May our differences unite,
not separate us

Third Parties for 2012!

Analysis of Third Party Platforms

In reviewing the platforms of these major third parties, I was struck by the fact that there are good ideas out there. The problem seems to be that each party has a few good ideas, along with (in my personal opinion) some pretty bad ones. Thus, for example, the Socialist party wants a 30-hour work week (good!), but, well, they also want socialism. What would clearly be nice is if we could cull all the good ideas from the various parties, and implement only those, without the bad policies.

One suspects that what this reveals is something basic to how political parties operate -- that they attempt to form a coalition of support by patching together a bunch of policies each of which caters to a different special interest group. Perhaps this is the basic obstacle we've got to overcome. It's presently a paradox: unless these coalitions are built, we don't get third parties. But the price we pay is having, within each party, some unappealing or unrealistic policies.

I think there are alternatives. Eventually we might move to a true electronic democracy, where government will be determined more by popular vote on specific issues, instead of us having to go through the intermediaries of political parties.

In any case, here is a list of the some of the more interesting or promising items:

  • 30-hour work week
  • Universal college tuition
  • Term limits
  • Tax reform (flat income tax)
  • Pay off national debt
  • Election reform (remove barriers to third-party and independent candidates)
  • Alternative voting systems (proportional representation, electronic democracy, voting by issue instead of candidate, etc.)
  • Increase tax on alcohol to reflect societal costs
  • Prison reform (abolish privatized prisons, where prisoners work for corporate profit)

The last item deserves special comment. There has been a recent trend toward privatization of prisons, a system where private corporations run prisons -- for profit! This phenomenon has been justifiably referred to as the Prison-industrial complex. Prisoners work, for example, in prison factories, manufacturing goods for the corporation. These companies make billions of dollars a year. They compete unfairly in the marketplace, because they have, in effect, slave workers. More importantly, this system gives society an incentive to put people in jail, even for comparatively 'minor' drug-related offenses.

Why does the US has an incarceration rate five times higher than Europe, and ten times higher than Japan? And why is the rate for African-American males as much as ten times higher than that for Caucasian males? Americans should educate themselves about this problem. Otherwise, are we not like the Hitler-era Germans who unwittingly let the holocaust happen by failing to look at it?

There were also some issues I didn't see mentioned but I think should be:

  • Rebuild America's transport railway infrastructure; we waste a lot of fossil fuel trucking produce and goods everywhere. Trains are much more energy-efficient.
  • Do something to improve the quality of television; how about tax breaks for educational production companies?

Another observation is that one might question whether it is really necessary to involve so much religion in politics. It seems like we see ourselves as radically polarized along quasi-religious lines -- conservative vs. liberal -- and that this colors the larger political debate, obscures dimensions on which there is more agreement, and distracts us from solving some of the fairly obvious social problems that confront us.

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(c) 2007-2012 John Uebersax PhD    email

vers. 1.0: 14 Jan 2007
vers. 2.1: 15 oct 2012