“Don't find fault, find a remedy.”
— Henry Ford
“Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”
— Henry Ford
1. A new way to pay taxes: with a smile
2. How to slash welfare without hurting anyone
& how Republicans could become the “more for everyone” Santa Claus party and win elections without violating conservative principles—or how Democrats could deliver the coup de grâce to Republicans
“Bureaucracy destroys initiative. There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept.”
— Frank Herbert
“Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule—and both commonly succeed, and are right.”
— H. L. Mencken
“All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions.”
— Adlai Stevenson II, American politician and statesman
“New opinions are always suspected, and usually opposed, without any other reason but because they are not already common.”
— John Locke
“There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things. Because the innovator has for enemies all those who have done well under the old conditions, and lukewarm defenders in those who may do well under the new. This coolness arises partly from fear of the opponents, who have the laws on their side, and partly from the incredulity of men, who do not readily believe in new things until they have had a long experience of them.”
— Niccolò Machiavelli
“Discontent is the first necessity of progress. Show me a thoroughly satisfied man — and I will show you a failure.”
— Thomas Edison
“People who bite the hand that feeds them usually lick the boot that kicks them.”
— Eric Hoffer
Introduction & update
Santa Claus gives stuff to people. So do Democrats. So do Republicans, but they are less generous. Guess who is more popular with voters who want free things?
Republicans have a big problem: after John McCain ran a pathetic campaign and lost in 2008, in 2012 Romney and Ryan forgot that those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it. History teaches valuable lessons, but Romney, Ryan, and their advisors ignored obvious lessons that children could have harvested from McCain's debacle. They didn't end the delusional death spiral of the Republican party; they accelerated it. Republican Governor Bobby Jindal said the GOP needs to “stop being the stupid party.” He's correct, but they're too stupid to get the message.
Albert Einstein defined insanity as “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Based on that definition, Republican leaders aren't just stupid, they are insane, tuned out of reality, and tuned into heaven knows what.
However, even if Romney and Ryan were less pusillanimous and more brilliant, they would have had a difficult time persuading voters who prefer the most generous Santa Claus. Of course, Santa gets his presents from elves who slave away day and night in his North Pole sweatshop, while the generosity of Democrats comes not from them but from taxpayers they loot more than Republicans. Taxpayers don't like being looted, but with so many unemployed and underemployed people who've given up on The American Dream, the ones who want Santa outnumber the ones who fund him.
The $64,000 question in the minds of Republican politicians, voters, and pundits from Rush Limbaugh on down is: How on Earth can Republicans hope to consistently win federal elections without getting into a bidding war of generosity with Democrats? Promise less and they're bound to lose; promise more and they're not truly Republicans—as if they ever were.
The solution is to give the Santa Claus recipients more than Democrats could possibly give while demanding less loot from taxpayers. Impossible? Only for hidebound people like Limbaugh and Hannity. Disgust with them and others of their ilk, along with Fox News that isn't as “fair and balanced” as they claim, is one reason why I am less conservative — or certainly less allied with those who think being hidebound is a badge of honor. Thus, I don't care if Republicans or Democrats win; I want American people to win, which won't happen if both major parties continue implementing their harebrained ideas. They've almost destroyed the USA; should we let them finish the job without considering Plan B?
The most notable accomplishment of our politicians has been to take the United States, seemingly destined to be the world's indomitable economic superpower, and inflict considerably more damage upon its future than all of our past and present enemies combined, including Germany and Japan in World War II, the USSR during the Cold War, Islamic terrorists, and everyone convicted of treason in U.S. history. All of those enemies combined couldn't begin to deliver the KO blow that our liberal and conservative politicians have given to present and future Americans.
The Left wants to blame the Right, and the Right wants to blame the Left, but neither side could have done it alone. They've both screwed us and our children in ways that will surely have future generations loathing us as the Brainless and Spineless Generation that ruined the United States, in contrast to the Greatest Generation whose hard work and sacrifices once saved our freedom and prosperity.
My plan, introduced below, will be more than therapeutic; it will also be diagnostic by clarifying if we elect our dictators OR we elect our representatives. If our leaders value our freedom and prosperity more than controlling us, they will welcome my plan and compete not by robbing Peter to pay Paul, but to intelligently extend my ideas into more facets of American life. If they do that, everyone will have more of everything—except the divisiveness that politicians without good ideas exploit to divide Americans.
My plan is also a practical test of intelligence: Which party will be smart enough to embrace it? Which voters have the capacity to think instead of clinging to antiquated ideas? Democrats thrilled with Obama's 2012 victory are just whistling past the graveyard; their days of acting as Santa Claus or Robin Hood are numbered. Economic and demographic reality is catching up with the United States, which will inevitably collapse unless our leaders begin acting as responsible adults with an eye on the future.
I know people, from successful professionals with multiple advanced degrees to once-prosperous businessmen, who are so tired of being taxed and so tired of class warfare that they have either given up as makers and voluntarily joined the takers, or are thinking of doing that. Quelling the dispiriting of America is imperative. My plan does that, too.
