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a fresh start.

I'm Ben Turner. If I ran for office, this would be the basis for my platform. This is what I want my elected officials to support. This is how to make our country happier, simpler, prouder, more efficient, logical. This is how we will love our country, respect ourselves, and be respected again. I'm tired of the gridlock, the indifference, the helplessness, the xenophobia, the cannibalizing. I'm tired of being alienated by decisions made by my government.

[note: this is somewhat outdated, but I think I'll have to re-write this in order to organize it better and to say what my views are more precisely, without confusion. I think I originally wrote this 2.5 years ago, and I've learned quite a bit since then. -Sep. '08]

The U.S. is not the only republic in the world. The U.S. is just another country. A country too full of itself to see that it is slipping behind competitively. A country wedded to outdated, poorly performing foreign policy goals. A country too drunk and gluttonous, too infatuated with itself to see its competition in the rear-view mirror. A country that should be the shining promise and leader towards the future. A country that needs to adjust to the modern economic climate, with reforms in its infrastructure, electioneering, and finance planning systems. When I meet people from other countries, they either tell me when talking directly about the US that we are losing our international focus economically and politically, or that their countries are waiting for the US to provide vision and leadership and courage for the future as we once did. We've lost our way, not in a traditionalist sense, but in a democratically progressive, idealistic sense. We need to take a good look at ourselves and play to our strengths, while shoring up our weaknesses. It will be brutal, unflattering, and different.

Here are some basic tenets of my platform.

The Internet is good.
Fair markets are good.
Life learning is good.
Cosmopolitanism is good.
Community is good.
Progressivism is good.
Government as an incubator is good.
Government protection of peoples' rights is good.
Rule by and for the people is good.
Eudaimonism is good.
Multi-culturalism is good.
Transparency is good.

I believe in cutting down waste, increasing efficiency. I believe government-funded projects are best utilized when building infrastructure for other organizations to put to good use, or when used to directly help the people. Government subsidies for uncompetitive markets are a waste. Protectionism is a waste. I see the government as making sure the tools for success are available, incubating small business and innovation. Tax credits encourage development. Government program costs I want are off-set by cutting down on wasteful, unproductive allocations of money. If run efficiently, with plenty of government investment in the right areas, I believe the budget can still be dramatically reduced or be made more efficient. At the very least, money can be re-prioritized towards a constructive future instead of plugging up the dam's holes with our fingers.

Ending the "War on Terror".

Little is more corrosive to the US right now than the "War on Terror". We should cease it immediately. It is not a war. To treat counter-terrorism as such undermines the mission of the military, inhibits the course of criticism and debate, and alienates our allies. Target safe havens for top terrorist leadership, eliminate disconnected states. Work with regional interests in order to deal with Iraq, whose toppling has shifted the entire power balance of the region towards a Shi'ite system and away from the Sunnis. Everyone is worried there, and everyone has an interest in stability there.

Re-affirm the invulnerability of the Constitution's and Rights Bill's visions. The Bush Administration has neutered habeas corpus, freedom of the press, criminal justice, the right to privacy, the right to happiness. These ideals should be sacrosanct and untouchable. We cannot lead the world by example if we are hypocritical in our actions. We cannot fight on terrorists' terms -- we should be morally incorruptible, even if it means we do things like obey Geneva Conventions that many believe don't apply to enemy combatants. It is the principle of being just, not the technicalities of law or the savagery of war, that is important.

Trash the Department of Homeland Security and scale back the Transportation Security Administration. Those organizations are full of under-qualified employees with little background for the job, resulting in ridiculous no-fly lists, nonsensical flight security procedures, humiliation of American citizens by foolishly ignorant TSA employees, and little tangible improvement in security beyond making the whole system so convoluted that it takes hours to get through a terminal. Besides, we already have an organization for homeland security. And there's also a reason that the NSA is not allowed to spy on Americans or domestically without court approval. Rename the Department of Defense to the Department of War, as it used to be called. Be realistic about what it actually does. All this bureaucracy we've added since 9/11 has only made us weaker, and complicated the ability for departments to share with each other.

