With democracy, the people eventually vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. Deficits ensue. Constitution writers can dream up limits: balanced budget amendments, enumerated powers, checks and balances, and so forth. It doesn’t work. The people find a work around. As voters they own a government; eventually they want the profits.
Perhaps we should borrow a page from the modern monarchists and simply formalize the arrangement. Government is a sovereign corporation. Democratic government is a sovereign corporation in which each citizen owns one share – a consumer cooperative, as it were. Maybe that corporation should pay a dividend, instead of having shareholders constantly thinking up sneaky ways to get their hands in the public till. Ditch the welfare state and give every citizen an equal amount of free money from the government.
The result would not be libertopia. Self-interested citizens would want to maximize tax revenue in order to maximize their dividend check. But our theoretically limited government often goes beyond the Laffer maximum in order to use the tax code to indirectly redistribute the wealth. Worse yet, we have hundreds of programs and hundreds of thousands of bureaucrats and social workers to figure out which category of largesse you deserve. Naked aggression/people power/might makes right would be simpler and fairer. All those smart people currently bonded to the government teat would be banished to the private sector, receiving no more from the government than the bums on the other side of the tracks. Who knows what sorts of interesting businesses and foundations they would set up if so released into the wild?
Would this fix the deficit problem? Or would the people vote themselves a dividend beyond the ability of government to pay? Or worse, would they vote for a dividend and a welfare state to boot?
We cannot say without doing the experiment. But the private sector provides some clues. Corporations pay big money to top management in order to keep management’s interests aligned with the shareholders. Pay someone a mere $100K to run General Motors and the CEO can make far more money in kickbacks from suppliers than from serving GM. This doesn’t always work, of course. Sometimes greedy or overly ambitious CEOs milk the businesses they run anyway.
But the people are the shareholders, not the CEO. So this payment principle is a bit of a stretch. For democratic government we have finely dispersed ownership. A somewhat closer analog would be the mutual insurance company. Hmmmm, if we could get government to behave as conservatively as a mutual insurance company, we’d be doing rather well…
Various news outlets are discussing the new study comparing
- what IS the distribution of wealth among the US's quintiles (top 20%, next highest 20%, etc.)
- what people THINK the distribution is, and
- what people WANT the distribution to be.
- It IS the case that the top 20% of Americans own 85% of everything; the bottom 40% own basically nothing.
- People THINK that the top 20% own 60% of everything, and that the bottom 40% own at least 10% of the nation's wealth.
- People WANT a world in which the top 20% owns 30-35% of everything and the bottom 40% own 20-25% of the nation's wealth.
The kicker is that these findings remain remarkably consistent whether you ask men or women, Democrats or Republicans, those earning less than $50K or those earning more than $100K. Rich people have the same egalitarian impulses as everyone else -- and the same ignorance about how far the world differs from those impulses.
Specifically, does autonomy mean low taxes, even if you feel you must engage in associations you’d rather not? Or does it mean the freedom to avoid unwanted associations, but at the cost of increased taxes?
A (now year-old) study tries to explain the decline of attendance at religious services in the industrialized world. Does it correlate with the increase in income? Education? Better comedians on Saturday Night Live, making it hard to get up on a Sunday morning?
Best explanatory variable seems to be … the rise of the welfare state. Apparently, in places where government provides a better social safety net people don’t feel the need to join churches.
Good news? Bad news? No news?
For those who had lost faith in the ability of the empire to sow the seeds of its own destruction, consider what the effect of their latest weapon of choice will be.
Drones--whether aerial, terrestrial or aquatic--are cheap, intelligent mobile platforms. And because the intelligence is on the same technology curve as computing equipment, they will be ubiquitous in a matter of years. Where today they are being used as surveillance platforms to track enemies of the state, within a year or two they will be covering protests and traffic stops (like this or this), streaming live video to the Internet to record the activity of state agents for the protection of their victims. And where today, they are being used as platforms to deliver deadly force by state agents, in the future they will take the place of suicide bombers by replacing the targeting and evasion capabilities of a human with hardware costs similar to a laptop computer.
