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Comment Re:The problem with politicians (Score 1) 258

Somehow I find it hard to believe that the majority consistently wants bigger, more expensive, more powerful government, year after year after year. That the majority consistently wants to give up basic human rights like self-ownership. And that the majority has believed in continuously expanding the powers and revenue of government, nearly exponentially in fact, for the past two centuries.

Sadly this is in fact exactly what the majority consistently wants as long as that bigger, more expensive and powerful government is showering them with benefits. Self-gratification is usually more popular than self-ownership, especially if it's someone else's self-ownership that's being sacrificed. People tend to act in their self interest: politicians are people too and acting in their self interest means securing and expanding their position and power, so they promise goodies to the majority to earn their vote. The majority will also act in their self-interest and vote for the politician promising them the goodies. Now, you and I think the majority are being short-sighted about the "deal" they're getting. There are costs associated with it that weren't stated by the politicians and the voters haven't read the fine-print of the contract. In the end the majority has been fooled into thinking something was in their self-interest when a fuller understanding of the nature of the bargain and how it'll play out in the long run would reveal that it wasn't.

It isn't entirely hopeless, there are moments in time when the internal inconsistencies surface and the majority becomes aware that politicians promising them something for nothing are likely to be lying, there's a reaction, a momentary slowdown, sometimes even a marginal reduction of government power... but over the long haul it'll continue the slow ratcheting movement down the path of greater and more centralized power exerted more aggressively over more of our lives.

Comment Re:Of course... (Score 1) 379

Less than 100 billion of the money is being paid directly to home owners who are in danger of losing their homes. The rest are going to corporations who made a lot of stupid bets that fell apart. This is to protect the 10% of Americans who own the vast majority of stocks from losing all of their paper wealth that is now mostly worthless.

It remains that that $100 billion is not what is provoking the outrage and the fears of galloping (as opposed to the normally creeping) socialism/corporatism (a distinction with little difference). It's the bailout and the stimulus as a whole, a massive increase in the size and cost of government and a massive increase in it's role in the economy.

Corporatism is nothing new here. Socialized risk for private profit has been the model for many, many years.

I should probably make a distinction between the two different definitions of "corporatism." I'm not referring to the recent popular usage as "government by corporations" but rather to the older formal definition. Corporatism is a quasi-socialist system where government heavily regulates and manages each industry (setting wages, prices, industry standards, etc.) via the intermediary of the confusingly named "corporations". "Corporations" not meaning business corporations but government councils that regulate each industry and consists of representatives from government, management and labor. So essentially "government by stakeholders" or at least "industrial policy by stakeholders". Of course the two definitions need not be in conflict, the practical result of formal Corporatism may be essentially the popular version with a thick layer of government bureaucracy and the merging of government apparatchiks with captains of industry (think Franklin Raines). As with any system of excessive government control one of the results will be inordinate benefits to those that are politically connected, or as you put it "socialized risk for private profit".

Comment Re:Of course... (Score 1) 379

America's a wacky place. Spending less than 100 billion saving people who were dumb with mortgages is cause for Panic! Hyperbole about Socialism! Quick, throw a tea party! Fox News anchors weeping on air for their fallen values system!

Oh, come on. You know a mere $100 billion isn't the cause of anyone panicking or any hyperbole about socialism. Where do you even get such a paltry number from? $12.2 trillion is the cause for panic and "hyperbole" about Socialism. That is of course is just the bailout commitments, the stimulus is another $789 billion, which is "too small" and will require a larger sequel. All of this is only the projections right now, like the wars which were initially projected to cost far less than they ended up costing the real costs will be higher than current optimistic government projections.

Of course it's not only the money spent but the fact that the government now either directly owns or is seeking to own several very large businesses and is effectively running quite a few more that it doesn't (yet) own outright: making personnel and compensation decisions. Deciding which (politically connected) creditors will get paid back and which (politically unpopular) creditors won't. You may be right that this doesn't amount to socialism, the correct term is probably corporatism, which you may not have a problem with but a lot of people find very troubling.