Americans with common sense don't want a roadmap to a feeble recovery; they crave a roadmap that guides us to a golden future. Here it is.
To restore our economy, we desperately need new ideas such as the ones presented below. Our leaders are better at showcasing the incompetence of their opponents than they are in generating novel solutions.
Without changing the amount of money you pay in taxes, could the government do something to make paying them less objectionable?
Realistically, most of us pay taxes only because that beats the alternatives: fines or imprisonment. But what if the government did something to make paying taxes so rewarding that you actually wanted to do it and enjoyed it … is that an impossible pipe dream? No.
Here is an example of how this could work. Let's say that of the total taxes you pay yearly, $10,000 will be spent by the government on welfare, helping needy families. Instead of paying that $10,000 to the government, you'd pay it directly to the people who would otherwise ultimately receive it. Such assignment could be random or, preferably, chosen by the taxpayers selecting whom they wish to help. A proof of payment would be submitted to the government as proof that one's tax obligation was met.
This system would achieve many benefits not possible with our current nameless, faceless, cold bureaucratic system:
- It would make people feel better about paying taxes by allowing them to see tangible things their money did: feed a family, buy clothes, pay for their utilities or healthcare, etc.
- It would permit welfare recipients to see that the money they received came not from a government with pockets that seem endlessly deep, but from a person they knew who worked hundreds of hours per year to earn the money they received.
- It would foster a bond between the recipients and payors. That bond would likely make many people want to give even more.
Thus, this system could benefit everyone involved. If any taxpayer wished to opt out, he could pay his taxes directly to the government.
Another possibility is actually erasing one's tax liability if a taxpayer gave something of greater value to a welfare recipient, such as a job. For example, instead of paying $10,000 to the recipient, I might give him a part-time job paying $20,000 per year. That would be good for him because he would have more money. It would be good for me, because I would get $20,000 of work from him.
Besides giving money or a job, one might give other valuable things or services, such as food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, or energy. I've given free firewood just because I wanted to help others, expecting nothing in return, but to motivate more people to do that, they must be given something in return, such as reduced tax liability. It takes money to purchase a chainsaw, fuel it, and maintain it. Replacement chains cost $25, and I've gone through dozens of them, in addition to four chainsaws. Then there is the safety equipment (gloves, helmet, eye protection, and special chainsaw clothing) that needs periodic replacement, along with the tractor and trailer used to transport logs from the tree to the woodpile. The tree itself is valuable, as is the time required to turn it into firewood, so it isn't unreasonable for people who put out so much money, time, and effort to be compensated for it.
A new career: tax liaisons
Another option is to create a new profession: tax liaisons, who would act as the go-between or buffer between taxpayers and welfare (or entitlement) recipients. Acting as proxies for taxpayers, tax liaisons would be contractually bound to the taxpayers they work for and ethically/legally bound to abide by all laws and rules pertaining to interfacing with recipients, akin to how lawyers, as officers of the court, are required to behave.
Tax liaisons would be paid either a set fee by the taxpayer, or more likely a percentage of the savings. Just as there is no seller without a buyer, there would be competitive pressure for tax liaisons to appeal to recipients and taxpayers. Clever liaisons would create nifty ways to give more for less. Can that be done? You bet it can! I'll later post an article full of examples. If you have a bright idea, contact me and I'll post it.
Large bureaucracies such as federal and state governments are notoriously poor in responding to individual needs, so they can't analyze each welfare recipient and do whatever it takes to help that person succeed. However, given an incentive (such as reduced tax liability), I would do it. If someone needed to be smarter, I would teach him my tips that enabled me to go from dunce to doctor. If someone needed a good idea to hatch a business, I would give her one of my ideas and other assistance to get started and prosper. She and I would in effect be teammates with a common goal: her success, which could amplify mine. Despite the behemoth size of the government, it is nowhere near large enough to become so intimately involved with individuals. However, there are more than enough taxpayers to match with welfare recipients.
The U.S. economy would rebound if we did this because it would help everyone, not just the participants. How? As people moved from welfare to work, they would have more money and spend it, creating more long-term consumer demand for products and services—unlike the temporary boost when the federal government spent piles of gold trying to stimulate the economy and got peanuts in return. Economics need not be a zero-sum game, but when our leaders implement their harebrained schemes, we ultimately end up with less than zero. We're paying a big price for having leaders with big heads but no big ideas.
The U.S. government isn't very receptive to new ideas, but it should do everything possible to reduce resentment of our politicians and bureaucrats. Why? Think of the thousands of governments that have existed since the dawn of mankind. How many still exist?
Answer? Zero. Sensing the need for change, or infuriated by the straw that broke the camel's back, people get sick of them and toss them out. The U.S. government has faced no serious threats to its continuance of power, but that is primarily attributable to the fact that Americans have been, by and large, satisfied with their lives and prospects for the future. Things aren't so rosy now. In the past few years, gasoline has tripled in cost. Jobs are irretrievably being lost to China, India, and other countries in which the cost of living is so low that workers can afford to work for much less than Americans.
