MY POSITIVE VISION OF AMERICA
2014 February 7, Thursday

     We have a lot of rhetoric and conversation on what America is and should not be. (I admit, I am not happy with America's current trajectory and have contributed considerably in this department.) Rather than whine about what is wrong with our country today, let's be positive for a few paragraphs and spend a few minutes looking at what America should be.

    

     This is a vision of what America should be written by a proud American (a mathematician, scientist, inventor, and entrepreneur) who has given considerable thought to fundamental American values and how human beings can live and prosper here.

     You may read this and say, "Gosh! This doesn't sound like a place I'd like to live." Fine, there is the other 95% of the planet where values are more in line with America's current vision. There's no reason other than jealousy or hate to want to change my home to be more like other places. With a few exceptions, those who are here (or their recent ancestors) came a long way under difficult circumstances to admire and to respect the values here and pledged their allegiance to those values to become citizens of the United States of America. I'm not saying "Love it or leave it," but I'm saying that you should respect our home founded on these values that you or your ancestors pledged to respect, if you decide to stay here.

     I will also add that to whatever extent America has pursued this vision, it has prospered as no other country has. Conversely, to whatever extent America has turned away from this vision, it has suffered both absolutely and relative to the rest of the world. This is true in the long term (compare 1814-1913 and 1914-2013) and the short term (compare 1960-1964 and 1965-1969, compare 1977-1980 and 1981-1984, and compare 1999-2006 and 2007-2014). This is also what the science of economics is trying to tell us.

     Even if 95% of the world lives another way, having a country pursuing and achieving this vision makes the whole world freer and more prosperous.

     I'll also point out this is not some utopian vision. We know from centuries of smart people from John Locke through Thomas Jefferson, but more so through the history of the American experiment, that this is achievable with real human beings with real strengths and real failings.

     I share with those historical scholars a belief that this really is the best we can do with real human beings, following "the laws of Nature and Nature's God" as Jefferson put it, and I'm happy to live in it. (I'm open to any evidence that there's a better society possible compatible with our real strengths and real failings, but I'm happy with this one in any case.)

 

     Federal Government: That's easy, the United States federal government, funded by an equal tax, is limited to courts of interstate and international law, national defense, and regulation of interstate commerce. Let's look at these one at a time.

     Federal Taxes: This should be an equal tax. While the Declaration of Independence has strong language against "taxation without representation," many of the good things a government can do have nothing to do with being able to vote. I would argue for an equal tax, say $500 per month, for every person (man, woman, or child) who is a citizen of the United States or maintains a residence in the United States. (Perhaps we might add a pro-rated $17 per night for each person staying in the United States not meeting the above criteria.)

     For those who cannot (or choose not to) pay the tax, the government can garnish, or "withhold," up to 25% of wages after the first $20000 per year to pay the tax. This way, people who make very little pay 1/4 of their income and maintain an ongoing debt for which their estate would be liable, but not their heirs. Included in those wages would be any payout from state agencies, but not proceeds from sale of assets or interest income. $500 per month gets you complete privacy from this sort of stuff, no more, no less, paid in full.

     The regular $500-per-month taxpayers I'll call Plan A members and the garnished/withheld or otherwise not paying the regular rate I'll call Plan B members. (They're not all citizens, they're not all residents, the word "denizens" sounds too snooty, so I'll use "members.") Plan A members have complete privacy and all the privileges of being part of the United States. Plan A members who are citizens can vote in elections. Unless they are under a legally-signed warrant as part of a criminal investigation, nobody asks any questions about their money, where it comes from, what companies they invest in, et cetera. What's yours is yours and none of anybody else's business, least of all the government's. Plan B members will face the same sort of issues with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that taxpayers do today. They'll have withholdings from their paycheques and may be called upon to forfeit property if they don't fulfill their out-of-pay obligations.

     There should be no other federal taxes, no income taxes, no sales taxes, no corporate taxes, no estate taxes, no excise taxes, no anything-else taxes. If the federal government must offer specific services (the post office, perhaps), then it can charge fees for those services.

     I don't believe in the United States Constitution (and its partner document, the Declaration of Independence) because they're somehow sacred. Rather I believe in them because the values in them have produced better lives more consistently for more people over a broader range of economic class levels than any other in history.

