Activism Without Politics
Politics can be a trap. You can expend a great deal of effort and be foiled by the opposition, or society is just not ready for your ideas. Time spent on politics might be better spent on changing society. And when society changes, the political landscape can then be changed.
Many of the ideas on this site have to be done politically or they cannot be done. One cannot privately free those who are imprisoned or change the tax code. That said, there are ideas that can be done right now without winning a single election, and others that might be doable without changes in the law. Here are just a few of the ideas:
The concentration of power in the hands of big corporations is due to several factors. One of them is access to capital. Come up with cheaper ways for startups and smaller corporations to get capital, and big corporations get more competition. Bill Gates is rich because people who could write a better operating system cannot get the capital necessary to refine their ideas. (Want to make Bill Gates less rich? Hook me up with some capital…)
A good example of someone trying to fix this problem is WR Hambrecht and Company. See their openipo.com web site. They have set up a system for allowing small investors to get on the ground floor of initial public offerings. We need more ideas and actions like this. How about a similar mechanism for secondary public offerings? How about a new stock exchange designed for small startups, with rules that are strict enough to protect investors but simple enough to avoid overhead? (This may require an exemption from the SEC…) How about a stock exchange which encourages shareholder democracy? How about requiring electronic accounts by shareholders to eliminate paper annual reports? How about allowing shareholders to have message boards and really hear from those running for the board of directors? (Once again, there may be problems with the SEC.)
Another reason for big corporations is economies of scale. For example, I bank with a huge national bank because I can get free access to a cash machine just about anywhere. Perhaps smaller banks should trade free ATM service with each other’s customers. We need entrepreneurs to look for the many such opportunities to separate the large scale aspects of business from those easily handled on a local basis. Best Western handles reservations, advertising, and standards maintenance for hotels that are otherwise completely independent. How about a similar network for locally owned and managed fast food restaurants? The network could guarantee standards of speed, price and cleanliness to travelers on the interstates while member restaurants could provide varied menus, ambience, and management styles.
Transaction costs are high in these days of gagging on gnats and swallowing camels legalism. Perhaps we need some new business to business arbitration networks.
There are opportunities in helping people get started: business incubators, discount legal services, etc.
Perhaps the way to fix the welfare system is to have private charities fill some of the gaps. See Welfare That Works. A problem with our existing system is that the benefit cut-off is often too sharp. Perhaps charitable services aimed at those who are between welfare and independence, and those who are working but hitting hard times, are in order. How about discount legal services?
Medicine is a big problem! Full coverage for some results in people bidding up medical costs. Under coverage for others results in people misusing the emergency rooms. Some companies are experimenting with catastrophic coverage combined with medical savings accounts. Some doctors are rejecting the bureaucratic pre paid medicine model and going back to cash for services rendered. See www.simplecare.com.
I think other possibilities are also worth trying. How about an insurance plan with a variable co-payment? During years with low expenses the co-payment can be high. As costs rise, the co-payment percent drops, but never goes to zero. The patient can afford to pay, but still has an incentive to shop. Currently, we have high-deductible plans available. This is the equivalent to a 100% co-payment followed by something much less, such as 20-30%. This gives patients some incentive to shop for the basic services but far less once the threshold is reached. How about a 50% co-payment for the bottom? Then, we can go up much higher before co-payments need to drop before healthcare becomes unaffordable?
I don’t have much for you here yet (as of July 2007), but here's a good link: Rocky Mountain Institute.
If you want to change the moral tone in this country, you have to fix the school system. When public schools allow brats and bullies to disrupt the classroom and persecute the weak on a regular basis, the lesson taught is that morality does not pay. When the schooling is required well beyond puberty in order to allow a career start, you get bastard children and abortions.
Want to cut the abortion rate? Want to see less sex out of wedlock? Create a society where sex starved teenagers can get married without disastrous consequences. Here is a simple biological fact: 16 year olds are very, very horny. Some people say give them condoms, and let them have access to abortion if that fails. I say get them ready for adulthood before they do the adult thing.
Start job training at 12 for those destined to be blue collar workers. Meanwhile, the future mathematician should be doing calculus at age 15 or less. The future writer should be reading great literature years before the linguistically challenged. The future programmer should write his first lines of code at 12. Our current assembly-line model of schooling holds people down to the level of their peers. Students are not allowed to move faster where they have stronger talents. The idea of being in a particular grade should be abolished.
When I say fix the school system, I don’t mean fix the public schools. I don’t think this is possible. I mean develop cheaper private schools, and more tools for home schooling. The home school movement has done great things along these lines, but methinks there are more opportunities yet.
Another action for moralists is to replace the welfare system with private charity. The current system discourages work, thrift and marriage. Offer help to those who need it and yet turn down government assistance. Offer help to the struggling married couple so they don’t have to divorce to qualify for welfare. Offer private school scholarships to the poor. Let the government have the goof-offs and the bullies, and rescue the true students from the hellish places known as inner city schools. See “God’s Welfare System” for ideas that you can apply.
Finally, there are opportunities to improve the Church itself. Jesus warned of traditions getting in the way of practicing the will of God. The Reformation got rid of some of these traditions but not all. Meanwhile new false traditions have arisen. I will write on some of these in “The New Levites.” Stay tuned.