Divide and Conquer

Reading Jane Mayer’s “Dark Money.” Some thoughts are congealing, only to “jello” thus far. Capitalism requires competition. Competition means division to “sides.” That’s good for markets, but not for countries. We, as a nation, can only stay strong if we stay united. Those who tout capitalism as antithetical to government, are persuading us to compete with each other, at every level in the public square. Such divisions will only weaken us (“divide and conquer”) and make us easy prey for vulturous nations and extremists.

So, I ask, why do we have markets or governments? Ultimately, it is to make life better for people, through jobs, products, services, and safety?

Our governments, “of the people, by the people” must be strengthened “for the people.” That is NOT anti-capitalism. It IS democracy.

We need both. Capitalism, held to its purest possible form by an effective  people, i.e., government, will keep us strong and agile.  Government, challenged by capitalists who demand efficiency and deplore waste, builds the infrastructure and support that keep our people and our country united and safe.

What’s my point? Competition is good in the market place, but cooperation is better between local, county, state, and Federal governments. Governments are duty bound to ensure free markets stay free and competitive. Bloated corporations are just as harmful and wasteful as bloated governments, and no less efficient. Democratic republics must be effective, for the people and the markets, which demand maximum efficiency.

In this age of technology and connectedness, market competition is not as “pure” as true capitalism requires, especially among corporations that trade employees and buy ex-government officials with high-level contacts and influence. Companies, entreprenuers, and would-be entreprenuers who can’t afford to buy such influence are subverted by court rulings, budgets, and K Street firms that purchase laws favoring the large and influential. Therefore, it is encumbent upon governments, at all levels, to constrain those naturally recurring enemies of pure capitalism and purely competitive markets.

It is up to those markets, and the public who constitue governments and shop in the markets, to restrain the natural tendency for governments to bloat. The people must stay vigilant, with one eye on each at all times.

Our culture has placed too much value on competition between public services and governments, and not enough on market competition. States compete to host large, influence-purchasing corporations by reducing their taxes and offering them incentives. Then, they pass that public infrastructure and support price tag to small businesses, upstarts, and families that can’t thrive under the growing burden. Here’s a thought, why don’t the states all get together and figure out which are best places for what, in national interests? Because, keeping our public services/governments divided in competition is in the best interests of those corporations.

One of our few, truly shared values in America is still education. Yet, another example of public competition gone awry.   Do we, or do we not, share a belief that every child’s capabilities should be maximized, to the betterment of us all? Any child could be the one to cure cancer or lead us to colonize Mars. Ethnicity and socio-economic status don’t determine natural capability, only cultural boundaries and access to opportunities. Competition in education is fine, when it serves to keep schools lean and focussed. When it causes public schools to have advertising budgets instead of putting every penny into classroom instruction, it’s gone too far! When it reduces teacher compensation to levels so low that the profession (Yes! It is a profession.) is unsustainable, we damage future opportunities for our country, our communities, and our markets.

Ultimately, competition among public servants and services reduces access and opportunity for the same citizens who are paying for them. What’s next, DMV offices competing for customers and self-eliminating? Jane Mayer (I have never met the author, so I’m attributing very freely) might well lament that the Koch brothers don’t care how long you have to wait in line at the DMV.  They certainly don’t worry about getting drivers licenses.

 

 

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The Information World is Tough

You have to really want to know!  What do you want to know?  There’s a flood of information on any subject, and it can be overwhelming.

It’s easy to just dis-engage, or not even try unless you are willing to spend a lot of time “drilling down” through the piles of data to really understand something.

How do you know the best way to sort the “wheat from the chaff?”  Education!   Fitzsig

An education is not about Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) or even STEM-A (Arts).  More now than ever, everyone needs to understand how to figure out whether or not what they are seeing is valid or if it only tells part of the story, and not the whole truth.  There are all kinds of signals in bad data and erroneous conclusions.  Critical thinking teaches us to recognize those signals.  Education is actually about critical thinking; learning how to recognize signals and practicing.  It isn’t easy.  It’s not for the lazy.  But, it is for anyone who actually wants the truth, and won’t be satisfied until finding it or at least realizing that the truth isn’t even buried in all that data.

If you really want to wade through the data world to figure out whether or not what you’re hearing and reading are accurate, it takes practiced critical thinking skills, time, and willingness.   That’s why a good foundation in our schools is more important than ever, for everyone.  Good democracy is about good citizenship, and citizens need critical thinking skills to know when they are likely being fed propaganda (often a partial fact, but not a full “truth”) vs. the truth.  Otherwise, citizens will, and have throughout history, believe the propaganda they see and hear as they wade through the information flood.