(Possibly) Great Ideas

This page is a place to make note of great ideas which can make the world a better place and improve the quality of life for people. These are ideas which are non-controversial (for the most part), and not tied to any one religious group or philosophy. These are generally ideas which are not strongly associated with either the liberal or conservative viewpoints. (Some of these ideas may seem libertarian and some may seem anti-libertarian, but that's an entirely different dichotomy.) These are primarily ideas and issues that people haven't thought about very much or don't know very much about.

By compiling a list of great ideas we are in no way suggesting that these are the most important issues facing people, or that these are the best ways to improve the world. Nor are we suggesting that religiously-oriented solutions are not (or are) the best ways to improve the world. By presenting this list of ideas we are neither advocating nor rejecting any type of "social gospel" philosophy which would rank secular or physical concerns more or less important than spiritual/ethical/cultural concerns.

Also, this list of ideas doesn't represent any kind of agenda or plan. If we've listed an idea which you think isn't actually a great idea, you might be write. Write us to give us more information. Maybe we'll change our position. We would also love to post great ideas here which we haven't thought of before.

Health Care: Do away with HMOs

The United States spends more per capita than any other country on health care, yet all standard measures of health indicate we are worse off than most all other industrialized nations. We spend more, but get less for it. We spend more in raw dollar amount, and spent a higher proportion of our income. But we have higher infant mortality, lower life expectancy, and lower quality of life in health areas than places like Japan, Europe, Australia, Canada, etc.

Is health everything? No. Really, it's incredibly boring and it would be nice to not have to worry about it. But health care is something other countries have handled far more successfully than the U.S., allowing their populations to spend more time or money on issues of faith, art, recreation, science, or whatever it is they're interested in.

This is one of the worst problems in the U.S. and it's something people aren't talking about. It's not a conservative/liberal issue, or a religious/nonreligious issue. The only people who are perpetuating the thoroughly broken system are the HMOs and health insurance industry. Doctors don't like it.

Check out the HMO Page for more information.

School Uniforms

School uniforms are awesome! Primary education in the U.S. has serious problems, and having kids wear uniforms won't fix all of them. But it goes a long way and has no real drawbacks. Parents save money, it doesn't cost the tax payers anything, and kids are able to focus on learning rather than fashion.

Philadelphia requires all public schools to use school uniforms. Click here for more about Philadelphia's great example.

Learn more about school uniforms here.

Know What Causes Youth Violence

Read about the Top 10 Causes of Youth Violence, according to young people surveyed.

Stronger Third Party System

A stronger third party would be good for America. And a stronger fourth party, and fifth party, etc. At least that's what I think. Let me know if I'm wrong.

Many people are going to vote for Ralph Nader or Pat Buchanan in the upcoming presidential election, even though neither of these candidates can win. Would either one be a better president than Al Gore or George W. Bush? I don't know. But I admire people willing to vote their conscience and willing to send a message that they're not satisfied with the two big parties.

Is such a vote wasted? Not necessarily. A party which gets sufficient votes in an election qualifies for federal matching funds in the next election. Think of it: By voting for Ralph Nader, American voters will ensure that in the next election, the Green Party will have federal funds to campaign. Voters will be able to hear fresh ideas and viewpoints.

By the way, supporting a stronger third party, or better chances for independent candidates doesn't mean a person is against the Republicans or Democrats. Stronger third parties will be good for everybody, including Democrats and Republicans.

Learn more about third parties on the Third-Party Page.
Links to many alternative parties can be found on the Third Party Government site.

Prison Reform

One of the best things society could do to improve life for everybody would be to reform the prison system so that criminals are treated and trained to function in society, rather than warehoused and schooled in crime.

