May 14, 2012
Recently President Obama announced that he supports gay marriage. But he also said that if states want to continue discriminating against gays, it's their decision. I assume the President also believes Abe Lincoln should have stayed out of the slavery issue under the theory that the states should decide which rights they grant their minority populations. (Someone clever said that before I did. I forget who.)

Meanwhile, President Obama is using scarce federal funds to shut down marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical marijuana. On this issue, the President is opposed to states' rights.

The interesting thing about the dual issues of gay marriage and medical marijuana is that both have a track record that can be evaluated. Why not use science, or at least economics, to figure out what works?

In places where gay marriage has been legal for some time, what has been the cost to society? Has the social structure crumbled? Did taxes go up? Did any hetero Christians turn gay from peer pressure? Was there an outbreak of bestiality? Did it rain toads?

Medical marijuana has also been practiced long enough in some places to have a track record. Did the states that legalized medical marijuana experience an uptick in traffic deaths? Or did all of the stoners driving home from the dispensaries slow commute traffic and make things safer? Did residents eat too many munchies and become obese? Did cancer patients start robbing convenience stores to pay for their habit?

One could argue that the minimum requirement to be called a leader is that you don't wait for your Vice President to become so embarrassed by your position on a prominent national issue (gay marriage) that he takes control, forcing you to meekly follow. President Obama glibly said that Vice President Biden "got over his skis" when he came out in support of gay marriage. Actually, Biden displayed leadership. I understand why the President didn't recognize it.

On the Republican side, Romney is like a bag that's half snakes and half candy. When you put your hand in, you never know what you're getting. Romney might be awesome. I like the general idea of putting a turnaround expert in the oval office at a time when we need one. But the reality is that we don't know what we're getting with Romney. He is, after all, a robot that professes a deep belief in magic. Good luck predicting how that would shake out.

President Obama is getting a lot of credit for killing Bin Laden. But how much credit should we give to luck? It was lucky timing that our intelligence people located Bin Laden during Obama's term. And if no one knew for sure that Bin Laden was at the compound before the attack was launched, the President was guessing. He guessed right, but guessing isn't a repeatable skill. And realistically, you and I would have made the same decision to launch a strike.

In theory, the United States is protected from revolution because we have the option of voting out the bums we don't like. The reality, which is sinking in, is that our only option is to replace bums with bums. As long as no candidate feels the need to be philosophically consistent, or to base decisions on data, we don't have a functional government.

That's why I favor starting an emergency backup government using social media. I think we need an insurance policy against the total breakdown of civilization. We need a backup government that's ready to go in case our existing form of government loses its last shred of credibility and citizens start ignoring it.

Other countries have an emergency backup government in place. It's called the army. When the civilian government loses credibility with the people, the army can step in and maintain order while a new government is formed. That's roughly the case in Egypt and Pakistan, for example. But that sort of system has a high cost. The citizens of the United States wouldn't want a military government as an emergency backup. I think this country would prefer some sort of government-in-a-box backup solution that is organized over the Internet.

I think the major problem with our current form of government is that although the major parties are competing with each other, the system itself is a monopoly. There's no competition for the federal government as a whole. I think it would be useful to form a shadow government on the Internet, complete with chosen leaders and policies. That would create a sort of competition for the existing government. The media could keep tabs on how many citizens have a preference for the shadow government over the existing one. If the shadow government gets too much support, the existing government is likely to evolve to avoid relegation.

Competition is good. We need some competition for our entire system of government, not just competition within it. We also need an insurance policy in case citizens decide to revolt. Admittedly, that's a small risk, but that's the point of insurance - to protect against small risks with catastrophic potential.

If you think competition is good, insurance is prudent, and fact-based leadership is better than naked politics and superstition, you should be in favor of forming an emergency backup government on the Internet.

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May 14, 2012
Also, something very important to realise:

The last time a shadow government in the US challenged the elected government, there was a bloody Civil War that almost destroyed the country.
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
Your backup emergency government would fail miserably- it has no teeth. The moment it showed any, or the intent to acquire some, big dog would squish it.
I like your assessment of the candidates though.
+26 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
The de-democratization of congress essentially coincided with the rise of the Internet. When elected officials have to sign a pledge to toe the party line in order to get the support they need to win re-election - we no longer have local representation. Power is concentrated in fewer hands - and that power is directly proportional to the financial leverage they have over campaign coffers.

We don't need a shadow government. We need to find ways to thwart the concentration of power and party polarization. We need to engage more people in intelligent debate - instead of the mindless drivel that passes for political discussion these days. We also need an education system that teaches kids to think and exposes them to history, politics and a broader understanding of local, national and international issues.

Someone, somewhere needs to find a way to make critical thinking cool - and then place tools to foster it in the hands of the masses.
May 14, 2012
Some things:

1. The idea that an internet based shadow government is undermined by the very internet that gives us reddit, facebook, and this blog forum. I find the notion that such a government would be any less dysfunctional sadly amusing.

2. The idea that 'Anyone would have made the decision' RE: bin Ladin is very presumptive. If anything Obama should get credit for the decision to send an extra helicopter, I'm not sure I would've thought of that.

