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Comment Re:Do CEOs ever... (Score 1) 78

Yes, many of them do. You don't hear about it because most large companies have multiple divisions, some of which are still profitable. So instead of closing down the company entirely, they shutter the unprofitable parts and return the capital to investors in the form of increased dividends and/or share buybacks.

A good example is IBM. IBM recognized 10-15 years ago that most of its commodity hardware was uncompetitive. Personal computers, x86 servers, semiconductor foundry, etc. were all money-losers for IBM over the last few years. So IBM, recognizing that these businesses were failing, shut them down and sold off the remaining assets. Then they used the capital to buy back something like $30 billion in stock, and they quintupled their dividend. In effect they did exactly what you suggested for the failing portions of their business, but kept open the profitable divisions, mostly consulting and rent-seeking.

A more extreme example but less well known example of this phenomenon is Pitney Bowes. For the most part PB manufactured postage meters and some other office equipment. Recognizing in about 2007 that physical postage meters were not exactly a hot area of business, PB began paying out enormous dividends while scaling down their operations (including selling their HQ and moving to a much smaller office). As of 2016, they have liquidated about two thirds of their business compared to 10 years ago.

Strangely, Slashdotters often tend to be very scornful when tech companies do this kind of thing. I see no end of complaint every time IBM liquidates any of their businesses, no matter how small.

Comment Re:Apples-Oranges (Score 1) 760

Of course we do, as we should. As the learned Learned Hand said in 1947 during the Commissioner v. Newman trial:

Over and over again courts have said that there is nothing sinister in so arranging one's affairs as to keep taxes as low as possible. Everybody does so, rich or poor; and all do right, for nobody owes any public duty to pay more than the law demands: taxes are enforced exactions, not voluntary contributions. To demand more in the name of morals is mere cant.

Comment Re:Only one way (Score 1) 235

Since when have libertarians as a group opposed a basic income? I am a libertarian, and I would be ecstatic if a basic income were implemented, provided it were universal and unconditional. I concede that many libertarians may dislike the idea in principle (though I don't), but in practice we are going to have to have some sort of welfare system, and a system centered on a basic income is the best alternative. Currently, welfare in the U.S. is a confusing, bureaucratic hodgepodge of insufficient and inefficient programs, riddled with means-testing, moral judgments, and perverse incentives. Compared to what we have now, an unconditional, universal basic income is a libertarian wet dream.

Comment Re:It's all relative (Score 1) 1080

Those countries are not socialist. In a socialist economy, either 1) the workers own the means of production themselves or 2) the government owns the means of production on behalf of workers. This is not the case in any of the countries you listed. In a socialist country, there is no such thing as a stock market - the existence of transferable equity shares intrinsically implies ownership by someone other than workers or the government. Yet I see the Deutsche Börse and Stockholmsbörsen are going strong. Not to mention, most of the countries you mentioned still have a nasty problem with old aristocratic families controlling substantial portions of their industrial output - how many businesses do the Rothschilds or the Wallenbergs own again?

What the countries you cited have is, in fact, a strongly capitalistic economic system - I would, off the top of my head, call Germany and Sweden the two most capitalistic countries in Europe. Capitalism there, despite regulation to minimize social harms, is not merely tolerated but encouraged. At the same time, worker protections are also very strong, as is the welfare state. There is a correct name for this blend of regulated capitalism at the corporate level and extensive welfare at the personal level, within a democratic political framework - social democracy. Socialism and social democracy are not the same thing, despite the somewhat similar names and the conflation by both those in the American right and (especially) in the European center-left who should really know better.

Comment Re:wrong priority for intelligent people ? (Score 1) 206

Your historical analysis is way off. Here, for instance, is what one writer says about Medieval Europe:

Plowing and harvesting were backbreaking toil, but the [medieval] peasant enjoyed anywhere from eight weeks to half the year off. The Church, mindful of how to keep a population from rebelling, enforced frequent mandatory holidays. Weddings, wakes and births might mean a week off quaffing ale to celebrate, and when wandering jugglers or sporting events came to town, the peasant expected time off for entertainment. There were labor-free Sundays, and when the plowing and harvesting seasons were over, the peasant got time to rest, too. In fact, economist Juliet Shor found that during periods of particularly high wages, such as 14th-century England, peasants might put in no more than 150 days a year.

Comment Re:PrimeCoins (Score 1) 132

There is nothing dubious about it. Primes are defined this way because of the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic. If primes were defined to include 1, there would be no such thing as a unique factorization into primes, and if that did not exist, there would be no point to the concept of primes at all.

More generally, one of the principles of abstract algebra is that units (elements with a multiplicative inverse) can never be primes in any unique factorization domain (i.e., any ring that follows the Fundamental Theorem of Arithmetic).

Comment Re:deBeers will buy them out. (Score 2) 119

Very true. My own great-great-grandfather came to the United States with a handful of diamonds stored in the heel of his boot, when he fled Prussia. He sold most of the diamonds when he got here, but kept one which eventually passed to me, and which I used for my wife's engagement ring. Side note: family tradition says that great-great-granddad stole that one from a DeBeers facility in Belgium. I doubt it's true, but it ought to be; I like imagining that instead of funding the DeBeers monopoly when I got my wife her ring, I'm giving them a metaphorical middle finger instead.

