5 Tiny Common Sense Changes That Would Save the World
We understand that running a government is probably way harder than it looks. So forgive us if we're being naive when we say a lot of modern problems seem to have fairly obvious solutions ... if somebody was willing to make a bold move. Tell us why every government doesn't have...
If you've been living on Earth over the past few months, you probably know that there's been a bit of controversy in America about the police, and specifically, the unarmed people who sometimes get shot by them. It's a situation that involves shockingly little transparency -- we literally don't even keep records on how often it happens. No doubt most police are honest and competent, but when things go badly and the complaint process comes down to the word of an accused criminal versus a police officer ... let's just say the former had better hope somebody got the incident on camera.
This photo reveals that the suspect's dog was, in fact, not loaded.
The result, as we saw in Ferguson, MO, is that eventually the public loses their trust in the police altogether -- which is bad news because, who else are you gonna call? The Ghostbusters aren't going to be able to help much with your domestic violence dispute.
The Seemingly Obvious Solution:
Some police departments, sick of fighting this battle of hearsay again and again, have come up with a surprisingly intuitive solution: put cameras on cops.
Sure, this wouldn't have been possible 30 years ago, when a portable camera with enough storage and battery would have needed a second officer just to carry it. But this is 2014, and the magic of technology allows for video cameras so portable that they can be installed on an officer's collar, cap, or sunglasses without looking too ridiculous. The forerunner of this technology is the police department of Rialto, California, which has already equipped its personnel with cameras installed on their Taser weapons, which activate when the weapon is armed, which has the added benefit of giving us better footage of quivering criminals on tonight's episode of Cops.
And a surprising amount of off-duty amateur porn.
But the Rialto P.D. has been experimenting with equipping police with even more video capability, and despite complaints from some officers that they're converting the force into a Big Brother state, it's led to an unbelievable 88 percent drop in civilian complaints.
And that's with only half of the force being required to wear them. Our admittedly math-challenged staff estimates that, should the entire force be equipped with cameras, complaints about police misconduct should fall by 166 percent, retroactively stretching back in time.
You can decide for yourself whether the cameras made the police behave better or merely deterred false complaints in advance (or if it was some combination of the two) but doesn't either of those justify the cost? Just ask the Ferguson Police Department, which is now considering adding cameras in the wake of the Michael Brown shooting and protests. So maybe everyone else can learn from their example, rather than wait until everything goes to shit?
Requirements to "Zipper Merge" In Traffic
If you drive a car, you've been in this situation: there you are at 7:30 in the morning, having sat in traffic for the better part of an hour, and your heart sinks when you see a sign announcing that the two already-choked lanes are about to become one. Your lane is the one that's about to end, and all rules of civilized driving are about to go out the window.
Scotland almost seceded over a merge gone wrong.
So you sit in the doomed lane waiting for some honest sucker to let you in, in a world that is depressingly deficient in honest suckers. When someone does finally decide to have mercy and let you join the line of crawling vehicles, you watch as douchebags in the now-empty ending lane go speeding ahead, using the opportunity to leapfrog everyone else in hopes that they'll find an honest sucker at the very last second.
For such a common situation, isn't it odd that approximately no one knows how to handle it? It rewards the douchiest, most aggressive drivers.
The Seemingly Obvious Solution:
Zipper merging is the practice of simply requiring cars to merge in an alternating pattern, much like how a zipper works, hence the name. It is so effective that it has been proven to cut traffic by a whopping 40 percent. Countries such as Germany actually levy fines against those who are unwilling to cooperate with this practice, and let's be honest, would you not love to know that someone is being punished for not letting you in?
And in case you're assuming that because something works in Germany (where they drive on the wrong, anti-freedom side of the road) doesn't mean it can work in the USA, consider that the state of Pennsylvania recently adopted this practice as well. They found that not only was traffic reduced by a significant amount, but they had reduced the incidences of road rage and traffic conflicts as well. All that just by using a system that wasn't founded on the idea that "they'll figure it out on their own."
A Four-Day Work Week
The Monday-Friday, 40-hour work week is such an institution in the West that even in a world of part-time jobs and 24-hour businesses, two-thirds of workers still work that traditional five-day schedule, including millions of people who work in government offices.
They have to be there 9-5, Mon-Fri. How else could they send email?
This is why traffic is a nightmare in your city at a specific time every morning and evening, and why the DMV is only open during the exact hours you happen to be working. We just assume things can't work any other way. Isn't this schedule outlined in the Bible or something?
The Seemingly Obvious Solution:
The state of Utah recently experimented with reducing the government work week by a day and compensating by adding two extra hours -- four 10-hour days, in other words. The result was that an overwhelming majority of workers reported increased morale and productivity, traffic congestion went down, and carbon emissions were cut by as much as 14 percent. The state government chickened out in 2011 and reverted everything back to the national standard, but it wasn't because the program didn't work.
Turned out that Utah's constitution bans three consecutive days of fun.
The public wasn't complaining, either, because if the driver's license facility was closed on Friday, it meant that holy shit they're actually open in the evening the rest of the week and I don't have to take time off from work to get my fucking plates renewed. And that's even if they didn't notice the drop in traffic congestion and pollution -- you'd have to sell a shitload of hybrid cars to match what you gain by taking a few million cars off the road completely, even if it's only one day a week.
