Do the math

Look at government services, spending and taxation as a complex, yet solvable math problem
Our national and state governments appear stuck in a quagmire of dueling partisan ideologies and lots of rhetoric. We believe a different approach is needed to get the country back on track – an approach based on the same logic and rational thought that has led us to discover the laws of nature and reach incredible heights in science and technology.

From the San Jose Mercury News, June 25, 2012

Physics – not politics
The natural sciences have evolved a proven methodology for understanding and solving problems:

  • A set of assumptions is made that describe and define the independent variables involved in the system. These are unassailable principles, so it’s crucial they be the right ones.
  • Logic and mathematics are used to solve for solutions.
  • Results are verified using objective, quantitative methods; and
  • Iteratively, we improve our understanding and ability to manage and predict system behavior.

While the scope of the challenge may be enormous, the process is straightforward and holistic - taking all things into consideration to arrive at the simplest and therefore most elegant solution.

How does this apply to our situation?
Here’s how the process might work in the case of our government. Start by identifying a complete set of core principles (the assumptions), which become the basis for analysis, modeling, policy making, etc. We have have a rich source of documents such as the Constitution and Bill of Rights, with the clarifications available in the historical record, Supreme Court decisions, etc.

We can also draw from ideas and opinions of the leading physicist of his time and all around smart guy, Albert Einstein – a U.S. immigrant and big fan of our American democracy. In a series of essays published in the 1930s, he opined on topics at the heart of many of today’s political discussions.

Einstein believed in the social nature of humankind. He reasoned that the greater part of our knowledge and beliefs has been communicated to us by other people, through the medium of a language which others created. [See our discussion of communications and language] We eat food produced by others, wear clothes made by others, live in houses built by others. “We owe our principal advantage over the other beasts,” Einstein wrote, “to the fact of living in human society.”

Einstein also recognized the essential value of individual freedom. “Without creative personalities able to think and judge independently, the upward development of society is unthinkable,” he wrote.

So, in addition to Relativity and quantum electrodynamics, the great physicist articulated two fundamental principles strongly aligned with the writings of our founding fathers … and curiously reminiscent of the hallmark values of liberals (social responsibility) and conservatives (liberty and freedom). Neither our nation’s founders nor Albert Einstein thought these principles were incompatible.

Adding principles drawn from our discussion of the role and functions of government, basic economics, and recognition of the dangers of unrestrained greed yields this set of underlying principles:

  • Liberty and individual freedom are essential to the American economic system.
  • The role of government needs to be focused on providing the essential services necessary for society to function as intended:
    1. National defense
    2. Monetary system
    3. Public eduction, health and welfare
    4. Regulation of commerce
    5. Critical infrastructure
    6. Ensuring Constitutional rights
    7. Levy and collection of taxes
    [See Role of government]
  • Revenues are needed to fund the government.
  • Resources are limited – including funds available to the government.
  • Debt is not a sustainable source of government funding.
  • Unrestrained greed – competition and self-interest taken to extreme - is an underlying cause of harm in any society, including  our capitalistic, free-market system.

By letting these principles guide our discussions, and by considering the facts and avoiding extraneous issues, myths, and the agendas, we can work together on our social and economic challenges to create and agree upon rational solutions.