TED Conversations

Eric Preissler

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Is the gridlock problem in government a problem with the system or greed and flawed human behavior? Is there an answer?

Nobody can agree on anything in Congress and the divide between the Right and Left is only growing larger. Everyone always preaches bipartisan ideas, but no one ever follows through. Fill-a-busters are a huge problem and if someone has a good idea it can take years to implement. There has to be a solution to these problems, but is it in selecting the right people for the job or changing the system. I heard a comment on the radio the other day about making government positions part-time jobs, so it went back to being a public service like it was intended. This means it would filter out the people who became politicians just to get rich. Maybe it is time for a change.

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    Jan 31 2013: In my objective observation of our system, all I can see is dysfunction. Without getting emotionally involved, which is a hard trick to do, I look at our politicians and this ongoing gridlock that has been going on far longer than I've been alive. I do not see the people's opinions, fears, problems,needs and challenges addressed. What I see is 'parties' dividing people into groups which immediately pit us against each other, because these parties already have certain laid out ideals, beliefs and stigmas attached to them. I feel that this 'party' system's main purpose is not to represent us, but to keep us divided.

    I honestly do not believe there is anyway to fix this system. For the main reason that it never worked in the first place. My favorite quote is "We can't solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." ~ Albert Einstein. And I honestly think this is the best advice for us, I'm not just referring to the US. We as humans, globally, need to start thinking on different lines because these gridlocks and political dead-ends will never sort themselves out. And now, unlike 20 years ago, we actually can interact and communicate globally thanks to the technologies of today. Us as individuals putting our minds together, spreading ideas and acting I think will have the most impact.

    For insistence, right now the most exciting and feasible idea I've come across is that of a Resource Based Economy. Based on the ideas and project of Jacque Fresco as a starting point at least. I'll try to post a link to his TED talk. Here we go, copy and paste if you must: http://tedxtalks.ted.com/video/TEDxOjai-Jacque-Fresco-Resource
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      Jan 31 2013: I really like what you said here. You are correct about the system being broken, and I do think we need to rethink our entire foundation. The problem with a perfect society like you are describing is human greed. Maybe you or I see it as flawless, but someone will always come up and try to keep everything for themselves and use it to their advantage. Greed will drive any government system down because it always has, and it is only human ignorance and petty things that are keeping the world from being a better place because the ideas like this and more are out there. Great post!
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        Jan 31 2013: I agree that something like this would not work if we flung our society as it is right now into it. This type of system is something that has never really been tried before, in part because we didn't have the technology to support it but mainly because it would require a whole new value entrenchment for us in general. The main concept here being that we can manage our earthly resources in such a way that would create abundance for everyone on earth sustainably. That being said, without the scarcity that we face today, we could rid ourselves of money completely. Now if there is no need for money (or even trade for that matter) would we still see greed, class separation, inequality, hoarding or the majority of crimes that we see today? I guess this is a major question of human nature. Are we naturally greedy, selfish and power hungry? Or are we shaped by the environment that we grow up in? If say, greed and power hunger does just happens to diminish in a environment were we don't have to compete for resources, or the control of resources, what would be the purpose of government?

        Because we don't really have a comparison yet I think all answers are speculative at this point. But as I listen to the people around me, more and more I'm hearing a growing outrage at all the wrongness that these systems are generating, and I'm inclined to believe that we are enraged because we don't want to be this way.

        Like any theory I think we need to find a way to test it, to see if this could work. But it all starts with the spreading of ideas right?
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        Jan 31 2013: I don't think a Resource Based Economy would be a perfect system by any means, just a vast improvement over what we have now. No doubt problems will always arise as they always do. But I think with a system like this we could actually work on solutions. In my imagination this would be a constantly changing and improving system. Just a side thought… :)
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          Jan 31 2013: this sounds a lot like Marxism (not Communism, but true Marxism) which in theory is the best form of community. Money doesn't matter and regulations handle themselves becasue everyone is looking out for the good of the group. Poverty woulc be gone resources would be shared and innovation would be pushed. Again the problem with this and Marxism is the people in power relinquishing the power. It will not happen because we have created this unstoppable monster. The people at the top like the system because they benefit from it and they will not let it change wihtout a fight.
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          Jan 31 2013: I think your ideas are great and I totally agree. Do you think there is a good way to ease into a system like this though? Or do you think it has to be a swift change?
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        Feb 1 2013: I had to look up Marxism just now, I've never really read up on that before. The Marxian analysis of Capitalism is very eerily accurate This is pulled from the Marxism Wikipedia page:

