Cheat Sheet for Aspiring Politicians

Politician General Knowledge Assessment

scirelimethods.gifWhat domain of knowledge do we expect politicians to be familiar with? Politicians often launch into issues and take positions ahead of establishing a grounding in basic facts about our world. Also, politicians seem to adopt positions that seem based on contradictory facts. So perhaps we can help politicians put first things first by encouraging them to research some basic facts about the world we live in, and, make public their findings.

Below is a list of basic questions about our world that I propose politicians answer early in their campaigns. It samples a domain of basic knowledge on which I think it is reasonable to expect a policy-maker to be conversant.

Respondents are encouraged to consult any sources they believe to be reliable in answering these questions.

(Reliable answers are included where applicable.)

 

  • How old is the universe?

  • How old is the earth?

  • When did life begin on earth?

  • When did the first humans begin life on earth?

    • The earliest documented members of the genus Homo are Homo habilis which evolved around 2.3 million years ago; the earliest species for which there is positive evidence of use of stone tools. Archaic Homo sapiens, the forerunner of anatomically modern humans, evolved between 400,000 and 250,000 years ago.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_evolution

  • Where did the first humans begin life on earth?

  • Describe, briefly, your understanding of the theory of evolution. Do you believe in that theory? Why or why not?

  • In what year did the world population first reach one billion people? In what year did it reach six billion people? In what year did it reach seven billion people?

  • What is the current human population of the earth? How many people, worldwide, are Christians?

  • Describe your understanding of peak oil. When do you estimate we will reach worldwide peak oil, if ever?

    • Peak oil is the point in time when the maximum rate of petroleum extraction is reached, after which the rate of production is expected to enter terminal decline.  See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil

    • Predictions of the timing of peak oil include the possibilities that it has recently occurred, that it will occur shortly, or that a plateau of oil production will sustain supply for up to 100 years. None of these predictions dispute the peaking of oil production, but disagree only on when it will occur. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil#Timing_of_peak_oil

    • The median forecast is calculated from 15 models that are predicting a peak before 2020. See: http://www.theoildrum.com/tag/update

  • Describe the distinction between petroleum reserves and petroleum resources. Are world-wide petroleum resources increasing, decreasing, or staying the same?

    • Oil reserves are the amount of technically and economically recoverable oil. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petroleum_reserves

    • Oil resources are the total amount of petroleum existing, discovered and undiscovered. This declines as petroleum is extracted.

  • From what country does the US import most of its oil?

  • Does the US export any fossil fuels? If so, please describe this.

  • Many years after an acorn is planted it grows to become a huge oak tree. Where does most of the mass of that tree come from?

  • Describe your understanding of economic externalities. Give several examples relevant to today’s economy.

    • In economics, an externality is a cost or benefit which results from an activity or transaction and which affects an otherwise uninvolved party who did not choose to incur that cost or benefit. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Externality

  • Describe your understating of the term “the commons.” Identify several examples of “the commons” that are relevant today. Describe your understating of “the tragedy of the commons.” Describe several examples that are relevant today. What specific proposals, if any, do you have for avoiding actual or potential tragedy of those commons?

    • Commons refers to the cultural and natural resources accessible to all members of a society, including natural materials such as air, water, and a habitable earth. These resources are held in common, not owned privately. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Commons

    • In economics, the tragedy of the commons is the depletion of a shared resource by individuals, acting independently and rationally according to each one's self-interest, despite their understanding that depleting the common resource is contrary to the group's long-term best interests. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Tragedy_of_the_Commons

  • Describe the fallacy of “false dichotomy.” Give several relevant examples.

  • Describe the difference between correlation and causation.

  • Describe the difference between anecdotal evidence and systematic data.

  • Describe how a literal truth can send a false message. Give examples.

  • What, if anything, establishes a fact? How does it differ, if at all, from an opinion?

  • Describe how you sort through conflicting information to decide what you believe; i.e. describe your theory of knowledge.

  • Do you believe that contraception prevents abortion? Why or why not?

    • Yes, by definition.

  • Are corporations people? Why or why not?

  • Where does the US rank, worldwide, on various measures of gun violence?

  • Describe the recent history of gun violence in Australia.

  • Discuss your understanding of the statement “if guns are outlawed, then only outlaws would have guns.” How is this relevant, if at all, to discussions of gun violence?

    • The statement is true, but irrelevant to most discussions.

  • What is the current level of gun violence in the United States? Do you find this acceptable? If not, what specific proposals do you have for reducing gun violence?

    • See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States

  • Are there any limits to the second amendment? If so, please describe them.

