Michael Goldhaber on Tue, 1 Feb 2000 18:01:21 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> a draft US political platform for 2000

The following is in part a probably quixotic personal crusade, in part an
experiment to see whether the Internet can be a vehicle for systematic
political change. It is a version of a draft political platform (policy
ficton I like to call the genre) that constitutes the meat of my latest
e-letter (to subscribe send blank message to
Goldhaber-subscribe@listbot.com ). the parts so far don't deal verymuch
withthecyberspace, but they still might be of interest to the
nettimelist.Comments welcome


Preamble: the beginning of a new century in a time of unprecedented wealth
is a time for a humane, generous and creative fresh start in the US and
abroad, including a new surge of concern for those who have dropped out of
the picture, for facing up to unfinished or neglected business at home and
in the world, for new ambitions for what we can do and be as a country, as
a culture, as part of the human race as occupants of the planet.... 

The political process seems to have ignored such openings; at best we are
offered incremental improvements in a few areas, not broad visions, not
calls for changes of heart (except of course for the right-wing
Republicans, which are almost entirely in the wrong direction). 

So let’s do better.  I want to build a model of a worthy a political
platform for 2000. I urge others to join me in this project, to enlarge
and develop what I offer, to propose your own platforms which build on
this, to circulate this and/or yours, and to ask politicians WHY NOT? 

Without such measures, we are sure to have nothing but more of the same
—or worse. With this effort, we’ll still likely have more of the same, but
there’s a chance we’ll do better. 


I hope the specific proposals are provocative.. They will surely strike
some as hardly radical—just plain common sense. Sometimes the language
isn’t as exciting as I wish. We need leaders who dare to take eloquent
stands on key issues, rather than just following the polls or sounding
like them. If you can say it better, please do. 

[Note: Only the first two planks are more or-less fleshed out at this
point. (I wanted to get something out quickly) The others are mere hints,
and even more planks will come. These first two are positions I happen to
feel strongly about right now, and are ones I have a fairly good idea of
how to proceed with. They matter deeply to me, but they may not stay the
most important, as this evolves. 

[PERSONAL NOTE: In my 1986 book, Reinventing Technology, I offered a great
many specific policies, that all fitted together as best I could make
them. In retrospect, I view that book as a form of “policy fiction’ and
you can take this letter as another attempt at the same genre.]


1. AN END TO PUNITIVENESS.  A punitive stance now dominates in this
country, especially against those with few resources.  We must change it. 

Our jails have never been so full. Many of the prisoners are there for
non-violent crimes such as low-level drug dealing, or even merely
assisting in such dealing, with sentences often longer than those for
violent crimes, with unequal prosecution and sentencing depending on who
they are and what drugs they were involved with. Others were mere children
when they committed their crimes, or had serious mental disease that went
(and still goes) untreated.  Far too many are on death row. 

Anyone who has difficulty supporting themselves and their families without
welfare is now viewed as a near criminal, to be enslaved if not imprisoned
for the sin of being poor, or of not having their act together. 

It is time to make an end of punitiveness, to legalized lynching, as an
unfit philosophy for dealing with fellow human beings. We must—

• Start freeing non-violent prisoners. 

•Assure humane conditions for violent ones; even prisoners who are
extremely unruly must be guaranteed humane conditions, including a chance
for considerable contact with other people (by phone or video if
necessary) and also access to psychiatric evaluation and care. 

•End the barbarity of capital punishment; and the idea that capital
punishment is a way for victims’ families to obtain “closure;”

• Provide adequate caring for and consoling of crime victims, but no
encouragement or carrying out of punishing perpetrators as the means to
satisfy the vindictive urges; revenge cannot be permitted as a motive in
civilized society. 

• Stop treating mental illness or poor coping skills as crimes. Develop a
social safety net that involves and enriches communities that is there for
everyone who might go through tough times for whatever reason. [More on
this below]

•Bring to light and challenge the punitive attitude whether it occurs in
arguments about education, welfare, immigration, military of foreign
affairs, sexuality, or anywhere else. Even “progressives” to often fall
into this mode of thinking. 

