Saturday, May 31, 2014

Steering our outrage in wrong directions

Secret-Science-Reform-ActThe “Secret Science Reform Act” considered by the House "Science" Committee would require the Environmental Protection Agency to make public all data, scientific analyses, materials and models before promulgating any regulations. 

Does that sound like some "transparency" that I would easily support?

Always sniff for the evil lies that underpin anything that comes from the present House "science" committee.  In this case note that there is no accompanying requirement for industry to make data public or to waive privacy rules.  In fact, the same bill clearly states that EPA may not publicly disclose any such information. Hence, this Catch-22 uses faux transparency to -- in-effect -- prohibit the EPA from doing anything at all. Ever.

Wow… and I thought the House "science" committee was run by troglodyte science-hating morons. Clearly they include at least a few troglodyte science-hating geniuses… or else (more likely, given past behavior) the morons have a pub-relations genius on their staff.  (They do!  Several veterans of the successful 30 year campaign to obfuscate and delay any regulation of Big Tobacco.)

== Remind you of anything? ==

This kind of maneuver is identical in its nefarious trickery to "voter repression" laws in many red states that require registered voters to present levels of ID that our parents never had to show and that are often hard to come by for the poor, minority, young, married or divorced women and so on. Coincidentally -- surprise -- these are often (lo and behold) democratic-leaning demographies.

Now let me take one of my "all sides exaggerate" stances.  In fact, as a moderate, I am not opposed to gradually increasing the demand that voters prove who they are! Even though at-precinct voting fraud is virtually nil, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with improving care and accountability. People who are against voter ID improvements in any form are probably dogmatic, too.

voter-repression-lawsBut -- and here is a very big "but" -- if these laws weren't aimed solely at stealing elections for the GOP, the states in question would have accompanied the new regulations with measures aimed at helping their citizens to comply with the new burdens.

States routinely give "compliance assistance" to major corporations, when new regulations apply to them. But apparently not one red cent has been appropriated in any red state to help the poor, or young, or women, or minorities to get the required ID, a move that would also help them in so many other aspects of life.  In some cases, simple access to ID might them to STOP being poor.

Please dig that well, because it is the alarm and utter proof of both nefarious motives and lying hypocrisy. How much have red states allocated to help newly disenfranchised citizens to comply with onerous new state regulations?  Not… one… red… cent.

This is what the once honorable and intellectual movement of Goldwater and Buckley is reduced to. Not winning elections based on the merits of their evidence or by comparing the outcomes from their party's past periods of rule. Rather, all efforts go to cheating, cheating, cheating and more cheating. And if you support this cheat, then no amount of arm-waving will let you escape the clear fact -- that you are a cheater, too.

==The American Revolution's Biggest Misconception==

If you watch cable news or heed Facebook-snarky jpegs, you might believe the Big Grievance that provoked the American Revolution was "bureaucracy" … and a tax on tea.

What… you actually believe that? Bureaucracy?  And a tax… on... tea?

American-revolution-misconceptionActually read. The grievance -- the Big One -- that Ben Franklin spent 7 years in London fighting, was that British king and lords and oligarchs owned 60% of the land in the colonies and refused to sell it or even let it be taxed by colonial legislatures, resulting in economic stifling.

The other Big Grievance was against parliamentary laws that forced all trade to pass through a few ports and monopolist corporations owned by the king and lords.

Above all, those lords were monopolizing political power, refusing to allow the colonies to send representatives to Parliament -- the ultimate gerrymandering.

Oh, that's not the narrative today's oligarchs foist through their cable propaganda mills. It's not the story they want hard-pressed middle class Americans pondering right now… not if your aim is to rebuild that feudal social structure. It's no wonder the New Oligarchy uses its media shills to focus on a tax on tea! 

Because that lets you ignore the real similarity with those times. The fact that lords and monopolies were denounced by Adam Smith and by the Founders. That the Revolution was against their unbridled power while denying us representation that might let the people change the rules.

Sorry, "tea" guys. You folks are the lord-loving Tories.  On every issue.  Down the line.

67 comments:

Tony Fisk said...

A succinct summary of the causes of the secession wars.

Also be on the lookout for such expressions as 'ending the age of entitlement.'. This is being used by the Abbott govt to justify spending cuts to balance an artificially deficient budget. From the response so far, their only hope is that the tumbrels would have to be imported. (Although, maybe coal trucks will do?)

Come July, Palmer will hold the balance of power in the Senate. Times may become interesting. (is he genuinely against Abbott's policies? Is he a bored billionaire seeking to totally derail this meddlesome concept called democracy? Either way, he is most certainly not the stupid oaf he looks)

Jumper said...

I am wondering where you read the factoid of the land ownership statistic of the British plutocrats of their time in America, as I'd like to read it.

Lorraine said...

