Looking For An Escape

The last month has been pretty stressful at the day job. Despite putting in a solid 50 ~ 60 hours every week, I don't feel I've actually accomplished anything as there's next to nothing for me to show for the time I've been paid for. The problem is that I'm attempting to have my software interface with the existing CMS, and the people who have the answers to my questions are either keeping quiet in order to protect their silo of information, or have left the company. As a result, I've invested close to 200 hours reverse-engineering a bunch of code that is so obfuscated for the sake of obfuscation that it's hard to see any way out of this predicament. The stress has gotten to a point where I just want to throw my hands up in exasperation and shout "If certain people in the company don't want me to write this software, then that's fine. They can write it for me!"

But this wouldn't go over very well with most people. Friction is the keyword at the day job, and the more friction there is, the happier certain people are. That said, friction is exactly what I try to eliminate when I set my mind to solving a problem. This often results in some rather heated exchanges and miscommunications. So more than anything, what I am looking for is a place where I can go to simply escape from the silliness that is corporate politics and reset my mind. It doesn't need to be anywhere exotic or far, but it does need to be quiet and well-stocked with coffee.

Hot Coffee on a Table

Back in 2003 I lived in a small place just outside Vancouver called Steveston. It's situated right on the shores of Lulu Island and had a lovely view of the Straight of Georgia separating Vancouver Island from the rest of the country. My apartment was on the waterfront, and just down the street was a little boutique coffee shop that was wonderfully relaxed throughout the week. I'd often stop by on my way home from work for a hot drink and some warm conversation, occasionally splurging for the feta and spinach turnovers they sold, as a means to "reset". There was something special about this place that I've yet to find anywhere else.

When I think about the various places I like to go now, none of them are quite like the boutique café in Steveston. There's a quiet coffee shop near the office where retired people like to congregate, but it's nowhere near as comfortable or relaxing as the place in Canada. On weekends I enjoy heading out for a nice 8km walk through some parks near my home, but this isn't really feasible during the week, especially when I'm wearing a suit and carrying a large bag. There are some smaller specialty coffee shops in town, but they are all far too loud or incredibly fake. More than this, I don't want to spend $5 on burnt coffee just to get away from the office.

Perhaps it's time to look into a new hobby? Ideally one where I am physically active. Maybe if I join a gym …

Building a Wall

Protection. Prevention. Detection. Detention.

There's nowhere to defect to any more.

These words from a Petshop Boys song a few years back echoed in my head while reading an article on Hillary Clinton's call for tech companies to do more in the fight against acts of heinous violence in the wake of the horrible mass-shooting at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando this past weekend.

"We already know we need more resources for this fight. The professionals who keep us safe would be the first to say we need better intelligence to discover and disrupt terrorist plots before they can be carried out. That’s why I’ve proposed an intelligence surge to bolster our capabilities across the board, with appropriate safeguards here at home."

— Hillary Clinton

While better intelligence to discover and disrupt plots of any kind before they can be carried out sounds like a noble and honourable goal, there are a few problems with this. First is the problem that not everybody advertises what they're going to do online all the time. This isn't a simple matter of passing a law that requires all social networks hosted on US soil¹ to monitor every word that passes through its servers and notify certain authorities when key phrases are found. It's not even a simple matter of asking ISPs filter certain websites or block messages that contain certain keywords, given the prevalence of encryption technology that is finding its way into just about every communication platform. If Hillary Clinton — or any American politician — is serious about stopping these sorts of events through the use of surveillance tools, then two very different tools will be required.

Mandatory Key-Logging and Shipping

Key loggers are simple applications that record every keystroke that a person presses. This will capture data not only from hardware keyboards, but on-screen keyboards as well. That data will then need to be sent to a server somewhere on the cloud in order to be scanned and confirmed safe. Should anything look suspicious, then the appropriate government agency will need to take control of the data and look closer.

This would need to be done for every phone, tablet, and traditional computer in the country, and there would need to be deep, operating system-level measures in place to ensure the device could not be used if the collected data is not sent off for verification at regular intervals. Operating systems that do not comply with this requirement will need to be deemed illegal and people found using these operating systems would need to be confronted with the possibility of jail time in order for it to work.

