FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Sweepstakes Politics

Rewards. That’s the newest game in Washington D.C. Almost simultaneously John McCain and the Census Bureau came up with clever ideas to make the U.S.A. a better place. The Census Bureau would like for more people to fill out their forms and John McCain would like for someone to invent a really good car battery. Both have concluded that the secret is to offer rewards. Both are great ideas. Before explaining the Census Bureau idea, however, a bit of history is necessary.

Laws are usually enforced by punishing those who refuse to obey them. If a person enters a bank and makes a withdrawal using a gun instead of a withdrawal slip that person is, if caught, prosecuted and if convicted, sent to prison. People who refuse to obey traffic laws receive a ticket and if found guilty, are fined and under some circumstances, sent to jail. These are, of course, just two examples of how compliance with laws is encouraged in this country. There has never been, until now, a suggestion that people who do not break the law should be rewarded for their good behavior.

The United States Constitution requires that a census be taken every 10 years pursuant to laws enacted by Congress. Congress has determined that citizens must respond to forms they receive so that the census can be properly completed. Many people refuse to complete and return the forms and Congress and the Census Bureau have been trying to figure out how to get people to comply with the law. If the traditional approach were used, criminal sanctions would be imposed on those who refuse to obey the law. (Those who refuse to file income tax returns can explain how that works.) To address the problem of non-compliance in returning census forms, however, Congress and the Census Bureau are considering a solution that is thrilling in its simplicity. They have concluded it is more cost efficient to offer incentives to those who comply with the law than to prosecute those who don’t.

Among the rewards considered prior to the 2000 census was having some kind of sweepstakes. That idea has resurfaced and a $1 million prize has been suggested. That amount seems a bit on the penurious side, given the fact that there are close to 300 million people living in this country. They could easily triple that without adversely affecting the budget.

Rewarding those who comply with the census law is, of course, just a first step in reforming our justice system. If encouraging compliance with the law by the use of rewards instead of punishments catches on, other proposals equally attractive will almost certainly follow. The money needed to pay those who abide by the law can be found in money saved by not having to build and staff prisons. Once we have established the appropriate reward for the citizen who returns the census form, it will be necessary to determine the appropriate rewards for those who do not break other laws of which the following are merely suggestions.

Those who do not break any traffic laws during a given year may be rewarded by being entered into a lottery for a modest sum. Those from families with criminal proclivities who do not, for example, rob any banks, would be entered in lotteries with considerably higher rewards since the level of the reward should be commensurate with the level of the foregone criminal activity. Offering money as an incentive to forego criminal activity is no less imaginative than is John McCain’s suggestion on how to encourage creativity.

Mr. McCain has suggested that the government (which most Republicans believe should stay out of people’s lives unless it is chasing terrorists on private phone lines or e-mails or determining what women should do with their bodies) , should offer incentives for creativity. He has suggested that taxpayers offer a $300 million prize to whoever builds what he refers to as “a better car battery,” one that “has the size, capacity, cost and power to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars.” He wants, said he, to “inspire the ingenuity and resolve of the American people.” Until those words were spoken, few, if any citizens, realized that it was the prospect of a taxpayer reward that inspired creativity. Most people thought that the truly creative among us such as Bill Gates, believed their rewards were to be found in the satisfaction of a job well done and the profits that followed the commercial success of their inventions. Mr. McCain’s comments suggest that he has no confidence in the ingenuity and creativity of the American people unless the federal government steps in and offers them extravagant rewards for their efforts.

Carping aside, everyone would surely agree that both ideas have great merit. If implemented, only time will tell whether rewarding the compliant or the creative will produce better results for society.

CHRISTOPHER BRAUCHLI is a lawyer in Boulder, Colorado. He can be reached at: Brauchli.56@post.harvard.edu.

 

 

 

 

 

More articles by:
July 18, 2018
Bruce E. Levine
Politics and Psychiatry: the Cost of the Trauma Cover-Up
Frank Stricker
The Crummy Good Economy and the New Serfdom
Linda Ford
Red Fawn Fallis and the Felony of Being Attacked by Cops
David Mattson
Entrusting Grizzlies to a Basket of Deplorables?
Stephen F. Eisenman
Want Gun Control? Arm the Left (It Worked Before)
CJ Hopkins
Trump’s Treasonous Traitor Summit or: How Liberals Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the New McCarthyism
Patrick Bond
State of the BRICS Class Struggle: Repression, Austerity and Worker Militancy
Dan Corjescu
The USA and Russia: Two Sides of the Same Criminal Corporate Coin
The Hudson Report
How Argentina Got the Biggest Loan in the History of the IMF
Kenn Orphan
You Call This Treason?
Max Parry
Ukraine’s Anti-Roma Pogroms Ignored as Russia is Blamed for Global Far Right Resurgence
Ed Meek
Acts of Resistance
July 17, 2018
Conn Hallinan
Trump & The Big Bad Bugs
Robert Hunziker
Trump Kills Science, Nature Strikes Back
John Grant
The Politics of Cruelty
Kenneth Surin
Calculated Buffoonery: Trump in the UK
Binoy Kampmark
Helsinki Theatrics: Trump Meets Putin
Patrick Bond
BRICS From Above, Seen Critically From Below
Jim Kavanagh
Fighting Fake Stories: The New Yorker, Israel and Obama
Daniel Falcone
Chomsky on the Trump NATO Ruse
W. T. Whitney
Oil Underground in Neuquén, Argentina – and a New US Military Base There
Doug Rawlings
Ken Burns’ “The Vietnam War” was Nominated for an Emmy, Does It Deserve It?
Rajan Menon
The United States of Inequality
Thomas Knapp
Have Mueller and Rosenstein Finally Gone Too Far?
Cesar Chelala
An Insatiable Salesman
Dean Baker
Truth, Trump and the Washington Post
Mel Gurtov
Human Rights Trumped
Binoy Kampmark
Putin’s Football Gambit: How the World Cup Paid Off
July 16, 2018
Sheldon Richman
Trump Turns to Gaza as Middle East Deal of the Century Collapses
Charles Pierson
Kirstjen Nielsen Just Wants to Protect You
Brett Wilkins
The Lydda Death March and the Israeli State of Denial
Patrick Cockburn
Trump Knows That the US Can Exercise More Power in a UK Weakened by Brexit
Robert Fisk
The Fisherman of Sarajevo Told Tales Past Wars and Wars to Come
Gary Leupp
When Did Russia Become an Adversary?
Uri Avnery
“Not Enough!”
Dave Lindorff
Undermining Trump-Putin Summit Means Promoting War
Manuel E. Yepe
World Trade War Has Begun
Binoy Kampmark
Trump Stomps Britain
Wim Laven
The Best Deals are the Deals that Develop Peace
Kary Love
Can We Learn from Heinrich Himmler’s Daughter? Should We?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Franklin Lamb, Requiescat in Pace
Weekend Edition
July 13, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Brian Cloughley
Lessons That Should Have Been Learned From NATO’s Destruction of Libya
Paul Street
Time to Stop Playing “Simon Says” with James Madison and Alexander Hamilton
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: In the Land of Formula and Honey
Aidan O'Brien
Ireland’s Intellectuals Bow to the Queen of Chaos 
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail