Facets of Greatness: Understanding the Political System

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Just to clarify right at the start: I support Trump for president. I think the guy has some great ideas, though admittedly I had a hard time supporting him until early 2016. The reason I support him is because we’re embarking on a transition and we need fresh ideas.

Hoo Wee! Can You Smell That?

A Whiff of Grapeshot

It's a Whiff of Grapeshot

This another political philosophy entry in the Facets of Greatness series. Our leaders need to understand the system, particularly some of the tough to understand issues in the American Federal Government. The people need comprehension on this points as well because the system is designed such that the squeakiest wheel gets the grease. It’s a democracy and you have to be loud about what you want. The system was designed this way and sometimes there are problems that result from that, as noble as our founders’ intentions were. Other times, we feel these pain points when special interests get in the way.

But … Why?

Diluted Representation

Why is Washington Gridlocked?

Reform Requires Building a Movement

By It’s Nature, Risk Helps Us Grow

Economic Effects of Election Outcome

Socialism is Great!

21st Century Economics

Democracy is Susceptible to Misinformation

Immigration

The Singularity Implies Tectonic Cultural Shift

I Can’t Stand Citizens United, But…

Distribution of Power Across Generations

America was Designed with Change in Mind

Of Governments and Video Game Design

A Brief Journey Into My Personal Life

Be the Leader I Wasn’t Allowed to Become

So I Learned to Lead Leaders!

That was My Genius All Along.

Navigating the Political System

It’s important to know how to navigate the political system in Washington DC, but more important to understand the why’s. We need to have an appreciation of why it was designed in this way, as well as the traditions behind the design aspects. If for no other reason than to understand it out of a desire to leverage it for change, instead of working against it.

One major pain point people feel right now: the legislative process has been gridlocked. It was partly designed to hold back change, unless the legislature receives strong enough signals from the people. And our democracy has grown too large, so representation has been diluted, per person.

Diluted Representation

One major problem our country deals with is variance in representation. When the country was founded, there was approximately one Representative per ~30,000 citizens. Actually less, if it’s considered in terms of number of households. Today, that’s one Representative per ~750,000 citizens! A major difference! The Senate is even worse. Again, this is one of those things our founders foresaw and understood would change as population grew.

How can we fix this, so that individual citizens have more influence? It’s tough! We can’t add more Representatives, because it’s sluggish to get bills through the legislature as it is! But the people are losing their connection to their congressmen and being crowded out financially by special interests. The only practical feedback loop for citizens to assert their opinion the election cycle! And during that special time of year, politicians micromanage public opinion. Incumbents display strong advantage and stick around, term after term.

That can’t be the only mechanism for citizens to assert their will. Yet, on the flip side, if there are too many opportunities for citizens to provide feedback, then this can be used as a tool by the media and special interests to pick off congressmen by manipulating public opinion at key times. It’s all so complicated.

Why is Washington Gridlocked?

Washington seems gridlocked on so many issues. This isn’t a bug; it’s a feature. In part, this is how the system was designed by the founders. They wanted a system where there would be two parties that would need to vie for power. Our system differs from most republics and democracies across the world. Our parties don’t form coalitions. Further, our bicameral system with a House and Senate is another aspect to the Legislative branch that slows down rapid reform.

Delegated responsibilities, along with checks & balances, are assigned to the House and Senate. These include the stipulation that taxes must originate within the House of Representatives, so that the set of lawmakers responsible for creating tax law are closer to the people. This is also an example of a rule that finds itself occasionally broken in recent times. This rule is amoung many, many others in the Constitution and overal federal body of law, the Corpus Juris Secundum, that are outright ignored or bypassed through delegation to beaurocracy. When these rules are bypassed, it’s usually done for expedience, convenience or to circumvent them subtly. When it happens, it’s rarely questioned in any significant capacity, ostensibly for the sake of expedience. The lawmakers are not always following the rules to the letter.

But most of all, the system of commitees requires that any laws receive a ton of discussion before hitting the floor. This way, those bills are well vetted by congressmen who are familiar with the issues they revolve. And the votes can be tallied before it hits the floor. Sometimes allowing an unprepared bill to pass committee is done as an empty gesture, so lawmakers can say they tried. These committes have good purpose, but can stall out quick change. Trust me, this one got me time after time with drug law reform. I’m well familiar with cosponsored bills left gasping for breath, suffocated by committee politics. It’s just the way the system is.