Lots of people would scream, holler, and shout … but many would likely look at this the same way as they look at all the current surveillance technologies: nothing to hide, nothing to fear.

A naïve and dangerous disregard of personal liberty, and almost as horrible as the second tool …

The Great Firewall of America

If Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the thousands of other services operating inside the United States cannot keep certain kinds of messages and videos that can incite violence off their services, the next logical solution would be to take a page from China's playbook and closely watch all of the traffic — which they already do — and block anything that falls out of line. This might include traffic from a certain country, traffic to a certain service, traffic of a certain size, or anything really. The American government would have at their disposal the tools to completely isolate the American people from the rest of the Internet to keep them safe from all perceived threats; real and imagined.

Again, a lot of people would undoubtedly shout, holler, and scream … but think of the children. Think of all the people who have died in domestic terrorist acts as a result of research conducted by the assassins online before they carried out the activities. If people are prevented access to ideas different from those the government deems fit for its people then, theoretically, acts of violence like what we've seen in Denver, Minneapolis, Brooklyn, Phoenix, Cape Coral, Visalia, Washington DC, Boston, Fort Walton Beach, Webster, Stockton, Charlotte, Panorama City, Roswell, and Orlando² may occur at a lower frequency if at all.

The only way to know that these events are going to transpire before they happen, though, is if the government knows exactly what we're thinking — what we're researching. Because one-off and lone-wolf attacks are rarely advertised ahead of time, but they are often predictable given enough access to a person's devices.

This leaves the citizens of the United States, and any other country that is worried about domestic terrorism or mass violence against innocent people, to grapple with a very serious, very important question: is this really the best way forward?

Once the path to universal data collection is started, there is no going back.


  1. Full Disclosure: as of May 2016, 10Centuries is hosted on Amazon servers located (to the best of my knowledge) in the U.S. state of Oregon.
  2. Yes. There have been a lot of mass shootings in the U.S. in the first 12 days of June.

Directions

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately, which is something I stopped doing shortly after moving to Japan. I'm not exactly sure why I stopped reading blogs, even when delivered as RSS items into whatever newsreader I might have been using over the years, but it may have had something to do with information overload and the damaging effects that too much data can have on a mind that is also trying to adjust to making a new life in a new land.

Unlike the sites I used to frequent almost a decade ago, the vast majority of the bloggers I am reading focus on a number of cerebral topics. They look at world events such as the endless conflict in the Middle East as well as the struggles going on inside the European Union. Articles examining the role of free trade agreements on farmers in South America regularly pop up alongside philosophical soliloquies pondering man's growing dependence on handheld communications devices. The authors range from people like me, somewhat educated and trying to make sense of the world, to university professors who will one day become Nobel laureates. These writers, like me, are trying to make sense of the world we live in and they do so by putting words in a document and sharing them with the world.

I really appreciate this.

The world is a complicated place. Billions of people wake up every morning and go about their lives. We all have our agendas and goals, many of which will either depend or conflict with the agendas and goals of others. What one person considers to be just, another will think is unfair. When one person believes they are right, many might consider them wrong. Wading into the world of blogs has reaffirmed my belief that the words right and wrong, just and unjust are simply words that lack meaning when devoid of a perspective. It's what a person or group of people do together that can make an action right or wrong, just or unjust in the eyes of spectators. Historical books are replete with examples of events that people today would deem barbaric but, at the time, were perfectly logical courses of action. Which brings me to the reason I started reading blogs again …

In July of this year, I had the opportunity to listen to John Roderick on the Back to Work podcast. On this particular episode, he was discussing his run for city council with Dan Benjamin and what he wanted to accomplish. The passion he had for making his city a better place for everyone reminded me of how I used to sound when talking about my own ambitions many moons ago, before the daily grind as an immigrant in a foreign land started wearing me down. I still have the passion, but it's laid dormant for years. Interestingly enough, shortly after hearing John talk about his run for office, I started seriously thinking about volunteering again in order to give back to the world. And why wouldn't I want to volunteer my time at a worthy cause? There is no better feeling in the world than doing what we feel is right, even if it doesn't come with a great deal of recognition or financial compensation.

This confluence of ideas got me thinking.