Are their efforts in this direction? Absolutely. But they are a drop in the bucket. The whole philosophy behind criminal punishment needs to be overhauled. The focus should be on preventing recidivism and the continuation of anti-social behavior and attitudes. The real issue isn't whether the incarcerated are given water beds and caviar or made to sleep on cement and eat rice cakes. What's important is the result and whether or not those released from prison are still a threat to themselves, their families, and society in general. The best way to decrease crime and increase public safety is to reduce the numbers of people who perpetuate crime and violence. The way to do that is through a concerted, personalized treatment-oriented approach.

It would be naive to presume that all incarcerated people can be helped to transform themselves into people who can function safely and civilly in society. There will be a continue need to securely incarcerate such individuals to the maximum extent possible. But the majority of incarcerated people could be helped to be integrated into civil society if there was a public will to do so and if appropriate efforts were made. Such efforts may or may not include voluntary participation in the faith-based or community-based techniques which have been utilized successfully in some states. The methods of other countries should be examined closely, as should electronic surveillance and pharmacological approaches. Any useful approach should be considered, and research should be greatly increased to help determine what works.

Such a philosophy doesn't mean being soft on crime. It doesn't mean coddling criminals or letting them blame others or focusing on any supposed "rights." What it means is getting people to stop being criminals will reduce crime more than any metal detectors, law enforcement efforts, or DNA testing ever will. Billions of dollars are spent on physical maladies, curing disease, developing vaccines, etc. That's a fine effort. But unless a person experiences a specific disease and can utilize specific treatment, those efforts don't directly benefit them. All people are affected by crime, even if its simply being unable to take a walk in the evening on a street that was safe fifteen years ago. All people could benefit from some of the balance in research and government efforts shifting to cure the social maladies of criminality.

Prevent Frivolous, Dishonorable Lawsuits

In England if somebody sues and loses, they have to pay the court costs of the defendant. This drastically cuts down on frivolous lawsuits. In the United States, lawsuits are used as a weapon in legalized warfare. A powerful, well-funded organization can literally crush a small competitor or a critic simply by suing them and draining away their resources. Frequently there is no moral difference between a lawsuit and a pirate raid on a seaside village. Most lawsuits are immoral and dishonorable.

On 20/20 last night there was a story about a woman whose husband and children ventured into a hurricane-level storm in a sailboat, and drowned. She is suing the Coast Guard. The Coast Guard did not go out and kill her family. They simply didn't save her. Has this woman seen how big the ocean is? It's a big place. Maybe the Coast Guard could have done a better job in this instance. Maybe not. But to go after them for millions of dollars reduces her to a golddigger and reduces her lost family members to items on a ledger sheet.

In the real world people get sick and die. Not every death or injury entitles family members to millions of dollars in cash from the deepest pockets they can find. Lawsuits are one of the primary reason why health care is so expensive.

In most cases, mediation is more ethical, honorable and cost-effective than a lawsuite as a means of solving a dispute.

Learn the Facts about the Death Penalty

The death penalty is a highly controversial issue, with people concerned about crime and victim's rights on side and people concerned with its severity and permanence on the other side. In general, this is not a religious issue: there is no single religious group for or against it, and the issues effects are certainly within the secular/public realm. Some religious groups have a clear position on the issue; most do not.

We certainly don't advocate any position here, but we would advocate people being aware of the facts and the positions of both sides of the issue. Neither the relatives of murder victims nor opponents of the death penalty should be demonized. Nobody weighs in on this issue for purely personal or selfish reasons. As with most issues, reasonable and well-meaning people, as well a demagogues, are to be found on both sides.

As the New York Times points out (James Q. Wilson. "Innocents being executed? Let's calm down, look at the facts", 11 July 2000), no innocent people are executed by the death penalty. A wave of hysteria rippled through some media in June 2000 surrounding the Liebman report, produced by people opposed to capital punishment. But based on the evidence in this extensive review of capital punishment cases, it's clear that only people guilty of murder are being executed.

