My core philosophy is expressed as “Reciprocally Honor the Dignity of Each Individual.” What does that mean? First of all, I classify people as individuals first. Individual is a generic concept very similar to what we see in much of U.S. law, with some exceptions and coverage for marriage and protected groups. Still, the fundamental population classification concept in U.S. law is the individual.
As a result of my focus on the ‘individual’ as a core social element, I would like to have a clear definitions of what it means to be an “individual.” How are individuals created? When, exactly, is the transition from ‘not yet an individual’ to ‘individual protected under the law’?
What does it mean to “Honor the Dignity” of each individual? To me that means there is a blank slate with any new individual I meet and I am inclined towards a neutral or ideally a mutually positive interaction.
Why is reciprocity important? I think an objective should be to improve the well-being and reduce the suffering of others. In an adverse situation where an individual is acting to degrade your well-being or inflict suffering, then they are not respecting the basic principle. At that point, I think it is justified to consider that individual as hostile to some degree, and pursue sensible and legal options for avoidance or protection.
The modern use of the term “virtue signalling” as a pejorative emerged in the years before 2010. Wikipedia characterizes virtue signalling as “public, empty gestures intended to convey socially approved attitudes without any associated risk or sacrifice” and also as communication “indicating that you are kind, decent and virtuous”. In the modern shaming oriented cultures of the far left and far right, virtue signalling may be used pre-emptively or reactively, but in either case, often defensively. No one wants to be mis-characterized, labeled, shunned, nor cancelled.
It is extremely tedious to virtue signal in order to prevent being labeled or mis-characterized and many people don’t or won’t – because they assume that the default should be to assume they are virtuous until demonstrated otherwise. Also, oftentimes the virtue signalling is ignored or worse, assumed to mask some evil intent.
That all said, I shall enumerate where I currently stand on various issues. I reserve the right to learn, grow, and evolve my views. I view my positions as a continuous exercise to absorb better information, facts, logic, and reasoning towards the end of improving my understanding and outlook.
1) I am a U.S. citizen and I will describe my views as such.
2) I’m not pleased with the zeitgeist of the U.S. circa 2015-2022.
3) There is no order implied in the following lists or enumerations.
- Racism, Discrimination, Sexism, Harassment, Violence, Intimidation, Bullying, Oppression, Hate Speech, Narcissism. I am opposed to all of these in any group or individual towards any other group or individual. I prefer thoughtful engagement and conversation to work out approaches to differences.
- Equal Opportunity. I am in favor of equal opportunity. I think equality of outcome is impossible because outcome is determined by an enormous number of factors and dimensions. I recognize that accumulated history may bestow some individuals with a position that is not largely due to their individual capabilities and work, but I think it is a mistake to legislate equality of outcome. I am in favor of affirmative action when it comes to skills development in the education system. I believe the education system must encompass life-long learning enabled by modern online courses with certifications and degrees.
- Immigration and Residency. I support the idea of the U.S. as a melting pot.
- All citizens should be expected to observe U.S. laws.
- All citizens should be expected to blend in with U.S. values.
- All citizens should be expected to contribute their values to the U.S. values melting pot, in a positive way.
- All citizens should be expected to contribute to the U.S.
- Some entrants may receive visas or new citizenship for humanitarian purposes.
- I think the U.S. would be well served by a well designed and optimized guest worker program that allows for legal entry with a potential path to citizenship.
- I am opposed to illegal immigration. It’s illegal, after all! However, as we have not had a good guest worker program, and labor market demand is at least partly responsible for illegal immigration, I am ok with allowing formerly illegal immigrants to apply for the guest worker program and granting amnesty to some of those who were otherwise law abiding guest workers. Furthermore I would grant visa or amnesty to immediate family members of a guest worker.
- I could maybe be persuaded that guest workers should have some local representation or voting rights, but I would be opposed to state or national voting rights for guest workers.
- I think it would be fine to allow guest workers to have drivers licenses or own a home provided of course they are guest workers in good standing.
- I think it is really dumb for the U.S. to have laws that essentially result in chaos on and around the border and chaos for non-citizens who show up at the border requesting entry.
- Gay and Non-Binary Rights. I support all citizens having equal rights, no matter what their sexual or gender identity or preference.
