Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Resolutions for 2016

Did you make any resolutions for the new year?  Perhaps "Listen to my brother more, because he's always right" might be one to put at the top of your list...

Your niece suggested that I should make a resolution to do the opposite of what I would normally do, and that I might be better off.

I second that motion!

Here is an idea: imagine that you are the United States of America. What would your top 5 resolutions for yourself be for the next year? Now, you have to prioritize these, as you only have 5. What would they be, in order?

If the US were a person, statistics indicate that they would most likely make a resolution to lose weight. A correlation would be for us to tackle the debt. Under the current president, we racked up a new 8 trillion dollars in debt. As a comparison, a 200 pound man would need to more than double in size to 450 pounds. Our number one resolution should be to reform entitlement spending to get this under control, and subsequently start bringing the debt down. All of my other resolutions would work together towards this goal.

In keeping with the idea of tailoring the government's resolutions to common resolutions that average Americans make, here are my top 5:

1. Lose weight (Decrease the debt)
2. Be more productive (Encourage the economy by reforming taxes and reducing  the regulatory burden)
3. Get organized (Decrease the size of government agencies,  so they will be more accountable and effective.)
4. Stop smoking (Stop blaming guns, and seriously start addressing the violence, and the reasons for violence, exhibited by young men in our society)
5. Be responsible (Hold government employees and appointed officials responsible for wrongdoing. Be more transparent, which is what was promised, but never delivered by the current administration)

What are your resolutions for the government?

These resolutions don't have to be relegated to the government. But, as the government is just made up of people, my resolutions should work for them, too. My top 5 recommendations:

1. Think for yourself, and discuss.
2. Meet new people, and listen and share.
3. Have fun where and when you can.
4. Learn something new.
5. Don't hurt people.

As I look over your list and mine, I see some similarities and differences. First, just the basic idea of a resolution is an idea of privilege. If you are working three jobs, one doesn't really have the luxury to think about other things, like the national debt or having fun.

You've already lost me. New Year's resolutions are about improving yourself, or correcting self-identified deficiencies. Anyone can try to improve themselves, anytime and anywhere.  Someone who works hard could still make a resolution to get out of debt, or to spend more quality time with their family, for instance. Everyone can work to improve their flaws, even if they are the only ones who know what their flaws are.

Ok. Anyway, both of our lists are aimed at those people who have the ability to think and act beyond the daily grind. We imagine the USA as ourselves, but the majority of the country is not as well-off as we are. What kinds of resolutions can one have if you are trapped? I don't know. But perhaps others can help. I think I'll amend my #2 to include "and help." This can include our own people, but also our neighbors, and people around the world.

Wait a minute. First you say that resolutions are such a luxury that anyone who is struggling can't even worry about helping themselves (and we both can agree that under this President, too many Americans are struggling, with flat wages and a stagnant economy), but then you say they should be out doing more to help others?  Or, are you saying we should be like college students who are resolved that others should help them?

Have you started your resolutions yet? You write "be responsible" but so far you have blamed the President, college students, young men, and government employees. My list is different in that I don't put any blame on anyone for anything. And there are big differences between our lists as well. Your list is a list of pre-determined solutions, and steps to get to those answers. My list is a more general way of coming to an understanding about what the problems are, and how we can work together to solve them.

They aren't my resolutions, but resolutions I would suggest for Uncle Sam. If the President enacts an executive order, or regulates businesses in a way that hurts the economy, then he is to blame. And undoing those actions would be the solution.

New Year's resolutions are not designed to determine what the problems are. Resolutions are determinations to act to correct problems that are already identified, or to make improvements where deficiencies are found.

I see. You are sort of the Resolution Czar.

I believe The Resolution Czar is the only czar President Obama didn't create. But here's an explanation, and some suggestions of resolutions from Wikipedia:

There are some big differences in our lists, for sure. Here's some interesting statistics about resolutions:

If you combine our two lists for the US, they mimic the top resolutions in this survey fairly well. You'll note that only 8% of Americans are able to follow through with their resolutions, and the key to success is for resolutions to be "explicit".  In other words, identify specific goals and specific strategies to obtain them.

So, for instance, resolving to stop smoking by cutting down by 2 cigarettes each week until I've quit, has a much better success rate than saying I'm going to be healthier this year.

Your list is full of good intentions, but by the "explicit" marker, Americans who follow my list will be statistically 10X more likely to actually accomplish something, than those who try to follow yours. You can get more traction on concrete than you can on hot air....

If you look at my list, I think that they are as specific as yours. But mine are specific about working on the process to a solution. I believe that finding solutions is the goal, not getting to a particular idea that is imagined to be the solution.

There are more problems that I hope my resolutions would help to address. For example, I didn't explicitly mention the environment, but I hope that we can work towards a solution to climate change (and pollution in general). That solution could be reached by listening, thinking, and acting to not hurt others (including our future generations).

That's just my point. A resolution to "not hurt others" can also mean that you should not deprive 50% of the world's population, who have no access to inexpensive energy, from burning coal. While I agree that too often politicians set out to enact solutions without identifying the actual problem, once a problem is identified, you should be resolved take some action to address the problem. Sometimes, that solution may be to do nothing. Or the solution may be to undo something, like certain regulations. But to leave the resolution open-ended is more of a feel-good approach, rather than a means to an end that ends in accomplishment. If you want to work towards a solution to an environmental problem, then you need to lay out steps towards that end, if you hope to accomplish the goal of your resolution.

I think I'll follow my first resolution, and think for myself, thank you very much. Also, it is a good idea for all to get out of one's bubble, and meet and talk to very different kinds of people. I see that you saw the research by Indiana University: Social media news consumers at higher risk of 'information bubbles':

Also have fun, and learn something new (keeps the mind young). And, remember that it was our dear mother that said "Don't hurt people" (as the definition of a word in a game of Balderdash---the first time she played). Maybe "Don't hurt people" should be the first resolution.

Perhaps we can combine our efforts, and suggest a resolution stating "Don't shoot people". That covers a few bases, and is very explicit.

I hope that all liberals follow your advice when setting their resolutions this year, and create happy, feel-good resolutions without specific goals in mind. I also hope that conservatives develop resolutions that have specific issues to change,  and explicit plans to accomplish those goals. Uncle Sam will likely be a better world-citizen if he tames his debt, and stokes the economy.  Or, we can all settle back onto the couch, grab the remote, and keep doing what we're doing now.

I think if people don't (or can't) enjoy life, then everything looks scary. But if you read my list and interpreted that as having no goals, and watching TV, then I need to add another resolution: Write more clearly. I do think we need more action. But we need to talk and think before we know what that action is, and that action shouldn't hurt a large number of people.

If you resolve to "Be happy", but have no explicit steps to reach that goal, by February 1st you'll find yourself exactly as you are now. That's all that I'm saying, and is proven by the studies and surveys of New Year's resolutions.

Enjoying life is a state of mind. Haven't you ever heard that money doesn't buy you happiness? Of course, in your Bernie Sander's mind set, you can only find happiness by taking it from someone who has it, and giving it to those who don't. How does it go? Rich, white people have all of the money, happiness, privilege, and everything else that's good or desirable, and it must be taken from them and distributed to the masses by the government... in the name of fairness. Got it!

I'd be happy if the President would listen and talk with Republicans who were elected as the majority to both houses of Congress. But he doesn't even talk to his own Party members. As we saw again just this week, he's going to go it alone, and push executive actions to get his way.

Perhaps you should suggest President Obama follow your resolutions. I'd certainly like him to follow mine...

Happy new year!

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