Thursday, July 01, 2010

Deficits, climate, BP and immigration: Saving America is suspiciously easy

I wasn’t smart enough for my undergrad, but the financial support was so good I couldn’t quit. Poverty is the mother of persistence. So I worked the system. I got credits for hanging out at USC [1] and learning “student advocacy” in a class full of beautiful women.

Man, I was good in those days.

During one particularly delightful class “retreat” we played prisoner’s dilemma. Course we didn’t know that’s what we were playing; we were supposed to defeat ourselves and learn valuable lessons. Except I figured it out, and, miraculously, I was able to convince my team to sabotage the game by always cooperating.

The retreat leaders were not happy.

These days it feels like America is in a game like that. A game we could win, except we choose to lose. The game masters must be getting desperate, because they keep making the answers easier.

We have serious problems with our demographics (hence health care costs, declining tax base), our CO2 production, our energy policies, and badly behaved corporations.

We can solve all of these problems, and win the game, with a few obvious moves.

Surely you can guess?

They are …

  1. Canadian-style immigration policy.
  2. Carbon tax.
  3. Percentage fines for corporate malfeasance rather than fixed dollar fines.
  4. End tax deductibility of corporate fines.

Obvious, ain’t it? I tell you, this game is rigged. The answers are so obvious I’ll just talk about the first one.

Sometime in the past twenty years a group of freakin’ geniuses in Canada ran the numbers. They didn’t look good. Canada’s demographic transition [2] was particularly quick, the government pays for health care, and Canadians had stopped smoking.

So they tried to figure out Canada’s value prop. It ain’t the climate or the wealth opportunities. They decided it’s the society. Relatively diverse, fairly peaceful, very secure from invasion, not much of a terrorist target, decent albeit rapidly decaying infrastructure, and all located on the border of a vast money machine.

Canada started selling citizenship. It worked brilliantly. Canada skimmed the cream of the world in the prime of their life, without having to educate most of them.

We could do that. That takes care of our demographics problem.

Four obvious fixes. Problems solved. Easy.

That leaves only the interesting question. Who’s running this rigged game?

[1] Didn’t cost a thing. USC had an “exchange” relationship with us. I never saw a USC student at tech, so it was all to our advantage.

[2] Quebec went from families with 10+ kids to 1-2 kids in about 10 years. Fastest demographic transition in history, and a marker for how quickly a society can change without quite blowing up.

See also:

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