We should pull out of Iraq and Afghanistan immediately, and withdraw from foreign occupational bases.

For those who claim that pulling out of Iraq means one does not have any coherent alternative, I can counter that. I'd recruit special operations soldiers heavily, raising their training and maintenance standards also. I'd want to expand JFK's culture of special forces. I would target their usage to focused attacks on key Al-Qaeda safe havens. The 82nd Airborne and other rapid-deployment forces such as Ranger battalions would also play into this. This would be done with keen memory of Somalia -- the difference being that they knew we were there, and they knew we were coming. Afghanistan won't be united by the US. Iraq will re-order itself faster without our presence. There are other failed states such as Somalia that Al-Qaeda thrives off of. The focus of our efforts should be on these sorts of places. Our military is built for quick strikes, and as we pull back our forces, we should hit the federally administered provinces between Afghanistan and Pakistan heavily. But our forces cannot be allowed to be sucked into occupation; all of America's enemies and even some of its friends want us to remain occupiers in other peoples' countries.

Finally, as all deployed soldiers are keenly aware of, private military contractors must be curtailed in their allowable mission during foreign conflicts, and they must be held to standards suitable for representatives of the coalition or of the United States itself. While they may just begin to poach from overseas bases instead, it is unconscionable to let them operate under US mandate as is.

Government Transparency.

One key notion of a successful democracy is respect for transparency. It's something we clamor for in struggling nations but recent administrations (particularly the Bush one) have shown little respect for it in their own dealings. All government workers are servants of the people, humble and forthcoming when asked by the people to take accountability.

National security and effective operations have been cited as reasons to not disclose information to the people, and indeed much more information has been kept out of public sight or even re-classified in recent years. Scandals have emerged demonstrating a pattern of contempt for public knowledge.

The people deserve to know just about everything, particularly if the material is not immediately time-sensitive. The media plays an important role in this and should be given access without intimidation or blackmail. Government organizations like the Government Accountability Office should be respected. The Freedom of Information Act should be fully carried out, and not be selectively acknowledged when convenient. Requests for information from our government should not be ignored, delayed, partially filled.

The government should have a heavily promoted channel for educating the American people about the latest ideas, trends, and programs. Politicians say they talk simply because that's the only thing their constituents will understand. But people are not stupid; they just need to know what options are available out there. Never trust someone who underestimates the American public.

Most importantly, the White House and Congress need to be honest. They need to say what it means and to drop the notion that secrecy is important to national security. They need to bear out ideas they don't support or concessions from those who disagree, so that the American people can weigh the different options intelligently. Public forums should be constructed to allow for political activism. Do you know where in your community you would even go to discuss politics? Chances are, no place even exists.

Foreign policy matters are not discussed with the people currently. Scholars and regional experts should help lay out the situation to the American public with a broad, all-encompassing presentation of a country's political, economic, and social situation. The president's role will be to use his media coverage to inform the public. Because right now, foreign policy matters are framed in the most basic terms, in order to keep people obedient and unsuspecting of what's really going on elsewhere in the world. Americans have little awareness of the status of any nation outside their own, even Iraq, the most media-fixated country on Earth right now.

I propose increased governmental support for the Government Accountability Office to investigate all levels of federal government and examine what could be cut down or made more efficient. An index of how efficient each arm is would be very useful. The GAO has been a rare beam of light in the darkness as of late -- we should give it credibility and respect and follow its recommendations while preserving its non-partisanship and commitment to public service.

Military Servicemembers' Rights

You can die for your country but you can't drink until you're 21? Either we lower the legal drinking age or we make exception for active-service teens if they stay on post while they drink.

Trash the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy. Why turn away people who wish to serve our nation in the military just because they're gay? I knew many gay service men and women while I was enlisted and they were often the best students and soldiers we had.

Expand GI Bill benefits. Get rid of the barrier between Student Loan Repayment funding and the GI Bill, which has affected me personally. Allow servicemembers to go to non-military schools and then come back easily. General Petraeus has encouraged this behavior from his officers.

Make sure veterans are integrated back into society; homeless ex-military indicate failure on our parts.

Election Awareness Reform.