The shit will really hit the fan (pardon my language) in about 20 years when people my age begin retiring and find that they won't receive a penny from the government because the hundreds of thousands of dollars they paid were spent on today's senior citizens to, in effect, buy their votes. The only way that people my age (or younger) can receive benefits similar to those now paid to retirees is by burdening the taxpayers working at that time with oppressive taxation. The last figure I read in Forbes magazine was about two-thirds of a worker's yearly income — and that doesn't include all of the hundreds of taxes we pay. So, someone is going to be furious. Hundreds of millions of people will be robbed, big time.
If you think that wrath isn't inevitable, read what economists are saying (and have been saying) about this coming problem. It is a looming nightmare that will cause even placid people to boil with rage. Unfortunately, most people are so oblivious to this problem that they elect politicians who keep promising more, now, thus ensuring that people currently paying taxes will get even less when they retire, because their money was spent years ago.
The reward for inside-the-box thinking: economic misery
What the United States is now doing is analogous to what a person nearing bankruptcy would do if he got new credit cards to meet the minimum payments on the old ones. Borrowing more to partially repay old debts is a recipe for economic disaster. Repaying our national debt is mathematically impossible without pixie dust or a miracle invented by an Einstein.
We need good outside-the-box solutions, but when voters elect the next generation of rocket scientists to continue our downward spiral, they choose candidates who make old inside-the-box ideas seem like the exciting solutions we need. They rehash freeze-dried ideas from bygone American politicians, but those plans are often ones that helped dig the deep hole we're in.
So can they save us? Dream on! Rather than come to grips with our plight and seek intelligent, innovative ways to escape it, small-minded American sheeple can usually do no more than nitpick at novel ideas and those who generate them.
Fox News is a good example of an organization that inculcates its viewers with the notion that being hidebound is a badge of honor. If they mention something that is even remotely original, within milliseconds they bash it. Present both sides and let the viewers decide? That's their ludicrously hollow promise they never keep. In their small minds, all we need is a few minor tweaks of a horrendously broken system.
The success of Fox News is proof that we live in an inside-the-box world that often ridicules new ideas. I once thought Fox News was exemplary, but I now think they are pathetic and economically inimical. Their T&A team does such a great job of cheerleading for inside-the-box ideas that most of its viewers are still whistling past the graveyard of our prosperity. Exceptional beauty can make national economic suicide seem palatable now, but when you are old, cold, and hungry, you will rue the day you swallowed their close-mindedness hook, line, and sinker. Even Disney is more tuned into reality. (See my article: Why Admiral Rickover would not like Fox News.)
In my more cynical days, I thought that politicians' lust for power would make them reflexively reject my proposal. Now I believe that some politicians have hearts and minds that enable them to consider ideas that would help their constituents while lessening their power. Most politicians would say they're in that category, but are they? Whether they accept or reject my proposal is a perfect way to find out. We can no longer afford to do things the old way.
Politicians, it's time to put your thinking caps on and demonstrate who matters most: you, or us.
Update: The feedback I've received about this article boils down to: it is a novel idea that could work well, helping taxpayers and those supported by their tax dollars, but it would lessen the power of politicians by reducing the number of people on welfare (one of the constituency groups always pandered to in elections) and by seeding their minds with new ideas on how to maximize their income by partnering with people such as myself, rather than federal politicians. Thus, politicians would never accept such an innovative way to maintain or increase welfare benefits while reducing the burden on taxpayers, in addition to producing inestimable other advantages. My response? Anyone with such a gloomy prognosis may as well put a chain around his neck and hand the reins to politicians, our masters, who will relentlessly lead our country down the path of destruction.
Senator Judd Gregg (R-NH) said that “we’re basically on the path to a banana-republic-type of financial situation in this country” within 10 years. “We're going to undermine fundamentally the quality of life for our children by doing this. […] It will be hard for our kids to buy a car, buy a house, or send their kids to college. The standard of living will drop.”
The standard of living is dropping. Slowly but surely, prosperity is eroding, one American at a time. I know people who owned once-successful businesses and lived in luxurious homes who are now living in a flophouse and hoping to make $200 per week driving a truck.
The most notable accomplishment of our politicians has been to take the United States, seemingly destined to be the world's indomitable economic superpower, and inflict considerably more damage upon its future than all of our past and present enemies combined, including Germany and Japan in World War II, the USSR during the Cold War, Islamic terrorists, and everyone convicted of treason in U.S. history. All of those enemies combined couldn't begin to deliver the KO blow that our liberal and conservative politicians have given to present and future Americans: problems so monumental they cannot be solved without inflicting widespread suffering and economic pain unless the folks who masquerade as leaders embrace outside-the-box ideas, such as the plan I presented above. We will either embrace good outside-the-box solutions, or our prosperity will continue to fizzle.
What's your choice?
The Greatest Generation catapulted the United States out of the Great Depression and beat Germany and Japan in World War II, then turned our country into an economic superpower. They earned our respect and admiration for what they did.