I am not at all happy working at a "for profit" company where the customers are being unfairly charged for increasingly inferior products or services or where people are being scammed out of their money thanks to effective applications of game theory. This is one of the many reasons that I feel I'm truly unemployable by many of the bigger companies in the area and around the world. I don't feel right "extracting maximum value" from people to appease a bunch of executives and shareholders who will never take the time to learn my name, let alone question the ethics of their business models. What I would like to do is work for an organisation that can perform the most good in a clear and obvious manner. This can be something as specific as working with a volunteer group or something as far-reaching as working in government … and I'm being drawn to the latter.

Believe it or not, I am seriously considering entering politics.

Governments, like any other organisation, will have their fair share of challenges and hassles. They can also do a lot of good when an excellent group of people are able to work together. So often we hear about the battles that happen in various councils and administrations, but this is sometimes part of the process. What I would hope to do is bring about change piece by piece. I want to be part of the team that updates how representative democracy works in an area, because what we have now is insufficient. I want to be part of the team that implements new services that help people get access to the government resources they need, because so many of them are hard to navigate and learn about. I want to be a part of the team that makes just a little corner of the Earth a little bit better for the next generation, because it will be that generation that will wind up paying for me when I am too old to earn an income.

There are still a lot of unknowns with this plan, like where I might want to run for office and at what level, be it municipal or provincial, but I'd like to think that by reading more about the struggles that face humanity today, I'll be in a better position to make the least wrong decisions in the future.

Japan and China: The Wrong Fight

The once-mighty nations of China and Japan have been sabre-rattling for over a decade now on everything from sins of the father to barren rocks in the middle of the ocean. One of the more recent arguments involves air pollution from one country invading the other. Japan is accusing China of letting their dirty air fly over the water to colour our skies and China claims the exact opposite, that industrial pollution from Japan is the reason for much of the smog in Beijing as of late. Regardless of which side is more accurate in their statements, I believe the incessant pissing match between Japan's impotent elite and China's duplicitous ruling class is the wrong one. Both nations ultimately need each other in order to maintain their economic vitality, and bickering about things neither side wants to admit will create the proper atmosphere required for open and honest discourse. What these two proud nations need is a common enemy, and they have one in the form of pollution.

The picture above shows the dust and pollution that typically leaves China and flies over Japan with every change of season, late winter and early spring carrying the worst of the offending material. A lot of this is yellow sand from China's massive deserts, but a great deal is also carbon pollution from coal power plants and dirty exhaust from vehicles, waste treatment centres, and factories all over the country. Japan, and many other countries, are quick to blame China for the awful state of the local atmosphere, but are reluctant to admit that they are to blame for the current state of China.

Companies knowingly built factories in infrastructure-poor China in the 1990s and beyond without regard to environmental controls for the sake of saving money on manufacturing while padding their own bottom lines and personal bank accounts. Companies all over the world rushed into China to take advantage of the hundreds of millions of people who would work in inhumane conditions condoned by these very same wealthy companies for minuscule amounts of money. So long as consumers could get their hands on tube socks and a plethora of cheap goods, everything was good and nobody cared about the consequences.

Oh, sure, there would occasionally be some media attention about how humans as young as 14 were making iDevices, XBoxes, CD players, and other things we use and abuse on a daily basis with no regard for device longevity, but very few people truly care. China is not here. And here is where I am entitled to everything the world has to offer for the lowest possible price!

The problem with this sort of thinking is that it's terribly short-sighted and all-too-human. Why do today what we can do tomorrow? Politicians around the world have enjoyed putting off important things today to leave them for future generations to deal with … or continue ignoring. The world is a big place, after all … what's one more broken phone thrown into the trash?

Everybody's Dirty History

China has received a lot of flak over the years for its geoengineering ambitions. They've successfully seeded clouds to cause rain and snow for irrigation purposes and halted factories and power plants in order to ensure beautiful blue skies for special occasions. Oddly enough, this makes people believe that China is an evil nation that the world needs to stop with more zeal than Batman attacks Mr. Freeze … but we don't. Truth be told, humans have been engineering the planet for thousands of years, with the Roman Aqueducts being some of the oldest-standing examples of such work. When done responsibly1, triggering rain and helping blue skies can be quite beneficial. But there's something else that we can do here; atmospheric scrubbing.