        "Under the capitalist mode of production, this struggle materializes between the minority (the bourgeoisie) who own the means of production, and the vast majority of the population (the proletariat) who produce goods and services. Taking the idea that social change occurs because of the struggle between different classes within society who are under contradiction against each other, the Marxist analysis leads to the conclusion that capitalism oppresses the proletariat, which leads to a proletarian revolution. Capitalism (according to Marxist theory) can no longer sustain the living standards of the population due to its need to compensate for falling rates of profit by driving down wages, cutting social benefits and pursuing military aggression."

        Still just about as accurate today as when this analysis was formed in the 1850's I think.

        I don't think a swift change into a Resource Based Economy would be possible, or a good idea. Despite my own impatience. I think we would have to take a very scientific approach to testing something like this. Gathering data and facts that are more than just opinions and theories is still the best way to design something that functions the way it's supposed too.

        I just finished reading a short eBook that laid out a really inspiring theoretical idea of what a Resource Based Economy could look like. I can't say I agree with all the ideas, but it's all theories. I do really like his ideas of how to
        maybe going about testing/transition. I'll try and post a link to it if your interested in giving it a read: http://www.mediafire.com/view/?6tmc6ld43lxc1gv
        If that doesn't connect, doing a Google search for "The First Civilization" should bring it up as first in line.
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        Feb 1 2013: I really do agree that the biggest roadblock is the people at the top of the pyramid right now. And I definitely don't really have a good answer on how to overcome the greed of wealthy elitists. I guess my hope lies in that the majority are people that are suffering from the system and are ready for a change. I really don't see a way to affect any sort of solution or change from within this system though, after all it was designed by them.
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          Feb 1 2013: Ya I like this idea for sure, but I think (and this is just me thinking out loud) that a resource based economy may send us backward and reduce innovation a little bit. Becasue we rely on the resources for wealth and equality no one would be inclined to advance products that may not need resources or alter the resources we have to make them better and more effective (like better food and less expensive food). I think testing it would be necessary and I am not sure how you would go about doing that. What ways do you think we could test this?
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        Feb 1 2013: That was one initial thought that I had too. How would innovation and production move forward if no one was required to work for money in order to get their needed resources. Someone posed this question to me, What would you be doing if money wasn't a issue?

        Well, personally I would be perusing my interests, which actually cost me money and are very time consuming. I would also be satisfying my curiosities, I've always wanted to go to college but never had the resources to go and did not want to go into tens of thousands of dollars or more worth of debt in order to get a degree in something I may or may not make a good living at. I've seen one of my family go through 7 years of schooling, $80,000+ in student loans, now unable to find a job in her field and working at a department store with barely enough to live on let alone start to pay on her debt. Nor did I want to choose a field only for the sake of money but that did not hold my interest.

        The more I look at this question the more obvious to me it is that money actually inhibits innovation and progress instead of progressing it. One good example that I see a lot in my line of work has to do with hunting for grants and funding for scientific research. Researchers have to spend a large amount of time trying to secure funding which, unless comes from a non profit organization, the Investors expects to see a return with interest for their funding, or rights to profit or patent new innovations. This is especially stunting in the area of microbiology and disease research where areas of interest fall into categories where low or no cost solutions are needed for developing countries.