- Civil Partnership. I advocate that the government create the institution of a civil partnership. Each individual may opt into one reciprocal civil partnership, and each partnership would have multiple opt-in rights. That civil partnership could convey a variety of rights between two people, with some of those rights being negotiable. I would place no restrictions on those two people other than they both be adults. The list of civil partnership rights would include many of those formerly covered by marriage. Note that a civil partnership can encompass more partnership scenarios than a marriage.
- Marriage. Marriage would require a civil partnership as a prerequisite. A religious marriage, for example, would convey no more rights under the law than the civil partnership upon which it was based.
- Guns. My understanding is that the right to bear arms, as granted in the second amendment to the U.S. Constitution, is intended to guard or defend or fight against tyranny by the government. I am ok with that. I don’t see any need for rapid fire guns. I am for more and ongoing background checks, formal training on use and safety, biometric gun security, formal licensing, and periodic proficiency testing. I think technology is moving rapidly, and this issue may need to be re-examined. For example, if the government had armed robots or drones they could render guns so inferior as to make it impossible to achieve the goal of the 2nd amendment.
- Populism & Nationalism in Balance with Foreign Policy. I think we need balance in concern over U.S. citizens vs. the rest of the world, and that the U.S. should apply significantly more focus and priority to problems within our borders than it has in the most recent decades. I recognize that the world is entering a new re-alignment of countries. I also recognize that by many objective standards that very good progress has been made in rest of world well-being and the trends are positive, in general, despite regional conflicts and sensationalist news. I am an advocate of the U.S. rethinking it’s approach for the new and changing world order.
- Trade. I believe in fair trade, not free trade — and I extend that fairness to the makers and service workers, their communities, and the local environment. Trade based on exploitation of individuals or environment is not fair trade.
- Death with Dignity. I support legalization of giving people with chronic impairment to quality of life the option to end their life. I’d like to see this implemented in a manner that requires significant planning and both medical and psychological evaluation and approval.
- Taxes. I would prefer a system that has an indexed tax rate for income and earnings based on wealth. That’s right wealth, not income. I would never take away an individuals existing wealth (double taxation). I would move all incentives and disincentive programs into separate programs that must be approved by Congress. I am against double taxation. I am opposed to inhitance/estate tax because it is double taxation.
- Congress. I could probably write an essay about things that need to be improved with both chambers of Congress. I don’t know how to fix it, but it bothers me tremendously that even in a bipartisan Congress, issues are bundled together into a bill so that everyone ends up tainted by voting for things that are against their principles or against things that are aligned with their principles. I don’t know if that means bills should be more aligned or more granular or some other solution.
- Drugs. I am for complete decriminalization. Drug issues should be dealt with from a health point of view. Focus on education and treatment for those who need it. Aside : This would relieve our law enforcement agencies of a large responsibility which I think might lead to some other positive consequences.
- Religion. I believe in the separation of church and state. I would like to see the interfaith leadership call for dialogue towards revision or addition of coexistence books/verses/chapters to the major religious texts. I could imagine a case where government licenses religions only if they support a required set of core principles, such as Reciprocally Honoring The Dignity of the Individual, eschewing hate and violence, etc.
- Redistribution. Clearly the wealth gap has widened exponentially. I haven’t studied the subject enough to formulate views on reasonable goals of the various proposals for redistribution. I’d like to see some kind of a win-win situation. I am opposed to redistribution by violence. Redistribution laws should be managed by the government. If we could really make a lasting difference to lift a group of downtrodden people up with redistribution, then I might support the idea.
- Basic Income. The ideas around means tested basic income are fascinating. I can see how basic income could reduce the need for other redistribution programs — such as welfare. I imagine the U.S. could be much more efficient with aide programs, not from any research, but simply because the U.S. government is so far behind on progressive use of technology. Empirical studies are necessary for any government plan. I really like what Bill Gates, Melinda Gates, Warren Buffet, and other wealthy individuals are doing in the private sector with the Giving Pledge. One thing I like about that is that some very smart individuals set up transparent organizations to manage the funds according to principles of science, accountability, and real benefits of these investments that help many individuals reduce suffering and improve well-being.
- Personal Responsibility. It is your job to make good and responsible decisions and not to blame others or the society around you for your failures.
