Monday, September 23, 2019

There Are No Experts in Politics, Economics, or Justice

Once you realize laws are often drafted by lobbies who care mainly about their own aggrandizement, you realize the legal system--tied to the political system--inefficiently distributes justice and is designed to promote the stability of entrenched interests. 

It is at this point many former progressives become disenchanted with broad legislation, focusing instead on tax revenues. Progressive stalwart Ralph Nader did just that when he convinced USGSA to improve safety nationwide by requiring government fleets to buy cars with airbags, using the government's power of the purse to set a higher standard for all. 

If democratic ideals are to be protected in an age of increasingly frustrated voters, we must train ourselves to look past distractions and optics. Most reform can be effectuated best at local levels, but not if local budgets become co-dependent on state and federal grants.

An example of this co-dependency is California's practice of sending local revenues, including sales taxes, to the state legislature, which then returns the revenue to municipalities based on complex negotiations. Now your police department isn't funded by locals, but by the state, corrupting community ties.

Incredibly, it gets worse. To compete with the private sector and improve employee loyalty and retention, governments began approving benefits with long-tail consequences. Pensions are the obvious example, but so are privatized toll roads, which became private when governments decided to sell future revenue streams. 

We forget governments have not always been granted infinite duration status for purposes of borrowing money, which allows them to commoditize expected taxpayer revenues. In many places, including Mexico, the government had to borrow from the Catholic Church. Only after the Mexican government discovered gold and silver mines did it have a more independent funding mechanism. Yet, even today, the most expensive building in many Mexican cities is owned by the Catholic Church. 

With respect to good governance, few experts exist, and the ones who consider themselves experts are often elevated based on single country breakthroughs. If any statement ought to inspire optimism, it's the idea that anyone, anywhere, has as good a chance to invent new practices on par with society's thought leaders--as long as they rely on comprehensively attained personal knowledge. Of course, invention and implementation are wholly separate functions, but that's the schism we see today: the optimists focus on new ideas, while the pessimists remind them of unintended consequences. One day, perhaps these two groups will realize they need each other and collaborate constantly to maintain a sustainable balance. 
Afghanistan War Memorial, seen in NurSultan, Kazakhstan
© Matthew Mehdi Rafat 

"A society that has more justice is a society that needs less charity." -- Ralph Nader 

"Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society." -- Alexander Hamilton

"I think the first duty of society is justice." -- Wendell Phillips (1861) 

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