Congratulations on winning a second term. I was really pulling for you. I even gave money to your campaign, breaking a lifelong rule. I used to think that the person in the presidency did not make a big difference, but that has changed a lot since your predecessor’s term. I appreciate how well you speak, that you lean a bit left, that you can take and synthesize multiple perspectives, and that I have been at worst less embarrassed and at best quite proud of you as our representative to the world. Thank you.

That said, I am painfully aware how little my vote communicates what I actually think and care about to you and the rest of the world. You, your opponent, your parties, and the media do not talk about it, and I understand why. A small-time blogger can say this stuff in public, but not a viable candidate for the presidency. Still, I thought it better to tell you than not.

As a preface, I’d like you to know that I am a data-analysis and outcomes kind of guy. I couldn’t care less about the size of government, tax rates, or the continued existence of any particular government institutions as long as we get the right outcomes. At the same time, this is not a utopian vision, some infinitely good future which justifies any means. I believe that both narrow, status-quo or partisan thinking, and utopia-through-destruction thinking are naive and inefficient.

Economics

I want the elimination of negative externalities from our economy. Markets do a lot of great things, but they cannot accurately value or even see many of the social and environmental costs of their behavior. It is important to me that people and planet get treated in ethical, sustainable ways, especially when those ways are less efficient and profitable than pure market behavior.

It seems to me, for example, that government has to be the one to set accurate discount rates for non-immediate events, like the value in the future of doing something today about climate change.

One way to accomplish that (and a lot of other good things) is shift our tax revenues completely away from income and profit and largely onto externalities like pollution. Just make sure to jigger it some way to make it progressive.

Some consequences for the behavior that caused the recent crashI’m a rare agnostic on the morality of your bailouts but I’m bummed about how little teeth came with the money. The argument that regulation is bad for the financial industry is completely hollow from people who had to get bailed out by taxpayers and show no consciousness of having personally played a part in the problem. I want one of the following to happen: Either there was a bunch of illegal activity and bunch people should go to jail, or things that they did should become illegal. That might look like resurrecting Glass-Steagall and/or expanding monopoly laws to make too-big-to-fail equal to a monopoly worth busting.

Environment

I want a massive, worldwide conservation effort. Any old growth forest, wilderness and wetlands that remain to us should be sacrosanct. Wherever we have the leverage, I want reforestation and habitat restoration projects. For a good example, look at what John and Margaret Jones are doing in Camp Myrtlewood, Oregon, implementing a multi-century plan to steward the land to old growth forest. You can think of it as a long term carbon sequestration, or you can think of it as a way to increase our resilience through biodiversity during the kinds of large-scale catastrophic events that hit us over thousand-plus year periods. But it is also just the right way to live in relation to our ecology: respectful, with a long-term view.

Solve the engineering problems we have with nuclear fusion. NASA and our other groups of super smart physicists and engineers can go back to their pet projects once they have figured out how to power it all with perfectly clean energy.

In the meantime, efficiency. Put Amory Lovins in charge of efficiency in the US and take it all the way. It’s embarrassing that we are excited about new cars that get gas mileage in the same range that my old 1970s Honda Civic got.

Social

In health care, focus on preventative care, research on prevention, and epidemiology. I’d love for us to be able to cure all of the big diseases, but what I’d love even more is preventing them in the first place. The money is in pills or surgeries for people who have developed emergency-level conditions. The money should be in keeping people from developing those conditions in the first place. 

The elimination of child abuse and neglect. The research has been done and we know what we need to know to largely eliminate child abuse and neglect. This would increase the quality of life for so many of us who are currently children, with a multiplier effect for all generations to come. It would reduce our tome of mental disorders back to the size of a pamphlet. The pilot program for this effort is 90by30, in Lane County, Oregon.

The real availability of education to women, worldwide. This isn’t just a humanitarian issue. It’s an issue of global development, peace, and stability.

If taxpayers pay for research, we should get the data. All of it. For free. As it stands, we don’t even get free access to the journal-articles that are published to summarize it.

Political

Real campaign finance reform, along the lines of Lawrence Lessig‘s $50 tax voucher plus $100 per person, period. Amend the constitution. The current system of campaign finance reduces politicians to extortionists and hobbles their long term thinking and statesmanship, and it is not working.

Not that I need to tell you that, Mr. President. Or maybe any of this–maybe you think about all of this and just don’t see the movement that will allow you to talk about it. I just wanted to let you know that I’m part of the movement and willing to go public about it.

Thanks for reading,

Nathen Lester

 

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