The term I use for that kind of one-sided pseudo-transparency is "mirror shades."

Alex Tolley said...

That's an "interesting" reading of history. Like Jumper, I would like to read the reference. AFAIK, onerous taxes to pay for earlier wars and trade restrictions were the main build up. The Boston Tea Party was a revolt against these taxes and the subsequent Acts impose on the colonies led fairly inevitably to revolution. Was there a parallel to today? Britain's class structured society of the C18th meant that almost all wealth was owned by the landed gentry (as well as voting rights) and the successful merchants. The legacy of royal charters for monopolies enforced the control of income and wealth. That is most definitely not true today, where there are very few de jure monopolies, just de facto ones due to FTC interpretations of what constitute monopolies. With a winning idea and the right connections, you could get VC funding and overturn an existing mega business.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Not surprising giving the governing philosophy at the time of Mercantilism. This concept promoted governmental regulation of a nation’s economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. Mercantilism includes a national economic policy aimed at accumulating monetary reserves through a positive balance of trade, especially of finished goods. The overall idea was to establish a network of colonies to provide raw materials or semi-finished goods that could be brought in cheaply to the home country while selling manufactured goods to the colonies.

That said one has to remember why such events as the tea party happened. The government had to pay for a very expensive war and conquest that only really benefited the American colonists (who were on the average the richest in the world at the time). So when they were required to pay for their folly they rebelled.

Anonymous said...

The Colonies sent Ben Franklin to Great Britain to argue that the lands SHOULD NOT be treated as colonies, but as a part of Great Britain, with all of the rights and privileges associated with that idea. In exchange for being granted those rights, the counter offer was to pay even MORE taxes than proposed by the government. The issue was not TAXATION, but REPRESENTATION in Parliament and being treated the same as the citizens in the mother country. Those who say it was all about the taxes are just showing their ignorance.

thrig said...

Readers may or may not be interested in the long-winded if otherwise excellent "SPEECH ON AMERICAN TAXATION, April 19, 1774" available in the project Gutenberg "The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. II. (of 12)."

Briefly, the taxation was limited and selective (unlike the ones imposed on the Isle of Man in the very previous Act by that government), and most of the taxes were subsequently removed, except for the one on tea. Having thus backed themselves into this corner, folly, prevarication, and doubling down ensued.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

The Boston Tea Party was a revolt against these taxes and the subsequent Acts impose on the colonies led fairly inevitably to revolution.


Sort of. My understanding of the history was that the Boston Tea Party was not fueled by anger against the taxes the colonists had to pay on tea, but rather against the tax break granted the East India Company which allowed their tea to undercut the price of anyone else's and guaranteed them a virtual monopoly.

So in essence, the revolt was against tax breaks for wealthy and powerful corporations.

Which means Dr Brin is correct in pointing out the irony--that today's "Tea Party" hoists the banner of Boston in order to rage in favor of...tax breaks for wealthy and powerful corporations.

LarryHart said...

Alex Tolley:

Britain's class structured society of the C18th meant that almost all wealth was owned by the landed gentry


Low marginal tax rates and low inheritance taxes are bringing back dynatic control of wealth...


(as well as voting rights)


Voter suppression in Republican controlled states...


and the successful merchants. The legacy of royal charters for monopolies enforced the control of income and wealth. That is most definitely not true today, where there are very few de jure monopolies, just de facto ones due to FTC interpretations of what constitute monopolies.


A distinction without a difference, it seems to me...


With a winning idea and the right connections, you could get VC funding and overturn an existing mega business.


Seems the Supreme Court and the federal government are working to eliminate that possibility as well. Overturn of controls from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act to the Fairness Doctrine to Net Neutrality is making it harder step by step to compete with the de facto monopolies.

So yes, I'd say there is a noticible parallel 'tween then and now.

David Brin said...

In fact, Franklin's core mission to London, sent by the Pennsylvania legislature, was to talk the Penn family into allowing their vast holding… up to half the non-Indian land… to be taxed. Their refusal was identical to the refusal of the French First Estate, in 1789. Both short sighted obstinacies led to revolution.

Over the years, Franklin represented other colonies on the same matter, and began pushing the representation thing.

Can you see why I keep urging (in vain) for liberals to adopt Adam Smith and the American Founders as icons? It is so frustrating to see them misused by tories.

Anonymous said...

I would also like to know where Mr. Brin got the information. Then I would like him to read it, and tell me what to think of it.

Then I would like Mr. Brin to come to my house and cook my breakfast, chew my eggs, and do everything else for me that I can easily do myself.

Especially since there is this marvelous thing called the internet that allows one to research topics in seconds, which once took weeks.

Louis Shalako said...

Proper ID, such as Aadhaar in India, can be used to provide social services to invisible demographic groups. ID is not intrinsically evil.

Here in Canada, my birth certificate cost $35.00 and the passport more like $125.00 by the time I was done.