It's a known fact that China is not going to shut down all of their coal-fueled electric generators. The country needs power. Lots of it. It needs this power to be cheap and plentiful. As much as environmentalists would like to see the country put the incredible heat reserves of the Gobi Desert to use, it's just not realistic given the current state of how humans like to measure accomplishment2. What we can do instead is focus on some of the carbon capture techniques that are being developed around the world, including the work done at many of the universities here in Japan.

What a lot of people conveniently forget is just how filthy Europe, North America, and Japan were during their industrial revolutions. Power factories would spew an awful amount of crap into the atmosphere like we see in China today. Unlike the dirty Chinese power plants, though, the technologically inferior power generators in the West killed far more people than we hear about in China3. Now that the West has moved the majority of its factories to China, the West can claim to be "environmentally responsible" … but they're really nothing of the sort.

Geoengineering Is Not a Bad Word

By employing many of the new technologies being developed in Japan and elsewhere around the world we'll have the opportunity to really understand what is required to keep our skies blue, our farms productive, and our soil acid free. When we have all of this down pat, we'll have a better chance of building sustainable geoengineering projects off world to support colonies on the Moon, Mars, and beyond. If Japan and China work together in this area, they will have a front-row seat with everything related to living comfortably in space … an area that is bound to reap huge profits in less than a century for whoever manages to crack the nut first.

This is crazy talk, though. A thousand words have been spilt on this article and nothing is going to change. Rather than work together to ensure East Asia has clean air, Japan and China will continue to piss each other off with ill-considered comments and reminders of past travesties4. Arguments about seemingly inconsequential pieces of territory with regular visits by militaries will continue to happen. Boycotts about this that and the other thing will be a regular topic come election time. Very little is likely to change … because Japan and China are bent on fighting the wrong fight.

Rockets, Missiles, and Other Similar Ideas

What is the difference between a rocket and a missile? Is it the payload it carries, the direction it travels, or the ultimate purpose of the device? Wikipedia defines a rocket as "a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other vehicle that obtains thrust from a rocket engine", whereas a missile is "a self-propelled guided weapon system". So a rocket is a missile, and a missile is a weapon. That must mean that all rockets are weapons … right? This is what the Japanese media would have us believe about North Korea's recent attempts to put objects into orbit around our planet, yet Japan's own satellite launches are on rockets … even when those satellites are openly known to be for the sole purpose of intelligence gathering.

The picture above is of a Mitsubishi H2 rocket lifting off from sunny 種子島1 in 鹿児島県. On board are two spy satellites that will be used to peer deep into the nations of our neighbours in a bid to understand what they might be doing behind closed doors. Are there new military installations being built? Are military facilities showing more activity? Is the first lady of a nation sunbathing in the relative privacy of the back yard? With these satellites we will have the answers to these questions. But don't you dare call this H2 rocket with the latest bells and whistles a missile. Missiles have four components: a targeting or guidance system, a flight-control system, an engine, and a warhead. There's no warhead on this projectile, so it is clearly not a missile despite the incredible damage it could do if it were to explode over a city or smash into a very real object.

The picture above is the rocket that North Korea launched near the end of last year. Oh, wait … this is a missile. So the ever-enlightened press funded by government grants and soap companies would have us believe. This projectile reached orbit with a very basic satellite that contains just a little more technology than we might have found in the Russian Sputnik devices half a century ago. This satellite, despite transmitting radio signals in orbit of the planet for a little while, is obviously just a warhead in disguise. Who knows what the crazy North put up into the atmosphere. It might actually be a nuclear device that will be detonated over a nation to act as an EMP weapon. The people would be unharmed, but electronic devices over a huge area would shut down, crippling infrastructure and causing mass confusion and panic as people are unable to like things they find on Facebook.

Oh, God! Won't somebody please think of the children!

I'm not a fan of the crazy antics of the Kim Dynasty any more than the next guy, but I do have to wonder when the excessive fear mongering will come to an end. Yes, North Korea is an aggressive nation that will go to extremes in an attempt to gain the upper hand at the bargaining table, but we need to remember that we put them in that position half a century ago, and have continued to push on. We did the same thing to Germany after the first world war, too … that didn't turn out too good. Luckily North Korea has shown more restraint than the Germans did in the 1930s.

