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Comment Re:Last question in summary is very insightful (Score 1) 586

Now, what are we going to do for a living after everything's been automated?

Not everything will be automated. There are many types of jobs, anything creative for instance, that automation has had absolutely no impact on at all so far and it's difficult to see how it might change. I don't see many robot artists, do you?

What can happen is that low prices push up demand for things that would once have been a luxury. I commissioned an artist to draw a cartoon of my brother for his birthday. It's remarkably cheap for something hand made by a professional, just a few hundred dollars. Go back 50 years and the whole idea would have been preposterous but technology means I was able to find the right guy, contact him, pay him and receive the finished product (as a vector file no less) only days later. Win!

Now what can and should happen, maybe, is that over time people do less and less work for the same quality of living. Our current economic system has real problems with this state of affairs. Partly because some things like the 9-5 work week are culturally ingrained in us from birth, and partly because many people don't have the right skills to get ANY work, let alone "less than what they may have done 10 years ago". I blame the university system, there is little or no attempt to connect the things people are taught as young adults with the skills actually being demanded by the market, but everyone is told they need a degree. So you end up with lots of people who study worthless topics.

The article states that computer programmers are one of the industries where high paying jobs are being added fast - OK then, so why the fuck were there only 60 people on my computer science class 7 years ago, of which exactly zero were women? Oh right, because the vast majority of people at that university were studying subjects with little or no market demand outside of teaching. And then people wonder why unemployment amongst the young is so high. Maybe the majority of all students at that university should have been studying a strong vocational software engineering course?

Comment Re:It time to make full time 30-32 hours a week wi (Score 1) 586

France has a 10%+ and growing unemployment rate. The idea behind a shorter working week is not "the entire country works less", the idea is that the work which does exist is distributed more evenly over the population. So people work less, but more people work, and because everything is so damn efficient and cheap the quality of life can still be pretty good.

That isn't likely to happen in a place like France because laws make hiring and especially firing people very difficult. So if you have some work that really needs 1.2 man weeks per week, the incentives are all wrong - instead of hiring two people to work part time and ensuring neither is overloaded, it makes far more sense to push the existing employee harder (and pay overtime if need be) because that way you hugely reduce your management risk. If you hire a second employee with the intention of having both work part time and it turns out the second employee can't handle the work, or is lazy or doesn't get on with the team or the amount of work to do unexpectedly drops it's hard to let go of them again. So it's best to not grow unless you really have to. And if you can use a machine, even better, even if that machine is perhaps not quite as good or flexible as a human might have been. You can switch the machine off when the order book is thin. No such equivalent for a person.

I love the idea of a 4-day working week, but when I think through the implications, I can't escape the feeling that labor markets would have to be radically deregulated for it to work. Employing lots more people to work less just increases the risk of personell problems so dramatically.

Comment Article contains some factual errors (Score 3, Insightful) 586

The article says: In the U.S., the economic recovery that started in June 2009 has been called the third straight "jobless recovery." But that's a misnomer. The jobs came back after the first two. Most recessions since World War II were followed by a surge in new jobs as consumers started spending again and companies hired to meet the new demand. In the months after recessions ended in 1991 and 2001, there was no familiar snap-back, but all the jobs had returned in less than three years.

That is not the case. The ratio of working age men who actually work has steadily fallen since the 50s (in the USA). After each recession it plunged and then recovered .... but not to the original levels. Data.

Anyway, whilst I'm sympathetic to the general topic and find the idea fascinating, the article has a lot of other questionable statements in it. Like this one: Even the most commonplace technologies — take, say, email — are making it tough for workers to get jobs. That's obviously wrong. Email and the net allow people to find employers around the world whereas before they might have been limited to their local area. Heck, I hired a commission artist just two days ago, I initiated contact via email.

Comment Re:Holiday (Score 1) 427

But you still have to fill them out. The US tax code is one of the worlds most complicated. And if you failed to do it in previous years, when the rules weren't enforced and many people didn't even know about these policies, you can be fined so much your entire life savings evaporate. I've read multiple stories of this happening.

Regardless, my other points still stand. The US dollar has been in long term decline. I am not a rich businessman by any means, I am a software engineer in my 20s and in my local currency I earn over the equivalent of $170k. So if I were unlucky enough to be born American I'd have to give up taxes to Uncle Sam in return for absolutely nothing. Assuming, of course, that I could actually find a bank who would take me.

Comment Re:Holiday (Score 1) 427

$90,000 sounded like a lot when Congress set that amount back in the 70s, but the dollar has been steadily in decline for decades. Here is a graph relative to the Swiss Franc. People who would have been considered incredibly rich by meeting this standard back when it was set are now merely normal people earning in a currency stronger than the dollar.

The real problem with trying to tax people who don't actually live in your country is the logistics of it. How can you do that? America's approach is to try and force every financial institution in the world to become unpaid agents of the IRS by using economic sanctions (recursively applied). This is causing a gigantic mess - many countries have privacy laws that conflict with the USAs demands, and the complexity of US paperwork is legendary. So many banks and so on choose the simplest option afforded to them - identify and terminate the accounts of any "US persons". This is easier said than done, the US tries to tax dual citizens as well, so just because a customer presented a British passport (for example) does not mean it's safe to give them an account. Nightmarish.

