July 18, 2007

Elitism and Populism

The politics of U.S. has changed dramatically since 1970. While the Democrats continued to embrace populism and aligned with the middle class and poor (JFK, Carter, and in lesser degree, Clinton), the Republicans secretly embraced elitism and gradually aligned themselves with the rich and big companies (Nixon, Reagan, and Bush).

Elitist Democracy does not care about the majority of citizens. The goal is how to empower and enrich the selective few who connect with each other through wealth and companies. In the long run, the excessive wealth distribution, polluted environment, and national debt will put most people in misery while the selective few live in luxury.

More and more US citizens recognized the elitism behind the disguise of new conservatism. True conservatism would have exercised small government and fiscal disciplines, fake conservatism would do the opposite. Bertrand Russell once remarked “The fallacy of the aristocrat consists in judging a society by the kind of life it affords a privileged few.”

Elitism is best suited for monarchy, not democracy. U.S. must not allow the first liberal democracy in the history of mankind became a toy for the aristocratic few. We must not allow the populism of democracy be bought out by the mass media owned by the rich and the lobbying through campaign contributions.


March 25, 2007

The Killing Field at Iraq

- Rick Leeland, March 25, 2007.

   The Iraq War is plagued by a series of blunders:

    (1) On February 25, 2003, Chief of Staff of the Army, Shinseki testified in the Senate that occupying force of several hundred thousand men would be needed to stabilize postwar Iraq. The Bush government laughed off his estimate as "wildly off the mark." U.S. deployed about  150,000 postwar occupying force instead, a number that turned out to be insufficient for a nation the size of California. As a result,  the occupying force failed to establish law and order in most areas of Iraq. And the militia and insurgents started to spread like a wildfire.

   (2) In the spring of 2005, the sovereignty of Iraq was transferred to Iraqi Transitional Government. The new Interior Minister Bayan Jabr recruited large number of Badr militia into the National Police and they ran death squads to execute the Sunni Arabs who previously served in the Saddam’s regime. Despite many reports of the tortures and killings conducted by the National Police itself, the U.S. officials decided to ignore it to appease the new Iraq Government. With dozens or even hundreds Sunni bodies dumped in Bagdad each day, the Sunnis had no choice but fought back with insurgencies. Millions of Iraqi fled their home, a civil war between Shiites and Sunnis began.

   (See )

   The Iraq War merely replaced the death squads of Saddam with the death squads of the Shi'ite dominated National Police. With sufficient occupying troops and careful planning, this civil war of Iraq could have been avoided. Iraq has become a sectarian killing field. Unless the Iraq Government can weed out all the Shi'ite militia from the security force, there is no hope in sight.   

December 03, 2006

The Ideal Society

Rick Leeland

December 3, 2006  

   What is the best form of society? The dream of building utopia has propelled human beings to try all sorts of political and economic policies.

   On the political side, most of the societies in early human history are governed by monarchies. Each society’s value lies on the military strength and the ruler’s wisdom. But an unfortunate phenomenon was observed: the qualities of those individuals who conquered and built societies were seldom inherited by their heirs. Noble blood seemed to flow randomly and renders monarchy hopelessly inept to be the form of utopia. Nobles were born in adversaries, not in comfort.

   In the 18th century, the United States became the first liberal democracy, where most men can vote to shape the form and direction of politics. Shortly after, France also adopted liberal democracy. From that point on, democracy replaced monarchy to become the political framework of choice.

   On the economic side, The ancient economy was mainly based on subsistence farming. In the 18th century, industrial revolution replaced subsistence farming with machinery based industries. The mass production enables a new form of economics: capitalism. The name indicates that the driving force of this kind of economy is the capital that is needed for the machinery. Mass production created massive wealth for the capitalist, and the mass populations share the wealth by working for the capitalist.  

   The nature of capitalism causes excessive uneven wealth concentration that is not sustainable for a functioning society. All sorts of remedies were quickly proposed to prevent catastrophic outcome of the society.

   Several forms of socioeconomic policies surfaced during this period of debate. The government sometimes side with the big companies and operate in a form called fascism. In this kind of society, the right of labors are suppressed and the excessively uneven wealth distribution is allowed. To balance the injustices presented by the capitalism, intellects proposed socialism, where the fruit of capitalism is to be curtailed with the redistribution of wealth through accumulative tax or social welfare. Some even proposed a radical form of socialism called communism, where all the production and properties are to be shared by all citizens. This ideal has been tested in Soviet Union and Communist China and suffered complete failure. It became evident that without competition the production decreases.

   After two hundred years of chaos, some mixed form of capitalism and socialism has been accepted as the choice of socioeconomic policy in Europe and United States. To avoid repeating the same mistake of communism, this policy should be called sociocapitalism to emphasize that capitalism should always be part of the socioeconomic polities because free competition always improve the production.

   The ongoing task is how to curtail the excessively uneven wealth distribution. The principle of sociocapitalism is very simple: free competition is encouraged, but the wealth distribution is controlled to prevent the natural result of capitalism – unsustainable overconcentration of wealth.

