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Comment: Instead of the Communist Manifesto (Score 1) 796

by Snarfangel (#45841077) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What Are the Books Everyone Should Read?

Read Henry George's Progress and Poverty. The writing is clearer, and it offers ideas compatible with capitalism.

BTW, I don't want to suggest in any way that George was a communist. He was arguably more of a capitalist than most, in that he didn't want to tax capital at all -- or labor, for that matter -- just land (and by extension, natural resources with inherently fixed supply). Karl Marx's writing is a more difficult slog, and his importance is more how he was able to convince otherwise rational people to behave irrationally en masse, rather than economic ideas that would be useful to implement.

Comment: Are you testing poisonous plants? (Score 1) 73

by Snarfangel (#45580775) Attached to: Crowdsourcing the Discovery of New Antibiotics

Not that I have the urge to track down death caps or anything, but I have noticed that NOTHING seems to munch on or infect poison oak (at least where I live). It stays nice, glossy green until the leaves turn in the fall, without wilting or mold or any other ailment I can see on other plants. It would be interesting to see if the urushiol oil or something else protected it.

Comment: Re:why are the options close together? (Score 1) 398

by Snarfangel (#41861819) Attached to: Why Does a Voting Machine Need Calibration?

(of course, it should go without saying that those buttons should be extremely obvious, and the selection of candidates on page 1 should be randomized for each voter.)

Agreed. There is no reason that a computer screen cannot show candidates in random order for each race, and that would help lessen systemic error as well as ill-informed or lazy votes (lazy voters who just pick the first candidate in races would spread votes among all candidates).

Comment: There are three that I haven't seen mentioned yet: (Score 2) 1365

by Snarfangel (#40913777) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Depressing Sci-fi You've Ever Read?

Level 7, by Mordecai Roshwald: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Level_7

Z For Zachariah (young adult), by Robert C. O'Brien: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Z_for_Zachariah

A Canticle for Leibowitz, by Walter M. Miller, Jr.: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Canticle_for_Leibowitz

Comment: A better calendar reform (Score 1) 725

by Snarfangel (#38516194) Attached to: Christmas Always On Sunday? Researchers Propose New Calendar

This will be buried at the end of 600 comments, but hey, I might as well throw in my two cents.

Make the calendar:

Five days per week.
Six weeks per month.
Three months per quarter.
Four quarters per year, plus one five-day week at the end of the year.
Add a leap day to the end of every fourth year, except years divisible by 128. In other words, 128 years would be exactly 46751 days, and each year would average out to 365.2421875 days.

Then start the year at the autumnal equinox (in the northern hemisphere). The seasons would roughly align with the quarters. Of course, the phases of the moon would fall out of synch, but 30 days is pretty close to a lunar cycle. You can have the quarters of Fall, Winter, Spring, and Summer, with each quarter divided into Early, Mid, and Late.

For example, the months would be:
Early Fall, Mid Fall, Late Fall
Early Winter, Mid Winter, Late Winter
Early Spring Mid Spring, Late Spring
Early Summer, Mid Summer, Late Summer.

And no one will ever read this, but here is a little ditty:

The First of Autumn, to make it clear
Is the first day of the year.
Every week has just five days
Six weeks per month, plus one that stays.
Thirty days hath Mid Winter
And all the months that you remember.
Fall and Winter, Spring and Summer
The seasons are just four in number.
At years end, across the nation
Add a week of celebration.
Every four years, you may note
Add another day to vote.
Except for the years 1-2-8
Don't leap ahead, and you'll stay straight.

Comment: Re:Let's just do away with sales tax (Score 1) 949

by Snarfangel (#36772096) Attached to: Slate: Amazon's Tax Stance Unfair and Unethical

There are two general arguments you can make with regards to the preferred method of taxation, one based on morality, and the other based on efficiency.

For morality, it depends on what you consider to be the most fundamental property we can claim ownership of. Is it our labor? Is it our labor applied to land to produce capital? Is it land, which is a factor of production not produced by anyone's labor?

My argument would be that our labor is the primary thing we can morally claim ownership of. An income tax takes away part of that labor directly. The harder you work, the more you have to pay to the state. Hard work is thus penalized and discouraged.

A capital gains tax takes away labor applied to land (in the economic sense of a natural resource of fixed supply) to produce capital. Like the tax on labor, a tax on capital reduces the incentive to save a portion of what you produce, discouraging capital formation and encouraging current consumption (eating your seed corn, rather than saving it until the next planting season, for example).

Only a land value tax does not take away labor directly -- we can, for example, imagine a gypsy tinker who wanders from place to place, working on pots and pans brought to him, but holding no land title. An income tax would reach out to take a portion of the labor from such a person, no matter where he roamed, whereas a land value tax would not. The reverse of this, a rent seeker who does not labor, would seem to be morally more suspect. A person who does not work, but merely expects the state to use force to protect his or her property without payment in taxes, would seem to be at best a parasite on the community. Land tenure secured by the state would seem to be the one thing that -- well, call it a tax, or a user fee, or a rental fee, or anything you like -- could be morally levied. If you control an expensive piece of property, and expect the police to show up when you call, a tax would to reimburse the the state seem to be reasonable.

And as for efficiency, land is fixed in quantity, and a tax does neither encourages nor discourages the amount available. If we tax it at or below the rental value of land, it will continue to be productive, without any reduction in use. Only if we tax high enough that people began abandoning land would we have to worry about negative effects. In addition, since land is fixed in quantity, we do no have to worry about deadweight losses from the tax. This is unlike taxes on labor (income taxes), capital (capital gains taxes), or trade (sales taxes). A tax that doesn't reduce economic activity would seem to be the holy grail of public finance.

Finally, if you think that the community does not have the right to levy a land value tax, do you think that they can use eminent domain to take a piece of property after paying a fair price? Because true ownership by an individual would seem to preclude a superior claim by the state.

... though his invention worked superbly -- his theory was a crock of sewage from beginning to end. -- Vernor Vinge, "The Peace War"