What if governments weren’t monopolies?

How might life be, if governments were not monopolistic within their territories, for example, if several federal governments (e.g., one run by democrats, one by republicans, one by environmentalists, etc.) competed to offer laws and services to a country, and citizens could subscribe to only one government at a time? I wonder if this freedom would cause people to fight less with each other.

  • People within the same territory could pay fewer taxes for fewer benefits, or more taxes for more benefits. There probably would need to be a base level of oversight and taxation (i.e., a very small unifying federal government) that all governments require (e.g., for military defense of the homeland), but I can imagine many competing governments with differing cultures or philosophies catering to people with those cultures or philosophies: the various ethnic groups, religions, etc. that are most common in the US. Perhaps people’s ID cards could be used to access benefits offered by the government to which they subscribe.
  • There could be several US presidents, possibly a committee, and elections could end at the primaries.
  • People could be free to live under the kind of government they prefer all the time, not just every four or eight years (or never), and people could actually live under the rules of the smaller parties that currently never win elections.
  • There might be several legal and penal systems that sometimes need arbitration. For example, if Muslims were allowed to wear full-face burqas in public by the democrat government but were prohibited from it by the republican government, and a democrat Muslim wore a burqa in a republican-majority area, how would that be handled?
  • This model might also show people very clearly and quickly the consequences of different forms of government.

Social packaging of karmic sacrifices

As I understand, there is an interesting packaging that happens with voter registration, because some states use it as well as other databases (e.g., the driver’s license databases), as a pool for the jury duty lottery. So, by registering to vote (and presumably voting), one is expressing a willingness to accept both whatever bad things one’s chosen presidential candidate might do in office as well as the damage of participating in judging and hurting people in a courtroom setting. And, if one doesn’t vote, such as out of protest, it is like accepting that the worst candidate might be elected because you did not support a better candidate who had a chance of winning. It’s an inescapable package of personal karmic sacrifice for society. (see also my Q&A on karma)

Limiting the wealthiest to benefit the rest

In my opinion, there should be much lower legal or practical limits on how wealthy an individual or a corporation can become. Billionaires and large corporations just gobble up, and decide the fate of, most everything they encounter. Only they can often manage/afford representation on government committees. Only they can hire as many lawyers as necessary, and appeal for as long as necessary, to win any battle. Only they can afford to hire the most popular artists and constantly saturate the world with their marketing campaigns. Only they know that they will always have enough customers and employees, such that they can have exploitative internal policies and rude external customer service without consequences.

Why does a person need more than maybe a million dollars of savings (i.e., enough to have a middle-class family, house, car, health insurance, retirement, etc.), or a large corporation more than maybe a billion (i.e., enough to provide their service at a high quality to a large region)? Why do wealthier people get to act like monarchs/dictators and decide the fates of poorer people? Did they really earn their wealth fairly — through a daily workplace grind, like most people — or are they being rewarded for out-thinking, out-maneuvering, or being willing to do more unethical things than others? How many local people’s lives would have been enriched, how many local companies and jobs would have been created, if a large corporation’s store(s) had been required to close early, because they had reached their sales limit for that day?

Science as the new church

Atheism/scientism seems to me like more of a reaction against (mostly Christian) theism than a philosophy in its own right. It apparently lacks a clear system of ethics or morality, to prevent people from using it in selfish, angry, greedy, etc. ways. Most people never achieve science’s full understanding on any topic, or will ever see the inside of a real laboratory while a groundbreaking experiment is happening. Almost no one achieves science’s full understanding on multiple topics, and no one achieves science’s full understanding on every topic. One must have faith in the claimed scientific findings and knowledge of others as well as in scientific institutions run by self-interested people. And science reinforces federal government or large corporate control (e.g., that only large governments or corporations usually can afford, or are socially mobilized, to fund the largest, most groundbreaking research; that people should run out and buy the latest technology; that people should not object, or should be powerless, when new technologies put them out of a job; etc.), social hierarchies (e.g., levels of professors, administrators, and students), and gatekeeper institutions (e.g., large publishing companies). These things are very similar to how large Christian churches and monasteries have been run since ancient times. Scientists are like today’s monks — separated from the general population by their over-achievements or their mental obsessions, cloistered away in expensive controlled environments, trying to ignore most of life in order to focus intensely on something in order to find the truth of it — and normal people are often required to have faith in them.