     Welfare and other Aid: People who are genuinely unable to function (my test is being unable to cross the street by themselves) should be taken care of by private charity (people are more generous than you think), or at the state and local level. I suggest the best program offers minimal housing with care and an obligation to work where "they" tell you to. "We'll house you and take care of your medical needs, we'll tell you what to do with your days, we'll transport you where you need to go, and we'll provide daycare for your children while you're at work." I would suggest the program be voluntary with no specified income levels, destitute people can enroll and mentally-incompetent people may be put into the program. (If Bill Gates or Donald Trump wants to live in a two-meter cube (with random drug checks and surrendered fourth-amendment rights) and to be transported to a menial job every day, then I'm not going to exclude either of them. But any expenses involved with storing their stuff that doesn't fit in their minimal living spaces are their problem.) The program pays the $500-per-month federal tax as well as some minimal monetary compensation in addition to "free" room, board, and care. (I describe what such a program might look like in another one of my essays.)

     None of this welfare would be federally funded. It would be privately, locally, and state run.

     Federal Courts: Federal courts are for interstate and international disputes and violations of interstate and international law. They're not an end run around state and local law. There should be few federal criminal laws. I'm thinking of federal laws against treason when I say "few" instead of "no" federal criminal laws.) As much as I approve of the content of Roe vs. Wade or the Civil Rights Act, both overstep federal constitutional boundaries.

     Intellectual Property (IP): Unlike some libertarians out there, I believe in intellectual property (patent law). Private property is a legal construct that allows people to protect things without having to defend them physically. Some of those things are tangible, like real estate or personal possessions, while others are less physical like mineral rights or proprietary ideas. There are some whirls and loops in American patent law that could use some fixing, but the basic package is sound.

     One of the nicest "freebies" people get is downstream intellectual property, and I'm comfortable with it. A United-States patent is good for seventeen years after which its invention goes into the public domain. A company can come up with a wonderful technology, reap its rewards for seventeen years, and then the rest of us get it "for free." It's a trade-off that makes sense. A company can make a bundle of money off its smart stuff, but inventions that become a universal part of living (the transistor or the workings of a refrigerator) become universally available soon enough to be useful. We can figure that somebody else would have invented it after a few years. It's fair and useful.

     I would support keeping patent law federal. The scope of almost all inventions goes beyond state boundaries and the property rights of inventors should follow that scope.

     National Defense: Obviously (from my libertarian leanings), I favor a reduced military program in the United States. I believe a strong military is a good thing, I respect and revere those who serve, and I don't quibble about paying them during and after their service. The enormous foreign presence of the United States military should be pared back almost entirely. (I agree with Ron Paul on this one.) Many Americans feel strongly that other countries should be supported, Israel comes to mind. Fine, let them make personal contributions and let the United-States military provide the protection they pay for. I have no problem with either Americans personally supporting Israeli defense or American military effort carrying out that support.

     One of the nice things about a strong military is the development of good technology. The Global Positioning System (GPS) is a recent perk we civilians get from the military and there are plenty of others less obvious.

     Federal Regulation: Most of that goes out the window. States can handle transportation (even aviation) as well as Washington can. Most of the transportation laws would be the same in all the states, but small differences offer choice in where to live. A consortium of all the states could handle airline traffic law (legal altitudes and air traffic control) and it could be funded by fuel taxes as we have now. Education should be as local as we can make it, and most secondary schools and colleges should be private with certification at a local level with state oversight and no federal involvement at all.

     Current Federal Entitlements: They go away tomorrow. All federal welfare programs go away overnight and states may or may not decide how to help people without paying them to be poor.

     Federal Medicare and Social Security go away, too. (There is no true entitlement—our taxes for these paid for somebody else's benefit and they're all spent and gone.) States can and probably should pick up the short-term slack and they should look for ways to make these programs go away in the longer term. Certainly the savings-plan aspects and income redistribution should be separate and managed separately.

     The one group who should feel entitled is the community of armed-services veterans. Unlike other "entitled" Americans, these people performed a Constitutionally-defined function, defending the United States of America. (Never mind that many of the things our armed services do aren't similarly blessed by our founding fathers and their writing, those who become soldiers made a commitment to our country that should be honored.)

