Yglesias tells the truth on taxes
June 5, 2015, 5:56 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Yglesias writes in favor of confiscatory taxation at the high end. Apparently, he has figured out that “it’s time”.

Please note he explicitly doesn’t want to do it to generate revenue for the government; indeed he doesn’t actually think the taxation would raise (much) revenue. This is refreshing and consistent, because logically, lefties really shouldn’t want to collect taxes.

Instead, he just wants to do it to make wealthy people not be so wealthy. He wants to make wealthy people not be so wealthy because he and others are jealous of wealthy people and it makes them not like life knowing that other people are so wealthy.

Well, granted, that’s not precisely how he phrases it. Instead, he says things like “inequality can have a cancerous effect on our democracy” and “the growing concentration of wealth an increasing subject of public concern” and that there’s a “doom loop of oligarachy”. But those phrases don’t really mean anything tangible (try to parse them for objective content, I dare you!). At least not over and above the basic point that he and others are jealous of wealthy people. In other words, those phrases in quotes are all just gussied-up ways to voice envy, to sanctify and enshrine envy as a respectable basis for policy.

So, that’s the entirety of the argument: let’s institute confiscatory taxation, not to raise revenue, but because Matthew Yglesias and others are jealous of wealthy (-ier) people, and want the government to make them not be so wealthy.

This is one of the most honest lefty pieces on taxation that I have ever read. After all, it’s rare to see one come out and state their true evergreen motivation so plainly.

UPDATE (6/8): Similar/great minds

Food Nazis
June 5, 2015, 12:34 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Jason Kottke links approvingly to this advice for ‘how to get your kids to eat everything’.

You may wonder how we get our kids to eat kale and clams, and here is the answer: we make them (we’re warm but firm), and we don’t offer choices.

Left unexplained: why on earth one would want to ‘make’ their kids ‘eat everything’. Why ‘kale’ or ‘clams’ in particular (or anything else; don’t get me wrong, I’m not picking on those examples, which are too-easy targets) is so important for a kid to be eating at a time of his/her parent’s choosing. What is wrong with offering kids choices they might actually like (and relatedly, listening to them and paying attention to what they might like). And just in general, why you’d want to teach your kids that they do not have agency over what goes into their own mouths.

But yeah, I suppose if you’ve already decided you want to ‘get your kids to eat everything’, that’s a way. Or at least, I’m taking her word for it.

Elon Musk is the highest-paid government employee
June 1, 2015, 10:14 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Elon Musk’s secret? Taxpayer money, L.A. Times says

Musk’s companies — Tesla Motors Inc. TSLA, -0.54% SolarCity Corp. SCTY, +0.93% and privately held Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX — “together have benefited from an estimated $4.9 billion in government support…”

Hey entrepreneurs and folks who run small businesses, d’ya think you could make your business, whatever it is & however it’s doing, look viable if it had a $4.9 billion backstop?

Tesla is a government program. It’s effectively a department of the government, whether or not this is how it is treated for accounting purposes. When you see some douchebag driving a Tesla you are seeing a car you helped that buy for that douchebag.

The difference between Tesla and other government programs is that taxpayers have (directly and indirectly) compensated the guy in charge of Tesla, unlike whoever runs (say) the Post Office, or for that matter some no-name Deputy Assistant Secretary of Whatever, to the tune of becoming a billionaire. Fannie & Freddie CEOs who only get tens of millions must be green with envy.

This overall policy, by the way, was (like the support for Fannie & Freddie) largely put in place, and to great applause, by people who claim to be in favor of “the 99%” and against “the 1%”.

Side note: This might be a helpful data point for the Lion of the Blogosphere, who suggested that the government ‘could even’ make lending decisions, as part of a remedy for the huge (in Lion-ville) problem of people who get rich only via ‘value transference’.

You know, totally unlike Elon Musk. Not like him at all. He’s a genius wunderkind!

