Tragedy of the commons

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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Jasper » Wed Jul 15, 2009 9:51 am

I think you have an exaggerated idea of me as being against capitalism. I just went out to point out flaws in capitalism, not government. Knowledge of flaws that (can)exist in government seem fairly widespread to me. I agree that planned activities, like regulations can go wrong, both intrinsically in general, and in happenstance in a corrupt system. (Depending on what sort/extend of planned activity/regulation is being talked about.) And i am not necessarily for more regulation.
I do think that 'just do capitalism' is as naive as 'just do socialism'.

The Netherlands and the EU seem to have a better track record in corruption. Tbh though, i think i should look through some positions in the EU to see if there are conflicts of interest in there, or such.

About 'good intentions' it seems weird to me to assume to imply that they're always meddlesome. If something is meddlesome you say that, rather then saying 'ahh people with good intentions', which allows you deniability of whether you are actually criticizing it for being meddlesome. This potentially makes it a tool PR and manipulation of the media.(Remembering that not everyone has the skills to recognize that they have absorbed meaning the the saying 'good intentions' means this.)
Trying to change something for the better when those things only affect other people is a bad idea, at least when those people don't get a say in it. Usually when they are actually well-thought out, they also affect the person in question.
Further, people with good intentions have actually changed the world for the better, and frankly the people sifting the realistic from the unrealistic/meddling, determines the performance of government.

I agree that sometimes, regulation does need help from people in industries themselves. That -for-instance- an ex-VP of Monsanto can become advisor for the FDA, with the stock going up a bunch, without a peep from the media, is telling, like the people in the US don't care. However, does the regulation need someone so high up, as it should usually focus on something technical.
duncan wrote:here's the thing- using a regulatory mechanism doesn't help with that- you still don't know how they should be priced.
The market has shown that the price it puts on pollution is practically zero, any guess by regulators is better then zero. I don't really know about the special interests thing.
duncan wrote:As opposed to regulators who are- well I'm inclined to mock you here, but instead I'll just ask- what makes you think that regulators are made out of sterner stuff than lawyers? At least lawyers make money either way. Regulators only get paid if the decisions go the way of the people they are trying to regulate. And at least lawyers operate in an adversarial environment- regulators rarely hear anything they don't want to, unless their subordinates are making too much noise kissing their asses.
How do regulators get payed more or less either way? Are you presuming a corrupt system and starting from there? Lawyers are payed to get cases ruled in the benefit for their employers. They.will.constantly.push.and.pull.at.logic,.rethoric.laws,and.truth. And the caliber of the opposing lawyers are not always the same. Regulators are payed for regulating, applying the rules. The latter has the potential to prevent the first, and both have their advantages and disadvantages. If something should be regulated depends what that thing is and how effective government is.

@tayssir that "command economy" links is nice. Some of those mechanisms also work on government, like peer pressure, removing/reforming agencies. Imo that those things work indicates to me that government planned activities can work to a larger extent then some people think. Probably more nice links here, but a lot to read.

Jasper wrote:Note the tone though, "individuals expressing themselves by freely trading" vs most of reality; people working for corporations they have no control and possibly no bargaining power over,mostly following it's orders.
Note that this doesn't imply that we should banish all large companies. Not like that is the only solution, as it might just imply that the workers may want more influence over the organization they work in. It doesn't need imply that it should be enforced either; if the workers have such bargaining power, they can demand it.
findinglisp wrote:I believe that society does quite well on its own without people trying to engineer it.
Already engineered, and working in many countries. The ones that engineer it and make a horrible mess of it are the ones you hear of. Edit: alright, maybe engineered isn't the right word, as it does require public discussion and such. (And 'engineered' implies that a few people decide it all.)
findinglisp wrote:The fact that capitalism springs up, quite on its own, thank you very much
Naturalistic fallacy.
findinglisp wrote:Just let it work and allow people the free will and liberty to choose their own destinies.
Is this statement absolute? That would imply that you think pollution, fishing restrictions, safety can all be resolved within a completely nonrestricting framework? And do you choose your own destiny if your neighbour, spewed a couple of tonnes of radioactive waste in the air? (Sure, you can sue him after.)
findinglisp wrote:Ah, yes, the authority. Therein lies the rub. Who has the perfect wisdom to run the world "correctly?" And "correct" according to whom?
I think i have already answered it, this is a connected but largely perpendicular issue of governance, and democracy seems to be the answer. Also, again, you are thinking me as more to the left then i am.