        Another interesting example is after WW2 around 1954/1955 I think. There was a main stream implementation of planned obsolescence where goods were engineered to break down quickly or at least, go out of style quickly in order to boost the number of sales and increase profits.
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        Feb 1 2013: I think if people were free to pursue their interests and talents instead of being to forced to devote the majority of their waking hours pumping gas, standing at a cash register or sitting in a office, we'd see a explosion of innovative ideas. I personally know a lot of intelligent and inspiring people that have simple not been able to contribute because of being low on the monetary scale.

        As far as testing, I think we'd have to find experts in fields like computer sciences, education, agriculture, psychology, biology, engineering and chemistry who could figure out what would be needed and designed to put together a model. And then a small test group, maybe 50 people to start. And slowly adding variables such as families with children or people with violent histories. This would mostly likely take decades and there would mostly likely need to be many in all different climates globally.

        I found one group, Open Source Ecology, that is doing some design work on what they call the Global Village Construction Set. These are basic plans to building and fabricating 50 different Industrial Machines that they have isolated as be needed to build a small, sustainable civilization with modern comforts. There's the link, http://opensourceecology.org/
        I think designs like this will help a lot when trying to put together a working model.
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          Feb 2 2013: Ok I understand what you are saying, but I am thinking innovation like different energy sources and food productivity. If everyone had everything they needed, don't you think we would get complacent with that and stop looking for clean energy and productive ways to grow food and create water. I think you are right on technology and medical fronts, but what about the resources. Have you read anything on the stages of civilization? If not I would reccomend this link http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6GooNhOIMY0.
          It is the widely accepted (by physicists) way civilizations advance. I see the problem that if we keep the resource plan in place there is no reason for us to push the advancement to type 1 or type 2 civilizations.
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        Feb 2 2013: hmm... Sounds like a type 1 civilization would be a Resource Based Economy of sorts. At 1:25, I would love to know how it can be calculated when the transition to a type 1 would happen. It's probably beyond my understanding right now, but I would love to know the rough run down. I also find it interesting that he refers to this as a 'historic transition from type 0 to type 1'. This transition appears to be going on right now for us. Later he goes on to state that there is no evidence of this happening any where else. Maybe I'm just taking his wording to literally. At 3:15, when Michio Kaku talks about terrorists being the people not wanting this transition does he mean terrorist like the ones we think of today? Extremists groups pushing their own agenda by use of spreading fear, or does he mean terrorist such as wealthy elitists like banks, corporates and governments that manipulate population fear through manipulation of money and control of resources? Is this accepted by physicists as a theory, or fact? It also sounds like he is saying that if we survive the transition to a type 1 civilization that the eventual advancement to a type 2 and type 3 would more likely to follow. But in my thoughts it would seem that his definition of a type 1 civilization would differ from a Resource Based Economy in the fact that a type1 would eventually use up all it's planet's resources and have to move to drawing it's power from it's star, and the theory of a Resource Based Economy is based on the theory of managing it's resources sustainably so it never uses up it's resources. And in that sense, with the idea being that we want to sustainably use our resources I don't think we would stop looking for more productive and efficient ways to grow food, produce clean energy or create or recycle water. But it is impossible to truly answer that question because it is so much based on circumstances that may or may not occur for possibly hundreds of thousands of years.
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          Feb 2 2013: Ok so the basic idea of the calculation is we use our past as the template. We then figure out the exponential development of our society. Then we can determine what types of things we need to reach each level and once we punch in those numbers we can figure out how long it can take a civilization (like ours) to reach each level. This is the basic outline, the actual math is much more complex and algorithmic in nature.
          In the world of physics there are no things that are considered as fact because nothing can be proven to be 100 percent true 100 percent of the time. Even the laws of physics, we are learning, break down at certain points i.e. the discovery that subatomic particles may be able to break the speed of light. So this is just a mathematical based theory and there is really no way to test the findings besides just living out our existence.
          So for the last question that is a common misconception I think. The basic idea is that no matter what we do, the pure fact of us living on this planet converts our resources to an unusable state. Entrophic means cannot be stopped and this means that no matter how well we allocate our resources eventually we will run out of natural energy, land and materials. This is just a fact of life that being alive uses resources. Eventually, no matter how long we can hold it off, we will have to expand to using star power and galactic power because these are the most robust sources of power in the universe. As much as we look fondly on our planet, the power and resources available here are basically nothing and extremely finite when looking at the solar system, not to mention a galaxy as a whole. So instead of allocating our resources and prolonging the inevitable we should be looking for the innovations that can push ouur societs to this next level.
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        Feb 3 2013: Ok... This is definitely new territory for me. Forgive me as I fling my thoughts out here, it helps me to visualize new concepts a bit. Entropy being the measurable amount of thermal energy not available for work right? At least as one part of it's definition, (which I know my understanding is extremely rudimentary at this point). Expressed as waste heat from a closed system, like a by product of work. Although irreversible to that system (I'm thinking of living organisms as being closed systems) isn't that entropic energy taken up as useable energy by different closed system that in return has it's own entropic energy that is taken up and utilized by a still different array of closed systems? It seems that would be one reason why we have such a vast collection of different types of organisms on Earth ( which itself I guess would be a closed system), from macro to micro. I think I understand the idea that conservation of energy of an isolated system will reach equilibrium because it has no release or input of energy from the outside, closed systems should be different from isolated systems and should be capable (in my head) of transforming entropic energy from one, into useable energy. This to me points to sustainability as being possible. Unless individual galaxies are considered isolated systems as they are dependent on their star?