What will future generations call us? The Spineless Generation who would not stand up to politicians? The Easily Duped Generation that couldn't see that our politicians are superb at campaigning but inept at leading? The Brainless Generation too stupid to see that we need good new ideas stat?
An interesting article (Why We Crave Creativity but Reject Creative Ideas) explained resistance to my above proposals: “Most people view creativity as an asset—until they come across a creative idea.” I discussed this in another article.
Even when there is a desperate need for change and the creative solution is wholly positive, most folks prefer to cling to the old way of doing things.
Why are people so reluctant to think for themselves? Researchers found that peer pressure causes children as young as 4 years of age to conform their public opinion to the majority even when they know better, succumbing to the point of view of the majority. Another study bolstered this finding, showing that even young children coalesce around the majority opinion, following the crowd. Sheeple follow the crowd; people with a spine and brain attached to it think for themselves.
In this case, the majority of adults have no bright ideas for how to pare the size and expense of our government without risking painful cutbacks.
My Plan B should thrill Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, conservatives, liberals, the Tea Party folks, and everyone with a brain. It's a win-win-win situation:
- It's better for welfare recipients because they get more money—potentially much more.
- It's better for the government since there is less welfare burden to meet.
- It's better for taxpayers, who get to keep more of their money.
That plan would have myriad secondary benefits, such as helping reduce crime, improve education, and trigger the joy of helping others along with many priceless psychological benefits. It would make our society a better one, help people become better people, and warm hearts from sea to shining sea.
My principle could be applied to Social Security and various other government entitlement programs. Together, they are bankrupting our nation. We cannot solve our financial crisis simply by eliminating fraud and pork barrel spending such as funding research to see what college co-eds do in the dark after drinking beer—as if we didn't already know! We need to address entitlement spending, but politicians can only suggest reducing payments or restricting eligibility. That would help, but not enough unless the cutbacks were draconian. That way would generate much pain; my way is painless.
Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI) was touted as a “conservative visionary” for introducing a plan to restructure Medicare and Medicaid. His idea—often referred to as the Ryan Plan—includes no magic that could produce win-win-win situations, such as those I presented above. Instead, his so-called brilliant idea boils down to cleverly camouflaging cuts so citizens won't know what hit them until it is too late. By that time, voter rage will be directed at state leaders, not politicians in Washington.
Is there a better way? Yes, the Pezzi Plan presented above.
The $100,000 challenge: I understand the resistance to truly new ideas, so to prove my plan is feasible, I will give $100,000 to the first person who proves that it couldn't work. It obviously would work, and I already have proof. I could write a book describing the many ways I've helped people succeed. One was a struggling student depressed about his very poor grades that seemed to shatter his dreams of becoming a doctor. He first wrote to me from the basement he once holed up in, but he is now a brilliant medical student who calls me every now and then, impressing me with his mental activity that's two notches above most med students.
Another success story: another depressed person trapped in a dead-end job, also with dreams of becoming a doctor, but convinced she couldn't make it. With my help, she did; she is now a professor at the medical school I attended (Wayne State), and she is chair of her department at a hospital in the Detroit Medical Center.
Yet another person who aspired to become a doctor but hadn't tried, choosing a different career path because she thought she lacked The Right Stuff. I gave her the boost she needed. She is now a neuroradiologist, medical school professor, and president of a prestigious medical organization (not the AMA, which isn't prestigious, IMHO).
I helped myself, too. My sixth-grade teacher said I was “slow,” and I struggled so much my first two years in high school that my big dream was to drop out and work in an auto assembly plant. However, I serendipitously stumbled upon ways to significantly improve intelligence, creativity, and memory. I aced college, the MCAT, and medical school, graduating in the top 1% of my class. My residency program director said I was the smartest resident they ever had, and one of my bosses commented I was the smartest doctor he ever met. He had access to my educational records and said I had an IQ of 160. My sixth-grade teacher thought I had an IQ about half that. How I ascended so many standard deviations up the Bell curve of IQ was primarily a matter of luck (at that time, I was searching for a way to pump up my muscles, not my brain), but once I found that way to boost brainpower, I utilized it and did things my teacher would have deemed impossible for someone like me—so “slow” that he couldn't resist calling me that in front of the class.
When he said that, I silently agreed with him, yet receiving such a brazen affront in class instantly ignited a burning desire to prove him wrong. But how? I hadn't the slightest idea, but I found it a few years later in time to keep me from being a high-school dropout.
I've learned that people who don't think much of themselves or their accomplishments opine that when I speak of mine, I'm just bragging to boost my ego. Wrong. In another article, I explained why. In yet another posting, I revealed some of my painful struggles with self-image. Big ego? Ha! The only thing I am fully confident in is my inventiveness.
The dunce-to-doctor tips that enabled me to go from a “slow” student to a smart doctor can easily be taught to others, to help them achieve seemingly impossible goals. However, the merit of my brainpower tips cannot be fully evinced unless I mention where I began and where I ended up.
