What to do, part deux

I will try to keep this post pithy.

Another thing that hinders progress, both politically and socioeconomically in the US is our Constitution. Whoa, whoa, whoa... Wait a minute and hear me out before everyone on the right lynches me (wait, we don't lynch anymore, do we???)

What I mean by that is that the Constitution of the United States specifically spells out powers of the federal government. These powers are also known as the Enumerated Powers. And, according to the 10th Amendment, if it ain't in the Constitution, it is left up to the states, therefore the federal government cannot (and should not) do it.

So, if we as a people want to fund local education using federal money, the Constitution needs to change. If we want to fund companies to develop and manufacture solar panels, the Constitution needs to change. Heck, the Constitution really doesn't give the federal government the power to build an Interstate Highway System,  provide a retirement fund, or provide medical insurance (except for the military) but I guess those are grandfathered.

My point is this: if we feel strongly that we need to put a lot more power in the hands of the federal government, the Constitution gives us a right either through Congressional initiative, or a state-initiated Constitutional Convention. This isn't rocket science, people. It has been done 17 times so far.

My opinion: at this point in the progression of governments and technology, along with how small the world has become, I feel that it is about time for our federal government to be officially endowed, through the amendment process, with certain powers related more to the promotion of commerce and technology, than to the actual funding of specific businesses.
Since most progressive (yes, I use that term in the classic sense) governments in the world are actively involved in micro-economics (think power generation, energy sources, medicine, autos, aerospace, high tech, etc.), we in the US are falling further behind because we spend an inordinate amount of mental and physical capital on litigating and arguing what can be done and what cannot be done.
The federal government, through consensus of, and control by, the Congress could direct research and development, and then make these discoveries available to any and all public companies subject to vetting of the contractor and application of copyrights and patents. The federal government should be able to receive payment for use of these patents, just like any commercial company would.
The days of coercing business development through tax policy should be over. Using tax policy to influence behavior is about as effective as trying to make a snake slither in a certain direction by pushing on its tail.
If the government decides that something is important (i.e. photo-voltaic panels), let it fund R&D, then let individual companies make of the research what they can. If the products are not economically viable, no one will make use of the research. The results could be hugely synergistic if all companies were allowed to use the research equally.
That is as succinct as I can be.


Craig Hollins said…
I have never understood why the US treats the constitution almost like the bible - it is something to be followed blindly because it has been handed down by smarter people, ignoring the fact that these smarter people had no way of conceiving the world we now live in.
Australia's constitution is similar in that it gives six powers to the feds and the rest to the states. Anything new that comes along (eg rail) is the state's responsibility unless they all agree to let the federal government handle it (and we used to have four different rail widths as a result).
There is one very smart component though. We have a constitutional rule that says trade between the states is always free of taxation and control. Now the government is never going to give up a tax opportunity so the states agree to let the feds tax and deliver it back to them. Income tax, sales tax and our brand new carbon tax are all federal taxes agreed to by all the states.
Australia also has the govt funded CSIRO which is tasked into scientific research to improve the condition of the Australian people. As you suggest, they make discoveries and develop products and ideas and then patent them. Two great examples of their work comes to mind.
The first is the antennae used for wifi - every device that uses the reflection cancelling antenna pays the CSIRO a royalty. That includes your iPad. That money is a dividend to the government.
The second is the polymer currency notes that are becoming very common around the world. Last year Canada decided to catch up with Mexico and use these virtually counterfeit proof, long lasting notes. Again, the CSIRO benefits from the royalties and the public benefits from the drop in forgeries. Curiously, the US is yet to get on board because, despite having a huge counterfeiting problem, your government doesn't like to pay royalties to foreign countries, especially for something so intimate in the economy as bank notes.
They also do research into energy efficiency techniques but, because of their pure research mantra, are not limited to short term, commercially viable technologies. Like buying penny dreadful stocks - sometimes they take off and sometimes they're a waste of money. I think the GOP would concentrate too much on the latter to take advantage of the former.
The Asterisk said…
To your first statement, if you consider the Bible religious law, then yes, the Constitution could be considered the Bible for American jurisprudence. Like the Bible, it is interpreted seven ways from Sunday, but ultimately, it is the basis for all federal law for all people. We don't have the luxury of selecting our laws like we select our church.

What most conservatives have against the liberal interpretation is that it goes against the spirit and the letter of the Constitution. Were the Founders omnipotent? No, but they had a prescient view on what "man" will do when given power, and they chose to craft a governing document to impede the bowdlerization of the law. In that matter, they did quite well.

Simply put, "If you want to change it, go ahead, but here is how you must do it." Is that so hard to understand? The Bible doesn't give us the capability of changing its rules (except by selective choice and interpretation), so our Constitution is the law of Man, not the law of God.

So, thank you for making my point for me.

Should the US be more like Australia? Perhaps so. But if we choose to change, it should be by legal proceedings, not by whim or fiat.
Rufus Dogg said…
I agree with you 100% that the structure of our States government is hindering us from competing in a global economy. We are essentially leaving the role of R&D up to copy-machine salesmen. Not matter what your problem, you need a copy machine. By allowing the future of the USA to be in the hands of private industry that is increasing becoming "global citizens" instead of "US patriots." Even as late as the '50s companies used to be "American companies." So, while we are all waving the flag and arguing about whether it is a States' rights issue, the private corporations are gutting America be pursuing their own interests without the trappings and shackles of "patriotism" but using the US tax code as a veil. The states made sense in 1783, but like any legacy, what made you great yesterday is now holding you back today.

I disagree slightly on the citation, though. I think the more influential Amendment is the 14th, not the 10th. Up until 1865, the Federal government's authority over the states was not in the least decided. The 14th cemented the states together as one country, not just a bunch of separate states. Conservatives like to focus on the 14th for citizenship, but that is just a dog whistle. The more important work of the amendment is the incorporation doctrine which significantly erodes States' Rights.. and probably well-deserved. The 14th was part of Reconstruction and punitive to the losing side.

People like to talk about the Bill of Rights in America, but up until the latter part of the 20th century, that just simply wasn't true. Depends on if the State Constitution mirrored the US Constitution, which was part of the Framers' intent (hope) but was just too incendiary to push at the time. Folks were tired of war and already thought they were getting screwed by the Treaty of Paris. Each state wanted to just go back home and pursue the economic interests it thought it fought for.. they did not want to deal with "rights" of people. There is a reason the 10th was not the 1st in the Bill of Rights.. it was slipped in and was hoped to be buried...
The Asterisk said…
Wow, Rufus. So much meat, so little bread.

Companies, like people, usually do what is in their best interest. I would guarantee you that if outsourcing was a viable alternative in the 50's (rapid communications, collaborative design, cheap and efficient air travel, etc.) it would have been rampant with most large businesses.

When the great exodus into the suburbs occurred, did any 'flee-ers' stop to consider the effect it would have on the owner of the corner market in the city? My point is that effort and money tend to gravitate to the least amount of friction and the greatest return. Heck, you need look no further than the housing bubble to see mass 'me-ism'. Anyone with an IQ of 50 could see the bubble burst coming, but did people do the prudent thing and hold back? No. They saw their neighbor making a killing in the market and they had to get in. It is just human nature (as a dog, it would be like me trying to convince you not to sniff the butt of that attractive Lhasa Apso by the duck pond.)

As for the 14th Amendment, WTF???

Just wait for part troi...

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