Raising The Bar, Restoring America's Prosperity
This book will be offered for free (on Amazon) for the following days:
At all other times, the first 3 chapters are always available for free online (just click on the book cover to read in your web browser).
As always, the goal is for the book to be available for free to all public and private schools in this country. I will always be offering 5 days in each quarter where the book will be completely free (this is the maximum allowable time period which Amazon supports). Ideally, the message would get out to a wide enough audiance where no one would have to pay for the book. I merely used Amazon because they allow for publishing with absolutely zero upfront cost. I looked at paper publishing but that had a significant upfront cost to me, and considering I'm not really looking to make any money on the book, that seemed like an unfair consequence. Now at some stage, I might consider offering the book on other electronic venues, but Amazon is probably one of the most widely used public web sites, and they have a fairly mature electronic publishing model. Besides, I think it is extremely important to publish works which are exposed to the entire world, and eBook format seemed like the most appropriate medium.
Now if you read the book's preface, you'll notice that I encourage public discussion. I've actually created 6 discussion threads on the Amazon page, and will monitor this blog as well. Relevant counter arguments and suggestions for improvement can be included in future editions so feel free to share and discuss. I will consolidate feedback so that community consensus can be established. I don't want to dictate public opinion, but do think a focused and moderated discussion is essential (otherwise, blogs can become rants which don't go anywhere).
Below is a brief summary of the book. I would encourage everyone to share - especially when free downloads are available. As for feedback, please try to limit feedback to one chapter at a time (e.g., perhaps separate discussions should be established per chapter, and maybe one additional general discussion for the book as a whole).
Here I briefly explain my objectives for the book. I strongly encourage everyone to view the book online (first 3 chapters are always free) and at least read the preface. If the book isn't for you, so be it. But at least you'll understand where I'm coming from.
Chapter 1 - Introduction
In this chapter, I establish 10 ideals for a strong and prosperous country. It is this chapter which sets the benchmark for all other chapters in the book.
Chapter 2 - Russian leader at the grocery store (discussion)
In this chapter, I contrast capitalism with socialism and communism, and examine why communism might seem to be a modestly effective form of government, yet always fails miserably. As part of this discussion, I recant a story about Boris Yeltsin visiting a grocery store in the U.S. I think this chapter is a must read for everyone regardless of your political party affiliation.
Chapter 3 - Efficiency and wealth leakage
This chapter starts of with a U.S. history lesson detailing some of the factors which allowed our country to prosper. Examination of these factors establishes a foundation which explains some of our past success, and also serves as a warning as to why our future success is not guaranteed. The main take away from the first part of the chapter is that it was our extreme efficiency and productivity which propelled us to success in the past, and highlights the risks which are ahead of us. The second part of the chapter addresses the concept of wealth leakage and how this affects our economic policy, and in turn affects the standard of living in this country. Together, the two topics of efficiency and wealth leakage help explain the risks of our ever growing national debt and offer a glimpse at some rather obvious solutions (namely, improved productivity and increased worker participation in the labor market). The chapter ends with some rather obvious suggestions for government policy. Now I consider these obvious, but at present, we do little to ensure that any/all government actions are aligned with these principles (and obviously, I think that is a must).
Chapter 4 - Determining what is fair
This chapter starts with a modestly tame hypothetical discussion on how to transform the National Football League to a more fair pay for performance model. Following that, I discuss how the "grandfather clause" can be a huge obstruction to innovation and change. It is my belief that the bullet points referenced under the grandfather clause section are the very points which prevent our government from enacting any real change for the better. Furthermore, I believe the American people need to change their attitudes with respect to the delusional benefits of the grandfather clause before any real progress can be made in this country (because it is the attitudes of the American people which drive their voting habits, and it is those voting habits which drive public policy). I conclude the chapter with two case studies - one on capital gains tax, and the other on public sector unions. And although most of the first 4 chapters are modestly neutral in regards to so called political bias, these last two topics might be a little bit more polarizing.
Chapter 5 - Pay per view
Now the subject matter in this chapter is never discussed in the mainstream media (for obvious reasons) so it probably will seem rather odd and "out of place" in this book. But I think most will find this chapter modestly interesting. The entire premise behind this chapter is that we are all harmed by being forced to pay for the collective set of TV content indirectly through advertising (since there is no way to "opt out"). Surprisingly (well, at least to me), most will dismiss the concept of pure pay per view as either unobtainable or inappropriate. But my goal for this chapter isn't really to trigger an immediate change, but instead to revisit the concept of fairness and apply it to TV content delivery. If I can convince people that pay per view is more fair, then I will have accomplished my objective. I realize that we might not ever migrate to a pure pay per view model, but if we don't at least get this topic exposed to public debate, it certainly will never happen. And let's not forget, what makes this country great isn't that we can get rich, it is great because we have the ability to choose what we want to pay for, and what we DON'T want to pay for. So my number one goal is to point out that when we all pay for TV content indirectly via advertising, we actually forfeit our ability to not pay for stuff we don't want. I think reminding everyone of this fact will serve us all rather nicely when the topic of forced Obamacare is discussed in chapter 7.
