I have had a very busy couple of weeks, with having a sick kid, taking same kid back and forth to Louisville, and catching a bit of her bug myself. I did vote on Thursday, but, as is normal, I did not vote for candidates who actually won.
I did learn that 70.35% of the primary voters in the 3rd District voted for Republican candidates, and that the Democratic nominee, Melody Shekari, ended up with under 2% of the potential voters in the district (8,651 votes of an estimated 541,000 residents over 18–I dropped foreign-born people from the Census number, figuring that while many of them became U.S. citizens and were registered to vote, we probably lose a roughly equal number of felons). The level of voter apathy is disheartening, to be certain.
So now we are down to five candidates in the 3rd District:
- Chuck Fleischmann – Republican Incumbent
- Melody Shekari – Democrat
- Rick Tyler – Independent “Make America White Again”
- Cassandra Mitchell – Independent (Green Party/Jill Stein supporter)
If we were to create a continuum from right to left views, we get something like this:
Obviously, this is my opinion, based on their positions on their websites. Fleischmann votes with the GOP almost all of the time and the GOP is trending right. Shekari is a Clinton Democrat, not a Sanders Democrat, so she’s more moderate. I had a long Skype conversation with Cassandra Mitchell, so I feel pretty confident in that analysis. Tyler had a very positive reaction from the Roane County Tea Party, so I feel that he is to the right of Fleischmann. I put myself in the middle because I’m all over the spectrum, depending on the issue. On most social issues, I’m pretty liberal, but on many fiscal issues I am pretty conservative. And I didn’t give myself a logo because I’m not part of any group. I have had a few groups try to get me to join them, but I think I would better serve as a true independent.
I have had a few people on Twitter ask for my support on various bills, and how I handled those should be an indication of how I would handle things if elected:
- Read – Read the proposed legislation and related documents
- Listen – Listen to people on all sides of the issue
- Think – Does this bill adequately address the problem without creating more problems? How much does this bill cost? Does this bill benefit one class of people at the expense of another?
Currently, because of the abysmally low voter turnout, the tone coming from both sides in the presidential race, and the general level of fear in society overall, I am not in the most optimistic mood regarding the future of our country and the world. The problem, of course, is that I am having a hard time balancing the concerns I hear from people with the actual facts, which suggest that we are on the verge of an incredible future.
There are two interesting trends that most people don’t get. I remember growing up and seeing the world population graphs that suggested we were having a population explosion–and we were. But now the story is quite different. The rate of world population growth has been declining since 1970. There are varying estimates of the continuing rate of decline, but if we have a constant rate of decrease based on what has happened the past thirty years, the population will stop increasing around 2065. There are good and bad reasons for the decrease in birth rate: Improved education for women–women have fewer children if they know what causes pregnancy, improved accessibility to birth control, and population management methods (most notably the draconian measures taken in China).
While this is happening we are seeing a simultaneous dramatic growth in the Gross World Product. Since 1950 the GWP has grown by a factor of eight, while the world population has grown by a factor of three. Here’s what things look like from 2010 to 2100:
Right now the per capita GWP is around $10,500 per year. So if we went pure communist and divided the world’s production evenly, each person would have $10,500 on which to live. This is just below the U.S. federal poverty line for individuals ($11,800), but above the line for couples ($16,020 vs. $21,000) and families. Of course, if we went pure communist we would also kill the GWP growth rate.
Where things get interesting is around 2060, where if we tax at 30%–which is about what the average person pays now in combined income, sales, and property taxes–we end up with enough money to put everyone above the poverty line. By 2100, the amount is enough to provide almost $40,000 in benefits to everyone. The bottom line is pretty simple:
For the first time in human history, resource scarcity won’t be important.
As such, we really need to think about public policy differently. I think we need to focus on three areas:
- We need to act so that we do not screw up the world population trend. Keep increasing educational opportunities for women in poorer countries and make sure that birth control is accessible and affordable.
- We need to make sure we don’t screw up the world economy. We need to continue to promote trade–which includes trading labor via immigration–and avoid isolationism. We need government investment in basic scientific research so that private industry can apply that research to new products. We need government investment in infrastructure to encourage commerce.
- We need to make sure we don’t screw up the planet in the next hundred years while we wait for technology to catch up with human needs.
If we stay the course, we are going to end up with a pretty incredible world. If we are smart about our course corrections, we can make this happen decades earlier. If we are stupid and greedy–if people interpret “Make America Great Again” as “Make America Great and Screw Everyone Else”–we can make the trendlines we saw in the 1950s and 1960s true again.
As such, I will work to steer policy in that direction. I will look to steer foreign aid toward projects that educate women. I will vote for legislation that increases funding for basic scientific research–as the return on investment tends to be at or near break even for the government anyway, and I will vote for intelligent infrastructure investment. I will vote for good environmental legislation: legislation that protects the environment while improving reporting and record-keeping requirements to lessen the burden on businesses. None of this is a zero-sum game: We can help people, business, and the environment at the same time. If we steer a smart course, we will all end up winners.
I will get back to my review of the GOP platform tomorrow. Thanks for reading–and feel free to tell me how horrible my new website header graphic is.