What we need to do2 is start being a little more pragmatic about sowing the seeds of fear into the minds of citizens. North Korea talks a great deal about what they might do, but rarely follow through. We shouldn't ignore the unpredictable actions of a rogue state, nor should we let our guard down. We should, however, call a spade a spade and report things as they actually are. Hypothetical news stories make for hypothetical problems which will very quickly become very real problems with ridiculously complex solutions for no reason at all.

A recurring theme on this site is my belief that humans, in general, are an intelligent and resourceful species capable of great things but held back by misinformation, mismanagement of resources, and missed opportunities for communication and cooperation. We have had a number of opportunities to defuse the volatile situation north of the 38th parallel for more than half a century, but have squandered most3. Against all odds, North Korea did something quite amazing with their limited technology and resources. We should congratulate them on the fact. Let's not negate the accomplishment by instantly assuming it will be used for military purposes4.

Guilty Until Proven Dead

America is very good at creating their own problems. First they armed, funded, and trained militant groups to keep various governments around the world busy, then they get called in a few decades later to eradicate the militants. Along the way an innumerable number of civilians are caught in the crossfire who lose the only things that matter to them to American munitions and, having nothing left to lose, join the militant groups in a bid to try and exact some sort of revenge on the blood-thirsty Americans who invaded their land in the first place.

Four suspected al Qaeda militants. Suspected. So … these four people were killed because somebody literally half a world away had the feeling these four were up to no good? No arrest. No collection of evidence. No judge. No jury. Just a missile from a pilotless machine flying in the Middle East, controlled by a flesh-and-blood drone somewhere in God's Land; the United States of America.

This has got to stop. Humans are smarter than this. Humans should be better than this.

Votes Count

Japan held it's second federal election in the last five years today with the previously ejected party winning the lion's share of parliament for the next half-decade1. Not being a citizen of the country, I couldn't cast my vote. Not that it would have made much of a difference, either, as the party that I feel had the most rational and thought-out platform to carry Japan into the future is far too small to have a representative in my district. Perhaps in the future there will be some better representation, and hopefully they will start to gain some traction. One area where I don't see a lot of traction, though, is with the nation's youth taking an active role in representative democracy.

While speaking with the wife about some of her university students, she let me know that most students weren't particularly interested in voting. This would be the first federal election they could take part in, and a tiny fraction showed even the slightest interest in having their ballot counted. Whether it would have made a difference in the final vote or not wasn't of concern. The problem seems to stem from something much more severe: young people can't get excited about old people who lie, cheat, and steal for a living. I can't say that I blame them, but I was reminded of the first election that I could take part in back in Canada.

The year was 1997, and Jean Chrétien was at the height of his popularity. I was 18 and full of opinions2, and I strongly felt that the Liberals would not do enough to ensure Canada remained a single, unified nation. The seperatists had been handed a narrow defeat just two years prior, but they were still growing in power. They needed to be crushed once and for all. Chrétien was from Quebec and, while he had refused to let the province break off to become it's own entity3, he didn't strike me as a strong leader at all. Preston Manning, however, was a man that I could understand.

Manning was the leader of the Reform Party of Canada; a party that was largely laughed at in Eastern Canada. The party stood for severe fiscal conservatism as well social conservatism, something I strongly believed in at the time4. This was something a lot of other people could relate to as the Reform Party managed to win enough seats to oust the Bloc Québécois from the role of Official Opposition. The representative in my area, however, came in dead last. At the time I was disappointed, but the memory has stayed fresh in my mind the entire time.

Election Day was sunny and warm. My step-father and I went to the polling station down the street, right near where we would go every weekend to play baseball. I strutted like a peacock, walking in to the centre with my registration ticket and government-issued ID in hand. Cast my vote. And walked out. All in all, the process took a grand total of 3 minutes.

"Well that was a waste of time," I said. My step-father was waiting for me outside.

"Don't be so negative. Voting is your right as a Canadian. Don't ever give it up. Don't ever refuse it."

