In the Washington Post this morning ten different pundits weigh in on things they think we can do without and should throw out in this year’s spring cleaning. Their disposables vary from the trivial to the wrong-headed to the serious.
Among trivial entries the stand-out is chick flicks. They used to be called women’s pictures and we’ve had them very nearly as long as movies have been made. To what I presume will be Melissa Silverstein’s dismay, I think that not only are movies targeted towards niche markets here to stay but, as the costs of production and distribution decline, we will have many, many more of them.
Thomas Ricks’s serious proposal to eliminate an all-volunteer military, presumably to be replaced with a drafted military, is, sadly, self-refuting. As he himself points out our problem is not with how or why our military is staffed but with how and why our Congress is staffed. As long as we have a Congress that is either willing use military force where military force is not needed or won’t be effective or is willing to allow the president to arrogate Congress’s powers to the same effect, we’ll continue as we have, essentially, since World War II. Whether we have a citizen army or a slave army is less relevant than whether we have a responsible or irresponsible Congress.
The best recommendation, I think, is abolishing software patents. The Patent Office doesn’t have the ability to distinguish between the wheelbarrow and the railway air brake in terms of whether something is obvious or not, software developers don’t have the ability or the means to determine whether they’re violating somebody else’s patent in what they do, and the primary effect of software patents is to strengthen the advantage that big companies have over small ones or individual creators.
Here are some of the things, significant and trivial, that I think should be eliminated:
- the home mortgage interest deduction
- movie sequels
- exemption of benefits, particularly company-paid healthcare insurance, from income for purposes of calculating the income tax
- stuffed animals with their feet suction-cupped to the windows of vehicles
- the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998
- parents who let their children run riot in stores, restaurants, theaters, etc.
- agricultural subsidies
- gourmet food for dogs
In our own real-life spring cleaning and at least partially inspired by going through my mom’s seventy years of cancelled checks, we’re going through all of the old bills, receipts, bank statements, and cancelled checks we’ve accumulated over the years and shredding and/or throwing out the things we don’t really need to keep.
What should we get rid of in our national spring cleaning? No individuals, please. Although I was sorely tempted to include some in my little list.