Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Global Well-Being through Statesmanship

Statesmanship is a rare combination of wisdom and courage. Statesmanship requires the wisdom to envision a world as it can be, and the courage to make it happen. Statesmanship is what we must expect from all of our elected officials.

We must engage in political discourse based on intelligent, fact-based dialogue on the most important issues. A focus on statesmanship can lead to our increasing trust of elected officials, increased confidence in government organizations, increased bi-partisan cooperation, along with creative solutions for mutual gain, transcending conflict, reduced government waste, and reduced corruption.

We need to expect fair, simplified, and easily understood legislation that increases the well-being of all citizens.

A political environment based on statesmanship will allow us to address the grand challenges and focus on what matters. Working together we can achieve a world we might only dare to dream of. Statesmanship can move us toward global well-being.

Imagine a world where no one goes hungry and poverty and homeless is rapidly disappearing.
We all enjoy Improved health and fitness outcomes, including:  reduced alcoholism, reduced drug abuse, reduced addictions, reduced obesity and malnutrition, reduced occurrence of preventable diseases and poor health conditions, increased physical fitness. We enjoy increased prevention and treatment of mental illness, including: chronic stress, depression, and risk of suicide along with many other forms of mental illness. We all have access to a simplified, effective, and efficient universal healthcare system.

Statesmanship can deliver the wisdom and courage we need to increase employment opportunity, decrease national debt and personal debt, create and adopt a fair, simplified, and easily understood tax code, allow us to tax more of what we want less of, and attain increased income equality.
Shifting resources from the Department of Defense to a newly created Department of Peace can enable us to adopt a foreign policy based primarily on human rights. This can lead to reduced global conflict and reduced suffering worldwide as the entire world’s people gain access to clean-safe drinking water, proper nutrition, sanitation, medical care, and other human rights.

Enlightened foreign policy can lead to increased cooperation among nations and reduced terrorist threats, peaceful borders, and increased homeland security. Eventually democracy prevails over theocracy and totalitarianism, at home and abroad. This allows for decreasing arsenals of both conventional and nuclear weapons worldwide.
An energy policy moving rapidly toward sustainability allows us to reverse global warming trends and increase attention to environmental issues. Pollution is reduced, and we are able to increase conservation and preservation of natural resources, wilderness areas, forests, fisheries, biodiversity, and ecosystem services.

Stronger families lead to fewer divorces, reduced child abuse, reduced domestic violence, reduced sexual abuse. We recognize that contraception prevents abortion. Social Capital increases.
Improved education opportunities and outcomes lead to reduced illiteracy and innumeracy and increased graduation rates for High Schools, Colleges, Universities, and specialty training programs. People have better employment opportunities and more fulfilling lives as a result.

This improved social and political fabric leads to reduced gun violence, reduced gang violence, reduced organized crime, overall reduced crime and decreased need for incarceration. Legal justice aligns increasingly with moral justice.
Perhaps statesmanship can grant us the wisdom to envision our world as it can be and the courage to make it happen.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Common Sense Conservative Agenda

With the presidential election now over, the future of the conservative agenda is being examined. Even as a liberal, I would be attracted to a conservative agenda like the following.

Fiscal responsibility is essential to the long-term strength and prosperity of our country. Steps to reduce the deficit and move toward a balanced budget are steps in the right direction.  Economic discussions must include frank discussions of economic externalities. These externalities must be honestly identified and some plan for meeting their costs has to be established. For example, if fracking is being advocated, then the full effects on the environment, along with the consumption of the resource must be accounted for. This may require establishing effective environmental regulations, careful choice of fracking fluids, planning for the restoration of polluted water, restoration of lands, and creation of an annuity to offset the rapid consumption of a nonrenewable natural resource.  In addition, the simplistic nature of many prevalent economic models must be acknowledged and corrected. For example, GDP is clearly a poor indicator of wellbeing, and myths about the effects of certain macroeconomic actions, such as trickle down theories, need to be abandoned.