The words were mostly ignored. Everyone I knew was going to vote Liberal. They always voted Liberal. Their parents voted Liberal. Their grand-parents voted Liberal. I felt like the black sheep in the voting community.

"The guy I voted for--" I couldn't finish the sentence.

"Don't tell me. I don't want to know. Your vote is like your P.I.N.; keep it to yourself."

So I did … until I wrote this post. Politics is something that I've paid a great deal of attention to over the last 15 years, and I've never forgotten a lot of the lessons from those formative years. Learning about the various forms of government in high school taught me the benefits and flaws in many of the systems. My step-father contributed by ensuring I would think about which representative, not just the party, would work hardest for me. All of these things have been carried forward, and now I use it to analyze politics here in Japan and lend advice to anybody who would care to listen to a foreign man who can't legally vote in the nation he calls home. But even if I never vote locally again in my life, the lessons that I learned in my youth about the importance of voting will forever stay with me.

Every vote counts; even if it's for the losing party.

Censorship Doesn't Make It Not Exist

There is an awful lot of censorship in the Japanese news, particularly when it comes to matters such as civil disobedience. When thousands of people get together to protest an action such as free trade, news stations cover the topic with vigor and try their hardest to get panelists in the know on the program to share their opinions. When much larger groups of people band together to protest something like nuclear power, however, there is hardly any mention of it at all on most TV news stations. Today's protests in Fukui attracted more than four thousand people … none of which seemed to be part of the media.

There's no such thing as "fair and balanced" news reporting anywhere on the planet, and this is particularly true in Japan. Questioning the status quo is not only strongly discouraged; it's completely ignored.

Democracy Without Representation

It seems that every month we hear about a group of citizens somewhere in the world who are standing up against their government in a bid to have their voices heard and grievances resolved. People feel their leaders have long since abandoned them and live lives of luxury while the average person is struggling with the day-to-day. Citizens want change and the people in power do not. People who live in nations claiming to be democratic are granted the opportunity to vote for a person they've (likely) never met to represent them, and people who live in nations where democracy does not exist are granted the opportunity to live … so long as you don't question the people carrying the guns.

There has got to be a better way.

2,500 years ago the people of Athens conceived a new type of government. This government would consist of 500 people who were drawn from all the registered citizens1 and they would serve a term of just one year before the process was performed again to determine who would replace them. Unlike the representative democracies that so many of us live in, any citizen could attend the lawmaking proceedings and cast their vote on whether some new piece of legislation would be good for the city as a whole … and many did.

The government was broken down in the following way:

  • the 500 men drawn would act as an executive committee of a larger group called The Assembly
  • The Assembly, which any citizen could attend, had the capacity to hold between 30,000 and 40,000 people2.

There was no one ruler. Although there would most certainly be power struggles, alliances, defections, and all the typical intrigue one might expect in a government assembly, the group typically worked together for the betterment of the city through open communication and the idea that a group of people should themselves be in control of their collective futures. Because every citizen was technically part of the government, anybody could review how their tax money was being spent. Everything from how much the government paid for toilet paper to grand construction works were under scrutiny, which made embezzlement and over-paying to friends a near impossibility.

If only it were feasible to live in such a society again.

Oh, wait … it is!

Democracy Reborn

Considering how many people are connected to the Internet, this seems like a very logical place for people to get information on the various items up for vote as well as vote themselves. Unlike the Greeks 25 centuries ago, we will allow any citizen old enough to read and click a mouse to vote3. The website that people would visit wouldn't be too difficult to set up, either, as we already have the technologies required to make something like this a reality.

Here's how I see it working in a country like Japan:

  • 5 people who put their names in for selection are chosen every year from each prefecture to be part of the executive committee
  • the government website is built like a Wiki4 where people can go to view the proposed and existing laws in their entirety
  • people can vote on the proposed laws through the website5 and mark existing laws for review
  • people can suggest amendments to any proposed bill
  • the government's finances will be displayed in full and easily read by any citizen6
  • any citizen may suggest a law by creating a new wiki page and building support for the idea

This isn't a complete list, of course, but the basics of it are all here. Citizens who want to participate will be free to do so. Citizens who choose not to will have less reason to complain about any laws that they disagree with. What I like most about this idea is the wiki concept for laws. With a wiki, people will be able to get the big picture behind why something is necessary if they choose to really delve deep into a subject. This will result in a populace that is much more informed about the issues that affect the country as well as the subtle justice of cause and effect. If every nuclear power plant is shut down, what will the full effects be to the economy? To people's jobs? To people's careers? To the businesses surrounding the nuclear power plants that support the people working there? Citizens will be in a stronger position to make the tough decisions that many of us are disappointed in when they're made by elected officials.