Election Day should be a national holiday. Despite weak correlation statistically between voting on the weekend and voter turnout, work restraints should not interfere with stewardship of the nation. Furthermore, the government should take direct measures to inform the public of all candidates, without prejudice toward any candidate. It can provide a web platform for doing so.

A part of me believes in earning one's citizenship through government service but that would be a long way off and there would have to be a grandfathering provision. Renewed vigor for the Peace Corps, Job Corps, and AmeriCorps would coincide. Americans need a closer relationship with their government.

Web applications and Internet accessibility are still being improved, but they have reached a level where online voting is feasible if taken out of the hands of incompetent contractors. Online commerce thrives and people insist that voting online is impossible. What if people could log in to their page and see all the districts', state's, and federal government's candidates that they're eligible to vote for? What if people could vote in online referenda for any issue? This would bring in an element of a direct democracy. It would also be possible to bring voters closer to their representatives and to awareness of more sides of political issues, using this system.

At the very least, voting system contracts should be removed from companies who refuse to fully disclose the internals of their products, to avoid the Diebold debacles in Florida and Ohio. The 2008 election is using the same broken Diebold machines as it was in 2004. WHY? A system should have an easy-to-understand interface, a link to the Internet for peer review and faster vote-counting, and a hard-copy tabulation for representatives of different parties or organizations for confirmation. Are you telling me that we can't figure out a secure voting system yet trillions of dollars are traded online every day without a blip?

Financing candidates should be reined in. Money should not buy support or allow for more publicity. Some sort of government-supported apparatus for publicizing candidates should be formed, and every candidate should be given the same amount of money to run their campaign. It is no secret that incumbents bring in more campaign money, and incumbents or wealthier candidates are almost impossible to defeat.

Relative Salaries, Compulsory Service for Elected Officials.

Career politicians have no place in Washington D.C. nor in our universities. As a standard, members of Congress and in the White House must have served in the U.S. military and the Peace/Job Corps. In order to shape policy, they must have served their time with little financial reward and understand the life of a military servicemember and the lives of those in other countries.

Congressmen should earn only the average salary of their constituents. The president should earn the salary of the average American. Perhaps this could be tied more closely to the average level of poverty also but I'm not sure how yet. They will find backdoors to get money -- perhaps the best we can do is report the difference between reported income on taxes and what their salary is, to indicate the level of outside lobbying. Non-monetary economic incentives may be used to encourage the right sort of behavior from elected officials.

We deserve officials who are informed about and experienced in the world. We should hold them to a higher standard than we hold ourselves. We deserve officials who didn't just major in politics. We deserve officials who are aware of long-term American strategic interests and not just winning the next short-term election with mudslinging ads.

Federally-Funded National Wireless Infrastructure.

Following the same grand thinking of the interstate highway program initiated in the 1930's, this federally-funded program would develop, install, maintain, and constantly upgrade a national wireless network for the Internet. Installing repeaters, base stations, and towers would be easy. They could piggyback off of existing cellphone towers and streetlamps. Cities could maintain the system at their level and make sure everything connects up to the federal level.

An underlying theme would be massive expansion of bandwidth. According to an article in Foreign Affairs by Thomas Bleha, the United States is the only industrialized nation without an explicit promotion of broadband. 80% of Japan has access to ultrafast Internet (100mb/s), and access to 26mb/s for around $22/month, whereas American providers quibble over 1.5-3mb/s for $45-50/month. We have been squarely trounced in this arena.

The United States should be super-saturated in bandwidth, creating an online sandbox for innovation. Connectivity is our future, and the Internet is its vehicle.

The effect this would have on commerce, communication, emergency channels, education, and progress would be immeasurable. People of all economic classes would have access to unlimited, omnipresent Internet. Channels could be standardized, reducing conflicts and signal noise. An always-on culture would spark ingenuity and creativity in all realms of industry: household appliances could interact with the producer directly, entertainment would be more of a social gathering, people would be able to find information faster. As in Neal Stephenson's Metaverse, a parallel, massively profitable world would spring from no where. Other nations would marvel at the U.S.'s advanced communications.