We've already spent more ($2.5 trillion according to the NY Times linked above) "saving people who were dumb with mortgages" in less than a year than the total spent in over five years of the Iraq war.

I'll agree with you though that America is a wacky place.

Comment Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 1322

The thing that scares me about vouchers is that I don't think it would take too long before there would be regulations deciding what a school must provide in order to be voucher worthy (or tax credit worthy) from that it's not too much to assume that those regulations would be more and more onerous.

Well, my point is there are already regulations deciding what a school must provide in order to be considered "school" (licensed, accredited, etc.) and those regulations are already slowly becoming more and more onerous as the laws slowly accumulate. In my state there are regulations concerning record keeping, length of the school day & year, and curriculum(!). There's even a regulation that requires approval of the private school's curriculum by the local school board which the law says must be "substantially equal to" that of the public school, which is sometimes interpreted much more like "what I think you should be doing instead" (at least in the homeschool cases I'm more familiar with)

What about homeschooling, would that be covered too?

I don't see why not. "Educational expenses" could be tuition or it could be textbooks & lab materials.

And if some sort of vouchers are offered the government schools will be pressured to compete which private schools, which sounds good, except for the fact that the way government competes is through force: by making voucher paid education as bad as public school education.

Granted, and I think this is your strongest argument, the "perfect" policy can't get enacted because of political opposition that screws it up worse than it was before. One truth that is always forgotten by policy wonks is that policy is inseparable from politics. You *can't* build your perfect system because other political players and interests are going to try to build *their* perfect system at cross purposes to yours. To various other policy wonks and academics "perfect" is the system /they/ designed, to politicians its the one they control and can both take credit for but also aren't responsible for if it fails, to parents the *perfect* system will all too often be the one that babysits their children so they have time to pursue their own interests, the union's vision of "perfect" is going to involve a cushy sinecure. Education and the well-being of children will often by a secondary concern to any or all these groups as they seek to influence policy to achieve their own desired result. Sure, they all *think* quite sincerely that the system that best address their concerns ALSO by felicitous happenstance perfectly coincides with what's best for the kids. But that is generally just a self-serving delusion. For instance, there's research that suggests that starting institutional schooling at the youngest ages is actually detrimental in the long run & that starting formal education later than we currently do produces the optimal result (as far as actual education is concerned). BUT, we'll continue pushing younger and younger kids into institutional education under the pretense that it's for their benefit when the more obvious beneficiaries are parents (who get free daycare) and to teachers (who get more jobs).

Of course we already have such a system, a one-size-fits-all monopoly designed by a committee for whom education was often not even a secondary concern after everyone else's REAL primary concerns were addressed (though it got ALL the lip service).

Comment Re:Simple answer (Score 1) 1322

As a libertarian I ask you to please reconsider school vouchers as a good idea. The government already has it's hooks into private schools via the compulsory education laws and people are already used to receiving education services from the government & aren't going to give that up. The situation now is about as bad as it can be from a libertarian perspective. The vast majority of citizens are being educated in government schools with ALL the negatives that entails. Moving a more significant proportion of the population from government schools to private schools even at the cost of accepting another government hook into those private schools can only be a good thing.

That said, the nature of the government hook into private schools is a serious concern. I think the legislation enabling vouchers would have to be (but can be) carefully crafted to minimize further government control in private education. Making the voucher a refundable tax credit to the parent for educational expenses rather than an actual voucher would seem to be the option that affords government the least control.

Now, such a system of government transfer payments for education certainly isn't one that a libertarian would have designed from scratch. But, we aren't designing the system from scratch, we're reforming an existing system in which education is performed directly by the government itself. We won't be able to get out of that mess without some kind of transition to broad based private education & something like vouchers is the only way to get there from where we are now.

Comment Re:Conclusion not what you expect (Score 1) 136

It should be possible to encourage innovation, which is a good thing, without trying to set up monopolies, which are bad. Possibly worse, these are not natural monopolies which may need government intervention to break, but near impossible to define and enforce artificial ones that only function with lots of government intervention. Republicans want small government, it's said? Why not close the patent office, and get out of the intellectual property biz? Stop interfering with inventors!

