Become a fan of Slashdot on Facebook


Forgot your password?

Comment: Re:Great (Score 1) 602

by xelah (#48521125) Attached to: UK Announces 'Google Tax'

Damn, I'm slightly out with the first number. It should be £12074. To spend 30k on an employee you make the official salary be £26362, you pay as the employer 13.8% (£3638) on employers' national insurance contributions, then the employee pays 12% employee's national insurance and 20% income tax (£8436) on that.

What's ridiculous is that the amount in your contract (26,362) isn't equal to any of the amounts of money involved. It's not what it costs the employer to pay you (30k), it's not what you receive.

Comment: Re:Great (Score 1) 602

by xelah (#48521099) Attached to: UK Announces 'Google Tax'

It doesn't have to be done that way, an alternative is to tax corporate profits entirely as personal income when they become dividends, and not tax them at the corporate level at all. Then it's much less ambiguous which country and rate applies.

Suppose a UK company has £30k it wants to pay to you and you're already in the standard tax bracket. The total tax paid can be:

  • As an employee: 13.8%, then 12% + 20% = £12415
  • As a lender or pensioner: 20% = £6000
  • As a shareholder (very small company, from profits, no avoidance): 20% then 10% = £8400
  • As a shareholder (big company, from profits, no avoidance): 21% then 10% = £8670
  • As a shareholder (big company, corporation tax completely avoided): 10% = £3000

See how it's employees who get screwed the most? And how much variation there can be between companies?

Instead of trying to make an impossible system work, I think it'd be better to charge about 30% on all (middle level) incomes (except maybe pensions) and scrap all the other taxes, including the corporate ones.

It's where we'll end up anyway if countries continue to compete on corporate tax rate.

Comment: Re:wont last (Score 1) 287

by xelah (#48432557) Attached to: Customers Creating Fake Amazon Pages To Get Cheap Electronics At Walmart

Because the objective of price matching policies is to convert a competitors sale to your sale. If the competitor can't fulfill the order then you haven't lost a customer to them and don't need to price match.

Only partly. Traditionally, price matching was an anti-competitive measure to support prices. It says to your competitors 'don't both trying to compete on price because we'll just match you and we'll both lose'.

Comment: Re:Obviously. Dinsaurogenic Global Warming (Score 1) 695

An increase in extreme weather, on the other hand, makes gardening and farming a whole lot harder. A frost or drought at the wrong time can completely destroy your crop. You can adapt to changing conditions by growing different crops, but only if you know what the weather is likely to be like. Otherwise your frost tolerant plants get killed by drought one year and then your drought tolerant plants get killed by floods the next.

Comment: Re:Are you patenting software? (Score 1) 224

by xelah (#48157405) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: Handling Patented IP In a Job Interview?

Indeed. I suspect that he couldn't sue them, because if he'd used his IP whilst working for them he'd be implicitly giving them a licence, but that it could still cause them problems because he could withdraw the licence when he feels like it.

The situation surely shouldn't be that much different to someone who'd patented something for a previous employer, just that your employer in this case was effectively your own small business. You can't use it in your new job, and you shouldn't try to sell your old employer's stuff to them because you're supposed to be doing your job only in the interests of your new employer.

Comment: Re:Awesome (Score 2) 283

by xelah (#48110623) Attached to: Tesla Announces Dual Motors, 'Autopilot' For the Model S

So, your living costs are something very approximating twice what the monthly car cost would be, and I presume you'd be paying it for something like 5 years. That gives you a choice between 1: accelerating very fast for a few tens of seconds per day, instead of rather slower and 2: having two and a half years off work (or retiring earlier) and doing something important to you instead.

There's nothing actually illogical about preferring the first. But I think it's reasonable to call it an extreme preference.