After the interstate highway program came the golden age of fast food burger chains, built along the new highways to feed hungry travelers, mainly in California. Shipping, trade, and logistics easily transported goods to feed a booming economy. Imagine that now on the Internet, the cornerstone of the Information Age.

No DRM, Censorship, Internet Taxes, or Monitoring.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation

I believe if the government defended the people and told the RIAA, MPAA, and DRM proponents to back off, it would restore faith in the government as serving the peoples' interests and not the companies' interests.

Democracy and capitalism thrive off fluid distribution. This includes Internet downloads. Pirating exists because the system as it stands is not seen as equitable by the consumer.

The government should defend free speech online under any circumstance, as it was intended to be. It should go after those who seek to curb or intimidate free speech using cease & desist or the cooling effect.

The government should not levy taxes on sales over the Internet as interstate commerce, but instead as a consumption tax as described in the FairTax.

The PATRIOT Act is not worth it. Spying on Americans needs to stop unless conducted under stringent, specific conditions, and not in general ones.

Murder, Abortion, Capital Punishment, War.

Let's just get it out there. You can certainly say abortion is murder. Okay? So? Steven D. Levitt describes in Freakonomics his highly contentious claim that the precipitous drop in crime just when experts predicted massive chaos and destruction was caused by the Roe v. Wade decision; that is, mothers who did not want their children got abortions, vastly reducing the numbers for the statistically most crime-prone demographic, children born to broken families with single mothers who could not afford to properly raise them.

Abortion isn't about murder -- the framing of it as such is irresponsible. The basis for the pro-life movement is that those children were innocent and didn't have a choice, whereas criminals who are executed had a choice. But at the same time, much of the pro-life movement is also pro-war, and it takes a giant leap of faith to not see that putting soldiers with guns into any highly-populated area will result in innocent civilians dying.

Murder is a cop-out, an exaggeration, when it comes to abortion. I don't have a problem with people aborting fetuses they didn't want. That's their choice. As public policy, we should ensure safety for our citizens as a priority, not try to push moral stances that are highly contested and always will be. Yes, you may not support abortion. But many do. How do we co-exist? That we see abortion as murder is arbitrary and illogical in terms of public policy.

And unless you're a pacifist who believes any life taken is bad, then you're not making much sense consistently.

Capital punishment is not always bad. But it's mis-used. It should be used as prevention. Prevention for future crimes. So the test is whether a criminal has repeatedly committed a crime over several instances. Not only does it self-validate the guilt of the accused, but it also determines that the accused has pattern-behavior that he can't/won't control. Therapy has failed by this point. The chance that this person will rape another person, or commit a more serious crime, becomes rather high.

Thus capital punishment would be just. As it stands now, people are executed for one instance of violence. They sit in the system for a long time as their guilt is put into question. Why do prosecutors set the victims' families up like this, and why do they allow a defense to prolong the process by choosing flimsy cases? Why do judges allow juries to employ this severe punishment on less definite cases?

I don't have a problem with murdering terrorists either. I joined the Army to hunt them. I don't have a problem with killing people. But the difference is that I am consistent in my application of the right to life.

Slimness Credits.

Americans are fat. Americans don't exercise. Americans eat too much. Americans live in community-destroying suburbs and single-passenger car culture. Whatever the cause, we are disgustingly obese and have lost our sense of self-respect. Combining more responsibility from companies for nutrition, adding parks and bike trails and public gyms, and giving people tax credits based on their percentage of fat are ways to curb this burden on the health care system and on our conscience. What message does it send when other countries see so many fat Americans living up to stereotypes?

Transparency as a Cultural Virtue.

The society as described in Bruce Sterling's "The Transparent Society" is a welcome one. People complain about the balance between privacy and security. But why must there be a conflict between the two? Open, transparent societies thrive while closed, controlled ones languish. Just compare the U.S. stock market, where almost everything save for insider trading is public information, to China, where strict limits are placed on daily price movement, transactions, and ownership of businesses.

