There are a lot of issues floating around in the political landscape right now, and they all deserve some level of importance. When it comes to the most important issues facing America today, here is how I think of them in terms of importance.
Social justice has many aspects demanding attention as always. You have racial justice as an ongoing issue in the United States, with police brutality, unequal education opportunities, and the persistent cross cleavage underlying the whole issue ruining lives constantly. These deserve attention, and require policies that address the root issues of the inequality which breeds racism, and bring down our homicide rate which disproportionately affects African American men more than any other demographic. This requires government policy to end the inequity and save lives.
Other social issues regard rape culture, LGBT rights, immigrant rights under the Geneva protocols, and much more.
Economics is a persistent issue. Tax fairness is a problem apparent to most, issues with Social Security, although not a big issue among voters with average information, is highly concerning to most economists, regardless of political affiliation.
Health Care is a persistent issue, and we must implement universal health care as soon as possible to save money and most importantly lives.
The environment is an issue which has clear working solutions to global warming. A well designed carbon tax would do more to fight global warming than any other policy, in terms of intensity, speed, and fairness. You wouldn’t ignore physics when designing a rocket, and you shouldn’t ignore economics when dealing with the consumption, production, and trade of oil. To not use economic theory is folly and will bring forward ineffective policies.
Infrastructure has massive impacts on economic growth, economic mobility, and of course the environment. Lacking economic mobility hurts low income Americans significantly, making it more difficult to climb out of poverty. Designing a durable, cost-effective, and functional infrastructure network is critical to all of these issues. We need to make it so as few people as possible need a car in order to live good lives by having good high quality mass transit and by investing in AMTRAK.
All of this is well and good, but at the end of the day these require having good government in order to ensure these policies are implemented efficiently and equitably. In “The Quality of Government” by Bo Rothenstein he comes to the conclusion that a factor which led Singapore to be developed was not democracy but more based on having a really effective leader. There is a big debate of course about Singapore, but it cannot be denied that there is a clear connection between the quality of government and social well-being. Quality of government is inversely correlated to corruption, and this is tied to inequality and social trust. The theory is that having a society where people trust each other helps reduce inequality, and this leads to lower corruption in society. These three variables are very correlated, and seem to be more important than simply having a more democratic government.
The vast majority of Americans want to have modern infrastructure, good environmental protections, a strong and equitable economy, and a society where people can live comfortably without race hurting people on a daily basis. According to the research by Bo Rothenstein among other political economists, we can start by building social trust in our society as a key feature of our societies to bring people together. I am getting involved with a group of friends building Imaginal Cafes with the goal of spreading them around the world. It is quite similar to the Alternative Library in Bellingham, Washington which I have been involved in now for about 5 years. What these spaces do is create non-sectarian, intentionally drug and alcohol free spaces for people to come together and enjoy themselves. When people are able to come together in a place free of influencing drugs beautiful things can be built which build trust and community.
This is fundamental to building a country which works for all people, and the foundational block when we look at political research. This will start at grassroots by activists who build those bridges and build communities of love and trust which are open to more people coming in all the time. We need places in every town in the world where people come together in a way which is social. Concerts are good because people get out, but when was the last time you actually talked to a stranger at a concert? As soon as alcohol gets involved, the probability of building the connections which we crave goes to 0. Political party gatherings are a good place to start even if you don’t have an Imaginal Cafe in your community yet.
So, as a political economist, the first question is what types of policies can we implement to grow social trust? The first idea which comes to my head is mandating worker’s rights. Guaranteeing every worker gets vacation and paid sick leave so people have the ability to be more refreshed and mentally able to go out into their communities and build those connections. This will make it easier to organize for all other issues when people are feeling like they are part of a community with the energy such a community can provide which breeds friendship and a better world. We must keep working on all of these issues at once, and I am grateful for all of the activists who work on all important issues. I am hopeful we can make a better system where it is easier to achieve all of these issues.
As we are building our social trust in our country, we need to also ensure that we have equitable elections. Our current election system in most of the United States inevitably breeds a party system dominated by only two major parties, like all single mark election systems. We need to have an election system which allows people to vote their conscience regardless of the “electability” of other candidates, and the only way to do this is ranked voting. Ending the two party system will reduce corruption, encourage social trust since having more smaller parties will be forced to work together to solve problems, and also force parties to stick to their platform, or their voters will leave them in the next election cycle for their coalition partner. This needs to be done in tangent with building Imaginal Cafes to grow social trust all at the same time, and building Imaginal Cafes will make it easier for people to get involved in making our election system fair.
I am personally focusing my political energy right now on three major issues. One of them is The Imaginal Cafe so we can have a better world for everyone, one is of course Carbon Washington, the most amazing group of environmental activists I have ever met in my life, and the third is FairVote so we can have governments with politicians who really represent the communities they are meant to serve. The three go together so well, and by building this more collaborative world, where we make decisions based on science, reason, and fact as opposed to hearsay, coincidence, and falsehoods we will be able to make a world which works for all.