        Maybe, if in theory we say a transition to a Resource Based Economy marks the transition to a type 1 civilization. And we enter this transition with the intention and goal to be sustainable, which leads to constant improvements and innovations to how we manage our resources, then eventual it becomes widely apparent that no matter what, our planetary resources will run out, wouldn't that then mark the transition to type 2? So I guess my thoughts are that if we enter into a type 1 with the intentions of constantly making the system more efficient than that would ensure a natural state of constant progression and discourage complacence.
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    Gail . 50+

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    Jan 30 2013: The problem is systemic. Making political jobs part time won't do a thing because the politicians will work on or off the clock to accomplish their real purpose - to have as much power as possible - and with it the money that makes the power stronger.

    To fix Washington, you really have to go back to the original intended treaty organization that is what our government WAS. The power that Congress was supposed to have was limited. It could:

    Build roads, if the purpose of them was to deliver the mail. It could establish post offices
    Create a system of patents
    Declare war
    Make laws about the navy as well as an army that could not be a standing army because it could not be funded for more than two years.
    It could make rules regarding INTERSTATE commerce and trade with other nations.

    Now look at what government is doing today. It has unlimited power. How did it get that way?

    First of all, Americans have been told PROVABLE lies about their own history. The written constitution was not originally ratified, and only achieved ratification with the promise of a Bill of Rights that guaranteed that federal power would never exceed stated limits. The "Federalist Papers" that you hear so much about are a FAILED argument. The Anti-Federalists won the day. (Have you even heard about the Anti-Federalist Papers?)

    Look at 10th amendment. It says government can't have any power unless granted it by the constitution. But in a masterful coup d'etat, SOTUS along with Federalists overthrew the constitution and replaced it with British Common Law. It said that the 10th Amendment means that government can have EVERY power unless specifically denied it by the Constitution, and even then it can assume unconstitutional power using "implied power" (unconstitutional) + the necessary powers clause - but even then, power doesn't need to be necessary. To bypass the restriction, congress need only declare something that is unnecessary as necessary.
  • Jan 30 2013: The government was explicitly set up by the framers of the constitution to make it difficult for the government to do anything. They were doing what they could to make it hard for minorities of all stripes to be oppressed by what they called the tyranny of the majority. The gridlock is a sign that they were at least somewhat successful. It was also there intention to limit the power of government. The fact that it took the government nearly 200 years to get totally out of control is another sign of their effectiveness.

