I commented on twitter that the results of my imposing my beliefs and whims on the political landscape would offend a bunch of people. This got me to thinking that it might be interesting to actually think about what I would do. And, well, if I find it interesting then clearly the target audience of my blog would too, right? :) (hint: I’ve always adopted a policy that this blog is about what I find interesting, and that if you guys agree that’s great but not that important).
Unfortunately, it turns out to be quite hard to write down as a plan. It forms a coherent whole in my head, but figuring out what order to put it down in and how to present it is difficult. This is my third attempt at doing so…
Warning: What follows may be ill-informed, poorly thought out or merely naive. Some of it I’ve thought of in detail, some of it I haven’t. All of it I am fully persuadable it’s a bad idea (although you’re less likely to persuade me that the things that lead me to it are invalid).
Accountability and Empiricism
One of the biggest things I want out of government is a logic strategy of proving that things work. Policies need to have goals which they can prove they met. Different things need to be tried with randomized A/B testing. There need to be people having oversight and investigative power over the whole government.
The measure of all ideas presented here is that they work. If they turn out not to work, they must be replaced by something else. In order to do this, there need to be people in government whose sole responsibility is to be constantly examining what the government is doing and call attention to where it doesn’t work and how it could be improved (and have the power to make sure they are listened to)
Aspects of this plan are expensive. I’m currently unsure how expensive – I’d need to do a detailed budget, which is almost impossible without a great deal of expensive research and experimentation. Most of this plan I don’t think is outrageously expensive. The education plan definitely is a lot more expensive than our current one (or is it? Parts of it are self-sustaining, and it may result in many students being in the system for less time, which might offset its cost by increasing the capacity. Unlikely but possible). There area also things, like healthcare, where although the plan itself is not inherently expensive I consider it strongly desirable to spend more on them anyway.
There are places I believe you can save money in the current system – much of it is inefficient, and I dislike the amount of money spent on the military (If I could come up with a coherent plan for disbanding the military altogether I would. I’d also give everyone a free magical flying unicorn pony. But I do believe that you can have a realistic purely defensive military for a fraction of the cost of sustaining a modern western country’s military structure). So I honestly have no idea what government spending would be like if I had my way. However in the bits I actually intend to cover here, it’s definitely higher.
As a result, taxes are higher. Sorry. I’m ok with that – I think you get much much better results per tax-unit-of-currency than you do with the current system, and I’m ok with people paying more.
Tax is very much still banded, and the tax increase probably should affect the wealthy proportionately more. Fiscal conservatives, feel free to start yelling at me now and disregard the rest of this post.
Benefits and unemployment
Someone who isn’t me suggested this. I can no longer remember who – it was a blog post somewhere – but I thought it was an excellent idea.
There is no “dole”, no jobseekers’ allowance. No benefits paid to those unemployed.
There is however a “base living wage” which the government pays – it’s not a lot, it’s certainly not enough to live comfortably, but it is enough to live. This wage is untaxed and uniformly applied across the country.
It is additionally the government’s responsibility to build hostels. These are not shelters – they are paid accomodation – however the price is fixed at a level where someone on only the base wage can afford to live and eat there and have a little bit left over. The government is legally obliged to build hostels to meet capacity in the presence of overcrowding (and maybe to offer transport to other locations if people are unable to find a hostel near them with capacity).
The ideal here is to make sure that no one (who is behaving rationally, which I admit isn’t everyone)
- is unable to find/afford somewhere to live
- is given an incentive to not find a job (switching from the dole to a minimum wage job in the UK is often a salary drop)
- is too comfortable without some additional income coming in
Too expensive? Maybe. But probably not: It removes a lot of the infrastructure of the benefits system (which is expensive) and results in more money coming into the system (more people able to find jobs, no tax-free band of income on those actually having jobs). I’m sure it would cost more than what we currently have, but I don’t think much more.
Worried about people “getting a free ride”? I don’t think they would: If anything I think this system would result in more people who are currently on benefits getting jobs. And even if they are, so what? Benefit scrounging is an exaggerated problem. It’s more important to encourage those who are genuinely willing to work than it is to punish those that aren’t – particularly when the cost of finding them is greater than the benefit of having done so.
I don’t know what to do about benefits for people with children. I need to think about it more thoroughly.
Edit: It’s been pointed out that this doesn’t cover disabilities for people unable to work due to disability. I don’t know the details of what I’d propose here, but I’m definitely for it
I cannot overstate how much I am in favour of socialized healthcare. Health is a right, not a privilege.
Making it a privilege is also really stupid. It results in you paying more per head (including taxes) and sacrificing herd immunity.
So, public healthcare for all.
I am also in favour of people being able to pay for better (or at least prompter) healthcare. Rich people get nicer things. Sorry guys, fact of life. If you don’t let this happen they’ll do it anyway on the sly.
What I don’t like about the current system in the UK is that the money spent on private healthcare does not (usually) benefit the public system. So here is what I propose:
For life-threatening or quality of life destroying issues, money doesn’t come into it. Everyone gets treated equally, no exceptions.