In a local municipal election a few years ago, a couple of thousand property owners who were not Canadian citizens were found on voter registration rolls.
It was described as an error, but in a city of 72,000, not all of whom were eligible to vote, it's a substantial proportion.

Louis Shalako said...

Proper ID, such as Aadhaar in India, can be used to provide social services to invisible demographic groups. ID is not intrinsically evil.

Here in Canada, my birth certificate cost $35.00 and the passport more like $125.00 by the time I was done.

In a local municipal election a few years ago, a couple of thousand property owners who were not Canadian citizens were found on voter registration rolls.
It was described as an error, but in a city of 72,000, not all of whom were eligible to vote, it's a substantial proportion.

Anonymous said...

Note that once the American Revolution did occur, the heirs of William Penn sided with the Loyalists. As a result, almost all the Penn family (including Governor John Penn) lands were confiscated. Very much like the French revolution.

LarryHart said...

Louis Shalako:

ID is not intrinsically evil.


I don't disagree, and neither does Dr Brin. He specifically calls for some form of voter ID to be phased in, but in a reasonable time-frame so as to accomodate everyone who really is a citizen acquiring such.

The US states that are rushing to put voter ID laws into place are doing so so nakedly to disenfranchise Democratic Party voters that they have a hard time even credbily pretending to have any other goal in mind than to keep certain voters who are legally eligible away from the polls. Corrupt and financially strapped as Illinois government may currently be, I thank God frequently that I live in Chicago.

LarryHart said...

I also realize that Chicago is synonymous with "voter fraud" in the minds of many. The stereotype is as outdated today as that of the solidly-Democratic South or the militaristic Germany.

David Brin said...

The penn family was stupid. Had they been scots, they would have wisely sent a couple of younger sons to join the rebels, so that the family would have heroes on either sin, whoever won.

Alex Tolley said...

@ LarryHart - there is a huge difference between de jure and de facto monopolies. Perhaps it requires living in a strong class culture country to appreciate it. In the US, disruptive innovation is happening all the time. Monopoly incumbents are being threatened and being replaced. This cannot happen with legal monopolies where outsiders cannot even enter the game.

This applies not just to business, but social roles. There is little more frustrating than seeing top positions being filled by people of a certain class as this is their right. No others need even apply.

At this point, the top 0.01% is still mostly filled with "entrepreneurs". This will change as the wealth is inherited, but we are not quite there yet. Consider that the robber barons of the late C19th are little more than 4 generations back. Compare this to European aristocracies that are many centuries old.

So in essence, the revolt was against tax breaks for wealthy and powerful corporations.

That is a fair point. The East India Company was THE big, politically connected company of the time. The various tax acts were to prevent undercutting of taxed tea imports to Britain by smugglers. The impact on the colonies was to undercut non-British tea imports by eliminating middlemen (think of the layers of middlemen in Japanese retail). Today we would call that disintermediation and reward the entrepreneur.

BTW, the BBC is running a series on the East India Company accessible by the iPlayer. The company's huge archives have been opened to historians and forms the basis of the series.

Alex Tolley said...

Then I would like Mr. Brin to come to my house and cook my breakfast, chew my eggs, and do everything else for me that I can easily do myself.
Especially since there is this marvelous thing called the internet that allows one to research topics in seconds, which once took weeks.


There is a general rule that if you make a controversial statement, it is incumbent on you to cite the source. That saves everybody a lot of time trying to hunt for it. It is why scholarly papers cite references, something Dr Brin knows how to do and why it is necessary.

Robert said...

Ma Bell (a certain telephone monopoly that predates the current telecoms) had a monopoly over the telephone system of the U.S. and funded technological research. They then squashed certain technologies that they felt could disrupt the telephone system, including I believe the hard drive - back in the 1920s or maybe a decade earlier. If they had not suppressed the innovation, we might have had computers decades earlier... and World War II might have even had the start of semi-accurate guided munitions or the like.

Monopolies of all sorts use their power and influence to squash competition and disruptive technologies.

The only situation where a monopoly is useful is in something that is required for society and which would not work well with competition - for instance, public education. (If a school shuts down, the students are dispersed to other schools which disrupts those schools, disrupts the students from the old school, and so forth - damaging education as a whole.)

Rob H.

Larry C. Lyons said...

Alex Tolley said...
That's an "interesting" reading of history. Like Jumper, I would like to read the reference. AFAIK, onerous taxes to pay for earlier wars and trade restrictions were the main build up. The Boston Tea Party was a revolt against these taxes and the subsequent Acts impose on the colonies led fairly inevitably to revolution.
--------------

Actually not. It was a commercial hit pure and simple. The people who lead the Boston Tea Party were the biggest tea smugglers in the colonies. There some other interesting things about the Tea Party, such as the corporate bailouts http://www.history.com/news/10-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-boston-tea-party

Alex Tolley said...

