Political Manifesto for the 21st Century

January 7, 2010 by

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. (Declaration of Independence, 1776)

We affirm these self-evident truths, and declare that it is time to abolish our form of government, not by armed revolution, but by the election of representatives who will change it.

The Constitution of the United States allows for the people to elect their representatives every two years, and to elect every senator every six, and to elect the president every four. Each state constitution allows the citizens of that state a similar power to choose their government. Through electing representatives that represent our desire to preserve our government solely to protect the individual rights of everyone, we propose the following changes be made.

  1. Limited government. Our governments are limited by the constitutions that form them. We need to enact a common understanding among the people of what those limits are and impose them on our governments. We need also to strengthen the already existing limits, overturning bad interpretations by our courts, legislators, and executives, and impose new and stronger limits on our governments which will forever ensure our individual liberty.
  2. Dramatic cuts to spending. Our governments should spend our money procuring only those goods and services that will protect our rights.
  3. An end to government charity. It is the role of our churches and the individual to supply charity to the poor, not the state. If the individual and churches cannot supply the charity, government could only do worse. Having government provide charity absolved the conscience and duty of the people from their proper role to love their neighbor.
  4. An end to unfunded legislation. Any program that congress enacts must be completely and fully funded at the time of its creation. We will not enslave future generations to programs that we create but do not fully fund. Existing programs that are unfunded should be canceled or modified until they can be funded.
  5. Dramatic cuts to taxation. Our governments should collect far less taxes than the people can bear. The people should be free to pursue whatever economic matter they wish without burden or undue influence due to taxes. Taxes should not be used to punish the rich or to mold society’s behavior. They should only be used to raise the necessary money to meet the spending requirements of a government that protects the rights of the individual. Any surpluses should be immediately refunded to the people in proportion to taxes paid, or used to pay off debts. Taxes should never be raised to meet spending; rather, spending should be cut to meet tax revenue.
  6. An end to government debt. Our people have become more prosperous than any other people in the world. We do not need to borrow money anymore to provide for the needs of government. Paying interest on our government debts is slavery, not freedom. We are not free until we have paid off all of our debts. Any debt that we must incur should be paid off within a very short time frame, so that our debts are not repaid by our children.
  7. An end to bureaucratic regulation. Any kind of regulation must be debated and passed by the legislatures of our governments, and no other way. No public official should be allowed to set policy that governs the life of anyone but their own employees. No court should dictate legislation. No executive should issue orders except to his troops and employees. Anyone exceeding these limits should immediately be removed from office by impeachment because they are a threat to our liberty.
  8. An end to over-litigation. The laws of our country are unjust, in that they are used to punish those who have done no wrong with tort laws and allow the criminal to go free. Let our laws be simple and just so that we no longer have need of lawyers. Do not allow our constitution to be interpreted as giving shelter to the guilty or limiting the freedoms of the individual.

We boldly declare that freedom and liberty are dramatically different than tyranny and slavery. In a free society, government works differently than in an enslaved society. Our governments should be eternally fearful of the will of the people, forever locked in by the limits of the constitution which creates them, and ever subservient to the people, both the individual and as a whole.

We emphatically reject the tenets of communism, socialism, fascism, totalitarianism, colonialism, and every other form of government or political idea that sets one person above another, that limits the freedom of the individual for the “greater good”, or attempts to convince any individual that they have no rights or fewer rights than the rights man is endowed with by their Creator.

We boldly declare that in our society, the checks and balances in our government includes the individual, private organizations such as businesses or churches or political groups, and federated governments such as the local, state, and federal governments. By distributing the power to govern among these people, organizations, and governments, no one person or group of people is able to obtain much power over the rest.

We also declare that there is enough in this world, and to spare, if the individual is freed from the constraints of government to seek his own fortune in life. We also declare that the man who has obtained wealth is capable of providing charity to the poor, jobs to those who want them, and also to pursue the critical role of participating in politics to keep government constrained. We encourage all men, everywhere, to embrace their freedom, seek their own fortunes, and once having obtained it, spend their time and resources as they see fit in service to their fellowman, without the entanglement of government.

Why Conservatism Offends

May 5, 2016 by

I suppose now that we don’t have a conservative candidate for nomination in any party, it’s time to explain a little more about conservatism, especially why so many people find it so offensive.

The first principle of conservatism is truth. The truth hurts everyone. We don’t like the way the world is and we all wish we could change it. But conservatives know that is impossible. And we’ll tell you why. And that hurts.

So conservatives are like a guy who goes to Disneyland and says, “You know, you’re going to die one day.”

We tell women, “You are a woman, and that’s all you’ll ever be.” We tell men, “You are a man, and that’s all you’ll ever be.” We tell homosexuals, “Your sexual unions will never produce offspring.” We tell liars, “You’re lying.” We tell everyone the truth as far as we can see it. And the truth is offensive.

The second principle of conservatism is faith. This is a difficult concept for people to understand, so let me try to explain it this way. Faith means trust. Really, they’re very similar to each other. The question of faith is, “What is worthy of your trust?” Conservatives reject all people as faithless. Conservatives don’t put their trust in anyone. That’s because we’ve accepted the truth: All of us are mortal and fallible, and when you get right down to it, reprehensible in one way or the other.

What then to put your faith in? Simply put, God. Or rather, the principles that God puts his trust in, which are the attributes of his character, which are timeless, eternal, and inarguably good.

So conservatism offends because we tell people, “Don’t trust that guy.” And we tell people, “The only things you can actually trust are timeless principles that do not change.” And those timeless principles, those ideals, are simply unobtainable by any mere mortal.

The third principle is the concept of rights. Rights are not freedoms. We are all free to choose whether we will murder or lie or steal, but we have no right to do so. Rights are so-named because they are the opposite of wrongs. Rights are things that morally, we should do. Rights say, “I should do X, so get out of my way.” Example: Kings of England stood up and said, “I have a right to be king, because God said so.” So they became king.

On the opposite side of the coin called rights is duty. The king of England who does not exercise his rights to protect his people and secure their liberties no longer has the right to be king. By the same token, people who do not exercise their rights to the benefit of themselves and mankind do not deserve their rights. Remember, rights are there for a purpose. If you have a hard time understanding this, consider the fact that if I believe someone to have the right to freely speak (because saying the truth, though offensive, is good), then that means I have to defend their right to freely speak and prevent those who would stop them from speaking. If I did not do that, then they would not be able to exercise their right.

Rights are offensive because the truth is offensive. It’s hard to hear someone stand up and say, “You were wrong”, but we all need to hear it. Rights are also offensive because it demands action from people. On the one hand, blessed with the freedom to exercise our rights, we should do so, nay, we must do so. And on the other hand, if we believe others have rights, then we need to take positive action to defend them. When it comes to rights, there are no lazy people.