   The main method to achieve this goal is accumulative tax, where the range of income discrepancy is reduced. The drawback of this method is that the goal is not explicit. The constant complaint by the rich and the disguised fascist elected government often change the policy secretly.

   The only way sociocapitalism can work in the long run is to create an explicit policy of wealth distribution. A government can for example, announce that a target of  100 times the average wealth for the richest. Anyone who are not satisfied with this level of wealth is free to pursue happiness in another society. The overproduction in modern society has rendered everyone to be replaceable. The 100 times average income can provide more than luxurious life style. And for every rich man who lives in this level, most others will be forced to live in below-average condition. This target though seem unfair to the poor, it is necessary to keep the spirit of capitalism going.

   Sociocapitalism will create the largest portion of middle class in human history. Social injustices will all but disappear. Due to the selfish nature of human kind, the future of sociocaptialism is rocky ahead. No matter what form of social policy is to be adopted, there will be fierce opposition by those who already have too much.

   But we are so close to the ideal society that we must not give up trying.

December 01, 2006

The Success of European Sociocapitalist Policy

Rick Leeland

November 30, 2006 

The main objective in applying social policy on top of capitalism by most European nations is to maintain social stability. The excessive uneven distribution of wealth - the few possess most of the wealth - is the primary cause of war and the downfall of a society.

After two savage World Wars, people in Europe witnessed first hand the cruelty of war and unconsciously/consciously decided to avoid war with all means. One of the main goal of social policy is to reduce the poverty and thus reduce the chances of civil instability, revolution, and ultimately, war. This is why Europeans have been supportive of their governments' social policies so far.

Though many people view taking money from the rich "immoral," in reality there is no greater sin than war. If social construct can keep most people from falling into poverty, and thus greatly reduce the chance of human slaughter through war or revolution, then it can not be "immoral."

Granted, there are many causes of war. But many wars are waged by the poor fighting for greater share of resources and wealth. The next World War is most likely to be waged by an underdeveloped nation who possessed nuclear power.

Many economists believe that the Europe can not sustain its social policy. I certainly hope not. Europe is one of the best societies in human history. Not only does it maintain a more balanced environment for its people, but also achieved great scientific success in physics (CERN), airplane (Air Bus), train (Super Train), etc. Who says capitalism is the only way to inspire creativity?

There are many similarities between U.S. and ancient Rome. U.S. consumes eighty percent of the World's savings. Using a large portion of the resources of the world, U.S. has yet to face the problem of poverty like most of the world. And as a result of the known effect of capitalism, smaller portion of the U.S. is getting greater share of the wealth every day. Sooner or later the world will take their share of the wealth back and the rich will take most of the rest. By the way, at the end of the Rome civilization, ninety percent of its citizens were under poverty line. Can such civilization sustain itself?

It is possible that Europe will slowly forget about the pain of War and abandon their current social policy. This will be a big mistake. I think adopting some adjustments is enough to cure temporary problems and maintain its original goal of social stability.

U.S. on the other hand, need to develop some kind of oversight on the social policy. Without being destroyed by war, it is unlikely that U.S. citizens will support similar social policy of Europe. But if U.S. has reached its peak and can no longer enjoy the disproportional share of the world's wealth, then there will be choices ahead. Either It can let the capitalism run its course until the fittest grab most of the wealth (and result in revolution or civil war), or it can bypass the inevitable and adopt some form of social policy like Europe.

November 23, 2006

It's Time to Use a New Vote Count Procedure (November 23, 2006)

Rick Leeland

November 23. 2006 

There are endless controversies in all levels of elections due to the vote count procedures. From 2000 US presidential election to the 2006 Mexican presidential election, the vote counts kept hurting the credibility of democratic system. It’s about time that we adopt a simple and effective vote count procedure.

The problem of vote count is in the blackbox inside the election process. The votes cannot be verified by the voters themselves, and when a region reports its vote count, there are always rumors that the tallies are inaccurate, votes are secretly thrown out, or that phantom votes have been added.

The solution is very simple: we can create a voting file in the computer of each region that the voters can access. The format of each record (line) in the file is very simple: “Name: <name1> Social Security Number: <number> President: <name2> Senator: <name3> Measure A: <yes/no>. To prevent phantom votes, the social security number must be associated with an IRS record. Only the voter himself or herself can access to his or her record.  

The overall procedure involves the following steps: a voter votes with his or her own computer through the internet or goes to the polling place to vote. The result is added to the voting file of each region, one record for each voter. The voter at any time can examine his or her vote to make sure it is not manipulated by others, and only the voter himself or herself can see the identify of a record. Then at any given time, the central bureau can run a tally script to summarize the votes of all its subordinate regions. The script is very short and it is impossible for anyone to insert secret code to distort the result. The tally takes seconds, comparing to hours or days in our current system. 

Let’s compare this simple method with our current method: presently the vote is sitting on a voting ballot. If a voter wants to check that his or her vote is not compromised, it is next to impossible to find his or her ballot from the boxes. To count this ballot, someone has to put it into the tally machine, but there is no guarantee that someone won't throw this ballot away, and there is no  guarantee that the result will be accurately reported to the central bureau who tally the vote.

It’s time to ovehaul our vote count procedure. The solution is simple. It’s just a matter of using it.