Use the tax code only to raise revenue, not to shape a social or cultural agenda.  Simplify the tax code dramatically to include only reasonable definitions of income and a progressive tax rate on that income. This simplification will make taxation transparent and much fairer. At the same time we need to migrate to a system where we tax what we want less of, such as pollution and financial speculation, rather than what we want more of, such as work that create lasting value.

Recognize that tax policy and spending decisions simultaneously affect macro-economic status such as growth rate, employment rate, inflation, and the deficit. Only a broad discussion of the many effects of any policy proposal, rather focusing on only one effect, is a fair representation of that policy. 

Government regulations may be good or bad, depending on the protections they provide and the interest they serve. They are often an effective countermeasure to economic externalities.  For example, regulations that preserve clean air and water are essential protections against exploitation of these common goods by private interests.  Move toward fewer regulations when this can be done safely. Don’t add regulations that unfairly protect special interests, including various corporate subsidies.

Deciding on the size of government is less important than deciding on the role of government. Certainly legislating restrictions on sexual expression between consenting adults is not a role of government and it certainly is not a role of small government.  Reduce even military spending to the level needed to defend our country.  Rely more heavily on diplomacy and promoting peace. Don’t use military spending primarily as a mechanism for subsidizing military contracts. 

Embrace moral virtues based on principles that transcend religious dogma. Promote democracy, not theocracy. Religious dogma is fundamentally inconsistent among the various religious traditions and is therefore divisive rather than unifying.  When calling attention to the importance of values, take care to identify what particular values are being advocated.

Recognize that contraception prevents abortion. Reducing unintended pregnancies improves woman’s health, strengthens families, and reduces the incidence of abortions. This is an important common ground.  Advocate birth control.

Promote good faith—the virtue of honesty.  Advancing falsehoods, distortions, and misleading information is wrong, even if it is used to defend or promote a strongly held ideology. Increase fidelity to consistently align what is, what is believed, what is said, and what was said. If promoting a particular ideology requires compromising the truth, abandon or modify that ideology. 

Because facts define the political center, it is important to assimilate reality more quickly:
  • Denial resists positive change; it certainly is not leadership. When facts challenge a particular worldview, ideology, or agenda, then these conceptual models must assimilate this new information and change to align with reality.  When the facts differ from the ideology, go with the facts and abandon that ideology.
  • Embrace settled science, especially including the age of the universe, the age of the earth, the history of the dinosaurs, the evolution of the species including humans, and the threat of global warming.
  • Acknowledge and plan for reaching limits to ecological growth and limits to economic growth.
  • Welcome our increasingly diverse population including Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, homosexuals, Muslims, self-reliant women, and so many others who bring their rich cultural heritage to this country.
  • Remain curious and open to new ideas, discoveries, and experiences.
  • Recognize false dichotomies as logical fallacies. Pursue solutions on common ground rather than restricting ideas to only one pole or the other.
  • Seek simplicity while rejecting simplistic thinking.
The basic principles of conservatism—smaller government, personal freedoms, and personal responsibility—are sound. Political leaders need to align more closely with these principles while they assimilate the many changes that define our modern world.  I hope that some of these ideas can help us identify common ground and reduce the polarization of our politics.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Hearing

You can imagine my surprise when the Dali Lama himself called to ask if I could accompany him, as his translator, on an urgent and secret visit to North Korea. I accepted immediately and was curious to find out more about the trip. I learned that on January 8, 2012 an organization called the International Coalition to Stop Crimes against Humanity in North Korea had sent an open letter to Kim Jong-un,  the Supreme Leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The letter expresses condolence on the passing of his father Kim Jong-il, congratulates the young new leader as he assumes his duties, and raises concerns about a long list of human rights violations occurring throughout the country.

The accusations in the letter infuriated the Supreme Leader, and he demanded immediate and violent revenge on the many signatories to the letter.  In an attempt to placate the enraged leader, the Dali Lama offered to meet with him, hear his grievances, and do what he could to resolve the conflict.

