A Libertarian Genie Grants You Four Policy Wishes
You've just finished dinner. You're cleaning up and ready to check the evening news when suddenly a genie visits you.
You can create or change any four domestic laws you want as long as each law only pertains to one topic--no omnibus bills here. If you are not specific with your wishes, they will probably never be granted. Be specific! There are only two other rules: 1) You may not wish for more wishes, and 2) You must submit your wishes within 12 hours of them being granted.
What do you choose to do with your wishes? Think it over and comment below with your thoughts.
There are quite a few issues troubling society these days, so as I was thinking about this, I tried to consider the factors that are most likely to enable broader change for the better:
- Practicality and enforceability
- Time-lasting significance
- Broad ability to enable new reforms
You could make a law to protect all the sea turtles from fish nets, free unjustly convicted nonviolent criminals from prison, or ban bankers from funding political campaigns, but with so many possibilities, you can only choose four.
- - -
These are my four wishes for American politics.
1. Corporate Co-Determination
Every substantial corporation in America is governed by a Board of Directors by law, which tend to have seven to fifteen directors. The board's job is to appoint a CEO, set executive compensation, approve mergers and acquisitions, and make other important decisions regarding the direction and strategy of the company.
These boards are currently elected exclusively by shareholders. The more stock you own, the more votes you get. In the real world, this has enabled massive corporate influence by a select group of ultra-wealthy investors with horizontal ownership across many companies. Different types of shares have different voting rights and voting weights, so billionaires can negotiate special deals. Yet there is no legal requirement to give employees or anyone else voting shares.
In many companies, employees might have no board representation at all. On top of that, many small shareholders waive their voting rights because they don't know the director candidates, and when they waive these rights, a major company like Vanguard allows a closely tied proxy voting firm to vote on behalf of the retail investors (people with IRAs and other small investment accounts), so major shareholders end up with the vast majority of control over a board. As the top investors earn more money from the company's profits through dividends and stock buybacks, these shareholders then gain even more votes and control over the board.
Co-determination is a system in place in several successful countries to give workers voting rights on their company's board of directors. A board is split into two halves, one elected by shareholders and the other elected by employees.
A law enforcing co-determination for companies that meet a minimum size threshold would give righteous power back to the working class like a de facto cooperative union at every company.
2. An Armchair Tax
Warren Buffet says you have to be able to make money while you sleep to really make it in life, but if everybody did that, society would fall apart like a Jenga tower missing a few too many blocks.
The problem with these armchair investors is that while they sit back and buy companies with the click of a button, many working people bust their backs to make a living at a company that makes those armchair investors even richer. They pursue more wealth not just because it's a scoreboard, but because it's also a way to thwart the exploitation of their wealth by other elite bankers and billionaire inheritors.
There's nothing inherently wrong with an armchair investor. Everyone living off an IRA for retirement is riding the same wave of income on a smaller scale. But when wealth consolidates in the hands of an elite few, society as a whole breaks down, and it's not good for elites or workers. The Yellow Vest protests in Paris are a manifestation of the wealth inequality that has occurred repeatedly throughout history in countries without the governance structures to stop the inequality, including ours.
Spent on a basic income for all domestic citizens, an armchair tax would disburse the extreme amounts of wealth that concentrate at the top back to the workers that generate it. The incentive for hard work remains present, and the dependency-inducing welfare state becomes a true safety net for hard times. It more closely aligns the incentives of elite bankers with the goals of their communities to broaden prosperity and bring up the community as a whole. Some would call it a redistribution of wealth; others would call it the driver of the happiest, most relaxed collectivist countries in the world.
The seemingly high income tax brackets usually presented in popular media only apply to salary income when in fact wealthy investors hardly pay any income taxes at all. In the 1%, most taxes are paid as capital gains at a lower tax rate or avoided altogether through privileged loopholes designed only for an elite few.
The logistic sigmoid curve naturally fits most income distributions, so it can be fit to actual income data for a large population to demonstrate the tendency toward exponential wealth concentration at the upper fringe. The tangent forms the lower boundary above which the armchair tax could be applied.
A mathematically rigorous armchair tax would keep the capitalist free market alive and well without the corrupt cronyism of extreme wealth inequality.
3. True Democracy & Better Voting
Ranked choice voting, which allows voters to rank their candidate choices from top to bottom, has made headlines lately because it has several key benefits over conventional voting methods:
- Minor candidates don't "spoil" the election for more prominent candidates.
- Third-party candidates attract more votes and can break us out of the two-party system.
- Greater diversity of political parties makes it harder for Super PACs and wealthy donors to manipulate elections with campaign "donations."
Proportional voting also has benefits over the simple voting methods employed throughout most of the states in 2018.
If James Madison could travel in time to the struggles of today's Congress and assess the history of America since his death, he might suggest some changes to the system he helped implement with the Constitution. No one can say for sure what he and Jefferson would do today, but he and his founding peers were critical thinkers who tried solutions that didn't always fit the status quo.
Switzerland has enjoyed long-lasting prosperity and neutrality during times of war in part because it has direct democracy. In direct democracy, citizens vote directly on issues that they have knowledge about and skip the issues where they have no value to add. True democracy makes it much harder for lobbyists to try shady tactics with a relatively small group of politicians.
4. Decentralized Bureaucracy
In 2014, U.S. police made an arrest every 2.8 seconds. That's a lot of injustice to sort out and doesn't even include the criminals who never get caught for abuse of power. The United States has the highest incarceration rate of any economy in the world (except one small island chain), and since the passage of the "Patriot" Act, local police forces in cities and towns throughout the 3.8 million square miles of the U.S. essentially take their orders from one federal agency.
Theoretically, that puts one person in charge of over 750,000 police offers, not to mention 2 million federal employees, more than 2 million non-profit contractor employees, 7.5 million for-profit contractor employees, 1.5 million active-duty military personnel, and a budget of over $3,000,000,000,000. Even the world's most famous CEOs don't manage budgets anywhere near that size. When a hierarchy becomes so large, it becomes so unstable that tyranny is nearly inevitable.
Without decentralization, there's no way one person can effectively manage a workforce and budget that large while staying true to the country's principles. Unless these millions of employees all happen to be perfect, corruption is incredibly hard to root out of a three-branch governing system.
Decentralization of federal and state agencies would empower people to root out corruption at a local level within their organizations before the Spectre of internal organized crime gets too large and unmanageable.
A decentralized bureaucracy would involve putting a voter-elected council (resembling a Board of Directors without the investor influence) at the head of every government organization. If an agency's approval rating drops too low, constituents within the agency's jurisdiction can elect new council members to resolve the issues. People can participate in voting for the council members only for the agencies for which they're most knowledgeable. If a foreign influence wanted to infiltrate the government, they'd have to infiltrate and corrupt hundreds or thousands of organizations rather than just three.
What are your wishes?