Friday, February 20, 2015

Polls versus Education

Democrats, Young People, and Brainwashing with Carbon Soap.
The polls, the polls!  Rather than ask people what they think and try to distill out of that an energy policy, politicians rely on polls - not discussions with scientists or taking a class or reading a book.  Oh, no, it's easier to ask a few carefully worded questions which will achieve the goal desired by the poll takers.
A poll of the people, what could be more democratic?  It might be very democratic, but, in many subject  areas, it is often not in the people's interest. What people want on average and what they need are only vaguely correlated.   As time goes on and populations increase and most citizens get their info from an uneducated media rather than a teacher or even less rarely, an expert, the opinions of the masses becomes less and less relevant to the problem. Real democracy is based on an informed electorate.  It seems to me that real democracy should be eliminated as a way to make decisions.
Somehow policy decisions should be limited to people capable of understanding the problem, an elitist position to be sure, but to everyone's advantage.  Decisions can't be made solely by narrow experts, but most multivariable problems can be answered by experts from the various areas.  Like the idea of a beneficent monarch, these sort of problems used to attract honored scientists with particularly broad interests like when Newton was selected to run the English mint.
Such a plan requires some way to decide who should be involved and perhaps a quasi democracy at the grass roots level could generate set of citizen's councils - not hierarchical, but who would vote in large meetings and advise the politicians of the desired direction for the country to take, not to point at Afghanistan as a particularly successful country, but as an example of another country which has found this idea appealing with its loya jurga. Somehow local esteemed citizens need to be brought into the system, not as a job or a business opportunity, but as a service to fellow citizens.  This is what fellow citizens like George Washington were about when they added the requirement that only landowners could vote.
 Politicians who actually make laws and enforce them should not be involved, sort of like the voting district councils now being put in place which take questions which involve conflict of interest questions out of the hands of politicians as do the initiative systems in use in California and elsewhere. OK, there are detailed problems with these, but the impulse is to relieve the politicians from the job of deciding what the people think and to remove as much of the overlap of concentrated money of the ultra rich and concentrated power in politicians.  As soon as power concentrates in a few individuals, money tries to buy that power and democracy becomes oligarchy.
So we have a spectrum of problems, from the very technical to the minimally technical, but most questions still around are not completely common sensical.  They require knowledge and understanding: ones that are more technical in nature (like climate science, economics, energy research and production, stem cell research, basic material research) and others more stylistic (infrastructure, medical care, cloning, contraception, genetically modified foods, life style questions like drugs, sex and rock and roll). But uneducated people have nothing to add to such questions.  They certainly shouldn't be voting on them, never mind those who can't speak English.
The old saying that democracy is a terrible form of government, but it is better than every other form, can only be an excuse for so long.  As continued concentrations of wealth and power increase, a counter reformation to government by, for, and of the people needs to be stimulated without just raising a new set of politicians who will become the same as now when they get corrupted by the power as well.
My simplistic rules are:
1.  No US citizen can accumulate more that $1 Billion equivalent wealth.  This limit must be met by April 15th of every year.  The particular asset to be disbursed is at the whim of the citizen involved, but the money cannot be disbursed to political organizations or family members.  If not disbursed, it is taxed away and reverts to the US Treasury.
2.  If the Congress cannot meet its deadlines (budget, debt limit increase, or any other item which would keep the executive from carrying out its function), a National Congress can be convened by the President which is three times as large as the Congress or 1305 people.  The new National Congress people are constant for 5 years, the Congressmen are as  elected. The new people are chosen in the following way:  435 chosen randomly from a list of mayors of US towns  and 435 from the public randomly chosen from those who paid non-zero taxes for the last 5 years.  The meeting is held in a hotel or convention center anywhere in the US and the expenses for the meeting  and any loss of income by the participants are to be borne by the government. The meeting should be limited to one week.  Congressional staff should attend the meeting and be available to all the participants.  The Congress would be legally bound by the decisions of this National Assembly.
3.  The draft should be reestablished to require all US citizens to work for their country.  As before, conscientious objectors should have alternative means of service.  The draft would make discussions on going to war important.

Name Calling when arguments fail.

Reply to ScienceTimes Piece in the New York Times of 2/17/2015 by Justin Gillis
“Verbal Warming: Labels in the Climate Debate”

When science degrades to the point that non-scientists like you spend time analyzing the nuance of name calling resorted to by the “experts”  and their critics in a hopelessly complicated field instead of critically discussing the uncertainties inherent in an unpredictable nonlinear dynamic, I despair for the reputation and effectiveness of science as a policy driver.  Next time try reading more of the science and less of the rhetoric before you write for the public.  The climate scientists may debate, but only among themselves like, for instance, Jewish theologians arguing about the interpretations of the Bible as codified in the Talmud.  The basic dogma is unassailable.  The debate is only over what the dogma demands.

In a field where predictions of the simplest result differ by factors of 5 or so, consensus is laughable.  The idea of an expert is laughable.  And the disparate models with all their disagreements don’t agree with the data, particularly as shown in the average temperatures over the last 20 or so years.  For a few years before that the models agree with the data because they are forced to and the experts wouldn’t dare compare their models to the distance past when the CO2 fraction was as much a 20x what it is now.

The science is not settled.  The only consensus is the desire not to kill the goose which has laid golden eggs.

Charles Jordan, PhD (Elementary Particle Physics)
Columbia 1968
Physics Lecturer, Univ of Illinois