“Both Kim and I were thrust into leadership at a very young age, facing great challenges while our countries were being ravaged by dangerous and violent conflicts” His Holiness explained to me. “We will have much in common to talk about. But I must listen much and talk little.” And listen we did …

“My most important purpose here is to listen and understand what you want to tell me” began the Dali Lama, when we finally met privately with Kim.  “I’ll spend as much time or as little time as you want meeting with you. We can meet as often as you want. Our meetings will be entirely private; nothing you say here will be repeated to anyone. I want to understand your viewpoint and what your concerns are. When you are ready, please begin. What’s on your mind? “

Kim unleashed a tirade. He ranted incessantly about the immense difficulties he faces, how hard he works, the lack of appreciation he receives, how his greatest love is for the welfare of his people, and how hard his people work for the good of the nation. He renounced the accusations in the coalition letter point by point and in immense detail. “Who are these people writing to me? What do they know? Don’t they realize how hard I work? Why do they blame me? This is just another part of the international conspiracy to shame me and attack my people.  Look how many cowards signed the letter. Why are they ganging up on me? Don’t they know I put traitors in prison only so the loyal people of our great country are not harmed by these thugs? We face great threats from so many people in so many nations outside our country who do not understand us and want to harm us. The United States alone has thousands of nuclear weapons atop missiles aimed at our small and peace-loving country. Yet they denounce us as the axis of evil. How can that be? We need a great army to protect our tiny nation from so many threats. This is very costly, but we all understand the need and are willing to make the sacrifice. Our people encourage the military by showing their great love for this country and their unwavering loyalty to our cause. After supporting our military with their donations, sacrifices, and loyalty, not much else is left for the hard working people of our country.  The peasants choose to go hungry so our military has what it needs to protect us against so many belligerent nations. What else can we do?”

The Dali Lama sat quietly, listened closely, nodded gently, and spoke rarely. Occasionally his Holiness would carefully reflect, clarify, and affirm what he was hearing by simply stating “You are angry.” Knowing he was being heard encouraged Kim to continue.

The Dali Lama radiates calm and compassion. Kim Jong-un, not so much, but after days of listening and accurately reflecting what Kim had to say, the young leader began to trust the gentle old man. Compassion was beginning to make inroads.

After days of patiently listening, the Dali Lama asked his first question. “The letter mentions the Kwan-li-so. I am curious to learn more about that.”

“These are rehabilitation centers my father and grandfather worked to create,” Kim began to explain. “Many outsiders are entering our country, misleading our people, telling lies, and producing discontent. We need to find out who these enemies are, and who has been misled by them. We will not tolerate traitors working against our good people.”

Kim went on to explain, “The traitors in these rehabilitation centers have betrayed their Leader and thus deserve execution.  However our kind Workers’ Party has decided, in its mercy, not to kill, but to keep alive these people and allow them to repay the nation for their treachery by providing rehabilitating labor for the rest of their lives. We teach these traitors collective responsibility where individuals ultimately take responsibility for their own class’s wrong doing. We help them learn by allowing them to carve inspiring excerpts from my Grandfather’s speeches into wood signs and door entrances. We expect much work of these traitors. To encourage them we reduce their food rations if they fall behind in their rehabilitation duties.”

“When a dentist fixes a toothache, he must dig deep and remove all the disease so the infection does not recur. Many of these people have been taught treachery and disloyalty over several generations” Kim explained. “Therefore we retain three generations of family members and provide rehabilitation to all of them so we can properly educate everyone who may have been wrongly influenced. This is very costly to our government, but it seems to be the only way we can protect our people from those who are determined to destroy our simple way of life. “

“Have you ever visited the Kwan-li-so rehabilitation centers and spoken to any of the people there?” asked the Dali Lama.

Kim suppressed his outrage, thought for some time and responded, “The duties of a great leader are great indeed. I spend my time with the loyal people struggling to protect and serve our country. I have no time for traitors. I do, however, take time to listen to reports from the courageous men running the rehabilitation centers. They tell me of the enormous struggle they are enduring to reeducate these ungrateful traitors.