I was wrong about the phone charges in the EU being regulation, it is an agreement with most of the big companies to use USB.

findinglisp wrote:Don't sign contracts that you don't read.
Goes right against reality. Most people simply do not read every entire contract. Hell, even smart people will have trouble reading legalistic parts of the contract.(Especially if the company makes sure they don't) I guess they could have someone read it for them, more work for lawyers again.
findinglisp wrote:It's certainly not a failure of capitalism that supply and demand take some time to reconverge.
But if some government intervention can be kept sane and can do it quicker, that might be better. Edit: this

If there is too much labor, there is poverty in pure capitalism, unless there are enough charitable persons.(Which likely there won't be) Period. Very cute poor people can start companies, but guess what they will earn with the enterprises they can start: Only slightly more then they would under an employer, because they'd be competing with other poor people. And taking free time can mean not sending the kinds to school, losing the home, starvation.
Upside though, if they can make the products the rich get rich off, they can compete with the rich, until those prices go down. That way, everyone effectively becomes richer. However, this does not come nearly soon enough in many cases. Frankly, cases where the poor could not break their poverty is the very origin of socialistic thought.

If there is too much labor in (partial)socialism, one can just let everyone work less, and send the goods round. And it can work, if it is mixed with capitalism. Unfortunately, in the Netherlands, at least, it is usually talked in terms of work, rather then in terms of the amount produced and the amount needed. There is no real social framework, and a bunch of problems for talking about it in terms of amount produced, though. For instance some professions are more needed then others. And maybe we do need a lot of work with competition from the East and lots of older people, though.
findinglisp wrote:I'm sorry, so what was the point of saying that Einstein wrote an article about socialism, if not to imply that because Einstein wrote it he must be right?
Meh i just found it...
findinglisp wrote:Then I suggest that you don't actually UNDERSTAND capitalism and free trade.
McDonalds going up 30% in months scale? You really think, that realistically anything that serious is happening in the fast food business all the time? It's the difference between an earthquake and calm. And what is wrong with me not being specific? I just don't know what it is.

BTW, just FTR, Tragedy of the commons says more then just the 'people with cattle and the field' thing, but we've headed into the capitalism vs the rest discussion, so i guess that is what keeps coming up.
Last edited by Jasper on Thu Jul 16, 2009 7:19 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:28 am

TheGZeus wrote:Privately owned companies serve the owner, employees, and customers. What comes first to them is their choice.
Publically traded companies serve the shareholders, always.


Private companies serve whoever the owner wants them to serve. There is nothing that prevents a private company from screwing its employees or customers if the owner wants to do that.

Public companies serve whoever the shareholders want them to serve. The shareholders are the owners. There is no difference other than fractional ownership of a larger entity. You make it sound as if shareholders sue and then override whatever the company wants to do, but those suits, insofar as they are legal, are simply the owners asserting their ownership rights.

Sorry, but parsing your own statements, I don't see what problem you are trying to describe. Maybe I'm just being dense and missing it. :)

Perhaps you are frustrated that in a large corporation, any one individual only represents a small portion of the ownership and thus cannot control what the company will do (I don't know if this is really your issue or not, so please correct me if I'm off-base)? If you are out-voted at the shareholder meeting, you cannot dictate corporate policy. But what is the alternative?
Cheers, Dave
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby TheGZeus » Wed Jul 15, 2009 11:33 am

findinglisp wrote:
TheGZeus wrote:Privately owned companies serve the owner, employees, and customers. What comes first to them is their choice.
Publically traded companies serve the shareholders, always.


Private companies serve whoever the owner wants them to serve. There is nothing that prevents a private company from screwing its employees or customers if the owner wants to do that.

Public companies serve whoever the shareholders want them to serve. The shareholders are the owners. There is no difference other than fractional ownership of a larger entity. You make it sound as if shareholders sue and then override whatever the company wants to do, but those suits, insofar as they are legal, are simply the owners asserting their ownership rights.

