The Principle of Parsimony: the way forward

By: Bill Whaley
27 November, 2012

When life becomes too complicated I am always reminded of 14th century philosopher William of Ockham and his handy razor, which instrument is based on “The Principle of Parsimony.” Don’t assume plurality without necessity and do more with fewer assumptions. Shave off the unnecessary and simplify.

What with the lemmings in Congress running pell-mell toward the “fiscal cliff,” we need a new Jeffersonian vision of where we yeomen and yeowomen stand today. Global warming, public and private debt, the social security blanket and medical insurance crisis, the exponentially increasing inequality in America, not to mention the unsustainable imperial adventure abroad are just some of the issues we need to consider.

So here’s my own 10-point plan in no particular order. Let the economists and politicians work out the details and cope with the special interests. First we speculate then we apply the plan. Let us, contrary to Ockham, assume we Americans believe in shared sacrifice and equality of opportunity, both moral and economic, rightly and selfishly understood.

1. To cool global warming, we must dampen consumerism and forgive public and private debt. We need to start from scratch with an economy based on the frugal and efficient use of resources. More solar and wind energy, less coal and natural gas or oil. Institute green building practices as a practice, not something just for new construction or the wealthy and ingenious with tax credits. We must protect our water, the most important resource: no aqua, no vida.

2. Institute a national sales tax of 1% for universal health care. Let the neo-National Health Service administer the program. In effect, do away with the insurance companies, which profit from the people’s pain and do away with hoary notions of “regressive” taxes. Everybody’s got to pay to play but they must  get a break when they go for their meds. Note: This approach will eliminate the need for employers to provide healthcare benefits for employees, especially helpful for small businesses. Businesses, NFPs, schools, etc. would no longer need to pay for healthcare benefits.

3. At the gas pumps, allocate a penny per gallon for no-fault vehicle insurance. Whatever’s left over in the fuel-insurance fund can go for transportation infrastructure.

4. Do away with the cap on ordinary and capital gains income for social security. Let the rich pay more and use a graduated means’ test for retirement age, starting at 62 but moving up from there to 65, 67, 70, 72, etc.

5. Stop subsidizing real estate developers with federal bailouts and encourage folks to build in safe zones, not along dangerous seashores or in tornado alleys and hurricane tunnels. Call it “managed retreat.” Curtail sprawl and suburbs in the desert or single family homes in the mountains. Encourage double or triple-decker houses and high-density growth in cities, towns, and villages to dampen the need for vehicular traffic and commuting, while increasing spiritual health via intense cultural life. Map out the eco zones, fire zones, and fragile areas subject to drought with appropriate guidelines for population density. The new slogan: Put a greenhouse and chicken coop in every backyard.

6. Tax the fast food and corporate supermarkets, which poison the populace and tempt the weak with unhealthy addictive junk, both ingestible tidbits and worthless tchotchkes.

7. Impose a tariff on imports and rebuild American manufacturing and industry. Let our trade consist of exporting technically superior products and intellectual property—not weapons, violence, and assassination.

8. Regulate and separate commercial from investment banking. Let the Wall St. Gaming Commission oversee investment banks and hedge funds. Re-introduce the free market with “moral hazard” to Wall Street and eliminate the fixed market, wherein taxpayers guarantee losses for corporate players and the 1%.

9. Bring home the troops and let foreign countries, including Israel and Cuba fend for themselves: we are not the world’s policemen. If the tribes want to fight with their relatives, let them. Let us be exemplary, not prescriptive.

10. We know we can’t change human nature but we can change the system or Mother Nature will change it for us—and eject us during the coming “great die-off.” Instead of corporate capitalism, we need democratic capitalism. By doing less in an environment that suffers from too much pro-growth carbon, we will succeed more. Go home, read a book, browse the Internet, veg out, do little, nap, put on a sweater.

In terms of theory and practice, we Taosenos are ahead of the curve.

Send me your ideas.

Here’s No. 11 from a reader: Add hemp production for a nitrogen-fixing alternative to logging & petrochemicals for paper, fiber, biofuels, concrete & you’ve captured the true progressive platform.

A reader writes:

1. Stop calling SS an “entitlement”… it’s an “earned benefit” for most.  Once it is recognized that most paid into SS for decades and thereby earned participation later, it would be much easier to convince folks to take a hit for the good of the country.
2. If a lobbyist wants to lobby our congressmen/women they have to have a signed petition from at least 100 of the congressman/woman’s constituents showing that they support the lobbyist’s position.
3. Term limits on Congress, two terms max… works for the President…
4. One cent/gallon PLUS $25/ton for the CO2… about $3 more for 15 gallons, and about $200 more for a flight to India (each way).
5. Liability insurance for people, not vehicles (like Mexico has already)
6. No wars on credit, taxes go up in real time to pay as we go for defense, in a separate account from the “general fund”;
7. President has to travel in a smaller jet… a 747 is absurd
8. Merge at least half the counties into larger counties… efficiency of scale since they all do the same thing!
9. Sun set clause on all legislation to force a periodic re-evaluation of the law.
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