It should be noted that experts have been saying for decades that private businesses would benefit from this, too -- the vast majority of employees prefer a longer day if it means they get a three-day weekend every week. The government can't force them to do it, but that's okay -- it looks like they might come around on their own.
A Ban on Pharmaceutical Ads
Considering that most people are unable to tell the difference between their pancreas and their liver, you would figure that the decision of what drugs to give a person would be best left to someone who has spent the better part of a decade learning about the human body. In most countries, you would be right.
"I'll give you my boner pills when you pry them from my hot, sticky hands!"
If you live in the US, then you have seen firsthand that pharmaceutical companies disagree, electing to let the market decide what is and is not the best drug out there -- thus the invention of Direct to Consumer Advertising (DTCA). These are the ads that implore customers to go to the doctor specifically to get the drug being advertised. This is why you can't watch a pro football game without seeing at least one ad for boner pills, or a series aimed at women without seeing ads for antidepressants:
The sheer power of marketing means that doctors, frequently less charismatic than Don Draper, are under pressure to prescribe the drugs that patients (sorry, "consumers") demand, rather than those which medical professionals recommend. So you get cases where newer and more expensive medications are prescribed over more effective and cheaper options. Or when Pfizer drove sales of its drug Lipitor with an advertisement featuring a "doctor" who turned out to be an actor. That's fair game in the world of DTCA, despite the fact that if you went to a hospital for a kidney transplant and your surgeon later turned out to be "just an actor," they'd probably have a significant lawsuit on their hands. That is, if you survived having your kidney replaced by a potato.
The Seemingly Obvious Solution:
Consider banning DTCA, like the rest of Earth.
Now is probably the time to mention that the USA is one of only two nations in the entire world that allow pharmaceutical companies to advertise directly to the consumer. The only other one is New Zealand, which, thanks to its contribution to the American film industry, is basically the honorary 51st state. Everyone else has figured out that drug companies bypassing medical science to advertise mind-and-body-altering substances to the public is a bad goddamn idea.
America lets people decide because it thinks they are rational, against all evidence to the contrary.
And no, regulating these ads isn't in violation of some constitutional right -- as recently as the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration would only allow these ads on the air if they devoted an equal amount of time to the side effects and risks (which is why you hardly saw such ads before that). So clamping down on them is as simple as, well, standing up to several gigantic corporations who generously donate to political campaigns. Easy!
Free Housing for the Homeless
Homelessness is a difficult problem for society to tackle, because while most of us aren't happy about seeing people living in boxes outside a nightclub, we also don't like the idea of paying the taxes that keep them alive when we have our own rent and bills to pay.
"We can't bus 'em to Canada; that shit costs gas."
Hell, it's hard to even figure out how bad the problem is, since you can't exactly get an accurate count of a population of people who don't have mailing addresses and aren't big on answering surveys.
The Seemingly Obvious Solution:
Okay, we admit that on the surface, this sounds like the same solution a toddler would come up with: "Why not just give them houses?" And we have no intention of turning this into a "free government mansions for everyone!" liberal manifesto. The fact is that it appears giving homeless people a place to live saves taxpayers money.
You see, homelessness is already expensive as hell -- the cost of being a benevolent society that supports its homeless rather than pitting them against each other in hobo arena battles is that each individual homeless person can cost taxpayers as much as $41,000 a year (particularly in cases where said homeless person has severe mental health issues, as many of them do). As a society, we've already decided that "let them die" isn't acceptable, but that means we have to bear the costs of a population with health problems caused by exposure to the elements and eating whatever food the rats have already rejected.
"This is my Burger King. You can have that bag of Arby's shit."
So as counterintuitive as it might sound, paying to put the homeless in homes is cheaper for the taxpayer than keeping them on the street. This is mainly because people living indoors, with running water, refrigeration, and heating, are much healthier. After all, they're no longer bathing in storm drains, eating dumpster pizza, and using pillows made from duffel bags full of their own poop. Not only that, but they're less inclined to fake illnesses or commit crimes just to get a warm hospital or prison bed on the government's dime.
And a hospital tends to be much more expensive than rent, on account of the fact that your apartment probably doesn't have a team of high-paid medical professionals looking after you 24 hours a day. In areas such as Nashville, where some organizations are trialing the homes for hobos concept, they found that even the chronically ill or mentally unstable cost the government less if they're in a home than if they're on a park bench -- one estimate puts it at $16,281 less per year.
Including $205 on bench pee cleaning alone.
And for people worried about the creepy guy who yells gibberish at invisible gnomes moving in next door to you, the homeless do tend to mellow out when they have four walls and a bed. Sure, it's not like alcoholics immediately pour all the hooch down the drain as soon as they sign a lease, but most people who are granted a second chance tend to put the effort in. Research has shown that around 85 percent of homeless in Philadelphia who are given housing and support are unlikely to become homeless again.
But let's face it: the real obstacle to this isn't the government, it's us. We simply can't stand the thought of somebody staying in a house rent-free while we bust our ass to pay our mortgage every month. So, we'll continue to pay the premium to keep them on the streets, out of spite.
For more answers to problems we all encounter, check out 4 Insane Solutions to America's Biggest Problems and 4 Easy Solutions To Problems We All Complain About.
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