Even in this age of extreme contentiousness there is one thing we can all agree on: We have a real mess on our hands. Here at home, we have high unemployment, a mounting national debt, real estate foreclosures, a stock market that can't make up its mind-the list goes on. There are reports of wide-spread "Tebowing" from coast to coast. No one is happy with the current state of affairs.
The rest of the world has its problems too. Look at Europe, Syria, North Korea, Mexico and Afghanistan to name just a few of the world's trouble spots. Would you want to change places with any of them? I doubt it. We may have our issues, but at least we haven't resorted to beheadings or strapping on a suicide vest and visiting the opposition's place of worship-at least not yet.
Recently the famed astrophysicist Steven Hawking came up with a startling suggestion. His take on all this is that our difficulties have gotten so bad that "our only chance of long-term survival is not to remain lurking on planet Earth, but to spread out into space." He identified the main problem as the fact that "our genetic code still carries the selfish and aggressive instincts that were of survival advantage in the past." Certainly Hawking won't find much disagreement on that point.
Far be it from me to quibble with the Einstein-like Hawking on his main thesis, but I do think maybe we should come up with a good, solid plan B. Hey, I'm no astrophysicist, but my understanding is that the closest Earth-like planet is a little over 3,000 light years from here and there is no guarantee that it would support life, even if we could figure out how to get there. With recent budget cuts in the space program, I'm guessing it might take a while to work out the details of the Hawking plan.
In the meantime, let me be so bold as to make the following suggestion. It builds on Hawking's basic idea of throwing in the towel and just starting over, but without the spaceships.
I believe that most, if not all, of the problems we suffer from on a worldwide basis are quite solvable. The reason we haven't solved them is that the "selfish and aggressive instincts" that Hawking identified have totally taken over the minds of most of our leaders. They have simply lost touch with the needs of the people they are supposed to represent. Instead, they are engaged in a massive power struggle, the essence of which is to oppose any idea advanced by "the other side" no matter how much merit it may have. What other explanation could there be for the goofiness we witness daily in Washington?
We've got to send a message so loud and so clear that no one alive today will ever forget it. The way we do it is we throw all of our leaders out in one fell swoop. That's right-every single one of them. If we start picking and choosing who to keep and who to toss, we will get bogged down in an unwinnable debate. The forces of the Tea Party will draw swords against the forces of Occupy Wall Street and we will be right back where we are today. The beauty of the plan is that we spare none of them.
The message will be crystal clear: Work for us, or lose your job. Make the problems go away or we'll bring in the next group to see what they can do. Use your talents to sort things out and make the world a better place, or move on. You get no points for ideological purity. All we care about is results.
The details of my plan are simple. In the upcoming election don't vote for anyone who is currently in office. It doesn't matter who is challenging the incumbent, vote for the challenger. Even if the challenger is a total twit, make sure they get elected. All the winners will be so terrified of our power that even the twits will do the right thing.
By doing this we will get the attention of every elected official in the country and probably beyond our borders too. They will finally see that we have had enough. And they will be motivated. Solve our problems or you're outta here. Overcome your selfish and aggressive instincts and learn to cooperate. Don't give us all this "rich vs. poor" class warfare baloney. We actually like each other and we are not going to let you turn us against each other. But we will turn against you if you don't fix things now.
You might be concerned about the consequences of showing so many politicians the door all at the same time. Won't this mass exodus of wisdom and experience leave a vacuum? Won't we suffer from the lack of continuity? Well, not every elected official in Washington is up for reelection in 2012. There will be some survivors to who can teach the newbies how the game is played. But is that what we really want? Don't you think we will be better off with a fresh start? I say if the survivors don't get with the new "get 'er done" program, we toss them too in the next election cycle.
The key to success here is that we all must act together. No hold outs and no exceptions. As soon as our leaders realize that the rules have changed, watch how quickly our problems melt away. It still won't be a perfect world. We will always have challenges to overcome. But at least we won't have to travel 3,000 light years to find relief. Sorry Mr. Hawking, I'd like to find a solution right here at home and I think I know how we can do it. Are you with me?
Scott A. MacKillop is President of Frontier Asset Management, LLC. Frontier manages portfolios for financial advisors and their clients. He can be reached at [email protected].