The world has plenty of smart people, but the ones who talk about brainpower were usually born on third base, yet act as if they just hit a triple. Their self-help books are typically littered with basic tips everyone knows; if they were truthful, their primary tip would be: “Ensure you have the right parents; the right genes are so important!”
In my ER sites, I repeatedly stressed to students that if I could do it (and I did), they could, too. Most could surpass what I did because most would begin from a higher baseline.
As I mentioned in other articles in this site, boosting intelligence, memory, creativity, and productivity could catalyze our economy, enabling us to achieve things that even most optimists would deem impossible. However, I did things my sixth-grade teacher would have sworn up and down were impossible for someone like me.
If you scour my websites and books, you'll see I've done many things besides becoming a doctor, and my most notable achievements won't be publicly known for a few more years. I've mentioned a few dozen things, some of which surpassed what Google and Microsoft have done, and some of which seems (or seemed) impossible, such as how to contact people on paid dating sites without registering or paying them, or how to send a message to someone without knowing his or her e-mail address—for example, a son or daughter who isn't yet born. Sure, you could simply jot down the advice or whatever you want to pass along, but that would require you to remember it and where you put it, often many hard drives ago. I had a much better way.
Want to thread a hole from the inside out? If you've seen that process the usual way (threading from the outside in), you'd think it is impossible, but it is not with the tool I made in the 1980s. I could fill a book just listing my similar ideas that seemed to be—but weren't—impossible.
If I spoke of my accomplishments to brag, I could find much better ways to waste my time. No one cares about me; you care about you and your accomplishments. I want to help you and others like you, partly because I love to help people, and partly because I want to see our economy roar to life again. I want to see people filled with optimism as their wallets are filled with cash.
Could Mr. Conservative Visionary Paul Ryan do as much for you? No, he and his bereft-of-vision colleagues can only lure voters down a path that leads to a trap. That trap may be necessary if the folks in Washington don't soon overcome their allergy to good outside-the-box ideas, but there is a better alternative.
This morning, a television commentator lamented that no one in Washington knows the answer to what he termed the $14 trillion question: how to reform entitlements without pain. I have a viable plan, while Ryan has a clever trap bound to cause tremendous pain. Which is better? The cobwebs in Ryan's brain keep him from realizing that what comes out of his mouth—and what doesn't come out—is the death knell for the Republican party in Washington.
I have viable ways to solve every one of our most pressing national problems. Take obesity, for example. I once was a blimp too fat to see my feet when I stood up. A year later, with plenty of pizza and breadsticks, I looked like this:
People who think medicine must taste bad to be good are naturally skeptical of weight loss without willpower, but during that year I lost my blubber, not once did I starve myself or feel as if I were dieting. If it took willpower, I couldn't have done it, because I had none. I still don't. Put me near something sweet or tasty and it'll soon be gone. Just ask the State Police officers in Gaylord, MI. While working the ER night shift, I called 911 and told the dispatcher to radio them saying if they weren't busy, to stop by the ER to have some of the pizza I bought. Well, they had some, but my greed for pizza caused me to hog most of it. One of the troopers had a hurt look on his face, as if I'd cheated him out of his share. I later felt bad about that (and still do), but I'll later make it up to him and his partner. In any case, my affinity for food is best summed up in one word: oink!
I've since learned many other ways to easily lose weight, so even though I am now much older and don't exercise after injuring a shoulder and breaking my neck, I am still in very good shape. I could teach my weight loss without willpower methods to the nation so we could all shape up. Since obesity contributes to so many diseases, that would save us countless billions of dollars and improve lives in priceless ways. If the government kept 99.99% of the savings and gave the rest to me, they would be happy, I would be happy, and Americans would be happier and healthier. Insurance companies could reduce their premiums, so healthcare would be more affordable. Thus, this would be another win-win-win situation.
I am a reformed—and hence erstwhile—Republican. I once looked at them as sages, and now I see them for what they really are. I'm not fond of most Democrats, either, but I appreciate their honesty in being less duplicitous.
If you gravitate toward one of the political poles, as I once did, I'd like to suggest a better alternative: win-win-win situations in which those on the Right, those on the Left, and those in between, can all get most everything they want. Isn't that clearly better?
Although my sixth-grade teacher's “slow” comment stung, I appreciate the remarkably effective way he awoke me from my slumber. What he did in today's PC world would now earn him a reprimand or worse, but I'd give him a gold star and a pat on the back for catalyzing my desire to succeed. He helped not only me, but the many others I helped, and the billions I hope to help. What's standing in my way? Primarily people with so little vision they think Paul Ryan is visionary.
Folks, don't be “slow” in thinking that a second-rate vision is a worthy goal.
“When men are easy in their circumstances, they are naturally enemies to innovations.”
— Joseph Addison
“The only person waiting for a change is a baby with a wet diaper.”
— Manfred Kets de Vries, professor in management and leadership at INSEAD
“I can't understand why people are frightened by new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones.”