Sorry, but parsing your own statements, I don't see what problem you are trying to describe. Maybe I'm just being dense and missing it. :)

Perhaps you are frustrated that in a large corporation, any one individual only represents a small portion of the ownership and thus cannot control what the company will do (I don't know if this is really your issue or not, so please correct me if I'm off-base)? If you are out-voted at the shareholder meeting, you cannot dictate corporate policy. But what is the alternative?

So you don't believe that people in a mob change their thought patterns and behaviour?
Furthermore, many owners will be mutual funds, or people who don't bother to keep track of the company they're buying because they don't care about anything but ROI.
The majority will want more ROI and never have any idea what's going on within the company(either don't care, or quite likely not have the ability to find out).
A large enough group doesn't stop and think.
If someone's smart enough to start a successful company, they're probably smart enough to keep running it. I wouldn't trust my neighbours with my pet fish, let alone with running Pilsbury. The problem is, I guarantee most of them own Pilsbury stock in their 401k's, via a mutual fund; also that they don't care what Pilsbury does, as long as their retirement is safe.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:20 pm

TheGZeus wrote:So you don't believe that people in a mob change their thought patterns and behaviour?


Not at all. But I haven't seen any studies that say that loose affiliations of people spread across a country as large as the USA, operating on numerous timescales, never in physical proximity, operate like a mob. That is, I have no doubt that mobs can engender different behavior. But you haven't shown that shareholders are a "mob," and operate according to those behaviors. I find it highly doubtful that they do, since you're saying that these decisions are made through legal processes which take weeks, months, and possibly years. In short, there is nothing to suggest that shareholders exhibit mob-like behavior. If you know of something, I'd be happy to be convinced otherwise, but as a shareholder myself for many years, I don't think I have ever succumbed to that sort of behavior. :)

Furthermore, many owners will be mutual funds, or people who don't bother to keep track of the company they're buying because they don't care about anything but ROI.


So what? Is there something wrong with being concerned about ROI? I don't know about you, but my primary investment goal is good returns. Investments are not charities.

The majority will want more ROI and never have any idea what's going on within the company(either don't care, or quite likely not have the ability to find out).


You are right that many small investors won't. But the large ones (mutual funds) absolutely do track their investments and do put pressure on management when things are out-of-whack. In fact, I have seen some of that closely with previous companies I have worked at (one where a large pension fund was putting a lot of pressure on the Founder/CEO to cut his exorbitant salary in the face of poor investment returns).

A large enough group doesn't stop and think.


Investing is not a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing subject to mob behavior rules. Again, I just don't see it.

If someone's smart enough to start a successful company, they're probably smart enough to keep running it. I wouldn't trust my neighbours with my pet fish, let alone with running Pilsbury. The problem is, I guarantee most of them own Pilsbury stock in their 401k's, via a mutual fund; also that they don't care what Pilsbury does, as long as their retirement is safe.


Yes, that's true, but you just suggested that their non-involvement would be detrimental. Now you're suggesting that you wouldn't want them involved anyway.

So, I still don't get your point. Or maybe I just fundamentally disagree with your suggestion that corporations can be more evil/dishonest/callous/uncaring/whatever than a sole proprietorship. There are scumbag sole proprietors running small businesses just as there are scumbag CEOs running large corporations. At least with the large corporation you're more likely to have a few large mutual funds that might realize that putting a scumbag in charge would be bad for business if customers feel they are getting screwed. With a sole proprietor running the show, he'll go down with his ship.

In short, sorry, this generalization doesn't wash with me.
Cheers, Dave
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby TheGZeus » Wed Jul 15, 2009 6:43 pm

findinglisp wrote:So what? Is there something wrong with being concerned about ROI? I don't know about you, but my primary investment goal is good returns. Investments are not charities.

My point is that as long as they have good ROI, they don't care how they get it. They don't even care if it's not good in the long term, because they think/know they'll be able to sell before the bottom drops out.

The majority will want more ROI and never have any idea what's going on within the company(either don't care, or quite likely not have the ability to find out).