This Friction Promotes Stability in the Long Term

It makes a republic less susceptible to foreign influence, one of the biggest weaknesses of a democratic government with fairly open borders. This also prevents wild changes in policy implementations, were we ever to have a fickle populace. Frequent fluctuations and reversals in policy means that our economy, it’s businesses and industries don’t have time to adapt. Reforms are expensive, regardless of who supports them and regardless of whether they are justified and beneficial in the longterm. They are expensive in terms of implementation and in the cost to the economy. Businesses need to be able to project and prepare for policy changes.

Reform Requires Building a Movement

Higher cost in time & effort for reforms means that the people who want it most end up winning. To change something in this country, you have to get popular support, especially if a policy is contrary to special interests.

That means you have to build a movement. How do you build a movement? You relate to people. You figure out how to connect to them. You get them emotionally invested in something. If something else is more important, then they’ll gravitate towards that. But when people are emotionally and financially invested, they care. They pay attention to the news, the laws, the policies and the political games in washington.

And what happens then? Smarter, well-researched policies … generally.

By It’s Nature, Risk Helps Us Grow

In the Nineties and Aughties, there were just too many people who weren’t paying attention. Because, for the most part, it all felt good. Why? Cheap credit provided plenty of liquidity for the economy. Cheap credit leads to misallocation of resources. We weren’t really aware there were problems or if we were, we didn’t know why. We weren’t reading the signals.

Keynesian economics are great for promoting stability and resilience against minor issues, but the drawback to cheap credit is that we can numb ourselves against the pain we should feel that would force us to change. Just to be clear, we need Keynesian policies and we need the Fed. A stable economy means more accurate projections and anticipation of trends.

Economic Effects of Election Outcome

Ever heard that the outcome of the presidential election affects the economy? Policy & platform aside, does that mean that one president would lead to a better economy and the other would lead to a worse economy? Not really and again, that is a general statement which doesn’t take specific platform issues into account. However, the outcome will always help some industries and hurt others. So it doesn’t imply a simple “growth” or “loss” of the economy as it implies a shift of influence between various industries and businesses.

Once you take the specific platform issues and realistic policy changes into account, then yes! there is a significant difference between candidates. That guy gets to run the executive branch of the US Government. You bet your ass one candidate is going to better than the other.

Socialism is Great!

Until You Run Out of Money…

And just real quick, here’s the deal with socialism: it’s fucking great! It’s amazing! Right until your coffers dry up and you can’t fund your services. How you gonna do fund services without liquidity to pay for them? Something like that wouldn’t happen all at once, but generally it does. And it’s verrrry verry sneaky. It occurs on the timescale of generations; not years, not election cycles.

21st Century Economics

We’ll Need to Rewrite the Econ Textbooks

Are there problems? Yes! The prices in the US economy are generally out of control and have been for years. This is tough if you don’t make much money. But this technological shift? Costs and prices are going to drop. Longstanding economic assumptions will be challenged and broken. It hasn’t happened yet. It’s not going to happen overnight. But it will happen. And they’re going to have to rewrite the college economics textbooks for Micro and Macro.

Democracy is Susceptible to Misinformation

It can be difficult to relay the context of policy decisions to average americans and then retain strategic advantage in the global marketplace. China is mostly a closed country and they have so many advantages in this regard. We just let people walk on over.

Immigration

It’s a National Security Issue

I’m going to write an article on illegal immigration very soon. This is mostly a national security issue and it’s a long-term problem. Again, it’s sinister in that it’s not a big enough issue to tackle, so no one does. The consequences are easier to deal with if we make tough decisions now. The tensions are worse if we keep waiting. And my main point of contention here is that illegal immigration is bad for everyone: legal citizens, legal immigrants and especially illegal immigrants.

