the dangers of allowing too much power to progressives, liberals and even more volatile left-leaning dreamers. And hopefully the Independents'/GOP's infatuation with Tea Party crazies has also run it's course. It would be good to have economically literate adults in charge again - provided they are not inclined to micro-manage who can marry whom, run guns to Mexican drug lords, ignore pleas for security at our embassies, flush taxpayer dollars down solar cell pseudo-companies, or encourage blatantly racist voter intimidation.

But I don't know that such will be the case, even if it does make something like sense to me. Elections are long, messy, slow-motion train-wrecks narrated by the ever suspect main stream media. Dirty tricks have become something like certainty - if not one candidate to another, then by a cabal of journ-o-lists to anyone who doesn't cause a thrill to run up their leg. I don't think history will be asking me anything. Even if I did successful put forth the concept that we should pick our leaders like we pick our jurors - with the caveat that anyone who wants the job can't have it.

(Image uploads are not supported here, else the photo of the young man placing the flower in the tank barrel would be very, very appropriate. Wonder what happened to him? Did the Chinese Communist Party [honor] him for his iconic moment by [projecting their economic dominance]? www.google.com/search?q=tiananmen square flower tank)
 
 
Mar 20, 2014
Phantom II: The size of American government is in many ways made necessary by the size of self-interested corporations. This is not to defend the current mess, which actually reflects the corruptive influence of these institutions, but to challenge the simplistic idea that leaving the big kids to beat up the little kids -- who have the "freedom" to not get beat up -- will produce a happy playground.

If you can propose a way to empower local-level government to prevent conglomerates from gutting the regional economy, destroying its natural resources, crushing innovation and competition, undermining its citizens' liberties and generally delivering all the plagues traditionally associated with tyrannical governments, I'm sure we'd all be eager to hear it.
 
 
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Mar 20, 2014
At some point the score of which country is "winning" should shift from economics to environment. China scores poorly there, with toxic air in their major cities. I'm afraid the US may not be leading either, as the fracking bonanza in the midwest leads to fundamentally poisoned earth and ground water.

Economic riches aren't worth much if you can't breathe or drink.
 
 
Mar 20, 2014
Well, no.

Let's deconstruct this.

Let me start with this statement: ". . .at least you can agree that the American system of government is broken, mostly because of big money interests."

You do this SO often. You take a hugely controversial statement and try to gain agreement for it by using a phrase like, "at least we can all agree that. . ." No, I don't agree.

Look at the US government. It's spending almost $4 trillion a year while taking in around $2.4 trillion. The national debt is at almost $15 trillion, while unfunded liabilities (promises the government has made to the support of its citizens) exceed $90 trillion.

And yet luminaries like Representative Nancy Pelosi, when asked how the government can cut spending, said this: "The cupboard is bare. There’s no more cuts to make. It’s really important that people understand that."

You think the big problem with our government is big money interests? You're kidding, right? When our government tells us that $4 trillion a year in spending isn't enough, you blame some corporation's lobbyist? When we have mental giants like that as our representatives, how can you blame anyone but them?

I don't understand why you never seem to realize the root of the problem: our federal government is too big, too powerful and takes and spends too much of our money. Our leaders have become our rulers. Their only goal is to have ever-increasing power over our lives and control of our money. It's not business' fault, per se. They're just trying to buy enough influence to keep from having an unfriendly federal government tax and regulate them out of existence.

Now, let's look at China. Have you ever heard of "Potemkin villages," Scott? Things built in the Soviet Union (and elsewhere) to look like representative cities of great beauty, which are in reality no more than shams built to fool gullible westerners? China does a great job of looking really prosperous to those who look at them only superficially.

You seem to forget that that wonderful Chinese military gunned down their own unarmed people at Tiananmen Square (ironically, the word 'Tiananmen' means 'Heavenly Peace'), simply because they wanted more freedom. Or that 95% of the people in China live in what we would consider to be poverty? THAT is the country you think has the best political and economic system? What have you been smoking???

At the same time, China (largely due to the influence of Hong Kong) is becoming freer, while we are becoming less free. If you want to look at the direction in which each country is going, I'd have to agree that China is moving in the better direction.

Economically, China is beginning to move from socialism (government ownership and centralized planning of industry) to fascism (private ownership of business with centralized government planning). We are also moving economically toward fascism, with more and more control and regulation by the federal government, coupled with backhanded attempts to control both the velocity and direction of production (Solyndra).

So I would humbly propose that China is not the model we should aspire to emulate. Freedom is not high on the Chinese list of most-desired presentation to their population. If you really think they're that great, then you should consider moving there. I'm sure that Comrade Dilbertski would be a great hit. And I'm sure in the glorious Chinese economy you would be well paid for your work.

Totalitarian governments thrive on secrecy, Scott. One candidate putting some ideas on the Internet is nothing compared with the lack of transparency in our federal government. Ideas are wonderful, but laws and regulations are what count. And those are anything but transparent.
 
 
Mar 20, 2014
China? It's rapidly going the way of pretty much everybody, with the richest guys placing their short-term personal interests over everything else -- including long-term national economic dominance. With their unbreathable air and increasing reliance on imported fossil fuels, their version of capitalism isn't that big an improvement over an empire of competing bureaucrats protecting their respective grafts.

Economic systems are not religions, philosophies or hard scientific realities. They are tools. And like any tool, a capable carpenter can use it to build something or a jerk can smack somebody over the head with it.

 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
Mar 20, 2014
RayKremer, the government is largely playing Santa Claus not so much to low-income people but rather to rent-seekers (a large share of government workers and government contractors).

The real problem is the government mandates taxation for Social Security and Medicare, and uses a "paygo" system -- current workers are paying back for what past workers contributed. It's basically a mandatory retirement annuity. Why do people call it a pyramid scheme? Well, you need either increased taxes or a broader tax base to sustain those ever-increasing payouts. There was no savings; the government blew through all that money and then some, for pork projects, wars, bloated agenices, and whatever else kept the politicians in power and paid off their cronies one way or another.

It's a pretty amazing system in the USA, all right: the government forcibly takes a cut of people's money, just like any criminal gangster, and then buys their votes by offering to give them back a little bit of what was stolen (ALL mandatory income taxes are theft; and ALL compulsion, in the absence of contract, is evil).

If I were to operate according to the government's "rules," I could build a shed for my neighbor that he doesn't want or need, and then bill him for the "service," and fine and jail him if he refused to pay. Some system, eh?
 
 
 
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