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Comment Scrape the idea (Score 5, Interesting) 649

First of, the economy isn't a machine, it's organic, and this engineering approach generally fails. Companies react to regulation, and regulation itself is the result of government, another organic entity. When this type of laws are enacted, the first thing that happens is that concentrated business interest will make sure they actually benefit from the regulation. It can take many forms. Maybe some corporations will be grandfathered in and therefore manage to keep at bay competitors who can't reach a competitive size, maybe the law will have exemptions that only politically connected firms can obtain. It's misguided to push for a law without taking into account the way it will be distorted by the political process. Contrast this to the viral - hence organic - approach the GPL took.

Second, too big to fail is about the systemic risk that some financial firms exhibited. Walmart is big, Google is big, but they're not too big to fail in the sense that their failure wouldn't particularly cause havoc. If Walmart fails, many different sellers can buy the stores and keep supplying them with goods. In the case of financial companies, the argument went as follow: if a bank fails, many other financial companies may be in trouble if they hold financial instruments whose collateral ultimately is guaranteed by that bank. Unfortunately, it can take a long time to sort out who is really it, and during that time, it becomes very risky to lend to anyone, for fear that they might be exposed to the failing institution. This in turns cause more financial companies to fail in a domino effect. That's the theory at least. I don't know if I buy it, but at any rate, it makes the case that the banks were too heavily interconnected to fail, not too big. Columbia professor Rama Cont has suggested that the solution to this problem is to emphasize clearing houses to bring in transparency in who holds what.

Comment Sloppy methodology (Score 1) 202

That's not how one should measure the value of letters. Here's a more serious approach:

1) Get a large sample of games by running a scrabble playing program against itself.
2) Assume each letter has a latent fair-point value, model the score differential as as a function of the difference of the sum of the fair-point value of the letters received by each side.
3) Fit fair point values with MCMC

Comment Re:Can't America get its acts together ? (Score 1) 1059

This makes sense if you believe property is a privilege granted by the government. Then sure, if the government gives you a larger share of the wealth, you ought to pay a proportional share right?

That's not the way things are though. Most wealth is created, not transferred. Why on earth should one tax burden then be proportional to wealth or income? If taxes represent payment for government "services", then just charge everyone the same amount (not percentage) for government services.

The federal government collects about $2.5 trillion in tax revenues per year. Want to make it "fair"? Just charge everyone $8,000 a year and abolish all other taxes. Thats fair.

Comment Re:Attempt to Limit Future Liability (Score 2) 66

The reasonable statement would be that while Onity cannot guarantee the lock won't be hacked, it will offer a free replacement if such a hack were to be found. This puts the incentive in the right place. Onity could even have a third party insurer cover the risk if they don't want this exposure on their balance sheet.

Comment Re:three words, one hyphen: (Score 4, Insightful) 549

for-profit healthcare

Right, because every other electronic device - the prices of which keep falling - are produced by not-for profits.

Among many reasons are the high costs of medical regulation, liability insurance, the fact that paying with insurance seriously blunts the pressure on prices. But no, let's just say it's "greed" and feel self-content with a non explanation.

Comment Re:So I suppose Obama (Score 1) 805

Well, according to, take your pick:
Nationalizations, land seizure, raising the minimum wage, hyperinflation...

Like all socialist leaders eventually do, Allende would have denied its citizen the right to leave the country.
Again, I don't see how the adjective "democratically" changes anything.

Comment Re:300 million miles (Score 1) 508

So what are they basing this on?

According to, the rate of fatal automobile accident in the US is about 1.11 fatal accident per 100 million vehicle mile.
Assume the Google car's traveled distance between two fatal accident follows a Poisson law (that is there's a constant probability of having a fatal accident in a Google car for any mile traveled).

Null hypothesis: the Google car has the same rate of accident as the U.S.
The probability that the Google car given the null hypothesis has no fatal accident over 300,000,000 miles traveled is exp(-3.33) ~ 3.58%
Thus the null hypothesis can be rejected with a p-value of 3.58%.

To get a p-value 5%, the following would do:
270M vehicle mile with 0 fatal accident
430M vehicle mile with 1 fatal accident
570M vehicle mile with 2 fatal accidents
700M vehicle mile with 3 fatal accidents

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