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100 Qs 4 Government


Having started with “100 Questions for God” there couldn’t possibly be a more divisive topic available,… could there? Until I find that ultimate topic, I’ll be offering opinions on Government – with a primary focus on the US but also exploring international issues as well. Any postings on this topic will be excerpts of the book “100 Politically Incorrect Questions for Government” which should be available late in 2011.

To give you a flavor of where it’s heading, here’s the book’s introduction:

Introduction

The temerity of someone writing a book on God and then immediately moving on to questions the about foundations of our civil 🙂 society is not lost on me. While some of this audacity may be driven by an ego which convinces me I have something to say, its primary cause is a deep seated affection for my adopted country. Throughout my childhood, the United States of America was a beacon of hope, it was the:

  • Land of opportunity
  • Only country unwaveringly committed to justice
  • Superman’s chosen abode
  • Technology wunderkind
  • World’s protector
  • Home of Hollywood
  • Ultimate guiding light for global values
  • Top place for getting cheap drugs and ammunition

All of my aspirations of world domination and unparalleled wealth were fueled by the proliferation of American shows and films trumpeting “you can achieve anything if you just believe”. And believe I did – it was always my goal to make it there because…

“If I can make it there, I’ll make it anywhere…”

Throughout my teens and early adulthood I was inspired by the might, opportunity, entrepreneurship, creativity, leadership, honesty, inventiveness, feistiness, integrity…. of the USA.

As I embarked on my chosen career and settled into the routine of grinding out the occasional dollar, pat on the back and pay rise, my dreams and aspirations inspired by the country began to dissipate. Of course, like all good Irishmen, my dreams were reignited by meeting a ridiculously cute North American woman. Unable to resist her charms, I was drawn to the Great Northern Land in pursuit of the fair maiden.

The tracking and eventual trapping of Mrs O’Pinion is a story for another day, but with over a decade of living in the Promised Land, I have concluded the following:

  • This is the land of opportunity, but not everyone has it
  • Justice is for all, but comes in different ways
  • Superman isn’t real! (I’ve heard some people are still waiting for him!) 🙂
  • Innovation permeates the business environment but may be lacking in the political and governing arena
  • The world’s protector is not without self-interest (not necessarily a problem but it still might be worth noting)
  • Hollywood hasn’t made any of my films
  • The guiding light sometimes flickers in the face of tough decisions
  • You can still get some great drugs and firearms

Please don’t think this reflects on my love or affection for my adopted land – all of these foibles existed long before my arrival. It’s merely an opening of my eyes and a toning down of my eternal naivety and idealism. In addition, having traveled to many countries and grown up on foreign soil, I absolutely understand no government is perfect.

The real reason for asking one hundred questions of government, with a focus on the US system, is the perceptions of people I discuss it with. Common themes around our current political environment and practice include:

  1. The system is broken
  2. Politicians care more about their eternal health care than their constituents
  3. Why does everything have to be so partisan?
  4. The other side are complete morons
  5. What’s the chance of getting anything done around here?
  6. The whole exercise is driven by propaganda, misinformation and misleading sound bites
  7. Special interest groups get far more say than voters
  8. Democrats are communists pretending to be socialists
  9. Republicans are high school drop-outs pretending to be geniuses

I could go on but I’m hoping you’ve got the general gist – things could be better. As a foreigner, I would be the first to admit the ineptitude of other governments in other countries. The US doesn’t have the inflation of Zimbabwe, the lawlessness of Somalia, the utter poverty of North Korea or the corruption of Afghanistan. However, the following should give us food for thought:

  • Quality of education
  • Level of taxation
  • Cost of health care
  • Federal deficit
  • Funding of Social Security
  • Infant mortality rate
  • Gun crime
  • Poverty rate
  • Wealth distribution
  • Collapse of the financial system
  • Membership of the International Court
  • Number of wars we’ve stuffed up
  • Failure to meet the basic standards of human rights
  • Wikileaks exposure of security flaws
  • Prioritization of funding
  • Deterioration of our infrastructure
  • Illegal immigrant population
  • Complexity of our tax and legal system
  • Unemployment rate
  • Funds spent through benefits programs
  • Number of states on the verge of bankruptcy
  • Food quality
  • Pollution control
  • Failure to implement green technology
  • Wasted funds
  • Status of jails

These may not even be the big issues. While the United States is a great nation, we really should be doing better with what we’ve got.

Of course, it is easy to criticize, much harder to work towards intelligent, realistic, achievable solutions. This book aims to create a foundation for the discussion and then offer insights on better paths forward. As with any of the “100 Questions” series, I don’t claim to have all of the answers, and it’s quite possible I have none of them. However, if we at least start with some of the pertinent queries, there’s some potential to move forward.

As always, I will not take life too seriously and if you are offended by flippant discussion of political issues, I’m certain to upset you at some stage. However, in contrast to our first foray, I perceive a spectacular opportunity to provide factual information to support any tentative conclusion I might reach. In a stunning irony, it appears significantly more difficult to differentiate fact from fiction in our information rich society. For this reason, we have identified five types of data:

  1. Fact – from a reputable source, doubled checked with another reputable source
  2. Propaganda – something presented as fact which may be based on some valid information but is so distorted as to be misleading
  3. Opinion – something someone said which is based on supposition or contemplation but is yet to have the supporting data checked
  4. Rumor – stuff made up to clog the mental arteries of the populace
  5. Bullshit – a large portion of the political data set – it’s malicious in nature and more potent than it should be

At the start of each of our data driven questions, I will present the key information and categorize it as one of the five data types. I will make every effort to be unbiased and meticulous in my designations – you have every right to disagree and correct me if you have convincing evidence to the contrary. However, anyone who calls me an idiot, mean names or worse, is just stating the obvious – don’t bother because, even if it’s true, I don’t care.

If you feel our government is achieving all it can, gloriously efficient, focused on the betterment of all voters, living up to the expectations of the founding fathers and maintaining this nation’s status as the pre-eminent power on our planet, don’t buy or read this book. I’m not sure if the system is broken, but I do think it’s well short of where it should be.

So, if you’re open to exploring where we should be, where we are, and how to bridge the gap, you’ve come to right place. While the answers may not be perfectly aligned with your view of the world, I’m okay with that, if you are.  I’ll offer my opinion based on the evidence presented, and you can decide whether it matches your view or needs some tweaking. I’ll make every effort to ensure all information is accurate and semi-unbiased but I’ll leave the ultimate judgment to you.

The standard “100 Questions” disclaimer

Finally, before embarking on this journey with me, you should be aware this book is a mix of logic, common sense, personal opinion and pathetic attempts at humor. If you don’t feel one or any of these should be applied to a discussion of government, you may want to read something else.

Ultimately, this book is about finding a government which makes sense to me, it may or may not be about finding yours. If you’re not open to contemplating a potentially different government*** to the current one, put this book down and then accidentally knock it into the nearest trash can.

*** While party affiliations may be a factor, the “difference” in this case is about how it operates, rather than who operates it.

One Comment leave one →
  1. adurrell permalink
    August 25, 2011 10:00 am

    Justin – love it! So many good questions out there. Can we send this to our State Reps???

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