Bud Light has an advertising campaign built around the slogan are you "Up for Whatever?" where an unsuspecting bud light drinker is offered a bud light and asked if they're "up for whatever". There is a psychological trick in play here for consumers of the beer.
Congress needs to direct the FDA to create two new categories of recreational drugs, "euphorics" and "ergogenics". Define the safety and effectiveness standards as "better than the worst thing currently legal". Meaning that for euphorics, as long as it's provably better than alcohol from a safety standpoint, it should be legal to manufacture, market, and sell. For ergogenics, use exogenous testosterone as the standard. Then announce that the goalposts are moving towards 'safer' every five years. Mandate that a substantial proportion of the profits from the sale of such drugs be directed towards medical research to address actual diseases. In twenty five years, we should have safe, effective drugs to both enhance athletic performance, and make people temporarily feel euphoria.
Effective regulations can drive illicit drugs closer to the fictional Soma, a drug that induces temporary euphoria with limited side effects (like receptor burn out) from regular use, and full recovery immediately after the use period ends. Chronic use of present illicit drugs is associated with addiction, missed work, irresponsible behavior (drunk/high driving, fighting, etc), a good recreational drug is something that someone can take at night after work is finished to feel happy, and still be able to go to work the next day and perform their jobs responsibly. Some would argue that marijuana meets this criteria, I believe that we can do better.
This is an example of a situation where regulation, rather than deregulation is desirable. MDPV is a perfect drug from a free market perspective, the drug is cheap to make, the therapeutic index is such that lethal overdose is infrequent, and the manufacturer gains a repeat customer every time his marketing material convinces someone to try it, as rat studies show that MDPV is abnormally addictive, even when compared to other addictive substances. Generally speaking, business that can sustain their revenue over time are the best business, and subscription-based businesses generally sell very well. So from a purely lassiez-faire standpoint, euphoric recreational drugs will tend towards MDPV-like characteristics without regulation. Ergogenics may not show this same trend as dramatically, because of features of the customer population, but the incentives on an unregulated manufacturer are the same.
The negative effects of drugs in the individual can be addressed by engineers. The lesson of "Bath Salts" like MDPV is that it is possible to engineer drugs with a wide variety of effects, some of which are far worse than others. If drug companies are handed the opportunity to take over the US market for recreational drugs by developing safer alternatives to the ones presently on the illicit market, they will do so with enthusiasm.
Google has recently taken Google Glass off the market. I suspect that someone at Google finally got this idea, as the press stated that Glass at Work is going to be their focus. A primitive version of this idea is already in use at the Israeli water utility for workers dealing with high voltage, and it can only expand.
A computer controlled human eye, operating a computer controlled human hand will revolutionize the service industry. Not because all the cashiers will be wearing them to ring up your order, but because a minimum wage cashier with the aid of google glasses can perform the work that a twice minimum wage milkshake machine service technician would ordinarily be hired to perform, and that work can be audited remotely.
Furthermore, diagnostics that are ordinarily performed by eye can be performed by machine. Imagine if you will, a minimum wage employee picks up a toolbox, puts on a pair of glasses, and approaches a complex machine. Here is the workflow:
The videogame like heads-up-display on the glasses alerts the employee that the machine requires inspection and displays a picture of a tool. The user then looks into the toolbox, the HUD circles the relevant tool, and displays a green checkmark in the center of the user's field of view when the user holds up the tool and rotates it in front of the camera for inspection. A "Tool Status" report is shown on screen and archived describing the condition of the tool, tied to the RFID tag located in the tool. The HUD then highlights the access ports on the complex machine where the tool is inserted to begin diagnostics or perform work.
If, hypothetically, the tool is a screwdriver, the HUD highlights the screws that need to be turned and follows the screwdriver as it spins (issuing and logging a warning if the screwdriver is rotated too quickly or with too much force).