Business idea: roadkill meat in the (super)market

It is protein and B-complex vitamins that vegetarians might need for their health and might be willing to eat, that is going to exist whether or not it is eaten and that otherwise would be wasted by humans, from species most people have never tasted before and might find interesting: deer, squirrels, possoms, raccoons, birds, etc. Eating roadkill is not a new idea, but creating a government-compliant supply chain for it, high-quality sterilization and cooking procedures, and selling it in supermarkets might be.

From PETA: “If people must eat animal carcasses, roadkill is a superior option to the neatly shrink-wrapped plastic packages of meat in the supermarket.\ Eating roadkill is healthier for the consumer than meat laden with antibiotics, hormones, and growth stimulants, as most meat is today. It is also more humane in that animals killed on the road were not castrated, dehorned, or debeaked without anesthesia, did not suffer the trauma and misery of transportation in a crowded truck in all weather extremes, and did not hear the screams and smell the fear of the animals ahead of them on the slaughter line. Perhaps the animals never knew what hit them….”

A few challenges: finding people who know how to properly butcher a variety of wild animal species, the meat still would need to be packaged, some Tibetan Buddhists think that there are physical signs that consciousness has left a body for which one should look, people who collect the meat might encounter animals that are only injured or not quite dead and may need to call a veterinarian or sit with/near the animal until it dies, finding a network of spotters (perhaps commercial/personal drivers could be paid a small amount for reporting roadkill, though not so much that the payment might incentivize people to kill animals intentionally), and transporting meat from possibly rural areas to processing facilities quickly enough.

(This idea is released under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license. It may be used commercially.)

Colonialism is not relegated to history

The pushing of most any large-scale agenda, even if well-intentioned, can be a kind of colonialism. Local peoples may not agree with the definitions of “development” or “justice” that some governments, corporations, NGOs, and religions want to bring to their part of the world. Yet those organizations sometimes press their agendas anyway. The next time you give time or money to some large organization, please consider: are there any recipients who might not want what you are offering, and, if so, would/should you be undermining their sovereignty over their own lives?

What distinguishes and unifies the US?

My family came to North America about 350 years ago, before the US existed; we were among the early British settlers/invaders of the continent (for which I am not proud); and we have participated in most of the milestones of the US’s history (for some of which, such as slavery, I also am not proud). I am nearly middle-aged now, and have spent most of my life in various places around the US. Though I have met a few political refugees here, and there are small enclaves of foreign diaspora communities mostly around large cities, still it seems to me that the only thing that really unifies most Americans is overworking to fund indulgent materialism and the world’s largest military expenditure. When I meet people from/in other countries, their impression of the US is usually that it’s where people go to make money. So, on this Independence Day weekend, I ask: what else distinguishes and unifies the US?

