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Comment: Re:Automated hate? (Score 2) 543

by Pfhorrest (#48215591) Attached to: The Inevitable Death of the Internet Troll

Your analogy is bad (obligatory "and you should feel bad", but not really).

If speech were expressed with paint on canvas, cruel speech would be painting goatse or the like.

Harassment would be following someone around with your painting of goatse. Or any painting of anything they object to. It's the "following them around" part that makes it harassing.

The verbal analogue of throwing paint on someone would be yelling at them through a megaphone set at painfully high volume.

Every instance of speech is also an action and every action is also an instance of speech, and the distinction between a speech-act as speech and a speech-act as action is whether you're talking about the information content (the speech part) or the physical method of delivering that content (the action part).

Throwing paint or blaring painfully loudly through a megaphone are harmful actions, assault and battery in fact, regardless of the color of the paint you throw or the noises you make through the megaphone.

Following someone around and exposing them to images or sounds they don't like is harassment, regardless of the images or sounds; it's the following-them-around part that makes it harassing.

Images or sounds themselves, presented in a way that is not physically harmful to anyone (the way that loud sounds or a face full of paint would be), in a way that anyone can walk away from, are just speech, cannot harm anyone regardless of their content, and thus should not be regulated in any way regardless of their content.

Comment: Re:New Rule in your region! (Score 1) 238

by Pfhorrest (#48207291) Attached to: Favorite clickbait hook?

"23 hot singles waiting to meet up with you in GEOSTATIONARY ORBIT." -- ads seen by astronauts

On a related note, a person I know who lives in a town with a tiny two-digit population once saw an ad like that claiming there were more hot single women in that town looking to meet up with him than there were people in that town total.

Comment: Re:Usury turns Free Markets into Capitalism (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48192559) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

I agree that the real problem is ultimately with human nature, but "not complicated" is not the same thing as "easy". Everybody being nice to each other and getting along is a very uncomplicated solution, sure, but getting people to do that is really, really hard, if not outright impossible.

Given the unfeasibility of getting everyone to just play nice with each other, the next best solution is for enough good-intentioned people to band together into some kind of social institution to keep the bad-intentioned people from doing bad things. That in turn requires that institution to decide just what it's going to consider "bad things". The bad-intentioned people are of course going to do everything they can to game whatever system the good-intentioned people come up with. Which begins an arms race where the bad-intentioned people try to figure out clever holes in the rules to exploit to do bad things without getting called out on it, and the good-intentioned people try to recognize those exploits and patch those holes. What I was doing here was calling attention to a hole in the stated rules that's being exploited, and suggesting a patch for it.

In the end it does still all hang on having enough good-intentioned people standing up to the bad-intentioned people to stop them from doing bad things, but it also hangs just as much on the good-intentioned people correctly identifying all and only the bad things the need to be stopping.

Comment: Re:Usury turns Free Markets into Capitalism (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48192521) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

You're right, automation throws a wrench in the works of the self-correcting dynamics of my usury-free market system, by completely devaluing labor; and the only way to prevent that is to make sure that everybody ends up owning a piece of the automated means of production, preferably before complete automation occurs. I think basically every possible scenario will eventually end up with everyone who is still alive living for free off the labor of robots: the questions are, firstly, who of those alive when full automation is finally achieved will live through the transition to enjoy it; and secondly, who among them will own the automatons and thus control the world when it's all through. I can see four general possible scenarios:

A) The owning class secures their power with things like robotic security and such to the point that they no longer need the working class at all, all the workers get laid off, starve and go homeless, try futilely to riot but can't overthrow the owning class's secure position, and eventually die off entirely. The remaining owning class and their descendants live in a blissful labor-free utopia for all of time afterward, and the death of the working class is remembered as a tragedy of history that none of the survivors are personally responsible for.

B) The owning class secures their position of power, the working class becomes entirely unnecessary, but out of some little shred of humanity (or possible uncertainty in the security of their position), the owning class keep the working class around, but now wielding absolute power over them as the owners have absolutely no need for the non-owners and the non-owners are absolutely dependent on the owners for their "charity".

C) The revolution comes before the owning class can totally secure their position and the working class are able to overthrow the owning class, either violently or somehow through nonviolent political means. Some traditional form of state socialism is enacted to redistribute wealth, and everyone now lives on the welfare of the state and its robot armies, which in turn (its leadership that is) wields absolute power over the people as it has no need for them per se and they are entirely dependent upon it.

