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  • Introducing Do-it-Yourself Democracy Introducing Do-it-Yourself Democracy

    DIY iPhone Application

    The ultimate civic engagement iPhone application

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    Tired of the direction of the country, and looking to do something to actually change it? Now, there's an app for that.

    The Do-it-Yourself Democracy app is the most powerful app available to empower the free society. As the only app that connects you at the federal, state, and local level, DIY Democracy makes self-government a reality.

    With DIY Democracy, the power of change is in your hand. You can do everything from complain about a local pothole to protest a statewide tax. You can email your representatives, including your Congressman, State Representative, Mayor, and more. You can report police misconduct, challenge a law as unconstitutional, or even run for local office - all from the palm of your hand.

    The app tells you the amount of spending in your local area, with a direct link to challenge the budget as unsustainable. It gives your constitutional rights in plain language, as well as unique laws and local projects in your community. The app even features Reason Foundation research on innovative transportation alternatives in your local area.

    The Prometheus Institute asks everyone who values freedom to download this app and make limited government a reality.

    Check out our site at our iPhone app page for more information and screenshots.

    Click here to download the App!

    The Prometheus Staff|Sunday, 20 December 2009
  • What Darwin Can Teach Us About the Economy Today is the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species, and it's worth recalling the central lesson of his revolutionary contribution. As philosopher Daniel Dennett argues, Darwin's "dangerous idea" was the concept that complex adaptation can occur spontaneously. Or put another way, that Design can evolve without a Designer.

    These lessons have important applications to all Americans as we face difficult challenges in health care, education, alternative energy, and the economy at large. It's tempting to rely on economists and policy experts who assure us they know how to Design a solution to every problem, but evolution teaches us that they don't. Evolution is unpredictable, spontaneous, and randomly generated.

    To evolve, self-organizing systems need only variation among options, a selection mechanism to determine which options are most effective, and an ability to preserve successful variations.

    In the economic context, variation simply means the competitive freedom to introduce new ideas into the marketplace. Selection simply means the freedom of consumers to choose which options work for them. And preservation simply means a system of secure property rights to protect investments.

    As a leading evolutionary scientist put it, “We have more than just a few little hints that, for Darwin, the driving force behind all sorts of evolutionary change, including progress, is the sort of competition that goes on in the natural economy and the political economy alike.”

    Unfortunately, our political leaders have ignored Darwin's great lesson. Policies like the Fed's interest rate cuts and money supply expansion, as well as Congress' indirect inducements to invest in certain industries (such as encouraging mortgages to subprime buyers), were atrociously failed economic Designs. These policies blunted the forces of evolution, artificially diverting activity toward unproductive and unwise investments.

    Not surprisingly, the result was an economic extinction on a Permian level. To compound the problem, the politicians responded with more grandiose Designs and a spate of bailouts, resuscitating the failing corporations who have proven their inability to adapt to difficult times. As anyone reading this paper knows, this "solution" has only made things worse.

    The "too big to fail" concept is not only anti-American, but also anti-evolution. Over 99.9% of species over time have gone extinct over time. Natural selection itself is defined as "differential reproduction", meaning some variations survive while others (usually most) perish. With this context, it's no surprise that we're facing record unemployment while the artificial stimulus is not working. Our economy can't evolve.

    Of course, to many, this smacks of Social Darwinism. But Social Darwinism has been wholly discredited by the modern understanding of evolution. True social evolution thrives on reciprocity, which means protecting people while letting unfit ideas (specifically in the form of businesses, government programs, and other institutions) die out. It's "survival of the fittest" ideas, not people. This means while we can take care of people who need help outside the marketplace, government shouldn't interfere with the competitive process itself.

    To help America evolve again, we should start by letting failing businesses fail, preserving the opportunity for new solutions to emerge. We should reduce the tax and regulatory burdens on entrepreneurs, freeing them to introduce new variations into the marketplace. We should cut business and personal taxes across the board, freeing the American people to make more choices and do more with their money. And in health care, education, and the environment, enact policies that increase consumer choice and competition among various options.

    Self-organization is the fundamental law of nature. 150 years after Darwin shook the world with his insights, Washington has yet to be convinced. It's time for us to use his ideas and preserve the American evolution. Otherwise, we'll just continue to go the way of the Romans - and the dinosaurs.

    Matt Harrison|Tuesday, 24 November 2009
  • Introducing People for the American Dream Introducing People for the American Dream

    mma

    A campaign to empower young entrepreneurship

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    The Prometheus Institute is proud to announce the public launch of People for the American Dream. The project is dedicated to empowering entrepreneurship among the younger generations, especially through policy advocacy and creative outreach. People for the American Dream seeks to maximize economic freedom in order to ensure a prosperous future.

    Unique among other young entrepreneur sites, we offer:

    1) High-quality video interviews of successful young entrepreneurs in diverse fields, from music to technology, sharing their experiences and advice. Current videos include Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora Internet Radio; Rakaa Iriscience, musician from the rap group Dilated Peoples, and DJ Skee, music producer and marketing consultant.

    2) Useful tips and resources on how you can transition from your life as a student, 9-5 worker, or underachiever into self-employment. From learning how to get your internet startup in Fortune magazine to exercises to develop your entrepreneurial skill set, you'll learn useful advice for living the American Dream.

    3) Facts and information about public policy reforms to help empower the American Dream. Current topics include health care, education, and much more.

    4) Interactive features allowing users to share stories, interact, and help others live their Dream.

    In this time of economic uncertainty, the need for entrepreneurial innovation is paramount. Entrepreneurs are the chief drivers of the American economy, spurring job creation and economic growth. They introduce new ideas that can become life-changing improvements.

