Let’s Rethink Immigration:
 Managing the “Coke Bottle”

The noted scientist and intellectual philosopher Albert Einstein liked to say,

“Everything should be made as simple as possible,
but not simpler.”

Let’s make it as simple as possible, but not simpler. I’ll state my premise out front: we haven’t solved the immigration problem because we never defined it intelligently.

We’ve misunderstood it, misdiagnosed it, and mis-framed it as an emotionally charged stalemate between two incompatible mindsets. Regardless of which side gets its way, we won’t have solved it. Until we reframe our understanding of the problem and begin to apply some systems thinking, we’ll keep repeating the same old slogans and fighting the same old battles.

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Let’s Rethink Civil Liberties: Balancing Freedom with Responsibility

The Founders gave a lot of thought and debate to safeguarding individual rights. They knew well the violent history of the oppressive European monarchies, including their own ancestral homeland of England. They understood the risks of unbridled power in the hands of unaccountable heads of state.

The Federalists, led by Alexander Hamilton, John Adams, and John Jay, seemed confident that a strong central government would rule humanely. But the Anti-Federalists, led by Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Patrick Henry, had their doubts. Indeed, they first opposed the new constitution entirely, because they saw it as shifting too much power from the states and local communities to a central government.

The Anti-Federalists blocked the new constitution until the Federalists agreed to add specific amendments that would guarantee individual rights and limit the powers of the central government. Once they made that deal, both sides agreed to approve the constitution in 1788 to get the new Republic started. They went ahead with the understanding that immediately thereafter they would add a series of amendments that would finish the job.

Both sides kept their word. Shortly after ratification the new Congress, created by the new Constitution, adopted the first ten amendments that have become the legendary American Bill of Rights.

By the way, when it comes to amending the Constitution, you might like to know that the President has no role in the process. Under Article II, he or she has no authority to initiate, approve, or veto a constitutional amendment.

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Let’s Rethink Our Dysfunctional Revenue System: Taxes

The World Economic Forum estimates the total number of billionaires on the planet at just above 2,200. The wealthiest 26 of them own more “stuff”—money, stocks, bonds, mansions, cars, yachts, planes, art—than the 3.8 billion people at the bottom of the economic ladder combined.

Currently a typical warehouse worker employed by Amazon gets paid about $10-12 per hour and has a net worth slightly above zero. The man who runs Amazon, according to Forbes’ estimates, has a net worth of over $200 billion.

A review of the tax returns of 250 large American corporations for the years 2008-2015 discovered that eight of them paid no taxes during the entire period. The Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy cited firms like General Electric, International Paper, Priceline.com, and PG&E as leading examples of zero-tax businesses. At least 100 firms in the study—40 percent—paid no tax in at least one of those years. Recent news reports indicate that Amazon, a firm with a stock market capitalization approaching a trillion dollars, paid no tax for the most recent year.

Does it seem like somehow, somewhere along the way, the American economic miracle got hijacked? Did the Founders miss something as they went about designing the economic model for the Republic? How did the “land of opportunity” devolve into the land of “winner takes it all?”

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Let’s Rethink Law & Order—Completely

As a Republic, we spend a large share of our resources on trying to catch and punish people who misbehave. At city, county, state, and national levels, we’ve evolved a haphazard conglomeration of “correctional” operations—courts, jails, holding facilities, juvenile detention centers, and prisons. No one seems to know what or how they correct.

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“Every gun that is made, every warship launched,
every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense,
a theft from those who hunger and are not fed,
those who are cold and are not clothed.
 This world in arms is not spending money alone.
 It is spending the sweat of its laborers,
the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children.”

—Dwight Eisenhower
Five-Star General, US President

If we want to rethink the role of military operations in the future of the Republic, we can analyze the various options and their costs in the cold, hard logic of return on investment. We face two questions: 1) how much peace of mind can we buy for any given level of military investment; and 2) how much will we consider enough?

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Let’s Rethink Governance: Fixing the Top of the Pyramid

Where Have All the Leaders Gone?

More and more Americans have started asking, “Does anybody in politics really care about the country any more? What happened to the statesmen, the thought leaders, the compromisers, the dealmakers?” Public opinion polls consistently show that Americans no longer respect or trust their political leaders. A recent poll showed Congress with an approval rating of just 18 percent.
Meanwhile, the news industry, with its addiction to conflict as the standard model for framing the big stories, now relentlessly simplifies, personalizes, and amplifies the differences that divide the various factions.

The practical effect of this paralyzing conflict and deadlock in so many aspects of the political process means that we don’t get the big things done. And without the respect and approval of the public, how can we mobilize energy and commitment for the big challenges we face?
Meanwhile, antagonistic foreign governments enjoy watching us acting like our own worst enemies.

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