Want to read Slashdot from your mobile device? Point it at m.slashdot.org and keep reading!


Forgot your password?
For the out-of-band Slashdot experience (mostly headlines), follow us on Twitter, or Facebook. ×

Comment: Re:How much electricity was used last month to min (Score 1) 124 124

Government could, would, and already to some extent does attempt to regulate it, but it's intentionally designed to be resistant to effective regulation. This is part of its appeal: because of this "feature", it can be used as the Paypal of drug trafficking, weapons trafficking, murder-for-hire, and other such markets that the evil governments of the world try to stamp out because all governments are run by jealous losers who want to oppress the Ubermensch. After all, the free market would work just fine for murder-for-hire markets because I could just hire a hitman to kill you, too, and then we could trade the hitman contracts with each other so that we'd both live instead of both dying, and we'd be motivated to do that because neither of us wants to die. And if you can't afford to hire a counter-hitman well then you're a loser and you deserve to die anyway. Anyone who disagrees with this is obviously a lazy bastard who doesn't understand the wise economic philosophy of Atlas Shrugged.

Bitcoin is also intentionally designed to have its own built-in and unmodifiable monetary policy separate from any government or regulating body. This monetary policy is of course built on perpetual deflation, because making it so that savers' money grows by simply hoarding it is the best way to ensure they will be motivated to make the risky investments necessary for long-term economic growth. If you disagree with this, you're obviously okay with the government stealing everyone's money with inflation, and you're also a worthless lazy bastard who's probably in debt and on the government dole.

Bitcoin is awesome.

Comment: Re:Those evil enemy oppressors (Score 1) 816 816

You can't ban the Confederate Flag, not in the USA. You can lobby businesses not to sell it, but others will. It takes about 20 seconds of Googling to find them online still, and that's while the country is in a craze to buy and hoard them stupidly thinking they'll be valuable soon.

Freedom of speech in this country says you can stand on a street corner and talk about how the terrorists who destroyed the Twin Towers were awesome guys -- which some asshole did. Freedom of speech says you can go around town with a swastika on your arm -- which some asshole did a few days go. Freedom of speech says you can burn the American flag -- which many assholes have done on countless occasions.

And freedom of speech sure as hell says you can manufacture, purchase, and display Confederate battle flags. And there is demand for them, for many reasons (including both racism and a doofusy Twitter campaign to burn them on Saturday), so the market will provide them. The money just won't go to eBay, Amazon, or Google.

Comment: Re:Rent at all is inherently problematic (Score 1) 939 939

Partially, because property taxes aren't the same as taxes on the value of unimproved land, but not by much at all.

Assuming a perfectly competitive market, the price of anything is its marginal cost. Increasing a tax on unimproved land does nothing to increase the marginal cost of providing housing.

The only limit is you can't tax more than the entire value of using the unimproved land for any given time period, or no one will ever buy or improve the land.

Comment: Re:Rent at all is inherently problematic (Score 1) 939 939

Asset taxes are totally unjust.

I highly disagree with you here. If you want to help poor people, increasing property taxes and decreasing sales taxes are a very good start. Poor people don't own property, so the tax is highly progressive (falls mainly on the rich).

Also, a tax on the unimproved value of land has been put forth by several economists as the only truly non-distorting tax available to government. That's not the same thing as a property tax, but it's close.

Comment: Re:Rent at all is inherently problematic (Score 2) 939 939

That's not true. A house is a big expense. Either you pay for it outright, or you go into debt to buy it. In either case, you could be doing something else with that money if it weren't tied up in the house or in paying for the house.

There are also non-monetary costs; in other words, it's a pain. You generally have a longer commute when you live in a house, versus an apartment, because the houses tend to be in suburbs. You have to cut the grass, or hire someone to do that. You have to have work done when it gets damaged. You have to keep up the air conditioner and heater. If you live in an apartment, the landlord takes all of that.

You're also more mobile if you're in an apartment. If you want to move apartments, wait until the lease is up and hire a truck. If you want to move houses, get ready for some pain.