The Singularity Implies Tectonic Cultural Shift

There’s a lot of change getting ready to go down in the whole world. If you’ve been living under a rock, it stems from technology and the tectonic cultural shift that’s occuring. There are problems with this. It’s not going to be easy. and it’s going to be fast. If we do not nail it right, we’re going to lose. Not everything, but we’ll lose pretty big. This isn’t a high-probability risk, but it could be a costly loss. So we need to be prepared.

I Can’t Stand Citizens United, But…

So, as much as I detest the Citizen’s United decision, this is actually one reason that there should be a lot of money in Washington … for now! Just hear me out!

We need people who are well paid to research policy. And if you’ve noticed, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats seem to want to do much about it, as much as the people on both sides hate it. Why’s that? Both parties are sucking that teet. They are both gulping down that cash. In part, it helps drive Washington.

Way too much money in politics is usually a bad thing. It leads to corruption and bad decisions. I don’t like Super PAC’s for many reasons. I detest them, actually. I can’t stand money in politics. I admire politicians who abstain from particular funding sources, like Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders. And yes, Donald Trump, too. I can’t recall if he changed direction, but he didn’t accept very much money. And ya damn straight. Money comes with strings. Your grandma might have given you money out of the goodness of her heart, but not that lobbyist.

But right now, we need smart people in Washington getting paid good money to research policy. And we need a lot of those people in the system. Again, for now…

Distribution of Power Across Generations

Another common gripe is that the generation making decisions is not the generation who feels the impact of them. The power in a republic should be distributed across the generations, but the people that make the most critical decisions should be the more senior generations.

Why? I’ve actually already written about it. It’s in the Facets of Greatness Intro in the section on Why Power Should Gravitate Towards Seniority. Rapid change from the inexperienced younger generation contributes to instability. Plato agrees. Read the Republic.

America was Designed with Change in Mind

The country’s systems were designed to anticipate centuries of change! Centuries! The founders fully expected large changes in policy and public sentiment after the founding of our country. And they did all over the course of a hot summer in Pennsylvania. With no air-conditioning.

The Articles of Confederation may have been a more idealistic government, but let’s be serious here: do you really think they intended that to last? Not really. It was good enough. Good enough to give our founders about a decade to figure out what would be great enough to last centuries. That’s what I mean. Yeh, Thomas Jefferson might have wanted the Articles to last. It didn’t have the power or mechanism to tax states. That’s like asking the Red Cross to run your government.

But this is what I mean: they knew it was going to play out like that. And what would you do? They just fought a revolution. Things are tumultuous and tensions with the British are fierce. Do you think Britain was going to play nice with foreign policy? No. They were going to be subversive, I imagine. So if you have a temporary government declared as the official thing, it gives you time to think of the right policies worth fighting for and an opportunity to see how the other side of the Atlantic is going to play.

Like Guinness, it’s brilliant! And, IMO, this same foresight is evident in the Constitution and Bill of Rights on the scale of centuries.

Brilliant Implementation of a Republic!

Guinness, the best thing since nitrogenated beer...

Of Governments and Video Game Design

This reminds me of Blizzard’s excellent game design. Yes, Blizzard games. As in, Warcraft, Diablo and Starcraft. Their games are known for impeccable balance and for retaining communities of gamers for a decade or longer. And why?

Anticipation of strategy and metagame trends is what makes Blizzard games last for decades. I’ve noticed that it seems they anticipated not only the game balance, but the metagame balance and transitions. They seemed to understand how the strategies would change as they released minor changes in patches. This means that they did a ridiculous amount of play-testing for various settings.

I’m giving Blizzard a ton of credit here, but there’s a reason their titles are amoung the most popular in professional gaming. They anticipated the long-term evolution and that is why they were successful. Instead of nailing down a single “balanced” game configuraion, they tested Starcraft strategies under different settings. Through play-testing, they learned which ones would be dominant as they made minor changes.

Nothing is Perfect; Perfection is Anticipation of Imperfection

From here, they understood how to optimally transition from one set of dominant strategies to another. This allowed Blizzard to slightly tilt the online game balance. In Starcraft, this means a few strategies will become favored and others will become tougher bets. That makes things interesting for different classes of players. Some strategies may see little to no gameplay, but are suddenly popular after a patch because slight changes make them practical.

