Daniel Eran Dilger in San Francisco
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Imagine Steve Jobs for President

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Daniel Eran Dilger
In the final days of 1996, Apple signed the deal to acquire NeXT. Within six months, the company was effectively taken over and began to dramatically change course. America needs a similar transformation today.
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In 1996, Jobs wasn’t regarded as a turnaround CEO reformer. He had little recognized experience running a huge corporation. At Apple, Jobs had hired John Sculley to run things in the early 80s, and nobody gave Jobs much credit for running NeXT; essentially, Jobs’ role appeared to be one of a technical community organizer, recruiting smart people and putting their ideas together to build futuristic products. Pixar was just beginning to put out its first films.

Once he took over the reins at Apple, Jobs immediately worked to slash pointless spending, restore confidence in the company, end a costly war with Microsoft, and set up new regulations outlining how new products would be created and financed. He took over leadership of Apple and transformed it into a competitive, dynamic, capable company despite great odds, not by trying to smooth talk his way inside the enterprise market, but by bringing his product campaign directly to consumers.

Imagine Jobs running for president.

Of course, Jobs isn’t running for president and has shown no interest in a political career. However, there is somebody who is regarded as lacking in executive experience and who has only really managed hands-on organizing work in the trenches. He similarly lacks the Gil Amelio reputation for rashly firing lots of people to solve institutional problems. Instead, he seeks out smart people and combines their efforts under leadership with a purpose-driven vision.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffett supports him and said earlier this year that he ‘could run a business,’ a significant difference in opinion over that of disgraced HP CEO Carly Fiorina, who described both of his rivals as unfit to run the company she was also unable to run.

Buffett says Clinton, Obama could run a business | Politics | Reuters

Of course, that man is Barak Obama. In this video addressing Green Bay Wisconsin, he outlines how exactly he will make changes in America reminiscent of those Jobs’ brought to Apple, with specifics on how he will cut waste, restore confidence in the nation, end a costly war, and set up no-nonsense, transparent regulation of markets that have for so long been gamed to serve the few and leave the majority of Americans behind. And like Jobs, Obama’s campaign is being offered to end users, not the enterprise of elite special interests that make their buying decisions behind closed doors.

His opponents may scoff, but people doubted Jobs could keep Apple afloat, too.

Other articles on current events:

The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack
Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse
You Know the Drill?
Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain
Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech

Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas.

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36 comments

1 What Republicans Say about McCain-Palin — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.23.08 at 9:03 pm }

[...] Imagine Steve Jobs for President The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse You Know the Drill? Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech [...]

2 You Know the Drill? — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.23.08 at 9:05 pm }

[...] Imagine Steve Jobs for President The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse You Know the Drill? Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech Support RoughlyDrafted! [...]

3 The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.23.08 at 9:13 pm }

[...] Imagine Steve Jobs for President The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse You Know the Drill? Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas. Like reading RoughlyDrafted? Share articles with your friends, link from your blog, and subscribe to my podcast (oh wait, I have to fix that first). It’s also cool to submit my articles to Digg, Reddit, or Slashdot where more people will see them. Consider making a small donation supporting this site. Thanks! Support RoughlyDrafted! [...]

4 Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.23.08 at 9:16 pm }

[...] Imagine Steve Jobs for President The Big Fannie Mae & Freddie Mac Attack Osama Bin Laden’s Dream of US Economic Collapse You Know the Drill? Ten Striking Parallels Between Microsoft and John McCain Obama’s Apple, McCain’s Microsoft: the Politics of Tech Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas. Like reading RoughlyDrafted? Share articles with your friends, link from your blog, and subscribe to my podcast (oh wait, I have to fix that first). It’s also cool to submit my articles to Digg, Reddit, or Slashdot where more people will see them. Consider making a small donation supporting this site. Thanks! Support RoughlyDrafted! [...]

5 qka { 09.23.08 at 9:31 pm }

Steve Jobs for President? H would make John McCain look easy to get along with.

6 qka { 09.23.08 at 9:32 pm }

Correction: He would make John McCain look easy to get along with.

i can spell. My fingers can’t.

7 hmciv { 09.23.08 at 10:05 pm }

One thing’s for sure. Carly Fiorina would insist Steve-O couldn’t run a company like HP.

8 awilensky { 09.23.08 at 10:15 pm }

Poor Carly. She engineers one the most successful mergers in techdom, and then gets forced out so others can get the glory. Leave Carly alone.

9 The Mad Hatter { 09.23.08 at 10:49 pm }

Come on. You know it wasn’t Steve Jobs who rescued Apple, it was Wylie Coyote with his great technical genius. Wylie Coyote was one of the unsung heros of modern technology until Tom Smith wrote a song venerating his great skills.

