Saturday, April 30, 2011

Kids can't vote. Who speaks for them?

Who would she vote for? How could the system represent her interests?

You do. Well, you do if you vote. We feed, clothe, educate and protect children with gusto and zeal. Protecting kids extends to voting too.
Young people have the most to gain from responsible long term government policies, yet the youngest 18 years are completely unrepresented at the polls.
Babies are clearly not responsible enough to vote. They don't understand language, let alone implications of political choices. It doesn't make sense for them to vote.
You can make similar arguments for toddlers, preschoolers, elementary school kids, junior high kids, and even high schoolers, though most high school kids are sharp enough to get it.
Currently, we have to be 18 to vote. That leaves about 16-20% of Canada's population unable to represent themselves. This block of unrepresented citizens, 'minors' have at least one major common interest. They have more of a stake in the future than we do. They're going to be living there longer.
Moving the voting age to 16 is a step in the right direction, and would still leave younger children disenfranchised. Another solution is Demeny voting. 
Demeny voting allows parents to cast proxy votes for their children (worth half a vote per parent). This allows the children's perspective to be represented, and avoid a situation where the political power skews towards the elderly, with an incentive to offload problems into the future, rather than develop long-term solutions.
This would encourage parents, and therefore politicians, to think about what the next generation is likely to want. Things like strong environmental policy, education, and reducing the debt that will have to be repaid by future generations. Would parents vote for their children's benefit or would they just have extra votes for their own interest? Hard to say, but it would certainly get the conversation going. Maybe allowing citizens to vote at 13 years of age could have the same effect.
It would certainly teach youth about voting and encourage them to become engaged in their communities and in the process. It would raise the profile of responsible long term policies, because youth have more to gain from not being debt-ridden. Candidates would therefore have an incentive to think more about longer term solutions.
In the meantime though, consider that your ballot's not just for you, it's also for the ~6 Million young Canadians who can't cast a ballot on election day. And they have a huge stake in the future. You protect and care for your kids, care for them with your vote too.
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And one that doesn't have to do with an election, but rather with the new beginnings each second brings: Take control of the now.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Think access, not ownership

You don't need to own the mountains. You just need access to them.

You don't need to own things. You just need access to things when you want to use them.
Your local library is the cardinal example of this. You don't need to own the books, you just need to be able to read them. And it goes much further than that.
The line between where it makes sense to own and where it makes sense to access may not be where you think it is.
If you have access to a swimming pool or an arena, you don't need to own one, and you can still use it when you need to, for much less than the cost of owning it.
The same case can be made for much smaller items as well. Depending on usage, it may make sense to rent things like a concrete drill, camera lenses, home decorations or even clothes and handbags.
For example, companies like 'Rent The Runway' and 'Bag Borrow or Steal' will rent you designer dresses or handbags that might not otherwise fit in your budget.
Access trumps ownership here because there's (apparently) some stigma associated with being seen in the same dress twice. You get to look great without breaking the bank or storing the dress forever. When it goes out of style, you won't be left holding the bag. On the other hand, if you're a guy, you've got it easy: own the suit but rent the tux. 
Pooled community resources can really develop community and allow access to lots of things. Rather than having everyone own their own table saw, children's clothing, or automobile, we just need access to it from time to time. Whether that's renting tools from the hardware store or borrowing it from your neighbour or the community toolshed, you can still get the benefit you need.
There are mothers groups that share kids clothes, toys, and accessories that go back into the pool when the moms are done with them, then they can get other things their kids will like.
There are car-sharing co-ops that allow people who need vehicles occasionally to have access them without needing to own the vehicle outright. It saves them money on maintenance and licensing fees, while still letting people get around when they need to.
You might want to own things, but you don't need to own them to use them. You get most of the benefits from access at a fraction of the price.
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Access to things in the city (vs. transportation): City Design: People First

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Two kinds of rational voters: which kind are you?

Vote for telescope. It takes the long view.