The final principle I’ll discuss is government. It has come to our attention, mankind, that we seem to have this obsessive need for someone to tell us what to do. Throughout history, mankind has regularly and repeatedly bowed to authority. Given the fact that, one way or the other, we will adopt a government of some sort to rule over us, let us consider what the best form of government is, or rather, the least bad.

In contemplating this fact, we have discovered certain truths. Among them are:

  1. There should be limits to what government can do.
  2. Local government is better government.
  3. People should participate in government.
  4. People should not trust their government.

There is, of course, so much more to conservatism, but I suppose the above should give you a broad perspective on what we’re all about. I could write endlessly about truths that we ignore or deceive ourselves against. I could expound upon every good virtue and how best it should be practiced. I could also write endlessly of all the myriad of rights we have, and how far they go, and when action is required or when it is optional. And I could write pages upon pages of every aspect of government, and explain how some policies hurt and others help. And I could talk endlessly about the economy (but really, that belongs under rights.) And I am sure that you would like to know more about what it is conservatives intend to do about the poor and how they plan to do it (because the poor is the convenient scapegoat statists use to broaden government powers.) Or education, or medicine, or any of the other myriad realms that are used to distract us from the fact that they want to deprive us of our sacred rights.

But I won’t, not here, not now.

Just know that the truth hurts, and the truth is that you are wrong. That is the message of conservatism.

Even a Broken Clock is Right Twice a Day

May 5, 2016 by

Nate Silver was supposed to be some sort of modern-day prophet. He predicted Barack Obama’s win, after all.

But he is just as mortal as any of us, and elections remain an impossibly difficult thing to predict.

When you’re playing the game of predicting the future, it’s important to note that even people who are right for the wrong reasons are still right. Until they are wrong. Then they’re wrong. And if they were right for the wrong reasons, the chance they’ll get the next one right is really, really small.

This applies in science much more than people realize. See, when you do an experiment, you introduce errors that will vary the result one way or the other. After all, we’re only human. The more complicated the experiment, the more that can go wrong. Just because you see a particular result once or twice doesn’t mean that those results will happen all the time. Even after running countless experiments, you still cannot predict that something will or will not occur. No one knows what the future holds. Given that, every scientific prediction is really footnoted with some kind of uncertainty. You would do well to investigate the uncertainty before selling your soul to a scientific theory.

I’m studying machine learning right now, and the most important thing I’ve learned is that you always have two options for making predictions, and those two options are likely pretty good predictors. The first is to just randomly guess. If there are 4 possibilities, and you randomly choose one, then there’s a 25% chance you got it right. That’s much better than many algorithms will give you with certain kinds of data. But you also have another option: choose the winner. That is, look at what is most likely to happen, and just choose that. If the most likely scenario is only 1% likely (because there are a lot of possible scenarios), then choosing that as your prediction will make you 1% accurate, which is often better than many algorithms will give you with certain kinds of data.

It’s important that you look closely at the algorithm you use for predictions, and measure it with real-world data. If it doesn’t do better than random choice or majority, then it’s not good at all.

Nate Silver was never a prophet. He had no supernatural powers. His predictions seemed to work, but so far, he’s really not doing much better than random choice among the most popular candidates. I feel comfortable ignoring Nate Silver and others like him. I may pay attention the same way I’d pay attention to a really good chess player or some other spectacle worth watching.

In the upcoming election cycle, do yourself a favor. Ignore the polls. Just vote your conscience. Vote in a way that you will feel comfortable telling your grandkids and feel comfortable knowing you voted for the guy if he gets elected. What’s more, by ignoring the polls and people like Nate Silver, you’ll free up valuable time and save some money. You won’t need as much heartburn and headache medication, after all.

Why I haven’t lost hope

May 4, 2016 by

It looks like the presidential election is between a liar and a scoundrel and another liar and a scoundrel. The Republican Party failed to nominate someone who would be an actual choice in the upcoming election.

Oh well.

It’s not like we didn’t see this coming. I am sure there were a lot of people who tried to stop it, and they failed.

Oh well.

Some of the #NeverTrump people are quite upset and disenchanted about the political process. My words are for you.

See, I haven’t lost hope.

Some of you probably see the world from a similar viewpoint that I do. You understand the importance of faith and religion and such. You fear and worry about what will happen to our country when godless perverts run it.

Let me try to cheer you up, or at least help you see what is truly important.

To those of you who are atheist, this will help you understand why you shouldn’t lose hope either.

A long time ago, Alexis de Tocqueville came to America. He was a Frenchman. At the time, France was going through their own revolution. He wanted to compare notes with America to see if there was something he could take back to his fellow countrymen.

Alexis was inspired. He was hopeful. He was willing to do whatever it took to make France a great country to live in. He saw that this was a time of choosing.

He wrote down his ideas in a book called “Democracy in America”. Among the things he discovered was that America’s greatness was not in our government.

First this:

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”

That’s a rather sobering thought. But it is a hopeful one. See, in America, the great and good people generally do not run for office. It’s very rare to see people like that decide to go into government. It’s been that way for hundreds of years. It’s not going to change anytime soon. And I believe that is a very good thing. The last place I would want our best and brightest to be is in government!

Another observation of Tocqueville’s was that America was obsessed with making money. In Europe, the poor had no hope of making money and instead focused on getting by. The rich and powerful thought making money was vulgar and crass. In the end, there were very few people who actually tried to create things of value. In America, however, we are driven by the profit motive. We are far more vulgar and crass when it comes to money. I don’t see that changing, and I think it is a very, very good thing. When you have people who devote their entire lives trying to make something better, more profitable, more valuable — that is a very good thing. And in America, we’re still not ashamed of that.

Finally, Tocqueville observed that the true power in America, the heart and soul, was found on the preacher’s pulpit. It was the churches who kept us from becoming monsters. After all, if you have a government run by corrupt amoral people, and an economy consumed by the lust of money, things can go very, very wrong. But in America, the churches balanced the entire equation out.

So here’s my hope for America.

I believe that in the future, government will get worse. They will become ever more tyrannical, ever more domineering, and ever more irrelevant. See, the truth is, government is just a nuisance. It hardly matters in our day-to-day lives. Let’s keep it that way, and remind people of how little power the government has. They can’t keep us from trying to make money, and they can’t keep us from helping the poor and needy, and they certainly can’t keep us from thinking seriously about religion and morality and philosophy and going to church.

And remember this: No matter what government has done, they have never collected more than a certain amount of the economy. When they go to extremes, Americans just take their business elsewhere.

I also predict that in the future, more people will get rich. More businesses will rise, more businesses will fall, and entire sectors of the economy will be created and destroyed. There is nothing we can do to stop this. And that’s fine. It’s a very good thing when things succeed and when things fail. Let’s not forget that.

But here’s the part where I can’t predict the future. In the future, we, the people, have a choice. Will we devote ourselves to religion and morality and philosophy, and see a renaissance when it comes to those things? Or will we continue to fall down the pit of immorality? That’s up for each of us to decide for ourselves.

