Monday, October 20, 2014

November 4 2014 Election: Wine Referendum

Right now it is not legal for grocery stores in Tennessee to sell wine. Beer, yes, but not wine. I suspect this is a hold-over from prohibition. Judging by the signs and employees asking me to sign petitions, grocery stores would apparently like this to change. I'm sure the liquor stores would prefer it to not.

I do not oppose others' right to drink. I have no desire to make it legally difficult for adults to obtain alcohol, nor is it against my religious beliefs to drink. Dependency on alcohol, drinking to the point of losing control, drinking so that you put others in danger, those I would hold to be immoral. But not drinking in itself.

That said, I don't drink. I have had various alcohol at different times, but have liked almost none of it. I prefer having full command of my senses, and I've seen a ruined life or two that included a lot of alcohol. There's apparently nothing in it for me. So if I'm being asked to vote, "Should grocery stores carry wine?" I find there to be no moral dimension to this question; it becomes a matter of practicality.

Now, I know market theory. This is talking about undoing a pointless government intervention in the market. But I don't hold that an unregulated market is necessarily better than a regulated one. I judge policy based on its observed impact, not on presumptions and theory, unless there's genuinely no data.

What happens if grocery stores carry wine? That means some business that was going to liquor stores will now go to grocery stores instead. We're basically moving money from one group to another, when it was artificially shunted to the first group in the first place. More competition, which will theoretically result in a more efficient allocation of resources, maximization of profit, invisible hand, yadda. None of that has any direct impact on me or mine, positive or negative.

You know what will impact me? Finite shelf space. If grocery stores start carrying wine, they have to stop carrying something else. What will they give up? Obviously the things they make the least money on. I have no idea what those things are. Do any of my (three) readers? My bet is that they'll stop carrying the exact things I buy the most of. Just because the universe is perverse like that.

What else will impact me? We'll be rid of all those irritating "RED WHITE AND FOOD" signs everywhere. I'd like that. I prefer my grocers to not try to suck me into their politicking.

So I'll probably be voting against this resolution, but not for any grand reasons that will make the world a better place for anyone else. Just for my own tiny selfish purposes.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

November 4 2014 Election: Amendments

There are four amendments to the Constitution of Tennessee on the ballot this election. For each amendment to be passed, it must earn both a majority of the votes cast for/against the amendment itself, and a majority of the votes cast in the gubernatorial race.

Amendment 1
This amendment would clarify that the state legislature has power to regulate and restrict abortions beyond the present limits, as interpreted by the state Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Sunquist. Essentially, right now both the Tennessee and US Constitutions protect a woman's right to an abortion. This would remove the state-level protections.

This is one small step in an ideological battle, the end goal of which is for the US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade. Frankly, it's an ideological battle that's been set up to manipulate and divide this country. Those who set up that battle, those who divide us, do it cynically for their own ends, not out of the moral superiority of their position, and I'm sick of it. It's time for rational people to take over the discussion.

If abortion is legal, many unborn children will die. This is tragic.

If abortion is illegal, many pregnant women will die. They will die from complications of pregnancy, or from seeking an unsafe illegal abortion. This is also tragic.

Regardless of which way the law lands, the government is deciding who lives and who dies. But let's be clear: both options are terrible. Sometimes the world just sucks. If you find yourself feeling particularly great, that you picked the right thousands to condemn, maybe you should reconsider just how comfortable you are. Supporting the lesser evil is something you should mourn, not celebrate.

That said, I will be voting against this amendment. Not because of the effects on actual abortion, which I believe will be minimal either way this referendum ends. But because I oppose the hijacking of my religion and my country for cynical political ends. It offends me to see good Christian people ignore every teaching of Christ, supporting those who hurt the poor and the downtrodden, based on an argument of questionable scriptural validity. It offends me to see intelligent people refuse to consider all the implications of an election, instead choosing candidates based on a single criterion that that candidate can not affect.

I want Christians to behave like Christ. I want rational people to weigh actual, measurable outcomes of their actions. Based on those standards, the people behind this amendment oppose what I stand for, and so I stand to oppose them as well.

Amendment 2
Right now, appellate judges are elected directly by the people of Tennessee. This amendment would have them appointed by the governor, confirmed by the legislature, and then after one term the people could vote whether or not to retain them. Direct election of judges is a questionable process, as it damages the political independence of the judiciary. It's a lot harder (though by no means impossible) to buy a judge if he doesn't have to worry about being elected. I will be voting for this amendment.