     Environmental Law: Here is where I see the biggest change in restoring American values to America. Somewhere around 1850 there was a shift from civil management of environmental issues (air pollution victims suing the polluters) to a regulatory environment covered by some kind of criminal law. I want to go back to having environmental law being almost-entirely civil law. If a company dumps stuff in the river that makes people sick, then they should expect serious litigation as a result. They might decide to clean up their act, or they might decide to pay people up front for their trouble or their relocation, depending on circumstances.

     People would buy and sell pollution rights including noise pollution from airports. If you move next to an airport, then the noise issue is probably built into the value of the property, and the previous owner or the landlord has presumably been paid for it.

     Big environmental crises go away. There's always the possibility that there's some Great Big Issue like the impending ice age, global warming, mercury in tuna fish, ozone holes, et cetera, but so far all of these have been political eco-scares without substance. Those who feel strongly can create strong social pressure, the way we got our country on a recycling kick. (I'm told recycling is not environmentally friendlier than landfill, but, in any case, it didn't take a lot to get American's separating their refuse, trash, and garbage.)

     Local Law:

     There will be more local law in a free America. Part of what made America a haven is that communities exercised their freedom to live life as they saw fit. If a community of people doesn't like drugs or homosexuality, then they can build a village that respects those views in its law. You may not like a town where polygamy is practiced and Mormons run everything, but that's fine—you don't have to live there. More local choice means more freedom as it's easier to pick a community within America than to pick a country to live in.

     Hot Issues:

     I have more detail to offer below, but the short version is a free America faithful to its values will tend to be pro guns, pro-choice on abortion, and anti-affirmative-action. It will be comfortable with people marrying whom they choose, practicing religion as they choose, responsibly taking the drugs they choose, and being able to come here to work for a living. The last is a segue to the next section.

     What Americans Do:

     What do Americans do with their lives? That's easy, we're going to do stuff, make stuff, and have stuff. People didn't come to America to be poor, we like the good things in life, and we're willing to work for them. Our land is rich in resources and our people are rich in ideas, so there is more to do than our labor force can possibly attempt, and most of that is making things.

     Making things is power. In the military world, "generals win battles, supply officers win wars." Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto warned Japan not to awake the "sleeping giant" of the United States, sleeping because we were at peace with Japan, a giant because of our vast and productive industry. It's also power in the civilian realm, in the private sector. Look at the control we have ceded to the oil-producers and the manufacturing centers in Asia.

     Making things is fun. There's a wonderful feeling of pride saying, "I made this." (They even have a kid saying it at the end of each episode of "The X Files.") Do they still do shop class in junior high school? It was a wonderful lesson in skill, but also a wonderful lesson in achievement and pride. (Yes, I still have the stool I made in seventh-grade wood shop.) Factories are magic places where raw materials go in and useful things come out.

     Making things commands respect. I don't know where the relatively-recent social attitude came from where people sit in offices counting other people's money looking down on the people who really do the work out there. We should look up to the men and women making things and doing things. Those people out in the storm fixing the power lines are heroes and should be treated that way. When somebody retires from a lifetime of factory work or service, we should respect that effort as that person really earned that gold watch. That's the American way.

     Finally, making things pays well. The things we make get traded for good things from other people. Being the person, city, state, or country that makes things is being who gets to pick and choose what we want in return. Being a manufacturing nation is a position of strength, pride, stability, and prosperity. I don't see anything wrong with that!

     Climbing the Ladder:

     There are some truly shitty jobs out there. Anybody who has spent a summer paving roads in the hot desert of the American southwest or has cleaned up after messy people knows there are worse things than serving people in a clean, air-conditioned fast-food restaurant. In any case, there are two ladders we climb in America.

     The first is simply age. As teenagers we don't have any skills to market, so we get the no-skills jobs. As we gain knowledge and experience we graduate to better jobs befitting our ability to do them. We get educated in classrooms and job-training programs and find ourselves promoted to greater responsibility and challenge, presumably with greater pay. The lousy jobs become a rite of passage along the way to our ultimate path, what we used to call a "career." I worked in a restaurant cleaning tables one summer and sold product door to door for another. Later on I spent a summer doing training work in a high-technology office. Since then I have enjoyed a career, thirty-two years so far, doing mathematical optimization. I may or may not be a better person for doing the lousy jobs, but those things got done. It's a ladder we climb in America.