    Over half of young Americans desire to start their own business, according to polling data. At the same time, over half of all Americans believe that small business will lead America out of the recession.

    PFAD is dedicated to empowering young aspiring entrepreneurs with the tools, knowledge, and inspiration to pursue and achieve the American Dream in their own lives. Through video interviews, campus outreach, and informational resources, we help keep the American Dream alive for the next generation.

    Unique among entrepreneurship sites, we're not trying to sell someone's get-rich-quick recipe. We're a nonprofit dedicated to inspiring and empowering young entrepreneurs. We realize entrepreneurship is about more than money - it's about a lifestyle of independence and personal freedom. We promote the values of entrepreneurship to all young Americans, whether they end up starting a personal blog to supplement their income, founding the next million-dollar internet company, or a nonprofit to save the world.

    Help support the future of the American economy by visiting and contributing at People for the American Dream today!

    The Prometheus Staff|Monday, 12 October 2009
  • Grappling with the Recession Grappling with the Recession

    mma

    Policy lessons from one of the few bright spots in the American economy

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    If you're an economically-depressed city looking for such an economic jolt, there are few more attractive stimuli than the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). The mixed martial arts league is a financial bonanza; a single UFC fight garners a staggering $2.8 million in gate revenues on average. Studies have indicated that a UFC event creates over a thousand local jobs and can stimulate as much as $10 million in economic growth in a given state.

    As unemployment hits a 26 year high, the UFC's financial prowess has important lessons for policymakers looking for an economic boost.

    What's the secret to their success?

    The fire of competition

    The story of the UFC began with the noble purpose of discovering the absolute best fighters on planet Earth. Toward this shamelessly Darwinian end, the idea was to sponsor cross-disciplinary fights between the best boxers, wrestlers, and martial artists alive. In this format, called "mixed martial arts", participants would fight until they knocked the other out, and the champion of this ecumenical pugilism would be justifiably crowned Ultimate Fighter.

    At the time of UFC's founding, though, this was a radical idea. Contests between practitioners of different fighting methods never happened. Boxers, wrestlers, and martial artists were rigidly segregated into specific fighting disciplines, each developing their own proprietary methods, exclusive rules, and provincial attitudes, rarely if ever interacting in professional competition.

    But the UFC broke down these barriers, facilitating competitive exchange between all these disciplines to discover the greatest fighting methods. In the UFC, you never see flashy ornate maneuvers such as spinning kicks, because they simply do not work in the sphere of raw hand-to-hand combat.

    Unlike the UFC, however, American economic policy is an anti-competitive league. Our government bails out failed corporations, resuscitates outdated programs, and arbitrarily picks winners in a myriad of private industries. Why are we afraid to compete?

    The Octagon: A global melting pot

    From the UFC's founding, the organization has enjoyed an impressive international reach. The winner of the first UFC was one Royce Gracie, a practitioner and founder of the eponymous Gracie Ju-Jitsu, a creative blend of Japanese and Brazilian fighting influences. This multidisciplinary background allowed Gracie to adapt to a broad array of opponents, and his transnational fighting method has become one of the most popular and effective in UFC history.

    Through its constant pursuit of the most efficient fighting methods on the planet, the UFC has become an international forum of martial arts excellence. Fighters from Eastern Europe to South America have infused the mixed martial arts world with new techniques and new fighting philosophies. Global supply chains produce cutting-edge training equipment and international exchange has served to further develop talent.

    Just as the UFC has gained from globalization, so has America. Over half of Silicon Valley startups are run by immigrants, and immigrants statistically start businesses at a higher rate than natives.

    Unfortunately, the current trend in American policy is to shun the benefits of globalization. A disturbing increase in trade barriers, import restrictions, and immigration inefficiencies have stifled entry of new talent and ideas into our country.

    Anarchy, state, and fighting utopia

    At its infancy, the UFC was an even rawer and more primitive sport than it is perceived as today. No gloves were used, head butts were permitted, there were no rounds, and basically the only real rule was fight-till-you-drop. Much like the early version of professional football - so violent that President Teddy Roosevelt threatened to ban it entirely - the sport was a bloody fracas nearing extinction.

    Fashioning himself as the modern-day Roosevelt, Arizona senator John McCain called the UFC "human cock fighting", and set upon a personal campaign to ban the sport in its tracks. 36 states followed McCain's lead, banning mixed martial arts events within their jurisdiction.

    Government even tried to dictate rules for the UFC, with atrocious results. A slew of court challenges before the 9th UFC championship in Detroit in 1996 resulted in the city banning closed-fist strikes for the event. Under such ridiculously neutered circumstances, the fights became unsurprisingly boring, anticlimactic, and lacking all of the excitement that made the UFC the popular and profitable tournament fight that it was. For the title fight, brawlers Dan Severn and Ken Shamrock meekly circled each other for about 20 minutes, with little or no meaningful contact. Offering more gladhanding collegiality than gladitorial combat, UFC 9 is widely regarded among fans as one of the worst mixed martial arts fights of all time.

    Instead, the UFC self-regulated, voluntarily adopting the rules that worked for fighters and fans. The changes began with time limits on rounds and increases in referee authority. Later, various dangerous strikes like head butts were banned. Over time, various regulations - such as weight classes, gloves, and time limited rounds - were introduced. Now there are restrictions and regulations in place to preserve the best of competitive fighting with respecting basic standards of safety protection. The UFC's enhanced standards have even satisfied the great campaigner himself, Senator McCain.

    The key wasn't that UFC needed more rules, it was that it needed the right rules.

    This fact has important lessons today, as our leaders try to enact rules to prevent market carnage in the wake of the recent financial crisis. Too many rules can be worse than too few rules. Heavy-handed regulation doesn't work.

    Matt Harrison|Monday, 05 October 2009