If I were president...
There's no chance I'm going to be president. I don't want to be
president. It's likely that just a few people are ever going to
read this and these ideas will remain just that. Still, some of
them seem good and appropriate to our times as I'm writing this, in
early 2008, when the international image of the US is in the gutter and
the political circus is in full swing.
Some of these proposals might be
considered naive given the complexities of the modern world.
Still, I'm sure they can be refined and implemented properly so as not
to cause massive upheaval. The main thrust is economic, not
Some might face political obstacles. For all I know there might
be some separation of power impediment that might require a
constitutional amendment to overcome, and we all know that the
permanent residents of congress care more about their re-election than
doing the right thing, so they're not going to give up their power
voluntarily. And then, there are all the special interests that
benefit from the status quo. Still...
If I were president, I would
- Prohibit government at all levels from borrowing
- Pay off all government debts as early as possible
- End foreign military interventions: wars, military
- Pass a transparency in government law similar but
better than Finland's
- End borrowing between accounts funded by different
- Implement Tax Choice / budgeting by directed funding
- Prohibit government from setting the value of /
debasing the currency
- Put an immediate end to torture and release all non
- End corporate welfare: direct subsidies first and
then all government contracting
- Revoke all "crimes of thought" laws
- Eliminate all obsolete laws and institute automatic
- End the immunity of politicians and government
- Make politicians responsible for unconstitutional
- End selective enforcement as a tool of control
- Repeal all "victim-less crime" laws
- End the war on drugs
- Review all laws that benefit a special interest
group or industry
- End all tariffs (that by definition benefit certain
- End all censorship laws and enforcement
This list is obviously not comprehensive. Some of the items have
been discussed back and forth for decades, others have well established
constituencies, yet not much happens year after year, and others still
might have been discussed somewhere and not really be new.
The following applies to all levels of government. Starting at
the federal level, but continuing to state, county, municipal. In
short: all levels, no matter how small.
1 - Prohibit
Government from borrowing
This is equivalent to taking away the plastic from credit card junkies.
It is the first step in credit counseling. Politicians have
repeatedly proven that they are incapable of handling this
responsibility. Interest on the national debt is one of the
largest items in the federal budget. Furthermore, it is essentially a
transfer from everybody (mostly the poor and middle class, since they
are the majority) to the very rich (the financial institutions that
hold most of the wealth and public debt of the country and thus receive
This proposal is not a balanced budget amendment. That was tried
and failed miserably because politicians have never been able to keep
their hands out of the cookie jar and have passed exception after
exception that made that exercise all but meaningless.
Furthermore, tax revenue and expense projections can be manipulated and
are not exact. The proper approach is to have a reserve. If a
rainy day fund is proper for a family, why not for government?
Financially responsible governments around the world are already doing
this, and their sovereign funds are presently bailing out our
irresponsible financial institutions.
Much has been written about the morality of burdening the children and
grandchildren with the present generation's irresponsible financial
behavior. If an individual does this, his children are not
condemned to involuntary servitude to repay his debts, why should the
country be allowed to do this? Of course, the federal government
has the additional power to devalue the currency and thus diminish the
debt in real terms, but this is at the cost of the wealth of the
country. See item 7 for how to prevent this
sneaky attack on the pocketbook.
A side-effect of this proposal is that all government expenses are now
directly correlated to tax receipts and only projects that "we the
people" really want will be funded. See section 6
for more detail.
2 - Pay off
all government debt as soon as possible.
Government policy of late has been to spend like there's no tomorrow.
Normally this would imply that the population (the only source of real
wealth) has to produce what is spent. But that takes effort. Like
the credit card junkie, it is far easier to go crazy at the mall and
not think of paying until later. Such a downward spiral is well
known to credit counselors. The deeper it goes, the more painful
it is to end. Unless we want a totally bankrupt country, now is
the time to start reducing the national debt. The money for this
can come from savings in sections 3, 9
and 16. Most importantly it cannot come from
raising taxes. Irresponsible spending is what must be cut.
Being in debt has other consequences beyond the financial, as debt is
essentially a power transfer from the borrower to the lender. "He who
has the gold makes the rules". As must be apparent to everyone
that doesn't hide his head in the tube, more and more power is
migrating away from the general population to the increasingly rich and
If you buy a house with someone else's money (pretty much mandatory
these days for everyone but a few) you have to jump through the hoops
the financial institution places in front of you. To what extent
is national policy dictated by the holders of the massive national
debt? The US is losing its independence the sneaky, hidden way.