“With your permission, I would like to travel to a Kwan-li-so rehabilitation center, meet with some of the detainees, and learn more about your approach to rehabilitation. Would that be possible?” asked the Dali Lama.

Kim was surprised by this request, thought about it for some time, and responded, “Go ahead, visit the traitors, I will send a military unit along to protect you. Learn what you can and tell the world of our great struggle. “

“Thank you for your sincere kindness and generosity. I have learned much from you. I look forward to visiting the rehabilitation centers. Is there any chance you would be willing to join me and meet some of the traitors who are threatening your country?  You could teach them yourself. It could have a great and lasting impact.”

Image courtesy of Wikicommons 

Copyright 2012 by Leland R. Beaumont, All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Contraception Thought to Prevent Abortion

A recent survey suggests that abortions may be a leading cause of death to the unborn. Concerned by this finding several journalists worked to research this issue further. Traveling to street corners across small town America, reporters asked passersby if they ever had an abortion. After eventually excluding girls under six, people who have never dated, and men from their results they did find some women who were sexually active yet never had abortions. Concentrating on this select group, they went on to ask several questions, including questions about the use of contraceptives. These survey findings suggest that even sexually active women who conscientiously use contraception almost never seek abortions.

Could this surprising finding provide some new approach to reducing the number of abortions? To research this question journalists set out this time to interview anti-abortion activists. After carefully including only girls under six, people who have never dated, and men in their survey the results were disappointing. Anti-abortion activists seemed baffled and desperate. One was quoted as saying: “I just don’t know what more we can do. We have picketed the Supreme Court, murdered doctors, mobilized religious fundamentalists, voted for TEA party candidates, required medically unnecessary and intrusive examinations, worked to reduce the intrusion of government into our private lives, demonized women seeking abortion, trivialized rape, and cut off funding to Planned Parenthood.”

Vigorous efforts continue to seek some effective approach to reducing the incidence of abortion, but progress remains slow.

Friday, January 27, 2012


Our beloved smartphones and iPads hide a dirty little secret. Low labor costs combined with an efficient supplier infrastructure make particular Asian factories the economic choice for electronics manufacturers.  Many smartphones, most Apple products, and many other technology products are manufactured at Foxconn, headquartered in Taiwan. Unfortunately labor conditions at Foxconn are oppressive, almost barbaric by Western standards. Pitiful wages, long hours, tedious work, bans on organized labor, abusive management, and even suicides are prevalent at the massive plant. While American-designed iPhones are manufactured in oppressive Asian factories, Americans face high unemployment and a troubling decline in manufacturing jobs at home. What can be done?

Perhaps working conditions will improve if we begin to tax oppression. It might work like this. A panel including human rights experts, labor representatives, manufacturing executives, economists, and government trade analysts would begin by creating a reference standard and index for quantifying oppressive working conditions. Let’s call it the sweatshop index. The most worker-friendly factories would score zero; the worst factories would have high scores. Next a team of independent auditors and examiners would visit factories around the world and score individual factories on this index. If examiners were barred from visiting the factory or hindered in their examination, they would assume the worst and assign a high score. No doubt the Foxconn factory would receive a high sweatshop index score, unless of course it was reformed. Finally, the United States would impose an import tariff on products based on the weighted sweatshop index of the factories used in their manufacture, regardless of the host country. Smartphones and other products manufactured at worker-friendly plants are subject to little or no tariff.  Products manufactured in sweatshops pay a high tariff. This would provide a direct financial incentive for factories around the world to improve working conditions. Work would begin to flow out of sweatshops into the worker-friendly factories, including American factories, because they now have an economic advantage. Workers around the world would all benefit. 

While a traditional import tariff diverts money away from workers, this sweatshop tariff would shift money toward the benefit of the workers. Factory managers would have a clear financial incentive to improve working conditions because the better working conditions would decrease the final cost of their product to the American market. For a smooth transition to this system, the tariff could increase gradually over time. It might begin at zero while the index is being created and factories are being assessed. This will give adequate time for factory managers to plan reforms before any financial penalty is assessed. The tariff can then be systematically increased to drive reform at a managed rate.