10 Be Seeing You { 09.23.08 at 11:14 pm }

Obama as Jobs. Please. That you could make the comparison–either as individuals or as the chalenges they face(d)–boggles the mind. From multiple directions and perspectives. Daniel, are you still on medication?

[I am taking post-surgery antibiotics. However, I'm more interested in the argument you were supposed to articulate rather than the shut eye, ear-plugging dismissal you give instead. Do you have the capacity to spell out why I'm wrong? Please do so. ]

11 mshettles { 09.23.08 at 11:43 pm }

Thank god Jobs isn’t running for President, I’d rather have GWB. Jobs #1 priority would be making the military thinner and thinner until he can boast at MacWorld just how thin it is.

Obama will not bring the change his supporters believe in. If he should some how win (which I’m doubting) but if he pulls a rabbit out of the hat and does I’m going to laugh so hard in 2012 when you and the rest of his supporters ask “WTF!?!?!? where’s this change we believed in?” and “we should have listened to Ron Paul on the financial crisis and civil liberties, he abides by the constitution unlike Obama and knows what he’s talking about.”

[GWB would have said Ballmeresque things as Apple burned; I would imagine that Jobs as president might instead make the deficit thinner, certainly thinner than Bush's monstrous debt.

Care to offer reason why Obama won't deliver the changes he outlined in the video? I know you didn't watch it, or you wouldn't have made such a silly kneejerk reaction.

Ron Paul does offer some interesting ideas, and he certainly represents Republican ideals more than the current RNC and McCain. It would be a far more interesting race if Obama was running against Paul. What we have is not a race between the conservative right and the liberal left. It is a race between a campaign of outright lies that attacks science, reason, and intellectual thought, and Obama's campaign of making the government work for people rather than for special interests.

It's really hard to make the case that Obama is much left of center. It is impossible to suggest that the current Republican party represents true conservative ideals such as small government, fiscal responsibility, and individual rights. For the last decade, it has been the party of atrocious debt, massive government expansion (including Bush's huge back room bailout federalization of the secondary mortgage industry that reeks of Communism), and big government nannying of individuals' rights, with a special lack of appreciation of basic human rights and even the foundations of Western law. Habeas corpus, torture, nationalized fundamentalism?

The Republican party needs to fail miserably in 2008, and then reorganize itself into a real conservative party that upholds principles that can balance the Democrats. And I'd like to see both parties cooperate on building America, as they tended to do before the Republican party was taken over by the rabid scourge of the neocons. ]

12 Why is Microsoft Buying Back $40 Billion of its Own Stock? — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 09.24.08 at 1:28 am }

[...] ”I’m a PC“ Millions Actually Promoting the Mac Imagine Steve Jobs for President Did you like this article? Let me know. Comment here, in the Forum, or email me with your ideas. [...]

13 Jesse { 09.24.08 at 2:08 am }

Dan, I love you. People complain about your political asides in your tech columns, and this is your response. Beautiful. Give em hell!

14 PerGrenerfors { 09.24.08 at 5:42 am }

“In this video addressing Green Bay Wisconsin, he outlines how exactly he will make changes in America reminiscent of those Jobs’ brought to Apple”

As much as I like Obama, I find it naive to use rhetoric as a proof of anything. If the world of politics has anything to teach us, is that there’s a long way between speeches and passed laws. Sadly, only hindsight offers any proof of the candidates real intentions or, more optimistically, their power to make their rhetoric into real policy.

As long as there is t-shirts, there is hope:
http://www.insanelygreattees.com/shirt/president#

15 Imagine Steve Jobs for President { 09.24.08 at 5:45 am }

[...] Roughly Drafted [...]

16 seanw { 09.24.08 at 10:03 am }

if americans are to save their country, you need to get this guy in office.

he is not full of shit. why? he points with his finger not his thumb. he’s telling it like it is. if he’s voted president, and follows thru on his promises, my hope in america will be restored.

you have a beautiful country, don’t flush it down the toilet.

17 anthonysmith { 09.24.08 at 10:31 am }

Whoa! What did he say about broadband? I’m in!

18 jcieplinski { 09.24.08 at 12:17 pm }

“As much as I like Obama, I find it naive to use rhetoric as a proof of anything. If the world of politics has anything to teach us, is that there’s a long way between speeches and passed laws. Sadly, only hindsight offers any proof of the candidates real intentions or, more optimistically, their power to make their rhetoric into real policy.”

