The latest round of fighting coming out of Washington is disheartening because we all seem to be caught up in discussing the tactics of the trillion dollar coin. All the focus is on a single battle and the objective of the war seems murky at best if not entirely forgotten. Even the less spending versus more revenue versus some mix of the two discussion is almost entirely devoid of actual content. The real question we should be debating is what kind of society we envision ten or twenty years from now. Let’s give ourselves a vision first. And let’s make it something grand and important. Let’s have that debate. Let’s have real leadership of thought and let’s be audacious.
As I was working on a post on taxation I realized that I too was getting caught up in the tactics without first stating a clear vision. That has led me to considering what constitutes basic material human needs that with our rapidly improving technological capabilities we should be able to address for everyone. Since it is hard to consider that in the abstract I have been thinking about what I need personally based on actual usage. It turns out to be surprisingly little. Here is the list I have come up with: smartphone, laptop, power, internet, food, housing, transportation, clothing, healthcare. Just to be clear, there are many other things that I use and derive pleasure from and of course there are the many wonderful people in my life who are essential to maning but the list above are what I consider personal necessities.
So my vision for society is a society where these necessities are available to everyone. That does *not* mean government should be providing them directly. For most or maybe all of them a government bureaucracy would be a horrible provider (e.g., I like my Gap jeans — they fit my relatively short and stubby legs). It also does *not* mean that these things should necessarily be free. For many things price is critical for allocation. What I believe it means is re-inventing governance to facilitate the creation of networks where these resources can be provided by the network. I wil have a lot more to say about how that can work in practice in upcoming posts. It will require taking money away from the existing governments and injecting it into these networks.