Let me preface my post to note this. I'm being a devil's advocate and making a case I'm not 100% convinced of myself, but I think it's worth thinking through both sides of the argument. There's a lot of groupthink here on the issue if IP and when I find myself in such a group a distrust of unexamined shared assumptions (or just being a jerk) compels me to take up the other side of the argument. Hopefully my contrariness either makes people either sharpen their arguments so they're more sure of their own thinking because they've been forced to think through all the counter-arguments OR it makes them just a little less sure of themselves because they haven't done so. I'm just constitutionally uncomfortable with people being so sure of their opinions because I'm never that sure of my own.

That said: the argument here is that there are natural monopolies and patents are the government intervention used to break them up. If I invent a new widget I have a monopoly on that widget for as long as I keep the secrets of it's manufacturing. The Zildjian company for instance has successfully maintained the metallurgical secrets behind the manufacturing of their cymbals since 1623 and has converted that secret invention into a monopoly that persisted until a family squabble resulted in a brother who knew the secrets leaving and founding his own company (Sabian) in 1980 (so now there's a duopoly). The problem with such natural monopolies is that they rely on keeping scientific and technical advances secret which in the long run is bad for the scientific and technological advancement of society as a whole. It's often bad for the inventor themselves at well, if the secret gets out they lose their advantage to competitors who can undercut them because they don't have the overhead of research. So the government intervention to break the natural monopolies and encourage the sharing of technological advances is a deal with the inventor that can be stated like this: "Trade your fragile natural monopoly based on keeping knowledge secret for a temporary artificial monopoly based on publicizing knowledge".

In most cases it may be impossible for an inventor to capitalize on an invention while also keeping it secret so they're in the same boat as the inventor who's secret gets out above: undercut by competitors who don't have the overhead of having done the research. The argument in such a case has less to do with monopolies but simple fairness to the inventor. By their intellectual effort they've invented something but it's almost guaranteed that without some legal consideration someone other than themselves will profit by it, this is a pretty serious disincentive to bother with inventing in the first place. Sure, plenty of people will still do so anyway for the sheer joy of invention, but it still violates some sense of fair play when Joe Nobody spends a lifetime in his garage inventing something and the moment he figures it out some big business comes along and uses it freely without compensating him at all.

History contains plenty of examples of each problem patents are an attempt to resolve: inventions that were kept secret for the sake of maintaining a competitive advantage and were lost when the inventor died. And, more commonly inventors who revolutionized industries and whose inventions were responsible for vast fortunes being made... by competitors who could undercut them because they didn't have to recoup development costs.

Comment Re:Conclusion not what you expect (Score 1) 136

Essentially he says that patent thickets are not a problem, because they resolve themselves eventually. I suppose it was a good ending for those who owned the patents, but maybe not for those who wanted to do research in the field of sewing machine invention.

Just to play the devil's advocate. Part of the rationale for the patent system is that it encourages the sharing of knowledge. You publish your invention so everyone can see it and learn from it and it won't be lost if the the few who understand it die without passing the knowledge on. The fear is that without the promise of a time-limited monopoly to encourage such publication inventors will attempt to preserve the competitive advantages of their inventions by keeping them secret.

As it turns out the professor's paper includes such a case. One of the earlier inventors he mentioned developed one of the key innovations that made sewing machines possible in 1813 but he didn't patent it, preferring to simply use the machine he'd invented for his his own manufacturing, as a result his invention died with him. It's hard to know how great a loss this was, his machine did chain-stitching rather than lock-stitching and the key innovation we know about it, it's use of the "eye-pointed needle" had been used in previous inventions and a few years later was used again in a way much closer to modern sewing machines. Then again, we don't really know how his sewing machine worked and if it would have been a useful step along the way a few decades earlier, which is the point.

