Wednesday, February 16, 2011

An Ideal Society, as provided by the United States Constitution

An ideal society is one with individual liberties as championed by libertarians with a humanist government as championed by social democrats and a tax code that rewards companies hiring and paying good wages to U.S. workers.

Suggesting that an ideal society is possible via our Constitution is not saying America isn't already the greatest country in the world. Seeking to continually improve is a very American trait. Finding the right balance between the government doing the bare minimum and doing all that it can is important, but how it implements what it does is key.

An ideal society uses a capitalist system because capitalism is the best system to spur innovation and competition. However, all economic systems eventually self-destruct which is why there must be rules. You wouldn't play baseball without rules, and you shouldn't practice capitalism without rules.

True freedom means total freedom so long as you aren't infringing upon the freedoms of another. America is still stuck in a puritanical prohibition-era mindset which inhibits industry and criminalizes victimless crimes. A nanny state is only so many steps away from a Big Brother state. We must be free to have the religion of our choice, but the government must not legislate morality for us, beyond the defense of the right to life, liberty, and other inalienable rights as mentioned in the Declaration of Independence. It is moral and just to defend those rights.

It is one thing for a government to legislate the personal behavior of a citizen which only affects that citizen. That is an unjust invasion. It is another thing entirely for a government to create an economic framework in which its citizens can thrive, by protecting capitalism and the rights of its citizens to engage in it, as well designating the means by which the citizens contribute to maintaining the government. It bears saying that government does these things as an agent of we, the people, and not through any actual power of its own.

However, current libertarianism confuses freedom by thinking it means only caring about oneself (and also confusing corporations with individuals). Thoughts of that nature have no place in a united society. “United We Stand,” is a saying with particular meaning for Americans as it well should. We are not all in this for ourselves; we are all in this together. Individual responsibility is not synonymous with being a bad Samaritan.

That is why it is so very important that all Americans receive education, health care, food, and housing (without encouraging a free ride on the system). There are numerous ways to achieve this. The simplest is that all Americans pay taxes within their means to help maintain the great country in which they reside. Fortunately, the Constitution grants the power for the federal government to “lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States” which allows for a wide range of programs to benefit the American people. This was the interpretation of Alexander Hamilton in his Report on Manufactures (1791) for what is the United States if not its people?

Even James Madison, who generally opposed the “General Welfare Clause” from being used in such a way, wrote in Federalist No. 44 that, "No axiom is more clearly established in law or in reason than wherever the end is required, the means are authorized; wherever a general power to do a thing is given, every particular power for doing it is included.”

There are those who don't believe their tax money should be used to benefit anyone else. Some of them have a flawed understanding of the Constitution, some only care about themselves, some are just greedy, and some are all of those. They seem to think that application of taxes is theft when such costs could be avoided by moving to a different country. It isn't theft because you agree to abide by a countries laws and share in the associated costs when you live within its boundaries. Government cannot operate without some form of revenue. One thing is certain and that is that such views can only lead to an immoral, heartless, and divided society. Far too many conservatives and libertarians want a society where the poor cannot afford education and where those not rich enough to save for retirement must go into the gutter to die when no longer physically able to work.

However, the cost of the welfare state can be greatly reduced by a tax code that rewards companies hiring and paying good wages to U.S. workers as outlined here:

The above plan will greatly reduce the need for the welfare state. We can improve our assistance programs by investigating fraud and making sure that those receiving unemployment insurance are actually looking for work (which will require an economy with available jobs). We do have a problem with people taking advantage of the system, and we have to remove those people off permanent assistance who do not have a legitimate disability or are not being caretakers of others.

Some will say that any forms of safety net programs are socialism. However, socialism is when the people as a group have control of the means of production with no private ownership. Providing programs that benefit the people is neither socialist nor capitalist. It is simply a function of government.

So, what programs should the government (state or federal) provide to its people? The states should continue to provide public education. Unemployment insurance to those in between jobs is not only life-saving but a good investment since money given to those in dire need goes right back into the economy. Care for children of poor families and social workers are also something we cannot abandon.

For providing affordable health care to all American people, there are three choices.
  • The first is an individual mandate. Everyone must buy health insurance. Those that don't buy insurance must pay a tax so that the government can recoup the money used to pay for the health care for those who are uninsured. This was the idea of Republicans in the 1980s to prevent a government takeover of healthcare. It is ironic that once Democrats adopted the idea, Republicans started to call it a government takeover.
  • The second option is for the government to purchase health insurance for all with taxpayer money. I believe a system where each state purchases insurance for all of its residents from one health care insurer is best. This way, health insurers can compete for the business of the 50 states. This system could be handled at either the state or the federal level.
  • The third is to stop providing care for those who can't pay. If you show up at a hospital with a gunshot wound and it can't be proven you can pay, they let you die. This way, the hospital or government doesn't have to eat the costs for caring for the uninsured. When hospitals provide care to those who can't pay, their costs increase, and they pass those costs onto those who can pay. This way, people stop getting a free ride on the system.
The third option is a completely uncivilized option which leaves us with option one or option two. Either is workable.

So, what we will have accomplished so far is: increasing the freedom of individuals, getting more people jobs at higher wages, getting more people basic necessities, and reducing taxes by reducing the need for the welfare state.

Sadly, there are still some people who believe that paying taxes is a form of violence against them. However, we have a representative government so if there are taxes you don't like, you were outvoted. It is a lie to say you had no say in the matter. You had your say. If you don't like it, you have the freedom to leave.

Do we have good representatives? That is an entirely different matter. It is up to us to speak with our votes and get better representation.
In order for the above changes to take place, the American people must want it to happen, and they must elect representatives who are willing to uphold the will of the people. So long as the American people believe the propaganda that it is not in their best interest to have their fellow Americans be well paid, it will not happen. It won't happen so long as Americans believe liberty means other Americans only having the freedoms that they themselves like. It won't happen until people decide the American dream is raising oneself up hand-in-hand with other Americans and not ascending on the backs of the rest without caring whether or not you're wearing cleats.

I will leave you with the words of our Founding Father John Adams which are taken from his great work, Thoughts on Government: Applicable to the Present State of the American Colonies.

"We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best."

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, the people alone have an incontestable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to institute government; and to reform, alter, or totally change the same, when their protection, safety, prosperity, and happiness require it.

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