Election rhetoric is mostly about the economy. Short term voters see economic positives to continuing in the same direction. How can we go faster, fly higher, be stronger? 
The long term voters would suggest that we're stealing from both the past and the future to juice the present.
Both of those views are rational, given the worldviews of the people who hold them. This makes the case for long term thinking.
We steal from the past by removing resources from intact ecosystems and removing fossil fuels from the ground faster than they are being replaced.
We steal from the future by promising the fruits of our future labour, typically in the form of a mortgage, so that we can have things we want now. These promises to pay create money, as well as debt with interest which can (mathematically) never all be repaid.
In the short term, fossil fuel use gives us the sources of energy we need to power our lives.
In the short term, expansion of the money supply via increased debt loads drives economic activity and fosters a sense of well being throughout the land.
Both fossil fuels and expanding the money supply bring a tremendous high. Potent by themselves, together they magnify each other's effects. Like Icarus, our wings take us higher and higher.
Any politician stumping "we shouldn't fly so high" is unlikely to be elected. Even the ancient greeks were all about the faster, higher, stronger; and that hasn't changed, only increased in scope.
Rational voters aren't going to vote to make things worse, and most rational voters are living in a short-term paradigm of instant-gratification and endless resources.
With the short term glasses on, rational voters are going to vote for more business as usual.
It's time to take off the short term glasses.
In the long term, fossil fuel use is poaching the planet, upsetting the balance in the biosphere, and compromising its ability to support us.
In the long term, massive debt loads will never be repaid, demanding ever increased natural resource extraction in a futile attempt to pay back debts with interest. These debt loads will crush the economy, and soon interest on debt will demand all our money. 'Reducing the deficit' still means spending more than we take in and going deeper in debt.
We're already expecting a hangover the likes of which the world has never seen, but what a pretty view.
It's time to take the long view. Not just this election, but in where we decide to take this civilization. The long view is a tough sell, and it's the only view that gives our civilization a shot at the future.

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18? Step into your power (This one still gives me chills when I read it. Originally intended for municipal elections, it counts triple for a federal one.)

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Second Choices, Better Elections.

Who are you betting on this election? What if you could support more than one candidate?
Corporations do, and it seems to work out for them.

Give people second choices when they vote. That simple change will increase voter engagement, allow voters to vote more honestly, and raise the level of political conversation in this country.
Elections are divisive by nature. The leaders of our country fight about policy, broken promises, character attacks, and about who may or may not be allowed into the leaders debates.
Most of this fighting is over voters with entrenched positions. The all or nothing nature of election support eliminates nuance and demands strategic voting. There's too much second guessing involved.
What if there was a better way? What if you were allowed a second choice?
With a second choice you could keep your primary support behind whoever you usually vote for, without feeling like a traitor for considering anyone else.
Free from partisan guilt, you can look with an open mind at the positions of the other candidates, to try to nail down your second choice.
You approach conversations content in the righteousness of your primary position and still gain value from what others have to say, maybe even finding some second choice common ground.
The option for constituents to actually be receptive to other points of view is just the kind of cockamamie idea that might just change the face of winner take all politics, for the better.
People will be more likely to vote when they feel their vote will mean something. If their first choice is for the NDP in a PC dominated riding there's no reason to waste the gas and time to get to the poll. You know your vote won't change the outcome. With a second choice, you can avoid the strategic voting guessing game and still communicate how you feel while not throwing away your vote on a third place party.
The election system can, and should do a better job of engaging people and allowing the nuance of public opinion to be reflected in the results. Allowing second and even third choices on the ballots would improve the voter engagement, civic discussion and election results significantly.
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Saturday, April 2, 2011

Time for a Federal Banquet. What's for supper?

Don't worry, you didn't actually want salad anyway.

$300 Million gets us 308 seats at the Federal Banquet. That's almost $1 million per seat, so choose carefully. Since you are what you elect, this will determine the health and disposition of your country for a while.
On the menu this spring we have the new demi-glazed carrots, fresh greens picked from this May, the block of 'Two-step' strident French cheese, the big magnate chef's liberally mashed potatoes with gravy, and the conservatively prorogued blue steak, marinated in oil and contempted in well fertilized mushrooms.
If you were in the mood to decide between Elephant and Donkey, or had a hankering for Chinese or Italian, you'll have to pick another restaurant. This is what we serve here in Canada.
The question you do get to answer is how much of each you'd like everyone to have. Everyone gets the same thing, though some ingredients are better for some than for others.
The whine and crackers we get for six weeks worth of appetizers are already out.
Now the steak will tell you it needs to own the whole show and is warning you away from the tasty poutine you get when you mix the potatoes and gravy and the cheese together.
It feels macho to order the blue steak with extra mushrooms, but your sociologist has been harpering that too much blue meat isn't good for your heartland.
Everyone gets some carrots for colour, but they're always late on the left side of the plate. They're good for you, but nobody wants just carrots.
The fresh greens may be good for you, and they've put together a substantial and filling dish, but if nobody orders them they'll remain just a side salad.
In enjoying this banquet, you have the option to pair with whine from the media outlet of your choice, but it won't change the food at all.
They've reviewed the meal in advance, and the whine you choose will influence, to a large degree, how you enjoy the meal.
As it turns out, the whine doesn't go well with the salad, and there's a conspiracy to keep the fresh greens off the televised discussion of the menu. Although about 1 in 15 wanted it, it wasn't enough to make it onto the dinner plate during Federal Banquet 2008.
All governments have a best before date. There's no way of knowing how long this next sitting will last. Sooner or later, whether it's blue steak with mushrooms, or poutine & carrots with a side of greens, eventually it will be time for another banquet, and we can all order pretty much the same thing all over again.
Bon app├ętit. You're on your own for dessert and hangover cures.
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