Creative Destruction

May 14, 2006

Adam’s Guide to making everything better

Filed under: Debate,Humor,Navel Gazing,Politics — Adam Gurri @ 2:21 pm

We recently talked about a test on how Kevin Drum/Atrios believe you could improve this country, with the notion that the more you agree with them, the more liberal you are.

So, I thought I would one-up them in self-indulgence, and just throw together a haphazard list of how I think you could make things better.

Take the test, and measure up just how deeply entrenched in AdamGurrism you are. Or, I suppose, how much of the opposite end of the political spectrum–a side which I will dub "jerkheadism"–you subscribe to. I understand that not all AdamGurrists will agree with everything that is said here, but I think that there's a pretty obvious consensus on the following.

  1. Don't stop at simplifying the tax-code, simplify the laws. The problem with our legal institution isn't any activist judges, it's the language and length of our laws which have a great power to obscure any information. Allowing this to continue makes it easy for congressmen to make postures when in reality all they are doing is punting the real decisions to the courtrooms. Take Occam's Razor to these bitches, it's long overdue.
  2. No financial incentives to sue for you! A cap on the sum of money that can be awarded, a flat fee for lawyers service rather than ever allowing a percentage of the winnings to fall into the hands of the lawyer, and the English Rule, or "Loser Wins" approach whereby whoever loses the lawsuit has to pay the legal fees for both parties.
  3. Congressional term limits. Not a solution, I know, but an improvement–if you can't get it done in two terms or less, get your butt out of office and give someone else a go.
  4. Vouchers and the choice of transferring to another public school. Also, just as most public colleges are mandated to have the majority of their students drawn from in-state, the majority of vouchers should be used for low-income households, not middle class, who have more resources available to them to begin with.
  5. Kill McCain-Feingold. (The law, not the people)
  6. Obliterate the CIA and other aging dinosaurs, harvest them for the information they do have collected, and then start fresh with talent and protocols that weren't built for the Cold War.
  7. Deferrment to state governments on the bulk of domestic issues. If it doesn't have to do with voting, crossing a border, or the basic constitutional rights, then let people sort these things out where they have the biggest individual impact–on the local level.
  8. No tenure. Academic freedom my ass. Professors are there to be skilled teachers to their students, and talented pioneers in the research they conduct. There is no reason to give them an unconditional sense of security; if they don't like how they're treated by one university, they are free to try one of the many others that this country has to offer.
  9. Hospitals ought to be required to provide their patients with copies of their own medical records. That way, those records can be looked at by whatever other hospital the patient wants to go to; meaning rather than having the same procedure done repeatedly, they could just get a doctor who finds something that the first doctor missed in the results of the original test.
  10. Medicare for some, tiny American flags for others. Medicare needs to be reformed just as welfare was; it should require that those who use it have a regular doctor, so that our emergency rooms can start being for, you know, emergencies.
  11. Rhetoric and Oratory in the classroom. Seriously, people–basic articulation, speech writing and presenting, and logic. If you doubt that our country is in need of that, turn on C-Span for five seconds. Or a speech by our president.
  12. A gigantic, golden calf should be erected, in a monument dedicated to me. Somewhere important. Like, next to Lincoln.
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10 Comments »

  1. Some interesting ideas, but I suspect you’re gonna put off people who don’t believe in government intruding into our lives.

    No financial incentives to sue for you! A cap on the sum of money that can be awarded, a flat fee for lawyers service rather than ever allowing a percentage of the winnings to fall into the hands of the lawyer….

    Sure, if you oppose letting people take an equity interest in other people’s circumstances, I guess you could adopt this policy and repeal corporate law while you’re at it. We could return to the days when we only had sole proprietorships, I guess, and all financing was debt financing. I don’t see the merit, however.

    Or did you think that the *JUSTICE SYSTEM* (angel chorus) somehow exists outside of the rest of the world, beyond the rules of supply and demand that influence the rest of human experience?

    No tenure. Academic freedom my ass. Professors are there to be skilled teachers to their students, and talented pioneers in the research they conduct. There is no reason to give them an unconditional sense of security; if they don’t like how they’re treated by one university, they are free to try one of the many others that this country has to offer.

    I can’t see why government has any business telling private institutions how to conduct this aspect of their employment relations. Unless, perhaps, you are suggesting that tenure is interfering with a legitimate governmental interest in seeing private institutions implement Affirmative Action?

    Where public institutions are concerned, it’s a more interesting question. There’s always a question about the extent to which the action of past administrations can constrain the actions of current and future administrations. This issue arises in all manner of government contracts, especially the national debt.

    To the extent that we decide that we no longer favor the decisions of past administrations, whether in issuing bonds or granting tenure, then I think a simple respect for contract law would require us to buy out our obligations. Or did you think that the *EDUCATION SYSTEM* (angel chorus) somehow exists outside of the rest of the world, beyond the rules of contract law and detrimental reliance that influence the rest of human experience?

    Kill McCain-Feingold. (The law, not the people)

    So now you want to deprive us of the opportunity to kill McCain and Feingold. Jeez, is there no end to the kinds of government interventions you support? 🙂

    Comment by nobody.really — May 14, 2006 @ 10:43 pm | Reply

  2. Don’t stop at simplifying the tax-code, simplify the laws.

    I think that laws have become unwieldy in part because they attempt to account for and anticipate all possible scenarios. Take away complexity and things are just as unclear as with complexity. So I’m not convinced that in the area of law simplicity would be a positive step.

