Just Build A Better Mouse Trap…

As tempting as it is to discuss the new century (the new millennium still doesn’t start until 2001) and wander down the road of New Year resolutions, I thought I would share with you something that pretty much kills two birds with one stone…. politics and high tech. If you’ve read some of my earlier editorials, you’re well aware of my feelings towards politicians. Apparently, I’m not alone in my opinions either. The big question that cries out to be answered is; How do we fix the inherent problems of big government, and at the same time protect our own interests. Well folks, I may not have the definitive answer, but I certainly have something for you to think about.

We spend hundreds of millions of dollars to elect our public officials for the sole purpose of representing us at the local, state, and national levels of government. We endure mailing campaigns, nuisance calls during dinner, mud-slinging commercials on television, and countless opinion polls in the newspapers. We look at party platforms and tolerate campaign promises. We dust off our voter registration cards, stand in lines at the polling places, and flip all the right levers in that sentinel of solitude – the voting booth. We put up with an awful lot to have our say in who we elect to represent us, and then complacently repeat the process, regardless of what actually transpires between elections. If there is any degree of satisfaction involved in the entire process, it’s the 50-50 chance you might one day be able to say; "Don’t blame me. I didn’t vote for him!"

Does the process work? Well it seems to work on paper anyway, but the real issue here is not the means, but the end. The real problem with government today is that it doesn’t represent the needs and desires of the people. When you look at what it takes to get elected, and what it takes to stay in office, it’s difficult to believe that anyone in office is there to do much more than protect their own job. It’s no secret that practically anyone can be elected to public office… assuming you have enough money. Personal preferences aside, it’s no secret that Elizabeth Dole dropped out of the race solely for financial reasons, and Donald Trump (should he choose to run) will enter the race with money hanging out of every pocket of his $1500 suit. You would be shocked at the number of people in public office that belong to the Millionaire’s Club. With those credentials in mind, how realistic are your expectations that the people you vote into office can understand and relate to your feelings and concerns? There is a solution here that not only speaks to the voting process, but also has the potential to give us a true voice in the decision making currently reserved for politicos only. It’s called the Internet.

Now before the "nay-sayers" state the obvious issues with Internet access, security problems, bandwidth, etc., let me just say that all of these things can be addressed and solved. I’m not going to bore you with my thoughts on these things, other than to say that most of you reading this have faced insurmountable technical problems in your careers, and have managed to solve them in one fashion or another. Just look at what we’ve accomplished in TPF over the years. The challenges are certainly there, but so are the abilities to make it work. With that said, let’s take a look at the obvious advantages to doing something like this.

We are by all accounts blessed by living in a democratic society. The advantages and freedoms we share are a precious birthright, and should never be taken lightly. We are, if only to an extent, a nation "of the people, by the people, and for the people". It is this philosophy that should be held most sacred, and protected at all costs. That having been said, a means for every citizen to have a genuine say in our own destiny goes far beyond the election of public figureheads. What I would like to have, and what I believe all of us would ultimately like to have, is the ability to voice our own individual opinions on matters of law.

One of the biggest problems we have with government is the influence placed on a few hundred Congress-people by special interest groups. When these special interest groups and Political Action Committees (PACS) provide millions in campaign contributions, travel junkets to exotic locales, and special "favors" in exchange for votes, we lose the "people" factor in the equation. Yet another problem is what I’ll refer to as the "fine print piggy-back" that infests most of the legislation brought for approval. Any time someone wants to kill a bill in Congress, all they have to do is attach some other obscure legislation to it that will prevent the primary issue from being approved. For example: Health care legislation coupled with (say) gun control legislation will never make it through Congress. As solid and beneficial as the health care provisions may be, the gun control piggy-back will never win approval. Bottom line… the bill is voted down.

So the first step in getting any form of control back into the hands of the people is to provide the means by which they can do so. Utilizing the Internet, the voting public would have a real say in establishing the legislation and management of issues that effect all of us. Things such as health care, education reform, Social Security, welfare reform, and the ever popular taxation would be brought to the table, and voted on by the people – not the politicians. Yes the vote would be a "popular" vote, but that’s the basis of our democratic system. Once the vehicle is in place, the next step would be to insure that all issues brought up for vote would be standalone issues. No more piggy-backing of legislation. Let the people deal with the issues strictly on the merits of those issues. Finally, as a last effort towards timeliness, I would like to see the voting process take place on a more frequent basis – possible monthly. This approach serves a dual purpose: it fosters ongoing involvement and participation by everyone, and provides a rapid means of getting new laws and policies into place when they’re actually needed, and more likely to be effective.

There is of course the question of what to do with all the elected officials. From where I stand, that’s an issue that they’ll have to deal with themselves. Most of them have enough money already, so retirement is probably going to be a popular choice. The rest will likely flock into law practice, already having their law degrees, and being eminently qualified to continue on a path of self-interest. In the long run, not a great loss for the huddled masses.

The possibilities are endless when you consider some of the things that we as a nation can accomplish. The social and economic changes could be staggering. People would have a real sense of security, an improved quality of life, and a legitimate stake in the overall process of running the nation. No more special interests, no more partisan politics, and an equal voice in everything that affects our lives. Quite a novel concept.

The question we all have to face is not whether government works, but rather how well is it working. Personally, I think it can work much better than it is, and if the majority of us are in agreement on that, then maybe it is time to try something else. If we succeed, then we all benefit. If we don’t succeed, we can always revert back to the old system while we figure out what went wrong. Get the technical issues squared away, establish a policy to manage the process, and I have to believe that we can grow into a stronger nation than we ever imagined. The new year holds the promise of great things to come. We can go along for the ride and take what life hands us, or we can play a decisive role in forging a future for ourselves, and our children.

Have a happy, healthy, and safe New Year!

Alan Sadowsky