     That ladder reaches high and low. People with no skills and no job history start at Wal-Mart for chump change as they hire over a million people every year. As they gain basic skills and a track record of getting to work on time and taking their responsibilities seriously, they move on to better-paying jobs. That's the upward flow America has been famous for.

     The other ladder is generation to generation. Immigrants some to America and join the lower class. They typically don't speak the language well and don't have any job history in their new country. Their children, on the other hand, go to school in America and learn American history and ways. They also learn how insistent their parents can be about doing their homework and learning their classroom material. "You're not going to spend your life doing what I do!" It may be college, trade school, or graduate school, but the main message is it will be better than their parents had.

     We know these ladders work as they worked for almost two hundred years in the United States of America. Only in the past few decades have regulation and taxes and forced unionization precluded the expansion of our economy. It will work because it has worked, and because there is a lot more to do than we could ever have people to do it and there are people willing to pay for it. This is "American as apple pie," as we say, and it's available for us as soon as we have the freedom to work where somebody will hire us.

     The basic message is simple: If they're saying "you have to" or "you can't" in the job market, then they're treading on your freedom. We have to find our paths to success and those paths are out there to be found.

     Attitude and the America Dream:

     Our heroes are people who do good things, not celebrities famous for nothing more than being famous. Captains of industry should be the real celebrities in America, followed by people who create good things and do good works. The so-called One Percent, super-rich people are the ones paying for payroll for the rest of us and should be respected and admired, especially in the news media. News about politics should be relegated to the same sort of back pages as the entertainment section of the newspaper.

     A ribbon cutting ceremony should be front page news, for a factory or a road or an airport or a hospital. So should a cheaper, better, faster, more-effective technology that makes us more capable, more knowledgeable, or healthier.

     Soldiers put their lives on the line for our country and should be lionized and admired alongside the people who sign the front side of paycheques. Calvin Coolidge got it right when he said, "The business of America is business." Most of that business will be big business because there are big things small companies can't really do, like building airplanes, automobiles, communications networks, buildings, and roads. So we'll honor and respect those companies for their successes and hold those same big companies accountable for their mistakes when they run their businesses like idiots. It isn't cute when a company's planning department makes a $600 million mistake that costs a lot of people their livelihoods.

     Sometimes sports analogies make sense, as silly as they can sound. America is a team with a mission, and that mission is produce so much stuff that even the smallest slice is more than enough. We can have quarterbacks, runners, and pass receivers on the team, or maybe we can have front runners and last-lap kickers, I don't know. There may be a better analogy in soccer or cricket. In any case, let's regard our fellow members of America as teammates and get the job done. We should glow with pride and admire material achievement that makes people's lives better, and makes a profit along the way. Unlike sports teams, the America team doesn't have a limit on the number of players. We don't have to exclude anybody to pursue the American dream. There are more positions on the field of America and more touchdowns to be scored in America than there are people here to score them.

     I remember how I felt that I was part of the first American commercial cellular telephone system in 1983 and I remember how proud I was of the people who really were out there day after day making sure all the parts worked the way they were supposed to. These people were heroes and, in this case, they're my personal friends. My work makes a lot of people a lot better off and I'm proud of that, too.

     The American Dream is about prosperity as well as freedom. Freedom from hunger and cold and disease becomes freedom to choose a career and freedom to use our time as we see fit.

     The America described above can create that dream for 300 million or even 600 million people who come with the attitude that they're going to do their part and live up to their responsibilities. What we have today and what we're heading toward will not. So let's turn this boat around while we still can and enjoy what has been uniquely ours.

    

    

    

    

    

If you want more of this kind of material, then here are my American-issues essays.

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     In this section on America's current hot issues, I have tried to portray what a free America would be, not necessarily what I would like.

     Hot Issue: Guns

     My English friends say our obsession with guns is "daft." I suspect if England had the same borders and ethnic diversity as we do with their current gun laws, then their "bobbies" would soon be armed like ours or they would have a bloodbath on their hands. In any case, guns are part of our culture in America, they're part of our Bill of Rights, and our mass-killing shootings almost always happen in places where guns are strictly controlled. I think most of us believe the World Trade Center twin towers would still be standing if a half dozen passengers were armed on the typical airline flight. A different question is whether other airline flights would be shoot-'em-up bloodbaths like our long-haul passenger trains and bus lines, but we decided long ago to side on the side of people being armed. (Oh, wait a minute. Our long-haul ground passenger transportation is actually quite safe. I take that back.)