I have hope. I have hope for several reasons.

One reason is that despite all the odds, people throughout history have chosen good over evil from time to time. It happens. It can happen again. When things get really bad, people do some introspection, and they come to the conclusion that their individual actions are far more important than they realize. I believe that when the cards are down, and America is losing, Americans will do the same.

The other reason is that Jesus has promised us. He warned us against our modern times, and he also promised he would return. In the end, it will work out.

Hopefully, this message of hope gave you some courage.

Should you disengage from politics? No. You should, however, set realistic expectations. In politics, like in so many areas of life, evil seems to win all the time. But that’s the way it’s always been, and that’s the way it will always be as long as there are evil people around. (And I count myself among the evil.)

So don’t disengage, but don’t put your hope in a good candidate or party or whatnot. We’ve been lied to and shamed before. Ted Cruz may have been the paragon of virtue he claims to have been, or he may have done the things he promised to do, but based on my experience, I strongly doubt it.

I also encourage you to engage in some areas you may not already be engaging in. Let me list them.

  • Engage with God. Engage with morality. Engage with philosophy. Take religion seriously for yourself. Go to church, and find a way to serve in that church.
  • Engage with your family. There is no greater work that you can do than within the walls of your own home. The world might be going down the crapper, but that doesn’t mean you should let your family follow. Be the best dad or mom there is, and teach your children by example.
  • Engage with the economy. Going Galt sounds nice, but in reality, go make some money. The more money you make, the better. I’m serious about this. Don’t think it’s contrary to your religion to get rich, as long as you do it the right way.
  • Engage with society. The people around us will find the truth through our example, so don’t hide yourself.

Anyway, I think I’ve already decided I’m voting for Trump. I don’t know what kind of president he’ll be, but at least it will be interesting. I have absolutely zero faith that Trump will do the right thing or that having him in office will be better than Clinton, but with two liars, you never know what you are going to get.

Why I’m Not Worried about Trump (Or Clinton or Sanders, etc…)

April 27, 2016 by

It looks like the Republican Primary is wrapping up, and it’s highly likely that Trump will be nominated to run for president as the republican nominee. There could be an upset, but I think it’s highly unlikely, and given Trump’s ability to turn Cruz victories into defeats, I feel safe saying Trump is it.

The Democratic Primary has been in Clinton’s favor for a very long time. It’s extremely unlikely that Sanders will get the nomination.

Lots of people are asking me, “What do you think will happen if Trump gets elected?” Or Clinton, or Sanders, or Cruz.

The answer: Not a whole lot!

The Founding Fathers were absolutely political geniuses, unparalleled in any time before or since as far as we know. They built a system that would work even when most of the controls were removed or ignored.

The president only has a small amount of power. Sure, people, including voters, think the president can do a lot of things, but the truth is, the president does very little. Even Obama, who I would argue tried to extend the power of the presidency way beyond anything previously imagined, has been relatively harmless. Trump will likewise be harmless. Same goes for Sanders and Clinton.

The real power in the federal government is found in the House of Representatives. They control the budget. They control spending. If they don’t agree to it, it doesn’t happen. Of course, our house has tried to pretend they have no power, but it’s a deception fabricated by people who don’t want people to pay attention to them.

The Senate also wields tremendous power, and has been a thorn in the president’s side. While the house worries about re-election, 2/3rds of the senate knows that elections are too far in the future to matter. Better still if senators were appointed by the state legislatures as originally written in the constitution. (Repeal the 17th!) While the senate has the will to fight the president, they really don’t have very much power to do so. If the senate really wanted to flex their muscles, they would do it by providing cover for the house so that they can do the right thing despite the will of the people.

That’s right — despite the will of the people. I am no democrat. I do not believe that mob rule is best rule. I believe that uninformed, low-attention voters do not deserve the final say in every matter. We should give our leaders a chance to figure out a good resolution first that satisfied the people and whatever other interests are at play. In cases where they cannot persuade the people that their interests are being represented, then the people should revolt (hopefully through the ballot box, and not with ammo boxes.) Thus, in severe cases, the people do have final say, but it takes a lot to get to that point, and wise rulers can avoid it.

Our American government has existed and will continue to exist as long as we realize that we’re not a democracy. We’re not a plutocracy. We’re not an aristocracy. We’re not an autocracy. We’re not an oligarchy. We are all of those things combined. Each of these forms of government have something valuable to contribute, and the net result, if properly combined, can be a republic. This word is very special, coming from res publica, meaning “public affair”. Government should be something that everyone is invited to participate in, not just uneducated, under-informed people. The Founding Fathers wanted to create a republic where no one style of government could dominate the rest. They did a really good job.

I should list, I suppose, what I do consider as real threats to our future, both America’s and the world.

  1. A Worsening moral atmosphere. The more people that don’t dedicate themselves to doing what’s right for rightness’ sake, and don’t sacrifice their lives for the good of the people around them voluntarily, the worse we will be. Selfishness simply cannot sustain any society. The tragedy of the commons says that if you intend other people to yield so that you can exploit the common resource, you are going to be very disappointed. How many of us today are living in a way that we hope others do not behave like we do? This has got to end.
  2. A lackadaisical approach to politics and government. America can sustain ignorance and silliness, but only for so long. We need serious thinking when it comes to government and politics, and we need these voices to drown out the unreasonable or even evil voices out there. As it is, we’re seeing more and more people who should be involved disengage because of outright hostility. We should make government a “safe space” for those who disagree.
  3. A penchant to violence. America needs to be militarily superior to all others because we are abnormally disposed to peace and trade. The moment we become the belligerents, I’ll be looking for some other group of people that should wield the mighty sword. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” should be our motto. America’s right to rule the rest of the world is purely a product of our generosity and desire for equality of rights with all people.

I should probably make a case to explain point #3 more clearly to my European and Asian and African friends, but let me put it this way. Suppose that it was a requirement we must choose one person to rule the entire world. What kind of person would you choose? At the very minimum, he must be militarily competent, able to lead armies to victory, otherwise, the world would devolve into chaos and violence. But also importantly, he must be a peacemaker, someone who genuinely wants to forgive and forget and get along peacefully with everyone else. America has held that title since WWII because we have shown ourselves, as a society, worthy of wearing it. I worry that we have forgotten both of these important concepts, and so we are watching the world fall apart back into the old ways of divide and conquer.

I don’t think Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders or Ted Cruz can save us. None of them have the power to change any of the three points I outlined above. They do, however, have the ability to make things worse. But my trust is not in one person, but that hundreds of millions of Americans will make the right choice when the rubber hits the road regarding those three things, and I don’t think it matters who calls themselves president when it’s time to act.

What would a free market health care system look like?

April 27, 2016 by

People accuse the US of having a free market medical care system. If you’re going to accuse someone of something, try to show some evidence.

