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The Silly Ideas We Still Standby

The philosophy of conservatism as defined by dictionaries declares it to be a disposition towards preserving the established status quo and advocating for the gradual change of policies. I’ve never liked that definition. While it is true that many traditionalists idolize the golden days of the past, this does not preclude conservatives advocating for the advancement of society. Be that in innovation in science and technology, a healthier environment, a higher standard of living, a robust economy, or a brighter future where limited government, constitutionalism and the liberty of the individual stands paramount. We believe in the progress of society.

What is to blame is that as the human race, we have a knack for clutching to the ‘old ways’. Regardless of how inane our practices are, the argument stands as “This is how we’ve always done it! Why should we change?!”  This argument aggravates me to no end. It is fallacious and illogical, and hacks me off because my personality is one that embraces simplicity, clarity and common sense. I see no point in continuing policies that at their core make no practical sense other than “that’s what we do.”

Today I’ve decided to collect five of these senseless policies together in hopes of persuading the end of these stupid practices that we still embrace. With your help we can dig these policies their grave. So, without much further ado I present to you the Top 5 silly ideas that are long, long overdue:

#1: The Imperial System

There is nothing more dumb than our continued use of the US imperial measurement system. Feet, miles, gallons, ounces, fluid ounces, pounds, barrels, pints and Fahrenheit all make the Baby Jesus cry. How many inches are in two and a half miles? What percentage of a pint is three fl ounces? I couldn’t honestly tell you because the imperial system is that screwed up.

We are constantly told that the American education system is in shambles as compared to the rest of the world in math and science. Well duh. The very foundation of our maths and sciences is an incoherent mix of senseless babble and we expect our students to make sense of that? We ought to be ashamed. The US is only one of two countries in the world that has not adopted the International System of Units as the official system of measurement and that’s an embarrassment.

The first attempt at metrication in the US failed in the 70s and 80s because Americans were just too stubborn to listen to their HS math and science teachers. However, we’ve still made progress. In the grocery store our food labels say both 17 FL OZ [1 PT 1 FL OZ] (illogical) and the metric equivalent of 500 ML (easy) and our American cars list our speed in both mph and in km/hr. The dual usage is great, but we need to take the next step. Our state governments need to start putting up metric speed signs, our companies need to drop imperial units on packaging and our Federal government needs to adopt the SI units as our official system of measurement.

We deserve to have a language of science and math that is both coherent and understood by the other 96% of the world.

#2 Using the Penny

There is nothing more worthless than what a single penny is worth today. If a single penny appeared in your pocket every minute of every day for an entire year, you’d make $5,256 a year. That’s only about a third of what minimum wage pays or ~ $2,000 less than what the funeral would cost if you had 1,314kg of pennies dumped on your head. Simply put, if your job was to pick pennies of the ground, you’d be living in poverty. Pennies are THAT worthless. When it becomes common practice to leave money behind at a cash register in a penny jar, that money ceases to become a form of money at all. It no longer has any value as a medium of exchange and needs to be eliminated.

In addition, the cost of minting pennies to US taxpayers is not a small amount. In 2012 it will cost us $60,200,000 to produce all the pennies we mint this year, plus another a several billion dollars in time and wasted efficiency as we stand in queues waiting for the cashier to count out worthless pieces of metal. Arguments against the elimination of the penny — it will cause inflation, it will hurt charities, “I don’t know how to round numbers” — are baseless and have been proved wrong time and time again as tens of countries have successfully eliminated their worthless currency denominations without looking back (* Australia, Brazil, UK, Denmark, Finland, Hong Kong, Hungary, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden and most recently Canada, which stopped production of its penny in April).

#3 Printing One Dollar Bills

It is estimated that eliminating the dollar bill and replacing it with a coin will save the US taxpayer $146,000,000 per year. Low value currency denominations like the $1 bill, quarter and dime are made as coins for the sole reason that coins provide the durability and cost savings that paper bills cannot provide. Switching to a dollar coin will recognize this in addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars that will be saved in the increased ease of use of vending machines, parking meters, laundromats and disgruntled cashiers who have to deal with crappy, filthy dollar bills. Small business groups like the vending machine industry and food service industries have practically begged for us to switch as it would lessen the cost of business for them, but we continue to defy them with old fogey defense tactics.

These include but are not limited to: “I’m too cheap to give strippers a $5 bill,” “I’m too lazy to carry a coin in my pocket,” and “Even though the blind and visually-impaired elderly cannot differentiate between $1 and $5 bills, but I’m going to whine about coins even though I still have the capacity to see and feel.”

A simple, cost-friendly and logical step towards a healthier economy would to be immediately eliminate the dollar bill in favor of the dollar coin.

#4 Teaching Cursive

I’m not sure if I’ve even actually met someone who still advocates the usage of cursive writing, but given that our kids are still being taught to write in cursive instead of typing shows that they’re still out there in force. Fact is while legible printing is still a valid and useful skill for young ‘uns (ease of communication, motor skills) to learn, we’ve progressed to the point where the value of typing and computer literacy skills has overwhelmed that of cursive’s. That holds true for both the employer and in our daily lives. Parents, school boards and state education boards need to end this waste of limited classroom time.

#5 The Electoral College (h/t cgpgrey)

Probably the most controversial item in my list, the electoral college serves absolutely no purpose in governance other than to confuse the electorate and disenfranchise millions of voters by making some voter’s vote worth more than other voter’s votes. If conservatives stand in opposition to vote fraud because it disenfranchises those of us who follow the rules, we need to support sending the archaic Electoral College to this history books because in both situations the value of our vote is being robbed.

As it stands, the Electoral College doles out three electoral college votes to every state first before the remaining EC votes are allotted proportionally. This results in 19 states having an increased share of the vote, and the remaining states being robbed of their fair share. For example, a Washington D.C. vote is mathematically equivalent to the votes of 3 Texan voters. So not only do Texans have little say in the Presidential primaries, but they actually have little say in the national election as well. This is indefensible.

One might argue that the EC protects smaller states from the tyranny of the larger states, but in practice the EC has the opposite effect. In the past 2008 elections, McCain and Obama made campaign stops in only 18 states, of which only 5 of those states were in the bottom 25 smallest states. The winner-take-all structure of the EC focuses the presidential campaign onto only a handful of swing states and their issues (FL, PA, OH, VA receiving 57% of the visits and 55% of all election money in ’08) at the expense of every other single American. The vast majority of the country is ignored because it’s strategic to do so.

The other fear concerning abolishing the EC is that candidates will only focus on big population centers, which ignores the same mathematical argument we conservatives use to argue why public transit will never work in the US. The top 100 largest cities in the US only makes up only about 20% of our population. A President who only ever focused on large population centers would lose by 80% of the vote.

The EC system is an archaic and unfair practice that allows candidates to ignore almost all voting Americans. It further produced winning presidential candidates in 1876, 1888 and 2000 for which the majority of the country did not support. If the same held true for the Superbowl (EG the Pats won 17 to the Giant’s 21), there’d be a revolt. Or is the control of the governance of our country not that important?

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