Mostly this would affect intelligence. Why do we so closely guard our secrets? By keeping things secretive, we make them valuable. Does it benefit us to keep our methods secret? A common example is the Administration's giving away of our technical collection capabilities that allowed bin Laden to get the heads-up that he was being surveilled. But should we play dumb? Should there not be open safeguards so that innocent people are not surveilled? Any professional terrorist or intelligence person or notable figure worth his salt would know to avoid certain things to evade detection. Anyone with any common sense knows that something sent over the air can be captured.

As for encryption? Of course encryption should remain secure, but it should be open for scrutiny. Closed encryption systems are less reliable because they depend on security through obscurity -- the fewer details are released, the less a cracker has to work with. But open encryption allows for people to try to break the encryption and then tweaking the algorithms until it's more secure. Secure transmissions are the future of commerce, communication, all the things that enable trust and therefore prosperity.

The sooner you accept the fact that you already have no privacy, the sooner you'll realize that what we must do is set up a transparent system where no one has any privacy in terms of monetary transactions or professional relationships.

Reform Foreign Policy.

Our troops do no good being spread out all over the world. They are spread out in order to maintain a presence in other countries. It is a way to ensure that we still have the ability to spy on and watch what other countries are doing. It is a way to meddle with their affairs. This has created a lot of popular resistance and insurgency world-wide. Countries are unhappy with our military and intelligence presence there. This places political pressure on their governments and destabilizes them.

It is a good argument that having forces ready to deploy to any part of the world could increase global security. But clearly we do not use it for that purpose, letting conflicts continue to boil and fume all over the planet without doing anything about it. A multi-national coalition security force would be preferable, under a larger security mandate than just the idea of the American watchdog. We need projection of power but it should be done under terms that don't undermine countries' sovereignty.

We shouldn't have double standards when it comes to trade (currently we punish countries who don't do as we say by restricting trade), domestic policy (basic freedoms vs. the global war on terrorism), nuclear arms (the nuclear weapons community is an elitist group holding all the cards), environmentalism (even if we joined the Kyoto Protocol, our pollution reduction would have been miniscule). We strong-arm developing nations into adopting globalization, but then our protectionist policies flood their countries with our goods but provide no market for their goods. Then we offer them loans they'll never be able to re-pay, forcing them to pay interest instead of developing their infrastructure and schools and health systems.

We should step up and lead by example. We should be the country that forward-looking leaders look to and say, "We should do what the Americans are doing." We should offer unconditional assistance, a helping hand that countries can trust, instead of a country that more and more nations are refusing to deal with because they know our suggested plans will ruin their economies.

Immigration and a Border Wall.

It's worked dramatically in Israel in reducing suicide bombings. Build a great wall along both the Canadian and Mexican borders. Not only is it a step in the right direction towards national security, but it also greatly reduces illegal immigration. I have nothing against people who are willing to risk death to come to the U.S., so registered alien entry and quotas would be made much more lax. I want them all to come here! I see illegal immigration as a sign of the U.S. being a healthy country, that people want to come here. As the land of opportunity for foreigners. I feel it's hypocritical to not allow people to come in yet to employ them to basically support entire industries (like California's agricultural industry). I'm a first-generation American and my family lived the American dream. I want that for everyone. I just want to make the process more legitimate and more accurate, so current illegal immigrants can be accounted for within domestic statistical data.

If we're going to be serious about protecting ourselves, we need to do it right instead of half-assed policies (no-fly lists that haven't caught anyone) and bloated organizations (the dreaded TSA) that can't pass basic security tests.

Immigration should be opened up. We should accept "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." In particular we should provide safe haven towards Afghans, Arabs, and Iraqis who have contributed to translating and interpreting in Iraq and Afghanistan with us and are no longer safe in their own countries. Once they come back home after being gone, they are suspected of working with us and are often killed or intimidated. For their service they should be given amnesty in the United States as a reward.

Modernizing the National Archives.

All the different government agencies collect copious amounts of data which are not linked together or easy to access, as they've been recorded in various formats. An effort to collate all this data into one system, much like "Snow Crash"'s national intelligence database, would unlock extremely valuable connections in all sorts of fields because of the vast increase in readily accessible statistical information.

Government of the People, For the People, By the People.

