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Campaigns Wikia

Here's a new wiki for political bloggers. Apparently BoingBoing has now blogged about it so it's of course flooded with technocrats. However, people seem pretty civil and it's an interesting experiment. I am not sure if it's going to go anywhere but it would be interesting to see what the impact of political discussion with a diverse group in a wiki format will be like. Read more »


Death of the Smoking Ban

Ok, I'm conceding.

I guess smoking bans are just another example of the phenomenon where governments do what the market is already starting to do and then take credit for it. If Northwest had already banned smoking on flights, it would not have been long before other airlines did the same. Yet government takes credit for no smoking on flights. Read more »


Revenge of the Smoking Ban

Ok, I'm about ready to concede this whole smoking ban debate, but I have one last example: airplanes. Airlines were certainly pretty uncompetitive at the time smoking was banned on all domestic flights, and there wasn't much room for a "niche" airline that didn't allow smoking, and not much chance at all of redoing the ventilation on an airplane so that the smoke was kept in one part of the cabin. This probably still wouldn't happen today. Read more »


There is Nothing Wrong with Consumption

Brandon came up with an interesting way to tax consumption, and someone commented about the FairTax. These are interesting proposals, but they naively assume that somehow we'll be better off with less consumption and that taxes somehow impact consumption. Read more »


Smoking Bans, The Return (one day later)

Update: Billy Beck thinks I'm an idiot punk. Oh well, I still like him. I'm getting the impression this is more of a smoker/non-smoker thing than a libertarian/non-libertarian thing, but that doesn't matter to anyone's argument because it would be an ad hominem fallacy. Read more »


Holy Crap - A Telco Whose Prices *Include* Taxes!

I had been planning on switching my SunRocket service to a limited plan when my first year was up because the $16.67/month ($200/year) for the unlimited plan would get me 423 minutes on the limited plan, but then I realized that they were giving me a free 13th month for renewng, bringing me down to $15.40/month, and voice mail costs $3/mo extra on the limited plan bringing it to $12.95, so not that huge of an improvement. Now I just have to find a reason to make more long distance and international calls. Read more »


Smoking Bans Aren\'t *that* Un-Libertarian

Part 2, 3, and 4 of the evolution of my thinking on this topic. Read more »


Net Neutrality Supporters Are Kinda Sorta Right

In my opinion, AT&T is being pretty arrogant by treating their customers as "theirs." It's hard for me to imagine a company like SpeakEasy or InReach ever doing something like this. AOL and Earthlink probably have the clout to pull it off and have declined. Hopefully I won't get sued for posting this, but last I knew AOL and Hotmail peered directly and no money changed hands for the arrangement. AOL sees that their customers want to get to Hotmail, so they make it easy for them by having a fat pipe directly to Hotmail. Read more »


Ends Are Irrelevant

This is a rehash of a post I made on my personal blog (which is down right now and I haven't had time to figure out what's wrong) a couple years ago.

It's pretty hard to distinguish between the "visions" of Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and even anarchists, communists, and fascists. We all generally want everyone to be as happy as they can be. The problem is that it really doesn't matter what your goals are, what your "vision" is unless the path you propose has some likelihood of reaching your goal.

Take Senator Edwards's vision of a "Working Society." It sounds great, but it seems to me that the government has shown time and time again that it is completely incapable of administering any sort of "safety net." Try getting food stamps sometime. Sure, there are people who "really want to help," but many of the people who handle administration of these programs are jaded, self-important individuals who think everyone is trying to get a handout for nothing. Or any sort of welfare. Democrats and Republicans alike are big on welfare, but when the problem of abuse or people having an incentive not to get a job comes up, the solution they give is to slap a time limit on it. There is never any suggestion that maybe people who are stuck on welfare have some sort of issue that's preventing them from getting a job.

Government is this huge, heavily centralized behemoth. The only governments I can imagine having any luck at all administering any kind of welfare or "safety net" program is local governments, because they're right there on the front line. The incentives are still out of whack, but at least they possess the most local knowledge of anybody in government. Witness the day labor programs of some cities in California: no questions asked, the people who want day laborers come and register and show ID, pick up laborers, and drop them off and pay them later, with it all verified. Many of these laborers are here illegally, but these city governments realize it's not their job to police immigration, and their job is to keep people safe and to facilitate commerce. Read more »


Americans Are Smart

In Appreciation is Not Savings I talked about how "investment" in one's own abode is not really something one can retire on. Since posting that article, however, my thinking on this issue has gained some clarity, particularly with Dave's reminding me of the existence of things like reverse mortgages. Read more »


IVF and Identity Fraud

From SciScoop:

"Our overwhelming feeling is that there are insufficient measures to protect the unit, the patient's legal rights, and most importantly the future welfare and wellbeing of the unborn child.
"Fraudulent behaviour may be fuelled by financial pressures, as the cost of treatment is high and public resources are limited.


Someone give Edwards a dictionary

Via Daily Kos:

Ex-Sen. John Edwards (D-NC), evolving his pitch ahead of an anticipated presidential run in 2008, will propose to cut poverty by a third in 10 years, eliminate it in 30, and put in its place a "Working Society" where Americans are rewarded for hard work with a livable safety net of health and welfare incentives.


Pareto Efficiency and Justice

From the (at the time of this writing) Wikipedia article on Pareto efficiency:

Pareto efficiency does not necessarily require a just or equitable distribution of wealth. An economy in which the wealthy hold the vast majority of resources may be Pareto efficient.

Amartya Sen has elaborated the mathematical reasons for this criticism, pointing out that under relatively plausible starting conditions, systems of social choice will converge on Pareto efficient, but inequitable, distributions. A simple example is dividing a pie into three equal pieces, and then distributing them among three people. The most equitable distribution is each person getting one piece. However the solution of two people getting one and one half pieces, and the third getting none will be preferred 2-1 over the equitable distribution.

I added to the second paragraph:

example completely ignores the origin of the pie, so it breaks down to the criticism that Pareto efficiency does not really help in determining the optimal allocation of windfalls that nobody involved actually produced, such as a pie miraculously falling from the sky. This allocation is also only weakly Pareto optimal; strongly Pareto optimal solutions would likely involve everyone receiving a piece of the pie. Of course, it does not tell you how much pie to give each person.

Who knows how long this addition will last? The example given also ignores that the people involved may wish to engage in further transactions to adjust the pie allocation. Read more »


The real price of gasoline?

So here I am, reading a Discover article on the Thermal Conversion Process when I'm assaulted by the following number: Read more »


Kids?

It seems like this argument over kids between Patri and Jacqueline is more one of individual preference and life situation than anything else. It's hard for me to imagine someone who is stuck with/prefers the peripatetic lifestyle Jacqueline is currently living claiming to want/wanting kids. Patri, on the other hand, seems to have a fairly stable situation. Read more »