D) The revolution comes soon enough to succeed by whatever means it does, and a more distributivist, libertarian-socialist solution is enacted: divisions between owners and non-owners are dissolved, everyone personally and privately owning some of the automatons, without eradicating all personal liberty in the process.

I think B and C are probably the more likely options, but A is still a frightening possibility, and it depresses me that nobody even seems to consider the possibility of genuine solutions in category D. The best-case plausible scenario is likely to be B or C eventually transitioning into D.

For a B-to-D transition, once automation is so complete that it literally costs the owners nothing (but control) to give it away, even a small trickle of genuine social charity could distribute ownership of automatons to the dependent (no longer working) classes over time, finally giving them independence. Successive generations raised in such a post-scarcity society might see less and less reason not to give their poor automaton-less friends some automatons of their own, and those given automatons could in turn use them to rescue others in the same boat at themselves, accelerating the process.

For a C-to-D transition, the electorate could simply vote to devolve ownership of the automatons from the central control of the government to the people individually. I think pragmatically, aiming for a C outcome at first with an eye to eventually transitioning to D is probably the best strategy we can hope for: a straight D solution is too unlikely to gain traction until it's too late, and a C outcome is the easiest to transition to the ideal D solution afterward. It concerns me how similar to the "dictatorship of the proletariate" that strategy is though: for the interim we have a people's government in absolute control of everything, to keep it out of control of a malevolent few, with the intention that it will devolve that control to the many individually afterwards... but what if it doesn't?

In any case, on a very long scale I think the outlook for people born in the distant future looks good. The big concern is how much it will hurt some of us alive today (and our children, etc) on the way there.

Comment: Re:The Middle Class is the Bedrock of Society (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48172693) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

Mind you, I'm not suggesting a direction of causality here. It could be that the nobly-intended increased state power came first and then attracted the big market players to seize it, or just as plausibly that the big market players seized control of government first and then gave it that power so they could use it to their advantage.

Comment: Re:The Middle Class is the Bedrock of Society (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48172667) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

We have never been further from state control over industry. What we have is industry control over state.

It can be, and plausibly is, both.

The state has more legal power to intervene in the market than before.

The bigger players in the market then have seized the reigns of that power to their own advantage.

Comment: Re:Why not? When you have kids.. (Score 4, Insightful) 323

That's the Declaration of Independence you're quoting, which was not authored by precisely the same people, not subject to the approval of the same people, as those who wrote and ratified the Constitution, which was written 11 years later and wasn't even a document of the same type. Jefferson and those he presumed to speak for may well really have found it self-evident that all men were created equal, at least self-evident enough to pronounce the fact to the British while effectively declaring war against them. But that's a far cry from convincing a continental convention of representatives of legislatures of thirteen recently-sovereign states, legislatures elected by and representing, in part, wealthy land- and slave-owners, to enshrine such principle in the nigh-immutible supreme law of the lands in which said electorate lived.

In other words, it's one thing for a small handful of people to profess principles to their enemies; it's another thing entirely to get whole societies to agree to bind themselves to those principles. The fact that the professed principles of the founders were immediately ignored says nothing about the intent of those founders, and everything about our collective disrespect for principle in general when the rubber hits the road.

Comment: Re: Usury turns Free Markets into Capitalism (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48166449) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

usuary is defined as excessive interest.

That's only the modern sense.

The older sense is "any interest at all". (Pre-Reformation, post-Roman Europe generally prohibited any interest at all, and used this sense; the Islamic world largely continues that tradition as well; though neither prohibited rent in general, just rent on money, and so strange arrangements involving combinations of rentals and insurances and loans all packaged together are used to work around the prohibition on interest in those places).

And the oldest etymological sense, that I'm using for purposes of illustration, is "a fee for usage". Hence "usury", like "usage". Any rental payment is usury in that oldest sense. Any interest is rent on money and thus usury in that oldest sense.

Though since I am arguing that any rent or interest is "excessive", the modern sense does have a useful connotation in that way too.

Comment: Re:Usury turns Free Markets into Capitalism (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48166437) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

That last point is debatable. The main argument against such contracts is that people don't have the physical capacity to hand over control of their own bodies to anyone else, and you can only enter into contracts which you can actually fulfill. Regardless, the "usury" contracts you're attempting to undermine have all the necessary properties of a valid contract: consideration, offer and acceptance, capable parties, mutual assent / "meeting of the minds". Their only failing, apparently, is that they don't meet with your approval. Enforcement of valid contracts (whether or not they are recognized as such by local law) is very much a condition for a free market. Arbitrary interference with voluntary contracts would undermine basic property rights and render the market non-free.