     As Americans, we recognize the role gun control plays in tyranny and the role guns play in violence, and choose to be an armed society with all the risks.

     Hot Issue: Privacy

     Here's a complex issue, particularly in this century. We have found ourselves living in a cyberspace fishbowl with information about our lives sprawled across social-network pages. That shouldn't surprise anybody—most of us put it there! When you post every airport you visit and every meal you eat on Facebook, should it surprise you that anybody can find out what you're doing? ("Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every step you take, I'll be watching you.")

     This may have nothing to do with government, but it's a fact of twenty-first-century life. It takes a serious effort to stay "off the grid." When government takes a serious effort to spy on us is where it crosses the line. It's none of their business and they should treat it that way. While there's no specific protection of privacy in either the Declaration of Independence or our Constitution, The Bill of Rights makes it clear there should be a pressing need before government snoops on us, or at least uses what it already sees against us.

     Hot Issue: Abortion

     Isn't abortion one of the great hot issues? Every gamete is a potential human life, at least every zygote, and at some point the fertilized egg becomes old enough to vote. Somewhere in that nearly-nineteen-year continuum it becomes appropriate for our community to interfere to protect it. Some draw the line at conception, some twenty-four weeks after conception, some at birth, the Book of Genesis at our first breath, and it might be later than that in some societies.

     Arguments go back and forth about when life begins. It could be conception, birth, or when the last kid gets through college and the dog dies. But maybe the dividing line on this issue should be not about when life beings but when humanity begins. Most of us are comfortable killing animals and even the staunchest vegans are comfortable killing plants and fungi, so it isn't killing that's the issue here. It's about killing humans.

     Whatever you believe about the inception of humanity in fetal life, they didn't have anti-abortion laws at our country's founding in 1789. One critic said, "Well, they didn't have laws about seat belts either." No, they didn't, but abortions and the ethics surrounding them haven't fundamentally changed while vehicular safety issues have. If anything has changed on abortions, then it's that they're enormously cheaper and safer than in 1789. Nobody then suggested having government pay for them, however, and nobody now should suggest that either. The decision to end a pregnancy is a hard, painful, personal decision and it should remain that way, especially personal, not one made by legislation or even judicial interpretation.

     Hot Issue: Prejudice and Discrimination

     People hate other people, WE look down on THEM, whatever. Wouldn't it be nice if we could all love each other equally? Actually, part of what we are is the competitive spirit of US-versus-THEM rivalries, our school is better than theirs and, among alumni, my year's team is better than yours. It really is okay to feel allegiance to, and preference for, school, geography, profession, and nation. We're comfortable with same-ism in marriage but not in employment. We should be very uncomfortable with discrimination, the act of acting on our prejudices, in any public institution.

     The statist, left-wing, liberal approach is to have innumerable rules telling us how not to discriminate or, far worse, how to discriminate in a nice, "goodthinkful" way like "affirmative action" or "reverse discrimination." The other statist, right-wing, conservative approach is to decide that discrimination is just fine because we won and they lost and that makes us better than them. How about the libertarian approach simply to have fewer and fewer public institutions and to allow people to make their own decisions privately? If a restaurant doesn't want to serve black people, or Jews, then fine. I just prefer they tell us somehow on the outside so we don't have to deal with a negative confrontation inside.

     For those who want to live in a discrimination-free world, we could have some outfit certify organizations as being correct and those who prefer non-discrimination in their lives could follow that outfit's recommendations. Or at least we could try. When we let the government do it, we got forced cooperation for everybody (maybe not so bad) and then the utter evil of affirmative action (very bad). Government racial and ethnic policy hasn't turned out so well in other countries either. So let's let people be who they are, except in a public way.

     Defining what is and isn't public isn't easy. Just as I said there would be new and different environmental law, there will be new and different law about what is public. If there are a dozen restaurants on a street, then people have choices. If we don't like them discriminating against us, then we can buy one of the restaurants. Maybe we can be non-discriminatory, maybe we can keep them out of our place, but it's our choice. If this is the only restaurant on the only road from A to B, then maybe there's a public obligation to serve all willing to pay for food. I might also argue that those businesses who want the advantage of a public-facing entrance have public responsibilities, either to serve all equally or to announce restrictions before entry. (Here's a thought: Any place public enough to have anti-descrimination policy apply should also be public enough to be required to offer their business in the English language.)