Though the initial use of drones by the state brings martial uses to mind, the market will no doubt find thousands of peaceful applications. Since seeing this demonstration a few years ago, I have imagined using a drone to locate sheep on my hilly 40 acre farm or to check the state of fences regularly. Where Skycams or helicopters cover professional sports events today, drones will cover high school cross-country meets in a few years. Lineman in cherry pickers will be replaced with pole climbing maintenance robots.
It has been about fifteen years since the Internet was commercialized, and agents of central planning are still trying to understand and respond to the resulting power shift from the collective to the individual. They will no doubt play catch-up to the genie they are unleashing by pouring resources into cheap, expendable platforms. They should stick to their nuclear bombs and battleships if they want to maintain a monopoly of weaponry.
The wind doesn't blow all the time, the sun doesn't shine at night, and its local intensity can be reduced by clouds and weather. Often the argument is made buy those who push "green energy" that this isn't much of a problem because we can produce extra energy when possible and store it for when these sources produce little or no energy. But how well is that going to work, how much would it really cost. I'll do a few quick back of the envelope calculations, with data from a couple of quick searches. Not a perfect answer, but it should give a general idea of the magnitude of the problem.
For every $700 it pays for a compressed air system, the utility gets 1 kilowatt of electricity, supplied for more than 20 hours, enough to run one coffee maker all day [source: EAC, NSTAR]. Pumped hydroelectric costs more -- $2,250 per kilowatt.
For power that lasts minutes to hours, lithium-ion batteries cost $1,100 per kilowatt (or coffee maker), flywheels cost $1,250 per kilowatt, flow batteries cost $2,500 per kilowatt, and high-temperature batteries like sodium-sulfur cost $3,100 per kilowatt [source: EAC]. And storage in supercapacitors costs even more.
So lets say you need to store 100 GW/hours (5 gigawatts for 20 hours, more than 12 because some nights are longer and because you want to have extra in case you need it, after all your talking about solar providing virtually all the electricity in the country, so presumably some areas only have solar). Storage will probably go down in price lets assume its cost one half as much as the current price.. The compressed air system could then provide 1 kw for those twenty hours for $350. 5 GW would cost 5 million times as much or $1.75 bil just for the storage capacity.
At half the current price the cheapest storage would cost $350 for 1 kw for 20 hours, $350 per 20kwh is $17.5 per kw/hour.
"Actual electricity generation in 2007 was 4,157 Terawatt hours"
Lets try to scale that up to cover the electricity needs of the whole US (which I'm assuming, despite evidence to the contrary, does not grow over time)
4157 terrawatt hours, divided by 365 (2007 was not a leap year) Is 11,389 gigawatt hours. Cut that in half (I'll assume that we get no clouds or other interruptions during the daytime and only have to worry about nights), and you have 5700 gw/hour (rounded off since the reality won't be that precise, and giving more exact calculations would be false precision).
5700 GW/hours at $17.5 per kw/hour would be about a hundred trillion dollars.
But we typically use a bit less electricity at night so lets cut that in half. Now its about 50 trillion dollars.
Lets say technology improves in such a way that the costs goes down more than I thought, so cut the cost by a factor of 5 (meaning the total reduction is to 10% of the initial price), that brings the cost down to $10tril dollars, and that doesn't include maintenance, or spare capacity, or the cost for the solar plants, or the cost for additional distribution. Those would probably add trillions more. Lets say the total cost is $20tril. Assume we can reasonably apply $100bil a year to the effort (that seems high but I'm assuming we are making it a major priority), ok then it only takes 200 years to get it done.
Lets cut it in half again as a generous fudge factor. OK, it will take us a century.
And that doesn't include margin for increasing needs in the future.
What do Pastor Terry Jones (the guy who proposed International Burn the Koran Day) and Rush Limbaugh have in common?
And what do Terry Jones and Palin have in common?
People who are above average (think that they) are smarter and or harder working. The smartest and hardest working of all are the Libertarians. The bottom line measure of all things Americans is money. "The business of America is business," Calvin Coolidge. It would be interesting to see a study of Libertarian's personal income.
