Monday, January 9, 2012

Can We Build a Utopia?

Pundits want to know what Occupy Wall Streets protesters want.  I believe that Occupiers want what the 99% - deep down - all want.  We want utopia.  Here is my vision of utopia.
  • Guarantee that everyone receives free and reasonable access to a basic core program of health care.
  • Guarantee that no one goes hungry or homeless; no child or elderly person gets left behind for lack of our caring.
  • Guarantee that everyone receives free and reasonable access to education from birth to at least high school plus two years of technical education or upper-level college prep.
  • Guarantee that everyone who wants to work gets a job that pays at least a living wage.
  • Restructure our system of employment so that everyone who works receives compensation commensurate with the value of the work performed - this includes everything from service workers to politicians to corporate CEO's.
  • Guarantee that every citizen receives the free and unencumbered right to vote; no person or entity can donate more than $100 to any political campaign and all details on all campaign finances must be available to the public.
  • Redirect the criminal justice system at every level toward the goal of rehabilitation and the dispensing of just and equal punishment, not the production of profit or mistreatment.
  • Require every citizen to provide at least two years of public service, broadly defined as including service in local or national peace forces, community development, aid to developing countries, or other forms of human assistance.
  • Rethink and re-engineer every element of society to function in closer concert with our environment, from food production to sustainable energy to manufacturing outputs.
  • Afford every reasonable effort to promote the creative and imaginative efforts of our people, from arts grants to business start-up funds to financial assistance to organizations or industries seeking to upgrade their technology and operations.  The ultimate goal is to retain and maximize the fullest measure of human potential and productivity of our people.
  • Eliminate every law that discriminates on the basis of any identity, including but not limited to sex, gender, age, race, ethnicity, nationality, sexuality, ability, religion, political views, or socio-economic status.
Now, the big question - how do we get there?  The biggest challenge is funding, so here are my suggestions.
  • Eliminate the current Department of Defense and all associated military forces and replace them with a scaled-down Department of Peace and forces whose sole purpose is to protect this nation and support the development and maintenance of human rights of all people in the world.  The majority of efforts directed toward the production of military equipment should be retooled to the production of supplies needed for rebuilding communities after natural disasters, improving the nation's infrastructure, and deterring the development of war technologies throughout the world.
  • The current structure of 50 separate state governments is an historical anachronism that has long lost any purpose or meaning.  We eliminate the current structure and replace it with 5-10 regional governments to serve a similar purpose.
  • At the local level, similarly eliminate thousands of separate civic entities and school districts, seeking to reach a basic critical mass level of size for towns/cities and for educational entities.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of all government, eliminating all bureaucracies and entities that can be replaced by better resource allocation and more equitable distribution mechanisms.  Government should always retain strict oversight responsibility (with severe penalties for corruption), but private industry should be encouraged to replace inefficient public programs and historical leftovers, such as toll roads and bridges, the proliferation of public fees, and many separate taxes.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of all law enforcement codes with a goal of decriminalizing a significant proportion of current actions and significantly reducing the current level of frivolous legal actions, thus relieving an enormous burden on our justice system and getting government out of the business of enforcing morality.
  • Show the world the nature of true leadership by cooperating at the highest level with world organizations and creating true partnerships with other nations.  Our goal as a nation should always be to seek the most mutually advantageous relationship with other nations, which will in the end provide the greatest return and encourage the same from other nations.
  • Conduct a comprehensive review of all areas of business enterprise and reinstitute a new area of monopoly-busting, starting with the unhealthy current situation involving our nation's media enterprises.
  • Stop trying to motivate action through fear-mongering and instead inspire our people with messages and actions of hope and love.
Can it work?  Every great accomplishment of human civilization derived from a vision that, at the time, seemed impossible.  Let us dream of the impossible.

9 comments:

JMP said...

This has been tried before and failed. It was called the Soviet Union. Please ponder upon this, fellow UU's. Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann said...

JMP,
Every government has socialist components. There are hundreds of public programs in the United States. Your taxes support public highways, schools, libraries, parks, as well as innumerable funds to support private enterprises. Improving their quality so that every citizen is treated equally and justly does not turn a nation into the USSR. But, it can make that nation more equal and just.

An important lesson for UU's and others to learn from the Soviet Union is the need to oppose government corruption and incompetence, and to support human rights and freedom both at home and abroad.

Bill Baar said...

Read George Will on the Redistribution Behmouth. The problem with a good many of these "reforms" are the outcomes quite the opposite of the intention.

Liberals have a rendezvous with regret. Their largest achievement is today’s redistributionist government. But such government is inherently regressive: It tends to distribute power and money to the strong, including itself.

Government becomes big by having big ambitions for supplanting markets as society’s primary allocator of wealth and opportunity. Therefore it becomes a magnet for factions muscular enough, in money or numbers or both, to bend government to their advantage.

A classic example from the above list is limiting political donations to $100. That's incumbent protection...

No plan for Utopia here.

JMP said...

Public highways, schools, libraries, and such are a far cry from the extensive list of controls that you propose to guarantee, by some all-powerful governing force. And it wouldn't (nay, couldn't) make people equal. We already are equal, each individual. It's up to us to develop our life and fulfill how we express that equality, not for a government to force its idea of equality on us. (Hint to the "occupiers": equality is not everyone earning the same income or owning the same amount of items or property.) If it does, it will always be limiting, stifling, oppressive and ultimately will fail. People cannot be standardized by the social engineering of a totalitarian democracy. Adults should know that life isn't fair, and that their are no guarantees. The occupiers need to grow up a little.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann said...

Perhaps the comparison is not equivalent, JMP. But your comparison to the USSR is no less specious. Similarly, your immediate jump to "totalitarian democracy" is a straw man. You are the one talking about forced equality, not me. Refuting an argument by restating it in its most exaggerated possibilities serves little purpose and does not promote discourse.

I am talking about equal opportunity, which does not currently exist. Yes, adults are responsible for themselves. But, whether you choose to admit it or not, not all adults in this country have equal opportunities to succeed. If you categorically deny that assertion, then we have little to discuss.

I believe that "growing up" means acting to achieve your dreams. You may not believe my dreams are possible. But, simply saying they are not possible does not make it so.

Rev. Jeff Liebmann said...

Bill,

You and I rarely see eye to eye, so your disagreement here is no surprise. Fine, you say campaign donation limits won't work. George Will notwithstanding, you can't know reforms won't work until they are tried. The current system, which allows special interests to invest hundreds of millions in candidates without any public accountability in my opinion clearly does not work. So, I have proposed an alternative - one which I am certainly not alone in supporting. We will just - once again - have to agree to disagree.

J. Kwiatkowski-Schuler said...

I don't see one thing on that list about turning private property over to the government for common ownership. So it's not socialist or communist.

Livengood in Pittsburgh said...

Not surprised by your list Jeff and perhaps as a minister it’s your job to articulate such lists. It would be nice if life was fair, but we would lose the impetus for creation that I know you also value, like music, art, invention and the passionately crafted sermon.

Life is a process. I am the sum of the adversities in my life. The things that have gone well are simply frosting on a loop sided cake. So nice list, don’t expect to get it, too much to take on at once, and not willing to give up the satisfaction of doing hard things, of righting injustices, solving mysteries, the bliss of discovery that often come from adversity.

No matter how level a playing field we give ourselves, we humans will screw it up, if for no other reason than, because we can, and the opportunity to create something different, individual and new and perhaps silly. AND, by all means tilt on. We absolutely need people to ask why not.

R W Rawles said...

What J. Kwiatkowski-Schuler said.