UPDATE: Musk responds to the LA Times piece.

Musk said that his company is not “getting some huge check.” Musk noted, as the Times reported, that the company will receive the incentives over many years as it meets certain milestones. He did not dispute the figures in the story.

Oh! They’re not getting ‘some huge check’, just yearly checks. Okay then. Our bad.

“If you add up all the subsidies that SolarCity and Tesla get, it is 1/1000 of what the oil and gas industry get in a single year.”

Wow. Two (2) companies, run by one (1) multibillionaire, get as much subsidy as ‘the oil and gas industry’. Is this really something Elon Musk wants to have said?

Conceding that Tesla’s current Model S is “a relatively expensive car,” Musk said he plans to come out with a high-volume, “sort of more affordable car in approximately 2017.”

I for one know I’m looking forward to the increased-volume ‘sort of more affordable’ model of Tesla that we are all going to be chipping in to buy for that small fraction of special busybodies who know how to take advantage of tax breaks and bullshit like that. Oh wait, I already have, upfront.

UPDATE 2: Streetwise Prof on Musk. Doesn’t seem that impressed with him.

UPDATE 3: A contra view. Saying first of all that loans and whatnot aren’t the same as dollar-for-dollar funding – ok, sure, but they’re not nothing (again, would a $500mm loan help your biz?). An analogy to the arguments people often make about Wall Street banks having an implicit subsidy comes to mind, or should I ignore those too. Second point made is that the $500mm loan for the Fremont CA factory was paid back. Great, what interest rate? Risk-adjusted? I mean granted that’s a better result than the Solyndra loan but still, was that the best use of those public monies and if so why? (Couldn’t/shouldn’t the government have just parked $500mm in the S&P 500? Why/why not?) Without explaining further, this is a vacuous point. Third point is that the government has gotten a good ‘return’, where ‘return’ seems to be defined not in the usual (financial) sense but in the sense of dollars per job-created-at-Tesla. Why are jobs-created-at-Tesla so important and special? Couldn’t we have ‘created’ those jobs anywhere with that same money? Or for that matter, compared to what – what if it’d not been spent at all? The big conclusion is that it’s neat that this public backstop and tax-break bonanza has led to Musk creating ‘$37 billion in market value’. Yes, good for him, and the other equity holders, that he/they were able to leverage public monies into big profits for him/them. That’s kinda the point. Like I said, he is the highest-paid government employee.

Geo-engineering just won’t work, that’s why we need to stick with geo-engineering
June 1, 2015, 3:01 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

Let’s just re-engineer the climate. Well, maybe not. Geo-engineering isn’t the easy and painless fix for climate change that many proponents say it is.

‘Easy’? ‘Painless’? ‘Fix’? Well heck. Maybe not. I don’t think I’ve ever thought any of these things about geo-engineering. I haven’t seen anyone make such claims either.

Now, in fairness, this piece makes some fair points against geo-engineering. There’s only one flaw to the argument, which I’m afraid is fatal, and I’ve stated it many times: using social and regulatory tools to re-arrange the human economic system in the hopes that it will produce less CO2 on net, because human-produced CO2 is thought to strongly affect the earth’s (‘geo’?) climate and we want to create, i.e. ‘engineer’, a different one, is a method of geo-engineering too. Sorry but it just is. So if you find the argument presented in the piece convincing, you have to reject its conclusion. SORRY

UPDATE: James Kwak likes the piece.

Mark Buchanan — who is actually a physicist, after all — makes a compelling argument against…

He’s actually a physicist, ‘after all’. So that gives his opinion automatic credence. (Nevermind that the type of physicist, from what I can see – which is not easy to discover, because he doesn’t advertise it prominently among all his pop-science writing – has absolutely nothing to do with climate science.) Here’s a good time to remind you of how counterfeit consensus works.