An entertaining article at American Thinker exposed me to a bit more Krugman than is allowed by my physician. It really doesn't cover the myriad ways of why the perennial priest of Keynesianism is wrong, it is assumed the reader knows that already, it just goes into how his blog has become a cult compound now that Krugman has started moderating responses to avoid being exposed for the charlatan he is.
What little I know of Krugman was from bits I read here at the DR and via an excellent article I came across while eating sushi, coincidentally. So, I was pleased to see the retreat of Krugman from the relentless barrage of common sense and logic that his commenters had began to issue.
What better than people taking apart his doubleplusunlogic? His double-thinking supporters.
Here is a brief excerpt:
By July, Krugman had lost his "Battle of the Blog." On July 23, Latrina commented, "Who is this Sean from Florida? He takes everything that [the] Professor [says] and shreds it, piece by piece. He shouldn't be allowed to post his comments on this blog since he seems to be winning all the debates. We progressives need to stick together and embellish our talking points without someone from the outside pointing out fallacies in our ideology."
Enjoy, or not. As usual with Krugman, self-dosing can be dangerous. Please consult a physician.
Attention Jürgen Habermas:
To Protest Hiring of Nonunion Help, Union Hires Nonunion Pickets
WASHINGTON—Billy Raye, a 51-year-old unemployed bike courier, is looking for work.
Fortunately for him, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters is seeking paid demonstrators to march and chant in its current picket line outside the McPherson Building, an office complex here where the council says work is being done with nonunion labor.
"For a lot of our members, it's really difficult to have them come out, either because of parking or something else," explains Vincente Garcia, a union representative who is supervising the picketing.
So instead, the union hires unemployed people at the minimum wage—$8.25 an hour—to walk picket lines. Mr. Raye says he's grateful for the work, even though he's not sure why he's doing it. "I could care less," he says. "I am being paid to march around and sound off."
Protest organizers and advocacy groups are reaping an unexpected benefit from continued high joblessness. With the national unemployment rate currently at 9.5%, an "endless supply" of the out-of-work, as well as retirees seeking extra income, are lining up to be paid demonstrators, says George Eisner, the union's director of organization. Extra feet help the union staff about 150 picket lines in the District of Columbia and Baltimore each day. [...]
The union's Mr. Garcia sees no conflict in a union that insists on union labor hiring nonunion people to protest the hiring of nonunion labor.
He says the pickets are not only about "union issues" but also about fair wages and benefits for American workers. By hiring the unemployed, "we are also giving back to the community a bit," he says.
Performative contradictions in action!
to improve their financial condition without strong labor union. Yes, a very small percentage will fall into something that jumps them to the top but the average person isn't going to talk himself into a raise on his own.
I've been thinking about this for years. I can't think of any system in which the top 10% will NOT accumulate 90% of the assets unless there is a union demanding that the workers get most of the benefits of increased production efficiency.
Jonathan Wilde initiated a discussion about forecasts of future economic growth and the prospects for deflation rather than inflation. This prompted a debate about appropriate government policies in the face of a fiscal collapse:
Is the price [of bailing out Wall Street] worth the cost? Should AIG, the institution that stupidly wrote credit default swaps on CDOs backed by shitty bonds based on even shittier mortgages, exist at all? We've perpetuated the shittiness in the system. I think we'd have been better off if the USG had let AIG and the banking institutions go bust. The information cloud encapsulating AIG and big Wall Street institutions needs to evaporate or else better, smarter information can't take its place.
To which Steve Ingram responded:
Hoover allowed the banks to fail; believed the deleverage had to occur and the market will get it right. Guess what? It didn't get it right. It spilled over to other healthy areas of the economy and basically took everything down, including the little main street guy that lost his savings.
To this I added three thoughts for consideration:
1. Today the little main street guy wouldn’t lose his savings. The little guy’s savings are backed up by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. And his income is protected to some extent by unemployment insurance and Social Security Disability Insurance. And his pension is backed up to some extent by the Federal Pension Guarantee Corporation, and supplemented by Social Security. Etc.
So maybe we don't need government to engage in new interventions today -- not because intervention is always wrong, but because we already have sufficient interventions in place to keep the little guy from panicking.
2. How about this alternative scenario: Instead of bailing out the big guys the US focused on bailing out the little guys?
