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Comment Rights and rationality (Score 1) 149

Having your property searched (trespassed on by police) is different than not getting a loan. You own your house. You don't own the bank's money.
If police were not a privileged monopoly, they would owe restitution for bad searches, just like a trespasser does. But given that it is a monopoly, we try to rein its power in with rules.

The idea that the world is better or more rational by ignoring rational inferences is mistaken. Take for example the effort to "ban the box" (which means employers don't get to ask if you're a felon). Although such legislation are intended to help black people, but the the results appear to have been opposite [1].
People (including employers, creditors, insurers, retailers, ...) try to evaluate risks as best they can. If you make them blind to a signal, but they are unwilling to increase their risk tolerance, they will behave more conservatively, not less. They will decrease their service and use even cruder methods to control their risk.


Comment Wrong measure (Score 3, Interesting) 115

Counting deaths is the wrong measure. The average number of days lost is more typical and informative to evaluate the impact of such problems.
I tried to find the paper for this WHO study, but couldn't find it. Pointers appreciated.

This US data is a big dated but useful as order of magnitudes:
Plane crash (200 deaths a year, 1 day lost per average person), house fire (18 days), pesticides (16000, EPA: 27 days), air pollution (50.000, 61 days), crime (26.000 murders, 113 days), driving (43.000, 182 days), smoking (5.5 years lost for average smoker), poverty (7 to 10 years lost).

It is also useful to point out to people who freak out when they read such headlines that air pollution was far worse in the past. From soot to manure particles, not to mention unsanitary housing, there are reasons why life expectancy has increased dramatically (although, water and food sanitation, as well as waste disposal were bigger factors).

Comment Demand and preferences (Score 1) 537

It sounds like the majority of people don't share your priorities or preferences, as their actions demonstrate. Resolving the problems that you care about are not on top of their ranking.
Maybe you should persuade people to see your way. Instead of some spending that you think is not essential, they should spend their money on some more worthwhile project.
For example, I like Literacy Bridge, which is a device to spread important knowledge in remote and under-developed regions of the world.

"Literacy Bridge saves lives and improves the livelihoods of impoverished families through comprehensive programs that provide on-demand access to locally relevant knowledge. At the heart of the programs is the Talking Book, an innovative low-cost audio computer."

Comment Common strategies (Score 1) 180

There are recurring political strategies: (1) under-budget and over-promise, (2) spread the money in every jurisdiction.

The first one makes it easier to get the foot in the door. You'll have a fantastic plane with a gazillion features, but it will only cost a few millions over a couple of years.
A few years later, when the plane barely flies and a bunch of millions have already been spent, the second strategy comes into play. Not only is it really hard to resist spending "just a little bit more" when you're "this close to being done", but it is really hard to stop spending once you have concentrated interests that have their livelihood depending on the pork.

Comment Try it without me (Score 1) 519

Let's ignore all the known problems mentioned by other commenters (such as the Mises' economic calculation problem, Hayek's knowledge problem, and other incentive problems, which you can read more about in [1]) for a moment.

Try it:
1. Buy a piece of land, organize as a commune with a master computer program and plan.
2. Because your commune will work so well (very effective production and happy participants), you'll be able to expand.
3. Take over the world (peacefully)!


Comment Water contamination risk, see EPA and PNAS reports (Score 1) 180


Organic compounds found in drinking water aquifers above the Marcellus Shale and other shale plays could reflect natural geologic transport processes or contamination from anthropogenic activities, including enhanced natural gas production. Using analyses of organic compounds coupled with inorganic geochemical fingerprinting, estimates of groundwater residence time, and geospatial analyses of shale gas wells and disclosed safety violations, we determined that the dominant source of organic compounds to shallow aquifers was consistent with surface spills of disclosed chemical additives. There was no evidence of association with deeper brines or long-range migration of these compounds to the shallow aquifers (emphasis added). Encouragingly, drinking water sources affected by disclosed surface spills could be targeted for treatment and monitoring to protect public health.

Comment Assault on his rights, give me a break (Score 1) 271

"it represents a potential assault by Tesla Motors on the right of vehicle owners to report defects to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's complaint database"

I have a right to drive a car. Which means I have the right not to drive a car, or not to drive one conditionally on some contract.
In other words, a right is not a right if I don't get to decide whether to exercise it. If a person agrees based on some conditions not to exercise a right, there is no "assault on his rights".

Comment Scared of exporting Rupees? (Score 1) 242

It's well known that greedy capitalists like to sleep on beds of Rupees, so India definitely should be scared of those Rupees not getting spent.
After all, even if the only place Rupees can be spent is India, they might get trapped in one of those beds, which would mean that those Indian consumers would essentially be getting iphones without having to pay them back with any real resources (only some bits of paper or electronic bits)... That's tough...
[/end sarcasm]

Comment Trafficking/slavery vs. sex work (Score 5, Insightful) 311

Yes. Unfortunately, most of the recent bills passed to fight actual slavery (including sex slavery) have been used to fight sex work instead.
With legalized prostitution, it is much easier to help actual trafficking victims escape. This is the real harm of conflating trafficking/slavery with sex work.

As this article titles: The War on Sex Trafficking Is the New War on Drugs. And the results will be just as disastrous, for "perpetrators" and "victims" alike.

Comment Quick learners (Score 1) 48

If you think government is the bad guy that unjustly shook down IBM, Microsoft and others, then it's good that companies have learnt to soften the blow.
If you think government is the good guy, then it sure is easy to capture and sway.
But if your cynical, then you see hints of both worlds. Government is the corrupt bad guy *and* it can be captured to further nefarious ends (such as gaining anti-competitive advantages).

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