    Gridlock is also a sign that we are a diverse people. What would you have them do if they did break the gridlock? What you want and what the other 300 million people in the country want are likely to be different in 300 million ways when you look at the thousands of issues that are out there. When the government makes a choice for us we are all stuck with that choice even if it goes against everything some of us believe in. Far better that all 300 million of us be free to make our own choices subject only to the restriction that we not interfere with the right of others to do the same.
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      Gail . 50+

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      Jan 30 2013: I don't see the gridlock as a sign of some success. I see it as a result of two political parties fighting over what parts of the Constitution are to be violated and what parts are to be protected.

      When SOTUS threw out the written Constitution as the law of the land, and replaced it with an unwritten constitution (British Common Law) and overthrew the LIMITED power of government and made it UNLIMITED, the die was cast.

      Now we have career politicians who use embezzlement (earmarks intended to benefit their own financial interests), insider trading (making investments based on secret decisions about what laws will come to the floor and pass), extortion (making it clear that a business' success is dependent upon campaign donations - Just ask Bill Gates), and bribery (giving campaign donors the right to write laws that benefit themselves and their businesses as well as being given biggies like IPO invitations - where stock value doubles, triples,or more upon going public - in exchange for laws helping it go public)

      Now that government has unlimited power (thanks to SCOTUS) and now that politicians are in it for themselves, they merely argue about things that their donors want - the donors who essentially own the government that no longer represents people.

      All the controversy is a diversion. When a politician talks about the unwritten constitution, (Brit. Common Law), s/he refers to it as "The Constitution", but s/he knows that they are lying and they know that most people THINK that they mean the WRITTEN Constitution.

      As most people don't even know what the constitution says, let alone its history, this is an easy ruse, and gridlock is GOOD for politicians. It gets people worked up enough to vote
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    Feb 3 2013: Gridlock is a result of flawed government. The USA was never designed to put so much power into the hands of a few. Government stole our powers and freedoms from us.

    Jefferson said that whenever a democracy is in danger, the answer is always to add more democracy. Right now, the two major parties are fighting over what WE will be required to do to assist THEM in helping those who help them stay in power and become more wealthy.

    I haven't been able to think through a solution that doesn't require government to restore assumed powers to the people to whom they rightfully belong. Then the arguing can stop.
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    Feb 1 2013: All the above. I do not see a singular point of argument here. I think the framers of the Constitution had a check and balance in mind further than the executive, legislative and the judical. The very way that the senate and the house are set up illustrates this.

    Greed. Wow this can go on for hours. The latest is Nancy Polsi who used her information during hearing to heavely invest in VISA knowing the outcome of the legislation would benefit VISA ... she made a bundle. Kinda makes you say HUH!! when inside traders (not in Congress) make the news and go to jail. Bernnie should have ran for office first.

    Flawed human Behavior: Next to this in the dictionary is a photo of Bill Clinton. Sex scandles, lying under oath, impeachment, loss of law license ... and oh yeah ... last month nominated for father of the year.

    So after a short deep breath (more like a pant) I think the problem is "we the people". We have allowed these scumbags to govern themselves, set their own saleries, and make the decision of what is ethical for their own behavior. Example: After passing Obamacare they immediately exempted themselves from the law. So ... it good enough for the peons but not good enough for the elite governing class. Do I see a 27th ammendment in the making.

    Immigration reform has nothing to do with helping people .... latinos are the largest growing block of voters in the country. It is all political. The very voice of the movement, Obama, has a aunt and a uncle on welfare and in the country illegally living within a hundred miles of the White House. He is a multi-millionaire and doesn't even care for his aunt and uncle .... lets guess how much he cares about non-relative citizens. Nada. But he wants the votes.

    The system was set up very well ... "we the people" have lost control and now the fox guards the hen house.

    I wish you well .... go big red. Bob.
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      Feb 1 2013: "After passing Obamacare they immediately exempted themselves from the law. So ... it good enough for the peons but not good enough for the elite governing class. Do I see a 27th ammendment in the making."