You are right that many small investors won't. But the large ones (mutual funds) absolutely do track their investments and do put pressure on management when things are out-of-whack. In fact, I have seen some of that closely with previous companies I have worked at (one where a large pension fund was putting a lot of pressure on the Founder/CEO to cut his exorbitant salary in the face of poor investment returns).


The key point being 'in the face of poor investment returms'.

A large enough group doesn't stop and think.



Investing is not a spur-of-the-moment sort of thing subject to mob behavior rules. Again, I just don't see it.


I neither was the rise of the neo-conservative movement, but it's still people reacting irrationally, en masse. You might invest carefully and properly, but the reason you make money that way is because most people do not. They buy high and sell low. They buy company stock based on that company's association with a current buzzword.
They see a stock rising and they DO buy spur-of-the-moment. They see a stock dropping, and they sell spur-of-the-moment.
Smart investors make money because stupid ones act as a mob.

If someone's smart enough to start a successful company, they're probably smart enough to keep running it. I wouldn't trust my neighbours with my pet fish, let alone with running Pilsbury. The problem is, I guarantee most of them own Pilsbury stock in their 401k's, via a mutual fund; also that they don't care what Pilsbury does, as long as their retirement is safe.



Yes, that's true, but you just suggested that their non-involvement would be detrimental. Now you're suggesting that you wouldn't want them involved anyway.


I'm suggesting they don't care about much save themselves, so they should not be involved at all. They are, though. Through their inaction and concern with (largely short-term, because they don't know much about business in general)ROI, they push the company they own stock in to make money however they can, and to do it NOW.


So, I still don't get your point. Or maybe I just fundamentally disagree with your suggestion that corporations can be more evil/dishonest/callous/uncaring/whatever than a sole proprietorship. There are scumbag sole proprietors running small businesses just as there are scumbag CEOs running large corporations. At least with the large corporation you're more likely to have a few large mutual funds that might realize that putting a scumbag in charge would be bad for business if customers feel they are getting screwed. With a sole proprietor running the show, he'll go down with his ship.

In short, sorry, this generalization doesn't wash with me.

I didn't generalise that corporations are inherently worse(and frankly, I despise words being put in my mouth twice despite clarifying myself), just that they can, in fact, act outside, or in disregard of, the interests of any individual within them, and at times there's basically nothing anyone can do about it until the company folds.
This would be different if stockholders couldn't claim that the company's primary interest is short term return on their investment...(again, there is legal precedent)
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Paul » Wed Jul 15, 2009 10:32 pm

Jasper wrote:The market has shown that the price it puts on pollution is practically zero, any guess by regulators is better then zero.


Really? Where have you seen a (real, non-government-created) market in pollution, that you can know how it's priced?

Jasper wrote:And do you choose your own destiny if your neighbour, spewed a couple of tonnes of radioactive waste in the air? (Sure, you can sue him after.)


As opposed to StatistWorld, where your neighbour has a license from the government to spew radioactive waste into the air, and you can't even sue him afterwards? Or he doesn't have a license, and the government prosecutes him...which doesn't stop the pollution, but now either he's in prison or the government gets the fine, which doesn't help you much. This is better how, exactly?

Jasper wrote:
findinglisp wrote:Ah, yes, the authority. Therein lies the rub. Who has the perfect wisdom to run the world "correctly?" And "correct" according to whom?
I think i have already answered it, this is a connected but largely perpendicular issue of governance, and democracy seems to be the answer.


To what question? http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0765808684

Jasper wrote:If there is too much labor, there is poverty in pure capitalism,


Rephrase that: if there is too much labour, there is poverty. No matter how you run the world. But there'd be less poverty under capitalism than otherwise...except that the socialist solution to such problems is usually to start killing people until there's not too much labour any more. On the other hand: there's not too much labour -- people always want more stuff, and if you get the statists out of way, people will be able to produce it.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby Jasper » Thu Jul 16, 2009 11:43 am

Before pollution regulation companies mostly polluted however was handy. So that way the market has decided the price on pollution.
Paul wrote:As opposed to StatistWorld, where your neighbour has a license from the government to spew radioactive waste into the air, and you can't even sue him afterwards?
Presumption of incompetence of government, not saying anything. (Maybe my mention is also a little lame though..)