Comment Re:Gender roles in society (Score 2) 330

This is a common misconception. The "separate spheres" theory of gender roles, which you aptly refer to as "separate but equal," is really a product of the 19th century. Prior to that time, the vast majority of people didn't have the economic resources for that kind of segregation. At planting and harvest time especially, everyone was in the field pretty much equally. Of course there was some division of labor by gender, but not anything like what was seen in the 19th century. Gender segregation, and rigidly defined gender roles, were luxuries for the rich. The 19th century was somewhat unique because there was enough material prosperity that a large proportion of families could afford this "luxury," but not enough prosperity to start freeing women from full time household drudgery.

On a side note, I don't have much love for third-wave feminists, but I think they do have a point that our perceptions of gender roles are very heavily skewed towards the upper and middle-class perspective, especially when looking back at historical accounts. I always found it strange in history class that when the American feminist movement was covered, the experience of women in the 40's and 50's didn't resemble the life that either of my grandmothers lived very much. The women in the history books were all upper/middle class, whereas one of my grandmothers was a riveter, and the other worked as a farm-hand before scraping together enough money to train to be a secretary. Both married in their late thirties after living on their own for 15-20 years. Not working, or being dependent on/subservient to a man, was not an option for them.

Comment Re:How did these idiots catch anyone? (Score 1) 282

To be fair to the FBI, it looks like they didn't take this accusation too seriously. The rather nonsensical quote from the summary was made by an informant, not by the agent investigating Bradbury. The portion of the FBI report that was actually written by the investigating agent concluded that there was no actual evidence linking Bradbury to the Communist Party.

Comment Re:The informant was right (Score 1) 282

The informant was Martin A. Berkeley. According to the FBI's notes, Berkeley had confessed to being a Communist Party member and turned informant to save his own skin. This leads me to suspect that he eventually resorted to accusing anyone he could think of to maintain his "usefulness" to the FBI.

Comment Re:It does work... (Score 2) 755

There is a very strong libertarian argument to be made for a basic income. Assuming that it were implemented in a carefully though out manner (haha, I know), a welfare system centered around a universal basic income would be much less intrusive than the less generous patchwork we currently have. A couple of examples:

- No more corporate minimum wage. There doesn't need to be one, since there is already a basic income. This allows businesses greater freedom in their hiring and pay practices. It allows marginal workers to hold jobs that aren't worth paying $8.50 an hour + payroll tax for, but might be worth paying $6 an hour for.

-No more intrusive questions about marital status, family living arrangements, drug use, etc. The basic income is universal, so we can dispense with having the government making moral judgments about domestic affairs. No more punishing couples for being married or for not being married (our current welfare system somehow manages to do both at the same time).

Additionally, there are very cynical reasons that the elites should support a basic income, which you have already touched on in your post. There is a reason that you thought of France in the early 1800's and not the UK. The UK elites, starting with the Reform Act of 1832, recognized the practical necessity of compromising with the lower classes in order to shore up their own power. No doubt many in power at the time had the French July Revolution (which had overthrown Charles X and established a liberal regime by force just two years earlier) in mind when the Act was passed.

Today, we have a similar situation to that of Europe in the 1800's, although the issue is about economic participation rather than political participation. I hope that we choose as wisely as the British did.

Comment Re:Oh noes, the poors! (Score 1) 755

A basic income program is the obvious centerpiece of an efficient welfare state. A carefully implemented basic income will satisfy both libertarians (such as myself) who recognize the practical need for some form of welfare even if they don't like it, and welfare state liberals. Moralizing conservatives might oppose it, but you can't please everyone.

What many of my fellow Americans fail to realize is that we effectively already have a minimum income and a very expensive welfare system. It is merely decentralized - through 76 separate programs - patchwork, inefficient, and riddled with perverse incentives. We are not willing, as a society, to allow the poor to suffer and die without state aid. The sooner conservatives and libertarians here come to understand that, the better. We cannot, and for practical if not humanitarian reasons should not, get rid of the welfare state. But a basic income can make it more efficient, more fair, less intrusive on our private lives, and free from perverse disincentives against work.

I have always, somewhat against my will, been quite impressed by the Finnish welfare state. I have been particularly impressed by how Finland has used the comprehensiveness of its welfare programs to secure the support of all segments of the population. I can see the appeal; my first child is coming next month, and I doubt I could say no to one of the famous "baby boxes" right now, no matter how much of a crusty middle-class libertarian I try to be. I think that this experiment is a wonderful way for Finland to continue play to strengths of their successful system, and I wish you the best of luck. I hope to see similar experiments in my country soon.

Comment Re:Not quite the correct question (Score 1) 179

This is exactly what happened to me when I was a university lecturer. I was on a yearly contract, which was not renewed when there was a sudden drop in enrollment.

I was upset at losing my job at the time, but in retrospect I think this arrangement was actually reasonable. My department's enrollment numbers varied quite a bit from year to year, so they needed flexibility to trim staff in down years. While I was employed, I received full benefits and a reasonable salary.

Comment Re:WHICH candidates? (Score 2) 312

Most of Europe requires photo ID to vote, or require documentation that would be needed to get a photo ID. I know Germany, the Netherlands, and Ireland all require photo ID or similar documentation to vote. I somehow doubt that all of these countries have fallen victim to a nefarious Republican plot to disenfranchise the poor. Only in the U.S. is it controversial to require an ID to vote.

Comment Re:like the lightbulbs that last virtually forever (Score 1) 179

I was not aware that LED light bulbs have been having significant problems (those are the only types of bulbs I can think of that are supposed to "last for decades," correct me if I'm misunderstanding). My impression is that LED bulbs are improving in longevity and dropping in price very rapidly. If we're just trading anecdotes, I have not had to replace a single LED bulb at my house since I started phasing them in 6 years ago.

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