Perhaps this concept could be extended to include oil imports. Here an import tariff based on human rights violations in the supplying country is added to each barrel of oil imported. This would provide a financial incentive for the exporting country to eliminate these violations and improve life for its people. 

Choosing to internalize these externalities—transaction costs not fully reflected in the product price—can leverage free market mechanisms to improve human wellbeing.

Friday, August 19, 2011

A Soaring Economy

Every trained pilot knows that pulling back on the yoke causes the nose of the aircraft to pitch upwards. Sufficient airspeed and thrust will steadily increase the climb rate and altitude. If the airspeed is insufficient the aircraft will quickly stall, nosedive, and the plane can crash. The distinction is essential. Pilots understand the primary effects, side effects, interactions, and situational use dozens of cockpit controls. They master aerodynamics in theory and in practice.

Professional pilots train for years, practice in flight simulators, refresh their skills often, demonstrate new skills to expert instructors, practice a wide variety of emergency procedures, and constantly study flight theory and operation. As a result expert pilots skillfully manage the complexities of flight and  complete tens of thousands of flights safely each day.

Boeing 747 Cockpit
Controlling an economy is at least as complex as controlling an aircraft. Corporate and individual tax rates, interest rates, spending rates, money supply, subsidies, tariffs, international trade agreements, and regulations each have their primary effects, secondary effects, interactions, and situational applicability. Do we know what these effects are? Do we know how they interact? Do we know how they work in a wide variety of situations? Do we have an accurate and comprehensive macroeconomic theory that describes the system interactions?

Knowing what control to exercise in each economic situation is a complex skill best left to trained experts. Perhaps economies would soar more often than they crash if we learned more lessons from expert pilots.

Pilots study comprehensive and accurate aerodynamic models. They understand the four primary forces of thrust, drag, lift, and gravity. They study the characteristics of their specific aircraft learning precisely how it performs under different conditions of speed, load, weather, position, and configuration.  They master new maneuvers in simulators rather than subjecting passengers to ad-hoc experiments.

Perhaps we can begin by researching, developing, validating, and understanding a comprehensive and accurate macroeconomic reference model. We could use that model to understand, describe, and explore the many effects of each proposed change in the economy. For example, the effects a proposed tax cut would have on public sector jobs, private sector jobs, the deficit, and other aspects of the economy could be described together as the overall effect of a proposed change. We would always refer to the same reference model to fully describe the many effects of each proposed alternative rather than highlighting only one effect while ignoring all the others.
US Unemployment Rate, 1890-2009
The pilot and co-pilot agree, well before takeoff, on their destination. It would be reckless for the pilot to head toward Chicago while the co-pilot is determined to head toward Iowa. Perhaps leaders could agree on the overall goals of proposed economic policy for the long term and the short term before proposing specific maneuvers. Is the goal deficit reduction or jobs growth? What tradeoffs are we willing to accept? What is the flight plan—the economic trajectory we are proposing? Is there some set of controls that can be exercised to achieve that outcome for each of the important economic elements? Can we validate our economic proposals before subjecting the citizens to yet another ad-hoc economic experiment?

When a bird strike suddenly stopped both engines on US Airways Flight 1549, Captain Sully Sullenberger drew on his extensive expertise, wisdom, leadership, and courage to calmly and expertly land the plane in the Hudson River. He did not look at a single straw poll; it was a time to rely on a lifetime of experience rather than sound bites. Everyone aboard was saved in the January 15, 2009 “Miracle on the Hudson.” Sadly this contrasts with the tragedy of Colgan Air Flight 3407 which crashed near Buffalo New York when less experienced pilots reacted incorrectly during difficult weather conditions. All aboard were killed the night of February 12, 2009 when the plane stalled and crashed due to pilot error.

Complex systems require expert oversight. We must improve the expertise, wisdom, leadership, and courage of the people controlling our economy.