That’s a valid point, but what else do we have to go on? Do you believe that McCain’s rhetoric will translate into how he will govern? I hope not.

Speeches can’t give you all the info you need. But they do give you some idea of the underlying belief systems of both Senators.

If you examine both Senator’s records over the past few years, you’ll probably get a clearer idea of what their presidencies will look like than you will from any speech. That’s true. I think if you do that, you’ll find that McCain really has lost his “Maverick” spirit, and has completely caved to the Bush way of thinking. And I don’t think many people in this country want 4 more years of that.

If you look at Obama’s record, he’ll come off as far less “liberal” than he’s being painted by Fox.

The problem is, people are too lazy to do that research. They just want to watch a few pundits confirm what they think they already believe. You can’t make good decisions with third-hand information. It’s always better to go to the source.

19 Realtosh { 09.24.08 at 2:07 pm }

@ jcieplinski

The liberal score cards are not determined by Fox or any other news entity. The score cards are prepared by liberal organizations to gauge how often particular legislators vote consistently with their liberal organizations’ views.

Don’t blame the messenger if you don’t like the message.

At least McCain not only has a reputation as a reformer and maverick, he has a record to prove it. McCain has a history of working with colleagues from both sides of the aisle to further bipartisan initiatives.

Obama has a liberal organization friendly record, and a short one at that.

In 2005, when Alan Greenspan told us that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac were growing out of control and taking on too much risk, “they potentially create ever-growing potential systemic risk down the road. We are placing the total financial system of the future at a substantial risk.”

In response to this Greenspan alarm, McCain was one of three cosponsors of s.190, the bill that would have averted this mess.

Even though this bill passed the Senate Banking Committee, it was opposed by party-line in committee, signaling that it would be a partisan issue. The Democrats successfully kept the bill from getting a up/down vote on the floor of the Senate.

But we now know that many of the senators who protected Fannie and Freddie, including Barak Obama, Hillary Clinton and Christopher Dodd (Democrat chariman of Senate Banking Committee), have received mind-boggling levels of financial support from them over the years.

Check out this account from Bloomberg News
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&sid=aSKSoiNbnQY0

This opposition was not even for the benefit of the people, it was for political benefit. What burns me up is that these people (for lack of a more colorful, but more accurate word) screws us over because it seemed like a good move politically.

Ever since Pelosi took over the Speakership in House, it’s been political battle after political battle, instead of working together to create bipartisan initiatives for the betterment of our country. He see her partisan politics as no better than Rove. They are each extreme in their politics (at opposite ends) and they’re both equally bad for America.

Now the Dems want to play politics with the attempts to stabilize our financial markets. I don’t want to bail out Wall Street anymore than the next guy, but we’ll all suffer more if the world gets dragged into a world-wide recession because the capital markets dry up.

If players are getting bloodied on the playing field, the players with balls (capital) take their balls and go home. Stopping the game causes elevated levels of unemployment and more foreclosures. That hurts folks like me and you more then the guys with the capital.

Obama, Hilary, Dodd blew it. They have received 100′s of thousands of dollars from Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae management, directors and employees. They were instrumental in defending these out of control agencies that were privatizing profits and socializing the losses.

Greenspan, McCain and others wanted to put sensible restrictions in place to protect us and our financial markets.

Obama, Hillary and Dodd received dirty money and put politics ahead of our livelihoods.

This makes the Keating scandal seem like a tea party or a walk in the park. I would be ashamed to be Obama or Hillary or Dodd. It burns me up to see Dodd on the talk shows spewing political venom when he knew all along that he was a central part of the reason we’re all in this mess right now.

jc and many Obama supporters love rhetoric, but what about the facts? The facts as revealed this week are devastating for anyone who actually cares about America.

20 Realtosh { 09.24.08 at 2:19 pm }

As for the bail out…

To make it fair is simple.

US Treasury gets an equity stake in each financial firm equal to the amount of losses if any that the US Treasury, and therefore also the US taxpayers, has to take on the chin.

Seems like a fair bargain to me. We keep you alive as a viable entity so that you can continue to work and earn a living and make crazy profits. In return we ask that you mitigate our losses that we incur in saving your ass.

You need no more or less than that.

For good measure, it would be nice to get a severe curtailing of severance pay and bonuses for executives from firms who need to resort to US Taxpayer bailout, at least until the taxpayers are made whole.

If they want the US Treasury to get into Investment Banking to save their asses, than at least the US taxpayers should benefit their position.

Remember, the one with balls wins. The US Treasury is the only one with the capital in hand and willingness to step up to the plate.