Just as it is obvious by now to everybody, irresponsible lending has
landed the housing industry in real trouble. A by-product of
this, too much easy money chasing after a fixed amount of real estate,
has created a housing bubble which is already destroying a lot of
wealth. Irresponsible government spending and borrowing will transform
this country into a third world economy within a few years, with the
inflation and debasement of the currency that always follows. United
States of Zimbabwe, anyone?
3 - End
foreign interventions: wars, military bases
Trillions have been wasted in Iraq and Afghanistan under fraudulent
pretenses. The national debt would be much smaller if those
monies would have been put to better use. Historically, foreign
interventions have only had a temporary beneficial (to the US) effect
and has resulted in hatred that is now blowing up in our faces.
A plan needs to be devised to quickly bring all American troops
home. Not only is this the proper humanitarian thing to do, it
would free trillions that can be applied to diminish the national debt.
Furthermore, all foreign military bases need to be closed. This
is not a plan for an isolationist country. It is proper to be a
full member of the political and economic world. That's what
embassies are for. Maybe the global image of the US would start
It is not the right of any one country to police the world. The
US armed forces should have one purpose only: the defense of the US.
Any foreign deployments (such as for humanitarian reasons) would occur
only under UN auspices, and always have a clearly defined goal and end.
Transparency in Government law
Secrecy breeds corruption, nepotism and favoritism. In order to
make government efficient and honest, all government documents are to
be public by default. Any and all documents, memos, electronic or
otherwise are to be archived and made accessible on the world wide web
as soon as they are created, clearly linked to the author. This
will have the effect that all government employees will be supervised
by anyone with an interest in what government does. They will be
held accountable. The result: they will make sure that their
behavior is totally beyond reproach. A side-effect of this is
that only those interested in genuine public service would apply or
All computer software running on all government computers will be open
source and inspectable on demand, ie: downloadable on the web for
inspection by anyone. It will all have fingerprint keys (on both
the executables and source) to guard against unauthorized
alteration. This is particularly important for electronic voting
machines as the integrity of elections depends on it.
This is to prevent trojan horses being inserted to bypass or obscure
the transparency requirements.
Fees for obtaining government documents will be illegal as this is just
another way to restrict access to and dissemination of same. In
any case, when all government documents/files are available on the
internet upon creation, no additional work will be required to make
The government is not a secret society or competitive enterprise that
needs to keep trade secrets. Because of this, the payroll
of all levels of government will be public. The list of
employees, job descriptions, evaluations, salary, bonuses and
organizational chart shall be easily accessible and search-able on the
web. All documents will be linked to the author and equally
Wouldn't this endanger government employees? Not if government
returns to being the PUBLIC servant it's meant to be. This would
be inevitable after transparency is enacted, as witch hunts,
persecutions, blackmail, discrimination, kickbacks, etc... would be
readily apparent and not tolerated. If there's no reason to fear
or hate government employees, why would violence be perpetrated on
them? Another advantage of transparency is that conspiracy
theories wouldn't have a leg to stand on.
All funding, monetary transactions and expenses will be publicly
recorded and linked to the employee that has the corresponding
budgeting or spending authority. This means, of course, that
there will be no black budget items. If Visa/MasterCard can keep
straight records on billions of transactions for hundreds of millions
of users, surely a similarly efficient web-accessible system can keep
track of thousands of government employees and programs.
Undoubtedly, there will be an impulse to run government "off the
record" without documents, but any actions derived from verbal orders
or agreements will be by definition illegal and the employee(s) or
politician(s) subject to civil and/or criminal prosecution (see item 12).
Finally, in a kind of Truth and Reconciliation Commission, all past
government archives will be open for public viewing and analysis on the
For a working example of such an open government law, refer to the one
that has existed in Finland for many years now.
5 - End borrowing
between accounts funded by different taxes
Accounting safeguards need to be instituted so that different accounts,
funded by different taxes are not fungible. This would create a
wall that would prevent politicians from playing fast and loose with
our money. It is well known that if private business engaged in these
kind of practices, the people involved would be in prison very
quickly. The social security trust fund is a well-known
example. No more borrowing against future revenues and similar
shenanigans should be allowed. What is the logic of borrowing from your
left pocket and have your right pocket pay interest? This
practice can very quickly lead to fraud. In the private sector, a
similar practice: churning the account to generate commissions, is
illegal since it fleeces the investor.
However, this proposal goes further. Since politicians have
proven themselves incapable of spending responsibly, it is time to let
we the people have a say in where our money goes.