Imagine that while debating the bailout of Wall Street and the auto industry in 1998, the US sells gobs of bonds in anticipation. Then the US announces, “We’ve decided not to bail out any firms; you’ll have to stand or fall on your own. Yes, some firms will fail, and unemployment will rise. In anticipation, we’ve stockpiled enough cash to provide unemployment insurance until 2020 without debasing the currency. Thus the American consumer can be reasonably confident of his income, and can continue consuming, albeit at a slower rate. Firms that can sell to that consumer can feel reasonably confident of having sales, albeit at a slower rate. And everybody else – well, best of luck to you.”
3. Of course, if the US did this, lots of investors would end up burned, and would henceforth be more reluctant to lend/invest. This "friction" in the system would create a drag on the economy -- at least, relative to the go-go days of the mid-2000s.
So here's the big question: Should government try to make people feel confident in the face of uncertainty? Many aspects of government intervention, both during the current crisis and more generally, seemed to be designed to reduce people’s fear of loss, and increase people’s willingness to take risks. Is that sound public policy?
The FDIC helps people feel comfortable depositing money in financial institutions. I suspect the FDIC is sound policy. We could expect every consumer to incur the cost of investigating the soundness of every financial institution he invests in, but this would be pretty inefficient. Moreover, the fear of a bank failure can trigger a run on a bank, causing the very event that is feared. Deposit insurance seems to defuse this self-defeating fear, producing social benefits that arguably justify the social intervention.
Government blesses certain ratings agencies -- Moody's, Fitches, Standard & Poors (S&P) -- and gives certificates to "Certified" Public Accountants, all in an effort to provide people with greater assurance about data. Is this just a fool's errand?
Is there sound public policy in, for example, keeping interest rates low, thereby encouraging greater investment (and correspondingly less savings) than would otherwise occur? I’m iffier about this. The Austrians clearly don’t think so. Yet if we live in a world in which positive externalities exceed negative ones then society may well have an incentive to induce you to take risks beyond those that you would choose to take based solely on self-interest. Because classical economics suggests that positive externalities (consumer surpluses) are part of most typical voluntary transaction, leaving people to act only on the basis of self-interest (producer surplus) may result in a level of economic activity that is sub-optimal from the perspective of society.
Finally, is it desirable for a president to appear at the scenes of disasters and offer reassurance? Perhaps, in the short run. But these reassuring words arguably make it harder to remind people that we live in a world of risk, that we can console ourselves that this generation faces a lower risk of imminent death or injury than any generation preceding it, and that we might benefit from stoically acknowledging and facing risk. I suspect we’d all be better off if we could acknowledge that the risk of harm from most types of terrorism is not worth the cost of trying to thwart terrorism. I suspect we’d all be better off if we concluded that the benefits from capital punishment are not worth the cost of implementing capital punishment. And I suspect we’d all be better off if we concluded that the cost of protecting various industries is not worth the cost. But I’m not sure how to create a system that rewards leaders for this type of INaction.
Rand Paul’s recent electoral success has brought new attention to the state’s role in remedying discrimination by punishing private actors that discriminate on the basis of race in the provision of public accommodations, employment and housing. In short, Paul (coyly) opposes these policies. And this prompts questions about what alternative policies he might support. What should be the libertarian position about civil disobedience on private property?
Prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, for example, when a lunch counter refused to serve black people some people protested this practice by holding a sit-in at the counter and refused to leave. The owner called the police, who forcibly removed the protesters. This practice brought attention to the black people’s plight, some measure of public opprobrium on the owner of the lunch counter, and ultimately government prohibition on discrimination in businesses of public accommodation. What do you think of these events?
1. May the state sanction people who discriminate on the basis of race in the conduct of their private business? Does your answer change with respect to people engaged in businesses that do not require a prolonged interaction with any specific customer? (E.g., Once you sell your house, you typically will not have further interaction with the buyer.) Does your answer change with respect to people who hold themselves out as providers of public accommodations?
2. May Joe seek to influence the behavior of Bill by orchestrating negative (albeit accurate) publicity about Bill, thereby attracting public opprobrium? May Joe seek to influence Bill through threatening to orchestrate negative (but accurate) publicity?