The rest of Kwak’s post amounts to saying that ‘geoengineering’ has too much risk and we can’t tolerate that in a proposed solution to a potential ‘widespread natural and societal devastation’.

Even if we stipulate that geo-engineering has a, say, 90 percent chance of solving all the significant problems of climate change — an estimate that is almost certainly way too high — who wants to take that risk?

Well, certainly not me, Professor Doctors Of Climate-Modelling James Kwak and Mark Buchanan! I don’t want to take that risk at all. So, you’ve convinced me, geoengineering is a bad idea.

Whether it’s done via space mirrors or via nudge-taxation. Too much risk. Count me out!

Lefties think ‘mass transit’ is a synonym for ‘black people’, therefore you (not they) are racist
May 31, 2015, 9:42 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Bloomberg View columnist and Econ Professor Noah Smith just wanted to say that if you oppose ‘infrastructure’ (what kind of ‘infrastructure’? Unspecified/doesn’t matter; let’s just call it TBA Infrastructure), it’s because you’re racist against black people.

He suspects. QED.

Like, just for example, let’s take the projected-to-cost-tens-of-billions bullet-train project in California. One presumes that lefties are all in favor while opposition comes largely from conservatives. This much we know. Smith’s point is this: if you oppose that, it’s NOT because you believe, say, that this expenditure of public monies will be wasted, skimmed, grafted, overrun, and deliver the service in question in a very inefficient and time-consuming way – thereby making you and your family worse off than they otherwise would’ve been.


It’s because you ‘fear riding on the same train as black people’.

In other words, in the Smithian analysis, the conservative mind projects the following chain of events:

  1. If we borrow/tax the money to build a bullet-train, and
  2. It is built at a very high cost over many years, then
  3. ????????????????????????????, so therefore
  4. I’ll have to ride on the same train as black people!

Admittedly I don’t really know how #3 is supposed to be filled in there. First, I don’t know how the building of a fancy high-cost bullet train would, or even could, ever mean us racist conservatives would be forced or compelled to ride on said train, whether it’s stuffed to the brims with black people or not. Second, I don’t know what any of this has to do with ‘black people’ in the first place. (Are black people known for disproportionately riding bullet-trains?) No, I don’t understand those things at all.

BUT NOAH SMITH DOES. That’s why he’s a Smart Person who was hired by Bloomberg View for his Smart commentary involving saying disagreement with him (Noah Smith) about stuff stems from anti-black racism, while I’m not.

The really fascinating implication of this supposed linkage, in the lefty imagination, between Infrastructure/Mass Transit and black people is that we now get to imagine Professor Noah Smith paying that extra $150 for the Acela ticket to save like 45 minutes on the New York-to-DC trip, and patting himself on the back for it because of how it proves that he loves black people.

Explaining important subjects to your kids
May 30, 2015, 11:04 am
Filed under: Uncategorized


Parent: “See, it could blow up a whole planet. So that’s why it was so important to destroy it. And he did it!”

Kid: “Wow neat!”


Parent: “Well yes, he’s his father, but he’s still a bad-guy. He was probably good once but made a bad choice. It just shows how important it is not to go to the dark side.”

Kid: “Hmm, okay I guess. But he should still be stopped right?”

Parent: “Right. But it’s more complicated than we thought.”

Kid: (pensive)


Parent: “So it was a kind of paradox: if his parents never fell in love in the first place, he couldn’t exist.”

Kid (rolls eyes): “Yeah, I got that.”


Parent: “Well, it’s a legendary cup that according to some stories gives eternal life.”

Kid: “But does that mean he’s immortal now?”

Parent: “Probably not, it probably just healed him. We don’t really know. That’s not really the main point of the story though, that’s just the cinematic conceit, the main point is a reconciliation between father and…”

Kid: “Can I go play outside now?”


Parent: “No, that couldn’t really happen, we don’t have the technology. Probably. But the special-effects were really great right? They really looked like dinosaurs to me.”