Our system is hardly free market. We have a heavily regulated, heavily subsidized, heavily limited health care system. I won’t even try to show the ways our system is not a free market, so let me show instead what a free market system would look like.

First up, medical professionals. Where would they come from? What training would they have? At the very least, the government would have nothing to say about it. Anyone could start a medical college. Anyone could call themselves a doctor. There would be no restrictions at all.

How would you tell you are seeing a doctor who knows what they are doing? The free market would provide mechanisms to certify the quality of doctors. There are examples of this in the real world, albeit in different industries. You may notice that your electric devices might have a “UL” logo stamped on it. Go to their website to see where that comes from and what it means. It isn’t hard to imagine concerned doctors getting together to form a private company that would certify doctors. I would imagine there would either be one company that dominates the market by maintaining the highest level of professional standards (as UL does) or there would be competing ones reflecting the various philosophies of medicine. IE, chiropractors would have their own certification company, acupuncturists, natural medicine practitioners, etc… each have their own as well, in addition to modern medicine.

Whatever the solution to the certification problem, we would be certain that it would be up-to-date and relevant. If ever the certification company grew out of date or out of step with modern practices, doctors would be quick to remedy the situation.

Certification would extend way beyond doctors. I am sure there would be companies for certifying drugs, devices and medical procedures as well. Right now, we look to the FDA to tell us what is and is not safe to experiment with. I’ve often wondered why we want the one organization we entrust with the power to kill the bad guys to have the same power to tell us what is healthy or not. I would much rather prefer individuals think carefully about what level of medical care they would want to receive, and private organizations certify that level of medicine. With government operating, by force of law, the one institution with any power to declare what is safe or unsafe, we run the risk of people losing faith in that system and having no alternative to turn to. If instead we allowed certification companies to compete, they would advertise, heavily, why their methods are best and their competitor’s lacking, relying on the power of persuasion alone, not force, to convince people of the rightness of their cause. The FDA simply sucks at this.

So, going full free market by removing government restrictions on what is medicine and who is allowed to practice it wouldn’t remove certification programs with strict requirements designed to protect the public. If anything, it would usher in a renaissance of innovation and safety, with not the least of the benefits being that the organizations involved would have to rely solely on persuasion to convince people of the rightness of their methods.

Let’s continue delving into what a free market system would look like.

Next stop, insurance companies. Insurance companies today are heavily regulated. They translate these regulations into onerous requirements that often interfere in the doctor-patient relationship. I can’t think of a reason why someone would want to have a medical insurance policy in a free market system. After all, any insurance policy would, at best, only smooth the spikes of unforeseeable events. If you lead an unhealthy lifestyle, or if you were genetically or culturally predisposed to higher medical costs, the insurance company wouldn’t be able to forgive you for that. You would, of necessity, end up paying more because you cost more. In that system, medical insurance doesn’t seem like much of an advantage.

Nevertheless, those who are risk-averse would probably prefer some sort of insurance policy. In my mind, the kind of insurance policy I would like to have would look more like a disability or life policy. I get paid a lump sum when it is discovered I have a rare disease. The money would reflect the cost of treatment and the loss of freedom or opportunity due to the disease. This is what an actual insurance policy would look like.

That’s not to say that the other function of health insurance policies would go away. Today, health insurance is more of a “health club” membership. Oftentimes, they want you to do an annual checkup or give you advice on how to be healthier. I assume that this function could be relegated to a separate entity that people contract with. I don’t know what that would look like, but I do know that people are willing to pay for actual health club memberships, so it seems natural to extend that to regular medical care as well. Imagine what it would be like if your physical fitness coach worked for the same company as your primary doctor.

One of the reasons why so many people have health insurance is because it is provided by the companies they work for. The reason for this is because government heavily regulates businesses, and all but demands that employers offer health insurance at reduced rates to their employees. In a free market, this connection would be severed. People would compete with each other in a broader health insurance market, if they decided to participate at all.

I think the effect of free market on health insurance can be summarized as follows. One, we would see innovations in what health insurance even meant. Two, we would see innovation in how people choose to manage their health. And three, we would see a broader market with more choices and opportunities, including the choice of not participating at all.

Finally, let’s look at the heart of medical care: The doctor-patient interaction. In a free market system, the only reason a doctor would ever see a patient is because the patient could successfully bid for their time. The only reason a patient would see a doctor is because the doctor offered a price low enough to satisfy them. The price of the interaction would be determined almost completely by free market forces. Doctors would be encouraged to keep their prices very low, slightly above cost, and patients would be encouraged to seek out the best doctors. If prices start to rise, signalling a greater demand for doctors and a diminishing supply, then you’ll see doctors will sacrifice more time or more people will be encouraged to become doctors. At the same time, patients will reduce their consumption of medical services. On the other hand, if medical prices are falling, then patients would increase their consumption and doctors would give less time and fewer people would be encouraged to become doctors. It would all balance out such that the price would reflect the demand and supply of medical services.

I don’t think people realize this, but as it is now, there is little in the way of basic supply and demand interactions, and the prices are not set by market forces. This leads to shortages when the prices are too low, meaning you can’t see the doctor when you want to. It also leads to problems predicting exactly how many doctors we’ll need in the future. But most importantly, since the prices are not set by mutual agreement between patient and doctor, we see all sorts of other inefficiencies and perverse incentives. If doctors and patients alone determined prices, then there would be incredible market forces that would keep prices down by reducing cost and increasing efficiency.

To truly understand what I am saying, consider the smart phone you have in your pocket. The only reason you can even afford such a device is because of market forces. The companies that produce those devices know that if they can lower the price slightly, they can capture more of the market and make even higher profits. In order to lower the price, they look for ways to manufacture the phone even more cheaply, while maintaining some level of quality control. As these same forces play out throughout the entire supply chain, each component and sub-component’s prices gradually fall, and eventually, you get what you have in your pocket.

These same forces can work for us to reduce the cost of the doctor-patient interaction. It can play out throughout the entire medical industry, from medicines to medical supplies, to colleges and certification boards. That is, if we truly embraced a free market approach.

Now, a few final considerations. What of the poor and the needy? The elderly and the sick? One, a free market would keep prices low while keeping innovation high. Thus, poor and needy people would have more medical care available than any other way. The elderly and sick likewise. But as in all cases, capitalism cannot work, and indeed does not work, unless the people are themselves charitable. As has been done countless times in countless ways, a small, voluntary sacrifice on the part of those who “have” is all that is needed to supply all the needs of those who don’t have. However, and this is key, it can only work if there is an oversupply and abundance, and that can only happen in a free market. So the very problem that free markets introduce is solved with free markets as long as people have some modicum of charity in their hearts. Since the American people have proven themselves to be the most charitable in the world, I declare that we should be the first country to truly embrace a free market approach to medicine.

Republicans Are Not Monolithic

March 18, 2016 by

Many Trump supporters are new to this political game, and I think it’s time I explained something.