Comment Re:It seems ironic... (Score 1) 1147

Exactly. Raise your hand if you NEED a Xeon with ECC memory on your desktop..... and you aren't a a very narrow band of major scientist, engineer, etc. who need lots of throbbing power and yet don't have access to a compute cluster. Almost by definition Apple has restricted their desktops to people spending OPM (and where the other people are idiots) or people with more money than brains.... And people wonder why Apple's corporate penetration is non-existent. Corporations will throw a couple to the art dept if they bitch and whine enough, but that's it.

I think it's pretty obvious that Apple is not pursuing corporate business at all (well, maybe a little at the margins). Providing machines for cubicle dwellers is a low-margin, bulk business they'll never do well at and don't particularly want. Their focus is on home, education & small business markets. Their full-size desktops are very narrowly targeted at their old core niche of creative professionals: photographers, video & audio production, etc. There are good reasons the art dept. whines at IT to get them and the art dept. is the only one Apple is really trying to get. Even there, Apple's probably not so much targeting the corporate art dept but the Ad agencies, design firms, video & audio production companies and assorted freelancers hired by your marketing department.

The creative industry is a moderately large niche willing to spend significantly more $$$ than most others on computers not because they're ignorant or spending OPM but because computers are the essential tools of their production rather than part of the support infrastructure. A manufacturer for example has computers to do the paperwork that support the production of the factory. For a video post-production firm or design firm the desktop computer *IS* the factory. Even in industries which are entirely built around IT infrastructure (where the product is information not physical widgets) the individual desktop is usually just a terminal to the data center which is the important component of their business. Companies can't justify spending a lot of money to make marginal improvements to non-essential support equipment but similarly marginal improvements to their core infrastructure can make or break them, for a manufacturer that core infrastructure is the assembly line, for an IT business it's the server room and for a designer it's his workstation.

Comment Re:Absent ironclad proof (Score 1) 693

Well done on a successful troll, look at all the responses. I was about to respond myself until I hit this post which pretty much gives up the game. I thing of beauty to take the point of the article to this extreme of caricature and still have people responding to it as a sincere argument... I love that last line: "Exactly. I'm saying that collecting evidence and then not finding any, is proof of gross negligence on the part of the police."... awesome.

Comment Re:My goodness! It might have... (Score 1) 325

I should clarify... I don't think it's a case of personal animus against Phil Gramm, I think politicians and the more partisan pundits have a political reason to identify a bill which prominently contains his name (as the most prominent Free Market purist & a chief McCain advisor) as the primary cause of the crisis when the particular bill doesn't appear to have had a big effect on the crisis.

Now, the argument that he as a politician and the laissez faire policies he favored more generally contributed to the crisis is a legitimate argument. I'll be honest, I don't fully buy that argument... but it's a legitimate one to make and it deserves serious consideration. It's unfortunate that this larger point ends up encapuslated in a debate about a particular bill that doesn't appear to have much impact when other bills and policies are much more relevant and appear to be much more at fault in precipitating the crisis. I think the politicians have traded a serious argument about deregulation for a few cheap political points based almost entirely on the presence of a mans name in a bill rather than it's actual provisions and their impact. It probably is effective politics in the short run but I suspect in the long run it weakens their argument.

Comment Re:My goodness! It might have... (Score 1) 325

I'm still skeptical. Glass Steagall didn't prevent the lending institutions from lending to investment institutions which is how the contagion has spread from brokerage to bank. It prevented the ownership of both lending institutions and investment institutions by the same entity. But, in this incident it was almost without exception narrowly focused institutions mandated by Glass that have instigated the crisis. The worst damage has been done to, and by, narrow investment banks that got killed when their investment in mortgage backed securities ended up being worth nothing, or in lending institutions narrowly focussed in the mortgage business. The broadly diversified banks that have their hands in all sorts of business took a bath in those areas as well... BUT they were stabilized by their other businesses offsetting their losses. They didn't initiate the crisis, have weathered the storm better and have ridden in to rescue the broken firms (either looking to diversify further into investment banking, or hoping they can somehow mitigate their own losses by buying firms that owe them a lot of money)

Bear Stearns for just one example was exactly the kind of narrowly focussed investment banks required by Glass-Steagall, JP Morgan Chase which bought it up and prevented it's dissolution is exactly the kind of large diversified bank permitted by Gramm (as is the fact that it's legal for Chase to buy them in the first place)