For other issues, there is a “banding” system: The resources are divided into multiple bands, and you can pay to move up a band. There is no difference in treatment between the bands, but the fact that you had to pay to be in the higher bands means that there’s fewer people in there so the service is less congested and the wait is shorter. The price points on the band are set dynamically based on capacity and demand.
(What follows next is the important bit)
All money spent on moving into a higher bands goes back into the system. The medical system is emphatically a not-for-profit. When you are paying for improved healthcare for yourself, your money goes directly to making healthcare for everyone better.
Medicine is very heavily regulated and required to be evidence based. “Alternative medicine” is as such generally illegal – it’s probably legal to sell homeopathic substances (because they’re indistinguishable from inert non-homeopathic substances), but making any claims of medical benefit will be met with severe censure if you can’t back it up with science
I actually have quite a detailed plan for education. I won’t go into it too fully here, but here are some highlights:
- No private schools
- School attendance is free and mandatory.
- All schools are boarding schools (however you get individual – albeit super tiny – rooms with en suite bathrooms. Dormitories for children are a thing of evil)
- You don’t bring anything with you to boarding school. Clothes and equipment will be provided for you while there.
- You do not choose which school you go to. It is randomly (qualification: For children with special needs of some sort it may be randomly assigned to you from amongst a smaller pool of appropriate schools) assigned to you. (THIS IS THE IMPORTANT BIT. I rank this point over most of the others)
- It is massively illegal for individual schools to accept donations. Money may be donated to the school system overall (and for specific areas, scholarships and programs), and it will then be distributed fairly amongst the different schools.
- Schools are not fixed term length – you make progress in different areas individually. Whenever you’ve amassed the criteria for graduation (which are “basic general competence in all areas, significant achievement in at least two”) you are free to graduate, whether you’re 12 or 21.
- As well as current areas like languages, maths and sciences, other important areas include: Critical thinking (logic, rhetoric, research skills), physical disciplines (dancing, yoga, a martial art), life skills (cooking, cleaning, doing your own laundry). The idea is to produce well rounded human beings.
- Students take part in a lot of the chores around the schools as part of the “life skills” section.
- Programs of healthy eating and daily physical exercise are mandatory. What you do afterwards is your own business, but you will be in shape when you leave school.
- There are no “classes” per se. Students work in small study groups of about 5 lead by a teacher. These are interactive and at least partly self-directed – the teacher is there to set the subject, keep things on track, keep things movement and to answer questions far more than they are there to lecture.
- There aren’t fixed school holidays. They are structured much like work holidays are now – you have X amounts of time to take per year which you make book appropriately.
- Students who are genuinely struggling get help. students who are simply unwilling to work, get flunked. They’re welcome to go out into the real world, find out how much fun it isn’t without a decent education and come back to school when they’re ready to take it seriously.
- The teachers pay a lot of attention to social behaviour in the school. Study groups with unhealthy patterns get broken up, childrens’ rooms get moved around if needed, people behaving inappropriately get punished. (doing this well needs a much lower student : teacher ratio and good training. I’m ok with that).
Crime and punishment
Step 1 for reducing crime is, I hope, already covered: The benefits and education systems should help eliminating conditions of poverty and lack of education, reducing one of the biggest causes of crime.
Step 2 is decriminalization: I’m extremely pro decriminalizing “victimless crimes”. In particular I would be in favour of making both (most) drugs and prostitution legal. Even if you regard them as unpleasant or unethical (I regard them as unpleasant but ethical), the simple fact of the matter is they’re going to happen and it’s better if they happen above board, regulated and taxed.
So, hopefully we have a much smaller crime rate. What do we do with the crime rate we have.
First things first, as you might realise from the book I just reviewed, I’m very anti prison. I think the current prison system needs to be thoroughly abolished. Prisons may be a necessary evil for holding people pre trial and pre sentencing, but they’re not a valid sentence.
Things I would use for sentencing:
- Corporal punishment. Yes, really.
- Curtailed freedoms – curfews, tracking tags, reporting to parole officers, etc.
- Community service
- Fines (maybe. I need to think about this one)
- Potentially, capital punishment for repeat offenders or crimes of sufficient severity – if the only way to deal with someone is to keep them away from the population permanently, I’m for the death sentence in preference to life imprisonment (which could be described as “slowly torturing someone to death over a period of 60 years”. Doesn’t sound like the humane option to me). I’m not thinking of this being the penalty for crimes of passion, I’m thinking more for e.g. serial killers and war criminals.
Anyone who can make a convincing argument that their crime was at least partly motivated by circumstance – lack of education, addiction, etc. and they are genuinely committed to changing that circumstance may be offered a reduced sentence for entering rehabilitation programs (adult education, drug rehab, etc).
As you might have guessed from the random voting post, I have reasonably strong opinions about governance. However I don’t yet have a coherent picture of what to do about it so I’ve not included it here.
There are also probably other things I have opinions on that I’ve forgot to mention.