It is important for our government to make a direct impact in our lives, to make our country better. More of our national attention is spent on the rest of the world, which must take care of itself inevitably, than it is at home. Meanwhile, corporate influence runs domestic affairs in the form of lobbying by companies as well as by Congressmen themselves!

We require a separation of corporation and state. It makes sense to have lobbies and special-interest groups, and those cannot be removed. However, politicians should understand that corporate influence is better-financed and more organized than the people are, and should not rely on lobbyists solely for their decisions, as they seem to currently. As it is, politicians take what lobbyists say as being the only truth, and that "truth" is often impinging on consumer/peoples' freedoms. No one is looking out for the big picture in America -- companies pursue their narrow agendae. It is the government's role to consider not only business and the economy, but also politics, diplomacy, and the rights of the people. In fact one might say that a politician's first responsibility is towards the welfare of the people as a whole and not towards one small group or business.

Recall our forces from abroad and implement national beautification, infrastructure, and commerce liberalization policies. It's time to fix our own house.

Legalize Prostitution, Soft Drugs, Gambling.

These are massive black markets unaccounted for in the American economy. They will always exist. Through legalization there can be controls, cheaper products, less foreign influence, and more safety.

It also greatly decreases the burden on the jail system, law enforcement, and societal disconnect with government. According to Bureau of Justice Statistics, 12.7% of state inmates are serving time for pot offenses. Billions of dollars are spent in criminal justice costs for pot-related criminal justice costs.

I don't smoke pot or buy hookers but clearly many like to and many will continue to, because they don't have the same moral agendae as those who oppose them. And should poker really be illegal online? You can't even play Texas Hold 'Em in Texas, as Kinky Friedman pointed out in his Texas gubernatorial bid.

A Massive Reduction in Limited Resource Energy Usage Program.

Pump funding into alternative energies and encourage construction of housing and buildings to use the latest architectural techniques to minimize power, waste, and maintenance. Imagine if the government sponsored programs to fine-tune technology for hybrid vehicles. Imagine if homes and buildings created more power than they used up?

Less reliance on fossil fuels means more innovation, more flexibility in the U.S. market, an unlocking of resources without constraints of energy, and more security against a troubled OPEC's stranglehold on oil. Using alternative energies is fraught with its own problems; ethanol may actually constrict the country's food supply and inflate food prices as well as gas prices. We need to focus on reducing consumption both by individual choice and through technological alternatives.

Pre-fab, green-design housing. Thermal water-piping to control floor and wall temperatures. White paint on roofs or solar paneling on parking garages and all bare surfaces. Combinations of different technologies to reduce energy footprints and reduce carbon-based energy usage. Federal buildings should be at the fore of architectural design, not only to provide a Roman sense of awe in design but also to show the way of the future: solar panels atop otherwise useless building roofs, thermal climate control using running water in walls, CFLs for light, chemical urine traps instead of flushing systems, et cetera.

Tax credits and other incentives would be put in place to further the switch from an oil-based economy to one drawing its power from multiple sources.

To fill the vacuum for countries whose whole economies are based upon exporting oil, programs to diversify their economies must be emplaced as a foreign policy and economic priority.

The FairTax.

The FairTax Book

Does it make more sense to be taxed on your income or on your consumption? You shouldn't be taxed on what you make -- that affects all levels of production to include the farms that grow your food, the factories that package them, the boss that hires you, and so on. You should be taxed on what you buy. Like a sales tax, only on a national level. If you choose not to buy anything, you won't be taxed anything. And the tax will be taken off as soon as you buy -- no more filing taxes or wondering about refunds.

Most excitingly, the role and burden of the IRS will be greatly decreased, almost eliminated.

The FairTax Book by Neil Boortz and John Linder explains the FairTax proposal in detail.

Socially Responsible, Yet Competitive Health Care

Health care is inefficient in the US. Yet if you can afford to pay, you get some of the best care in the world. Unfortunately, many aren't covered because they can't afford it. Isn't there a middle ground?

Basically I see health care as a capital investment. Yes, most of our costs are going to pay for the poor or people below poverty or even the lower middle class. But if we have a healthier workforce, then that workforce will work more productively and earn more money for their families, and in the long run reduce costs all-around.