Amendment 3
This would prevent the state from ever enacting an income tax. As a structural matter, it's a bad idea to constitutionally limit options that the legislature may one day want. As a political matter, I find it to be extremely distasteful to encode one party's political preferences into the constitution of the state. Income taxes are not some inherent evil; if your goal is to have a functional society without a huge wealth disparity, progressive taxes like income are vastly better than regressive taxes like sales. Just because that's not Tennessee's priority today doesn't mean it will never be. I will be voting against this amendment.

Amendment 4
The intent of this amendment is not obvious from the wording, but the primary effect appears to be to allow veterans organizations to hold lotteries, like all other non-profit organizations are presently allowed to do. This is essentially a minor procedural alteration. I'll probably vote for this amendment.

As pointed out in a previous post, voting for governor makes it harder for all these amendments to pass, and this is the largest effect your vote for governor is likely to have. Based on the strength of my preferences against amendments 1 and 3, compared against the strength of my preferences for amendments 2 and 4, I will be voting for governor.

November 4 2014 Election: Governor

Given the field, I consider it a foregone conclusion that Haslam will win a second term as Governor of Tennessee. Voting to affect the outcome of the election is therefore meaningless. One should thus vote (or not vote) based on other factors. It's sad when your vote is basically a confidence poll or protest vote, but that's what we have today.

It's important to remember that there are four constitutional amendments on the ballot as well, and the the number of votes cast for Governor has direct effect on the threshold for passing those amendments. That adds a strategic element to whether you should vote for governor at all! If you support the amendments on the ballot, voting for anyone in the governor's race actually hurts you; it raises the bar for passing an amendment.

So if you're in favor of all amendments, don't vote for governor at all; there's no point. If you're opposed to all amendments, vote for someone. And if you're split among the amendments, well, that makes life more complicated. 

Bill Haslam (Republican)
Essentially seems to be running on the platform "I am Bill Haslam". As I've said before, the state hasn't disintegrated, but neither has it accepted billions of dollars that would help many people in this state have affordable medical care. I wouldn't be excited to vote for him.

Charles V "Charlie" Brown (Democratic)
He's got a better picture than before, but he still has no website or obvious campaign statements of any kind I maintain he won his primary because a lot of Democrats voted for the first name on the ballot. The only reason I can think of to vote for this candidate is if you're a really big fan of the Democratic party, and even then, I'm not sure that's a good reason.

Shaun Crowell (Constitution)
Opposes Common Core, spreading a fraction of the usual misinformation about it. (Not that you can't reasonably oppose common core. Just that you shouldn't believe convoluted math problems are part of it, because they're not.) He'd shut down Haslam's free tuition program for community colleges. He's in favor of the Bundy family. Surprisingly, he's in favor of unions if the workers want to have them, so this guy is not a Republican. But he's not in favor of accepting ACA money to pay for Tennesseans' health care.

Now, since he's not going to win, Crowell's specific positions may not be as important to you as those of his party. If you're not familiar with the Constitution Party, you can find out more about them here and here. They're on the right side of a number of important issues that the major parties ignore, like asset forfeiture. But they also want to move to a "debt-free interest-free money system" which I'm pretty sure is impossible. They want to phase out social security. They want to make abortion illegal in cases of rape. They want to outlaw pornography to protect free speech. And they oppose the idea of a constitutional convention, which is kind of funny since they think the founders were brilliant beyond criticism on every other issue...

This guy might be okay. But the party he represents is a little nuts. 

Isa Infante (Green)
This candidate has zero detailed policy positions, so all you can evaluate is the Green Party itself. I'm not going to tell you I sorted through the entire national platform, it's crazy long, but I'm a fan of many of their positions. They have a detailed plank on election reform, which almost sounds like I wrote it, except that they're still supporting IRV instead of the far-superior approval voting. And they're still inscrutably opposed to nuclear power, letting perfect be the enemy of good. But in general, I'm a bigger and bigger fan of the Green Party. Unless, of course, there's some insanity buried in that platform that I'm missing.

Steven Damon Coburn (Independent)
He wants to "teach Biblical values in schools", judge and pay teachers entirely by their students' grades, and a number of other things that don't seem realistic or likely to actually improve the situation. He's a rambling sort (yeah, yeah, I'm one to criticize), and I don't see him being a good governor at all.