First, republicans are not monolithic. We do not agree with each other. We disagree a lot. And when I say a lot, I mean, a lot. In fact, there is not one single topic I can think of that all republicans would agree to.

Let me introduce how I see the republican party. I’ll divide it up.

The first division has to do with power, and who holds it.

First, there is the republican leadership. This is all the people who are in power, either in government or in the party organization. It also includes all the people who republicans tend to listen to. There are a lot of people in the republican leadership. I consider myself part of it, since I am a PCO and I’m pretty good friends with the district leader where I live.

Note that the republican leadership really runs the party. We decide what the party does and what it stands for. Note also, that we do not agree with each other. Not even a little bit. When there is a shift in leadership, there is a shift in tone and direction. Everyone has their own idea of what the Republican Party should stand for and how it should work. And we don’t agree.

Next, there are the “lay” members of the Republican Party. These include the people who write checks and who wave signs but mostly don’t do much else besides vote. It also includes the people who tend to just vote R on each of the ballots they get.

Finally, there are the marginal republicans, people who usually vote republican but sometimes vote democrat or don’t vote at all. Or they usually vote democrat but sometimes vote republican. They tend to be obscure, tend not to contribute, and they tend to have strong opinions that they don’t express to anyone in the Republican Party. We have to use a crystal ball to figure out what these people want, and we usually get it wrong.

I’d like to interrupt to say that Donald Trump has few supporters among the leadership, a lot of supporters among the lay members, and a remarkably huge amount of support from the margins. Donald Trump represents the marginal republicans asserting their authority over the other republicans, and because they have so much support from the lay members, the leadership is scared. Not me personally, but you can see that there is a lot of angst up the hierarchy.

Let’s look at ideology. Suffice it to say, if there’s a position, you’re going to find republicans who support it.

One area to look at is foreign relations. I’ll break this down into three areas:

  1. Immigration Policy
  2. Trade Policy
  3. Foreign Policy

On immigration, I think the vast majority of republicans want to seal the border against illegal crossing. Some don’t want to build a wall nor do they want to enforce the law at the border.

Continuing, there is the question of what to do with the illegal immigrants already here. Some want to keep the status quo (deport those who break the law in some other way), some want to grant them amnesty, and some think we should be proactive in finding and deporting them. I myself lean towards the status quo. I don’t think poorly of those who want to be proactive, but I am opposed to those who want to grant amnesty. With amnesty, comes the question of whether they should be put on a path to citizenship or whether they should be forever barred (until they change their immigration status legally.) If I had to go with amnesty, I would not put them on the path to citizenship, unless they legally change their status to immigrant. That would involve getting in line behind all the other immigrants.

And finally, on immigration, is the question on who we should allow into our country. I believe that we should maintain open, secure borders. Let anyone who wants to come here to work or to play come. However, they need to prove to us that they come for peaceful purposes, and if there is any question, we should default to “no.” Others want to close the border to entire countries, which I don’t disagree with too much. Others think we should just let everyone in, which I think is dangerous.

There’s also the question of who can become a citizen, but I think we have a pretty good system in place, even though it is clunky. Basically, if you want to become American, you have to live here for a long time, keeping our laws. You have to understand our government and political traditions. And you have to swear an oath. The only thing I might add is that you would need to own property and show fluency in English, which is our de facto national language.

There is the question, of course, of foreign workers who take our jobs. What people forget is that they are already taking our jobs. The question is whether we want them to work here or in their home country. I believe having them work here is the best option, so I support anyone coming here to work, even if it means “unfair competition”. I myself compete everyday with Chinese and Indians, and I know that my salary is lower because of it, but I would rather have them here than have to think of moving to China or India to do my job.

This leads us to trade policy. Unfortunately, despite Adam Smith settling the question once and for all in the 1700s, we do not agree on whether free and open trade is best. A lot of republicans are protectionist, probably the majority. I’m not. I like to point out that the reason why Marxists hate Adam Smith is because Adam Smith makes people rich, and rich people don’t like communism.

Foreign Policy is the question of what do we do about other countries. I subscribe to Theodore Roosevelt’s philosophy: Speak softly but carry a big stick. Meaning, be nice to everyone, but keep the biggest military on hand just in case things get uncivil. Many in the Republican Party agree, but others think we should be more pacifist or more aggressive. There’s a lot of debate and this is an issue that divides the party.

Let’s look now at economic policy. Unfortunately, this is tied into things like health care and poverty. I’ll list the topics I’ll cover.

  1. Tax Policy
  2. Spending Policy
  3. Welfare
  4. Entitlement Programs
  5. Health Care
  6. Environmental Regulations
  7. Regulations in General

On Tax Policy, I think most republicans agree taxes are too high. I think this is one of the issues that keeps getting republicans elected and resonates with everyone. Some feel we should have more taxes in some areas. There is a large contingent that wants the Fair Tax. Very few think we can abolish taxes altogether. I am one of them.

On Spending Policy, we all agree we want less, but we can’t agree on how to cut it. One of the tactics used is to point out how absurd spending is in specific areas, but generally, republicans can’t agree on what to cut.

Welfare is when government gives money to poor people or companies. Republicans are generally opposed to it, but many republicans feel like a “safety net” is important. I believe a “safety net” is the reason why so many people don’t work and why we aren’t doing more to help each other in our own communities. I’m for abolishing all welfare, corporate or otherwise, but I am not popular at all on this position.

Entitlement Programs are entitlements that people have earned, such as Social Security, Medicare, or veteran’s benefits. Republicans generally don’t want to touch this, but some people think a reform is necessary. The reformers tend to want to ensure the status quo can continue. I am pretty much alone in thinking we should just abolish the entitlement programs. Write a check that gives people we promised money the lump sum of the value of that promise in today’s dollars. And then never, ever make any promises to anyone ever again. If you want veterans to get benefits, give them more money, or buy a policy with a lump sum one-time payment. I believe that too much money is hidden in the entitlement programs and it just invites fraud, especially when others take power. I also believe we should never make promises we can’t keep, and we cannot make future generations keep those promises.

Health Care is pretty divisive in the Republican Party. Some want to abolish all the regulations, like myself, but we are a very small minority. Most want to liberalize the health care industries by permitting things like purchasing health care from other states or even other countries. Some want to make sure poor people get health care, but I think I’ve addressed that under “welfare”. The vast majority of republicans agree that Obamacare, or rather SCOTUScare, is a disaster, but many want to “replace” it with something better.

Environmental Regulations, again, are a divisive issue. Many want the government to take an active role in the park systems, in ensuring air and water quality, etc. Others want the free market to work its magic. Many republicans do not think carbon dioxide is a threat, but many do. If I were to try to find the one thing we agree on, I think it would be that we think the environment exists to be managed amd exploited by us. Yes, let’s keep it clean, but let’s not keep people from using the national parks and let’s not stop people from hunting and fishing and cutting down trees. At the same time, let’s ensure we leave the environment better than we found it so our children and grandchildren can enjoy a better lifestyle.