3. Having a 'back-up plan' for governance sounds like a good idea, but it is in fact extremely dangerous in that it can undermine the legitimacy of an elected government - setting it up to fail. The dysfunctionality of the current system is in fact mostly a result of the two-party system which leads to a government (the party in power) and a shadow government (the other party). The entire goal of both parties is to attack the other party so that they can be in power next. The few that actually want to accomplish anything are prevented by the fact anything you do will be labeled as treasonous by the other party - even if it was their idea to begin with (ie Romneycare -> Obamacare)
-7 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
May 14, 2012
No, it wasn't pure coincidence that bin Laden happened to be found while Obama happened to be in office. Bush had ceased the search for bin Laden long before Obama took office to concentrate on his wars. It has been widely reported.
+25 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
I agree with much of what you say here Scott. But you seem to imply that we need a shadow government, because the current government is not doing *enough*. While in reality it is already really doing too much. It should be restricting itself to protecting us from crimes that are Malum Per Se (murder, theft, etc.) rather than deciding what activities should be designated as Malum Prohibitum (trans fat eating, pot smoking).

It's not clear to me why the government has to decide what contactual agreements are made between (among) consenting adults (gay marriage, polygamy) or what items they should or should not ingest (salt, pot, etc). So its inactivity in these areas would be better than any decision one way or the other.

One example that I have heard about with not allowing gay marriage is that only spouses or family are allowed in the hospital. But why is there any such a rule/law at all ? Why does the patient not have the right to have whomever they want in the room (beyond rational numerical limits certainly). This seems a perfect example where fewer rules/laws would be better than any new ones.
+5 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012

Spot on. One of your best assessments.

My only reservation about suffrage is that when elections are institutionalised, the voter chooses a ruler instead of a leader. Hopefully a shadow government will have a natural leader.

Have you noticed, while the politicians and media are keeping the citizens busy with trivial issues like gay marriages, private wealth is systematically moving out of the US. A significant part of the US treasury is now owned by Saudi Arabia, China and other nations.

The shadow government must raise real issues and not pre-empt the few avenues that the people may have.

May 14, 2012
Lincoln wasn't out to free the slaves. It turned into a political necessity.

I agree: Romney is half-snake and half-candy.

Some advisors argued against the raid on bin Laden. There was no direct evidence he was there, and if he hadn't been there Obama would be working on damage control for the remainder of this, his last term in office. Realistically, you and I could easily have taken the more prudent course of waiting for more information and/or speaking with the Pakistani government, both of which could have let bin Laden slip away. The raid was a bold decision, and, yes, Obama deserves credit for that decision, just as he would have deserved the burden if it turned out another way. You keep the gains from your stock-market investments, right? And if you choose wrong, you suffer the losses.

I agree: The only option is to replace bums with bums.

You weren't told about the shadow government? We've already got one. Shhhh. It's a secret. Give us a little more time and we'll have a constitutional convention, and we'll replace the current constitution with one of our own devising. I imagine it'll be a couple-hundred years before the politicians gets the new one all undermined and worked around, so the new constitution will have an expiration date.
May 14, 2012
In response to Melvin1, there is a movement to create a viable centrist party based on an old name: the Modern Whig Party. Their motives seem sensible, but I don't know if they can garner the needed support.
May 14, 2012
Full disclosure: I'm a card carrying Mormon.

Your criticism of Romney for his professed belief in "magic" show's a basic misunderstanding of Mormonism's differences from mainstream Christianity. Traditional Christian's profess a belief in grace – a mere acceptance of Christ as key to salvation. Mormon's subscribe to the dogma that salvation comes through Christ after all they can do on their own.

Mormonism pushes it's members to be the best they can be. As a devout member Romney has been raised to believe he won't receive any divine assistance without first making his best effort.
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
"The reality, which is sinking in, is that our only option is to replace bums with bums."

I don't think you are right about that. The reality that is sinking in for me is that I don't have to vote for bums. I'm voting against Obama and if Romney secures GOP nomination and not voting for him either. I'm voting Ron Paul. Because, and this is my new policy, I don't vote for bums.

I voted for Ron Paul over Romney in this GOP primary. It was my first time being that kind of weirdo and it felt gooooood. I haven't tried marijuana so I can't tell which would have felt better. I only get to vote for Paul once more this year so maybe that's your answer.
May 14, 2012
How would the emergency backup government take over the existing government? It seems to me that whoever has the most guns wins. How could the military be convinced to revolt?
May 14, 2012
We have a backup system. It's called agorism and it's already working (without providing a back up for the one thing that is completely unnecessary and counterproductive in the current "system".)
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
Your analysis of the current candidates and situation is spot-on. But the "backup government" plan is unnecessary and dangerous. Our system can seem immovable partially because it was carefully crafted to be stable. Nations/empires fail when a charismatic leader uses unease among the people to remake the government to his liking. Any mechanism that makes immediate, dramatic changes in governance easy will also make it unstable. Even when FDR had huge majorities and the people behind him, he was constrained (somewhat) by the Supreme Court (hence his plan to pack it).

If our government is currently drifting in the wrong direction, the solution is tweak it back.
Perhaps your internet plan could be used, rather than replace the current system, to introduce another party or parties. If we could develop a strong centrist party that takes the ideas that most Americans agree on, and dismisses the radical ones on both ends, it might be the push back toward the center that seems to be missing.
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