3. May Joe temporarily intrude upon Bill’s autonomy as a means to achieving some other objective, provided Joe agree to bear whatever sanction results from Joe’s conduct? May Joe permanently intrude upon Bill’s autonomy as a means to achieving this objective?
4. May Bill ask the state to forcibly extract compensation from Joe for trespassing on Bill’s autonomy?
5. May Bill employ force to defend his autonomy? May Bill employ lethal force if non-lethal force proves inadequate to defend his autonomy (e.g., the protesters are really good at hanging onto lunch counter stools)? May Bill ask the state to employ force on his behalf? Does your answer to these questions change if Bill has access to after-the-fact compensation for the trespass?
(“May…” here means “Do you regard it as consistent with your understanding of libertarian beliefs that….”)
BP took a legal chance to save lots of money and lost. Now they will legally weasel out of most of the liability for the mess and stick the American workers/tax payers for the loss. Ayn Rand would be proud.
My working definition for individualism is
- The recognition that human action is based on the individual.
- A social order based on the independent action of the individual.
Because (1) implicitly assumes that individualism is a fact of nature, this leaves me with defining collectivism in opposition to (2):
A social order based on centralized social and economic control.
Because this social order must be constructed in opposition to human nature (insofar as human action really is independent), the "control" of this definition requires extortion, psychological programming, or elimination of individuals who do not comply with the central plan.
If collectivism runs against human nature, why is it so common? The idea is maintained not only by a ruling class of central organizers, but appears to be accepted by those who do not benefit from centralized control. I believe it is due to the way our minds work to form general concepts.
Individual experience is limited by location, time, and intellectual framework. Through human language, we can share experience with other individuals. But our minds are too limited to hold the totality of the objective world, so we try to extract essential rules by which we can understand our observations and predict future events.
Thus, we will say things like, "The French eat cheese and drink wine," even if we find counter examples of residents of France who do not consume either. We are taking mental and linguistic shortcuts to explain the prevalence of wine and cheese consumption by individuals in France. This is appropriate for casual language only and is not rigorous.
My working definition of crime is
An action intended to harm another individual.
I was given this definition by an Objectivist once in conversation and have stuck with it. If anyone can point me toward a better definition from libertarian literature I would appreciate it; I am not certain that intent plays such a simple role.
But intent is immaterial to the point I am making about crimes. By virtue of them being an action, crimes are committed by an individual. By virtue of being the object of harm, the victim of a crime is an individual.
An armed conflict between collectives.
To stretch the talk of guilt or innocence or victimhood to cover collectives is as sloppy as talking about "the French drinking wine". We should not use such terms when discussing war, unless it is with the caveat that we are discussing, for example, historical wars in intentionally vague terms. If someone identifies a guilty collective who must be punished through war, they are either simply wrong or intentionally trying to manipulate you.
This leaves me with the conclusion that war is never legitimate. Defensive use of force is legitimate, and individuals may coordinate their defense or hire specialists to assist in defense against one or more aggressors. But individuals cannot escape responsibility for their actions simply because they belong to a collective. Likewise, individuals cannot justly be the targets of force simply because they belong to a collective. War is not a legitimate use of force because it is by definition collective.
It points out yet again how Statists can get things exactly backwards. Contrary to their slogans about service being a sign of responsibility, the Statist who supports war is actually claiming that soldiers can escape responsibility for their actions by belonging to a collective. They will maintain that the collective is supported by sufficient force of arms to protect those who serve it from any repercussions for their actions. But though they may provide some physical protection for those who serve, they cannot protect against the moral judgment of others or even the self-judgment of those who serve. Short of killing each individual who perceives reality differently than the sanctioned collective view, the Statist cannot provide escape from the fact that aggression has consequences.
According to CNN that is the biggest one-day point decline on an intraday basis. Is it to early to break out the clapboard signs that read The end is nigh!? Probably. Even though the Senate fiddles while Rome burns.
I wonder if the Plunge Protection Team had anything to do with the 600 point recovery...
"So, if you can have all your valuables laid out by noon tomorrow so I can see which of your stuff I want to take..."
