In the book How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big, author Scott Adams makes the case that systems are better than goals.
As Adams explains it, a goal ultimately relies on hope—the hope that said goal will be reached before one’s willpower fails. A system on the hand ultimately relies on habits—habits that if ingrained will increase the likelihood of something good happening.
To see the difference between a goal and a system, consider dieting. Dieter One sets a goal of losing ten pounds and begins counting calories and going to the gym three times a week. Dieter Two doesn’t set a weight-loss goal but begins to craft a system that will likely improve his long-term health. He removes sugary drinks from his diet, limits ice cream consumption to one day a week, and walks for half an hour every morning before work. Dieter One relies on willpower (“No cake. I’ve already reached my calorie count for the day.”). Dieter Two relies on habits (“I’ll have a diet Coke, please.”). If Adams’s theory is correct, Dieter One is doomed. Dieter Two has a shot.
In my humble opinion, I think Scott Adams nailed it. Systems blow away goals. And what I’d like to do now is apply this idea to Congress and see if there’s a way to improve the governing of our republic. Here we go.
The Rich Have a System, The Little Guys Have a Goal
As of now, it’s perfectly legal for politicians to sell favors. If Congress wants to favor some Americans with subsidies and regulatory protections at the expense of other Americans, it can. It’s a sucky situation, but it’s reality. Let’s now see how the rich and the non-rich (i.e., the little guys) exploit this situation.
Make campaign donations.
Pay for congressional travel junkets.
Arrange sweetheart loans and investment opportunities for congressional members.
Hire the unhireable progeny of congressional members.
Fund university research that supports their objectives.
Throw big advertising dollars at key news organizations to ensure favorable coverage.
The little guys…
Complain to family and friends.
Yell at the radio or television.
Write letters to congressional members.
Hurl frosty barbs at their ideological foes on Facebook or in the comment sections of online newspapers and political websites (e.g., New York Times, Washington Post, HuffingtonPost, Breitbart, Drudge, Politico, etc.).
Vote for the politicians who “got their back.”
Now a question. Whose approach do you think is more effective? Is it the one that puts money—both directly and indirectly—into the hands of politicians and helps manipulate public opinion? Or is it the one that hopes to elect the politicians who can resist all that filthy lucre flying around?
If you said the former approach, go straight to the head of the class.
The Little Guys Need a System
The rich win more often than not because they have a system. It doesn’t really matter who’s elected to Congress. If the Dems are in power, the rich’s system will direct more money and help toward the Dems. If the Repubs are in power, the rich’s system reverses course and directs more money and help toward the Repubs.
The little guys have a goal. They want better government—or at least government that is more evenhanded and not so rich-centric.
To achieve their goal of better government, the little guys use the only real tool they have at their disposable. They vote for their guys and gals—the noble politicians, the ones who are going to “fight” for them. And sometimes this works. But it never works for long. Politicians may start out as noble, but they all eventually succumb to “the system” that was perfected by the rich over the course of centuries.
What the little guys need is a system of their own—a system that requires no effort once it’s set up and strongly incentivizes Congress to favor the greater good. In other words, a system that pays congresspeople like crap if they behave like whores and like CEOs if they behave like patriots.
To this end, then, I propose the following Constitutional Amendment.
The 28th Amendment
Each member of Congress shall be paid the federal minimum wage for his or her service. No additional compensation shall be awarded to members of Congress except bonus pay based on the following benchmarks:
1. Federal revenues exceed federal expenses for the year.
2. The average U6 unemployment rate for the year is under 9%.
3. The inflation rate for the year is under 3%.
4. Business startups for the year exceed 700,000.
5. The country’s personal savings rate for the year is greater than 10%.
Each senator and representative shall get a $50,000 bonus for each benchmark that is achieved. If all five benchmarks are achieved, the bonus for each benchmark jumps to $1,000,000. Each senator and representative shall be paid $5 million.
If three or fewer benchmarks are achieved for three consecutive years, all members of Congress during that time shall be forever barred from seeking reelection, holding any federal office or job once their current terms are finished, and becoming registered lobbyists as soon as they leave Congress.
At first blush, this proposed amendment seems absurd. Pay senators and representatives $5 million each?
But think about it for a moment. We pay a guy $30 million a year if he can hit 40 home runs and bat over 300. Paying our senators and representatives $5 million each because the above benchmarks were met would amount to the most effective bonuses ever doled out in the history of mankind. For $2.7 billion—chump change in a federal budget that currently exceeds $4 trillion—you get a government that lives within its means, oversees a robust job market, expertly manages the money supply, removes the regulations that stifle innovation and protect established businesses from competition, and creates an environment in which Americans can not only save a good portion of their incomes but are motivated to do so.
Call me nuts, but I have no problem paying our congresspeople like CEOs if that’s what it takes to protect my wallet and liberty.
Again, I know this proposed amendment seems absurd, but what choice do we have? Take my Junior IRA, for instance. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t think it’s a great idea. But my Junior IRA will never become law because I don’t have millions of dollars to lobby on its behalf. If my proposed amendment was the law of the land, however, my Junior IRA would be in play. It might be the only way for Congress to meet the fifth bonus benchmark.
Under the current system, the rich have the overwhelming advantage. Under my proposed amendment, the situation is flipped. If Congress continues with the same whorish nonsense, its members will be paid like fast-food workers and eventually booted. If on the other hand Congress governs like it cares about everybody (not just the rich) and sincerely wants to improve the long-term prospects for fiscal solvency and freedom in this country, its members will be paid like CEOs.
My proposed amendment is the only way the little guys can possibly out “lobby” the rich.
Okay, groovy freedomists, that’s all I got. What say you? Would my proposed amendment stop Congress from selling favors to the highest bidders? Do my proposed bonus benchmarks make sense? Or would my proposed amendment only make things worse? Let me know what you think when you get a chance. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Peace.