    Congressional term limits. Not a solution, I know, but an improvement–if you can’t get it done in two terms or less, get your butt out of office and give someone else a go.

    Are you presuming widespread incompetence? Is there no value to continuity and experience? OK, nevermind. I think I’ve just answered my own questions.

    Vouchers and the choice of transferring to another public school.

    This proposition has been an endless morass for years. Personally, I’d like to see it tried, but there appears to be no way to please everyone, so we’re stuck with our current situation, which ironically pleases no one.

    Deferrment to state governments on the bulk of domestic issues.

    Um, you mean “deference”? I’m behind this one. Federalism has proven over time to be a major stumbling block for countless issues better decided on various local levels.

    Medicare for some, tiny American flags for others.

    Flags as in little memorials for the tombs of the untreated dead?

    Rhetoric and Oratory in the classroom.

    This one I’m behind, too. Convincing propositions I’ve read tend toward semiotics, which is a bit broader. But anything that would enhance our decaying skills at manipulating the very tools of thought would be welcome.

    Comment by Brutus — May 14, 2006 @ 11:49 pm | Reply

  3. I don’t like government dictating the agreements between lawyers and their clients, either. I think that the problems caused by contingency fees would fix themselves if you capped the damages.

    Another idea I’ve had for a while is to award punitive damages only from those who are personally responsible for wrongdoing. I’m on board with compensatory damages, but it doesn’t make sense to take millions of dollars from innocent shareholders to “punish” them for things they probably didn’t even know about.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — May 15, 2006 @ 3:38 am | Reply


  4. Another idea I’ve had for a while is to award punitive damages only from those who are personally responsible for wrongdoing.

    Shouldn’t those personally responsible for good business choices also receive full benefit for their actions, instead of part of it going to other employees, employers and shareholders?


    I’m on board with compensatory damages, but it doesn’t make sense to take millions of dollars from innocent shareholders to “punish” them for things they probably didn’t even know about.

    It makes as much sense to “punish” innocent shareholders for things they probably didn’t even know about, than it makes sense to “reward” lazy shareholders for things tey probably didn’t know anything about.

    In other words, I fail to see what the ignorance of shareholders has to do with their partial responsibility (via economic means, which is their contribution to the company) in good AND bad choices the company makes. It makes no sense to insulate them for other, while allowing full benefits for other (my position is both possible profits and losses).

    I don’t like the idea of caps. It certainly isn’t a perfect system (now), but as nobody.really said, the system doesn’t exactly operate in vacuum.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 15, 2006 @ 8:39 am | Reply

  5. correction:

    Insulate them from other.

    Comment by Tuomas — May 15, 2006 @ 9:07 am | Reply

  6. Tuomas:
    As I said, I’m fine with compensatory damages, which means that I do think that shareholders should take financial responsibility for any harm their company does.

    But that has nothing to do with punitive damages. The point of punitive damages is, as the name suggests, to punish wrongdoing, not to compensate the victim. And unless shareholders are personally responsible for wrongdoing, they’ve done nothing to justify any sort of punishment. It makes much more sense to go after those who were personally responsible.

    Comment by Brandon Berg — May 15, 2006 @ 12:35 pm | Reply

  7. Great. But don’t create an incentive for shareholders to remain ignorant of the actions of their officers. Instead, let plaintiffs seek punative damages against corporations (corporations are deemed to be persons, after all), and let shareholders seek recomense from the wrongdoing or negligent corporate officers.

    Of course, many corporations (by shareholder agreement) agree to compensate their officers for all kinds of crazy things, and many states agree that corporate officers should be protected from suit. Few people can anticipate that they will be a future plaintiff, so there generally is not much of a lobby for their interests. In contrast, corporate officers can readily anticipate that they will be potential defendants, so there is a very powerful lobby to protect their interests. Consequently the legal deck is generally stacked against plaintiffs.

    The only powerful constituency with a potential interest to fight back is shareholders. Only when shareholders bear the cost of corporate wrongdoing is there any hope of keeping the pressure on corporate officers, where it belongs. But, as we see in the case of corporate compensation, even this lever is feeble.

    Comment by nobody.really — May 15, 2006 @ 12:57 pm | Reply

  8. The difficulty with making corporate officers liable is that it gives an incentive to avoid risk-taking on the corporation’s behalf. While this can be a good thing, it also retards innovation and development.

    Comment by Robert — May 15, 2006 @ 1:41 pm | Reply

  9. Or did you think that the *JUSTICE SYSTEM* (angel chorus) somehow exists outside of the rest of the world, beyond the rules of supply and demand that influence the rest of human experience?

    Not really. Do you think that incentive structures can’t be altered?

    Comment by Adam Gurri — May 15, 2006 @ 1:46 pm | Reply

  10. Definitely, incentive strutures can be altered. So if we outlaw people taking equity shares in an enterprise, or cap the earnings of an enterprise, we can alter incentives and stymie a certain amount of otherwise lawful activity. But why would we want to?

    If we now acknowledge that litigation operates according to the same market dynamics as other enterprises, why would we imagine that the rules that apply to other enterprises should not apply to the business of litigation?

    Comment by nobody.really — May 15, 2006 @ 2:43 pm | Reply


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