Contracts of any sort are in no way a "basic property right", nor necessary for a free market. The power to contract is not only a different right but an entirely different class of right than the claim rights that constitute ownership of property.

A claim right is a right to have someone else do or not do something -- such as the right against people doing things to your property against your will. A liberty right is a right to do or not do something, which is to say, the absence of claim rights against you. The second-order versions of those are respectively immunities, claims against people making changes to your first-order rights; and powers, liberties to change first-order rights.

To have a free market, all you strictly need are claims against anyone acting upon your property against your will (which is to say, private property), all liberties compatible with such claims (which is to say, general freedom), and at least the power to transfer ownership or your property to someone else (which is to say, the power to trade), consequently changing who has what claims and liberties to what.

Any other powers beyond that, or immunities against such powers, are open for debate without putting the freedom of the market in question. The power to contract is one such power beyond that, and what its limits should be is open to debate without putting the freedom of the market in question. I actually lean heavily toward the position that there should be no powers beyond that power to transfer ownership, maximizing immunity, just like there should be no claims beyond the claim against anyone acting upon your property against your will, maximizing liberty. I'm not arguing for that extreme here now, but I do have a deontological argument for it; however, I can also see consequential arguments against it that I'm still mulling over.

But there are very clear consequential arguments to at least limit the power to contract in a way that undermines rent and interest, though -- the ones I gave earlier in my first post you responded to -- and while we can argue about the strength of those arguments, it in no way would undermine the freedom of any market to have no power to contract at all, much less just no power to contract usury. It would undermine certain widespread institutes of capitalism, but that's not the same thing as undermining a free market, and that's the whole purpose here, to get rid or capitalism while keeping the free market. We can argue about whether the consequences of that would be good though, if you like... which it looks like you've already begun to do below.

I, for one, very much want to be able to enter into contracts which involve me paying rent or interest with the expectation that the terms will be enforceable in the event that I should default. The alternative is that I won't have access to loans.

I wonder, what do you think people with all that money will do with it if they suddenly can't get any use from it by lending it out at interest? Now they have useless piles of money doing them no good; certainly they'd like to find some other good use to put it do, what do you think that might be? Honest question; I've done the analysis of this mostly concerning real property, which would otherwise have been rented out, as well as with chattels that might have been rented, and I've found that there are alternative arrangements involving only sales that satisfy the economic needs that rent is currently serving without the harmful side-effects I'm looking to eliminate. But I haven't done a detailed analysis on alternatives to the rent of money (i.e. lending at interest) yet. So I'm curious to hear you try it. If you had enormous piles of money, more than you could ever spend on yourself in a lifetime, and you couldn't collect interest on it, nor collect rent on anything you might buy with it, what would you do to get any good out of it? Bearing in mind especially that there would simultaneously be suddenly a lot of people in need of money, that you might be able to come to some mutually beneficial arrangement with. This is not a leading question, I want to hear your realistic thoughts on the matter.

If I object to the practice, I always have the option of not entering into such contracts; I would not thank anyone for taking that option away.

But you, and everyone else as well, have to live with a market distorted by the presence of such contracts, in much the way that the legality of slavery contracts would distort the market for free labor. It's precisely those market distortions I'm looking to get rid of.

My specific motivation in developing this in the first place was observing that real estate has value as a source of rental income, which drives up the sale price of real estate (because owning more than you need to for your own living space is a source of income, not just a store of wealth), which in turn makes it more difficult for people who don't already own property to get any at all, leaving them stuck renting even if they'd rather own, to the ongoing benefit of those who already own enough excess property that they can rent it out, and at the ongoing expense of those who don't even own enough to live in themselves.

That's exactly the kind of having-capital-makes-you-money, lacking-capital-costs-you-money wealth-concentration cycle that I'm trying to cut short. If rental wasn't legally possible, then the would-be-rentier property owners would be forced to sell their property at prices and on terms that the would-be-renters could afford, i.e. comparable to their rent payments. (There are a lot of other nuances necessary to make that economically viable, that we can go into if you really want, but that's the bottom line). The possibility of rent distorts the sales market that would exist in the absence of rent, to the detriment of those who don't own property, and the benefit of those who do, in a way that simply "not choosing to rent" doesn't let you escape. I choose not to rent, but am in practice unable to act on that choice because of the distorted market that the possibility of rent creates.

