12/03/2010

12-03-10 - Politics Misc Rambling

One of the tackiest most retarded things you can do in an argument is to use perjorative descriptors of the other person's argument, such as "naive" or "indefensible" or "uninformed" or whatever. If you disagree with something, you should argue based on the merits of the issue. Perhaps, not surprisingly, this sort of lazy nastiness is rampant, even in such respected places as the WSJ, NYT, and me.

One of the great cons is that many reasonable people have fallen into this trap that anyone who doesn't go along with mainstream thinking is a crackpot. They are simply laughed at or made fun of instead of having their actual issue addressed. It's a way of shutting out any viewpoints outside of the mainstream norm, it happens all the time in the news media, and also in casual conversation.

I think the debate about "left" vs "right" is artificial and obscures the real issue. The real issue is corrupt and retarded government (and populace). Turning it into a theoretical ideological question about whether laissez faire or intervention is a better policy is a false elevation of the issue. It elevates it to a difficult to solve conceptual issue, in reality the problem is just massive corruption.

Let me clarify that because I believe it's an important point. Yes there are a lot of difficult theoretical issues in governance, questions of how much social net a government should provide, when and how much we should have protectionism, etc.. These are difficult and interesting questions, but they are *irrelevant*. Our actual government is a sewer of mismanagement, intentional lies and manipulation. We could massively improve things without ever touching those difficult theoretical issues.

It's sort of like optimization issues in video game code. Often I would find myself in meetings where people were debating whether they should expose a SIMD vector type throughout the code, or whether to use a kdtree or a bsp tree, or whatever. You know what? It's irrelevant. You're calling SuperSlowFunction() a thousand times per frame that you don't need to be. Go fix your huge obvious easy fuckup. By the time you've fixed all the easy obvious fuckups, the game works fine and its time to ship. The difficult theoretical issue that we disagreed on is like an improvement that's way off in tweaky epsilon space that we will never reach in the real world. It's like all the retarded fat people who want to talk about whether fructose or sucrose is more harmful to their glycogen/lipid pathway - umm, hello, put down the fucking beer and the bacon-stuffed twinkie, the scientific details are not why you are fat.

Probably the biggest example of this that's in my mind these days is the issue of capitalism and regulation and free markets in America. This is irrelevant; we don't have anything like free markets, and we never will. What we have are lots of government-enforced monopolies, illegal collusion between corporations, sweetheart deals between governments and certain corporations. See for example : cable, health care, defense, mining/oil, finance, etc.

Any reasonable liberal and any reaonsable free-marketer should be in agreement that these corrupt alliances between corporations and governments are bad for society. The intellectual debate is irrelevant, and it's only used as an excuse to convince us that these issues are "hard" or that "people don't agree on the solution".

There's an awful lot of insanity being bandied about these days. It's important to stop every once in a while and question basic things.

Why are taxes supposed to be bad for an economy? They don't actually take money out of circulation. (if you're using the taxes to pay off debts, then they do, so in fact all the "free market conservatives" who think belt-tightening and paying off our defecit will somehow help the economy are seriously smoking crack; paying off debt is certainly bad in the short term, and should generally be done only when necessary, but that's a complex issue so let's ignore it). Anyway, ignore the paying off debt issue and assume that taxes will just be used for government spending. So the money is getting circulated and put back into the economy. We know that circulating money in general is good for economies. So taking money that a rich person would've just put into the bank and instead taxing and spending it should in fact help growth. The only argument I can see against this logic is that government spending may not be as efficient as private spending; that is, the utility gain per dollar spent may be higher when people are allowed to keep their money and spend it themselves instead of having it taxed and spent by the government. (please don't tell me anything about government "beaurocracy" or "waste" ; the money doesn't disappear somehow, just because a tiny fraction of winds up in federal employee salaries doesn't prevent it from getting back into circulation). (more on this in a future post)

Why didn't places like Ireland just let its banks fail? They had masses of toxic debt, much more than the US as a percentage of GDP. The only convincing reason is that the international community would punish them by not investing in them in the future. Which seems to argue that capital depends on the massive implicit government underwriting of their risk!

During the internet boom, investment banks were taking completely bullshit dot-coms public, while their own analysts were offering "buy" recommendations on those stocks, and their own portfolio managers were putting those stocks in funds. The bubble and bust was not caused by a natural "market cycle", it was caused by massive corruption, which was possible due to deregulation, which let various aspects of financial services work together in collusion.

The US government is not allowed to negotiate fair prices for prescription drugs, unlike most other countries in the world. We're also one of very few countries where pharmaceutical companies are allowed to charge any amount they want for patented drugs (many don't allow patents on necessary drugs, or require some reasonable low price). And the medical research supporting drugs is funded by the pharma companies making those drugs.

The idea that we can have a successful "service" or "knowledge" based economy. That's never been done in the history of the world. We don't have it now, and the contention that we somehow have an edge on this is an egotistical delusion; we might right now, but it is rapidly declining.

The idea that inventions can save the economy. This is a particular canard which the NYT loves, the idea that we need some "breakthrough technology" to save our economy. It's sort of like planning to win the lottery to save your personal finances. Sure it's nice when you invent the steam engine, but it's not an issue in governance.

The idea that the "internet boom" was a great time for the economy. It was pretty good overall for tech companies (I've seen figures suggest that from pre-boom to post-crash the average tech stock went up around 10%, which is not bad), but during that time median income didn't budge, indicating that the net result was an increase in GDP accompanied with an increase in income inequality - eg. the rich got richer.

You might be impressed with our FBI's ability to infiltrate and stop domestic terrorists before they can strike. But in almost all (maybe all?) of those cases, those cells were actually created by the FBI, by planting instigators and providing the weapons and ideas for the strike.

Our government doesn't allow journalists independent access to Iraq or Afghanistan. We receive almost zero unfettered coverage of what's really going on in our war zones. Our government is right now spying on peaceful domestic protest groups. Our government is opaque in ways it never has been before.

The greatest American period of prosperity was from 1940-1970, during which we had a huge debt, high taxes, lots of government spending, and high personal savings rates. None of the things that are supposed to correlate with prosperity actually do.

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old rants