First, you have to find another house. Then, you have to sell yours. Real estate agencies. Closing costs. Having random people come in your house and look around. Haggling with the buyer. Haggling with the seller of the house you're buying. Going to banks and getting them to give you a loan for the new house, unless you're paying cash.

Pain. In. The. Butt.

Comment: Re:Rent at all is inherently problematic (Score 1) 939 939

The corporations who (usually) commission and buy the properties don't have an "unending source of free money" any more than any other business has an "unending source of free money". There are risks to running a real estate business, like any other business.

The market could turn down, decreasing rent revenue while maintenance, administrative, and loan expenses stay the same. There could be a serious storm causing damage (yes there's insurance, but you still have to deal with either providing the affected renters alternative (hotel, usually) housing, or releasing them from their leases). A pipe could burst. The foundation could need work. Any number of things can go wrong.

It's like any other investment. You shoulder risk, and, if you're lucky, you reap a reward commensurate with the risk you took. And in doing so, you provide a product or service -- in this case, housing -- that society needs.

If you banned rentals, you would probably halt or nearly halt the construction of new apartment complexes, because the promise of a later revenue stream from those complexes are what entice businesses to take on the enormous risk and expense of building them. Probably the construction of apartment-complex-like condos would go up some to compensate, but there are many cases where apartment complexes make more sense to build than condos. Many people, for cost reasons or otherwise, want to rent -- not own a condo. These people would be the primary ones to suffer, because now the market is distorted and they can't get what they want/need. What makes you think poor people will be able to afford a condo?

Regarding your idea that the sudden increase in condo availability would decrease prices -- you're probably right, in the short term. The sudden depreciation in property would partially but by no means completely offset the harm you would cause the former renters. In the medium term, the apartments-now-condos would quickly fall into disrepair, because the owners (poor people) would be unable to afford to maintain the condos, as they don't have the money to speculatively invest in the housing market by doing so, which is what you would be forcing them to do by forcing ownership on people who don't want it.

No one's a serf in the system we currently have. And no one would benefit from your proposal.

Look at it this way: poor people can't afford risky investments, because they can't shoulder the risk. Real estate is a risky investment. You say there shouldn't be poor people; I partially agree, but don't think we should make everyone well-off enough to speculate on real estate. Mostly because I don't think we can.

Comment: Re:Rent at all is inherently problematic (Score 4, Insightful) 939 939

This is nonsense. Property developers go to significant expense building apartment complexes. They go significant expense maintaining those apartment complexes. They are not monopolies: there are several property developers in any significant market.

All of this adds up to a market that should be pretty healthy if left alone. "BUT THEY HAVE SO MUCH MONEY" well yes, the successful ones do, and the unsuccessful ones go bankrupt, like in any business. The reason they have so much money is they're typically large corporations funded by a large number of shareholders: your screed is typical anti-corporate drivel except concentrated on the housing market instead of in general.

Going into debt to buy a house is a gamble. You're gambling that the value of your house will go up, or at least not go down. With anything else, that would be a really bad gamble, because things wear out which is why depreciation is a thing. It's not surprising poor people can't afford to take that gamble and that banks aren't willing to shoulder the risk to allow them to. And, while I do support more income redistribution in the US, I don't think, "everyone should be able to own a house" is a good standard. The US Basic Income should probably be high enough so everyone can afford a studio apartment, but not a house. We can't make people too comfortable on basic income, or we would do too much to decrease the incentive to work. Everything is a compromise.

Comment: Re:I'm working on apps without passwords (Score 4, Insightful) 124 124

Dude, he's not running a f*cking bank. He's obviously talking about a system for some phone toy like Angry Birds. Do you care if I can get into your Angry Birds account? Probably not much.

He's describing a system that is good enough for phone toys and things that require similarly low security. Like apparently Slashdot, which lets you perma-login with a browser cookie and redirects https to http rather than the other way around.

Comment: Re:$100,000,000 (Score 1) 205 205

You're talking about the government seizing private property. AT&T isn't some otherworldly entity; it has shareholders who own it. In the 1890s, when this power you allege actually existed, due process protections may not have been incorporated against the states yet. But now they are.