I've read a lot on this controversy over Glass-Steigal vs. Gramm-Leach-Bliley and most of the time when the general punditry or a politician blames Gramm for the crisis there's no explanation of how it's at fault... it's just stated as a truism that requires no explanation. In those cases I suspect the reason is really a knee-jerk opposition to deregulation generally, and Phil Gramm's position as a McCain advisor during the election than any actual analysis of how the act actually impacted the crisis. When more informed economist pundits have made the argument I frankly just couldn't follow their logic. That could be a product of my own economic ignorance but I suspect it's just hand-waving trying to find a way to assign blame on someone they're predisposed against & the bill named for him rather than the product of really honest analysis.

If you want to blame Phil Gramm there's a much better argument to make against him based on his role championing the deregulation of derivatives but that has the disadvantage that the bill didn't bear his name, and worse it was passed by an overwhelming majority of both parties in the house, by unanimous consent in the senate and signed by President Clinton so its hard to pin on him individually or Republicans generally.

Comment Re:My goodness! It might have... (Score 2, Insightful) 325

I'm sympathetic to the idea that deregulation had a hand in the financial implosion but I'm not sure I understand the logic behind blaming "Gramm-Leach-Bliley" specifically. It seems that, in the early stages of the crisis before it cascaded to impact everyone it was the least diversified investment banks that were remnants of Glass-Stiegall that had, and caused, the most trouble and the most diversified banks that would have been illegal before Gramm were the healthiest and in a few cases because it wasn't illegal (as it would have been without Gramm) were able to ride to the rescue of the more strictly focussed investment banks that were at the financial ground zero. It seems there are probably other decisions having to do with regulating mortgage backed securities, or the degree to which banks could leverage their assets that are more to blame. (Though I can understand the a political logic behind blaming "Gramm" it since Gramm was one of McCain's advisors so it's politically convenient to use "Gramm" as shorthand for deregulation generally even though Gramm's bill itself was probably only a minor contributor to the problem, or perhaps even mitigated some of the damage.)

Comment Re:Legitimate, if disturbing to some (Score 1) 461

Trying to end someone else's horrible behavior is of course horrible behavior from his/her perspective.

So? By the time we get a situation where deadly force is justified we don't give a damn about his/her perspective... or perhaps we only care that it is soon from the ground looking up and growing dim. There is an objective moral order, which your own opinions about using deadly force are derived from but which you have overrefined to to the point of being self-defeating. At some point violating the that moral order places you outside it's protection. Nobody *should* give a damn about the perspective of the murder on a killing spree. Shooting someone in the head is morally wrong. Shooting someone in the head to prevent them from doing the same to an innocent third party isn't. In the case of governmental authority FAILING to prevent them when you could is itself morally wrong. That is really the main (and arguably ONLY) point of having a social structure as burdensome and dangerous as government exist in the first place, as the collective expression of our individual human right to self-defense. In crass terms the main (whole?) point of government is to shoot the guy trying to harm you (me, whoever) in the head

while cops might be ready to kill on my behalf, they are also ready to kill me on my behalf too.

No, they're ready to kill you on MY behalf. Again (in legitimate cases) by the time they're willing to kill you on my behalf nobody gives a damn about you anymore, nor should they. With your gun to my head, knife at my throat, or hand on the detonator I hope they are equipped with the most efficient "anonymous-kill-at-a-distance tools" available. I also hope they are unsullied by a moral sense so highly refined as to let you squeeze that trigger, pull that blade across my throat or push that button because in their philosophical musings they realize that from your perspective them stopping you would be "horrible". I might prefer that they find the necessity deeply sad and troubling, but in that moment I'd prefer the callous jerk who doesn't hesitate when he has the shot and laughs about it later to the sensitive, morally correct soul who hesitates and fails to protect my life because taking yours is so heart breaking. In the action that ultimately matters most the insensitive jerk who acted is morally superior to the sensitive soul that failed.

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