This process repeats itself as the user proceeds through the workflow. If inspection of a limited life component (such as a brake pad, or lubricated gear) is required, the component can be designed in the factory to include a 'strip' that will be exposed as the component wears, the glasses (rather than the employee eyeball) can calculate the percentage of the wear-marker displayed and immediately determine whether the component needs to be replaced. Color-coding can be inspected by the glasses to ensure that all connections are made correctly. Through the use of 'highlighting' in the heads up display, the user can be instructed to make connections, break connections, rotate objects for inspection, and perform the process in reverse, with constant feedback from the machine. Furthermore, if the machine develops issues out of cycle, the video of the previous maintenance cycle can be reviewed by a central office.
Compare the cost of a pair of google glasses, the initial programming of the UI (API development would be handled in house at the developmer), and the minor changes to production in the factory (harmonizing color codes, etc) to a training budget and salaries for skilled laborers instead of minimum wage laborers. For tasks at home, such as servicing an air conditioner, or lawnmower, product manuals can be sold with the product, allowing any consumer who owns a pair of these magic glasses to perform the maintenance themselves, or if the work is dirty, pay someone a pittance to put the glasses on and do it t.
Using this technology, locksmiths, HVAC technicians, auto mechanics, etc can be replaced by 'users' with no education about the systems they are expected to work on. Furthermore, DRM can be applied to product manuals, so that only authorized maintainers are permitted to use the correct HUD for the system, which allows manufacturers to maintain proprietary maintenance contracts.
For users expected to operate unattended, Glass can remove the need for trust. A maid who is required to put the Glass on, and perform an inspection of the room cleaned (with hands in full view) after finishing cannot steal, and this can be proved to an employer. Furthermore, an employer with control over the Glass on employees can selectively disable the recording function to prevent the release of information compromising to the system owner. If the maid steals, the video can assure a prison sentence. If the employer assaults the maid, no video is available, and in some places, the maid could be liable for defamation.
Transparent voting in Congress is a problem. From the late 20th century onward, it is possible for observers to understand exactly how every member of Congress votes on every bill brought to the floor, and in most Congressional Committees, how every member on the Committee votes on each bill brought up for debate. This is information that is, outside of election seasons, not interesting or relevant to the typical American voter, much less American citizens.
Secret electoral ballots are necessary to prevent vote-selling and voter intimidation. Voter intimidation and vote-buying both require a means for the one attempting to influence the outcome of the vote to determine how individuals voted (and in places where election boycotts occur, who voted). If the one intimidated can promise one thing, do another, and lie successfully to the bully after the fact about the reason things did not go in accordance with the bully's wishes, intimidation is not a viable strategy. The same goes for vote-buying, with no receipt proving that the commodity sold was actually provided, attempting to buy votes can at times be counter-productive.
In the US Congress, with transparency for both voting and donations, someone seeking to influence the laws of the United States can do two dangerous things.
1) They can effectively distinguish legislators who vote for the influencer's interests from those who do not. This means that representatives who are 'bought' (or intimidated) can provide receipts in the form of votes on the record, and that representatives who refuse to be bought, or who do not 'stay bought' (they accept money, then refuse to vote the way the influencer intends) expose themselves individually.
2) They can effectively demonstrate their power to direct money to one side or the other in an election. This is analogous to 'showing the knife' during a mugging, or a blackmailer showing the media he intends to release. This is also a substantial 'carrot', as campaign donations can be directed to a leadership PAC controlled by the politician, and spent for nearly any purpose...after the politician is no longer a candidate for public office.
Furthermore, due to the committee system, an influencer has a relatively short list of targets for threats and bribes. If the change requires its own law, a bill must be rolled through committees in both the house and the senate, brought to the floor for a vote at a time when it is likely to pass, taken to conference, and signed by the president. If the change does not require its own law, it can be rolled into an annual 'must pass' bill in the relevant congressional committee, or failing that, be added during the conference committee discussion (this is how the provision prohibiting bonuses was removed from the AIG bailout). With donor transparency, an influencer or lobbyist can simply point out that the donor network in the industries he represents can move x amount of money into races that interest them, and that a member's vote on a particular issue will affect the direction those donors go. Heritage Action famously made calls during the 2013 government shutdown budget negotiations for this explicit purpose. Maintaining a large and disciplined donor network is fairly difficult, though we do see it for the most contentious issues.
