Spectacular Candidate Promises

Perhaps it is just because I am a foreigner and don’t understand, but the current US Presidential primaries really surprise me. Of course it is not my place to comment on how Americans should vote, but there have been some issues associated with these that go to the heart of the voting process most of the Western “democracies” use. The problem is that the system should deliver some combination of what the people want and what is in the best interests of the country. Only too often it seems to be focused on capturing as many votes as possible from those who are not interested in the details, and this is achieved by making spectacular statements that the politician knows will not be analyzed by most recipients. Accordingly, the problem as I see it is how to make governments act in the best interests of the country while following the basic objectives desired by the majority of the public. This leaves the problem, how to achieve it?

In some of my futuristic novels, I have included various forms of governance, including one I made up myself. In my scheme, while the people vote in their countries for who will govern them, there is a higher authority that throws them out if they announce a specific policy while campaigning and, in the absence of clearly unforeseen circumstances, they refuse to implement it in a timely fashion. This higher authority also points out any impracticalities in a stated policy, and clearly analyses the likely consequences. Further, if they do not announce any policy at all, they are disqualified before the election.

The first announcement that caught my attention was to build a wall between the US and Mexico. The bit that really caught my eye was that the Mexicans would pay for it. Why would they do that? And if they refuse, which strikes me as the most likely outcome, what will the US do about that? Short of invasion, what can they do? They could specifically tax Mexican imports, but that would violate international trade agreements. The proposal of a wall would undoubtedly stimulate votes from a segment of the population, especially if the promise was they would not have to pay for it, but is that what this form of government is supposed to achieve?

Of course there is a “Great Wall” that is quite a tourist attraction, but that raises the question, would a “Pathetic Wall of America” do the same? Or is something truly grand being proposed? I confess to having made an effort to see the Berlin Wall, and the East German border wall, but the reason for doing this was to see what extent the East Germans would go to keep their citizens in. A minefield and the machine gun towers were certainly a means of restricting people from crossing, but are these the options being chosen? Would Americans tolerate this? Also, if you are going to have manned machine gun towers along the border, why not save time and money and have regular border controls? Is there not a cheaper alternative using more modern technology? Has anybody worked out how many people would have to man this proposed wall? Who would build this wall? Since so much industry has been contracted out to China over the past few decades, maybe subcontract this to China, on the grounds they have some sort of experience at building walls?

Another proposal was to close down the IRS. How, under this scheme, would the government get the money it needs to function? Even if you closed down all government functions, including defence, police, prisons, and many other essential services in a modern economy, there is still the requirement to pay interest on debt totaling, as I understand, something like 70 % of GDP. One also assumes such proposals do not include starving prisoners to death while the prisons are closed with a general lockdown in place.

An alternative would be to privatize tax collection. That has been tried, and the results have not been promising. This was the technique used by the Romans, and the tax collector had to ensure the appropriate amount of tax went to the Roman Treasury. There was no salary for the tax collector; he had to get his income from what extra he collected. This was supposed to be a fixed per centage, but as you might imagine some of the collectors got a little enthusiastic on their collection. Does the average American really want his tax collected mafia style? Then there is the question of tax evasion. Who assesses? This privatization of tax collection, if that is the scheme, would certainly generate more organized crime than prohibition. It may well be that is not the scheme, but what is?

You may say, such strange proposals would never get through Congress. But if that is the case, why is it permitted to gather votes? In one sense this does not matter to me as I am not voting and I do not have to live with the consequences. Unfortunately, that last point is not quite true. The US is such an important country that whatever happens inside it inevitably ends up influencing most other countries.

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One thought on “Spectacular Candidate Promises

  1. At this point, please take everything with a grain, or, rather, a truck, of salt… In particular, Mr. Trump’s declarations are often taken out of context. Trump wants financiers to pay the same taxes as everybody else (differently from Hillary Goldman Sachs Clinton…) The wall with Mexico is a joke, as it already exists, like the emperor’s old clothes… Etc.

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