8/12/2009

my opinions on the ideal role of government control vs free market

Basic premise: the free market and socialist government control both have their advantages and ideal uses but don't work when applied exclusively
(much of western Europe has figured out a fairly good compromise along these lines, and America is at least in the general ballpark but does have much progress still to be made - keep in mind that things we take for granted like public roads, schools, and even fire departments are all socialist institutions and represent the importance of socialism in society)

(note: democracy vs oligarchy vs autocracy etc is a separate issue - representative democracy is the ideal and we have done a fairly good job in this arena in America - socialism does not necessarily mean totalitarian dictatorship!)

Ideal compromise: free market on top of socialist controls

-- base level government regulations to bring back/enforce externalities in the market (ie. to protect the interests of the environmental degradation, future generations, etc) - this is key to encouraging better consumer market decisions and have things like transportation or pollution reflect their true costs to society as a whole and is where America is the most at fault presently

-- government vouchers for all basic services which people are free to 'spend' as they wish on that service (like food stamps) - all citizens, regardless of their wealth, have a right to certain 'basic' services - we have fallen behind in providing these as time has marched on and what was once a luxury is now a necessity (already the internet is practically as vital to life as electricity in our society) - healthcare, high quality education up to and exceeding the college level, and some form of basic housing are all basic necessities of life today and therefore should be provided for all members of our society (this is a basic moral issue for me - I feel it is our duty as a society to provide for the needs of our our citizens - being poor in America currently makes you a lesser citizen without access to the basics needed to survive and live a productive life or even equal political power which I find reprehensible - it is abhorrent that 25% of American's live in poverty)
- risk: like public schools today, the 'basic' gov covered plans become inadequate and everyone ends up having to spend more out of pocket to get by in reality --> counterpoint: this is true of all gov supplied services & is still better than the existing 'screw the poor' reality so there is nothing to loose - only solution is to keep on top of things & keep legislation current

-- government control of basic infrastructure - enforced open competitive access to free market services on top (issues like net neutrality, the epic fail that is America's telecom services, AT&T monopolies, etc are all addressed by this) - this is not altogether dissimilar from the British railroad system, or the way we currently do roads and airports
- services like public transit should be funded this way - they should be funded on say a 50% (or whatever) farebox subsidy system where services are partially subsidized to with the remainder of the costs being made up in fares and the surplus fares being the service provider's profits - this encourages competition while accounting for their inherent inability to be self-sustaining (in todays market realities - this could be changed if all transportation were fully paid for by the user, but there would be general outcry at having to pay something on the order of $1/mile driven)

Yes, the net result of this is higher taxes, but it actually makes it more affordable in general to live and get by because the basics will be far cheaper and more efficient (examples: American's spend twice as much as everyone else on healthcare for inferior services, for telecom we spend up to 4 times as much for some of the worst service of the 1st world nations)

(semi-related note: we have too little respect for the importance of central planning/design in America which when applied judiciously greatly improves quality of life)

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