Comment: Re:This isn't scaremongering. (Score 1) 494

by xelah (#47927319) Attached to: Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

The Royal Bank of Scotland is not Scottish? It is not clear who owns it, since it is publicly traded

Isn't RBS 64% owned by the UK government? I know it was 81% earlier this year, but I think UKFI sold some.

but I don't think they would close down their HQ in Edinburgh, just because Scotland is now an independent country.

They've said they will:

I honestly think the EU would be fully willing to integrate Scotland from day one.

I'm sure the EU will let Scotland in. I don't think that's really the question (I really wouldn't take those who say that Scotland will be blocked seriously) - it's more about what other countries will want in return, and whether other countries with secessionist movements will want it to do it the hard way or the easy way. Countries in international bodies don't tend to agree to anything without getting something they want, even if it's not related. So, Scotland may find it hard to get all the exemptions the UK has and the budget will be up for negotiation. In theory new states are supposed to join the Euro and Schengen (which I would like but would drive UKIPers and the UK Conservatives insane), but I'm sure they'll be able to avoid that if they give something else up and take longer over it. But I imagine that the worst part for Scotland will the uncertainty whilst it's negotiated. Businesses will hate that.

Comment: Re:at least the nuclear weapons will be gone (Score 1) 494

by xelah (#47927133) Attached to: Scotland's Independence Vote Could Shake Up Industry

I would think that the UK government would not believe that an invader in Scotland would stop at the border. As such, it'd be far more likely to provoke a nuclear response to a conventional attack than, say, an invasion of Turkey (though, one would hope, NATO conventional forces would be a different matter).

Comment: Re:Economist Article is Exceedingly Precise (Score 1) 240

by xelah (#47653741) Attached to: Patents That Kill

$89 billion is surely false precision, but it's not unreasonable to put a value on lives when you have an economic decision to make. None of them work all that well, but it's better than just flailing in the dark which is the alternative.

For example, you can look at how much it would cost to save those lives another way (eg, through spending on road or rail safety or other, known, healthcare spending). This might give you a figure of a few million. But you tend to find huge discrepancies between spending in different areas - eg, much more in air and rail safety or terrorism prevention than in road safety - depending on how the public responds to those things. Refusing to put a cost on lives this way kills - governments spend huge sums on rail (eg, after the UK Hatfield rail crash) and terrorism prevention when spending a lot of it on healthcare and road safety would save more lives. eg, according to this the UK government was prepared to spend three times as much (~£3m) per life saved on rail compared to road, and more like £15m in an expensive system after the crash - in effect letting 15 people die to save each one.

You can also recognize that we're not talking about certain death, we're talking about risks to life - and people implicitly put a value on risks to life all the time. Car vs train, one car vs another, a dangerous job vs a safe one, driving further to buy something more cheaply or commute from somewhere different. You can come to estimates based on how much they're prepared to spend to avoid risk. But, of course, people are quite irrational about risk and you get widely varying numbers.

And, as another commenter has said, you can estimate from economic output lost, but that's not very satisfactory. In theory it produces a minimum value (assuming that the economy isn't overproducing, spending people's time on producing things less valuable than the time). But it confuses the purpose of an economy - to give people the best quality of life it can, not to produce as much stuff as it can.

Comment: Re:And this is the same for copyrights. (Score 1) 240

by xelah (#47653633) Attached to: Patents That Kill
If someone has built a bridge, how does letting him collect tolls from that one thing for its entire life encourage them to continue to do more work? Well....the same way they were encourage to build the first one, because they'll get paid for it. You think people don't consider the possibility of ongoing income from something when deciding if it's worth doing (or worth handing an author an advance for, or investing in research for)?

Comment: Re:Weakest Russia ever (Score 1) 582

by xelah (#47548389) Attached to: Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

Russia is in some danger of wrecking its own economy. Putin is a clever guy who employs a lot of other clever guys, and will certainly know the risks, the question is more about what he can and can't do to improve matters without compromising his own position. Russia has actually been moving up the ease of doing business index, which might surprise people who only ever look at the less boring media. But it has a lot of other problems as well.