@Larry Lyons - if the Boston Tea Party was purely a reaction to a limited area of commerce, how could that have possibly instilled a general revolt? It was a just a spark.

@Robert - that the hard drive could have been developed in the 1910's-1920's but then suppressed it, is not really credible. Think about it. The US was not the only technological nation, yet somehow the general approach wasn't even thought about by e.g. England or Germany?
Here is a timeline of actual data storage devices:
http://www.zetta.net/history-of-computer-storage/

AFAICS, no advanced storage devices were suppressed.

A timeline of computers is here:
http://www.computerhistory.org/timeline/?category=cmptr

Jumper said...

Well, there are occasional concepts which don't lend themselves easily to search strings, or at least, don't come up with the meaty stuff. (ex.: this is not meaty:
http://www.hermes-press.com/completing.htm
at least, not to me.) Which was why I just asked David.

As an example, I like to work Sudoku with a rule of my own: no penciling in of notes or candidate numerals. Just the answer; the correct numeral. Now how do I form a google search string for that?

Jumper said...

I do know the state churches amassed a lot of property, and kept a hold on it after the Revolution as well. But that's a different tale.

Mark said...

Now let me take one of my "all sides exaggerate" stances. In fact, as a moderate, I am not opposed to gradually increasing the demand that voters prove who they are! Even though at-precinct voting fraud is virtually nil, there is nothing intrinsically wrong with improving care and accountability. People who are against voter ID improvements in any form are probably dogmatic, too.

I agree with you on the facts but think this is basically a false equivalence. I've yet to hear anyone on the left claim IDs are inherently bad for voting. When you are fighting in the trenches it may come across that way, though.

But also note how high the bar is on the burden of truth. We know that voter fraud basically doesn't exist. So any change like voter ID must not impact the voting electorate any more than that tiny percentage it is claiming to improve.

I also have a final thought on voting that I always feel the need to bring up, because it annoys me no end. I live in Oregon and we have basically solved the voting issue. Here, the state mails everyone their ballot. We then fill it out at our leisure and mail it back or drop it off at some local drop-off point. There is no waiting time and no room for fraud. Everyone should move to this system.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Alex said
"At this point, the top 0.01% is still mostly filled with "entrepreneurs". This will change as the wealth is inherited, but we are not quite there yet"

I would dispute that,
A lot of the high profile 0.01% are "entrepreneurs" but the vast majority have inherited wealth

Two reasons
(1) - The "Entrepreneurs" make a better story (for the 0.01%)and get more publicity
(2) - It's easy to asses their wealth - share price x numbers held
It's much much more difficult to asses the wealth of the others so their wealth is massively underestimated

As a UK example - how much does the Queen own??
How much is Buckingham Palace worth??
One of her cousins owns 40% of the City of London

Jumper said...

Mark, do you truly have an anonymous vote in Oregon? I mean a barcode or similar on each ballot? (meaning your ballot would be traceable to you). I don't know how much importance people place on the secret ballot, but we are supposed to have that.

Alex Tolley said...

@Duncan.
Let me qualify my statement. I was referring to the 0.01% in the US, not elsewhere. In the US the 0.01% of incomes are still mostly "entrepreneurs", and I believe that also applies to wealth, although I am not so certain of that. I will have to get back to Piketty's data on that. The high incomes are mostly due to the rise of finance which is a relatively recent phenomenon. Even Buffett, starting in the 1960's is still alive (although he has stated that most of his wealth will be given away).

The large Walton family means that the heirs will be splitting the wealth, so they will slip out of the top. The Koch's are both "entrepreneurs", but they also inherited lots of wealth from dad.

As we move forward, inheritance will increasingly be the norm of the 0.01% in the US, which will only be prevented by some form of redistribution.

Alex Tolley said...

Here is the Forbes 400 list.

Just perusing the list you can identify that most in the top 100 are entrepreneurs, with a smattering of 2nd generation heirs managing the business (e.g. Abigail Johnson) and the rest probably just heirs. So I will stand on the top 0.01% being still mostly "entrepreneurs" (loosely defined).

Piketty's data isn't clear on a quick peruse, but it is clear that wealth for the 1% as %age of all wealth peaked in the US around 1910, then declined, and has started to rise since 1970. Income growth has surged since ~ 1980. Inheritance looks more subdued and with a rise starting earlier (1950's?). I will need to read the book to gain a fuller understanding.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alex
I have "read the book" - the two comments I made were taken from it

I added the bit about the Queen to illustrate the difference between inherited old wealth where nobody knows who owns what or what their wealth is worth and the "entrepreneurs" whose wealth is relatively easily determined

The fact that most of the top 400 are entrepreneurs is irrelevant if there is a few thousand people who are actually richer - but not on the list

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alex

When you read Piketty's book you may
like to read

Treasure Islands: Tax Havens and the Men who Stole the World

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004NBZG0G/ref=oh_d__o02_details_o02__i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

A totally terrifying book that IMHO fills in some of the gaps in
Piketty's

Hank Roberts said...