— John Cage
With my plan a blessing to everyone except the politicians who oppose it, it is difficult to understand why anyone with at least a room-temperature IQ and a shred of common sense would not enthusiastically support it. Psychological researchers found that a process called system justification motivates people to defend the status quo even when the system (such as a government, institution, or company) is inept, unjust, or corrupt and failing miserably. System justification leads people not only to tolerate the bad system or acquiesce to it, but to actively defend it, causing them to resist change even when the change is obviously desirable. System justification is fostered when:
- People feel the system is inescapable
- People depend on the system
- People feel less control over their own lives
- The system is threatened
The last point explains why George W. Bush's popularity soared immediately after 9/11. “System justification can enlighten those who are frustrated when people don't rise up in what would seem their own best interests.”
System justification theory “posits that people adopt belief systems that justify existing political, economic, and social situations or inequities in order to make themselves feel better about the status quo. Moreover, in order to maintain their perceptions of the world as just, people resist changes that would increase the overall amount of fairness and equality in the system. Instead, they often engage in cognitive adjustments that preserve a distorted image of reality in which existing institutions are seen as more equitable and just than they are.”
From the Wikipedia:
“According to system justification theory, people … want to hold favorable attitudes about the overarching social order. A consequence of this tendency is that existing social, economic, and political arrangements tend to be preferred, and alternatives to the status quo are disparaged.”
Also from the Wikipedia: “The primary socially negative cost of groupthink is the loss of individual creativity, uniqueness, and independent thinking.” That's happening in the United States. Its creativity is drying up as people increasingly let others think for themselves.
“When you grow up, you tend to get told that the world is the way it is and your life is just to live your life inside the world, try not to bash into the walls too much, try to have a nice family life, have fun, save a little money. That’s a very limited life.
Life can be much broader, once you discover one simple fact, and that is everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you. And you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use. The minute that you understand you can poke life and actually something will, you know if you push in, something will pop out the other side, you can change it, you can mold it. That's maybe the most important thing: is to shake off this erroneous notion that life is there and you're just gonna live in it, versus embrace it, change it, improve it, make your mark upon it.
I think that's very important and however you learn that, once you learn it, you'll want to change life and make it better, 'cause it's kind of messed up in a lot of ways. Once you learn that, you'll never be the same again.”
— Steve Jobs
It would be illuminating to research whether highly creative and intelligent people are less tolerant of the myriad flaws in our system. They likely are, because anyone who is truly intelligent and creative can think of better alternatives. The gap between what we have and what we could have annoys smart, ethical people but not the evil ones or the dumbbells. System justification is a sign of a feeble intellect, spinelessness, or both. A related phenomenon, product justification, manifests when people (often those with system justification flowing in their veins) defend flawed products.
Interestingly, exposure to Horatio Alger rags-to-riches stories can strengthen system-justification beliefs while stories describing the plight of innocent victims underscore system unfairness, which heightens support for redistribution and the need for change. This explains why Democratic candidates often trot out victims to make change seem more appealing.
Thus, system justification theory seems to suggest that Democrats would be the ones most likely to support my plan, yet they derive much of their power by using our tax dollars to curry favor with recipients of welfare or other programs (e.g., unemployment benefits) that my plan could improve, benefiting the recipients and the taxpayers. By weakening the perceived link between money and politicians, the latter would have less power to ingratiate themselves with recipients, whose votes often make the difference between winning and losing. However, smart Democrats who truly want to help as many people as possible as much as possible could achieve that goal by supporting my plan, which would broaden their appeal to independent voters and Republicans wise enough to realize how such a win-win-win reformation could benefit everyone.
Thus, I have no allegiance to any political party; my allegiance is with ideas, such as my above plan, that help more people in more ways than our current system, which is obviously broken and ripe for change.
Dr. Sharon Presley's Standing Up to Experts and Authorities explains how “authorities or experts can bamboozle people.” This book primes people to think for themselves, not bow to authorities. When faced with someone in power, most adults become like submissive children when they should act like adults. This applies to politicians, bureaucrats, and even store clerks who silence most adults by saying “it's our policy”—as if you are obligated to submit to some policy you never saw or agreed to (related article: Setting your own terms of sale).
It was Hitler's policy that Jews go to gas chambers. Fair? United States leaders created a policy making it a federal crime to lie to a federal agent, while even the ones who profess to care so much about us and fairness, such as Presidents and members of Congress, are free to lie through their teeth to us, which they do all the time. Fair?
“My guess is that well over 80% of the human race goes through life without ever having a single original thought. That is to say, they never think anything that has not been thought before, and by thousands.
A society made up of individuals who were all capable of original thought would probably be unendurable. The pressure of ideas would simply drive it frantic. The normal human society is very little troubled by them. Whenever a new one appears the average man displays signs of dismay and resentment. The only way he can take in such a new idea is by translating it crudely into terms of more familiar ideas. That translation is one of the chief functions of politicians, not to mention journalists. They devote themselves largely to debasing the ideas launched by their betters.”