Comment Re:Holiday (Score 1) 427

US citizens working abroad can enjoy the comfort of an embassy and US Marines protecting them in times of war and/or crisis. Hell, they'll even evacuate you back to the US if the shit really hits the fan. I'd pay my taxes for that, especially if I was working somewhere that's dangerous.

Are you shitting me? The US military spends its time blowing up goat herders in Afghanistan. If you live in Germany, that is really the least helpful thing they could be doing. And if you live abroad then it's going to be the local army defending you, not a foreign one.

Also FYI the US will not evacuate you for free "if the shit hits the fan" (which for the vast majority of expats it won't) - you get landed with the bill.

Departure assistance is expensive. U.S. law 22 U.S.C. 2671(b) (2) (A) requires that any departure assistance be provided “on a reimbursable basis to the maximum extent practicable.” This means that evacuation costs are ultimately your responsibility; you will be asked to sign a form promising to repay the U.S. government. We charge you the equivalent of a full coach fare on commercial air at the time that commercial options cease to be a viable option. You will be taken to a nearby safe location, where the traveler will need to make his or her own onward travel arrangements. If you are destitute, and private resources are not available to cover the cost of onward travel, you may be eligible for emergency financial assistance.

Comment Re:Holiday (Score 4, Informative) 427

The loopholes exist because of the economic benefits. RTFA, the USA is the only economy in the developed world to try to tax foreign earned income the same as domestically earned income. This is true for citizens and green card holders too, by the way, which places US citizens into the unique and perverse situation of moving abroad and still paying Uncle Sam taxes, despite getting no services for that tax.

For US persons, this is merely an unfair affront to basic common sense. For US companies it's the difference between being competitive or being double taxed into total lack of competitive-ness. So these "loopholes" as you call them have been around for a long time and don't get closed because they're the thing that's keeping US business on a level playing field with the rest of the world.

You're right that the US tax system should be simplified and loopholes removed. If the US gave up on trying to tax income regardless of where it was earned, it'd be the same as every other tax system and there'd be no need to maintain these "loopholes", they'd just go away naturally. Also, US companies would be more likely to spend foreign earned money in the USA because there'd be no double taxation. And US citizens would not be trapped by the financial "Berlin Wall" that is resulting in them being systematically evicted from the worlds financial institutions. It'd be a win all round, but of course, nobody in Congress is talking about doing that because it'd be revenue neutral.

Comment Re:Hilarious (Score 1) 196

A 99% exit tax would be considered capital controls, and those are illegal in the EU. They're illegal exactly because in the past they were used by abusive governments to stop people leaving. Incidentally, the US charges an exit tax for people who try to give up citizenship, did you know that? And they also try to tax citizens wherever they live in the world!

Comment Re:France on strike (Score 2) 196

They've forgotten to add "... nor in the United States."

Reality check, according to the SEC filings Googles tax rate in the USA was 22%

The stories you read about Google "dodging tax" or paying only a few percent are looking at worldwide revenues. It's due to Americans going French all of a sudden and thinking that any money earned by any Google subsidiary anywhere in the world should be taxed by the IRS - even if that money was a Swiss Franc earned in Switzerland and then spent on Swiss salaries. Well the Swiss government gets to tax that, but the money never went anywhere near the USA, so the US doesn't get any. If you count all that money you can arrive at very low apparent tax rates, but it's just a fantasy.

ObDisclaimer: I work for Google and don't think there are any issues with the way the company pays tax.

Comment Re:Enforcement and Boundaries (Score 5, Insightful) 196

I think a bigger question is how would you enforce such a tax on a company that has no assets in France. Does Facebook have any datacenters or offices here? If no, then .... what is France going to do? Start censoring any website that doesn't pay them? I mean, that's the fundamental thing they're complaining about, right - companies that sell into the French market and make money there don't pay corporate taxes because, hm, they don't actually run their business from there. So why would this new tax be any different?

I'm really wondering if the current French government even cares about France being seen as a serious country. Taxes targeted at a handful of companies aren't going to resolve their budget deficit problems or even make a noticeable dent. This move strongly reminds me of their threats to nationalize ArcelorMittal if they closed a factory. The factory was closed and the threat was not carried through.

Comment Re:Information bubble in the USA too? (Score 3, Insightful) 187

Come off it, North Korea and the USA are nothing alike. North Korea is 1984 writ large, it's as if they thought Orwell wrote a textbook instead of dystopian fiction. Even in its worst moments the US is light years from that.

I think what you're trying to say is that there are some small seeds of resemblance in certain things, in particular the way Americans are taught from birth to believe the USA is the greatest country in the world, that other countries just aren't as good, that they're lucky to be born there, and so on, as opposed to being taught that the USA is merely a good country, much like many other countries except larger. And in that case yes, there is a slight similarity.

But it's only very slight. For one, many Americans are not brought up this way. For another, any who are can easily learn about the outside world, including by visiting it. Obvious exceptions: Cuba, Iran, any other country the administration currently has a hate-on for. And that's bad, but it's a blacklist of destinations not a whitelist. Anyone there who wants to understand the truth of the world can.

For all its faults, the US has a strong economy, lacks a cult of personality (you might say the same cultish mentality exists around the constitution though), and is just generally better than North Korea in every conceivable way. NK is useful because it shows what can exist at the bottom of the slippery slope towards totalitarianism. Lots of people understand that which is why they get up in arms every time there's some new violation of civil rights.

By the way, I'm a Brit.

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