17 Comments
Aug 19, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

It’s excusable for voters to not know what the government does. Can we stop electing people president and appointing agency heads (looking at you, Governor MoFo Perry) who don’t know what the government does?

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Aug 19, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

About 15 years ago a bunch of Tea Party supporters were asked what percentage of the federal budget they thought went to foreign aid, and what percentage they thought it should be. The average answers, respectively, were 24% and 3%. Since the actual percentage was 1%, they wanted foreign aid to triple.

Wanna REALLY have some fun? Ask “What’s the average welfare payment?” Hoo boy.

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Aug 19, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

I have so many reactions (good ones!) to this post, but mostly we absolutely should have somebody out here who just goes through government at various levels and does an explainer. Agency by agency. Yeesh, it'd be an encyclopedia. Or maybe a crowd-sourced (closely moderated, just the facts, ma'am) wiki.

It's not that I think that there's scandal after scandal to be unearthed, it's just things like "Holy crap, a mile of two-lane highway costs that much?"

This is what annoys me about most commercial journalism. This wouldn't be that difficult to do. Even for television - there's plenty of people who work at these agencies who have stories to tell. I'd rather see a relatively well-done piece on the FDIC or the Bureau of Weights and Measures than a six-box grid of the same old talking faces.

Congratulations on your seduction of Senator Murphy! I have never been more proud to be a subscriber.

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Aug 20, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

This is 100% accurate. I work in local govt and every week we get the slackest jawed yokels (the same 5-10 every time) saying the dumbest shit at the electeds meeting, totally divorced from any reality. People absolutely do not understand that bureaucracy is a *good thing* (not the red tape kind) - people go into public service because they care about a thing/subject and want it to work well for their community. I know a lot about a very narrow slice of govt, a decent amount about our agency in general and a decent amount about the state and federal agencies relevant to my area, but that’s it. The average American is woefully ignorant about our govt, including and especially the “don’t tread on me” types. Great piece, v depressing.

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Aug 20, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

100%. I'm a lawyer and I feel like I only got an inkling of the way the world and government really work in law school. I know enough to recognize how much I don't know. One of the big problems with the degree of ignorance you highlight is people might not appreciate the level of threat from the current Supreme Court and their plan to disempower federal agencies. Or that the right's campaign to destroy government has everyday implications for regular people. Or how many big problems could be solved by spending more money and not even that much compared to how much we spend on “defense”, eg homelessness, lack of health care. If we just moved some of that money to solve real problems, it would help people. Anyway...totally agree with your point here. And I love your description of a presidential campaign. Hilarious and accurate.

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Aug 20, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

Great on many levels. I'm guessing you've covered this at some point but I think much of our civic ignorance is linked to education that does not prepare kids for the basics. Simple things like what's a budget and how do you prepare one and measure how you're doing. What really happens when you use a credit card. Foundational civic structures, the focus is town vs city vs county vs state vs federal. I'm not suggesting they learn the tax code but understanding how to keep tax records. How do you contact a lawyer, when should you discuss financial planning. What's a car payment. How to you get a good credit rating, etc.

This is just the tip. Education today doesn't help kids really understand how to operate in today's world.

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Hey now! Murphy is actually our BETTER senator. Blumenthal is just a stuffed-suit Schumer Golfing Buddy. Murphy does a three-day jog across the state every year. IJS.

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Aug 19, 2023Liked by Hamilton Nolan

This is an excellent rant. I'm between jobs (and banks), but I'll chip in to your project when I get things settled.

I think a lot of people get a glimpse at slices of the government. Myself, I've had a good bit of professional experience with the IRS, and besides, "The Pale King" is one of my favorite books.

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Maybe I'm looking at things through rose colored glasses, but I DO seem to recall in my youth when people were generally OK with not having to have an opinion about everything in the world..."I really don't know anything about that" USED to be a perfectly respectable position to take...I could make something up out of thin air this instant and have people opining on it within a week...

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The initial thing needed is a moral calculus...Especially if you recognize that the way things SHOULD be is the way they COULD be because there are LIVING EXAMPLES of those models around right now...You kind of have to 'isolate' your inquiry...In all battles there are good actors and bad actors...You have to start by recognizing who is who and what the driving motivations behind each of them are...After that you can refine your search into smaller resolutions of detail...

MOST of the time the 'reasons' we can't do certain things are thinly disguised EXCUSES for not doing them...getting a grip on the opposing motivating forces gets you asking the right questions..

If not just to keep from being overwhelmed...Allow for expertise and defer to it if it is acting in good faith...

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You have things exactly backwards: in a constitutional government like ours, the agencies should be trying act in what they perceive as the people's interest. At least, they should be making an effort. That is the inherent problem with bureaucracy, as everyone knows. Instead, the agencies act like all organizations—in the organization's interest. What percentage of the population is saying Oh boy we want more IRS agents? The tyranny of experts has been demonstrably and permanently undercut by the failures of the CDC around Covid. Very few people want a 5th and 6th booster because the safe and effective vaccine turned out to be neither. Socialism is a way of enshrining an unresponsive government.

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Can i translate this article to spanish this and post it with credit

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THIS!

Thank you for saying what I've been trying to articulate for so long...

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