John Jay Hooker (Independent (but really a Democrat))
John Jay Hooker is a placeholder candidate. Voting for someone, as noted above, raises the bar for passing amendments. Hooker is on the ballot only to give Democrats someone to vote for besides Charlie Brown, so they won't just stay home. So I'd say vote for him if it makes you feel warm and fuzzy to vote Democrat, but you don't want to vote for Brown.

Daniel T. Lewis (Libertarian)
Typical Libertarian, nothing particularly striking here. (Though he does mention artificial wombs as a solution to the abortion rights impasse. I'm going to claim credit for that one; it was part of my platform as a Libertarian candidate in 2010.) Remember that the position of the Libertarian party is to reduce the size of government on every issue, in every way, whether it makes functional sense or not.

Your vote will have no impact on the outcome of this election, but turnout does help set the bar for amendments to pass. If you're in favor of the amendments passing, don't vote for governor at all. Otherwise, I'd recommend voting for Infante, the Green candidate, simply because the Greens seem to be the party of sanity.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Infrastructure Megaprojects: Mosquito Eradication

Mosquito-borne diseases kill a million people every year. Admittedly, most of those aren't in the United States, which is what this post series is focused on, but some are. And even ignoring the disease aspect, the buggers are just hugely irritating.

We have a safe and simple way to wipe out the entire species. No chemicals, no engineered diseases, no possibility of spreading mutations into the gene pool. And mosquitoes have few known environmental niches.

I suggest the United States implement sterile insect technique in a significant but controlled area, and look very closely for environmental damage. If the species actually does turn out to be necessary, they can be (shudder) reintroduced. (Or preferably, some substitute species found.) And if there are no problems, we've just made the world a slightly better place.

There are two benefits. One, our own comfort and safety. And two, to demonstrate the ecological effects if such a policy is implemented worldwide.

Oh, and three: screw mosquitoes.

Now if we could just get rid of the bagworms...

Friday, September 5, 2014

Infrastructure Megaprojects: Jobs

Over the last fifteen years the American middle class has been gutted. Unemployment, while dropping slowly, is still high. Underemployment is worse; maybe more people have full-time jobs, but at reduced wages. This is the fundamental economic problem we face. It directly affects the lives of millions of Americans, and is the cause of much of our budget deficit. (Government tax receipts dropped like a stone when all those people lost their jobs, not to mention all the welfare they suddenly needed.)

I think the government could do more to help people find work. We've talked about building huge things, like power grids and aqueducts, which provide direct employment. But what about helping people find existing jobs? Or incentivizing the creation of better ones?

As an added bonus for the deficit hawks out there, or perhaps those who think government should be run like a business, consider this: if the government spends $1k helping me get a better job, how long before the government gets that $1k back in the taxes I pay and the welfare I no longer need? From a strictly financial perspective, spending money helping people get jobs is one of the best investments our government can make.

So suppose you're looking for a job, and can't find one. What can stop you?

You can't get a job you don't know exists. The government could create a central jobs bank, a single location where employers across the country could post job openings. And when I say employers across the country, I mean all of them. Pay employers to post job openings, and you'll have a database of every job everywhere quite rapidly. Figure there are ten million job openings in the country at any time. At $100 per opening posted, that's $1b. Chump change on the scale of the projects we're talking about.

Naturally, no matter what system you set up, someone will try to game it. We'd need to pay employers, not just for submitting an opening, but only if the job is filled by someone, and you can confirm who that someone is. That should take care of most cases of fraud. You'd also need to put limits on how often you could hire for the same position, or the same person, and promotions from within couldn't count. There will still be flaws, but for the most part it's workable. You don't shut down a functional project because of 1% waste.

The other downside is that this could completely destroy every other online jobs site. Who could survive against a negative-profit competitor? But consider, the government has a terrible track record lately with building complex websites. So perhaps a better idea is to contract the service out to existing job sites. Have a central database, but give easy hooks for Monster and Dice and whoever else to mine the data and list the results. Leverage the market, instead of trying to replace it.

