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Comment: Re:the endgame is ironic here (Score 1) 289

by SkimTony (#49557479) Attached to: Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers

While I agree with you on the ills of "a run-away regulatory bureaucracy," businesses that look out for "their own self-interest" will always choose to cut corners if it allows them to make an extra buck, unless the costs for doing so are imposed on them.

The real catch is that for the free market checks you mention to work, all parties need to have all of the information (i.e., potential consumers have to know that the product might contain a toxic substance, and what the side effects of using the product would be because of it). Since corporations (sans regulation) will do everything they can to suppress that information, someone needs to impose a cost on those corporations for acting this way.

Without environmental regulation, corporations will dump their waste wherever and whenever they can, even if it causes earthquakes or birth defects, because it's cheaper than cleaning up their messes and disposing of things safely. The market rewards that behaviour - a company behaving badly will have lower costs than its competitors, and will drive them out of business unless they start behaving badly, too.

Sure, corrupt regulators make the process much worse than merely corrupt corporations, but that just means we need to clean up the corrupt bureaucracy, as well as the corrupt corporations. Corruption has to cost, or the market will not correct it.

Comment: Re:the endgame is ironic here (Score 1) 289

by SkimTony (#49550787) Attached to: Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers

Here, here. I would like to voice my support of your call to understand things! I wonder why people are comfortable with the idea that rocket science is more complicated than the basic physics they had in high school, and maybe there are people who have studied it more and have better ideas, but economics is somehow no more complicated than balancing their checkbooks and paying their bills, so clearly they know better than those pesky educated people?

Oh, wait, this is the internet. Everyone thinks they're better at rocket science than actual rocket scientists.

Comment: Re:the endgame is ironic here (Score 1) 289

by SkimTony (#49550767) Attached to: Robot Workers' Real Draw: Reducing Dependence on Human Workers

The issue with the claim that free markets self-regulate is that while it's possible that they do, the "Free Market" that people hold up as the ideal model for economics is just like the frictionless, gas-less space in which students solve first semester physics problems (so they can get the hang of the difference between velocity and acceleration, before adding in the terms for rolling friction and air resistance).

I think your comment about "excessive intervention by uninformed central planners" shows that you already recognize that information (a necessary condition for a Free Market is perfect information, for all parties) is a big problem in market regulation. This is the case whether its consumers/producers that lack information, or regulators. However, the assertion that taking away the regulation will have better results than fixing the regulation is based on a fiction (i.e., the simplified Free Market model, which can't exist on earth any more than a pitcher can throw a ball with no friction on a field with uniform gravitation).

Comment: Re:Socialism! (Score 1) 482

by SkimTony (#49488359) Attached to: Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries

Capitalism, in a market with perfect information (which is, incidentally, a pre-condition of a "Free" market) may not prohibit benevolence, but American Capitalism, as controlled by Boards and Shareholders, frowns on any act that does not increase profits. If you (as a CEO) do act in such a manner as to decrease profits, or fail to increase profits when you could have, Carl Icahn will sue you. So while benevolence isn't prohibited, it's certainly heavily discouraged, especially for publicly traded companies.

Comment: Re:Who's going to know? (Score 1) 412

by SkimTony (#49046929) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

Your previous comment (and this one) misses the point, which is that while you are correct that money can be made manufacturing drugs that are already certified, the patent (time limited! Just like copyright was supposed to be!) allows the company a window of time in which to make back the investment in completing clinical trials.
Once that investment is "paid off," it can be profitable to just sell an inexpensive version of it. If the substance can never be patented, then it would be much more difficult (and/or take much longer) to make enough to pay back the costs of clinical trials, making it a much less appealing investment.

Comment: Re:Fraudulent herbal supplements? (Score 1) 412

by SkimTony (#48980531) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

I would argue that there is something preventing concerned citizens from performing their own testing and publishing, which is that if you were to publish any test results about a product that weren't glowing, that company would immediately threaten you with a crushing lawsuit (
Would they win? Shouldn't the truth be absolute defense against claims of slander or libel? I think it should, but if someone with a massive legal department threatens to ruin your life over it, most private citizens don't have the resources to contest the issue, so they settle. Settlement term #1? Keep your findings to yourself. This is why we need government to step in - an organization beholden (at least in theory) to the people, with the clout to call the bluffs that corporations (or merely well-funded individuals) make in order to keep the less-well-funded from derailing their plans.

Comment: Re:Fraudulent herbal supplements? (Score 1) 412

by SkimTony (#48979719) Attached to: Major Retailers Accused of Selling Fraudulent Herbal Supplements

I agree that this is the intended result (government tests products on behalf of consumers, finds wrongdoing, pushes companies to fix the problem).

In this case, it was indirect regulation. The "supplement" industry isn't regulated. People can sell whatever they want, say "this might help with your deepest, darkest fears!" and if people will buy it, make money. However, because they're sold in stores in NY, they're subject to the same regulations as everything else that's sold in stores in NY, which are governed by Consumer Protection and Fair Labeling laws.

The NY state government examined these products under Consumer Protection regulations, found that the labels were wrong, and had them pulled because lying on product labels is illegal, not because there were any rules about supplements. A quibble, I know, but there was and is nothing in place to require testing of supplements like this - it was just something someone in the Attorney General's office decided to check.

Comment: Re:The ominous humm.... (Score 1) 823

by SkimTony (#48877785) Attached to: Fake Engine Noise Is the Auto Industry's Dirty Little Secret

Charging for things I don't want? I'd pay extra to shut off any extra noises my car might make. Then again, I'd pay a lot extra to disable all the extra noises that everyone else's cars make. An engineering project: Can I get the equivalent of a TV-B-Gone, so I can turn off the obnoxious extra noises that the cars around me make?

Comment: Re:Should be compared to CPI (Score 2) 619

by SkimTony (#47275847) Attached to: 2 US Senators Propose 12-Cent Gas Tax Increase

There is one reason to compare it to the cost of gasoline, which is predicated on an inverse relationship between the cost of fuel and the amount people are willing to spend on it. While there are many quibbles and outright logical flaws in the reasoning behind the gas tax, this one seems relatively sound:
    1) Gas tax is a certain percentage of cost of fuel, collected as fuel is purchased. Fuel use approximately correlates with wear and tear on roads.
    2) Price of gas increases dramatically (roughly 4x) with no corresponding increase in taxes (since it's a fixed rate, not a fixed percentage). This causes a short term decline in usage, reducing (slightly) wear and tear on roads. but then...
    3) Drivers acquire more efficient vehicles to offset the price of fuel. These vehicles aren't any smaller or lighter, so they cause the same wear and tear on the roads, but they deliver less fuel-tax revenue to pay for that road use.

I do appreciate the inflation method for calculating fuel taxes, though. I had a conversation with some friends recently about the comparative pointlessness of a five cent deposit on a can of soda or beer now, versus in the mid 1980's, when if you returned ten cans you could use the deposit money to buy a full can of soda.

Reality must take precedence over public relations, for Mother Nature cannot be fooled. -- R.P. Feynman