Apropos misdirected outrage, from Peter Watts on Friday:

----quote follows ----
Some of the comments over on Schneier’s blog quite rightly splutter and roll their eyes at some of those things, even while others have pointed out that there was some garblage in the translation. Which means, I suppose, that I really should get around to posting a transcript of my talk sooner rather than later.

Not today, though. Today, let me just address a couple of the more obvious misconceptions. Because I really need to get a run in before it starts raining again.

First, while some have pointed to my own post as a better record of the event, that was really just my impressions of what it was like to deliver the talk; it didn’t really address the content.....
[mentions what's online]
... It doesn’t always get the details right, though.

Sometimes a word or two makes all the difference. I remark that the link between surveillance and fear is “a lot deeper than the average post-privacy advocate is willing to admit”; the reporter doesn’t hear “post”, which completely changes the target group I’m talking about. I talk about stalking behavior in the biological sense (as opposed to the sexual-harassment one), and “biological” turns into “illogical” in the story. ....
... So, to any skeptics who might have found their way here from Schneier’s blog: I feel your pain. Just be aware that, while I’m as guilty of hand-waving and just-so stories as anyone else in pursuit of an interesting presentation, I didn’t hand-wave in quite the way it has been reported.

Stay tuned.
---- end quote----

David Brin said...

My radicalism is not to confiscate wealth but to ensure it is totally transparent and thus must at least ostensibly play fair. All rationalizations against this are mealy mouth and lawyerly, without the slightest actual fealty to market economics.

Mark, I like most things Oregonian. I rather much dislike your mail voting system which is inherently impossible to hand audit in ways that you or I could figure how to cheat around.

Alex Tolley said...

@Duncan - that was what I was doing in Bermuda - but not, I hope, with illegal money.

I'm aware that there is a lot of wealth hidden in tax havens (e.g. http://www.bbc.com/news/business-18944097) by some estimates north of $21tn - more than the annual US GDP of $17tn.

@David - if Piketty is correct and we are back in r>g territory, wealth will need to be redistributed. Your method of forcing its use is innovative, but I do not think it will stem the wealth concentration.

Theoretically the US is cracking down on tax havens to make it difficult to keep US money there, but I suspect there are plenty of ways to launder it to keep it invisible.

Randy Winn said...

Our mail in ballots in Washington preserve anonymity via a two envelope system. Only the outer envelope has personal identifying data. The inner envelope preserves the privacy of the ballot itself. Clerks confirm the identity of the voter on the outer envelope before opening the inner one. Once your ballot is de - linked from the outer envelope it would not be possible to reverse your vote should you prove ineligible to cast it, but disqualification are supposed to be caught when the ballot package is produced. No system is perfect but if you want anonymous voting, at some point you lose some part of your audit capability.

Duncan Cairncross said...

David said
"My radicalism is not to confiscate wealth but to ensure it is totally transparent"

You will find Piketty in 100% agreement there
One of the main reasons he wants to tax wealth is to obtain accurate information about where it is,
So he proposes starting with a very very low tax rate to discover what is actually going on

From my point of view "He thinks like a Quality Manager" (A compliment)
(Step 1 - find out what is actually going on!)

Robert said...

The problem is that some people have a knee-jerk need to not pay taxes at all. You could tax everyone on a flat 1% tax, and they'd refuse to pay their taxes and hide as much of their money as they could. So an ultra-low tax rate ultimately only benefits those people who want to destroy government infrastructure so that the oligarchy can gain control - because let's face it, a 1% tax rate or a 10% tax rate would not pay for our military, our government agencies, or pretty much anything but politicians' salaries.

And what's the point of paying politicians if government doesn't do anything? (And yes, even the do-nothing government currently in place is doing something, compared to what they'd do if they had no money and no ability to borrow.)

Rob H.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Robert
The very low tax rate was on "wealth" not income and initially was in addition to income taxes,

To combine Dr Brin and Picketty's ideas - (which is what happened after the French Revolution) - paying the taxes recognized your right of ownership
If you don't pay taxes on your Asset - then you don't own it
and (presumably) somebody else could pay taxes on it and claim it as his

Should discourage tax evasion!

Alex Tolley said...

paying the taxes recognized your right of ownership
If you don't pay taxes on your Asset - then you don't own it


A nice sound bite, but it requires global national and banking compliance. The US is trying the tack of making tax havens for US assets more transparent by strong arming them. However, tax havens do understand how to obfuscate ownership. Some nations will simply ignore US demands and banks will settle there. As US global economic power declines relative to other nations, notably China and India, this will become easier as US financial markets become less important.