  • Rank the ten amendments in the bill of rights in order of importance.

  • How many times does the word “Freedom” appear in the US constitution?

  • Describe the “Great Compromise of 1787” and its role in drafting the US constitution.

  • Describe the “Three-Fifths Compromise” and its role in drafting the US constitution.

  • Describe your understanding of statesmanship. Who was the greatest statesman ever? Who is the greatest statesman now serving in congress?

  • Describe the purpose of federal form I-9.

    • The Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 is a U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services form. It is used by an employer to verify an employee's identity and to establish that the worker is eligible to accept employment in the United States. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/I-9_(form)

  • What role, if any, does form I-9 currently play in immigration policy? What role would you like to see it playing in the future?

  • What was the federal income tax rate for the highest earners (the top tax bracket) in 1960?  What is it now?

  • What is the purpose of taxation? Is today’s tax system fair? Why or why not? Describe, in detail, a tax system that you believe would be fair.

  • Describe the distribution of income and wealth in the United States.

  • Politicians often talk about values. Please rank order the following values from the most important to the least important: 1) Caring for others, 2) Fairness, 3) Liberty, 4) Respect for authority, 5) Loyalty, 6) Sanctity.

  • Do you believe the current incumbents propose or enact policies or legislation that violates the US constitution? If so, please cite a specific example of such polices, and identify the section of the constitution that is violated.

  • Describe your understanding of the phrase “all men are created equal.” Describe how it is relevant to today’s social issues.

  • Is homosexuality a sinful choice?

  • What is the cost of the F-22 Raptor program? What is the military role of the F-22 Raptor? What is the combat history of the F-22 Raptor?

  • What fraction of the US federal budget is the defense budget?

  • Where does the US education system rank among countries in the developing world?

  • What countries rank below the US in infant mortality rate (calculated as deaths of infants under one year old)?

  • Where does the US rank in health care outcomes?

  • Describe poverty in the United States.

  • Describe malnutrition in the United States.

  • What countries have not adopted SI units (International System of Units) as their official system of weights and measures?

  • Describe the National Bridge inventory and the 0-9 structural evaluation scale it uses. How many bridges are rated below 4 on this scale? How many bridges in the United States are classified as “structurally deficient”? How many are classified as “functionally obsolete”?  To what extent, if any, does this represent a safety risk?

    • See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Bridge_Inventory

    • In December 2008, 72,868 bridges in the United States (12.1%) were categorized as "structurally deficient", representing an estimated $48 billion in repairs, and 89,024 (12.2%) were rated "functionally obsolete", representing an estimated $91 billion in replacement costs

  • What are the five most important issues facing the American people? Why do you choose these? What solutions can you offer?

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Showing 4 reactions


commented 2013-11-30 19:29:17 -0500 · Flag
Thank you
commented 2013-06-05 10:46:15 -0400 · Flag
Calculating the ratio of the perimeter to the area of a congressional district could give a rough, mathematically derived, measure of the extent of gerrymandering.
commented 2013-06-05 08:17:15 -0400 · Flag
The diagram at the top of this article is based on several misconceptions. Morality can be derived from empirical data and does not need a religious basis. Ask people how they would like to be treated, let empathy inform how you treat others; consider symmetry and the golden rule and a consistent morality will emerge. For more on this see: http://en.wikiversity.org/wiki/Virtues and also http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs121/1110472547640/archive/1111411317026.html#LETTER.BLOCK22

Religion should be shown here as plural, not singular. There are many religious and each one has its own dogma, moral code, and origin stories. Therefore it is difficult to come to consensus on a moral code and origin story based on religion without excluding other equally valid religious points of view. Form more on this see: http://theycallmelee.blogspot.com/2010/11/from-destructive-dogma-to-constructive.html and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Creation_myth
commented 2013-06-05 03:08:13 -0400 · Flag
Many of the questions are strait forward, although any posted comments to the questions show some bias of different levels. Having listened to the radio show, I see that much of Lee’s opinions aren’t based on facts or even theories.

For example, it’s been found out that oil and other carbon liquids (natural gas) deep in the ground is not from fossils, but from a combination of natural molecules and mantel movement. This was found out when some old wells had refilled. So more research went into why that happened and that is how a new theory came up that replaced the fossil fuel theory.

That is just one of many that Lee needs to update himself on. I would also recommend Lee remove the link to the “5 biggest lies in Paul Ryan’s RNC speech” which claims one thing is said, the quote says something else, and the response says either something else or says the original claim. It’s a rather blatant political piece that belies Lee trying to act as factual.

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