That line in particular had me laughing pretty damn heartily.
The frightening thing is, this is essentially what the CotUS says. Now I would really like to know by what authority - other than coercive threat of violence - am I required to follow a covenant that I have not signed? What recourse does a citizen have, when the heinous grievance one wants redressed is the very existence of the government itself?
Since the criminal enterprise of malevolent jobholders have done a mighty fine job of convincing folks that theft, when government sanctioned is a "good" thing. It is obvious to me that voting wont get me relief from the multi tentacled thieves, though I must concede that it may get me an ever so slight and ludicrously temporary reprieve. As I have stated before and elsewhere this is still not incentive enough to vote.
Is thievery a moderate imperfection of government? I don't think so, I truly believe that we are under the regimen of our barbarous ancestors.
Are we going to need an ice cube tax? (Probably not, as producing ice cubes likely has a net heating effect.)
Democracy divides. In order to get anything close to what you want in government, you must support a team. Democracy makes us stupid as well. Once on a team, you have an incentive to defend that team’s every action no matter how bad.
And so, the Sith Lord Moldbug finds grist for his condemnations of democracy, and rationale for monarchy. And if you ignore the War of the Roses, Czarist Russia, most ancient history, all of Central and South American Indian history, monarchy begins to look pretty good. Actually, what Moldbug is locking in on is a mix of competitive government, which the Holy Roman Empire had to a significant degree, and a slice of colonial history from when classical liberal values were popular. His data points are not representative of his thesis.
Competitive government provides better accountability than democracy, so radical federalism is one answer, even of some of the localities are run by a Boss Hogg. But today, state’s rights are not enough. The states are too big. California is a prime example. Split up the big states so that none are more populous than, say, Virginia, and we might get a taste of accountable government even under our current system.
But while accountability breaks down with size, other features of government scale up. Uniform laws over a large population provide bigger markets. Larger countries can field larger armies per mile of territorial border. Economic diversity stabilizes the tax base and reduces the impulse for mercantilism somewhat.
So I’ll stick with democratic republics until someone successfully field tests anarchocapitalism in a small country. But I do think we can and should make democracy less bad. To do so, let us look at the mechanisms by which democracy divides and dumnificates.
If you wish to reign in the rich, hand out largesse to the poor, stop global warming, keep abortion legal, and keep guns out of the hands of dangerous civilians, then the Democratic Party is your team. If you hate high taxes on the rich, despise regulations on business, like to own guns, and think abortion is murder, then the Republican Party is your team. If Democrats outnumber Republicans, then you get Democratic rule in that district and vice versa. No problem, if everyone fits into one of the teams. But they don’t.
Joe is a union member, distrusts big corporations, but he is also a God-fearing gun owner. Jane wants to stop global warming but she also thinks government is too big and complicated. Which teams should they join?
Enter the ugly battle for the swing voter. The Democrats need members of the tax paying elite to fatten its welfare-mooching coalition, so they pander to professors and push pretentious preachers on PBS. The Republicans need some blue collar voters to round out its coalition of golf-playing corporate overlords so they feature clowns and buffoons on talk radio and run presidential candidates of limited vocabulary.
Each side nitpicks away at the other, trying to convince the swing voters that the other side is less competent and more corrupt. Those who agree significantly more with one team, join said team and then bend their thinking to fit in. Each side has its echo chambers to exhort the faithful and drown out inconvenient truths with noise. Stupidity is amplified.
But what happens if we switch to Score Voting? Joe and Jane can safely give their highest scores to candidates they actually agree with. Candidates in general have less incentive to toe their party’s lines, since you could have more than one Democrat and/or Republican on the ticket in the general election. Groupthink provides fewer rewards; people can think issue by issue. Collective stupidity wanes.
If government becomes a bit less stupid, it might become a bit less bad. And if it becomes a bit less bad, it might become a bit less period. Government grows in response to crisis. Lazy libertarians would do well to ditch the Atlas Shrugged scenario and push for Score Voting and other incremental reforms. It’s cheaper and safer than living on a floating island, or turning Cuba into an experiment in anarchocapitalism.