I think the "transparency" that is sought does not have the same drivers as surveillance. The rise of tax havens is actually evidence that the "inevitable" drivers are tax avoidance/evasion. There is too much politically connected wealth to seriously break that trend.

Robert said...

@Duncan - What I'm saying is ANY form of taxation, no matter what its form, will result in people taking measures to avoid the taxation out of a psychological desire to "screw the Man" and not pay taxes. Some would even be willing to make less money just so they could avoid paying taxes. I mean, look at lobbyists - how much money goes into lobbying to alter tax laws to gain a small advantage? Ultimately it often is more than the amount they'd have paid in taxes.

Even if you forced ownership transparency laws through, the lobbyists and billionaires would create loopholes in the laws so they could shield who owns what and then work to avoid paying taxes on it. It could cost them billions of dollars more to do this and they would still do this because of this belief they are "better" than the common people and shouldn't pay taxes.

Heck, look at the outcry by religious groups when people start saying "churches should pay taxes." It's all part of this same desire to screw the system.

Or my cynicism might be in fool bloom before my second cup of coffee in the morning. ^^;;

Rob H.

locumranch said...

Our host fails to realize that 'free' and 'fair' are non-equivalent terms, the former (free) implying the absence of restriction while the latter (fair) implies the presence of restriction, making it a given that what is 'free' is not 'fair' & what is 'fair' is almost never free, meaning that the Free Market is not 'fair' and informational fairness (transparency) is not free.

Our so-called 'Free Market' is based on secrets, also know as 'proprietary information', the keeping of which is never 'fair' unless we all insist on & are allowed to keep such secrets, and transparency (being antithetical to the keeping of secrets) requires the presence of increasingly oppressive & onerous regulation to ensure compliance, leaving us with a culture designed to ‘gamed’ or screwed.

Therein lies the beauty of our 'Free Market’ Economy. It was designed by & for a culture of cheats, liars & poker players, being dependent largely on secrecy and dishonesty rather than the Better (as in 'transparent') Angels of our nature because such angels have always been in short supply, at least according to Adam Smith.


Best.

locumranch said...

p.s.

David admits as much, claiming that the EPA cannot function without secrecy, a claim oft-repeated in prior posts about the NSA & other government agencies requiring secrecy, privacy & 'non-transparency' to ensure national security, meaning that honesty & transparency may not be the best policy in this world of ours.

:p

David Brin said...

There are times when locum approaches cogency… except when he starts attributing beliefs or positions to me… at which time he almost always concocts stuff out of thin air. The fellow really needs to learn to separate straw from flesh.

Duncan Cairncross said...

"paying the taxes recognized your right of ownership
If you don't pay taxes on your Asset - then you don't own it

A nice sound bite, but it requires global national and banking compliance"

But does it?

If you have an asset in the USA you should pay taxes on that asset to the USA
Which confirms your "ownership" of that asset
Why does that require "global national and banking compliance"??

If other countries don't do that - so what?

Almost all assets are at the core some form of actual physical property

I wonder what percentage is not physical? (like IP)

On a slightly separate issue
The problem with multiple levels of ownership providing a smoke screen to hide actual ownership

Why not tax each level?
So if you use four levels you have to pay taxes four times?

You could do it the way VAT and GST is calculated so that a middleman pays VAT then claims it back
(he only pays net VAT on the "value added")

So if you have an asset you must pay tax on it but you can claim back tax already paid on it

Or just tax each owner - would discourage multiple ownership layers

David Brin said...

Slight complication… nested shell corporations. What I would include in the law/treaty is that no share of ownership in an asset - or share of stock - may be more than three layers away from real human beings.

There would be a ten year transition period in which the number of shell layers would contract from current numbers which can go as high as twenty or more. (That is how several tankers that ran aground and fouled coasts were never attributed to owners who could be held liable!) But at the end of a decade, that's it. Any shares not assigned to real people must convert to bonds -- or at best non-voting shares.

(Though I prefer "declare it or it's simply abandoned property.)

This is not one scintilla socialist. It is as capitalist as it gets.

Robert said...

BTW, here's a TED lecture on the current corruption of the U.S. government and how we can reform it. Though mind you, I've not seen HOW this is doable, seeing that "money is speech" so efforts to expand the "funder base" of politicians will inevitably fail due to the Supreme Court ruling in Citizen's United.

Rob H.

Anonymous said...

http://www.amazon.com/The-Storm-Gathering-American-Revolution/dp/027100858X

Alex Tolley said...

@Duncan
If you have an asset in the USA you should pay taxes on that asset to the USA
Which confirms your "ownership" of that asset
Why does that require "global national and banking compliance"??