David Cutler is one person who's working on returning competition to the health care industry, unleashing innovation and basic economics into the ever-expanding health care expenditures in order to bring them down.

Somewhat related is the desire for a revision of the social contract in America to address growing income inequality and a threat of disengagement by the US from globalization. Says a study by the Financial Services Forum, "Among the Proposals: Raise taxes on winners to share benefits of globalization more widely. Replace TAA and unemployment insurance with a big new program for displaced workers that offers wage insurance to ease the pain of taking a lower-paying job. Provide for portable health insurance and retraining. Create a way for communities to ensure their tax base against big factory closures. Eliminate tax hurdles for businesses that do what International Business Machines is proposing: Offer 50 cents for every $1 (up to $1,000 a year) that workers set aside to pay for training."

A Revamped Education Program.

New ideas. Experimental ideas. Why not? What do we have to lose? Literacy rates are abominable for the United States. Children do not test well. They are being taught but are not being prepared for joining the work force or living life in general. There are new programs out there encouraging a more interactive, team/project-oriented curriculum. There are efforts being made to provide healthy, home-cooked meals to students instead of junk food diets that students love. (sure, hot meals are available, but students will take french fries, onion rings, and buy an ice cream as a lunch)

Less reliance on computers. There's no teaching infrastructure to support it. The computers are wasted. It would be better to have thin clients for students to use the ubiquitous wireless internet. The internet should be used by schools to reinforce what is being taught. For instance, by the means of research projects, penpal programs with those in other countries, online social networks, stock market simulators.

A new emergence of language requirements. Students should be fluent in at least three languages by the time they leave high school, most of it being picked up when they're in kindergarten and early grade school. Students fluent in multiple languages in other countries are more likely to contribute globally and have more awareness of the world around them.

Education should be a national virtue. Take China, for example. Education is paramount. It is the way towards individual freedom. The way to honor one's family in China is to achieve much as a student. We must instill a culture of studying and scholastic achievement in our children. Not only that, we must impart upon our schoolchildren a sense of civic duty and responsibility.

When students graduate from high school, there should be more options exposed to them. Traditionally college is the only option, but some aren't ready yet. What if instead of the maligned military recruiters, Peace Corps recruiters also had a chance to enlist students? Expand our programs that not only generate welfare abroad but also enrich and expand our students' understanding of the outside world.

Increased pay for teachers. Salaries are a drop in the bucket compared to the wasted annual budgets for education. Put money back where it counts: teachers. Make the teaching profession competitive and offer bonuses and discounts and tax-free status.

Federal Programs for Civic Planning and Public Arts.

A nation-wide program to give cities grand, distinct looks like the glory days of Greece and Rome. Allow amateurs to beautify public areas, including graffiti artists. More vegetation, more color, more art, more classic design. American cities should be marvels of the world that people come to see for a cultural experience, not just for one or two monuments.

Suburban sprawl must be stopped. The federal government can provide leadership in regional planning, setting standards for how communities are designed so that suburban sprawl is discouraged instead of tacitly approved of as it is now. Build traditional neighborhoods with mixed-use homes and businesses. Reduce the size of streets, increase urban density. Create lasting, economically valuable communities that people want to live in. Not only will people be able to walk to work and school and the store, but they will also reduce their driving per day. Seeing as car accidents kill far more people than most of the lethal problems we lament about, reducing the need for driving is one quick way to make our country safer.

Let's bring back downtowns that people want to go visit. Let's get rid of barely functional suburbs.

Freedom from Advertising.

Adbusters Magazine

In an ideal free market, according to economists, consumers will make the best decision on what to buy according to their own needs. However, advertising and marketing have defused that thinking process. What people think they need is shaped almost entirely by corporate messages. Hence, addiction to shopping, poor self-image, credit card debt.

Companies need to be held accountable for their advertising and marketing. And they should not be protected by government if they falsely represent their products.

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'The Mystery of Capital', Hernando de Soto 'Bobos in Paradise', David Brooks 'The Transparent Society', David Brin 'Growth Fetish', Clive Hamilton
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