  • Economic hub? Though the NYSE is the world’s largest exchange by market capitalization, if foreign companies are going to be listed on a stock exchange outside their home country, they usually use the London or Luxembourg exchanges. The US’s high tax rates also often motivate US companies to keep large sums of money elsewhere.
  • Equality? Billionaires and large corporations, dynastic or life-long politicians, mass media, and the electoral college form an almost untouchable oligarchy / class system. The US is still struggling with age-old issues like gender, ethnic, and religious equality, as well as, after hundreds of years, what to do with the conquered indigenous peoples who it still grants only pitifully small reservations on undesirable lands (I’ve visited a few in the western US). US TV and film are still mostly dominated by people of northern European descent.
  • Freedoms? In terms of freedoms and “development,” the US consistently ranks 10-15th, or lower, in the world. The US military-intelligence establishment has created an immense police/surveillance state, the US has one of the highest incarceration rates in the world, and people often note that every little thing in the US is becoming more bureaucratic and litigious. The US TV and film industries are saturated with endless cop, courtroom, forensics, and spy shows. Even street cops these days often look like paramilitary commandos.
  • Healthcare? Other than the way that very poor people sometimes can go to emergency rooms for free, the US is one of the few wealthy countries that doesn’t provide any form of universal healthcare.
  • Infrastructure? The US is so large, its state, county, and city governments so numerous, and its large corporations so powerful that its mass-adoption of new technologies (e.g., fast/ubiquitous trains, broadband, etc.) often falls behind smaller countries.
  • Inventions? Most of the US’s inventions are either business-related or militaristic. The US’s main cultural inventions include: the materialistic “American Dream,” a fall harvest festival that often presents a false unity between Native Americans and European invaders as well as excludes vegetarians and non-theists (Thanksgiving), sports that either resemble cricket (baseball) or emphasize genetically unusual (large or tall) people (American football and basketball), deep-fried or refined-sugary foods that cause obesity and heart attacks, blues and rock music inspired by the oppression/legacy of slavery, arrogant/violent cowboys, and small and rather arbitrary modifications of British English words (e.g., travelled to traveled, colonisation to colonization, theatre to theater, etc.).
  • Language? The US’s official language came from England, it is slowly losing ground to Spanish, and many immigrant communities around big US cities avoid English if they can.
  • Laws? The US’s legal system has Roman and European roots.
  • Political leadership? US politics are so ideologically oppositional that most of the legislative time seems to be spent in stalemates or passing useless bills. There also are always quite large political parties (libertarians, environmentalists, etc.) with agendas that are poorly represented by the main two parties. For decades, the US public has gone back and forth about whether the president should be a functional statesman or a ceremonial celebrity (functions which countries with monarchies usually separate), and the president has gained such an incredible amount of power that the entire world nervously watches a year-long election pageant every four years. One of the current presidential candidates is a billionaire playboy reality TV show star, and the US has a history of electing to high offices celebrities who lack much political experience (e.g., Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenneger). During the Cold War, US and Russian leaders had the power to mostly destroy humanity within a few hours or days, among similarly vast telecommunication and economic powers. Yet, though the president’s power is much more immense than when the US was created in 1776, a single person still can hold office for a lengthy eight years.
  • Religion? The US’s main religions and holidays came from the Middle East and Europe, membership in them is steadily falling, and many immigrants from places other than the Middle East or Europe have different religions. In many US workplaces, saying anything about cultural, ethnic, gender, philosophical, political, religious, etc. things has become taboo, because somebody might take offence, and few Americans are broadly educated or acculturated enough to have intelligent discussions about such things. This adds to the general sense that Americans’ public lives must be purely secular and materialistic. The most notable American religious inventions that come to my mind are radical off-shoots of foreign mainstream religions, for example: Southern Baptists, Christian cults (the KKK, Charles Manson, Heaven’s Gate, etc.), and the Nation of Islam (Malcolm X and Muhammad Ali, before they changed to mainstream Sunni Islam).
  • Responsible living? People in the US are highly materialistic/indulgent, wasteful, and apparently in denial about both life’s impermanence and the effects of their actions on the rest of the planet or on future generations. For example: they surround themselves with young people and new things, throw things away that are barely broken or simply out of style, live in giant houses and drive giant cars, eat mostly imported food and waste about 30-40% of their food, eat food and medications containing many synthetic chemicals which might cause cancer and environmental harm in the long-term, embalm their dead bodies with hazardous chemicals that can leach into the ground(water) after death, use electricity/fossil-fuels and non-recyclable plastics with reckless abandon, rely on heavy industry and nuclear fission power that release mercury and other toxins into the environment which accumulate over time and take thousands or millions of years to decay, make their appearances look more unnatural with every passing year, and on and on. Even many of the chemicals (e.g., heavy metals) used in 4th of July fireworks can be toxic to the environment, and often are released into lakes or rivers during municipal fireworks displays.
  • Standardization? The US is so isolated that it is often among the last to adopt international standards. For example, only the US, Liberia, and Myanmar (a closed anocracy) continue to use non-metric measurement systems; the US has idiosyncratic electricity voltages and frequencies; non-Unicode or non-ISO character encodings are still common in many US people’s computers; and, until 2009, the US had an unusual analog TV encoding system (NTSC).
  • Virtue and tolerance? The US’s love of graphic sex, intoxicants, and violence in media, sports, and sometimes life, as well as its habit of trying to influence and police the world, are highly reminiscent of ancient kingdoms or European colonialists.