Chapter 6 - Honesty
This chapter addresses how dishonesty by those in government can totally cripple a government. I describe how this affects the attitudes of those in society and allows us all to overlook (and even tolerate) absolutely horrible behavior. We certainly wouldn't tolerate such behavior in our marriages or from our children, but for some reason, we tolerate it, and even defend it, among our elected officials. Well, my goal in this chapter is to remind us all that we need to raise the bar, and hold our elected officials to the very same high standards that we would our spouses and our children. Dishonesty is unacceptable and we must not tolerate it. I realize it is commonplace right now, but that is only because we have allowed it. I mention many times in the book that we will get the government that we deserve, so if we don't raise our standards and insist on honesty, then it will never happen. It is a shame that I had to write this chapter, but it isn't enough to only talk about efficiency, wealth leakage, and fairness - because without honesty, we can never establish any public policy which will ever work.
Chapter 7 - Health care (discussion)
Many will consider this chapter to be the most important chapter in the book. It certainly is on the minds of virtually everyone in this country. Now I wrote most of the book in the early part of 2013 (before the Obamacare rollout) so the subject wasn't addressed until chapter 7. But I actually think the location within the book is appropriate because without the foundation of the earlier chapters, it would have been difficult to dive right into this chapter. The chapter starts out with a brief discussion on insurance in general and explains that insurance is a money maker for the insurance company and a money loser for the individual (sort of obviously, but I think we all need to be reminded of that fact). I then attempt to debunk several myths regarding health insurance (e.g., there really isn't any economy of scale, large pools don't really make insurance cheaper, and insurance isn't really a good vehicle to get health care services to those that are desperate). I then describe the impact of so called "universal health care" for everyone. Lastly, I offer an alternative to Obamacare - namely limited scope government run health care centers which operate under a fix budget (as a small ratio of retail medical GDP). I explain that a limited role of government in the health care sector can most effectively serve those that are truly in need, while at the same time, prevents the government from totally destroying the retail medical sector. I explain that it is actually our government's overbearing reach in the health care industry that has caused most of the problems to begin with, and that our only true answer is to ween ourselves off of government involvement. I'm sure this chapter will be one of the more controversial chapters in the book - but that is ok, there are no easy answers. Certainly, honesty and open debate is a must (and obviously, dictatorship is not the answer - but sadly, that is what we have right now with forced Obamacare). And note, the topic of Obamacare is continued in the Supplemental chapter - that last chapter was written after the Obamacare rollout, so it is more current.
Chapter 8 - Lightening round
This chapter briefly covers a variety of topics - my goal was merely to offer some ideas and encourage public discussion. Too often I find that those in government (and in the media) steer the discussion in a rather limited way. So I wanted to open up the discussion and offer perhaps some differing opinions. I think most will find what I express in this chapter is modestly tame. When discussing the various topics, I tried to consider the central themes of this book (i.e., productivity, achievement, fairness, and honesty).
Chapter 9 - Innovation
As a software engineer, it is impossible for me to write a book and not have at least one chapter on technology and innovation. But keep in mind, this chapter is not written from a detailed technical perspective - instead, it merely expresses a framework and methodology to empower the American people. Many web sites are already doing this exact thing - my point in this chapter is that if some standards were introduced, then it would be possible to evolve a culture which encouraged more community involvement. And this perhaps could be done with less media or government "spin".
Chapter 10 - Where do we go from here?
In this chapter, I attempt to offer some recommendations for how we can improve many of the areas which I discuss in earlier chapters. I think it is extremely important to not only point out problem areas, but equally important to steer discussion toward possible solutions. I think we need to not only start evolving plans for our future success, but we need to take back some of the power and control away from our government and put it back at the local level (including taking some out of the control of government all together). I'm not sure why we think government is our savor - aren't they the ones that squandered all of our money in the first place?
Chapter 11 - Why I have faith!
In this chapter, I explain a little bit of my background and how it shaped my views in life. But most importantly, I explain why I have faith that our problems are not too big to be overcome. Out of all the chapters in the book, I hope this is the most enjoyable to read (I know it is for me).
Chapter 12 - Summary
In this chapter I revisit the 10 principles I outline in the Introduction. I then follow this up with 36 bullet points. If you wanted a quick summation of my views, you probably could read those 36 bullet points and not even read the rest of the book. But do yourself a favor and read the entire book, because those 36 bullet points won't drive anyone to action, and action is what we need, not more slogans or cliches.
This chapter is mostly on Obamacare and its impact on our economy. I think the most important topic in this chapter is how Obamacare could potentially transition retail health insurance and health care to "non profit". Obviously, migrating one sixth of our economy to non profit could be a huge disruption to our stock market, and could negatively impact our entire economy. In fact, I express some rather dire consequences if the notion of "non profit" becomes commonplace in our economy - this is something which should be feared by all of us. I also revisit the notion of government run health care centers (revisited from Chapter 7) and address some rather serious discussions regarding health care that we will all have to deal with in the coming years. Aside from Obamacare, there are some additional topics discussed in this chapter: harm and rescue, transparency in government, could we ever become a one party country, etc. This last chapter perhaps will have a slightly different tone than all other chapters (which is why I included it at the very end, even after the summary). I think the last chapter has a slightly more "negative" tone. The ideas expressed are some of my fears, and I certainly hope that we can avoid (or prevent) the issues I express in this chapter.