Donor transparency does open an interesting avenue for individuals and interest groups without sizable donor networks. The list of people who donate to political campaigns in general is fairly short, and a large percentage of people who do donate do so on the basis of personal relationships with the candidate, or economic interests. Directly marketing negative advertisements (direct mail, internet, phone may or may not be subject to legal restrictions) to a targeted candidate's donor network using messages related to the candidate's past performance on high visibility issues (coded by donor demographics) could be effective at poisoning the well for future donations, as the first people a candidate calls when he needs to fund-raise are, unsurprisingly, the people who donated in the past.
Adding anonymity back into the system is probably good in the long-term, but may make the problem substantially worse in the short term, as information on past performance would probably be relied upon more strongly, and representatives with a history of fence-sitting or acting as a swing vote between competing factions would probably find themselves targeted.
In addressing the economy of 2015, central banks are faced with a severe problem. The Fed has cut interest rates to the bone, creating inflation, but money being loaned out sits in banks. Savers and investors are experiencing punishing inflation, retailers and former members of the middle class are experiencing deflation. Consumer goods and commodities are cheap, but consumers do not have the money to buy them. The price of staples continues to rise, and Americans trapped in structural unemployment, deep in debt, find themselves in the hands of payday lenders charging extortionate interest rates while the central bank tries to loan out money as fast as possible at zero, near zero, and potentially, negative interest rates to banks who, in order to out-pace inflation, must carefully seek large returns on investment, and therefore do not increase loan volume.
On the other end, there has been a recent effort in the media to revive the concept of a universal basic income, meaning, every citizen would simply receive a certain amount of money on a regular basis, to dispose of as they saw fit. This is touted as superior to the welfare state as practiced in the United States, and a solution to some of the nation's economic woes.
Certain problems make the basic income proposals on the table non-starters. Some argue that if a Universal Basic Income is available, people will be unwilling to work, or the 'moral hazard' argument. The relationship between immigration and a universal basic income is complicated--for a government to keep its balance sheet in order, it must ensure that it pays out only as much as it takes in in taxes, so immigrant dependents will benefit disproportionately, as will anyone who is a dependent when the system is implemented. The biggest problem is that in a democracy, the electorate can be trusted to continuously vote to increase the payments provided to them without regard for the broader economic situation.
Taking a page from former US President George W. Bush, under whom many Americans received a one-time "tax cut" check in the mail might be worthwhile. The Federal Reserve could use one-time payments, available for a specified period of time, provided via the US Post Office as a tool of monetary policy. The implementation is relatively simple, the USPO can provide the checks only to people who claim them in person over a period of several weeks, and collect a biometric identification and signed affirmation of citizenship from each claimant--there would be some fraud, but thanks to biometric identification, we could be fairly certain that the fraudsters would eventually be caught and punished.
Using this tool in concert with interest rate manipulation, a central bank could use this technique to either inflate or deflate the money supply. The one-time nature of the payments means that no severe obligation is incurred for the government, as would be from a continous, long-term guarantee of income. A central bank could execute this ploy once, several times, or never, depending on its assessment of the money supply. The 'moral hazard' argument is hard to defend if the central bank uses this tool in the same way that wise nations of years past would maintain granaries and open them during times when harvest fail to prevent famines. The US Congress' much-decried TARP bank bailout in response to the 2008 financial crisis was 700 billion dollars. The positive effect on the US economy of that program should be directly compared to the potential positive of just handing out $2000 for every man woman and child in the United States.
Arguments to "End the Fed" and complaints about the intrusive nature of central banks have fallen on deaf ears for decades. As interesting as discussions of Austrian economics can be, fractional reserve banking is here to stay for the foreseeable future, as is central bank management of the money supply in the west. It's time for new tools in the economic toolbox.
Presently, manipulation of the interest rate is the only tool available to central banks for adjusting the money supply. I propose that central banks can use direct payments to individuals as an additional tool for the manipulation of the money supply. Used in concert with interest rate adjustments, this can create inflation or deflation.