You need global regulations because:

1. Britain, for example, allows you to hold assets earned outside the country as tax exempt. If you live outside the country for more than six months, you are tax exempt. Therefore, a non-US citizen would not be subject to US taxation (you can do this today by collecting tax receipts and requesting repayment at customs). Why should Britain change its tax laws? Assuming the US could just tax at will would violate tax treaties and be seen as bullying at best.

2. You can simply avoid being subject to the US tax laws by renouncing US citizenship. This is what Templeton did.

Once you do that you can not be touched by US IRS. Countries have their own tax laws, so you can simply reside in a jurisdiction of your choice.

But let us suppose that the US did tax assets connected to the US in some way. What might be the result? A sudden dearth of net foreign investment. Oops.

So the only people you can hit would be US citizens - who might then simply renounce citizenship if they felt that the tax bite was not worth the residency value. If the tumbrels really start rolling, that might be a good idea, no?

It is purely the size of the US economy and its safe securities markets that makes a tax the wealth proposition any way viable. This will be eclipsed in time. BTW, it isn't as if this hasn't been tried before. Britain tried a wealth tax and it failed miserably.

I'm not saying that we shouldn't tax wealth, because we really need to. However the nostrums presented will unlikely work, given historic experience.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Alex

The idea that something physically present in a country cannot be taxed because the owner is not a citizen or not resident is totally insane!

And it certainly does NOT apply to income - if you have a plant or whatever in the USA or the UK it has to pay taxes there

Why should a wealth tax be anything different?

Alex Tolley said...

@Duncan
OK, so let's look at asset classes.
Are bonds/treasuries associated with physical assets? Maybe. Muni bonds are similar, but income is untaxed and it makes no sense to tax that principal too.
Commodities? They can be stored anywahere, so that doesn't work.
Equities? Some of the underlying asset (book value of hard assets) will be in the US, the rest outside. But should the capital be taxed, this will result in disinvestment until the income returns compensate.
That just leaves a residual - property, like your aforementioned Duke's ownership of chunks of London. But if property becomes a wealth target for taxes, there are still ways around it using proxies who can offset the taxes against losses to guard against taxing the ultimate "owner".
But let's say that you aren't that clever, and you decide to own property in your own name, readily identifiable to the IRS, and you are a US citizen. What do you do? Well you own income producing properties and raise the rents to offset the tax bit, thus shifting the burden. As all property will be under the same wealth tax regime, this means there is no competitive advantage without tax avoidance and so the owners just play the original rentier role with impunity.

I think the onus on DB is to show how his scheme will work despite known dodges, not for me and others to have to explain why it really won't except under certain conditions. There is a reason why the rentier model and r>g has been so stable over history. Major disruptions have happened to individuals as properties have been confiscated and reallocate by various means, and taxation AFAIK, hasn't been one of those disruptions.

Alex Tolley said...

Just to follow up. The aim of the wealthy is to ensure that r remains high. There are legions of people dedicated to servicing that need. As long as r>g, or more concretely, the return on capital exceed those of labor, the wealth will accumulate in the hands of the few.

If the aim is just to claw back some of that wealth and redistribute it, then fine. Playing with the tax code may get you a little, but probably not much.

If the aim is to ensure democracy in the West, and particularly the USA, then the goal is to sterilize the use of that wealth in politics.
(Support Lessig's plan. https://mayday.us/ )

If the goal is to recreate a wealthier, more in control, middle class, then you need to change the economic system, as well as sterilize the effects of wealth that opposes this.

Taxing wealth as a goal may even be considered "steering our outrage in the wrong direction". The irony. :)

Hank Roberts said...

> real human beings.

I think you'll find that is not a classification the system will allow. Corporations are people and have the same rights. If you were to change the law back to make meat people different, the corporations would scream bloody murder.

My guess is the behind-the-scenes alien robots have already invested significantly and expect to have a controlling ownership share in the planet soon.

Hank Roberts said...

p.s.:
http://www.salon.com/2014/06/01/help_us_thomas_piketty_the_1s_sick_and_twisted_new_scheme/

"David Graeber is an American anthropologist who teaches at the London School of Economics. He is the author of the classic “Debt: The First Five Thousand Years” and played an important role in the launching of Occupy Wall Street. Last year, he wrote a much-discussed essay asking what happened to society’s old promise of more leisure time for workers; for the tasks that have come to occupy the hours that were once promised to be ours, Graeber invented the delicate and slightly obscure label, “bullshit jobs.”

I wanted to know exactly what he meant by that, and so we discussed the matter over email. The following conversation has been lightly edited...."

Jonathan S. said...

As a total aside, I love today's XKCD strip, and its addressing of the Fermi Paradox.

http://xkcd.com/1377/

Alex Tolley said...

@Jonathan S. And that is pretty much the reasoning behind those who are opposed to METI. And who knows, they may be right.

sociotard said...