As for democracy/seats of government, well, just didn't want to open discussion to that field. However, how much control the people/society can have over government, and how reasonable that control will be is pretty much a central question as to how much you can trust government. And, of course not all systems of control are created equal.

I do think, though, that once a society can control a parlement(or similar/equivalent), that people in parlement can control quiet a bit of other organizations attached to it. And plenty of countries today show that it works acceptably, at least in the decades-scale. And these organizations can be used to strengthen the laborers (financial)position when there is too much labor.

Anyway, discussions like this are tiresome, and maybe divisive, I think i'll go back to lisp now. I'll read more of the links posted here, though.
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:04 pm

TheGZeus wrote:My point is that as long as they have good ROI, they don't care how they get it. They don't even care if it's not good in the long term, because they think/know they'll be able to sell before the bottom drops out.


Hmm... I honestly don't know any investors like that. That doesn't mean that there aren't any, and I fully concede that there are, only that they aren't as common as you would suggest. And I know some pretty hardcore investors who would otherwise sell their mothers. The fact is, you're heavily generalizing and suggesting that few investors have any moral compass.

From your comments, I also get the impression that you reject anybody who might not care about the things that you care about, particularly the neocon statement where you basically write off everybody who might describe themselves that way as being irrational. I would not describe myself that way, for what it's worth, but I'm probably more conservative in my politics than you are, guessing from your comments. So, for instance, I get the feeling that if I invest in a tobacco company, you would think that I was doing something wrong and putting investment profit ahead of good health and social welfare. As a libertarian, that doesn't trouble me, particularly since tobacco is a legal substance with a long history in the world economy. Ditto with selling everything from beer to hamburgers. On the other hand, I would certainly draw the line with an airline that would skip maintenance windows on planes in order to cut costs. Does that mean I'm a bad investor, in your view, or do we just disagree in what we'd invest in?

I neither was the rise of the neo-conservative movement, but it's still people reacting irrationally, en masse. You might invest carefully and properly, but the reason you make money that way is because most people do not. They buy high and sell low. They buy company stock based on that company's association with a current buzzword.
They see a stock rising and they DO buy spur-of-the-moment. They see a stock dropping, and they sell spur-of-the-moment.
Smart investors make money because stupid ones act as a mob.


Some do, but again, I think you're generalizing a minority behavior and suggesting that it's the norm when it isn't. Most people invest in companies through 401K accounts and mutual funds, not individual stocks. And mutual fund managers are not generally day-trading with their funds.

I'm suggesting they don't care about much save themselves, so they should not be involved at all. They are, though. Through their inaction and concern with (largely short-term, because they don't know much about business in general)ROI, they push the company they own stock in to make money however they can, and to do it NOW.


And the alternative is what? Nobody should be able to invest in corporations unless they prove that they are willing to sacrifice short-term ROI for some abstract "greater good?" And what would that greater good look it?


I didn't generalise that corporations are inherently worse(and frankly, I despise words being put in my mouth twice despite clarifying myself), just that they can, in fact, act outside, or in disregard of, the interests of any individual within them, and at times there's basically nothing anyone can do about it until the company folds.
This would be different if stockholders couldn't claim that the company's primary interest is short term return on their investment...(again, there is legal precedent)


Sorry, I was not trying to put words in your mouth. Just because you tried to clarify twice doesn't mean that you were clear, however. :)

So try this... If you were an omnipotent king for a year, what would you do to rectify these problems that you see?
Cheers, Dave
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby findinglisp » Thu Jul 16, 2009 4:09 pm

Jasper wrote:
Paul wrote:As opposed to StatistWorld, where your neighbour has a license from the government to spew radioactive waste into the air, and you can't even sue him afterwards?
Presumption of incompetence of government, not saying anything. (Maybe my mention is also a little lame though..)


I think a quick look at history favors the presumption that governments will be incompetent, power hungry, meddlesome, and generally the worst way to do almost anything. Without them, there is anarchy, which is bad, but with them there is frequently tyranny, which is equally as bad. I think the optimum is a free-market, representative democracy, which (again, like the old saw) is the worst form of social organization but for all the others.
Cheers, Dave
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Re: Tragedy of the commons

Postby TheGZeus » Thu Jul 16, 2009 8:32 pm

findinglisp wrote:So, for instance, I get the feeling that if I invest in a tobacco company, you would think that I was doing something wrong and putting investment profit ahead of good health and social welfare. As a libertarian, that doesn't trouble me, particularly since tobacco is a legal substance with a long history in the world economy. Ditto with selling everything from beer to hamburgers. On the other hand, I would certainly draw the line with an airline that would skip maintenance windows on planes in order to cut costs. Does that mean I'm a bad investor, in your view, or do we just disagree in what we'd invest in?

I love cigarettes. I'd wait a while, as the FSC bills passing countrywide will probably cause stock to drop for a while now. Of course, you could start dollar-cost-averaging and slow down when they start to come back when a petroleum-allergic person dies at the first puff, and the laws get voided.
I would have voted for Ron Paul, I speak out VEHEMENTLY against smoking bans, vice taxes, blue laws, and the like.
Neo-cons and the far left are the exact same thing to me. Two flavours of "I know better than you what's good for you."
I think education on how a corporation works, and 'voting with your wallet' should be in every school's curriculum.That would solve problems without ruining the country with regulation.
I'm for regulation of alot of things, but only small limits. I WANT a limit on the yearly income of execs, because it would be better for the companies.However, I know it would probably do as much harm as good...

I neither was the rise of the neo-conservative movement, but it's still people reacting irrationally, en masse. You might invest carefully and properly, but the reason you make money that way is because most people do not. They buy high and sell low. They buy company stock based on that company's association with a current buzzword.
They see a stock rising and they DO buy spur-of-the-moment. They see a stock dropping, and they sell spur-of-the-moment.
Smart investors make money because stupid ones act as a mob.


Some do, but again, I think you're generalizing a minority behavior and suggesting that it's the norm when it isn't. Most people invest in companies through 401K accounts and mutual funds, not individual stocks. And mutual fund managers are not generally day-trading with their funds.
That's my point. The 401k investors rarely look at what companies they are investing in. They don't care about the contents of those funds. They care about retiring well. They have reason to be concerned, as everyone in my neighbourhood(fairly typical working-class sub-suburban MN) came from very poor backgrounds(my dad lived in a tent and stole cabbage to survive as a kid).
In any case

I'm suggesting they don't care about much save themselves, so they should not be involved at all. They are, though. Through their inaction and concern with (largely short-term, because they don't know much about business in general)ROI, they push the company they own stock in to make money however they can, and to do it NOW.


And the alternative is what? Nobody should be able to invest in corporations unless they prove that they are willing to sacrifice short-term ROI for some abstract "greater good?" And what would that greater good look it?

They should learn what they're investing in, and corporations should write clearer bylaws. It's a problem with planning, education, apathy, and a little bit of corruption.

I didn't generalise that corporations are inherently worse(and frankly, I despise words being put in my mouth twice despite clarifying myself), just that they can, in fact, act outside, or in disregard of, the interests of any individual within them, and at times there's basically nothing anyone can do about it until the company folds.
This would be different if stockholders couldn't claim that the company's primary interest is short term return on their investment...(again, there is legal precedent)


Sorry, I was not trying to put words in your mouth. Just because you tried to clarify twice doesn't mean that you were clear, however. :)

So try this... If you were an omnipotent king for a year, what would you do to rectify these problems that you see?

I'd improve the educational system
call a spade a spade and put lobbyists in jail for bribery(not for long, though),
one bill per issue,
no televised, printed, or audio broadcast political advertising,
and add a constitutional amendment that for each jurisdiction every 20 years; for a period of 5-10 years, every new law 2 must be repealed(it's illegal to sleep in your boots on some state/town. Eating snake on a sunday is illegal in Kansas... Those would be the first to go, what would come next would be interesting).
I've considered making public office a matter of lottery, but the infrastructure changes needed would be too great.

I've never generalised corporations as evil, and the only leftist-sounding thing I've actually said was that I thought transfats should be banned. I was then convinced to the contrary. I do think a warning label would be nice, though. Teaching it in schools would work, too, though.
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