So now we have a giant list of every job in the country. For many, that means you can now be absolutely certain that you'll never make more than you're making now unless you retrain. So we link the jobs listings with data on training programs; each listing says "here are the qualifications, and here's how you get the qualifications if you don't have them." Link directly to a list of relevant educational programs, and all available financial assistance for each. As a bonus, this gives the government more data to target educational assistance.

Now you've found a job, and you have the paper qualifications. But you can't get any of them; they all say 3-5 years experience required! (Particularly funny when they want ten years experience programming in a language that hasn't existed that long...) How do you get experience when all the job openings require you to have experience? Chicken, egg.

Decades ago, companies had apprenticeship programs. They would actively train replacements for older employees, taking someone with no experience and turning them into whatever they needed. These programs are mostly gone. Companies don't plan decades in advance now; they're focused entirely on maximizing immediate profit. This is leading many industries into a disaster: as older employees retire, there's literally nobody with their skillset to replace them!

The government could incentivize apprenticeship programs. For a rough estimate, say the program is two years long, and that the government paid the entire compensation of the apprentice. For $10b, we could easily fund a hundred thousand apprenticeships, and probably more. We end up with a more skilled, more employable workforce, and those more skilled employees will almost certainly pay for themselves: the more money they make, the more taxes the government receives. Again, if you're the sort to say that government should be run like a business, I'd call that a good investment.

American companies often complain that they can't find skilled workers in the United States, and push for H-1B visas. We need to import workers, they say, to fill this skills gap. But there is no skills gap! There are plenty of American workers able to do the jobs in question. The inability to hire a $25/hr worker at $10/hr is not a skills gap. I'm all for immigration, but we don't need to be purposefully importing low-cost workers to compete with Americans for jobs.

Also, failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part. If these companies hadn't dismantled their apprenticeship programs, they'd be in a better position. I'm not inclined to screw American worker to make up for a corporate lack of foresight.

Okay, say you've found a job you're qualified for, but it's too far away. You need to move, but you need a moving truck, and gas, and a place to live, and a deposit, at a minimum, not to mention lost wages in between jobs. You may also need temporary housing while you look for a permanent place. Moving's expensive, especially over a long distance. For people barely making ends meet, it may just not be an option.

Let's take the naive approach first and throw money at the problem, just to get a sense of the scale of things. Assume we have a million people moving across the country every year for work. If you just handed each one $5000 in moving assistance, that's $5b a year. Easily affordable, especially when you consider that putting someone to work in a better job gets the government tax income it didn't have before. That $5000 should come back easily within two years in most cases.

One specific expense the government could subsidize is real-estate agents. Many people moving a long distance for work wouldn't spend the extra money for a professional to help them find a place to live. But that kind of local professional is exactly what you need in that situation: you need someone who knows the local market and can find you what you're looking for quickly and efficiently.

You've found a job, you're qualified for it, and it's in your city. But you can't afford a car, and you can't afford to move close enough to the job for walking or biking to be viable. What do you do?

Obviously, someone's going to have to drive you. If there are bus routes or trains already, great! But if you live or work outside a high-density area, that's not going to help you. You're going to need something more point-to-point. The government paying to facilitate that transportation could make all the difference between employment and unemployment.

Assume a 20-mile commute, which is pretty common these days. We could pay for a taxi, but that could cost $450/wk. We could rent a car for under $200/wk, plus $35 in gas, which sounds better. Assuming the standard 56 cents per mile, we're not going to do any better than $115/wk for a single-passenger vehicle; if that vehicle comes with a driver, they'll probably make enough per week for their time that we're back up to rental car levels. For single-passenger, a rental car may be the best we can reasonably do. So that comes to over $10k/year, which most people aren't going to pay in taxes with a better job. If you're getting someone off other forms of welfare, though, it may pay for itself.

Now, if neither home nor work is completely isolated from other travelers, we can reduce cost further with multiple passengers. So we're back to what I've proposed before: incentiveized carpooling. Pay people to carpool, set up a system to make it easy (or leverage an existing system like Uber or Lyft with modifications for multiple riders). The cost of helping this one carless person get to work could easily be cut in half, or better. Plus there will be fewer cars on the road, which is good for everyone.

So you've found a job, you can get there, but they keep changing your hours. You work two hours this week, fourteen next week, you have no regular schedule, and you'd better be available 24-7 in case they call you in. And if you show up for a scheduled shift, you might be sent straight home. Don't like it? Too bad, you're replaceable.