Don’t just give us the losses. Build in a mechanism that can help us mitigate our losses going forward.

This future mitigation will create an incentive for financial institutions to not to try to pull a fast one on the Treasury and stick us with the losses.

21 PerGrenerfors { 09.24.08 at 3:04 pm }

@jcieplinski
“That’s a valid point, but what else do we have to go on? Do you believe that McCain’s rhetoric will translate into how he will govern? I hope not.”

I was speaking in broad, genereal terms. As I’m not a US citizen I can take a step back from your party politics. An example of how rhetoric did not materialize into policy was how GWB spoke high and well of free trade but then later on put up steel tariffs to protect domestic industries.

“Speeches can’t give you all the info you need. But they do give you some idea of the underlying belief systems of both Senators.”
That is perhaps being a little more optimistic than I would allow myself to be. I’m not saying you’re wrong.

In the last election process in my country nothing was mentioned about a proposition that would in fact let the government eavesdrop on all data communication that goes in and out of the country (most of it does). Even though I agree with most of their standpoints, I feel like a fool having voted for the party now in power, pushing this proposition in Parliament. No trace of this policy was to be found in their pre-election rhetoric.

22 John Muir { 09.24.08 at 3:21 pm }

The biggest difference between Jobs and Obama that comes to mind is their egocentrism. Simply put: Jobs could never have done all the things he has without being a monumental pain the ass. He’s a visionary, and his genius is in bringing technically brilliant people together and badgering them until they drop the woolly fringes of their ideas and work together to create what is, for the most part, his vision. I know it’s a total Jobs cliche to say this about him, but none other than Andy Hertzfeld put it brilliantly at Folklore.org in his many anecdotes and final decision that Steve was indeed the Father of the Mac.

Don’t get me wrong: I love that cantankerous, perfectionist, scathing side of Steve’s to bits. Any other person and we wouldn’t have had an Apple in the first place, let alone the Mac and iPhone. Many great figures were exceptionally challenging to get along with. Walk through an art gallery or a library and you are surrounded by their works.

Sorry, but Obama is no Steve Jobs. No one is.

23 Realtosh { 09.24.08 at 5:00 pm }

“GWB spoke high and well of free trade but then later on put up steel tariffs to protect domestic industries.”

W is indeed a free-trader. If he’s not, no one is. Bush is pushing for additional free-trade agreements with Columbia, S Korea, and Peru, that the Congress doesn’t even bring them up for a vote. NAFTA already opened up Mexico and Canada, so the bulk of any products that need to assembled out of country for cheaper labor can already be assembled in Mexico at less cost and with better logistics. Lower transportation costs, shorter delivery time, and more dynamic logistical options, will favor staying closer to US. On the other hand, we’re opening up more markets to our goods and services and creating jobs here to fill those exports.

We’ll need to develop South America and later Africa, if only as a buffer to the ascending China that will overtake the United States economy this century.

Just for fun, I just opened a Numbers worksheet. I gave the US a value of 25 and China a 4, for the approximate value of each country’s share of the world economy. I allowed the US a growth rate of 3% which is not a conservative figure for growth every year, without interruption. For China, I gave them 8%, which is much less than the double digit growth rate they have been posting for the last decade or two. China has shown some signs in slowing this year, so 8% may seem a conservative number for China, but if you start with an overly optimistic basis projection, the exaggerated results can grow too quickly.

Anyway with these numbers, in 37-38 years China’s economy will overtake that if the US in absolute terms, and as as a fractional part of the total global economy. We have a few decades to prepare for the ascendency of the East, particularly China. We have this time for preparing to be second dog, or even third dog if the European integration goes well.

Alternatively, we can move much of that production in China to places like Peru and Columbia in South America, and possibly Africa in the coming decades. These poorer countries need the capital investments more than China, which doesn’t know what to do with all their US export cash, they earned selling us stuff at Wal-mart, at discounters and nearly everywhere else. The kinds of businesses that will set up in these countries are most likely going to take much of their business from China than from our own companies and workers. But our companies would get a larger base for our exports.

It feels good viscerally to oppose free trade especially if someone has or know a neighbor that has been affected by the shifting of much of our manufacturing sector to China. Even our iPods and Macs are made over there.

There are very good strategic reasons why we should be setting up free trade zones with our closest neighbors, even if it causes some pain for some of our workers now as our economy changes. We maybe ought not expect high-school dropouts to be able to keep getting a job “at the plant” earning salaries that can step up to $100,000 or more for low skill work that does not require much preparation, and which millions or billions of other are willing to do for a small fraction of the labor cost.

