Saturday, July 30, 2011

Congress Is Obsolete

I am by no means a political activist.  But as my frustration continues to mount with current events, I couldn't help but come to this realization.

Democracy, by its very definition, allows the populace to partake in the making of decisions that affect their lives.  But the Founding Fathers were a clever bunch.  They realized two things:

1.  A Direct Democracy, wherein each citizen partakes directly in the legislative process, was impossible 
2.  The general populace was largely unqualified to partake directly anyway

As a result, the US has a Representative Democracy.  But it has become painfully clear that this form of democracy no longer functions.  It no longer represents the people.  It fails in two ways:

1.  It is now owned by corporations 
2.  It consists of representatives who squabble over partisan issues

The first is the biggest problem.  It has become all too easy for a corporation to purchase favorable votes.  Immediately we see the conflict of interest: how can a representative represent the people when a corporation is paying him to vote in its favor?

And if, for whatever reason, the corporate influence is not strong enough, the second issue becomes the motivation.  This can clearly be seen in the current debt ceiling debacle. 

Now, it turns out, both tenets of the Founding Fathers are wrong.  A Direct Democracy is now possible.  And realizing this (and making appropriate changes) would fix both of the failures of Congress.  Today:

1.  It is not only possible, but feasible, to have every single member of the state partake directly in the legislative process

2.  The general populace has sufficient education and information available to partake directly

How can each citizen partake directly?  Technology.  Picture this: Congress is eliminated.  In its place stands an online system.  The system allows any citizen to vote on any law he is interested in.  Any citizen can submit a new bill to be considered by the populace.  If you care enough about a bill, you advertise it.  The system is sophisticated enough to organize all laws and bills so as to show context, conflicts, changes, and history.   

For now, we can leave the Executive and Judicial Branches in tact.  But the populace would itself be the Legislative Branch.  This automatically solves the two major failures of Congress:

1.  No corporation would be able (or willing) to buy every citizen's vote
2.  There is no longer a need for political parties, thus eliminating partisan bickering

The bottom line is: Congress has shown its inability to do its job.  But with current technology, it is obsolete anyway.  It can be removed.

Will this ever happen?  Not without a revolution. 

Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. - Aung San Suu Kyi

Would it be a perfect system?  Definitely not.  No human government will truly satisfy our needs.  Only God's government can do that.  But this system would at least leave me less frustrated with the daily news... I think. 

Edit Dec 23, 2013: Scott Adams agrees:

Saturday, July 16, 2011

You Are the Product

Everybody is talking about Google+.  And, perhaps, rightly so.  But I couldn't help but think about a quote last year from MetaFilter:

If you are not paying for it, you're not the customer; you're the product being sold.

I don't know about you, but I have grown accumstomed to using many free services on the internet.  But we live in a capitalistic society.  Companies are in business to make money, not to promote the overall good.  So if a company is providing you a free service, you are the product being sold!

Let's continue with the Google+ example.  The service is provided to the user free of charge.  So how is the user the product being sold?  The user is giving Google all sorts of information: his personal and professional data, his network of friends, his interests, etc.  Now imagine that amount of data for millions of users worldwide.   

It would be naive to think that Google will simply do nothing with that data.  Rather, Google can use that information with all sorts of capitalistic intent.  In its simplest form, it could just be targeting advertisements - essentially selling you to their advertisers.  But I'm sure there are a lot more subtle, yet profitable, alternatives.

The point is this: if you are being provided a free service, you are the product.  Your data.  Your time.  Your clicks.  Your mind.   

Will that stop me from using these free services?  No.  But I think it's important to at least be aware that I am not a customer; I'm a product. 

Friday, July 1, 2011

Studies... Again

It has been some time since I last mentioned some of the studies here.  But in this case, no news is good news.  Many have continued to progress well.

One is a man who speaks Amharic.  Well, I don't know about you, but I'm pretty rusty with my Amharic.  So we studied in English for a long time.  His appreciation kept developing.  He attended meetings.  But it was not his mother language.

Then a family moves into our congregation.  One day the brother mentions that he has a friend who is learning Amharic back in the States.  We get her email.  We chat with her on Skype.  Her Amharic is basic, but she gives us the email of a native Amharic speaker.

Long story short, now we include him on our study via Skype!  And it is fantastic.  Sometimes I will just sit there for an hour while they talk.  But he understands everything clearly!  It is really a blessing.

I mentioned another study a long time ago.  He continues to grow in his understanding and appreciation.  The last time I went it almost made me cry.  He is so thankful when we come that he always gives us a donation, even when we don't give him any new literature.  He always says "thank you for showing me the way."  And when he can't keep an appointment he says "I beg you, forgive me, let's make it another day."  It is hard to put his attitude into words, but it is a beautiful thing to see.