- Gerrymandering Voting Districts. I am opposed to manipulating the vote with gerrymandering. You could say that in many areas people tend to tribalize or self-gerrymander as they choose neighborhoods according to their values whatever that may be, but often ethnicity, culture, affluence, education, politics, etc. I am opposed to drawing voting areas to exploit tribal patterns. There is a lot more to this than meets the eye. I am told there is quite a bit of research to explore. I think there should be geometrical requirements on voting district boundaries. Perhaps there could be a set of rules that allows natural boundaries like major rivers, state borders, and limited geometries so as to avoid the fractal monstrosities of zigzag jigsaw puzzle districts that are designed for manipulating democracy to political advantage.
- The Electoral College. The constitution specifies a requirement to balance individual and states voting powers as the driving idea behind the electoral college. What is the reasoning behind this requirement? I need to research that reason and analyze it’s duality in the current milieu. My bias tells me that there have been changes in our demographics and values that render the current electoral system unfair and risky. Perhaps the merging of many low population adjacent states would make sense. We probably ought to look at all state lines. California could definitely be split into multiple states. I support the idea of making the District of Columbia a state.
- Reparations and/or Funding for Descendants of Enslaved Individuals. In principle I am ok with reparations due to the original and cumulative injustice. I would like to see a plan that could (statistically) guarantee that reparations would make a positive lasting material difference in quality of life to the receiving and subsequent generations.
- Reparations and/or Funding for Native American Peoples. It seems like this subject is largely ignored, which greatly saddens me. The media rarely covers the current general situation with Native American peoples although there are ongoing problems for the group as a whole. I’m in favor of the government doing more to aid the well-being of Native Americans in partnership with the leadership of Native American peoples.
- Cultural Celebration and Appropriation. First I’d like see a lot more focus on positive and healthy celebration of other cultures and U.S. history. Perhaps some cultures might prepare guides about positive ways to celebrate their culture as well as information on what is considered culturally appropriating. One problem with this issue is that a lot of people on social media are drawing the lines according to their biases rather than having a cultural commission or authority provide guidelines.
- Qualification for Elected Office. I think that senior positions in government, i.e., state and federal representatives, senators, governors, cabinet secretaries, vice president, and president should have strict requirements in education and experience. A four year college degree should be the minimum education required. Service in a government role for two years should be required. Experience managing a business or enterprise should be required. In this age of social media it is too easy for influencers, whether media influencers or sabotaging adversaries, to swing the vote to unqualified candidates.
- The U.S. Cabinet. Changes need to be made so that political appointees can not roil the U.S. departments and agencies to such a degree that they become hobbled, wasteful, and ineffective.
- The Powers of the President of the United States. As we have witnessed in U.S. history, a sufficiently malevolent POTUS can refuse to allow members of their administration to testify to Congress, can use the legal system against the government itself, and can essentially operate in a corrupt and lawless manner. The balance of powers needs to be revised such that such administrative branch malfeasance can be curtailed or eliminated.
- Citizens United. I support striking down this decision. A corporation should not be considered as an individual. It tilts the playing field too far. Furthermore, in the future, would AI individuals be allowed to bond together in a system without bounds to compete with individuals? Imagine that. Clearly it would not be good for the individual citizens.
- Supreme Court. I support term limits. Something on the order of twelve years seems reasonable to me. I don’t think it makes sense for each party in power to adjust the court size and add the justices they prefer, even as a response to court packing from prior parties with power. I think a twelve year term limit would avoid the issue of manipulating court composition after the death of a supreme court justice.
- Use of Technology in Government for Efficiency. The U.S. is woefully behind and as a result wasteful of government resources and citizen effort/time. We ought to be at the forefront.
- Social Media and Influence. I think there is a huge problem with social media due to the scale situation. Social media allows an amazingly wide reach, amazingly fine grained targeting, and low cost influence campaigns. These platforms are being leveraged by bad actors and it is causing major problems. I don’t have any really great solutions. I lament foreign investments in U.S. media and social media companies and campaigns. I’m not pleased with wealthy people using media to influence the populace towards divisiveness or to take advantage of the ignorance of the populace. I think bots are used for evil at scale. I would require real ID on social media platforms. I would hold media companies responsible for any content they publish. I don’t know how to regulate truth vs falsehood, but I wish there were a way. In general I think social media is causing some really big problems and we don’t have a good way to deal with it. On the other hand, I would like individuals to be able to express themselves and be held accountable for what they say. I also recognize that efforts to solve these problems may cause other problems, some of which may be worse.
Those are my current and always evolving views.
J Mark Morris