At the same time our education is not what it used to be, relatively speaking. The universities in China and India are spitting out more computer scientists and engineers than in the US. We need to put our efforts into deficiencies that are more important to our future, than worrying about the past that is not there anymore.

The world is changing and we’re in danger of getting left behind.

As far as the steel issue, I am not in favor of protectionism. I’m not even certain that steel tariffs were the right way to go. But the reality is that most US steel plants have already been closed. The global price for steel has gotten so low that US steel fabricators could no longer operate profitably. That means that in short order, they were all going to be closed. We’re not far from that result now. There is a national security argument that says that we don’t want our entire steel industry destroyed, leaving us dependent on importing all of our steel from China and other countries. It’s much harder to start steel production all over again when your national production goes to zero, than it is to maintain even a skeleton of our former steel production.

Again, I’m not saying that the protection of steel was correct. It costs much more for us to produce cars, buildings, planes, whatever. I’m just saying that there is a reason why a global superpower may not want to be caught flatfooted without any steel production in the event of an unexpected world crisis that limits our ready access to steel imports. Energy costs, competition for limited resources, a limited supply of steel, natural disasters, terrorism, plus any number of political and other considerations may limit our access to steel, affecting our national security and other important industries that rely on steel: auto, aviation, construction, heavy equipment, military, etc.

Steel may just be the wrong example to bark about for free trade. You may also want to look at other industries like farming where our food prices are kept artificially high. We pay through subsidies and increased prices. The biggest beneficiaries are even small farmers, but large multinational corporations. We should limit all farm subsidies to small family farms that may struggle to survive, maybe no than $250,000, certainly not more than $1m or $2m. Past that you’re talking about some pretty big operations, whose profits are being subsidized by the American tax payers, and who make lots of contributions to Congress to maintain that cozy business arrangement.

Sounds like many Special Interests in Washington, steal from the poor (taxpayers) and give to the rich (corporations).

Most people don’t give enough credit to the need to extract the special interests from our legislative process. There are very good reasons why the Congress has approval ratings that are much lower than even Bush.

24 cairnwalker { 09.24.08 at 10:16 pm }

Jobs, God love him, is a tremendous CEO and a true architect of change. However, Steve is an autocrat, and Apple is hardly a democracy. Your political fantasies are at once both comical and frightening to consider.

[Yes, Jobs wasn't elected by popular votes. However, calling him autocratic is a bit silly. Do you get the impression that Apple's VPs (Tim Cook, Phil Schiller, Ron Johnson, Greg Joswiak, Bud Tribble, Jonathan Ive) live in terror of rule? Jobs has attracted talent and organized it, pushing people to do more than they might otherwise have.

Now restate your comment about "comical and frightening" in light of the Bush administration, where a combination of pure incompetence and a disregard for the rule of law has set new lows in recent history. ]

25 John Muir { 09.25.08 at 12:45 pm }

Daniel: Jobs is the anti-Bush. Bush was ruled by his advisors, especially Cheney who was president in all but name. Jobs meanwhile – although attracting serious talent – is the only one of his temperament among them. Apparently several of the top people you mentioned did indeed speak to the press about his recent illness and personal insistence on not saying a damn thing about it. They were concerned for him (and the company if worst came to worst) but knew that confronting him was not a sensible option.

Ive is a great designer and a creative who shares a lot of Jobs’ own aesthetic. But bold leader, gifted front man, and outspoken mind he is not. He seems just as conciliatory as Jobs is divisive. (Both personalities have their place.)

Cook is a great organiser who has a feel for logistics like Ive does bezier curves. But he lacks the creative oomph of Jobs or Ive. Listening to him on the quarterly finance conferences, you hear someone on top of their game. The essential back-room resources game which enables all of the rest of what Apple does.

Schiller, bless him, is Jobs’ reliably comic fall guy – the likeable Hodgman of the pair we see on stage – though doubtlessly there’s more to him the other 360 days of the year when he’s not doing that. I think I heard he was the one behind the 14″ iBook, but to be honest his influence seems to be more of Steve’s alter-ego, soothing things along and dealing with the day’s aftermath, than being an instrumental figure in his own right. The times he gets to perform in public on stage – the original Mac Pro introduction comes to mind and that keynote when Steve was recovering from surgery a few years ago – he hasn’t the Jobs magic and it’s almost as if the crowd will him on. In fact isn’t he a fixture at WWDC where the crowd is more likely to sympathise with his role? Anyway: no outspoken, irrepressible, Jobs like character is he.

