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March 21, 2006


I think the same can be said of the so-called "big problems":

Education: Spend more money on teachers, have smaller classes, etc.

Health care: A single payer system.

The economy: invest in research, worker training, and infrastructure

And so on.

The problem is that everyone knows these things (both personal and political), and yet for various reasons find it impossible to actually implement them. I think we need to spend less time thinking of solutions and more time trying to understand why these simple things are so hard to do...

The problem, Kerim, is that the solutions you have suggested are expensive and therefore nearly impossible. The solutions Leila suggests are free and therefore merely difficult.

I had a similar epiphany looking at a stack of "how to succeed in business" books in a store. Each of the success systems described in the each of the books will work; you'd just have to pick one and stick with it even when times were tough. In fact just about all problems can be solved by sticking with common sense solutions even when the going is tough.

Yeah, I've always said: MIddle East Peace - all parties follow international law and UN resolutions. Simple, huh?

Here's one that will solve oil deficit, foreign policy issues, pollution and productivity (heard the figures from RFK Jr. on Air America tonight): raise mpg on US fleet to 40 Mpg - which was the target set in the Ford/Carter eras, but rolled back by Reagan in the 1980s.

Achieve this and we wouldn't need any imports from the Persian Gulf, or ANWR drilling; we'd help global warming by reducing carbon emissions; we'd improve productivity (Japan and Germany spend 7% of GNP on energy, we spend 15%)

Heck, improve public transit by a factor of 4, and make it cheaper. Save fuel with all of the above ramifications, and also get people out of their cars and walking more (you have to walk to your bus stop) - reducing our national weight problem and all its attendant health issues.

I would take the bus to school but it costs so much and is so inconvenient with my 4 year old in tow, that I drive. every day. 1.5 miles each way. I save myself at least $4.50 a day by doing this, but what am I costing the planet? And I need the exercise of walking. But I can't get past the hassle factor of dragging the 4 year old the extra mile each way, and the cost ($5.20 a day, with the kid)

Don't forget that you could purchase an AC Transit monthly pass for $70:


The AC Transit website seems to imply that children under 5 ride free. And transfers should be free too: how did you manage to spend $5.20?

Since my carpool partner was laid off in October, I've been commuting via the Dumbarton Express bus. I love the safety and the low-stress aspect of it. I have no problem with spending an extra half-hour a day commuting as long as I get to pass the time reading. Of course I don't have a 4-year-old to entertain.

My solutions are not expensive. For instance, several studies have shown that the US wastes huge amounts of overhead in bureaucratic fees for its health care system. Politically unfeasable, yes, but not expensive. See Kevin Drum's many useful posts on the topic for more info.

The problem with education is not cost, but distribution of funds that is the problem. Right now we base educational costs on real estate taxes, which is about the most stupid way of doing it you could think of if you don't want extreem inequality as a result.

As far as research and infrastructure goes, they are only costly in the short term. They are necessary for economic growth...

My name is Grace, I’m working at M.I.T and I have a quick question for you relating to you blog

Can you please send me an eMail?

Thank you for your time and I look forward to hear from you.

~ Grace

PS – I looked at some of your recopies and got VERY hungry

Hi Grace - I don't find a Shulner on the media.mit.edu site. Also, for an MIT person, you have terrible spelling.

Sorry, but I won't respond via email without a little more info from you. I'm sure an MIT student/researcher/affiliate would be able to find my email address in about two seconds. If you'd like to tell me more about your question in comments, or by emailing me directly, I'd be happy to read further. But due to spam and fishing issues, I am not going to respond to this in the manner you requested. Sorry!

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