Regulations in general cover all the little rules that government makes. I think we all agree that there are too many regulations, but we disagree on how few there should be. I tend to be towards the lower end of the spectrum, wishing that regulations were few and far between. I think most republicans see regulations as how industry, government, and the people get a say in what the rules should be. We’re perfectly happy when the oil industry shows up to tell us what regulations they want, and we’re perfectly happy hearing about the effects these regulations might have on the environment, for instance. Government should be the place where everyone comes together to find a good solution for all.

As you can see, the Republican Party has a wide variety of opinions, and so it should come as no surprise that we have a wide diversity of republicans. It’s not just the party of the “rich” or “powerful”.

If there was one thing I think that binds all republicans together, it is respect for the law and the principles in the constitution. It is also unabashed patriotism and a willingness to get things done, whether or not government involve. Yes, we complain and moan and fight, but in the end, we respect each other and we don’t mind the fact that our neighbors don’t agree with us.

Where does Trump fit in? He’s definitely republican, even if he doesn’t carry the conservative banner on most issues. Trump’s appeal is that he is bringing in marginal republicans and exciting lay republicans, even though he is attacking the republican leadership. I think we deserve the criticism aimed at the leadership, who have often failed to listen closely to the lay and marginal republicans on most issues. An in failing to listen, we’ve lost their attention.

 

A New Racism, or Rather the Old One

March 18, 2016 by

It is said the victors write history. So sometimes, in the echoes of voices long silenced, you uncover something you didn’t expect to find. After all, there was a reason why so many people fought on the other side, why they bled and died. And oftentimes, the winners don’t want you to know what they where thinking, because if you thought those same thoughts, we’d have to fight the fight all over again.

We look back at the racists of times past and mock them, rightly so. They were wrong. Or rather, our strawmen of what they stood for was wrong. The strawmen that we created were that the whites in the South thought that they were better than the blacks and that they needed to keep the blacks in slavery so that they could stay in power. It was all a power play, and the greedy, white racists were winning, and the black slaves were losing.

This is a very simplistic view of things. It’s hard to understand why anyone would fight or die for such an idea. And so I think it is not the correct view.

Before you read any further, I ask that you open your mind to thoughts you didn’t think were possible. I ask that you keep that mind open to the end, and use these thoughts to question your own morality and value system, and see if there are things you need to change.

I don’t believe you can get people to fight and kill just because a certain group of people are ugly and vicious and we don’t like the way they smell. When I read the writings of historical figures who attempted to conquer the world, that is not what they were thinking.

What they were thinking was this: If I can win these wars, if I can subjugate all nations under my ideas, perhaps we can create a better world without war, where people communicate with each other, where ideas can flourish and trade can prosper.

This is what Alexander the Great thought. At the end of his conquest, he intended to unify with the Persians, not exterminate them. There were many things the Persians did that he admired, and there were many thing the Greeks did that he admired. He wanted, really, to expand the Persian system throughout the world. The problem was the Persians were not militarily capable of doing it, while the Greeks were. The Greeks had mastered a certain form of warfare, and they had also mastered the problem of multiculturalism. They could be the backbone of the common language that could allow all the societies and religions in the world to live in peace, since Greece had found a way to do it centuries earlier.

So what, then, were the racists fighting for?

First, they were fighting for individual liberty. Yes, you heard that right, by enslaving the black race, they actually thought they were bringing them personal liberty and progress. This is witnessed by the fact that there were black slaveowners in the South. So obviously, the South did not have a problem with people’s skin color. There was something else they were objecting to.

Put yourself into the mindset of an 18th Century European. You’ve seen your culture, through the Renaissance, not only master the material that had troubled the most brilliant minds of the past entirety of human civilization, but surpass them to such a degree as to be absurd. They were, to put it in modern terms, flying through space with warp technology, while the rest of the world was still using horses and manual labor.

Now, the Christian ideal is that we share what profits us. We send out missionaries to bring others to our level. In the 18th Century, we watched as Christianity changed European culture from the dark ages to the modern age. We watched as people went from studying warfare to studying calculus. We believed that there was something magical just around the corner, a sort of tipping point at which human progress would surpass anything we could imagine.

Racists saw this and saw a problem: The other races of man were barbaric, crude, and their culture was infecting ours. They saw men turn back to base passions and ideals, and wondered what could be done about it. The protestant work ethic said that work, hard work, was the cure for almost any societal ill, so putting the lesser advanced races to work in a modern environment was the ideal.

Think about what the slaves were involved in on a plantation. They worked using modern technology. They used things like irrigation and crop rotation, modern inventions. They had the cotton gin, a machine that made it so much easier to pick the seeds out of the cotton fibers. Slaves who showed promise as civilized people were brought into the house and taught how to live in polite society. For instance, Scott Joplin, as a child, was found to have some talent with music, and so, as a slave, he was trained in the classics and became a piano artist.

Blacks who rose up through the ranks became welcome citizens of Southern society.

So really, the racism of the racists had nothing to do with skin color. I am sure they would have had no problem enslaving east asians or white people from more barbaric cultures.

When you look at it this way, it’s easy to see why racists would defend slavery. Now, just because we can appreciate their argument doesn’t make it right. I believe that the ends do not justify the means, and so I would point out the inherent inhumanity of slavery, even “polite” slavery which didn’t involve physical abuse, and I would point out that whatever method we use to civilize the rest of the world, slavery would not be it.

Watching Star Trek, this kind of “racism” is evident everywhere. The Federation believes that they have superior technology and philosophies compared to backward cultures. They even go so far as to encode how to deal with these backward cultures with the Prime Directive. The Prime Directive states that if the culture is not “sufficiently” advanced, that they should be left alone. Many of the episodes deal with the problem of people from the Federation or other races “infecting” those cultures with their own ideas.

Part of the justification of the Prime Directive had to do with the fact that once you take it upon yourself to civilize someone, you have a huge temptation to do evil to them. Another problem is that sometimes people take a bit of your advanced civilization and end up hurting themselves. For instance, if we gave nuclear weapons to Genghis Khan, history might have been entirely different. But another problem is that there might be something the culture might develop that could be valuable to the Federation, and interfering would destroy any chance of that happening.

This last point I think is important: The Federation didn’t think that the races who lived in these backwards societies were inferior. They thought they merely needed more time. Most importantly, they thought that perhaps they might contribute something significant. That is, these primitive cultures were incubators of perhaps the greatest thoughts that were yet to be.

Back to the original topic, slavery was an institution justified as sort of an anti-Prime Directive. Slaveowners felt they were doing a service to the slaves, and at the same time, a service to their culture. They were wrong, of course, but they felt so strongly about it that they were willing to fight and die for it.

Now, this gets me to the point: The New Racism. It seems today that I am a racist simply because I believe my culture is superior to someone else’s. It seems today that when I say things like, “We need to preserve our culture” I am being racist. When I say, “I would like more of these types of immigrants and less of those I am a racist. But really, my thoughts have nothing at all to do with race, but culture. And as we know, culture is completely independent of race. In fact, it is racist to think that someone cannot become a member of a culture because of their skin color!

I don’t believe in the Prime Directive. I support my church which not only sends out missionaries to explain to people why and how God loves them and why we need to be nice to each other, but also missionaries who teach people how to dig wells, how to get immunized, how to bear children safely and how to treat each other with love and kindness in a family relationship. We have missionaries whose sole purpose is to help people find the best job they can get, or get training that matches their personality so that they can get a good job. We have missionaries who spend their time giving people who otherwise couldn’t work, usually due to physical disability, meaningful jobs within their capacity.

I believe this should be the general attitude of America. We should “racist”, according to the bad, modern definition, and try to spread our culture throughout the world. Not through force, but by service and love.

I think Star Trek would be quite a bit different if the Federation spent its time trying to understand how best to help people, rather than focused on understanding the true nature of the universe. I do agree, however, that certain efforts must be made to secure our borders and ensure no one enters our country who wishes us ill. The Federation did a good job at that, screening candidates and carefully considering whether membership in the Federation was right for them. And that is a very, very good thing.

When was the last time violent Christian extremists took control?

March 12, 2016 by

I had a shower thought: When was the last time violent, Christian extremists took political control in our country?

If you said, “The republican party, when they elected Abraham Lincoln”, you’d be correct.

And what was the effect?

The abolishment of slavery.

Folks, I don’t fear violent, Christian extremists. They are willing to lay their lives down for their brother, and are willing to pick up the sword in defense of the rights of their neighbor.

What’s wrong with legal immigration and free trade?

March 11, 2016 by

Let’s review, shall we, where wealth comes from.

When two people get together and decide it is in their mutual self-interest to trade, the both walk away with something of greater value than what they started with.

In other words, when you go to the store and but something you want more than the money you have, you get a little richer. The store is more than happy to give you the item for the money because they would rather have the money, and so they get a little richer.

Free trade, free markets, freedom in general, creates wealth.

See, wealth is not having a lot of stuff. Wealth is having the things you want. The only way to get the things you want is to make it for yourself, or to trade. When we are allowed to freely trade with each other, we all find our comparative advantage, the thing that we are better at more than anything else we can do. And when we all work at our comparative advantage and trade for everything else, everyone benefits the most.

With this lesson in mind, let’s review what our foreign policy should be, to maximize our profits here at home.

First, we should remove any and all trade barriers that we erect. Whether another country decides to do the same is entirely irrelevant. Any tariff we charge should cover the cost of doing the sorts of things government is wont to do in the name of security and such, such as inspecting cargo, making sure people are who they claim to be, etc…

With low or almost absent tariffs, the end result is that everyone will want to sell their stuff to the US. When they sell it, they have to bring something away of comparative value. That’s where we win. By keeping our costs (tariffs and trade barriers) low, we both profit.

Second, we should allow any and all people who want to come to our country for peaceful purposes to come and go as they please, and do whatever they want while here. If you’re like Trump, then you’re probably concerned about unemployment.

In order to dispel your fears, let’s imagine a scenario. Two countries are competing with each other. One has an open borders policy: people can come and go as they wish, and do what they like, as long as it is legal. The other country will not allow foreigners to come and go easily, nor will they allow them to work without special permission.

Question: Where would you build your company? In the first country, you can rest assured that if you need to hire someone, you can hire from any country. In the other country, you’d better make double sure that you don’t need anyone from the first country, or else you’ll be in trouble.

If you decide it’s best to build your company in the first country, then that should be your answer to unemployment. If people decide to build their companies in the US, then unemployment will drop.

It’s also important to understand the cause of unemployment. Simply put, no one is willing to work for the wages they are offered. This could be for several reasons, but usually it has to do with government setting restrictions one way or the other on who can do what and for how much. Right now, if you’re a poor black kid growing up in the projects, you are pretty much denied the chance of ever getting a job thanks to minimum wage. What businessman would think it wise to hire you at ridiculous rates that you simply aren’t worth? With no job, you can’t get experience, you can’t prove your worth, and you can never show the world you are worth more than what you are paid and you can never get practical experience. Similarly, there are people in your community who have an entrepreneurial spirit but who are denied the ability to act on it thanks to arbitrary government restrictions. They could’ve hired you, but they aren’t even in business.

Remove the barriers, unemployment disappears.

Is it any wonder that the Smoot-Hawley tariffs, combined with the new tax-and-spend-and-regulate federal government brought our economy to its knees in the late ’30s?

Remember, when two people are allowed to get together and freely trade, they both come away richer. We should be encouraging people to freely trade with each other, leaping over arbitrary obstacles, like immigration policies and trade barriers.

Trump is wrong on this. I think he knows it. I hope he is wise enough to listen to economists who will be more than happy to explain this all to him.

A Mormon’s Thoughts on Your Lie In April

March 10, 2016 by

Netflix recently released Your Lie in April (Shigatsu wa Kimi no Uso四月は君の嘘), a Japanese anime focused on a middle-schooler’s life and coming to terms with death and life’s purpose. This is a long review, with many spoilers, but I hope it will shed some light both on what I learned from the series and what being a Mormon is all about.

The main character is Kosei Arima. To his friends he is Kosei, and to his acquaintances he is Arima, his family name. Like many anime of this variety, he lives alone. His father all but abandoned him, his mother is dead.

As the story unfolds, it is revealed that he is a particularly talented pianist. At a very young age, he started playing, emulating his mother’s example. In his youth, his mother, dying of an unnamed disease, drives him to insanity, going so far as physical abuse, trying to distill in him all the basic skills needed to be a world-renowned pianist. He wants to play passionately, she wants him to focus on technique and in copying the masters (who should never be questioned) and to win all the competitions.

He gets the mistaken idea that he can somehow cure his mom of her disease if he can simply play perfectly enough and well enough that he can touch her soul. She dies before the final round, and he has a break-down on stage where he can no longer hear his notes. His last words to her were a cruel response to a cruel incitement. He lives with regret for saying those words, but most especially, failing to play well enough to cure her.

Whenever he tries to play the piano, he feels like he is swallowed up in the deepest abyss. The notes don’t make any sounds other than the thumping of the keys and the mechanical movements of the dampers and pedals. His hands get heavy, he plays loud and fast, and people think of him as a second-rate pianist who can’t even play properly. Consumed with despair and regret, he refuses to even try to play the piano again.

It is Kaori Miyazono who is the light that picks him out of this abyss. At her endless persistence, he agrees to play as an accompanist to her violin concert. Her last accompanist quit after she played without even following the music. But her music touched the hearts of everyone, including Kosei. Kosei never agrees, but his friends force him to play in the competition, and so he forces himself to play. Sinking in the abyss, eventually, he stops playing mid-performance. Kaori continues, but after a while, she stops too. After pondering his situation for a while, and seeing the light that exudes from Kaori, he decides to play for her, and they end up playing a beautiful impromptu piece based off of the original music that touches everyone’s hearts.