— H. L. Mencken
“All government, in its essence, is a conspiracy against the superior man: its one permanent object is to oppress him and cripple him. If it be aristocratic in organization, then it seeks to protect the man who is superior only in law against the man who is superior in fact; if it be democratic, then it seeks to protect the man who is inferior in every way against both. One of its primary functions is to regiment men by force, to make them as much alike as possible and as dependent upon one another as possible, to search out and combat originality among them. All it can see in an original idea is potential change, and hence an invasion of its prerogatives. The most dangerous man to any government is the man who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable, and so, if he is romantic, he tries to change it. And even if he is not romantic personally he is very apt to spread discontent among those who are.”
— H. L. Mencken in Smart Set (December 1919)
“Off goes the head of the king, and tyranny gives way to freedom. The change seems abysmal. Then, bit by bit, the face of freedom hardens, and by and by it is the old face of tyranny. Then another cycle, and another. But under the play of all these opposites there is something fundamental and permanent—the basic delusion that men may be governed and yet be free.”
— H. L. Mencken in Preface to the first edition of The American Credo: A Contribution Toward the Interpretation of the National Mind (1920)
“Government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods.”
— H. L. Mencken in Prejudices. First Series (1919)
“Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.”
— H. L. Mencken
“The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. He is not actually happy when free; he is uncomfortable, a bit alarmed, and intolerably lonely. Liberty is not a thing for the great masses of men. It is the exclusive possession of a small and disreputable minority, like knowledge, courage and honor. It takes a special sort of man to understand and enjoy liberty—and he is usually an outlaw in democratic societies.”
— H. L. Mencken in the Baltimore Evening Sun (12 February 1923)
“The truth, indeed, is something that mankind, for some mysterious reason, instinctively dislikes. Every man who tries to tell it is unpopular, and even when, by the sheer strength of his case, he prevails, he is put down as a scoundrel.”
— H. L. Mencken in the Chicago Tribune (May 23, 1926)
“Liberty and democracy are eternal enemies, and every one knows it who has ever given any sober reflection to the matter. A democratic state may profess to venerate the name, and even pass laws making it officially sacred, but it simply cannot tolerate the thing. In order to keep any coherence in the governmental process, to prevent the wildest anarchy in thought and act, the government must put limits upon the free play of opinion. In part, it can reach that end by mere propaganda, by the bald force of its authority—that is, by making certain doctrines officially infamous. But in part it must resort to force, i.e., to law. One of the main purposes of laws in a democratic society is to put burdens upon intelligence and reduce it to impotence. Ostensibly, their aim is to penalize anti-social acts; actually their aim is to penalize heretical opinions. At least ninety-five Americans out of every 100 believe that this process is honest and even laudable; it is practically impossible to convince them that there is anything evil in it. In other words, they cannot grasp the concept of liberty. Always they condition it with the doctrine that the state, i.e., the majority, has a sort of right of eminent domain in acts, and even in ideas—that it is perfectly free, whenever it is so disposed, to forbid a man to say what he honestly believes. Whenever his notions show signs of becoming "dangerous," i.e., of being heard and attended to, it exercises that prerogative. And the overwhelming majority of citizens believe in supporting it in the outrage. Including especially the Liberals, who pretend—and often quite honestly believe—that they are hot for liberty. They never really are. Deep down in their hearts they know, as good democrats, that liberty would be fatal to democracy—that a government based upon shifting and irrational opinion must keep it within bounds or run a constant risk of disaster. They themselves, as a practical matter, advocate only certain narrow kinds of liberty—liberty, that is, for the persons they happen to favor. The rights of other persons do not seem to interest them. If a law were passed tomorrow taking away the property of a large group of presumably well-to-do persons—say, bondholders of the railroads—without compensation and without even colorable reason, they would not oppose it; they would be in favor of it. The liberty to have and hold property is not one they recognize. They believe only in the liberty to envy, hate and loot the man who has it.”
— H. L. Mencken in "Liberty and Democracy" in the Baltimore Evening Sun (April 13, 1925)
“In this world of sin and sorrow there is always something to be thankful for. As for me, I rejoice that I am not a Republican.”
— H. L. Mencken
“When a candidate for public office faces the voters he does not face men of sense; he faces a mob of men whose chief distinguishing mark is the fact that they are quite incapable of weighing ideas, or even of comprehending any save the most elemental—men whose whole thinking is done in terms of emotion, and whose dominant emotion is dread of what they cannot understand. So confronted, the candidate must either bark with the pack or be lost. All the odds are on the man who is, intrinsically, the most devious and mediocre—the man who can most adeptly disperse the notion that his mind is a virtual vacuum. The Presidency tends, year by year, to go to such men. As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart's desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.”
— H. L. Mencken in the Baltimore Sun (July 26, 1920)
UPDATE: In March of 2016, presidential candidate John Kasich mocked the notion of “waste, fraud, and abuse,” tacitly suggesting it is ridiculous to suggest that the federal government wastes money (parenthetically, obliviousness like that is what exasperated people so much they turned to nontraditional candidates). Kasich then added that the only way to save Social Security is to reduce payments to wealthier Americans.