This is what's wrong with a completely unregulated labor market: there are vastly more suppliers (workers) than there are consumers (employers). Without regulation, market forces dictate exactly what we see: wages go to nothing, and quality of life for the workers drops to nothing. Remember, the market is a tool for telling us what will happen. Like all science, it says nothing about what should happen, any more than observing nature tells us we should be eaten by predators because we can't fight back.

This means some form of government regulations are the only solution; by nature, market forces don't result in the outcomes we as a society prefer. We want people to have decent lives, and to be able to make a living working. So we're working counter to market forces, and that's okay, so long as we do it well.

If you're scheduled to work a shift 48 hours before shift start, you should be paid for that shift, even if the manager screwed up and scheduled too many people. If you're on-call, you should be paid like you're on-call. If you have a work schedule that works for you, you should be able to keep that schedule without arbitrary changes. In other words, you should be able to have a job.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Infrastructure Megaprojects: Education

Once everyone in the country has broadband access, education is utterly revolutionized. It's just a question of structure at that point.

One common complaint about society compares teachers to football players. "What's wrong with our society," they ask, "when someone playing a game gets paid a thousand times more than a teacher?" I'll tell you what's wrong with society: teaching is inefficient. It's not about cultural priorities, it's about scale. One football player can entertain a million people at a time. One teacher can only teach maybe thirty. In fact, per audience member contact hour, a teacher (teaching 25 students seven hours a day, 180 days a year) makes 500 times what a football player (playing maybe 22 three-hour games a year) does! If you want teachers to be paid better, if you want education to improve, we need to model professional sports: find the absolute best teachers out there, and give them a way to teach millions at the same time. Education as we know it will change forever.

We're almost there. If you haven't looked at Khan Academy, I suggest you do so. It's become one of the top e-learning platforms out there, with thousands of simple videos explaining almost any subject you can name. The math section has just been expanded further to be fully interactive. There are several other similar sites. MIT has opened access to almost all it's classes!

As impressive as all these initiatives are, one thing stands out to me about them all: they are all unfinished. We stand at the terminator. We've all seen children operating tablets as soon as they have the motor skills. When those children get to school as school is today, they will be bored out of their minds! If information is presented well, most children can absorb it at an unbelievable rate. That's the revolution we're looking at.

Here's what the government can do to help the process. Some of it is large infusions of cash, some is fixing the existing brokenness of the educational system, and some is just getting out of the way.

Hold competitions for the best online teaching programs.
Define standards, then offer prizes to the best ones in each subject. And I mean serious prizes, in the millions or tens of millions of dollars. Make the contest run over a few years, with a randomly selected group of students assigned to each program. Test each group regularly on the selected subject, in a thorough and rigorous manner. Give intermediate prizes each year or semester to the programs that show good progress. Ultimately, this project could cost the government well under a billion dollars, and jumpstart the new wave of education by a decade! But that's only useful if schools can handle the advanced students, which leads us to...

Make the school curriculum more adaptable.
If a student comes into first grade already competent in some of the requisite skills, advance that student to a class where they might actually learn. Schedule each student individually in each subject, at their appropriate skill level. Forget no child left behind. Better no child held down. Every child should be pushed to the limit of their skills, without regard to age. I was, and it shaped my entire life in very positive ways. If a student can finish school at sixteen, let them! Declare them a provisional adult, with additional privileges like voting. (The Constitution says that all citizens eighteen or older can vote. It doesn't say those younger can't.)

Don't ever compromise advancement standards.
No more of this "oh, you showed up, have a gold star" or "you turned in an assignment, have a 50". I'm all for giving multiple opportunities to demonstrate mastery, but you can not compromise standards. If a student doesn't understand the material, they do not advance. Period. Anything else turns your educational system into a babysitting system, which is where we are now.

Make the in-building education focus more on things that can't be learned online.
Critical thinking, clear communication, discussion, respect, personal interaction, field trips! Despite how we do things now, an education is not about learning facts, it's about learning new ways to think! Facts can be learned anywhere. Students should be exposed to multiple instructors, constantly, preferably with utterly different viewpoints about subjects. It's all too easy to turn your brain off when you're never presented with contradictory information. Clear communication in text should also be emphasized. Far too often I've seen college students write like seventh graders talk. This will take the longest time; it will take over a generation for there to be enough teachers trained this way.

