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To My Countrymen

When time and energy permit, I spend a little internet time promoting my TDG concept. For about a year, an American blogger Ben Paine and I have been exchanging posts on a Google+ forum. Both of us had ulterior motives to promote our own political books.

While I enjoyed the discourse with Ben, I found his perspectives to be somewhere between complaining and nostalgia. His blog didn't inspire me much either, and he seemed like another political writer with little imagination. I saw no need to invest time, energy, and money into his book. But we have built up a relationship over the past year, and I decided to read Ben's work, though my expectations were low.

Ben's book “To My Countrymen,” is a collection of essays of his musings. Essays about health care, environment, taxes, laws, political parties, etc., which are all well written and quickly get to the point. For a political book, this is an easy read. Individually, most of these essays accomplish little. But when I read four or five essays without any immediate judgement, a certain magic manifests itself: there is a strong element of common sense to connect all these essays. I find myself agreeing with 90% of whatever Ben is trying to say.

Ben starts his book applauding the Tea Party and Occupy movements in America. He appreciates the efforts to challenge the political status quo. But he also points out the obvious flaws of both movements, encouraging readers to inspect what these movements stand for, and this inspection sets the tone for the rest of the book.

An unwritten rule of political writing is to never put more than one number in a sentence: too much math confuses many readers. Ben ignores this rule. In one essay, he uses math to break down the fallacy held by many low-income earners that working overtime or getting a promotion means taxes go up so much that the take-home pay is actually less. In another math essay, he brilliantly explains why an upper middle class citizen is better off paying 35% tax on a capital gain than 15%. By bringing in such obvious common sense to previous essays, Ben just might get non-math people to plow through his math essays to see his point.

Ben has more than a few essays about getting the rich to pay more taxes, with a higher tax rate at the higher income levels. His arguments are two-fold: 1) the rich can afford higher taxes and will still have a very comfortable lifestyle and 2) we, the majority, can write laws to make the rich pay more taxes—if only we would get off our butts and become more active politically. I wished Ben would have taken this topic to a higher level by stating that for the rich to have had the opportunity to create and enjoy wealth, they need a strong civil society—which requires taxes to finance.

Ben could probably take other essays to higher levels. But I think his goal is to get readers to think critically about their current political positions and opinions by weighing them against his common sense approach. If there is any writer that can crack the psychological barrier of readers only investigating media that supports their current beliefs, Ben—with his brevity, sincerity, and intellect—is the best I have read. If Ben can encourage members of Tea Party and Occupy movements to think a little more critically, this can be only a good thing for America.

Other Articles

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· BP Oil Spill
· BP Macondo—and Cognitive Dissonance
· The Business of Business English
· The CEO
· Chemistry
· Cocaine
· Dynamic Recovery
· Fear Mongering
· Funding Students and Universities
· Germany Goes Non Nuclear, Maybe
· Good Lessons from Smoking
· The Grain Elevator
· Higher Fuel Prices
· Hydrogen Plants
· Impedance of the American Constitution
· Jason Hale
· Jubilee 2000
· Loony Left
· Minus Signs & Being Professional
· Myth of Responsible Drinking
· Oppression of Self-Actualization
· The Passing of Jack Layton
· Public Sector Wages
· Rationality and Poverty
· Righteous Right
· Scrawny Ronnie
· Taxes for the Rich
· To My Countrymen
· Universal Welfare
· Vancouver Hockey Riots
· Vilification
· Women's Rights
· Youth Justice
 
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