Kid: (playing console game)


Kid: (playing with a Tamagotchi)


Kid: (playing iPod Touch game)


Kid: (playing iPad game)


Parent: “Oh him? Well, that was Thanos. Don’t you remember? Maybe because he had a different skin color when we first saw a teaser of him, but yes, it’s supposed to be the same guy. Who is he? A very powerful alien, and he’s looking for all the Infinity Stones so he can…. What? Sure you do, you’ve seen them. Remember the Orb that Star-Lord kept trying to get? That’s one of them. Another was the Ether that swirled around that astronomer lady in Thor 2. No, I know that wasn’t a ‘stone’ per se, you’re right, and besides in the comics they’re all called ‘gems’, but that’s not the point here… Anyway, turns out Loki’s sceptre, that’s why it was so powerful, because it had one inside too, the Mind Stone I think, and Thanos wants them all, but it’s in Vision now. Well that’s what he’s called in the comics so I’m pretty sure that’s right. Ok, so, that glove Thanos picked up is called the ‘Infinity Gauntlet’. Now at this point you’re probably confused because it seemed like Thor’s dad had one too – what, you don’t remember that? well, he did – but online the theory is that, that’s a different one. Anyhow, that line is acknowledging that so far Thanos has been trying to use all sorts of proxies – Loki, Ronan, the Dark Elves – but the Avengers keep foiling his plans, so he’s finally ready to do it himself, which is setting us up for the Infinity Wars. Now, we’re not yet sure where the Inhumans fit in all that, although it turns out Quicksilver and the Scarlet Witch – let’s leave aside the issue of whether it’s canon to call them that here – were products of Hydra’s efforts to…. Wait, you don’t know about the Inhumans? Well true I guess it’s more clear if you’re watching Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., which actually played an important role in setting up this movie. But they were created by the Kree long ago. The Kree! The blue aliens! Ok, right. So the Inhumans, which I think are gonna get their own standalone, although I’m not sure if it’ll have the Skye/Daisy Johnson group –  turn out to be pretty powerful. For example Raina had a precognition of metal-men, so technically, she knew the whole Ultron thing was going to happen before anyone in this movie, isn’t that cool? The other key part you probably missed is, that helicarrier that they used to save the people of Sokovia? Remember how dramatic it was when it suddenly showed up, because we had thought S.H.I.E.L.D. was gutted after the events of Captain America 2? Like ‘whoa where did they get that!’ you were thinking. You weren’t? Well you should’ve, cuz that was cool! So anyway there’s a full explanation for that, when we thought he was flying around recruiting it turns out Coulson was having it secretly built this whole time with the Patton Oswalts, under guidance of Nick Fury as part of the Theta Protocol. NICK FURY! COME ON! The guy in the barn with the eyepatch! The director of S.H.I.E.L.D. who had to go into hiding! What do you mean ‘what’s a helicarrier’?? Did you even watch this movie???”

No question about it, parenting has gotten a whole lot more difficult in just one short generation.

When happy isn’t enough
May 29, 2015, 9:19 pm
Filed under: Uncategorized

This (via @mattyglesias) is a very cool, well-done website illustrating a simple toy model from the ’70s showing how slight bias can lead to segregation. It’s fun to play with, responsive, and the argument is extremely well-presented. I kind of love it.

Okay, that out of the way, let me get to the critique you knew was coming!

At the very top, it describes itself like this:

This is a story of how harmless choices can make a harmful world.

The harmless choice is a slight preference, regarding where to live, as follows:

I wanna move if less than 1/3 of my neighbors are like me.

The ‘harmful world’ is… Wait, where’s the harmful part exactly?

The tools are designed to show you that this seemingly-innocuous individual-actor preference leads to a lot of ‘segregation’ on a macro scale: blue-squares mostly live near blue-squares, and yellow-triangles mostly live near yellow-triangles. In the long-term equilibrium, whatever SEGREGATION statistic they’re using climbs and climbs above 50%. And so, uh, I guess that’s the ‘harmful’ part?

