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Comment: Re:I sincerely hope the 1st Amendment is bulletpro (Score 1) 372 372

I'd bet that if someone were to introduce a sci-fi style personal force field right now, it would probably be banned as "military hardware" or something tantamount to "we can't let people just be invincible, how the hell would we control them with the threat of overwhelming force then?"

Comment: Re:Build colonies on Earth (Score 2) 254 254

Viability isn't just technological know-how. If we aren't ready to build biodomes in Anarctica or the Sahara or the seafloor, or to deploy the technologies used in them to regulate the "biodome" that is the whole planet -- even if it's just for economic or political reason -- then we're obviously not ready to build them in space either.

Comment: Re:Build colonies on Earth (Score 1) 254 254

Is shade really a "resource" when it comes to agriculture? Plants are powered by sunlight. The wide open fields of the breadbaskets of the world aren't exactly shady. They just get plenty of rainfall in addition to all that sunlight, which is what the Sahara is really missing.

Comment: Re:Build colonies on Earth (Score 5, Interesting) 254 254

By the time off-world colonies are viable, pollution on Earth will be a non-issue, because the exact same technology needed to sustain an offworld colony is the technology that would allow us to clean and recycle absolutely everything here on Earth. Because that's exactly what you need for a self-sustaining offworld colony: recycled everything. On Earth, we're lucky enough to have a natural biosphere that gives us tons of recycling capacity for free: just dump wastewaster and CO2 and feces into the wilderness and, like a miracle, fresh air blows back, clean water falls from the sky, and food grows out of what was once someone's shit. Up to a certain capacity at least. If we can't even manage to recycle the excess of ours that that massive free hand up nature gives us can't handle, then we're nowhere close to being able to settle offworld where we have to do all of that work ourselves.

Like you say, Antarctica or the desert or, hell, the ocean floor, would all be a cakewalk compared to anywhere off Earth.

There is good reason to settle offworld when we can (not keeping all our eggs in one basket), but until we're capable of even settling all of the comparably idyllic places on our own planet that aren't "worth settling" at the current difficulty levels, then we don't stand a chance of settling anywhere offworld.

Comment: Re:Incredibly farfetched (Score 0) 254 254

It's not floating by hull displacement like a boat does. It's not pushing out the higher-density lower atmosphere and letting the lower-dentity higher atmosphere fill in; that wouldn't even make sense, we're talking about a continual gradient of gasses, there is no liquid surface to float on. You just fill it with Earth-sea-level-density gasses, which are less dense than much of Venus' atmosphere, and then let it float where it floats, which will be up around the range of where those same gasses exist on Venus. The weight of the hull will drag it down some, but size is largely irrelevant to that. The weight of the hull is like the weight of the rubber in a balloon. How big you inflate the balloon isn't really important; the fact that it's filled with helium and thus lighter than sea-level air is what matters.

Comment: Re:Another great Scalia line (Score 1) 1083 1083

There's a whole lot of them. Almost every ethical theory seriously entertained by contemporary philosophers (many if not most of which theories support some concept of rights) is something other than divine command theory ("from God") or ethical subjectivism ("people just made it up").

Comment: Re:Another great Scalia line (Score 2) 1083 1083

I don't know what you're referring to so I'm going to go with "no", but I also get the feeling that you completely missed my point.

Does logic come from God or is it just something people made up?

Does mathematics come from God or is it just something people made up?

Does reality come from God or is it just something people made up?

Does morality come from God or is it just something people made up?

False dichotomies, all of that. (And not even a dichotomy at that, because "coming from God" means someone -- God -- made it up. "Nobody made it up, it just is" isn't an option?)

Comment: Re:How is this news for nerds? (Score 1) 1083 1083

Might I suggest The Database Engineering Perspective on Gay Marriage, which humorously explores the formal, structural similarities and differences between different kinds of marriage (straight, gay, poly, intransitive... asymmetrical? reflexive? etc) in a milieu that readers of this site should appreciate.

Comment: Re:Welcome! (Score 2) 1083 1083

California may be "generally considered more liberal" abroad but it's really only liberal in federal elections. State elections tend to swing pretty conservatively. And broken down county-by-county, it's a shockingly perfect microcosm of the US as a whole: liberal on the coasts except for the south coast, and conservative inland except around the big lake on the border.

Comment: Full Illustration of How Rent Breaks a Free Market (Score 1) 939 939

Here's a fuller illustration of that toy model of a market to more completely illustrate how the existence of rent breaks it.

This market consists of two identical people, one kind of consumable good (food), one kind of capital (land), and one kind of labor (working the land to produce food). There is exactly enough land to produce enough food for normal consumption for two people. The two people agree on what the rules of acceptable behavior (laws) and division of property are, so we don't need to worry about external law enforcement here. We will explore a couple of different scenarios of different laws and different divisions of property.

If the land ownership was evenly divided, the normal state of affairs would be for each person to work his land to produce food for his own consumption. Trade between the two people could be possible still -- one could give the other some of his food in exchange for the other taking over some of his labor, or they could divide the labor up into different types (planting, watering, harvesting, etc) and each do that for the other in exchange for some quantity of food -- and if the law includes laws against violence, then neither can coerce the other and all their trade would be free. Sounds wonderful.

But now, say one of the people (Alice) only owns 1/4 of the total land, while the other (Bob) owns 3/4 of it. Alice now cannot produce enough food for her own normal consumption, whereas Bob could produce an excess. Of course that means Alice is also working half as much as she would, and Bob is working one and a half times as much, so maybe that seems fair, but there are now pressures at work that will quickly make it unfair. Alice isn't eating enough, and Bob has more land than he really need to provide for his consumption, so Bob offers Alice a deal: "I'll let you borrow my extra land to work, in exchange for just half of its normal yield." So Alice gets some more food, and Bob gets more food too so he has to work less, and they both win right? So this is an obvious no brainer for both of them, a totally voluntary, free market transaction, right? Everything's great?