We are a country of unprecedented wealth and affluence; everyone should
have some share in this. 

2. A SANE DRUG POLICY We need a unified policy for all drugs, ranging from
alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, to prescription drugs to those that are
currently illegal. The “war on drugs” has been, predictably, a failure
which keeps drug prices high, thereby ensuring a lucrative criminal
operation, massive corruption—not only here but especially in poor
neighboring countries. Colombia and Mexico are being devastated by this
‘war”. Too many lives have been destroyed, and neighborhoods torn apart,
not by drugs themselves, but by senseless prosecution, or by the gang wars
that result because drugs are ,. 

 We must realize that as long as there is a demand there will be a supply;
adults are not harming society just by using drugs, any more than they are
by eating too many sweets and pizzas, which also have negative health
effects.  Whether or not people use drugs, they should be held responsible
for violence or recklessness or direct effects on others, such as side
stream smoke. If we allow non-profit distribution of drugs, without
advertising, but with adequate warning and education, prices will fall,
and the incentives to push drugs or smuggle them into the country will
decline sharply. 

Most people who get into trouble with drugs of any kind do so partially
because there is something amiss in their lives, for which drugs offer one
of the most obvious, if at times unwise, remedies. The greater the number
of healthier alternatives, the less the stigma associated with making some
regrettable decision in the past, the less likely drugs will be misused. 

As far as legal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, currently drug
companies use the fact of massive research costs (of which the
pre-approval trials of drugs are among the most expensive) to justify
fantastically high profit margins on new drugs. Most of these drugs could
never have been developed without publicly funded research. The profit
margins are used in turn to justify massive efforts to “push” these new
drugs on the public, often without adequate consideration of their side
effects, or the fact that they may be just slight improvements over much
cheaper alternatives or, in many case, no drugs at all. This legalized
drug pushing helps to create a climate for abuse of all drugs, legal and

We should: 

•legalize the non-profit (or low-profit) sale of all drugs, and make sure
that there exist non-profit (or low-profit) outlets for all adults, with
adequate warnings but not browbeatings about possible dangers

•limit advertising of all drugs and drug-like substances

•continue and expand a sophisticated public health education program about
the dangers of misuses of drugs of all kinds; children should not be
taught total abstinence, but rather wise moderation. 

•greatly increase private and public mental health coverage, with adequate
guarantees of privacy; we can do this with the money we will save by
ending the drug wars. This must include adequate and human treatment for
the seriously mentally ill, and reasonable treatment programs for those
who find themselves “addicted” to anything that they see as harmful to

•Limit employers’; rights to do drug testing to cases where no other
method can ensure public safety

•make massive efforts (see below) to improve the quality of life for the

•phase in a policy of public support for research and development of drugs
and non-drug treatments to replace systems that now makes drugs
unaffordable to many. Existing drug companies and their research arms
should be made partners in this effort, which should also enlist
international cooperation. Drug trial costs, beyond some initial effort to
show a degree of promise, should be funded through pooled private and
public money. Great efforts should be made to improve the current drug
trial system, both to speed it, lessen its cost and make it more humane. 
All drug approvals should be provisional, though careful; no matter how
careful, new and unexpected side effects and drug interactions will always
crop up when larger populations use the drugs, so the drug delivery system
must include means of continuous updating of doctor and patient
involvement and education. 

•Offer aid for countries that have been torn asunder as indirect result of
our unrealistic drug policies and our domestic demand. 

The rest of this is much less complete, sent out now just to offer a hint
of what ought to come; I will send more complete versions as time and
inspiration permits


3. HEALTH CARE FOR ALL: we can’t afford NOT to have it. That includes
effective public health measures; the right to checkups ,and other
preventive measures;we must do much more to clean up and prevent toxic
environments in cities and metropolitan areas, ensure clean water, and
limit toxins in food supplies, along with up environment in cities; 
mandate and to diesel buses and other major municipal polluters; stop
allowing light trucks and SUV’s to evade pollution limits

4. REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING Drive for reduced energy use, concerted
international efforts to reduce emissions and slow down the warming—
including research on countering warming directly by reducing sunlight
trapped in atmosphere. 