Kosei sees the effect that Kaori has on him, and so he agrees to enter another piano competition at her suggestion. Although he loses, he gradually begins to understand how to handle the stress and insanity of being raised the way he was with the help of the top pianist in the country, close friend of his mother, Hiroko Seto. Hiroko is always trying to pull him out of his depression. She worries that he will one day give up piano altogether. So she agrees to take him under her wing, partly feeling responsible since it was her suggestion to train Kosei in the first place against his mother’s wishes.

Kosei comes to grips with his particular situation. Rather than let his sinking into the abyss be a burden, it becomes a stepping stone. He learns how to look up and see the light. He learns how to play for other people rather than himself. It seems all is coming together. That is, until Kaori fails to show up for the performance, and it is revealed that she is deathly ill and incapable of playing violin ever again.

As the series comes to an end, Kosei devotes himself to another competition. He also promises himself to playing as accompanist one more time with Kaori. Kaori is sick in the hospital, and Kosei knows that it is his mother all over again, but he won’t fall to despair. After seeing Kaori crash, he gives up, sinks into despair again, refusing to practice or do anything. Kaori, returning from the ICU, pushes Kosei to perform and promises to play together in the near future. In a touching scene, Kaori draws on an imaginary violin and plays a beautiful solo before collapsing again. With new hope, Kosei promises to perform and Kaori promises to stop thinking of suicide and instead take a chance on surgery.

At the closing scenes, Kosei plays through his despair, delivering the most amazing performance. At the same time, Kaori is in surgery. Her spirit appears, playing against Kosei’s amazing performance. Kosei’s purpose is twofold: Keep up with Kaori and to show his friends and the audience what is in his heart. It is revealed that she died, but Kosei is moving forward, promising never to forget Kaori and never to stop playing the piano. For the first time in the series, Kosei has come to complete terms with death and despair, and has a recipe to use when he sinks into the abyss: his friends and his purpose. He is a pianist! He must play!

I’m sorry to spoil the entire thing. There are other stories that are just as noble and worth watching within this series, and I fear my words can do no justice to this beautiful series.

There are several themes here. I’ll touch on a few and comment on them from the perspective of a Mormon.

First is the theme of music. Music is mechanical, but it is also the means of communicating heart-to-heart. When we can communicate heart-to-heart, people change. Mormons are consumed with attempting to obey the commandments, just like Kosei was consumed with playing each piece with unnatural perfection. Like Kosei, though, we know that simply mechanically following the rules will not inspire anyone. Despite these rules, or rather because of them, we can uncover the composer’s intention. In the case of commandments, the intention is love. God gave us these commandments so that we can draw closer to him and especially to each other. It is only through obedience that we can begin to understand one another.

Another common theme is death and despair. These are real issues, and they don’t go away. Wishing someone won’t die, and working super-duper hard at it will not prevent the tragedy. We live in a world of death and despair. That’s the truth. Sometimes we succumb to it, becoming immobile. What’s worse than Kaori’s suicidal thoughts are Kosei’s incapability to do anything but mope. I am told that truly depressed are so depressed that they can’t even find the energy to kill themselves. When they are treated, sometimes they end up committing suicide, because despair is worse than death.

Just because we live in despair and death doesn’t mean we have to be consumed by it. Kosei’s friends are ignorant of what is truly going on in his life. Only Kaori really understands. Kaori made the conscious decision to live her life to the fullest, and her decision became a light to Kosei. Kosei’s decision to move forward became a light to the people around him. Ultimately, it is only Kosei, it seems, who can shine light in the darkest places. Indeed, from a young age, Kosei has touched the hearts of many, including Kaori, long before they met.

In a way, Kosei is symbolic of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ descended below all things. He suffered all tragedies. He suffered all pain, all sickness, all sin. What drew him out of it? I do not know, but I imagine it was his love for us. Finding the strength to look up from the infinite abyss, he overcame all. We cannot understand what he felt, although we may be blessed to suffer some of the things he did. But we can understand that he can be a light of hope in all circumstances. Like Kosei, and like Jesus Christ, we can be a light to others when we learn to look up and out of our own abyss.

And so we get to the point: What is our purpose? The two great commandment, love God and love one another. We show love to God by devoting ourselves to perfection, always falling short, but practicing harder anyway. We show love to one another by playing for the benefit of the people around us. As long as we keep our focus on these two things, everything else will fall into place, and no loss or tragedy can stop us from moving forward.

Kosei’s childhood was horrible. This was because of his mother’s endless torment and physical abuse. His mother had only a limited time to impress upon her son what was most important. She felt a duty to do so, even though she was extreme. In the end, Kosei came to understand this, and he replaced the demon of his tormenting mother with the angel of what she intended to do. We too, can learn to forgive. We can learn to see people the way they truly are, rather than the way they appear to us. As mormons, we are taught that the worth of souls are great in the sight of God. We are taught that God descended below all things for each one of us. We are told that inasmuch as we do it to the least of our fellow humans, we are really doing it to God. We are taught that if we cannot learn to forgive, we will suffer a worse sin than whatever sin was committed in the first place. Sure, Kosei’s mother was tyrannical, and as Hiroko explained, unnecessarily so, but it was Kosei’s inability to forgive that truly hurt him. Once he learned how to forgive his mother completely, he was freed from the demon that haunted him.

Another theme is rivalry. I don’t think we appreciate the idea of sportsmanship anymore. Our rivals, the people we compete against, are there to make us better. It is through the challenge that we get better. In reality, we are all following each other, all learning from each other. We need not fear competition. As long as we keep the basic rules of the gospel, competition and rivalry can be a very good thing. I think this is one of the reasons why we, as a country, are getting weaker: We have forgotten how to compete properly. We are focused on winning rather than playing the game to our best ability. The standard of conduct has been set in this series. It is touching to see rivals say, “I must beat him, but I must beat him when he is at his best” and cheer for their opponent to get stronger and overcome their challenges. What started as childhood envy became a motivating force for good. Bitter rivals became close friends who truly understand one another and care for each other.

Another theme is friendship. Kosei’s friends aren’t pianists, and don’t understand what that means. They have their own sports, their own personality, but they love and accept Kosei and challenge him to be better. In a way, Kosei was the selfish one, because he was always focused on his own challenges. But by seeing his friends remain by his side, he learned to cheer for them as well.

All in all, many gospel principles were taught in this series. They didn’t hide from death, defeat, and despair, and they didn’t glorify it either. They showed that true beauty comes only by facing life’s challenges and learning to overcome. And you can only overcome if you have help from the people around you. It is a tragedy in that everything bad happens, but a comedy in that we learn how to live happily despite our losses.


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