What is a guy to do when he knows the ideas he wants to support and propose are still too much of a reach to find much support, but still wants to advocate for them anyways?
Universal health care, marriage equality, women's rights and marijuana legalization are examples of egalitarian policies that are recognizably partisan, have been established as legitimate causes to support, but are still not embraced by a large section of society. What if the ideas I want to push are even farther to the left than these?
I think about what our society is gonna look like in 100, 1000, maybe 10,000 years from now. I'd like to think things are going to be much better, like how it is portrayed in Star Trek (world peace is presumed). I have also read enough dystopian novels-1984, Brave New World-to accept that this is not a guarantee. Nevertheless, I'm convinced society will eventually be qualitatively better than it is now, and the question should be what large societal changes will lead to/be produced by a more utopian society? Even if society isn't ready for these changes, should we be working toward them right now anyways?
What kind of changes am I talking about?
Here are the ones I keep coming back to in my mind:
End incarceration for all but the most violent, unable to rehabilitate criminals. Make deciding how to punish criminals the responsibility of the community, the criminals' as well as the victims' friends and family, the people who are affected most by the crimes, and have the most to gain or lose by the criminal's actions and subsequent behavior.
Give people the power to directly vote on legislation. We have the technology already, it's called the internet. Keep some politicians for symbolic leadership/roles in crafting legislation/running government services. But no bill becomes law unless a majority of the American population votes in favor of it. I'm not gonna conjecture how all the implementation actually plays out, this is just a rough outline of the concept. One of the obstacles is that a large number of people still can't reliably access the internet. However, a lot of money goes towards the political machine now, that could instead go to making sure everyone has this access.
Subsidize all forms of insurance. When people drive without car insurance and cause fatalities, when extreme weather destroys whole communities and people can't collect from their insurance companies, when a family's breadwinner is injured or killed working and the family is left without a livable income, these all end up costing us taxpayers, don't they, while the insurance companies continue to collect profits. Wouldn't it serve society better if the government provided the protection more uniformly, paid for by taxes but serving all when they need it?
Guaranteed government work programs for anyone who wants one. One of the arguments people use to disparage people on welfare or unemployed is that they are lazy and that the jobs are there, it's just that these people would rather not work for a living. Well, why not put their money where their mouth is, and provide jobs to whoever comes to the government and asks? The programs we have now are mostly temporary, and far from guaranteed. What kind of unemployment rate would we have if anyone can be employed if they truly have the choice?
I am a pragmatist. I realize these concepts are about as likely to come to fruition in my lifetime as winning the next Powerball jackpot. I also realize that these ideas, much like all proposed ideas for improving society, are far from perfect and have cons as much as pros. Nevertheless, I have no doubt in my mind that the society in which these policies exist, imperfect though it may be, is still a better, more prosperous, more just society than the one we have now.
So I come back to the question of, what should I do? Is it wrong to be advocating for these huge, pie-in-the-sky goals when we can't even get people to agree on the much smaller societal ills? I don't think believing these things makes me crazy, but I do think some people would immediately dismiss these ideas as crazy before thinking about all the pros and cons. Valid or not, for some that alone is enough to poison the well, to close their minds to these ideas, or ideas like them. We still inexplicably live in a society where calling for universal health care draws accusations of fascism and communism simultaneously, so I can only imagine what response these ideas would get if/once they get more exposure. So, what's an individual, progressive-minded but perhaps too ambitious person supposed to do?
In writing this, one of the overwhelming thoughts I have is, Am I crazy? Or am I crazy for assuming people might think I am crazy?
Mon Mar 25, 2013 at 5:29 AM PT: Thank you so much to all the people who have commented. Not only am I grateful for all the encouragement, but the advice you all give is constructive, varied, and most importantly, sounds doable. I will do my best to apply the advice that you have given me.