Oil and gas is great for centralized states. It's easy for governments and oligarchs to control compare to, say, a well diversified manufacturing base full of new products. But Russia's oil output is compromised by a lack of investment, taxes are very very high on oil profits and you always face the danger of having your assets seized. There's going to be a big questions over whether the Russian government is going to divert money it'd like to spend on popularity in to its own oil investment, and/or whether it can attract foreign investment (and possibly expertise). This is the same sort of problem Venezuela had, except Hugo Chavez was far more stupid about it (he took so much money from the state oil company to buy popularity that its output fell through lack of investment, and he sacked a huge chunk of his oil expertise out of spite after a strike).

Meanwhile, a centrally controlled economy run by governments, oligarchs and local pet thugs who steal what they can is never going to be too good at innovating with new products and methods. The current war is making Putin very popular, and so presumably less dependent on other support and more able to do something about this....for now.

A strong oil industry can make life hard for other industries if you have an open economy - local manufacturers can find themselves producing products which can be obtained much more easily by digging up a little oil and swapping it internationally for foreign goods. Oil sanctions would certainly help other industries develop more quickly....but I suspect those industries wouldn't operate very well.

It's certainly naive to write off the Russian economy, it's amazing how well problematic economies can product....but it's always going to be limited by its dysfunctional politics and state, which will never be tackled as long as Putin (or his heirs) is there.

Comment: Re:I don't see the problem. (Score 1) 667

by xelah (#47498971) Attached to: Russian Government Edits Wikipedia On Flight MH17

If you're competently operating an air defence system you don't just 'expect' civil aviation to avoid you as your only way of avoiding killing hundreds of civilians and pissing off a lot of governments. It isn't difficult to check, it isn't difficult to notice constant overflying traffic heading to or from Russian airspace on your radar and wonder what it is, it isn't difficult to listen in on air band radios, it probably wouldn't have been so hard to get a question to civilian air traffic controllers in Russia and it would hardly have been impossible to issue a warning.

The people involved were clearly too incompetent to have been given access to air defence missiles.

Comment: Re:Well, duh... (Score 1) 210

The directive is from nearly 20 years ago so I doubt there are many MEPs or commissioners who couldn't blame their predecessors if they wanted to, or point out that few people were really expecting Google and the Internet as it is now. Besides, it's been working OK for a long time (except for continuing poor enforcement). It was written to stop companies selling on your data as sales leads, credit reference agencies giving out inaccurate data you're not allowed to see or correct, employers keeping irrelevant or inaccurate records about you or keeping it far longer than they need it, organizations asking for your data for one reason and then using it for another, employers keeping (or 'obtaining') lists of union members/activists, and so on.

The difficult bit is keeping all of that whilst handling search engines appropriately.

Comment: Re:A sampling of hot button economic issues (Score 1) 305

by xelah (#47358361) Attached to: How Often Do Economists Commit Misconduct?

But now you also have to decide what 'benificial' means. Does it mean more GDP? politicians and business types like to act as if it does. Does it mean higher economic welfare? You're more likely to get that answer from an economist, though many will still go on to consider only GDP because it's easier and it's what their employers care about.

You'll certainly find papers on the effect on GDP of things like infrastructure spending, top income tax rates and immigration. You're unlikely to find much beyond the abstract and theoretical about their effects on economic welfare.

So you can still argue that your policy will make people better off, even if the economic evidence on GDP is unambiguously against you.

Even if you couldn't, it still wouldn't matter. Economists don't run the economy, ordinary people are all too ready to dismiss them in favour of their prejudices and politicians are all to happy to sacrifice economic welfare for political reasons. And, of course, campaign funding and personal reasons.

(As an aside, for the US working hours and inequality should probably be at the top of the economic-welfare list....though infrastructure needs a serious kick up the arse there, too, AFAICT).

Power corrupts. And atomic power corrupts atomically.