     Just for fun, let's take an example from popular anti-discrimination history, Rosa Parks and the Montgomery bus boycott in Alabama. There are no seats in the black section in back, Ms. Parks decides she's tired and sits up front, the bus company gets snooty about it, and the blacks decided not to use the public bus system. Some enterprising and charitable people started a super-cheap taxi-cab company to get black people where they needed to go. That should have been the end of the story. Instead, the government decided to use its authority to declare the cabs not legal because they're not licensed, so they used their authority to maximize the hurt to the blacks of not using public transportation. This is where I get all up in arms about government not only not being the solution but often being the problem.

     Hot Issue: Sexual Preference in Public Life

     When did we wake up and find sexual preference such a hot issue? Even people who marry the socially-approved opposite sex get a lot of grief if they marry the wrong number of spouses as reported in Colorado City. It's a lot of public fuss over people's private lives. I hope people decide that consenting adults do with their sex lives is of the same interest as what toothpaste brands they use.

     As an American who believes deeply in American values, I have a problem with people voting to allow gay marriage, although not as much as voting not to allow it. We should be comfortable not having any political say about it.

     That being said, I have no problem with any institution refusing to be part of it. A church may decide only to perform heterosexual marriages, based on faith or preference, and a living community may decide to restrict choice in its bylaws. (I don't really want to know how such a community plans to police such prejudicial policy. I'm sure that's in their bylaws somewhere as well.)

     Hot Issue: Religion in Public Life

     Religion is a part of the lives of most Americans, at least they go to church on Sunday morning. (A few attend synagogue on Friday night or Saturday morning and a few others go to mosques or other temples.) Christmas trees adorn town squares and business display holiday ornaments with religious overtones and nobody should be offended by it. (All Hallows Eve on October 31 that we now call Halloween was originally part of All Saints Day, a religious holiday.) There are many ways to respect the sanctity of our world and religion is the option most Americans choose.

     That being said, there is no place for religion in public institutions. If the public is paying for it, then the public shouldn't have religions views forced upon them. America of yesteryear respected this. When Francis Bellamy, a Baptist minister, wrote our Pledge of Allegiance, there was no mention of religion. Our country's motto was "E Pluribus Unum," (Latin for "one out of many") with no religious overtones. We are a religious country, even a Christian country, but one that respects freedom of religious choice and even freedom from religion.

     As I said earlier, those freedoms do not apply to private life. If a private school wants to start each day with a prayer, then that is their right. If you don't like it, then go somewhere else. If a private company wants a statue of Gansesha or a Star of David or a nativity scene, then our American values should support that or have us keep quiet if we don't like it. I expect most American towns will erect a Christmas tree or put the ten commandments in a public forum, and I can go along with that.

     Noting that many of the really-smart people I know are atheists, noting that the Christian "jihad" of the Spanish Inquisition was still going on (until 1834), and noting that our constitution makes no reference to any deity, I figure Thomas Jefferson had serious doubts about religion. He seemed to have no doubt about the right role of religion in politics, which is none at all. He made it clear that another person's religious beliefs do no harm and, therefore, are outside the legitimate powers of government.

     Hot Issue: Drugs

     Both sides are right, in some ways. Drugs should be legalized, both non-prescription, recreational drugs and prescription drugs. If somebody wants to take cocaine for fun or laetrile for cancer, then I may think him an idiot, but it's not for the law to stand in his way. On the other hand, an employer is not invading anybody's privacy requiring drug tests to ensure a drug-free workplace.

     As for tobacco and alcohol, we need less regulation. If a bar or restaurant wants to allow smoking, then I have no problem so long as they announce this in appropriately prominent places (their entrance and their web page come to mind).

     So far as alcohol goes, everybody knows that alcohol degrades driving performance, as do sleepiness and cigarette smoking. We have laws against weaving out of lane, not using turn signals, and driving at erratic speed. Is there any evidence that drivers with the same amount of weaving, turn-signal misuse, and speed varying are differently dangerous with different amounts of alcohol? There are scientific ways to measure these effects, so has anybody done the due diligence to justify the invasion of privacy of alcohol measurement above and beyond the non-invasive laws we already have that we don't enforce?

