20 January 2012

9 Societal Fixes for Personal Freedom

The most important political issues to me have always been based around personal freedom and empowerment. I feel like all other interests and concerns should step aside in favor of giving individuals the most freedom and opportunities to live the life they most desire. I also feel like such a mission is a cooperative effort, acknowledging that people working together are capable of achieving far greater net accomplishment than a few individuals climbing to the top on the backs of others. It is with these values that I have great concern for the current position of the US government on many issues. Here is what I believe should happen if we are to truly achieve status as a great nation of great individuals:

1. End the War on Drugs

Nearly every academic analysis of the war on drugs in recent years has determined that it is a failure that has cost the world more money and lives than it has saved. Further, while the war itself is a drain on resources, drug legalization would help raise money, albeit a small amount. But the main reason that the war on drugs must end is that it constitutes, in its very principle, a violation of the human right to consume or not consume anything we choose. If a government were truly acting in the best interest of its citizens, this would be the most straight-forward change to make.

2. Replace For-Profit Health Insurance

On the topic of human rights, health (along with financial mobility) is an often-marginalized aspect of freedom. As individuals, we have nothing if not our health. This is why we cannot allow private, self-interested institutions to have a monopoly on decisions about our healthcare. A public healthcare service would allow all citizens a high standard level of care, improving overall health and reducing the cost of healthcare as a whole by emphasizing preventative care and best practices.

3. Campaign Finance and Lobby Reform

It should be apparent to anyone: allowing private money to affect the strength and message of public political campaigns will result in the rich and powerful having their interests catered to by politicians. This hardly ever works out in the favor of the masses. Imposing a limit to the amount that private interests can contribute to a political candidate and budgeting for publicly funded elections would help even the playing field to allow the public to rally around candidates who truly speak with their voice.

4. End Corporate Personhood

The notion that corporations are people is both practically absurd and politically dangerous. In addition to enabling undue influence in politics by large and irresponsible corporations, the status of personhood seems to come with no liability that natural persons must deal with. You cannot arrest a corporation or send them to jail. So, while corporations enjoy the benefits of being regarded as persons, they suffer none of the drawbacks. This outlook weighs heavily in their favor and must be struck down.

5. Keep the Internet Neutral

Lawmakers don’t know what to make of the Internet, so they let their most vocal (read: generous) constituents tell them what to think. To this end, we have had numerous attempts at regulating the content and flow of the Internet. Such measures are always heavy-handed, misguided and vague pieces of legislature that display no foresight or savvy. The UN has proposed that Internet access should be a human right and attempts by businesses to censor and manipulate that right are a terrible precedent.

6. Rebalance Taxes

Today, taxes are treated like a punishment on people who aren’t financially savvy enough to avoid them. Much has been said recently about the top 1% and their lack of contribution, accumulating wealth rapidly while the rest of society finds that their financial mobility resembles feudal Europe. While the rich insist that their wealth allows them to provide jobs for others, the numbers simply do not tell the same story. Their wealth will do much more good in the hands of the public, enabling lower and middle class families to invest and build their lives without such a heavy tax burden.

7. Refocus On Infrastructure, Science, Technology, Health and Education

In a world where every fix must be quick and cheap, it would be refreshing to once again embrace the concept of investing in our people and our future. Infrastructure, science, technology, health and education; the US has fallen behind its contemporaries in every category. Despite the optimism with which people regard life in the States, it is unfortunately much more pleasant in other parts of the world these days. These sectors are important for both societal strength and long-term economic growth. It is a shame that we are so focused on paranoid national defense and costly band-aids for the banking industry.

8. Reform Intellectual Property Law

As they stand, intellectual property laws are less about protecting creators and more about stifling competition. When there exist firms whose only reason for existence is to purchase patents for the purpose of litigation against potential infringement, you know something is wrong. Patents themselves can be so vague so as to eliminate entire classes of products from being developed. Copyright law is also getting out of hand, with the RIAA and MPAA able to fund legislation through the US Congress. We should be encouraging the exchange of ideas and information, not jealously guarding it with aggressive legislation and litigation.

9. Repeal the Patriot Act and NDAA (National Defense Authorization Act)

It’s been over a decade since 9/11, yet we are still looking for ways to skirt around due process. From a concerned citizen’s perspective, it seems like the government has very little respect for the freedom that we’re all supposedly born with. It has been demonstrated that the security measures instituted in the last 10 years have been largely for show, with the few breakthroughs coming through traditional (and legal) information gathering techniques. It’s time to return to the rule of law that the authors of the US Constitution envisioned.