But why? By the parameters of the model setup, literally everyone is perfectly content in that equilibrium. So there’s no actual ‘harm’ to point to. Yeah, sure, there are visibly-disjoint yellow-triangle neighborhoods and blue-square neighborhoods. But so the hell what?

Actually, if you step back there is one actor who is unhappy in the equilibrium: the website author. In a more-complete picture of this simulation, she would be represented somewhere onscreen with a frowny-face. The cartoon would show those nearly-400 squares and triangles all perfectly fine with their situation, but a frowny-faced judgmental progressive lady somewhere over on the side frowning at them all. “You’re segregated and that’s bad! You should literally all change your preferences and do a bunch of stuff till you’re not!”, she declares.

So yeah, I guess I can’t rightfully claim that everyone is content. It’s not enough that literally everyone else is satisfied. We gotta make the progressive happy.

Why does the progressive find the outcome so harmful? Objectively, the only tangible explanation can be aesthetic: even though everyone’s happy, the progressive doesn’t like the blocky outcome, aesthetically. The neighborhoods are too uniform; there should be a sprinkling of ‘diversity’ everywhere; that’s better. This is (can only be) an aesthetic judgment because there’s no actual substance to it (or, for that matter, arguing with it): it’s bad because they don’t like it because it’s bad, so they don’t like it. ‘Diversity’ is gooder because they like it because it’s good. Note, we can’t even say such ‘diversity’ is good because it maximizes some utility-whatever based on the actors preferring it, because after all, in this simulation, they don’t; the whole argument is that people in the simulation should artificially change their preferences to want it, just so that it becomes a more-likely outcome, regardless of whether people want it…

But none of that is what the authors say, what they say (implicitly) is that the segregated outcome is bad because it’s not ‘equal’.

Equality [sic] is an unstable equilibrium. The smallest of bias can push a whole society past the tipping point.

But what ‘equality’ are they talking about? We have apparently jumped from the (correct) observation that the equilibrium involves everyone living in identifiable neighborhoods with similar neighbors, to a supposed lack of ‘equality’. That’s a logical leap that is unearned. And again, it violates the parameters of the very model being used. As far as I can see, under this setup, once everyone is happy/content, everything is pretty well ‘equal’. The model doesn’t really admit or allow for dimensions along which something is ‘unequal’. (If it did, I’d warrant that it wouldn’t show the straightforward result they want – nor would their preferred remedy be the necessary/only one.) Just look: everyone’s got their square. The squares are all indistinguishable (apart from neighbors). Everyone displays the same behaviors. And, again, they’re all content. Equal!

I don’t mean to be so harsh, really. The model does illustrate what it’s trying to illustrate. I get it. I don’t not get it or anything. And it’s a great site! I’m just saying that beyond finding this all interesting in a ‘huh, cool, interesting, yeah that makes sense’ kinda way, no one has any reason to really care about this unless they bring baggage to it, baggage which says: people must be mixed together in ways that please me.


Side note: interestingly, one way to get a truly desegregated outcome is to crank up the intolerance to a very high level. That way, at virtually every step, under most starting conditions, most people will be unhappy (too many of The Other are nearby), so they’ll jump/move randomly, and there’s not enough space for them all to start ghettos of their own, nor is there any mechanism for them to simultaneously form a ghetto, so they’ll mostly end up randomly jumping close to an Other, in the process making Others unhappy, who’ll have to jump next turn, etc., etc. Such a setup generates a nice entropic mixing that drives SEGREGATION down and down toward 0%, ushering in a perfect utopia in which the ‘harmful’ SEGREGATION is finally eliminated, at the low low cost of making almost everyone unhappy, almost all of the time.

But hey, it’s just a cute toy model, let’s not draw any conclusions from it or anything.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 483 other followers