Any comment on Bowe Bergdahl, Dr. Brin? I think about how I'd feel if Bush II had exchanged five high profile Taliban leaders in exchange for one deserter, and I get angry. This is one where I would at least not get angry with congress for initiating impeachment proceedings.

David Brin said...

Bergdahl? Feh. It is a case of taking steps in our own interest, which is putting the messes behind us. Now there are no more POWs and Guantanamo is closer to shutting down.

Duncan Cairncross said...

Hi Sociotard
I think about how I'd feel if Bush II had exchanged five high profile Taliban leaders in exchange for one deserter,

Now lets break this down,
Five members of a Government that you didn't like
Not terrorists - members of the recognized government of Afghanistan
Who have been held in custody for 10+ years

And then -"A Deserter"
No
A member of the US Army - at MOST somebody who was AWOL,
And even that is not clear - was he AWOL before he was grabbed?
Soldiers are not prisoners - they are allowed to come and go

Does the "Leave Nobody Behind" only apply to Officers?
Or only to soldiers with perfect records?

Robert said...

Assuming he actually deserted. While he might have had sentiments that were anti-American, that doesn't preclude the possibility he was captured while on duty. The real question is this: did he cooperate with the Taliban while a captive? It may be that after the uproar subsides, he'll be courtmartialed and tossed in a cell next to Manning.

Rob H.

Robert said...

Sociotard's reaction though is rather interesting. I can see the Republican reaction because they hate anything Obama does - he could cut taxes and they'd complain he was increasing the national debt (in fact, he DID and they DID). But the liberal outrage... that is more interesting.

I know some liberals feel betrayed by Obama because he's not been tossing bankers in jail and he didn't just immediately pull all our troops out of Afghanistan like he did in Iraq (which was initiated by Bush, mind you). So is this disdain for recovering an American soldier from the Taliban related to the fact we're still in Afghanistan? Or a byproduct of Obama's "failings" as a liberal?

I suspect I'll be seeing political science articles on this in a few months! ^^

Rob H.

Jonathan S. said...

Personally, I agree with former Gen. McChrystal (which is not a phrase you'll see me type very often). The facts that matter are that there was an American soldier being held captive. What kind of soldier he was doesn't matter. And we don't leave our men behind. Ever.

As for "high-ranking Taliban" - who says? Men who've been held in Guantanamo so long they barely remember their own names? Congresscritters who are determined to paint everything Obama does, from high international matters to his choice of ties, as a betrayal of the country? (I don;t think the GOP has ever gotten over Nixon's disgrace - especially when they finally got their chance to impeach a Democrat, Clinton, and he stayed in office anyway.)

The story initially told of Bergdahl's capture paints a tale not of a deserter, but merely an inept soldier who failed to keep up with his unit on patrol. Given that enlistment standards for the Army were severely relaxed during the Bush administration, the presence of an inept soldier should come as no surprise. (And after hearing my roommate tell of some of the guys he supervised as a sergeant in Iraq, it's certainly an easy narrative to believe.)

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

Any comment on Bowe Bergdahl, Dr. Brin? I think about how I'd feel if Bush II had exchanged five high profile Taliban leaders in exchange for one deserter, and I get angry. This is one where I would at least not get angry with congress for initiating impeachment proceedings


Are you freakin' kidding me?

Bush would be hailed as a hero by Republicans if he arranged the homecoming of a US soldier in enemy custody.

And on the other side, if Bergdahl had died in enemy hands, the same Republicans calling for Obama's head now would have been castigating him for letting that happen.

My response to the Republicans over the endless stream of scandals is from "Life of Brian", "There's no pleasing some people." Which is literally true. Republicans will demonize President Obama no matter which side of a choice he comes down on. Remember John McCain being all hot to go into Libya until President Obama actually did so, and then suddenly that was a bad thing? "We've always been at war with Eastasia".

So no, this doesn't rise to the level of an impeachable offense. It doesn't even rise to the level of the other phoney Republican scandals of the week. The only way for President Obama to make any decisions at all is to not try to take Republican reaction into account at all. For any readers of the "Cerebus" comic book, this means "Doing what you were going to do anyway, no matter what Lord Julius does."

Duncan Cairncross said...

"The real question is this: did he cooperate with the Taliban while a captive?"

Are you kidding me - five years as a captive and he is expected not to have cooperated?

Are all US servicemen supermen??

LarryHart said...

sociotard:

I think about how I'd feel if Bush II had exchanged five high profile Taliban leaders in exchange for one deserter, and I get angry.


You'd get angry if a deserter exchaned prisoners for another deserter?

Alfred Differ said...

A prisoner exchange is actually a good sign. It is what rational people do when the conflict between them winds down. Our previous propaganda paints the Taliban as terrorists, but this signals that they can behave like rational leaders. Which one is true? Probably both and a lot depends on who you like the most.

David Brin said...

onward

Faheem Zia said...

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