     Here's a good one: Let's say I'm an alcoholic. I might have a proven history of a drinking problem or good reason (family history) to think I have that tendency. I might want to live in a community that is alcohol free to avoid temptation. It's a lot less of a struggle to avoid something that isn't all around me. I would hope we would respect people choosing to create cities that enforce laws that we would not want to have on a larger scale. Perhaps we also want local anti-drug laws in some areas for the same reason.

     Here's an interesting note on federal power. When the Prohibition movement arose to make alcohol unlawful everywhere in the United States, it was apparent to all that it required constitutional expansion of federal powers since the existing document clearly prohibited Prohibition at a federal level. Somehow, a few decades later, when the federal government decided to pass anti-drug laws with the exact same constitutional limitations, nobody saw fit to stop them. Shame on our Supreme Court for that, and many other things.

     What about medicine and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)? I'm comfortable having an agency testing medicines for efficacy and side effects. I'm less comfortable with them telling me what I can and cannot take. Too much risk for a six year old with the sniffles taking a cold medicine may be within limits for a late-state cancer patient trying to breathe. We have doctors and pharmacists who can give us advice. I'm okay to have a required red, yellow, or green sticker on the box, meaning the overseeing agency has rejected, not yet evaluated, or approved the drug and I can make my own choices, or my insurance company can make its choices.

     Hot Issue: Health Care

     Government messing with health care is bad thing. The past century should make that obvious to anybody. So why is our "free market" health care system such a disaster? Because it isn't free.

     I would point out that health care insurance isn't the same as health care. It's just an easier way for most of us to pay for it. (I pay medical bills for the other members of my household without insurance of any kind, just MasterCard, and they get very good care.)

     There are two forms of aggressive regulation that need to go away. First, we have a doctors' union (the American Medical Association, AMA) that keeps low-cost health care system out of the market. (At least for humans. The veterinary care we get for animals is cheap and most of us would be happy with humans getting that level of care.) Second, the legal atmosphere around malpractice causes excessive and expensive cover-your-ass (CYA) treatment in the form of extra tests and complex procedures lest our doctors and hospitals be sued because something went wrong.

     A balanced America will have a wide range of health care available with a wide range of prices. The high end will look a lot like what we have today in the Blue-Cross-Blue-Shield world and a profitable, self-sustaining low end will emerge with care somewhere between today's free clinics and today's veterinarians. The advantage of being profitable and self-sustaining, as opposed to being subsidized like today, is that the patients will be treated with dignity, like customers instead of moochers.

     Hot Issue: Immigration

     The reason anybody should worry about immigration is that immigrants can bring disease and take resources from us. The former was a major issue a century ago and the latter is a major issue today. Without massive government handouts available, people will come here to work, to produce, and to prosper. We should welcome those people.

     We can accept different people with different customs speaking different languages. A job may require learning English and that's part of the burden of being in America. We may have neighborhoods where little English is spoken, and that's a part of being in America, too.

     If it were up to me, then we would have a simple route to United-States citizenship. An applicant gets a job offer here in the States and agrees for fifteen years to pay all taxes but to take no government handouts. I would require a test for reading and writing simple English. A felony conviction means deportation, a misdemeanor conviction resets the fifteen-year clock, and the end of fifteen years means citizenship. Yes, these fifteen-years-to-citizenship applicants have to pay their $500 per month federal tax, just like the rest of us.

     How Do We Get Roads?

     One standard argument against a free country is how we would ever get the things government provides without government. Somehow we had roads and schools and all that stuff with wonderfully-lower tax rates and without any income taxes at all. Russians marvel that Americans have shoes without government because they get their shoes from government, or so I'm told. I didn't think it was a hard concept, but maybe I'm wrong.

     We pay for things we need and we buy them from people who earn their living providing them. That goes for groceries, cars, jewelry, and music. (I pay a monthly fee to my local "public" radio station (KBAQ) because I want the music in my life and they want to produce it, but it still costs something to do it. I'll point out they don't have left-wing NPR news, just good music. I would prefer they get no government funding, only generous donations from actual listeners who benefit from their programs.) It also goes for roads, protection from crime, schools, and building codes. I believe those three things can and should be government free, provided by various institutions of private property and insurance policies, but I don't see that happening here. The America I envision would have them done at a local level with some state supervision and no federal involvement.