Oh, that's good. In that case you should have no problem with contracts involving rent, since they are in fact exchanges of "actual, real things"—the service of allowing access to the owner's property in exchange for the renter's money.

Allowing someone to do something is hardly "a service".

An analogy I like to use is the idea of selling you a right to punch me in the face. Granted that I have a claim against you punching in me face against my consent, I can change whether or not you are allowed to punch me in the face by changing whether or not I consent to it. You also have the power to transfer ownership of some of your money to me. You transferring such money to me might motivate me to consent to it. But your transferring such money to me cannot give you the right to punch me in the face, otherwise my ownership of my own face would be compromised. I retain at all times the choice of whether to consent to it or not, and thus control whether or not you are allowed to punch me in the face, so you cannot have a right to do so. I cannot give you the-right-to-punch-me-in-the-face-whether-I-consent-to-it-or-not without giving up ownership of my face, selling it to you.

I can't actually sell you my face because I'm, as you pointed out, unable to actually surrender control of it to you. (Well, I guess I could cut it off and sell that to you, but you get what I mean; I can't sell an integral part of myself). But the above is analogous to renting out any other thing -- a physical thing, not something abstract like "a service" or "an idea" or "a right", but a real, tangible, material object. If I own it, I can change whether you can act upon it by changing whether I consent to that or not. You can transfer ownership of your money to me, which might motivate me to consent or not, but I can't sell you the right to do something to it whether I consent or not, without selling it to you. To have rights to a thing is to own it. I can't sell you rights to something and still own the thing myself. Well, we could perhaps jointly own the thing, and thus both have claims and liberties against each other as to what we can do to it; but then if I wanted exclusive ownership back, I'd have to buy you out, at the price of your choosing, and rental is nothing like that. Rental purports to, in effect, sell a thing and yet still retain ownership of it. It's a nonsense arrangement.

To eliminate that possibility you could enter into two separate contracts, one to transfer all the rights to the other party now, and another to transfer the rights back at the end of the rental period. In the interim ownership would lie entirely with the renter. You'll still get your property back in the end, but you can't terminate the rental early.

That's actually very similar to my proposed alternative arrangement to rentals: you sell it (usually at a high price and on long terms) and then you buy it back (usually at a low price and on short terms). For short-term use of things, this very much resembles rent as it exists already, and the profit made by the "rentier" is tied directly to the convenience of such a business to the "renter", and quite justified. Because, since the "renter" is actually buying, he owns the thing after the initial sale, and if he likes could sell it to someone else for a higher price than the "rentier" is offering to buy it back, or just keep it forever; he's under no obligation to sell it back to the "rentier", only to finish paying for it, whether by selling it back or selling it off or some other means that allows him to keep it himself. So for longer-term use of things, this "rental" arrangement looks more and more like a sale; or rather, since they're all actually sales technically, shorter-term pairs of sales look more and more like rentals, but they're technically not.

In such an arrangement, someone "renting" an apartment is actually slowly buying it; they can cut out at any time by selling back to the apartment manager, likely at a net loss for the whole deal, which is how the apartment manager makes a profit, but which may be worth the convenience to the "renter", just like paying actual rent money in exchange for no property is a convenience worth it to some actual renters. If they're in no rush though, and kept the place in good condition (maybe by subscribing to the maintenance plan the apartment manager offered with the sale? or just doing their own repairs if that's a better deal?), they could find another person to sell it to, on similar terms to the ones they're buying for, and end up paying close to nothing once it all winds down; which makes sense, because they ended up with no property to their name for it, so why would they have paid anything for nothing? After a few decades of long-term "rental", the "renter" will have paid enough in "rent" that he now owns something somewhere; unless he really needed the convenience of moving quickly a lot, in which case he may have sacrificed some of that potential investment for that convenience, but that's his choice. Those who want to "rent" in a way like we rent now can have effectively that; and those who want nothing more than to get out of renting have a gradual path to ownership to reward their patience. Who loses? Besides the wealthy people profiting off of those who are perpetually stuck renting when they'd rather own, that is, but they're the problem I'm trying to eliminate here.

Comment: Re:Let me get this right (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48164533) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

Yep. "Marginal utility" is the term you're looking for here: each additional dollar is worth less to you than the last one was.

I actually like to use marginal utility to argue from the conservative premise that taxes are bad to the progressive conclusion that progressive taxes are the best kind of taxes, so long as the premise is also granted that at least some taxes are necessary. We can argue about what level of taxation is necessary, but whatever the answer to that question is, the answer to who should bear the tax burden is the same.