It seems to me as that “there can be only one”. Which is fine in an organisation like Apple which exists for a specific purpose: to make computers and related products which truly help people and change the world. (And make profit for its shareholders while doing so.) A democracy meanwhile is a whole other beast. Pandering is mandatory, vision must always be mollified, and ultimately it doesn’t matter how much good or bad you’re doing so long as you can effectively demonise your opponents.

26 The Mad Hatter { 09.25.08 at 8:47 pm }

American politics is a joke. You have the choice of Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum. What I mean by that is the United States is effectively a one party state, the Republicans and Democrats are interchangeable.

What many people today no longer know is that the President was meant to be an elected King. So you end up with one man with more power than is safe. Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

The United States was never meant to be a real democracy. The Founding Fathers set it up so that a few powerful men could control the country. In effect it was government by Ogliarchy. This has never been changed.

And it never will change. The politicians and the Ogliarchs have no reason to want change. The only way there would be change is if there was a revolution, and the American people don’t have the guts for one.

27 John Muir { 09.25.08 at 9:05 pm }

@Mad Hatter

You want to see an oligarchy: look at Britain. Our present Prime Minister was put in charge by default, without any kind of election at all, after he finally hounded Tony Blair out of office after 10 years as his number two. Unsurprisingly: Brown finds himself the least popular leader in living memory and looks doomed cone 2010 when Blair’s old mandate runs out. The economy is his true Achilles Heel after using “no more boom and bust” as his catchphrase for a decade. No more Gordon Brown, more like.

Americans have three things we don’t.

1. The presidency. Elected directly by the people – although sadly the electoral college gets in the way.
2. Primaries. The people can choose the candidates they will finally vote between on November.
3. Congress. It may have a poor reputation but it has power. Our parliament is a weak poodle in comparison at keeping our leaders in check.
4. The constitution. It enables all if the above. (Okay so that’s a bonus to the three!)

Over here, we the people get a vote as to who is our MP, like a congressman. That’s it. The Prime Minister is indirectly elected by the MPs among themselves. There are no primaries so we have no say who it actually is. And there is no written constitution to prevent travesties like what happened with Blair being ousted for Brown.

Also: our parties are much more prominent in every aspect of politics here. They have the power. We voters do not.

So I’d love the American system, thanks. There are far worse.

28 The Mad Hatter { 09.26.08 at 9:22 pm }

John Muir { 09.25.08 at 9:05 pm }

@Mad Hatter

You want to see an oligarchy: look at Britain. Our present Prime Minister was put in charge by default, without any kind of election at all, after he finally hounded Tony Blair out of office after 10 years as his number two. Unsurprisingly: Brown finds himself the least popular leader in living memory and looks doomed cone 2010 when Blair’s old mandate runs out. The economy is his true Achilles Heel after using “no more boom and bust” as his catchphrase for a decade. No more Gordon Brown, more like.

Actually I have looked at Britain. I’m Canadian, our system is very much like yours.

Americans have three things we don’t.

1. The presidency. Elected directly by the people – although sadly the electoral college gets in the way.

In other words, it’s not elected by the people, the President is elected by the Electoral College, WHO HAVE THE OPTION OF IGNORING THE PEOPLE.

2. Primaries. The people can choose the candidates they will finally vote between on November.

That sounds like our leadership conventions, where we get to vote for who leads the party.

3. Congress. It may have a poor reputation but it has power. Our parliament is a weak poodle in comparison at keeping our leaders in check.

I’m not sure that having power is an endorsement. I’ve meet several Congress Critters, and was not impressed. Quite frankly, they’d be better off with less power.

4. The constitution. It enables all if the above. (Okay so that’s a bonus to the three!)

Constitutions can be over rated. The US Constitution for example has been set up so that it is almost impossible to amend. Say for instance you wanted to add something allowing Women to vote, well it could take half a century to get it through.

Over here, we the people get a vote as to who is our MP, like a congressman. That’s it. The Prime Minister is indirectly elected by the MPs among themselves. There are no primaries so we have no say who it actually is. And there is no written constitution to prevent travesties like what happened with Blair being ousted for Brown.

We have a written Constitution. It doesn’t prevent abuses. What prevents abuses is an active, engaged electorate, who scare the shit out of the politicians.

Also: our parties are much more prominent in every aspect of politics here. They have the power. We voters do not.

So I’d love the American system, thanks. There are far worse.

If you want to move to the US, feel free, I don’t stop you. As to there being worse systems, where are they? Give us some examples.

And then think. The only industrialized country that doesn’t have universal health care is the one you like. The reason it doesn’t have universal health care, is that the people of the United States are totally without power, and the politicians treat them with contempt.

