Legislative Program

Kevin Langdon
Polymath Systems


Abolition of Bankruptcy and Limited Corporate Liability

No one--individual or corporate entity--should be permitted to incur obligations and walk away from them.

A corporation's liabilities should fall upon its shareholders if it is otherwise unable to meet them. Corporate officers should be held liable to the limits of their personal fortunes if they've committed fraud or fraud has been committed by their subordinates and their ignorance of it is due to a lack of diligence in supervision..

Many libertarians have a hard time reconciling their position on this subject with their fundamental principles. Government intervention to dissolve debts compromises personal responsibility and the free market.

American Indians

The treaties under which Native Americans have special status under the law should be abrogated. They are in direct contradiction to the principle of equality before the law, which is one of the cornerstones of democracy. All tribal property should be divided among individual members of each Indian tribe, there should be a one-time payment to Indians in settlement of all outstanding claims, and henceforward they should be treated exactly the same as any other citizen.

(The same principle applies to the "veterans' bonds" that keep appearing on electin ballots. I appreciate what veterans have done for our country but they should be paid off in full, once and for all. The public should not be nickle-and-dimed.)

Apportionment of Lawsuit Costs

Each party to a lawsuit should state a dollar amount that the matter is worth (there would need to be special rules for specific-performance matters). The legal costs would be apprortioned proportionally to the distance from the position of each from the amount awarded by the judge or jury and would be adjusted if this amount is changed on appeal.

Bottom-Line Pricing

All prices should be quoted inclusive of all taxes, shipping and handling fees, and other fees which are not, practically-speaking, optional, as if the engine were an "extra" when one purchased a car.

Campaign Finance Reform

Contributions to political campaigns by organizations other than political parties should be prohibited, just as political parties face severe restrictions on commerical activities. Only those who are eligible to vote for a candidate should be permitted to contribute. And no individual should be permitted to contribute more than $1000.

Car Carriers

The surface that the rearmost carried vehicle rests on, for any layer of any vehicle used for carrying motor vehicles on public roads, should be required to be tilted forward so that if a carried vehicle were to come loose it would roll forward and not off the carrier. Above the top of the cab, the surface on which the frontmost vehicle rests should be required to be tilted backward.

Car Radios

Manufacturers of car radios should be required to construct them with a very low maximum volume.

Child Molesters

The penalty for any sexual offense against a child should be life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. The recidivism rate is the highest for any class of offenses and the typical molester has dozens or hundreds of victims. Letting them out on the street is like drawing to an inside straight.

Chain Advertising

Anything that's advertised by a chain should be required to be available at all outlets operating under the name of the chain, whether they're separately owned or not. "Available at participating stores" takes unfair advantage of the name-recognition of the chain. It's like a chain selling products at a loss in one location where there is fierce competition in order to drive a competitor out of business, but much easier to police.

Childhood Obesity

A child is under the authority of his or her parents or guardian. Allowing a child to become obese is child abuse and the parents should be prosecuted for it.

Child Molesters

Those who sexually abuse children have a sky-high recidivism rate, and typically have scores or hundreds of victims. No convicted child-molester should ever be released into society to prey on more innocent children.

Complainants' Rights

Anyone who makes a complaint about the actions of a representative of an organization that he or she has dealt with should be permitted to attend any disciplinary hearings held as a result, to record any such hearing, to receive copies of all evidence presented therein, and to be fully informed, in writing, of the resolution of his or her complaint by the organization.

Constitutionality Challenges

An advantage of living in a democracy, as opposed to a dictatorship, is that laws are enacted first and enforced afterwards, in accordance with the principle that ours is a government of laws, not of men. But the principle requires a similar predictability of judicial outcomes. Citizens should be permitted to challenge the constitutionality of a law without having to put their asses on the line by breaking it.

Death Penalty

When someone is sentenced to death, his or her sentence is automatically appealed, and such appeals often go all the way to the Supreme Court. At the highest level of appeal the decision is final--and it should be the Justices who make the decision who take the action that actually kills the condemned man. He should be strapped into the gurney and have the needle inserted before the decision is made. Each Justice should have a button. If five buttons are pressed--zap! you're dead!

It is ethically unjustifiable for one man to carry out another's order to kill a human being, although I'm willing to make an exception in the case of war, when there's often no other choice.

Governmental Modesty

Governments have indulged in extravagant self-praise and shameless favoritism toward a privileged class since the dawn of history, but this is wrong; it is an affront to human dignity. Titles like "The Honorable" should be eliminated and so should terms  like "Superior Court" and "Supreme Court."   And, of course, countries with "royalty" and "nobility" should abolish them.

"Contempt of Court" should be replaced by "disruption of court." One should be permitted to express one's contempt as long as it is done decorously--"the honorable member is a fool," as opposed to "screw you."