1. Taking money from people (e.g. taxation) is harmful and bad.
2. Nevertheless we must take some money from people on pain of even greater harm.
3. The same loss of money harms someone with less money more than it harms someone with more money.
4. We do the least harm to take the necessary money from those who have more of it more than we do from those who have less of it.

Et voila. Taxes are bad, therefore they must be progressive.

Comment: Re:Usury turns Free Markets into Capitalism (Score 1) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48164273) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

Not all contracts are legally valid, and they don't all need to be legally valid for a market to be free. You can't, for example, contract yourself into slavery.

Also, no exchanges "fail to meet my approval" as you put it. If you want to trade someone something for something else, I don't care what those somethings are, so long as they're actual, real things; who has what rights to what transfers along with who owns what things, and people can trade ownership of things between each other as they like as far as I care. It's only the creation and trade of certain abstract legal constructs I'm objecting to. Your ability to trade someone "the temporary right to use this property" in exchange for something else depends on the ability to create such tradable, temporary legal rights to things in the first place. You're free to allow people to use your property, and they're free to give you money for it, without any special legal rights-creation going on. But if you want to give someone the right to use your property, even against your will if you change your mind, that depends on the ability to create such rights out of nothing, and that's what I'm objecting to.

It's somewhat analogous to intellectual property, where you're not making and trading actual things, you're making and trading legal rights.

Comment: Usury turns Free Markets into Capitalism (Score 4, Insightful) 838

by Pfhorrest (#48162919) Attached to: Bill Gates: Piketty's Attack on Income Inequality Is Right

If we're going to be pedantic about words, we also need to distinguish a "free market" from "capitalism". Too often self-identified proponents of "capitalism" are really just proponents of free markets, and use "capitalism" as if all it means is "free market".

A free market an economic arrangement where all exchanges are made voluntarily, without coercion.

Capitalism is an economic arrangement where those who own capital can extract surplus value from the labor of those who don't own such capital.

Both contemporary opponents and proponents of either assume that each entails the other:that without some kind or coerced redistribution, those with more capital will exploit those with less, and the only choice is between those two evils. But in principle the two concepts can come apart. The hard question is how.

My proposed answer is that what allows a free market (good) to become capitalism (bad) is the legal enforcement of any contract where someone allows the temporary use of their capital in exchange for a permanent transfer of some other capital. In other words, rent, including the rent on money that we call "interest", or in general, to use a more archaic but etymologically illustrative term, "usury": the charging of a fee for usage. Such contracts allow those who have more capital than they need for their personal use, who can thus afford to lend it out, to extract value from those who need to use more capital than they have, who thus have to borrow it. This creates an "uphill" flow of wealth from those who already have less of it to those who already have more of it.

In the absence of such contracts of usury, the only way someone with more wealth than is personally useful to them to get some value for it would be to sell it off. And, as is already the case, the only thing that those without enough wealth can trade for anything of value is their labor. The natural effect you would expect, in a free market without usury, would be that those with more capital would benefit from it by trading it for labor from others, gaining luxury (not needing to labor themselves) at the cost of their capital; and the laborers, in turn, would gradually accrue capital in exchange for their labor, and this free trade of capital for labor would gradually equalize the capitalists and the laborers, until each had enough capital for their own use, and had to labor upon it themselves. Some natural variation in wealth would still exist due to the natural differences in productivity of different people, but there would be no run-away concentration of wealth independent of productive activity that we have now.

Introduce usury into that system though, as we have now, and suddenly those with more wealth can lend their excess to those with less wealth, for a fee, which fee they can then use to pay for the labor of those who have less, who in turn are having to trade their labor to pay the fees for the use of the wealth of those who have more. In this way, usury creates an "upward" flow of wealth canceling the natural "downward" flow that a free market would be expected to have, and allowing those with more wealth to live perpetually off the labor of those with less wealth, without ever having to actually lose any wealth in exchange. It's not an insurmountable effect, it is still possible for the poor to accrue wealth or the rich to lose it all, but you have to be exceptionally competent or exceptionally incompetent to do each, respectively. For an average person, having wealth makes it easy to keep and gain wealth, and lacking it makes that exceedingly difficult. And I think we have usury — rent and interest — to blame for that. Without it, free markets would be inherently "socialist", as in for the public good, as one would naturally expect.

"It is easier to fight for principles than to live up to them." -- Alfred Adler