I have another idea: for such people to donate all or part of their Social Security benefits to someone they chose, not just dumping it back in the system, with that contribution making as much visible difference as pouring a gallon of water into the ocean. With my proposal, people could see their donation producing a significant difference in someone's life: very personal and highly rewarding. Bidirectionally heartwarming, and just what America needs: a stat dose of healing.
Oh, Governor Kasich, about that waste, fraud, and abuse you claim doesn't exist: pork barrel spending is real. Politicians have burned tax dollars on frivolous things like Hawaiian canoe trips, a Vulcan monument, a rice museum, the Buffalo Bill Historical Center, the Montana Sheep Institute, the Reindeer Herder's Association, the Polynesian Voyaging Society, and research to see if female co-eds go all the way after drinking beer. I could spend the rest of my life documenting similar examples, some even more outrageous.
- Why can't Washington compromise? They're too human
Excerpt: “Turns out politicians are people, too, only worse. Just ask pros who make their living in the trenches of everyday human drama such as divorce, family feuds or schoolyard scraps. They recognize in Washington's bitter budget standoff a hint of human nature as they know it, but with the crazy pumped up to absurd levels. "We're seeing middle school behavior here," says Barbara Coloroso, who crusades against childhood bullying. … Divorce attorney Sanford Ain's assessment is blunter: "It's nuts!" … Coloroso … sees too many politicians acting like the mean girl who taunts unpopular classmates in the cafeteria. [She said,] "Bullying is about contempt for the other person. Do you see how that fits with some of the people in Congress? Utter contempt, bullying, wanting to bring somebody down.” (Read more, including some great advice consistent with my article.)
Comment: Most people cannot spot sociopaths. I'm a doctor and I can, and I can tell you that Washington is loaded with them. Learn how to spot a sociopath and let's free ourselves from their craziness and the devastation they characteristically leave in their wake.
- Studies: Being a Jerk Is Contagious
Excerpt: “… jerks infect their colleagues with their bullying behavior.”
- Bosses Who Bully Poison the Workplace
Excerpt: “Abusive bosses not only cause misery for the employees they target, but they also poison the work environment for the victims' co-workers, a new study indicates.”
- Digital Media a Factor in Ferocity of Political Campaigns Excerpt: “One side is going to lose in every political discussion.” Wrong! As I proved in this article, win-win outcomes are possible.
Excerpt: “Politics are getting nastier due to digital media, which are segmenting people into polarized interest groups. The researcher recommends a balanced approach to finding information in order to return civility to political discourse, which is at the heart of democracy. [...] It's important to recognize that people who disagree with you aren't 'evil' or 'trying to destroy America;' they just have different perspectives.” True, but most people who are passionate about politics are still in the infantile stage of demonizing their opponents.
- Less Knowledge, More Power: Uninformed Can Be Vital to Democracy, Study Finds
Excerpt: “Uninformed individuals—as in those with no prior knowledge or strong feelings on a situation's outcome—tend to side with and embolden the numerical majority” but “if the number of uninformed becomes too high, a group ceases to function coherently. [...] Eventually, noise dominates because there just aren't enough informed individuals to guide the group.” Interestingly, researchers found an association between “a glut of uninformed individuals” and “situations in which a candidate's personality or personal life takes precedent over policy positions in voters' minds.”
Comment: The latter association would not surprise Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, genius Eric Hoffer, or statesman Benjamin Disraeli:
“Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.”
— Admiral Hyman G. Rickover, quoting someone he termed an "unknown sage" in The Saturday Evening Post article "The World of the Uneducated" (November 28, 1959)
“A man is likely to mind his own business when it is worth minding. When it is not, he takes his mind off his own meaningless affairs by minding other people's business.”
— Eric Hoffer
“Small things affects small minds.”
— Benjamin Disraeli
- Sheep In Human Clothing: Scientists Reveal Our Flock Mentality
- Fighting bureaucracy by improving it
- Altering brain chemistry makes us more sensitive to inequality
- Excerpt from Ilana Mercer's Sacrificing kids to PC pietism relevant to system justification: “There is not a dime's worth of difference between … “conservative[s]” and “liberal[s].” Both insist on catering to and enabling organized entities – in politics and in other crime – that despise them for their abilities and frailties, and instinctively seek to harm them.”
- A billionaire (Nicolas Berggruen) with a different idea to fix our obviously broken system: Intelligent Governance for the 21st Century: A Middle Way between West and East
- Slate (surprisingly) linked to this article: 34 Shocking Facts About U.S. Debt That Should Set America On Fire With Anger
- Individual Donation Amounts Drop When Givers Are in Groups
- Support for Obama healthcare law rises after ruling
Comment: A classic example of system justification (discussed above).
- AP-GfK poll: Raise taxes to save Social Security
Comment: That's right: don't put your thinking cap on, don't consider Plan B when Plan A isn't working … brilliant!