29 John Muir { 09.26.08 at 10:41 pm }

@The Mad Hatter

The reason the US still doesn’t have universal health care is because the people are still against it. Ask a red state Republican about the idea and count how many seconds until they say “socialism”. The idea is still far from universally popular with the American electorate. Blame the media, corporations and lobbyists for that if you like. The electoral system however is just accurately reflecting that.

The same goes for women’s suffrage – deeply unpopular for a long, long time – and of course civil rights. The US has a history as a reactionary, comparatively conservative country much more than it does a trapped one, dogged by a broken electoral system.

Where there is a problem is indeed I’m the electoral college. It’s an ancient kluge, originally designed to appease the South as New England was seen to rise. But it has still only stolen a handful of elections: only one of which in the last 100 years. That’s too many. Yet we have stolenelections over here too. 1974 saw the wrong party with a plurality, and the nature of our “two and a half party” system is to steal votes from the third and bloat the statistically luckier of the big two.

I think most nations would be better off with Instant Runoff Voting, allowing outside cobtenders a chance yet still demanding majority support for the final winner (all on the same day too) but then I have a European liking for proportional representation quite out of place in America!

As for examples of worse systems: the democratic world is littered with them:

1. The mess which is France’s presidential elections (recall Le Pen (fascist) versus Chirac (conservative) in 2002 where half the country was denied a candidate they could stomach thanks to a botched first round). Imagine a US presidential election without a Democrat!

2. The perpetual government of Japan where Prime Ministers come and go on an annual basis (now 3 of them since the last good man, Koizumi, who broke records by actually staying in for a decent term) yet ALL OF THEM are from THE SAME PARTY! That’s even with proportional representation and a wide gamut of viable alternatives from socislists to Buddhists. The LDP have run it almost without interruption since World War Two.

3. Turkey with its constitutional mandate to block any parties below a threshhold explicitly designed to racially descriminate against the sizeable Kurd minority, thus pernanently keeping them out of power. This came to bite a recent governent on the ass when they did poorly enough in an election to lose every single one of their seats! Their successors were vastly overrepresented as a result. The Kurds continue to have less democracy there than they do over the border in Iraq, yet Turkey is in NATO so American, British and Canadian lives are sworn to protect it in war.

The US is an imperfect country. They all are. Even my favourite of all systems – the referendum empowered direct democracy of Switzerland – is stagnated by a frankly Jurassic permanent coalition. But to blame the US its irascible, domineering and downright defiant streak simply for its voting system is mistaken. In the broadest sense, that’s its people!

There’s an old saying: people get the government they deserve.

My examples

30 John Muir { 09.26.08 at 10:54 pm }

(For a comment written on a 2nd gen iPod touch, that turned out pretty well! My apologies for the mysterious last line though. That had drifted off my radar when I went back to edit something and changed the shape of the whole thing.)

31 The Mad Hatter { 09.27.08 at 10:09 pm }

The reason the US still doesn’t have universal health care is because the people are still against it.

Only because they’ve been lied to continually and consistently by those who have a vested interest in the status quo. Just like Microsoft lies about the value of their operating system as compared to OSX, Linux, BSD, or Open Solaris. Microsoft says that Windows is better than those four, but anyone with experience in other operating systems will tell you that it’s worse.

As to your examples of systems that are worse, I notice that you don’t mention Britain, Canada, New Zealand, or Australia. Wonder why?

32 John Muir { 09.28.08 at 6:59 am }

I covered Britain already: we have an UNELECTED leader. It doesn’t get much worse than that. Imagine the US election of 2000 only instead of Gore or Bush winning it was someone who wasn’t even on either (or any) ticket. Yay democracy!

Canada has ongoing troubles with the Quebec independence issue. Unlike my own Scpttish countrymen, the Quebeckers seem to almost mean it. The fact they vote en masse for the same supposedly single issue movement doesn’t do much good for the fundamental principle of popular representative democracy. Although that is of course a problem with the people’s tactics and not the system!

Australia has a raucus deonocracy, which seems to match their boisterous culture. Of course, there are still great elephants in the room regards Aboriginal rights and the racial tensions in many Australian communities to the very sizeable influx of far eastern immigrants of late. It’s also said that the previous government set back their universal healthcare by a whole generation with his I’ll considers reforms Strange isn’t it how The People will often vote for that!

Imagine for a moment that the US had no president, but was ruled directly by congress instead (like all of us parliamentary democracies). Don’t you think the lobbyists, the big corporate interests, the Neo Cons and the Evangelicals would all still be there? Only even less acountable!

