Saturday, June 2, 2012

There Has To Be A Better Way

The ability of a nation to present itself as progressive and modern can be a task harder than perhaps originally thought. By what measures and against which values system can a nation choose to align itself? For the West, we largely base our values on those of the Jewish and Christian biblical texts of which Moses's Ten Commandments are the basis.

As we look into recent history, those values seem to have served us well. Our societies live in relative peace despite the current disruption based on the poor fiscal management of our governments, businesses and of course individuals are required to saddle some of the blame. It's individuals, like government and business, who have overspent and lived beyond our means. It's a simple equation, we really shouldn't spend more than we have i.e. credit.

Bad Legislation

In the US and Australia we have political parties who are generally aligned on a single values system, but worlds apart when it comes to implementing systems and polices that interpret those values. In the US we've seen paranoid state governments attempt to legislate that Islamic law, Sharia Law, cannot be recognised as a legitimate legal system. It creates issues from the point of view that, for example, Catholicism is a foreign faith based in Italy. From a legal point of view this stance is a mine field.

Producing legislation based on a paranoid view of a minority is dangerous. On the 27th October, 1838 the US state of Missouri and their Governor Boggs issued “Missouri Executive Order 44” also know as the “Mormon Extermination Order”. The law called for the extermination of Mormons, it was legal to kill members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. That law was finally repealed in the 1976, 138 years later. I'm sure US President hopeful Mitt Romney feels comfortable visiting Missouri today in the knowledge it's now illegal for someone to kill him!

So mistakes have been made, bad legislation produces bad outcomes for society. In Australia, governments are fixated on creating programs that benefit "families", at least their interpretation of what constitutes a family. As a single, white, gay man there are really no benefits I receive from the Australian government. Should I? Well, my answer is based partially on my political views and my belief that governments role is to represent all it's constituents fairly.

The Absence of Fairness Across the Board

I firmly believe that as we all pay taxes, any benefit should be made available to all tax payers. If a couple earn $280,000 and have four kids, should they receive less benefit from the government compared to a couple with four kids who earn $80,000? I don't think so. Australia's tax regime does a great job of killing any desire by one person to excel in their work and produce a higher income. The more you earn, the greater percentage of your income goes in tax. Hardly an incentive.

It's here I would turn to some ancient values from the Jewish biblical texts which suggest 10% of ones earnings go to the Lord. I’ve seen this model work well in a Church setting, it creates a level playing field, regardless of our income, we can all pay 10% to the government in tax. Then, those who choose, can pay an additional 10% to their Lord, maker or whomever they choose.

I think this level playing field would then make any benefit payments from government i.e. from a surplus, easier to distribute to all citizens. I would love to see the figure of how such a fiscal change could be implemented. In principle I think this is a great idea, in practice I'd need an economist to do the numbers to see how it could work. At the end of the day a surplus belongs to the people who produced it, the people, not the government.

Presenting Ourselves As Something Other Than We Really Are

I struggle to understand the US view on many political issues, the disdain and enmity towards opposing political views is toxic, Australia is not much better today. Health care is a great example of this. From a nation purporting itself to be a Christian nation, the words and venom sprouted about what's seen by many in the US as socialised medicine, is appalling. The notion that a family who can't afford private medical insurance should suffer the consequences of illness, is reprehensible. I would simply ask these "Christians", what would Christ do?

The American predisposition to run in the opposite direction of anything that resembles socialism is astounding. The question has to be asked, “how's your current republic serving you?”. An advanced society should be able to look to alternatives and seek new ideas when the current system has obvious shortcomings.

A Balance

Just so we're clear, my view is that our Westminster system of government with it's constitutional ties to the British Monarchy is the best system of government we have available today. The checks and balances and the role of the monarchy provide a stable platform for democracy to thrive. Can we do better? I'm sure we can, but there seems to be an absence of anything better today. 

I admire the US/French style of government, but disagree with the Presidential model and the process of the presidential selection process. The current US presidential race costs billions and who does it serve besides media companies and the many consultants involved in the process?

Australia was formed as a federation of states with an Act of Parliament, the US lost hundreds of thousands during the American Revolutionary War and then the Civil War. Something many American’s seem to lose sight of when they point the finger at developing nations around the world where they insist in getting involved based on perceived US domestic security threats.

What Does It All Mean?

At the end of the day, I firmly believe we have great room for improvement. All nations and the many communities within those nations have a responsibility to afford all citizens the right and privilege of peace and security without any threat based on their faith, the colour of their skin, their sexual orientation or their religious affiliations.

What do you think?

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