There are a number of potential problems with this sort of system, of course. There will be hack attempts. There will be DDOS attacks. There will also be interference from the inside as some will undoubtedly try to hide their abuses of power from the rapidly growing wiki of national interests. This doesn't mean we shouldn't try to build a more Utopian form of democracy, though.

Unfortunately I doubt anything like this will come to pass. The original Athenian democracy had a lifespan of approximately one century7. While it was great for the lower and middle classes, the upper class hated it. They lost all of their power and were no longer treated with deference due to social class. Everybody was treated the same. This is the real benefit to the direct democracy system … and it's greatest flaw. However, with the growing power of the Internet and the incredible level of communication this new platform enables, it's only a matter of time before we either see a reformation of democracy, or its demise as our leaders entrench themselves further into the halls of power.

Don't Tread On Me

A lot of noise has been made recently about the United Nation's possibly imposing a tax on the data that is sent across the Internet, but this isn't something we should concern ourselves with too much just yet. There has been a lot of talk over the years about the UN collecting various taxes on everything from ocean route access to long distance phone calls, but none of these proposals have ever come to pass. To this day, the UN has not collected a single unit of currency in the form of tax from any human anywhere on the planet. All of its funding comes in the form of donations from its member states. So, for all intents and purposes, the UN is little more than the homeless bum on the corner of the street who is considering charging a tax to people using 'his' crosswalk.

This Isn't Likely to Happen

Here's why.

The United Nations does not have any citizens, nor the legal authority to assume control of an existing nation. The self-important people who make up the cogs of the UN aren't stupid, either. They know that to tax every human on the planet, or even in a tiny corner of it, is to create enemies. Nations have a hard enough time collecting tax from their own citizens. How the heck would an organization that does nothing for the people in wealthier nations respond to a new king demanding an annual cut of our labors?

It's completely unrealistic.

How the UN Could Collect Taxes

The only way I can see the UN collecting taxes is to assume the role of World Police from the United States1 and collecting a tax from the member states to act as their protector, similar to how the United States protects its interests around the world by defending the various governments in key areas, be they corrupt or not. With a planetary military force much larger than anything any single nation could effectively afford, the UN would have the luxury to protect its interests any way it sees fit. Nations would be scared shitless of military action from the UN much more than they are from NATO, and that power would go right to the heads of those with their fingers on the trigger.

War on Terror? Solved. War on Drugs? Solved. War on {Insert Topic du Jour}? It was solved before it even became a skirmish.

With war solved or, at the very least, in the news much less, the UN would have the freedom to trot and claim that a world military solved one of the longest-running problems of society with cooperation on a global scale, trust, and respect. From there they could go on to give the WHO more powers alongside other organizations. This would require more taxes from member nations, but would result in better health care, better education, better this, and better that.

Potentially.

After a number of decades the UN could effectively be the only government on the planet because anybody who disagrees with them would not have the military or economic strength to stand up against such a force. Want out? No problem. But don't expect to have free access to the shipping routes outside of your borders. Have fun exporting to UN-member nations and paying huge tariffs because you're excluded from the various FTAs. Not being part of the multi-territory PAC would be suicide.

A NWO Conspiracy Site This Is Not

But who am I kidding? This is all conspiracy theory talk, and I typically stay away from such discussions. Sure, a lot of stuff could happen, but just because something might occur does not necessarily mean it will. This is like all the dire warnings my wife gives me about random stabbings or frustrated people pushing others in front of a moving train. Yes, it's a possibility, but so is winning the lottery.

At the end of the day, the UN can consider anything it wants and hold its hand out begging for more cash. It cannot, however, collect taxes from citizens, corporations, or nation states as it does not have the legal authority to do so.