Make students feel safe.
All too often, crimes like assault and theft are committed in schools without anything done about it. Constantly bullied students are ignored, then punished when they fight back. Students need a system of justice that can be trusted, no different than adults do. There should be no problem with having students two or three years apart in the same classes if their skill level allows it. Right now if we tried that it would be a disaster, because disrespectful and threatening behavior to other students is ignored. That has to change.

This requires some viable ability to punish students, possibly outside school hours, and possibly even without parental cooperation. But it also requires a system to ensure that students aren't punished unjustly, because that happens regularly too. In short, we need a court system for very young children. Yes, that's ridiculous. But what else makes sense?

Make school optionally year-round.
Many poorer families rely on school to double as child care. School being offered (if not required) year-round would help the students advance faster, and would help the parents work more, save money, and improve the child's quality of life. The only downside is that we have to pay more teachers, but spending huge amounts of money to accomplish good things is what these posts are all about!

Make students work.
Students should be expected to participate in low-level "internships" later in school. A few hours a week, for limited pay, the students learn how to work. Ideally, this would evolve into full-on vocational training, integrated with local community colleges and technical schools.

Don't forget adult education for everyday life.
Education isn't just what you learn in school. There are all sorts of things that could be taught through interactive online materials that would be useful for adults. Good nutrition, for example. Many people subsist on junk food because they honestly don't know they could be healthier and saving money!

And how about language? There are huge numbers of immigrants and refugees in the United States, particularly in Tennessee and nearby states, that don't speak English. That language barrier makes it very difficult for those islanded cultures to assimilate into our larger community. No good comes of that. With the kind of online program we were talking about above, we could make it tremendously easier for those adults to learn English.

The census bureau found that about 4.2 million people speak English "not at all", and 9.3 million speak English "not well". For a rough cost estimate, let's just assume we're buying all those people Rosetta Stone at the list price. That comes to about $5 billion. Now, consider how much the US spends on translators in a year for all those people. I found one number (not sourced) indicating it's about $375 million a year federally, and I'd bet states and cities spend much more. And how about the indirect costs of poor communication? For $5 billion, I'd say this is a bargain.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Infrastructure Megaprojects: Communication

Think about what your life would be like without a phone, without television, without internet access, without books, without music. Really sit and consider that for a minute. I'm betting that if you're reading this, you can't even imagine what you'd do with most of your time. Now imagine your life to date without those things.

Will anyone dispute that information is a necessity in this world?

The US information infrastructure is pathetic compared to most of the developed world. But it's fixable! Estimates have Google Fiber costing about $1,500/home to install. Figure 100 million homes in the US, and to wire the country with high-speed fiber would cost something like $150 billion. Even if it's double that, it's trivial on the scale of projects we're talking about. And following the Google Fiber model, it should be possible to supply most households with free high-speed internet access, only charging for higher bandwidth connections.

But it shouldn't stop there. Wired communication is only part of our information consumption. Right now there are a large number of incompatible cellular networks in the country. How much could we save by standardizing those networks on a single interoperable technology? Think about that. With appropriate leasing agreements in place, you could use anyone's tower, and just let the providers haggle over who pays whom on the back end. And once there's a single universal standard, expanding coverage and service becomes much easier and more efficient.

How much would it cost to pay everyone to switch their towers over to a shared technology? Figure there are 200,000 towers in the US, and we want to change out 90% of them to match the rest. At $150,000 per tower, the entire network would cost $30 billion to build from scratch. Assuming the electronics involved are only a tenth the cost of the tower, we're talking about three billion dollars. Chump change. Once a standard was in place, the government would probably spend more than that building additional towers just to improve coverage.

Unfortunately, we're now beyond my technical knowledge. Are there actual technical advantages to Verizon's approach over, say, Sprint's? Is one objectively better? Is there some technical reason what I've proposed is unworkable? I can't say. But anyone who's ever considered switching cell providers knows what I mean when I say that anything to reduce vender lock-in is a good thing.

Oh, and while we're at it, let's get rid of bundling the cost of a phone into my monthly bill. If it's a $600 phone, don't tell me it's a $200 phone with an early termination penalty if I leave before 2029. Just tell me it's a $600 phone. Finance it, pay cash, whatever, but vender lock-in needs to die.

No, that's not a megaproject. But let's do it anyway.