5. SIGN AND RATIFY INTERNATIONAL TREATIES including test ban treaty and
international war crimes tribunal treaty, land mines ban, etc. 

6. MOVE FOR A HUMANE AND OPEN WTO which understands need for environmental
protection, protection of local cultures, rights of workers; plan annual
and public conferences; 


8. TWO WAY INTERNET ACCESS FOR EVERYONE Make sure world’s knowledge
resources and expressive resources are fully available, ESPECIALLY to the
most deprived

9. ONLY WANTED CHILDREN Work to find new ways to make sure all children
are not only wanted but that they continue to get sufficient attention
from caring adults as they grow. 

9. TAX WEALTH Pose an extra tax on large houses with small number of
dwellers to help provide care, and homes for homeless; offer tax
deductions for volunteer work. 

10 IMPROVE AND EXTEND PUBLIC AMENITIES in cities and suburbs. 

11. END SO-CALLED MARRIAGE PENALTY in taxes, but also in welfare. 
Recognize taking care of one’s own children as a form of work, and award
excellence in doing it. Let any group of people who care for each other
form a family or a marriage if want, with all the same benefits as
traditional marriages. 

12. DEVELOP A PEACE COMMISSION that will offer proposals and help to end
civil wars, settle territorial disputes find creative solutions throughout
the world. 

13. PREVENT COMMUNICATIONS MONOPOLIES While there is much talk of a future
of unlimited number of radio and video channels, today a small number of
companies control the majority of both broadcast frequencies (licenses
granted and protected at taxpayer expense) and cable transmission systems
( most cities and other areas have granted cable companies exclusive
licenses to place cable in each neighborhood, so there is no real
competition in either sphere (even satellite signals are part of the
monopoly. Limit total air time for all commercials.  Re-create government
supported, strictly non-commercial uncensored radio and television;
support this by a tax on profit-making broadcasting.  Also make sure that
state of the art internet “production” facilities remain available to all. 
Require commercial stations to provide free air time to counter any
political commercials, and specify minimum of free air time that must be
provided. Free speech should not be only for the well off and for profit. 

14 TREAT IMMIGRANTS FAIRLY Repeal odious laws on deporting non citizen
permanent residents guilty of minor crimes. Require administrative judges
in the immigration system and elsewhere to be publicly identified and to
open their decisions and the reasons for them to public scrutiny. 

15. RETHINK CHILDHOOD We have schools because our parents did, not because
they are necessarily the best way we can come up with for raising the
young. We must think outside the box of schooling with its built in
segregation by age, a segregation compounded by the break up of extended
families and by parents all working (where raising a child is not
considered work). And school should not become a job of preparing for an
eventual career and nothing else. Here again, punitive ideas have come to
dominate, increasing the boredom and alienation felt by many kinds in
typical schools Schooling cannot be just a local problem, because families
move, and a large percentage of kids will move as they grow up. 

16. REFORM INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS---such as patent, trademark and
copyright, so that the public interest and the rights of individual
creators for reasonable control over their creations trumps the rights of
corporations to seize control over expression and creativity, use, and
rewards, and so that communities are included in ownership as well. 
Contract clauses that limit rights of creators over their work beyond a
reasonable limit should not be enforceable. Companies should not have
unlimited rights over the use of their trademarks. Copyright ownership
should not extend so far as it now does past the death of the creator. 
Genes, naturally occurring or cultivated life forms should not be
patentable. A broad “fair use” doctrine is needed. 

.....And more good things


Michael H. Goldhaber

My  E-Letter: to subscribe send blank message to

[This entire e-letter’s contents is Copyrighted by Michael H. Goldhaber
(mgoldh@well.com). Permission is granted for distribution without charge
and not for profit, provided this statement is included. Any other
distribution requires my advance permission.]

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