Intangible Damages

Many legal cases result in the awarding of damages for lost, stolen, or damaged property. But the accomplishment of either repairs or purchases of replacement items requires time and inconvenience. A modest amount, say $200, should be added to each such judgement as a more realistic measure of damages, though this will fall short of the actual value of the inconvenience in many cases.

Intellectual Property Theft Outside the U.S.

Highly-subsidized legal representation in foreign nations should be provided to individuals and businesses whose U.S. patents,  copyrights, or trademarks are infringed outside the United States.

Juries

The jury system in the U.S. works poorly and needs a complete overhaul.

Jury duty is a curse and busy people naturally want to avoid it, and often do. The result is that juries tend not to be a random sample of the population by economic and social status; they are preferentially composed of losers. Jurors receive insultingly low pay, especially when considered in the light of the importance of the function that society requires them to perform. Both of these problems could be alleviated by substantially increasing the compensation of jurors.

This could be accomplished without straining the already-overstretched budgets of government at all levels by videotaping trials and showing the jury the case in a compressed form including only what is relevant to their function. This would allow a higher hourly rate for jurors because only a small fraction of the number of hours now needed would be required for each case. And an additional advantage is that material objected to and ruled inadmissable would not be heard by the jury in the first place.

Long-Distance Hauling

Transportation of cargo by truck beyond approximately 200 miles should be prohibited. Such cargo should be transmitted by rail, for reasons of public safety and energy efficiency.

Luxury Taxes

Society needs to do many worthy but expensive things. How can society pay for these things when tax rates are already perceived as burdensome? I think that we need to embrace much more fully the idea of *luxury taxes* and take a long, hard look at what can be fairly defined as a luxury. Items like SUV's and other recreational vehicle (which I've proposed banning entirely) should be subject to very high taxes.

How high is high enough? That's an empirical question. I suggest that it would make sense to increase these taxes a little bit at a time until demand begins to falter. If we wish to actually discourage harmful products and practices we don't have to stop there, but it obviously makes no sense to stop before this point.

Food, shelter, and medicine are already exempt from sales taxes. The list of necessities should be expanded somewhat, but great care should be takennot to include anything not really necessary for life.

Microsoft Monopoly Case

The problem is Microsoft's operating system monopoly. None of the proposed remedies does anything about that. The solution: place DOS and Windows through 98 (with complete source code and documentation) into the public domain and let other companies use them as a platform to compete with Microsoft.

Monopolies

No business entity should be permitted to control more than 30% of any market with a billion dollars or more in yearly sales for more than five years. The three quantitative elements--30%, $1,000,000,000, and five years--are all, to some degree, arbitrary, but the principle is what's important here. Control of a market by one or two companies stifles competition. When a company exceeds its allowed market share it should be broken up, like AT&T.

"Political Crimes"

Claims to immunity from prosecution or extradition for so-called "political crimes" make sense only when the criminality of the actions involved is a political fiction in the first place. "Political" causes are no excuse for lawbreaking in a free society. There are lawful ways to get one's message across.

Prison Reform

Prisons today are a close approximation of hell. Inmates are constantly in danger from other inmates.

In order to prevent this, each inmate should be confined in a private cell, out of the reach of others and periodically given access to exercise areas, but only with guards present to prevent attacks on one inmate by another. Each cell should be equipped with a television set behind a tough clear-plastic panel that prevents the occupant from destroying it, to give the isolated inmates a sense of contact with the rest of the world. This would prevent them from becoming as hardened in prison as is now routinely the case, and would save lives as well.

Prohibition of Advertising Exploiting the Appeal of Children

The use of children in commercials for products not intended specifically for children should be outlawed.

Prohibition of Advertising Targeting Vulnerable Classes

No advertisement which takes advantage of the desires, fears, and critical weaknesses of the feebleminded, the mentally ill, children, or the elderly should be permitted.

Prohibition of Cancellation Fees and Prepayment Penalties

Cancellation fees and prepayment penalties should be prohibited. Businesses should have an incentive to keep their customers happy. And often people who pay off their mortgages early are in difficult enough financial circumstances already.

Prohibition of "Civil Restitution"

Outlaw "civil restitution," a practice legal in 49 states which permits merchants to detain alleged shoplifters and collect money not to prosecute them.

Prohibition of Closure of Public Streets

Prohibit the closure of public streets and other public areas for private events, such as races and parades, and for public ceremonial events. They should only be closed for required repairs to the streets themselves or to utilities, and then during non-peak traffic hours when possible.

Prohibition of Concurrent Sentences

Why should criminals who commit multiple crimes get a price break on their punishment?  All multiple sentences should be served consecutively.

Prohibition of Euthanasia

Although persons sometimes wish to die, the risk that ending someone's life against his or her will will be made to appear to have been done with the person's consent is unacceptable.