Perhaps a widely available tax policy simulator—let's call it TaxApp—could help us distinguish fact from fiction. Tax App would do for our understanding of tax policy what spaghetti charts do for hurricane forecasts. Imagine an application for the iPad and other platforms that allows the user to input tax policy proposals and then displays their consequences across the broad economic landscape. For example in simulating a specific proposal to increase tax rates for the wealthy TaxApp could forecast the impact on total tax revenues, deficit over the next 20 years, the amount I pay in taxes, the amount my business pays in taxes, the ratio of taxes collected from business to that collected from individuals, the number of people paying taxes, a profile showing what people at various income levels contribute to the tax revenue, employment levels, the degree to which such a change would be more or less regressive, and other important implications.

The economic models that form the basis for TaxApp could be designed by a panel of expert economists. Just as several different meteorological models each predict a unique path for each hurricane, there might be several different versions of TaxApp, each reflecting differing expert opinions on the most accurate economic model. When a hurricane is about to reach land, we look at each path predicted by the various meteorological models and from that spaghetti chart we can immediately see where the models agree and the extent to which they disagree in their predictions of the hurricane path. Similarly, we can look where the various versions of TaxApp agree and the extent to which they disagree about the impact of various tax proposals.

Hurricane spaghetti models help us understand weather forecasts. Perhaps TaxApp could help us understand the implications of tax policy proposals.
When a hurricane is about to come on shore we study a variety of expert opinions, rendered in the form of the spaghetti chart, to understand the most likely future outcome and degree of uncertainty. With TaxApp we can get similarly important information about tax policy proposals. Imagine a presidential debate where a candidate proposes a specific tax policy change. The moderator, or any viewer, can model that with TaxApp and immediately notice the full range of impacts and implications that policy would have. Specific follow-up questions could then be posed to the candidate. Injecting this level of reality into the dialogue would move us to a new level of understanding.

Generations of aspiring pilots enjoyed testing their skills on Microsoft Flight Simulator. Perhaps a new generation of aspiring politicians, or caring citizens, can enjoy testing their skills as tax policy proponents.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Earth at One Billion

After a difficult transition the earth finally stabilized at a population near one billion humans. Now we clearly see the benefits and wisdom of this smaller population. It has been many centuries since the earth’s population reached its peak of more than 12 billion people back in the year 2050. Despite the dismal predictions of Malthus at the turn of the nineteenth century, publication of The Population Bomb in 1968 and The Limits to Growth books in 1972 and 2004, we all got swept up promoting the economic growth and relentless consumption that financial systems have relied on for millennia.

But eventually it became clear that Malthus and his disciples got it right. Drought, famine, global warming, overcrowding, deforestation, hoarding, violent conflicts, and depletion of: fertile soil, fossil water, fossil fuels, and essential minerals made it undeniable that we had already exceed earth’s ecological limits to growth by the beginning of the 21st century.  In addition economies at the personal, regional, national, and world levels were relying on increasing and crippling quantities of debt. The bubble finally burst, we finally got the message, and something had to be done. Enough!

Political, religious, business, and community leaders agreed to unequivocally advocate voluntary birth control. Many young couples went childless; others had at most one or two children. They spent more time with nieces, nephews, and neighbors. Adoptions, community care centers, and other social arrangements helped ease the loneliness during this difficult time. At the same time people were living longer so it took centuries for the population to decrease. Advances in genetic counseling provide more information for family planning. Now couples typically have two children, and the population is finally stable at a sustainable level.

Transition of the economy was equally essential and difficult. One key was a mental shift that allowed us to realize prosperity as flourishing—enjoying life more—rather than as opulence—buying more things. Eventually we began to see opulence and all of its excess as vulgar and not something to envy or aspire to. People learned to seek more enduring and authentic forms of gratification based on savoring possessions, events, and experiences that provide real and lasting value. A walk in the woods was soon enjoyed more than a trip to the theme park. Durable goods are now built to last by skilled crafts-people, and they are enjoyed for centuries.