Except that now Alice is working a normal full work load but only getting 75% of a full crop from it, and Bob is getting a full crop but only working 75% as much for it. And this will continue indefinitely, and never end. Just because Bob started out with more than Alice, Alice is now stuck permanently getting less for her work than Bob, and Bob can permanently live a life of leisure on the back of Alice. Not because one of them did anything to win this position, not because one of them is better than the other, because remember we stipulated that they are identical; it's just because one of them began with more capital than the other.

But wait, it gets worse! Alice is still not eating enough, and desperate for anything that she can to get more. And now that Bob only has to work 75% of his land to meet his own consumption, he's got another quarter-field now lying around that he could lend out to Alice as well... in exchange for part of its normal yield again, of course. Which means Alice is now working even more than a normal full load and still not getting a full crop, and Bob can work even less and still get a full crop. Which means Bob now has another portion of his field he's not working anymore, and Alice still isn't eating enough, so she'll gladly work that too, in exchange for a part of it's yield sure, she needs the food so it's better than not. The endgame of this progression is that Alice has to work both fields in full if she wants to get a full crop to herself, meaning Bob doesn't have to work at all, still gets a full crop to himself, and Alice is his slave.

(Worse still, if Bob was really smart and Alice was desperate enough to fall for it, Bob could keep working full time, trade the excess he gets from Alice back to her in exchange for her land -- bought, not borrowed -- and gradually own even more and more of the land and make the whole scenario above worse and worse. Bob's ability to leverage his capital advantage to produce an excess of product allows him to increase that capital advantage further and further and accelerate the whole process -- at the accelerating expense of Alice).

Now, consider if the law was that you couldn't create those kinds of borrow-at-interest obligations, i.e. you couldn't rent. That's not to say that Bob couldn't let Alice use his land, or that Alice couldn't give Bob some of her crops; just that Bob couldn't oblige Alice to give her crops in exchange for use of his land. Well, you might say, that's just going to mean Bob won't let her borrow the land, and Alice will be permanently starving, and half a field will lie fallow since Bob doesn't need it. But wait! Isn't there an obvious, free-market solution to both of those problems, that benefits both of the parties? Bob could sell his extra land to Alice! Alice gets the land, and in exchange owes Bob some large amount of food (so Bob doesn't have to work as much to grow his own). Of course she'll have to pay that over time because she doesn't have enough to feed herself as-is. And of course even with the land, Alice will only be able to produce enough food to feed herself, so she will need to get more food to give Bob from somewhere else... meaning, from Bob, which she will have to trade her labor for, giving Bob even more leisure at no loss of consumption.

So for a while, you get something that looks just like the terrible outcome of the second scenario above. Alice works more than a full load just to keep a full crop at the end of the year, and Bob gets to slack off and still get a full crop to himself. But unlike the scenario above, this is temporary; with every year that Alice is working extra to pay off the land she bought from Bob, Alice gets more and more equity in the land, and Bob gets less and less. And eventually, Alice owns a full field to herself, and Bob only has a normal field with no excess. And Alice can stop working extra to pay off Bob, and Bob has to start working a full load if he wants to keep his full crop. And then we're back at the free, fair, and equitable arrangement from the first scenario. We have gone from a capital inequality to capital equality, redistributed wealth from the rich to the poor, all through completely voluntary transactions, with no coercion!

And all we had to do for that to happen was to agree that one person can't be obliged to give someone something in exchange for merely being allowed to use something else. Exchanges have to be proper trades; if someone is going to owe you something, like Alice owed Bob food, then you have to owe someone back, like Bob owed Alice land. Just do that, and the natural mechanisms of the free market will automatically move capital from the rich to the poor and bring everyone back to equality. But allow rent like that, and the free market breaks completely, wealth concentrates, and pretty soon the poor are slaves to the rich, and everyone turns the other way because every step of it was "voluntary", including the rental contracts.

But we don't allow people to "voluntarily" sell themselves directly into slavery -- such contracts are invalid -- so why would we allow contracts that indirectly tend toward the same result, when we could just consider them invalid and then let the market sort itself out?

Comment: Re:Not me, not in California (Score 1) 939 939

You can do whatever you want with your property (so long as it's not harming someone else or their property).

What you can't (shouldn't be able to) do is create contractual obligations whereby people owe you money (or anything) in exchange for you allowing them to do things to your property.

Which means if you want to profit from your excess, you have to sell it. You don't get to get paid for something and also keep the thing. You want money for something? You lose the thing in return.

Comment: Re:Renting other stuff (Score 1) 939 939

There are simple arrangements of sales that emulate rent in that capacity (a "rental shop" would sell above market price on long installment terms, and buy back below market price in one lump sum). The same kind of arrangement would also be fine for land, and would serve the functions where people actually want "rental" housing, while automatically becoming more like a sale for people who really just wanted a sale in the first place (or who just find themselves renting for so long that they might as well have just bought one... and it turns out, they technically did, and eventually it's paid of and done).

Comment: Re: Colorado sure has nice beaches (Score 1) 939 939

And then when it expires, all the places they would have turned to rent instead are now owned by rich Americans and priced out of their range, the bulk of the country (the poor, the renters) are forced to move. Their landlords are happy with the whole deal of course, that's why they sold, but the majority of the populace are fucked. That they may be a slight delay in their fuckedness is immaterial.

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