6 - Implement Tax
Choice / budgeting by directed funding
The accounting safeguards would separate funds, first in large
categories and then, as the system is fine-tuned, into smaller
self-consistent groups. Originally, a few large groups could be:
Defense, Medical care, Scientific research, Social Security,
Education, Unemployment and Welfare, Natural Resources and Environment,
Transportation, Administration of Justice. Later, large
categories could be sub-divided into smaller parts. The other
side of this program, which could be called "Tax Choice" or "Directed
Funding", is the tax form, where each taxpayer would have
a series of boxes, one for each government spending category where
he/she would enter what percentage of his/her taxes are to go.
This way, the individual taxpayer could be assured what government
programs his/her taxes will fund. Each taxpayer could select
none, one or more boxes and in each the corresponding percentage of the
total tax paid. If no box is selected, the government would
decide where the particular taxpayer's taxes go, otherwise, the tax
paid would go only to the selected programs, in the percentages
Tax Choice is applicable at all levels of government. Not only
will every individual have a say where his or her income tax goes, but
each group of programs would be funded from all other revenues to the
percentage level obtained from total income tax receipts. If
indirect taxes still exceed this level of funding, the money would be
given back to consumers, and the taxes in question eliminated.
Would any programs disappear? Probably not, given the vast diversity of
views across the country, but everybody would feel better since their
money would only pay for what they support. Tax compliance would
most likely rise and it would be instantly known exactly how much
support each area of spending really has.
This program would have the added advantage of taking a lot of the
incentive out of lobbying, since all lobbyists could do is convince
politicians to include one more box on next year's tax return, or one
more project in a "Funding group", subject to taxpayer approval and the
restrictions proposed in sections 9 and 17.
The special interests would then take their cases to the people and try
to convince us that their projects are worthy of some of the available
tax money. The decision would ultimately rest on the individual
The trillion-dollar question then becomes simply: more or less income
tax? The answer, no longer subject to any special interest pressure,
would put the horse again in front of the cart, tax revenue dictating
spending, not spending dictating taxes.
7 - Prohibit government
from setting the value of / debasing the currency
The federal government has too much power over the value of the
currency. Deficit spending (see 1 above) tends to
devalue it, but the machinations of the federal reserve cause regular
inflation, robbing people of value. It is a hidden tax and it affects
negatively the value of everything. Not surprisingly, powerful
interests can pressure the government to manipulate the currency to
their own profit.
The obscure manipulation of money supply, interest rates, government
debt (see 1) damages the financial well-being of
everyone since only experts have the knowledge, energy, wealth and time
to take advantage of the system, for their own gain obviously.
Manipulating the value of money allows the politicians in charge to
spend by just printing money and insulate voters from the immediate
consequences of the spending. In the long term, everyone loses.
A return to the gold standard will ensure that the US$ is really a
store of value not subject to the fancy of politicians. Consumers
would have a yardstick to measure their real wealth. It is often
said, to foster savings, that if one starts investing at the beginning
of the work life, by retirement, thanks to compound interest, more than
a million dollars would be there to take care of retirement
needs. The dirty little secret is that, thanks to the debasement
of the currency foisted on us all by the politicians, that million is
really worth half (or less) in real (gold) terms.
Having a gold-backed dollar would bring back direct accountability of
spending. Determining how many dollars per ounce of gold is
appropriate is a discussion for another time. Issues such as the
cost of inexpensive items (that have to be paid for in currency) need
to be taken into account, but it can be argued that the currency has
already been devalued too much. What smallest of smallest items can be
had for 1 cent?
8 - Human rights
Step 1: Put an immediate end to torture and release all prisoners that
have not been charged with specific crimes. Those that have shall
have a speedy, public trial as required by the constitution.
Step 2: Review all legislation inspired by the war on terror and revoke
all unconstitutional laws, particularly those relating to surveillance.
9 - End corporate
o Direct subsidies
This is the most obvious and outrageous waste of taxpayer money. It is
nothing more than a transfer of wealth from the average taxpayer to
select richer business owners. Historically, the government has
not had a good track record of choosing good or useful projects to
fund. Essentially the better connected get the money. These funds
can now be applied to reduce the debt.
One current example is the push to generate ethanol from corn, the
unfortunate side-effect is that the price of food is sky-rocketing.
Brazil has been doing this right for many years, using switch grass.
Proponents of subsidies have claimed that certain industries are
"vital" to national security, the well-being of the economy or for the
preservation of the "American way of life". The reasons for
the transfer of wealth are many but they are immaterial. Any
monies that are transfered from the government to corporations
that do not provide a product or service in exchange is a subsidy.
o Government contracting
This is the invisible side of "less government". Everything that
the government is not spending internally any longer is now being
sub-contracted to private businesses. So the size of government
has not really been reduced, the money is just going somewhere else: to
the government contracting special interest.