At this point in time, death penalty opponents and researchers have yet to demonstrate that there have been any innocent people executed since the reinstatement of the death penalty. This is a particularly salient fact, given the massive efforts that have gone into exonerating individuals sentenced to death. The converse statement is also true, however: Proponents of the death penalty, while expressing confidence in the system, can not necessarily prove that no innocent person has ever been executed.

Also, there is no agreement as to whether the death penalty acts as a deterrent to crime. I doubt that it does. I respect the opinion of those who think otherwise, but I suspect most people realize this isn't the case, even some supporters who cite this as a good reason to use it. Texas has one of the highest murder rates and the highest number of executions. People who commit murder are not rationally weighing all the possible outcomes. It is not likely that individuals will choose to not commit murder becuse they think they could be executed rather than go to jail for the rest of their life. In civil society, most people do not commit murder because they are morally horrified at the very thought of taking another person's life. The likelihood of severe punishment may be a deterrent to some people, but the exact nature of that punishment is hardly a determining factor.

The only murders that the death penalty can be certain to prevent are further murders of other people (outside the prison population) by the person who is executed. But this would be accomplished by keeping them in prison without the possibility of release.

Economic factors should not be used to consider whether or not capital punishment is appropriate. Going through the trial and appeal process is extremely expensive, but so is life-long incarceration. One can not point out that executing a convicted killer costs the state more than keeping him alive, because if this is the key issue the state could simply eliminate steps and time in the appeals process in order to reduce the cost.

Capital punishment may be an unfortunate but necessary element of justice, or it may be an inexcusable, horrible crime against humanity, or something in between. But, as the New York Times piece concludes, its continued use should be based on ethical and moral considerations, not on an erroneous perception that innocents have been executed or that its use can deter other potential murderers.

Letter to the editor by Carol Whatcott (Deseret News, 18 July 2000):

So Ron Yengich believes "playing politics with the death penalty is . . . wrong, if not even immoral." Did he ever explain, then, why he's playing politics with the death penalty?
When he states that opponents of the death penalty know that nationally, "the reversal rate in capital cases is extremely high," he apparently forgot to mention that most of that reversal rate is chargeable to unscrupulous appellate judges that decline to obey the law in order to advance their anti-death penalty agenda, and that it has little to do with the guilt or innocence of the convict.
And when he notes that people were released when it was "proven that they were innocent of crimes," I'm sure he just misspoke, since he knows that no such thing has ever happened. All that has happened is that people have been released because an item of evidence used in their trials proved years later to be unsupportable in court. And since so much time had passed since the trial, other evidence was unavailable to use in retrying the convict. That's a far cry from being proven innocent.
I'm sure it's just coincidence that when Bill Clinton ordered death penalties executed as governor of Arkansas or as president of the United States, the media never noticed. And just the merest coincidence that it's only now that death penalty realist George W. Bush is running for president that the media has focused on the death penalty.
I agree that playing politics with the death penalty is immoral. And I hope someday Ron Yengich and his fellow Clinton/Gore-ites will come to believe their own campaign rhetoric and stop playing politics with the death penalty.

Understand Relevant Statistics

Statistics relating to disproportinately high crime rate among some groups, and the relationship of crime to illegitimacy and family breakdown:
The professional literature shows that the... permanent lack of a father is the significant portent. In short, the growth of the number of juvenile delinquent males today is linked directly to the growth of the female-headed family...

While crime is highest in socially disorganized, largely urban neighborhoods, however, its frequency is not a function of race. The determining factor is the absence of marriage. Among broken families, with their chaotic, "dysfunctional" relationships, whether white or black, the crime rate is very high; among married, two-parent families, whether white or black, the crime rate is very low. The capacity and determination to maintain stable, married relationships, not race, is the pivotal factor. The chaotic, broken community stems from these chaotic, broken families. The reason race appears to be an important factor in crime is the prevalence of wide differences in marriage rates among ethnic groups.

See also:
Books on race and human biodiversity

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Web page created 7 July 2000. Last modified 20 July 2000.