      I don't get it Rob? The whole government? The two houses, everyone, even when they become private citizens? I don't know anything about the Obamacare other than it's a public medical heath insurance? I'm going to look it up.
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    Jan 30 2013: Eric, if you want more time on your conversation, hit edit and add more.
  • Feb 1 2013: The gridlock problem is due to the system AND greed and other flaws in human behavior (especially power lust).

    I do not know of an answer. Abolishing gerrymandering might be a good start.
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    Jan 30 2013: Eric, Do a lot of Americans feel this way? That the political system has broken away and completely disconnected from it's peoples? A Vatican city inside Rome?
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      Jan 30 2013: I think that a LARGE majority feel this way. Government serves Wall Street, not the people.
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      Jan 30 2013: A very large majority do, regardless of political affiliation or lack thereof.
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        Jan 30 2013: Fritzie, Why do I get an uncomfortable feeling about your next election rounds especially with these two words "Super Pacs" I've only read one article that felt leftish and that the last two elections were the wearing in stage of a new political engine.
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          Jan 30 2013: The whole political thing is depressing and has been for some time. I don't know whether anyone is actually optimistic. There must be survey data to document this. My impression is only anecdotal.
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          Jan 30 2013: The Super Pac is a tool for rich people to control politicians and sway them. Super Pacs are just non-profit organizations that give money to politicians if they promise to make laws that benefit them. These are usually run by large corporations. It is a horrible thing and is why US politics are so corrupt. Politicians just do what the Super Pacs (or the corporations) want so they can get rich. Fritzie is correct, there is very little optimism or faith in our government right now and it is only getting worse. Something has to change soon or it could collapse all-together.
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        Feb 1 2013: Sorry i took so long in replying. I had to read up a little on your countries constitution(Which means i got so far before i got lost) There's nothing wrong with it other than missing two more senators for each state but i have a feeling this has been argued before.

        Fritzie, would you look at my countries (New Zealands) current government and Parliament system and just from a surface look tell me what do you see? What's it look like from an external view? What's it look like from outside the bubble? If you get a spare moment.
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      Jan 30 2013: I think this is a common thought throughout the middle and lower class families in America. The people at the top do not see the problem because they are the beneficiaries and block everything else out. Most people have just stopped caring about politics and that has made the problem worse in the last few years. Change seems like an impossible battle from the bottom and people feel like we are too far gone to fix.
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        Jan 30 2013: I think you're not alone as a lot of people planet wide probably feel this way towards their own governments. I don't truly understand your system but how destabilizing would it be if all 52? states dissolved the current system and just had 52 state elected representatives who then dissolve the constitution and write a new one? Begin again, This is a radical idea but only to those who don't know that things sometimes get trashed. My generation have become mired,stuck,lost in past glories and I get the feeling that the young are now looking at us, not to us but at us.
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          Jan 30 2013: One would not get a thoughtful and well considered document. What existing problem do you think it would solve?
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          Jan 30 2013: The original US Constitution was meant to be an overview that the federal government could use to control international and interstate commerce and the states would then have power over their own lands and rules. It has recently become this monster that gives the federal government power over everything because everything you do affects interstate commerce. I don't think it would be a bad idea to rewrite it, but the poeple in power like the system too much (because it benefits them) to let it dissolve without a full on revolution..
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        Feb 1 2013: There's something wrong with the idea of the Super Pac. I don't know whether it's me being resistant to a modern system coming into use or just plain fear that it's just what you have stated in your reply to me above, From the last election these Super Pacs were allowed to run negative advertizements against who ever it was who was the opposite running candidate. It feels dirty but it also looks like trollism or could escalate to it tweaking the voters to become groupies of the election soaps. I'm probably not making any sense.I'm just use to seeing politicians push their own shopping carts.
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          Feb 2 2013: Exactly, The political parties now have someone else doing grunt work for them. There is definitely something wrong with it because now the top money earners have the most power in elections. The basic problem is human greed. If the rich didn't want to keep the middle class in check this would work out fine, but they push policy on these parties to let the rich get richer and we are starting to see a huge gap between the middle and upper class because of it.
  • Jan 30 2013: greed and selfishness