Another key to transforming the economy was to fully internalize the various externalities that primitive accounting systems ignored. It had long been recognized that Gross Domestic Product was a narrow and inaccurate measure of productivity and value added. For example, the results of a fatal car accident perversely caused the GDP to increase because the costs to replace the damaged vehicles, hospital expenses, ongoing therapy, funeral expenses, and legal expenses are all counted positively, despite the tragedy they each represent. In addition it ignores the value of natural resources and ecosystem services. Eventually we were able to move to more comprehensive measures of human well-being, modeled after the Human Development Index, the Genuine Progress Indicator, measures of Gross National Happiness, and other measures that began to emerge early in the 21st century.

Because there are now fewer people, each person enjoys a greater share of earth’s bounty. Most of the world has become a nature preserve for all of us to enjoy. Forests cover much of the land, providing habitats to preserve and enhance biodiversity, sequestering carbon, and generating fertile soil. Only the most suitable arable land is used for agriculture, relying on rain water for irrigation and compost for nutrients. The oceans are once again teeming with fully grown fish in every species not yet extinct. Those that are caught represent only a tiny sustainable fraction of those that live and grow. Overfishing has become only a distant and painful memory.

As there were fewer people, the dignity intrinsic in each person became more fully recognized. It was no longer tolerable to watch as a billion people went without clean, safe drinking water, three billion were malnourished, and violent conflicts killed millions. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights finally took hold world-wide, and the rights of each person eventually prevailed over the last strongholds of tyranny.

Because of this bounty starvation has been eliminated, along with most resource conflicts. Peace finally prevails across the earth, eliminating the need for militaries, defense contractors, and so many other defensive drains on our time, energy, and natural resources. Many other jobs that did not add value have been phased out. The tobacco industry finally dwindled away as people became better informed of the dangers of tobacco use. Simplified tax codes eliminated the need for tax accountants, tax lawyers, and the entire tax interpretation industry. Simpler and more just laws reduced the need for lawyers, and reduced the number of people incarcerated. This reduced the size of prisons and the number of police and prison guards needed.

People only need to work two or three days per week to earn the income required to support their families. Most careers are in farming, engineering, teaching, art, and entertainment, in addition to the many hands-on trade and service jobs. Most of us enjoy a healthy balance between work and leisure time, while a few still choose all leisure or all work.

People eat healthier food and live healthier lives—spending more time exercising as a natural part of each day and encountering less stress. This leads to greater fitness and fewer health-related problems, thereby reducing health-care costs.

Education has evolved to become human-centered. We use our educations everyday to live better lives and improve our well-being. Illiteracy disappeared centuries ago.  Open education platforms modeled after Wikiversity and the Khan Academy make vast collections of learning resources freely accessible and are now the widespread norm. Life skills such as emotional competency essential to improving human interactions are now core elements in typical curricula. Developing a robust theory of knowledge allows us to carefully decide what to believe and what to dismiss. Educational institutions have successfully made the transition from imparting knowledge to promoting wisdom. People learn more than facts, they learn what is most important in life, how to become more creative, and how to make decisions that improve their well-being. We are finally learning how to cope with abundance.

The major cities that were so overcrowded at the time of peak population continue to be where most people choose to live. However now that fewer people share the space, housing, and cultural resources of a huge city, there is plenty for everyone to enjoy. Renewed emphasis on placemaking has transformed the cities into safe, comfortable, and intriguing living spaces. Some cities located in earthquake zones were abandoned rather than rebuilt after earthquakes occurred. Of course, many people still choose to live in the surrounding suburbs, and in rural areas. The shorter work week reduces commuting time and expense. Also, high speed rail lines connect each of the major cities allowing safe, fast, comfortable, and economical travel.

Quality of life is finally triumphing over incessant growth.  Virtue is finally prevailing over vice. Imagine!

Note: This fictional story was written for the Wikiversity course "Limits to Growth" to provoke thinking about one possible long-term outcome.