Make the Senate matter less

On Politics Twitter there has been a lot of chatter about how undemocratic the Senate is as an institution — e.g. that a person in Wyoming has 68x more influence on the Senate via their vote as someone in California.

The Senate is not going to change any time soon. Even if other things may even out the partisan imbalance like DC or Puerto Rican statehood:

And there is at least one straightforward way to make the presidential election by popular vote.

But there is another way to address this issue: make the Senate matter less.

I continue to see the intractability of agreement at the federal level something that could be more providentially solved by moving more domestic policy to the state level.

This is not an argument for less government, or more government, just a shift in the locus of government from the federal level to the state level. Theoretically, this should not be a partisan issue: let liberals in California and New York have the government they want and conservatives in Utah and Kansas have their style of government.

 

Trump & Federalism

I don’t think I’m the only person who grew up distrustful of the generically Republican position that we should weaken the federal government and “send more power back to the States” who is now re-evaluating the power of the federal government, now that it is in the hands of the spray tan menace.

I think for a lot of us, this position seemed a bit too close to a modern articulation of “states rights”. It was definitely true in the past — and is probably true today — that it is impossible to evaluate Republican policy positions separately from the party’s antagonism toward civil rights.

But, assuming it is possible to do that, I’m finding the idea of moving more and more policy decisions out of the federal government and into respective state governments more and more attractive.

For example, the country does not agree on health care policy. The citizens of New York, Massachusetts, and California probably agree. And those of Utah and Idaho probably agree. (In all cases, I mean agree to the degree required to reach a consensus in government). But New York and Utah definitely don’t. But should they have to?

Most states are as large as national governments elsewhere in the world. Even Utah, which is 31st in US State GDP, has an economy almost as large as New Zealand’s and a population over 3 million people. By comparison, Denmark and Norway, two Scandinavian countries often cited as the gold standard for quality of government, have populations of 5.7 million and 5.2 million, respectively.

So each state definitely has the resources to run their own health care system. Why not let Utah run their system and let New York run their system? I don’t know why this is not possible, but I also don’t think it makes much sense to continue trying to get the whole country to adopt a single system when some coalitions in some states want one thing and other coalitions in other states want something else. And why wouldn’t this be the best possible way to resolve the disagreement? If one approach succeeds and the other fails, won’t there be a lot of pressure on the unsuccessful states to adopt the more successful approach?

This logic definitely doesn’t apply everywhere — some things really do have to be handled at a national level. Climate policy, for example; or the military.

But many domestic policies that are intractable at the national level are much more tractable at the state level (or lower). I’m beginning to believe we should stop trying to agree on policies and accept our disagreement.

Whatever else ____ is, ____ is also a thought.

Over the past few years I’ve experienced with meditation. I’ve always been an “in my own head” guy and — like many millennials — I’ve turned to meditation in an attempt to wrangle more control over the thoughts and feelings spinning in my brain.

I’ve got much more to say about my experience with meditation, but for now I’ll share one transformative (and perhaps banal) personal insight I had the other day.

I used to be a Headspace guy, but recently I’ve been trying 10% Happier and am really loving the variety of approaches and teachers. One meditation I’ve done a few times is called “The Reset” and is designed for times when you’re feeling overwhelmed and totally crazy busy.

The line the teacher used is: “whatever else ‘busy-ness’ is, it’s also a thought”. And it is! Busy-ness is real in the sense that you may have way more things to do then can reasonably be done; you may be running late; etc. But it’s also the experience of feeling “I’m so busy” “I have so much to do” “I’m so overwhelmed” etc. And those are thoughts. They are prompted by the real-life experience you’re having, but they are also independent of them.

Meditation teaches you to identify, label, and ultimately dismiss thoughts on command. So why not do so with busy-ness? It can be done.

But there’s nothing special about the experience of “busy-ness”. Whatever else ____ is, ____ is a thought. You can learn to say, “oh, that’s me being angry”, or “oh, that’s me being nervous” or “oh, that’s me feeling slighted”, and so on.

So am I trying to say that I’ve reached this level of enlightenment and that I can choose not to feel busy, get angry, or feel anxious? No — not at all. Or at least not in all situations all the time. But, sometimes, I can. Maybe about 10% of the time. And that’s a pretty good improvement.

Routines

I have read many times that successful people often have very stringent routines. The book Daily Routines is literally just a list of different habits of famous artists and creatives. You can go to the accompanying blog to get an idea.

The most important constant is that there is a routine at all; even if there aren’t many similarities across routines (some work in the morning, some in the evening, and so on).

I’ve always struggled to create a routine for myself. For instance, I exercise about 70% of days. But the time I exercise is hardly the same from day to day. Breakfast? Who knows? Lunch? Could be anywhere from 11am to 4pm. And so on.

This writing — every day when I have my coffee, I write a short blog post — is an(other) attempt at creating a rhythm for myself.

For for the most part where I’ve landed is the idea of a daily checklist; I have a few things that I want to do every day, and I hit the x on each one as I do them. And as I go about my day, I’m thinking about getting those things done. I use Strides to do that (which is, for instance, how I know I work out about 70% of days).

The checklist helps keep me on track, but I still want to get that rhythm down.