Sub-contracting also has two pernicious side-effects: usually the well
connected get the money, not the most qualified, and as the businesses
are separate entities, there is less transparency and possibility of
supervision to make sure that the money is well spent and not wasted.
An existing sector: the defense industry in the clearest example of
this. The airlines don't pay Boeing for the development of a
larger/faster/more fuel efficient airplane, they buy the finished
product. Why should the Federal government pay inflated
development costs for a jet fighter, cost overruns and $1000 toilet
seats and wrenches?
The health care industry is fast going in that direction. If
people can't afford health care, where is the inflated cost going to
come from? the taxpayer of course. Another transfer of wealth
from the government to the insurance and medical industries.
Since there would be no government contracting money to be had,
lobbying would become less important. See also the special
interest legislation proposal to further render lobbying irrelevant.
So how could the government acquire what it needs? By buying it in the
open market of course. Any product that has been independently
developed and funded could be purchased, like individuals and
businesses do. What about items that don't exist yet? Well, the
government has a good track record with, for instance, national
laboratories, when there is a clear mission. Any product
development required can be done in-house, with the supervision and
checks that apply to all government operations. In order to attract the
necessary talent, wages paid by government will have to match what
industry pays in the sector in question. This would still be
cheaper in the long run as the taxpayer wouldn't be paying for
corporate profit and excessive higher-up compensation packages, not to
mention the abuse and fraud that is all too common.
The culture of government work would have to change and be more
efficient, but with salaries that match the private sector and
meaningful incentives and good management, there's no reason a
government department cannot be as well run as a private business.
10 - Revoke all
"crimes of thought" laws
Since human beings cannot read the thoughts of others, action is the
only objective way to measure crime. Anything else is a slippery
slope that ends in total dictatorship and thought control.
Additionally, laws that criminalize thought are wasteful: they provide
opportunity for endless diatribe and abuse. History and
literature are full of examples of criminalized thought being used to
settle scores having nothing to do with crime.
Eliminating these laws can also be a bargain, as resources and people
would not be wasted in enforcement and could be redirected to more
11 - Eliminate
all obsolete laws and institute automatic sunset provisions
A comprehensive review of all laws should be undertaken and all
obsolete laws eliminated. All new laws should, automatically,
have a term limit. This duration would be the minimum necessary
to correct the problem that the law is trying to address. Thus
the prerequisite for new laws are:
Only after those questions have been answered satisfactorily, would the
new law be passed.
- What is the problem that this law would solve?
- What is the minimum time that it would take for the law to
achieve this objective?
- Would this law actually solve the problem or just push it
- What unintended side-effects would this law have?
There are so many laws that it is impossible to be a law-abiding
citizen even if one tries. Not only can this be used as a tool of
oppression (via selective enforcement), but it is
unfair to expect everybody to be a lawyer with expertise in all areas
of law, which is what would be required to know exactly what not to do,
and thus not be a victim of selective enforcement. And even if
one knew everything that is illegal, it is probably impossible to live
without breaking some obscure law, as many are contradictory.
It can be argued that modern society is too complex for too few laws,
but I wonder what this society would be like if it applied the
principle of the Inuit tradition: Once a year, the chosen leader
recites all the laws. Those that he can't remember are automatically
voided and well... forgotten.
Luckily, we still have presidential elections, so those with vested
interests in the status quo couldn't appoint an idiot-savant that had
memorized the federal register.
12 - End the immunity
of politicians and government employees
If, in the enforcement of illegal/unconstitutional laws, a government
employee causes harm or hardship (real or financial), not only will the
government be liable, but also the individual government employee.
This will redress the balance of power, which is now so vastly in the
government's favor. The defense of the bureaucrats would be
actually quite simple, as all the evidence will be public and easily
accessible (see #4 above).
Furthermore, because of the degree of transparency achieved thanks to item 4, it is highly unlikely that any law or situation
would come to that.
13 - Make politicians
responsible for unconstitutional or illegal laws
A politician that proposes a law that is eventually declared
unconstitutional should be prosecuted for breach of the oath of office.
After all, don't all politicians swear to uphold the
constitution? The egregious cases (and there have been many
proposed throughout the years) of clearly (to the casual observer)
unconstitutional behavior or abuse of power should not be tolerated.
This would have at least two beneficial consequences:
If legislating badly had consequences, there would be less of it.
It has become clear that the only bad consequence that currently
exists, being voted out of office, does not have the necessary
- taxpayer money would not be spent on dubious laws and
- individuals and non-government organizations would not need to
spend the millions and years fighting clearly bad laws.
The case of state or lower level laws that conflict with federal law is
even clearer. Is it too much to ask that state, county and local
politicians and bureaucrats do their homework before passing illegal
laws? Laws should apply to politicians and bureaucrats too.
If federal laws are too numerous or confusing for the lower levels of
government, how can the average citizen be expected to be law abiding
when government officials can't or won't, especially since they are the
professionals of the law? See item 11 about
simplification of existing law.
14 - End selective
enforcement as a tool of control
There is supposed to be equality under the law in the US.
enforcement makes a mockery of it. Selective enforcement is
nothing more than the tactic of the gangster or school bully to set an
example and keep everyone else in line. It is control by fear.
Supporters of the status quo might say that there is insufficient
police power to arrest all criminals. I say that bad laws make
too many people criminals. Too many laws in combination with
selective enforcement is the dictator's weapon of choice for absolute
control. Item 11 above proposes a way to eliminate
laws. A national dialog needs to occur to revoke laws that make
most of us criminals. After all what is the point of a law that if
applied evenly would depopulate the country? Could it be that the
prison-industrial complex had a hand in it? Or is it that the
purpose of such law is to raise money?
15 - Repeal all
"victim-less crime" laws
An even better, more far-reaching proposal is to repeal all "crimes"
that don't have a victim. A victim-less crime is a contradiction
in terms. If there is no victim, how can there be a crime?
No, I don't accept "crimes against god" or "crimes against
nature". The government is "by the people" "for the
people". And that's where its authority ends. Historically,
"victim-less crime" laws have had one and only one goal: to control
behavior, and that is incompatible with a free country. Freeing
the resources currently allocated to such waste of time would make a
big dent in the national debt.
16 - End the war on
This is an opportunity to save big time at all government levels. The
US has one of the highest prison populations on the planet. Most
are there because of drug-related "crimes". All inmates convicted
of non-violent drug offenses should be pardoned and released. Not
only would this open up prison space for violent criminals that are
being released early due to lack of space, it would solve other social
inequities caused by the war on drugs. Of course the
prison-industrial complex would have a lot to lose here. Imagine
if all the money going to them were spent on treatment. No more
drug problem. Keeping an inmate in prison is extremely expensive.
Everybody has heard the arguments over and over and there's been plenty
written about this subject, so here I stop.
17 - Review all laws
that benefit a special interest group or industry
A comprehensive review of all laws, no matter how obscure, should be
undertaken with the following question in mind: Who benefits from
it? If it is found that only a specific industry or special
interest benefits, the law in question should, a priori, be determined
a prime candidate for repeal, after proper public discussion. All
laws should be on the web and searchable, with links to the special
interests they favor.
18 - End all tariffs
(that by definition benefit certain special interests)
Tariffs have one universal consequence, they make a certain product
(the target of the tariff) more expensive for everyone. They also
benefit a domestic industry or manufacturer. In combination with
the elimination of subsidies (see item 9), this
proposal would make for a fairer marketplace and lower prices for most
consumers. It is not the purpose of this article to discuss the
merits, or lack thereof, of globalization, which is happening whether
we like it or not.
19 - End all
censorship laws and enforcement
The answer to bad speech is more speech, not less. In any open
society freedom of expression is paramount, thus, past decisions of the
supreme court notwithstanding, there should be no restriction on
speech, political, personal, commercial or otherwise. There are
already plenty of laws to handle fraud, defamation, and other
consequences or certain types of speech. Particularly outdated
are the laws that apply to certain words in broadcast radio and TV.
Technology has made these laws obsolete. Rating systems in
combination with parental control devices can take care of "protecting
the children" which has often been used as the excuse to restrict all
kinds of behavior, not only speech.
As an interim step, a "truth in censorship act" would require that all
multi-media streams that have been cut, blanked out, silenced or
otherwise modified from the way the creator intended have a written
notice (for movies for example) a few seconds before the cut that
explains that at the beep, a scene of x minutes or seconds has been
eliminated and what the contents of that scene was. I'd venture
to say that if viewers knew exactly what they were being denied, they
If you think that these ideas have merit, spread the word. The
country and the economy have been so mismanaged of late that the
situation can only improve, but it won't happen with the same old ideas
pushed by the entrenched special interests.
I'd be grateful for corrections of inaccuracies, references and
additions. Ideas and comments can be sent to: eclectic @
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