Prohibition of Exclusion of Competitors

No business should be permitted to include a provision in any contract with a customer or other business requiring that that customer or business not do business with its competitors, nor to terminate a business relationship based on the other party's doing business with third parties.

Prohibition of Hunting

The destruction of life for "sport" is inherently repugnant, but there is another compelling consideration: when one fires a weapon in a wooded area, one never knows for sure that there is not another human being along one's line of fire but beyond one's line of sight.

Prohibition of Private Fines

No nongovernmental organization should be permitted to fine anyone for anything.

Prohibition of Private Security Guards and Towing

No nongovernmental organization should be allowed to do any kind of private policing; those who want police services over and above those available to any citizen should have to buy them from their local police departments. Towing or immobilization of automobiles should also be performed only by police officers. If somebody is using force on other people I want him to be working for the people, not some private interest.

Prohibition of "Recreational Vehicles"

Vehicles such as SUV's, snowmobiles, and jet skis are dangerous, wasteful of energy, and harmful to the environment. They should be banned.

Prohibition of Very Large Assemblies

When the U.S. Founding Fathers drafted the Bill of Rights, they could not have been imagining 50,000 people in a stadium. I've thought for years that assemblies larger than a few hundred, or a few thousand at most, should be banned, because the point of freedom of assembly is for citizens to be able to gather together in a forum where everyone can hear everyone else and organize themelves, and beyond a certain scale the traffic associated with them is burdensome to the surrounding community. Let's say that assemblies of over 5000 people should be banned (the exact number is negotiable).

Now, in the Terrorist Millenium, there is another reason--denying the terrorists opportunities to commit murder on an unprecedented scale. I realize that this would be tough on large entertainment companies and their overpaid superstars in the short run, but it would be very good for the little guy in the entertainment business in the long run.

Prohibition of Waiver of the Right to Sue

Waiver of the right to sue, with or without pursuing other remedies first, should be prohibited. Mandatory arbitration should not be permitted.

Property Tax Assessments

The practice of reassessing real property only when its transferred results in grossly disproportionate taxation of comparable properties and should be abolished. It's an obvious violation of the "equal protection" clause of the U.S. Constitution.

Psychics, Astrologers, and Fortune Tellers

Purveyors of these services should be required to furnish proof of the truth of their claims.

Public Records

Every action of any public body should be recorded, including all circular communications among members of such bodies. All government records should be made available promptly to the public, except those containing private information pertaining to individual human beings (but not to businesses; all their tax returns and other transactions with the government should be open to public scrutiny). All official proceedings should be open to the public. There should be no exceptions for personnel and legal matters (national security matters are trickier; it's harder to draw hard and fast rules in this area, but every claimed national-security exemption should be reviewed by a judge). The People should be like a blackjack dealer; they should play with their cards face up.

Regulation of Motorcyles and Bicycles

Motorcycles and bicyles are a menace on the roads. Some of the reasons are the same and some are different.

Both motorcycle- and bicycle-riders tend to cut in and out of traffic in disconcerting and therefore dangerous ways. Motorcyles should certainly not be permitted to drive between lanes of traffic. And the limitations of bicycle speeds make them an impediment to smooth traffic flow.

Motorcycles are loud, greasy, and obnoxious. Muffler and emissions laws should be strictly enforced with regard to motorcycles.

Bicyclists consistently place conserving their forward momentum above obeying the traffic laws (e.g., they seldom stop at stop signs), but what is even more dangerous is that they suddenly swing out in front of drivers who are waiting for an opportunity to pass them, leading to many near-collisions. Because the enforcement problem is intractable, I recommend confining bicycles to low-traffic residential areas and dedicated bicycle parks and reserving busier roads for motorized vehicles.

Repeal of Sovereign Immunity

The state should not be in a privileged position with regard to susceptibility to lawsuits for damages or the ability of citizens to seek remedies against it in the courts.

Restriction of the Use of Handcuffs and Other Forms of Restraint

Police should not be permitted to handcuff or shackle persons in custody who have not attempted to flee or attacked anyone. It is a major affront to human dignity. Similarly, prisoners should not be touched if they respond to verbal commands.

Severance Pay for Public Employees

Terminated public employees should not receive severance packages valued at more than one month's pay.

Spam Regulation

The senders of spam are not paying for the channels through which we are receiving useful information; they are freeloaders and they are clogging the e-mail system, a vital tool for idea workers today, and polluting people's associations with content irrelevant and useless for life--or worse, with crude and violent images that disturb one's peace.