Blizzard understood how to optimally balance Starcraft for games from two to eight players with three races. That’s impressive. Not only that, but they seem to have play-tested so well they understood the optimal transition in patches. This means they could phase dominant strategies in and out.

Drive Discussion and Get Players to Invest

This has a ton of difficult-to-predict but valuable effects that enabled Blizzard to retain gamer loyalty, even over shiny new products from competitors. It’s part of a corporate strategy to grow a loyal community around their games. Blizzard can tweak the game and drive trends in pro play. This keeps metagame interesting for professionals. That requires gamers to invest time and energy in keeping up with trends in the gaming world. They have to discuss this stuff in forums.

That investment? It means that players will feel committed to blizzard titles. That discussion for metagame? It also drives SEO while simultaneously fostering a community around their titles. If the settings were fairly constant and gameplay strategies were stable, the game would age more quickly and the adaptation would require discussion.

Well, that’s it! No more politics for now… Womp Womp; The End;;

A Brief Journey Into My Personal Life

Yes, i’ve made less than 30% of the aggregate income that I should have over the past few years, mostly to pursue startup ideas. But if you haven’t figured it out yet, just because I haven’t had spectacular success doesn’t mean I’m an idiot. The crap I’ve dealt with from specific people I worked with (about five people) has been a serious setback, for which no one has been held accountable.

But that doesn’t mean I’m a failure. If you associate success with riches – or with the appearance of money! – then you should reassess the way you look at people. Being rich is not the same as being wealthy. I’ve been through a lot, but I know my shit. I assess businesses and their strategies all the time. I cannot help it. I read about founders and their lives. And it is so irritating to have NEVER had the chance even once to build a product with a team. Not even once! It’s like it’s against the law to cofound a company with me. You’d have to be a moron to pass up an opportunity to found an music app like Splice!

One reason why I have never had the chance is because I’ve never had an opportunity. I can’t say I’ve failed even though I spent almost five years of my life on this! Because I’ve never really tried! And there are negative people who know that I would be successful. The people around me are not stupid. They know that once I got my first success, I would fucking multiply that shit. And after I multiplied it, I would exponentiate it.

I intuitively understand politics and business strategy for parent companies and their subsidiaries, though I’m sure I have blind spots. I know what it means to own competitors to dominate market share. The fact that I barely have two quarters to rub together is bullshit and everyone in this country knows it. I couldn’t buy coffee the other day because I only had five quarters. I didn’t have seven quarters… And I didn’t feel like walking home.

Can I have some first world problems?! Or do I live in Mali? I made $1,717 in 2015. Yes. Yes, that number has FOUR fucking digits … So yes, I feel like I deserve to bitch about it. After May, I worked hard to not make any money in 2015, just so I could put the lowest number possible on my tax returns. JUST SO I COULD BITCH ABOUT IT. So I will.

And how is it that I can help so many other people, yet have nothing myself? What the fuck is that, anyways?

Be the Leader I Wasn’t Allowed to Become

As previously noted in the Facets of Greatness series, revealing the extent of your ability to model a specific domain isn’t very wise. Even if you’re as good as you think you are, it still clues your opponents into how you will approach a problem. And because of that, they can hone their tactics and focus their energy to what will be effective for you.

Therefore, it’s dumb for me to explain all this, isn’t it? It’s a quasi-political post that, to anyone on Capital Hill, might display entry level knowledge of tactics in politics. It might help my enemies deconstruct my own strategies and tactics.

Hopefully I’m Helping Someone Grow

So why do it? Because there’s so many people out there who don’t have this knowledge. That’s what the Facets of Greatness series is about. They stonewalled me.

There might as well be a federal law that reads:

David Conner is not fucking allowed to win; do not allow that cheating twerp to win the turd at the bottom of a cereal box; do not lend him credence of any kind; do not allow others to develop favorable views of him; and constantly affirm accordance with this law of the land by publicly chipping away at his credibility.

So I Learned to Lead Leaders!

That was My Genius All Along

But even if I can’t win myself, that doesn’t mean that I can’t fight the battle through others. This is partly what I’ve been doing all along. It’s what was so genius, all along. So, through these Facets of Greatness, I hope to equip others with valuable knowledge to help them push forward towards change.