You're not going to get a court to agree that the executive branch can seize AT&T's entire assets because it violated some minor advertising regulation.

Civil asset forfeiture is an abomination and should be abolished.

Comment: Re:$100,000,000 (Score 1) 205 205

If the law provides for that penalty (which it doesn't), and it's not so disproportionate the courts would refuse to enforce it (which they might).

I caught you speeding 5 miles an hour. I'm revoking your driver's license forever. Your driver's license is a government license, not an entitlement. So I can be a dick and revoke it whenever I want, because I'm the governor.

I think I'll go revoke all the driver's licenses of black people now. Or maybe I can't do that because of the 14th Amendment. People with blue hair then. Damn hippies.

(That would still be a 14th Amendment violation, but courts are sometimes too deferential to see it when there's selective enforcement that's not about race.) Doesn't make it right. Doesn't mean you'd want to live in the world you're describing.

Comment: Re:$100,000,000 (Score 3, Interesting) 205 205

Re the Honduras thing:

The woman convicted was in the US, did no business with Honduras, did nothing other than RECEIVE a shipment of lobsters from a company that had ultimately gotten them from Honduras. She didn't know this: do you know what country the stuff you buy from Walmart ultimately comes from?

And the shipment was in clear containers. And the Honduran government filed a brief saying that that law had been invalidated by the Honduran courts. And she still went to jail.

Comment: Re:$100,000,000 (Score 5, Insightful) 205 205


You just cited one of the stupidest legal fictions ever created. Yes, everyone knows it. Yes, it's been around since forever. And yes, it's ridiculous.

How many federal statutes are there? Trick question: no one even knows. You could spend your whole life reading the Federal Register and you still wouldn't know the whole law. And even if you did, there are statutes that incorporate the entirety of "foreign law" by reference ("No animal may be transported in violation of any state, federal, or foreign law."). So you'd need to memorize every law in the world.

There needs to be some sense to this imputation of knowledge. "I didn't know it was illegal to kill someone" is retarded; of course you did. "I didn't know it was illegal to break into that guy's house"; again, ridiculous.

"I didn't know that Honduras prohibited transporting lobsters in clear containers, rather than opaque ones." That's not at all ridiculous. And someone was convicted for that and sentenced to jail.

"Ignorance of the law is no excuse" comes from a time when mob justice was close to the only justice. "We all think you did something bad, so you must have known it was bad, too!" There are still many crimes that have the quality that "you must have known you were doing something wrong, even if you couldn't cite the statute".

But there are others that, while valid criminal laws, really should only be enforced against people in some profession or other. If you own a company that catches, kills, and sells for food various types of wildlife, you should know if the state you're hunting in adds a turtle to the protected species list.

If you're some restaurant owner halfway across the country, and you just bought a shipment of turtles for your turtle soup from some company you'd been doing business with for years ... you probably shouldn't be held liable. You would think, quite rightly, you didn't really have to worry about endangered species law since you're buying from a legit corporation, and you know that the species isn't endangered because it's one of the most common turtles in the country so you didn't think to check if Rhode Island had changed its law recently.

This happened, too: some kids lobbied the state government to make this common turtle the "state reptile", and the state did, and the state's laws said "all state animals are protected species", and federal law prohibits trafficking protected species across state lines, and some company was negligent, and some restaurant owner was unaware the company was negligent, and some federal prosecutor was a douchebag, and now this poor guy is a federal criminal for making turtle soup using a turtle species which isn't at all endangered and which isn't protected in his state, at the federal level, or in any state except one random state that thinks it's cute to let 4th graders write state laws . He went to jail because of a Rube Goldberg-esque legal dominoes game.

There are too many laws, and society is too complicated, for us to keep saying "ignorance of the law is no excuse". You're right, but you shouldn't be.

Gosh that takes me back... or is it forward? That's the trouble with time travel, you never can tell." -- Doctor Who, "Androids of Tara"