There is no constitutional right to spam. The Supreme Court has held that the government may regulate the time, place, and manner of speech. The proper place for advertising is within content that one chooses to receive voluntarily which is supported financially by the advertiser. And this clearly has broader implications: billboards should not line public streets, public solicitation should be prohibited, etc. Society, putting itself in the place of the invidual, should ask, "what's in it for me?" The sense of common humanity is a wonderful thing, but I resent those who take advantage of it for business reasons. If there are business reasons for contacting another, both sides must stand to receive something of value. It is unacceptable behavior to broadcast thousands of copies of an advertisement in the hope that one person will be interested unless those who are not interested are rewarded with content that does interest them. This is theft of attention.

(This is also a very important principle of child-rearing: a child must be trained from an early age that he is responsible for making sure that there's a high probability that others will be interested in what he's saying before he speaks to them. Prattlers older than three annoy other people by stealing their attentiion, making themselves unpopular.)

The complementary principle to the freedom to speak is the freedom not to be forced to listen.

There should be substantial penalties for unsolicited visits and mail, phone, fax, or e-mail communications from parties not personally known to the recipients, and it should be made easy to get the criminal authorities involved and to sue locally to enforce them.

Of course, spammers are always on the move and many of them mail from outside the U.S., but there is an effective way round this: as with the customers of prostitutes, those who buy from spammers should be prosecuted--and the government should run frequent sting operations to catch them. A little jail time would make spam as a profit-making venture dry up almost overnight.

"Buy from a spammer, go to the slammer."

Taxation

Taxation of property is wrong and so is taxation of income. Taxation should fall entirely on purchases. If you buy stuff you should have to pay the government a share of what you acquire for your personal enjoyment. I agree with the exemption of necessities of life, such as food and medicine, from sales taxes, but other acquisitions should be taxed.

Theft of Attention

Advertising should only be permitted in content that those who see it voluntarily purchase or acquire  with the undertstanding that it's supported by advertising. Billboards and other form of advertising foisted upon the public which divert attention from people's personal concerns should be outlawed.

Three Points and You're Out

Existing "three strikes" laws are a good idea, as they remove some of the worst slimeballs from society, but there's been some concern about people being sent to prison after a trivial "third strike" and the system could use some refinement. I propose a point system, with three points sending an offender to prison for life, as follows:

basic
Misdemeanor 1 point.
Felony   2 points

aggravating factors
Sexual element   1 point
Death of the victim   2 points
Great bodily harm   1 point
Use of a firearm   1 point
Victim underage 1 point

Tracking Violent Offenders

Tracking sexual predators is a good idea which should be expanded to all violent offenders. Violent people usually don't change and those convicted of violent offenses should be closely monitored for the rest of their lives. Those who inflict serious injuries or cause death should never be released.

Treaties

There is a very stupid principle of law that considers treaties to have equal standing with the U.S. Constitution. In my opinion, treaties should be subsidiary not only to the Constitution, but to federal statutes. It is outrageous that trade agreements like NAFTA are allowed to trump U.S. environmental and consumer-protection laws.

Truth in Scheduling

Television stations should be required to start their programs on time, not a minute or two early, and transportation companies should be required not to get ahead of schedule, leaving on-time passengers stranded. Being either ahead of or behind schedule  is a violation of truth in advertising and heavy fines should be assessed for such violations.

Unenforceability of Secret Settlements

The terms of settlement of any settled lawsuit should have to be made public at the time of the settlement in order to be enforceable.

Usury

Permitted interest rates should be no higher for commerical enterprises than for private parties.

Verbal Self-defense

Whenever and wherever a man is criticized--in court, in church, on an e-mail list, anywhere--he has a right to reply in his own defense, and the law should provide for this. Furthermore, no one should be permitted to eject him from the venue in which the criticism occurs in order to prevent him from exercising this right or in retaliation for doing so.

Those who support the Second-Amendment right to bear arms should recognize and support this analogous right.

Victims' Right to Punishment of Victimizers

It should be possible for victims of crime to go to court to compel law-enforcement agencies to arrest and charge the perpetrators. No district attorney should be permitted to make a plea agreement in any offense in which there are human victims without the consent of the victim or the victim's parent, guardian, or estate.

Welfare Reform

It is very right that a humane and compassionate society should provide a safety net for those who are down and out. But beggars can't be choosers. Today, the majority of welfare recipients are living in the more expensive central cities at the expense of the taxpayers.

The use of pesticides in agriculture is a major health problem, but it permits a higher degree of automation in farming.

Welfare, as it exists today should be abolished. Any able-bodied person should be guaranteed a job doing farm labor and more labor-intensive hands-on organic methods should replace current farming methods. Only the elderly, the disabled, pregnant women, and nursing mothers should be allowed to collect welfare. And all welfare recipients should be required to live in less-expensive rural areas.

This is important not only to control welfare costs but to turn around the decay of the inner cities. In traditional societies, the king or governor lived in the center, surrounded by other officials and the wealthiest class, then the merchants, and with the lowest classes, employed primarily in agriculture, at the periphery. This was a superior system.

 

Public Policy

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