Sunday, May 6, 2007

Charter of Responsibilities and Obligations

Once again we’re hearing a lot about the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Most recently, it’s about a dip-stick teenager who refused to stand for O Canada. Even a severely brain damaged 16 year old ought be able to show a modicum of respect. The reply that he has the right to freedom of expression doesn’t wash. If freedom of expression is so important to him – he should be showing some respect for the organization that grants him that freedom. If he doesn’t respect it – he shouldn’t claim it. If he really does want to show disrespect, he should be willing to accept the consequences.

My objection to the situation is this; the charter of rights and freedoms grants all Canadian citizens rights for simply breathing. We’re talking all kinds of rights, rights out the wazoo. This creates a real problem. The rights come at no cost to most of the population, thus they tend to be exploited too often. This is essentially a common pool resource problem. We currently have some "groups" of people that have been granted the right to go to the well a lot more than others.

I think we need to break the Charter of Rights and Freedoms into two distinct parts. One part we intend everybody to have just for breathing. This would include things like life, opportunity for improvement, etc. We should take a number of the other “rights” and couple them to responsibilities. You can only have these rights if you can demonstrate that you’ve met your responsibilities as outline in the charter. These rights would include things like freedom of expression. You only get to voice an obnoxious opinion if you’ve earned it. This used to be the way academic freedom worked. You had to prove you were a thinking responsible individual before you were accepted into the academic club and granted the right of academic freedom. It worked pretty well that way. Now with the expansion of the academy to border line academic disciplines, we’ve got a lot of half-wits hiding behind academic freedom in order to be offensive to no real propose. This makes it really hard for profs to use academic freedom when they've really got something useful to say, but that for another time.

What sort of things would be in the Charter of Responsibilities and Obligations? This is wear things are likely to get tricky. I want the document to be as short and simply worded as possible. The basic idea is that anybody can satisfy the Responsibilities and Obligations contained herein, with a minimal level of effort.

Some Examples I would include;

1. All citizens past the age of majority are responsible for contributing 10 hours of volunteer work per year.

This would be easy to meet. It would be up to the courts do decide what volunteer work was. Basically, this amounts to - "Get off the couch!"

2. All citizens must cast a ballot in municipal, provincial, and federal elections in that year.

If you don’t vote that year – no cookie for you. Spoiling your ballot would be promoted as a legitimate protest.

3. All citizens make an effort to pay the appropriate level of taxes.
I’m not talking about the honest I forgot to check that box stuff. I’m talking about out and out fraud. Not only should there be a financial penalty (which there is) but you should lose some of the rights afforded to you if you don’t pay the appropriate taxes.

4. All citizens must make an effort not to be a burden on the social support system.

This is a mirror of number 3. If you’re on EI and you’re not trying to get off – you’re not meeting your responsibilities as a citizen. If you’re on welfare and you’re trying to get off, the same thing applies. We’d have to fix the welfare system to get rid of the welfare trap. This would be dropped if we went to a guaranteed annual income scheme.

There are a few others that we might want to add (I'm open to suggestions), but I think its best to keep it short and simple. I think these few identify the ideas I’m trying to get across. 1 and 2 amount to being involved in the governance process, it is a democracy after all. 3 and 4 amount to, well, not being a total jerk with respect to the services provided by government.

I guess the best way to describe the sentiment is, you must make a contribution to the system to get more than the minimal benefits from the system.


Anonymous said...

good stuff. do read guns, germs, and steel....that might change your opinion on the national anthem bit....i just don't like rah rah bit...

but this i think is my favourite line: You only get to voice an obnoxious opinion if you’ve earned it. and even there i would put caveats!

oh, get the new FP magazine (Foreign Policy magazine)...good one...about 21 ways by various people detailing how we might change the planet for the good but but the best part is an article written about all the idiots in Latin America and their economic/social/political policies. The article is about the rise of the idiots and how they're back in style. It's a real good piece. that's for another day too.

basically, overall i think you could have concluded your piece this way:

don't ask for government for anything you're not willing TO FULLY PAY FOR. this is the key problem and why i absolutely hate the way the current system is set up and why it is an absolute failure. No one is willing to fully pay for their demands although everyone demands more and they say they're willing to pay more to get it.

back to piece:

mandatory voting - yes. it is in the middle east and in many other parts of the world. plus, it does allow you to spoil your vote which is a legitimate protest vote and can change elections. right now, any one who doesn't vote voices an opinion and i don't like it. if you don't vote, you don't exist.

anothe beef of mine is that we need one national ID card with all info. on it - i don't want to hear privacy mumbo jumbo either. very simple to do this. gov't can easily put regulations on info. use easily too.

anyway. good piece. do get that book and the magazine - MAY/JUNE 2007 FP Magazine.

Anonymous said...

talking about sports...the economics behind them...
it's come to my attention that in baseball particularly, it being a data driven game that perhaps the indirect economic affects of the game are far more widespread and important theen just the direct economic benefits - direct being in this case: player salaries, gate receipts, everything connected with the stadium.

any thoughts?

economistatlarge said...

That's a really neat thought about the indirect effect of baseball. I hadn't thought about that at all. But for most kids it would be their first introduction to stats. It could be that fans of the game have an advantage in using statistics for other things. This would definitely be a huge benefit.

If this were true, you'd think the American student population would score a lot better on some of the international standardized tests. Still, I think you might be on to something.

Anonymous said...

the reason why i brought it up is that a week ago an excellent piece was written in the Wall Street Journal about the economics of baseball and how a ton of local software companies have sprung up to service the baseball industry in their communities and elsewhere too. basevall is the ultimate data game. real-time statistical data on a game (before, during, and after) helps improving the odds that a team will win a game.

the amount of business they generate was just amazing and it proved one thing: there is no need to overspend on player salaries, the best players aren't usually the best. using software and statistics allowed managers to pick and choose which players to utilize under what circumstances. if that was the case, it doesn't necessarily mean that the best player in the league, division, or the team and so on is the best player to play under a certain circumstance.

That being said: Barry Bonds might be worth his weight just because the amount of base on balls he gets, his image helps him (disregarding everything else), and helps the team an opportunity to score more runs. So Barry is a walk specialist, ignoring the HRs. If that was the case, his walk ability might be his direct benefit to the team, his HR ability could be a secondary benefit (ie: he's going to hit one only if a particular pitch is down his alley, if not, talk a walk).

what do you think?

Anonymous said...

oh yeah:

that's true, makes you wonder, if baseball and today it is the NFL that is the no.1 sport in the US, both of which are massively data driven games, why those academic scores are not higher. managing both types of games not only requires people of multiple skill sets: Human Resources, Statisticians, Managers, and so on. You need the best person on each of those teams if the overall team is going to do well.

The point here is that there are a lot of job opportunities in those fields in certain industries, so aren't people studying that stuff more?

I do see a big problem arising though, today there is huge debate whether we need specialists or generalists? I getting to find that line of argument just redundant. First, you and even me sometime soon are specialists, we both would have studied a certain field BUT at the same time are generalists because we have a variety of courses that we have taken.

I tend to go with that specialists are better off because not only would they be skillful in a particular area but they would you think be skillful enough to see connections or how everything fits together. A generalist i would argue might see the connections but doesn't necessarily know the specifics as to why and how things come together.

I think this is one the biggest debates around today - generalist vs. specialist. I still think there is no clear answer because (drum roll please) IT DEPENDS.

any thoughts?

Don said...

Wow, on the war path for a econ-dude.

What about costs and benefits. I'd like to know just what would be the costs to create, adjudicate and enforce such sentiment as well as the costs to punish the wrong doers of civic morality. Do they outweigh the benefits we might accrue?

Your definitions need to be much more defined in order to stave off confusion and even more adjudication. 'make an effort' will be hard to define and effort is highly subjective given each individual's personal abilities.

One additional action I'd like to see is good ol' fashion brain washing. You have no carrot (or at least no soft stick - except for that dip-stick). I would argue that the decline in drunk driving in the last 30 years has been caused more by changes in societal norms than by increased fines and jail terms. We need a good propagandist arm of the government pushing media and of course, one of your favourite targets, educators, to encourage and teach younger people about citizenship and its responsibilities.

Totally agree on your voting stance though... have often encouraged friends and family to vote, and if they don't like their choices... spoil the ballot! Otherwise, politicians will just say that people like things the way they are and are simply apathetic but content.

Thanks for making me think.