It is not the present administration that I admire in America. It is the fact that such a wildly diverse and crazily argumentative country can exist all – without Balkan style ethic cleansing and without the torpor which European politics and our sluggish innovation – goodness! Although from the outside it so often seems all that talk of We The People and all the rest is a load of horse shit, I always find myself amazed that it is the US and not progressive Europe, industrious China, or meticulous Japan which has Silicon Valley and will remain for the second century running the most powerful and innovative country on earth.

Seriously: I grew up with Northern Ireland next door (and friends in both communities). Far less arguments than you see alive in America can lead to war. McVeigh the Oklahoma bomber is considered a nut job by all but a piteuous few in America. Martin McGuinness a fellow bomber was a republucan hero and now runs the government of Northern Ireland. We talk a lot of war and hate on the Internet, but over there it was really like that. It took none other than Bill Clinton to bring it all together, including both the British and Irish governments. Funny how America is always there in the end…

33 John Muir { 09.28.08 at 7:22 am }

And once again my typos expose me for the iPod touch typist that I am! I’ll choose to wear them with pride. It’s fast, but not entirely accurate. Kind of removes me of First Past Tge Post cone to think!

34 The Mad Hatter { 09.28.08 at 2:14 pm }

I covered Britain already: we have an UNELECTED leader.

You mean he didn’t win his riding? You should report that to your electoral commission, they take this kind of thing seriously.

Canada has ongoing troubles with the Quebec independence issue.

And the yanks have problems with independence movements in Texas, California, and Puerto Rico. And this matters how?

Australia has a raucus democracy, which seems to match their boisterous culture. Of course, there are still great elephants in the room regards Aboriginal rights and the racial tensions in many Australian communities to the very sizeable influx of far eastern immigrants of late. It’s also said that the previous government set back their universal healthcare by a whole generation with his I’ll considers reforms Strange isn’t it how The People will often vote for that!

So they aren’t perfect either. It’s still better than the American political system in my opinion. Change can and does occur, where the American system has reached a point where change is virtually impossible.

Imagine for a moment that the US had no president, but was ruled directly by congress instead (like all of us parliamentary democracies). Don’t you think the lobbyists, the big corporate interests, the Neo Cons and the Evangelicals would all still be there? Only even less accountable!

That’s why the public has to remain vigilant.

It is not the present administration that I admire in America. It is the fact that such a wildly diverse and crazily argumentative country can exist all – without Balkan style ethic cleansing and without the torpor which European politics and our sluggish innovation – goodness! Although from the outside it so often seems all that talk of We The People and all the rest is a load of horse shit, I always find myself amazed that it is the US and not progressive Europe, industrious China, or meticulous Japan which has Silicon Valley and will remain for the second century running the most powerful and innovative country on earth.

Um, you obviously haven’t been watching some of the things that have happened in the USA, such as removal from the voting roles of inhabitants of poor neighborhoods. Or the fact that the percentage of black and hispanic males in prison is far higher than their level in the general population.

Seriously: I grew up with Northern Ireland next door (and friends in both communities). Far less arguments than you see alive in America can lead to war. McVeigh the Oklahoma bomber is considered a nut job by all but a pitious few in America. Martin McGuinness a fellow bomber was a republican hero and now runs the government of Northern Ireland. We talk a lot of war and hate on the Internet, but over there it was really like that. It took none other than Bill Clinton to bring it all together, including both the British and Irish governments. Funny how America is always there in the end…

So you are saying the Martin and George Washington have something in common. Along with Yassar Arafat, and Menachem Begin.

There is no perfect government. I am of the opinion that a parliamentary democracy is the best type of government available at the present time, and that a Presidential system is too open to abuse.

35 John Muir { 09.28.08 at 4:38 pm }

There is indeed no perfect government. There we agree. Our opinions are obviously split on presidential versus parliamentary democracy. Most people here are on your side too.

What matters above all else is that the people are engaged and vigilant. You’ve pointed that out yourself. The trouble is they so often aren’t.

I think that direct democracy like referenda and actually asking them who they think the head of government should be (instead of their local legislator) are a means to address this. Other countries take different routes: like mandatory voting.

I particularly like the idea of a rolling election where people can changevtgeir affiliation any day they like, instead of waiting 4 or 5 years, and the government can be taken out of power directly. But then I would want Web 2.0 democracy, I know!

The real problem in America is, as you point out, the way so many people are so ably misled. I don’t think Congress seizing the President’s powers for itself would help that one bit. But there we differ.

36 What Obama could learn from Apple… on Health Care — RoughlyDrafted Magazine { 08.17.09 at 12:16 am }

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