1127: "Congress"

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neremanth
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby neremanth » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:38 pm UTC

speising wrote:If that is true, effectively no new houses would be built.
Have you ever built a house? Do you know what that costs? Are prices for houses really much higher than costs?

No, I haven't. (My grandparents did but that was a long time before I was born and I have no idea how much it cost, even if that was relevant to the present). I have no idea how much a house costs. I believe that, in the UK at least, there is a substantial difference between how much a house costs to buy and how much an equivalent one would cost to build, but I have no idea whether that means that an already existing house costs 125% of its building costs or 500%. I'm just assuming that the difference between price to buy and cost to build is not so great that a house that costs £100,000 to buy would only cost £1000 to build. And thus that even if you were to build a house (and could magically get the land for free), the cost would be greater than someone just starting their first job could afford without a loan. (Hell, when I started my first proper, long term job in the UK, which wasn't even my first job ever, I could only just afford to feed myself and pay my first month's rent until I got my first month's pay, never mind having enough to build a house).

Do you know what it costs to build a house? I would be interested to get a better idea of that, instead of having to make assumptions.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Fire Brns » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:49 pm UTC

speising wrote:If that is true, effectively no new houses would be built.
Have you ever built a house? Do you know what that costs? Are prices for houses really much higher than costs?

70% of building costs are labor.

I calculated material wise a year ago, Renaissance era red brick and plaster housing costs about 2k per 10 sqft on non-irrigated pine forest. Modern concrete costs significantly less but you have to run water, electricity, and cable which I had a harder time getting accurate numbers on.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby speising » Fri Nov 09, 2012 8:59 pm UTC

I was actually refering to rmsgrey's post.

The point beeing, that prices can not fall a lot, no matter what economic model. I just don't think they really are that overpriced. If they were, why buy one instead of building one?

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby neremanth » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:03 pm UTC

speising wrote:I was actually refering to rmsgrey's post.

Ah ok, sorry.
The point beeing, that prices can not fall a lot, no matter what economic model. I just don't think they really are that overpriced. If they were, why buy one instead of building one?

Well for one, because it can be hard to find a piece of not-currently-built-on land that you can get planning permission for, or that's in roughly the location you want (e.g. city centre, or near a train station); and for another, I imagine building a house is quite a hassle, even if you employ someone to project-manage it, and it takes a while, so it might be worth paying more for the convenience of getting a house that's all finished. Finally I guess in some cultures (like the UK, for example, but not like Japan) older houses have antique value.
Fire Brns wrote:70% of building costs are labor.

I calculated material wise a year ago, Renaissance era red brick and plaster housing costs about 2k per 10 sqft on non-irrigated pine forest. Modern concrete costs significantly less but you have to run water, electricity, and cable which I had a harder time getting accurate numbers on.

So... quite expensive then?

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby mathmannix » Fri Nov 09, 2012 9:28 pm UTC

The 70% for labor quote makes sense (and squares with what I know from friends and relatives that have had houses built.) In general it's comparable to buying a pre-built house, but can be much more in practice because you're more likely to pick features that aren't standard (like enormous bathtubs and mahogany or marble surfaces) and because contractors are actually quite good at their jobs, part of which is getting good deals, but you might overpay if you arrange it all yourself. It's worth it if (A) you are really good at finding good deals (like free bathroom fixtures or whatever) and (B) you can get a lot of the labor done for free because you (or a nice friend or relative) know/s electrical work, plumbing, bricklaying, carpentry, etc.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:05 pm UTC

Wow, I didn't expect this to generate so much enthusiastic response. The criticism yes, that's usual, but I'm pleasantly surprised to have defenders for once :)

I agree with most of what JT and RMS have said. A couple clarifications on my own system:

- "Unowned property" wouldn't really make sense -- that would be something to which nobody has any rights, e.g. a plot of land nobody's allowed to cross, but about which nobody can rightly complain if someone else does cross it. Everything that is not private property is by default public property (and can only become private property by at least tacit consent of the public, e.g. I took possession of this empty isolated plot of land and built a house here and nobody objected for decades, so it's mine now). Everybody has equal rights in public property, not only liberty rights (to use it) but claim rights (to prevent abuse of it), and this is how environmental laws are justified (i.e. we can all rightly complain about someone vandalizing the natural world that we each have a claim to, polluting our air or water etc). There are also intermediate cases of lesser joint property (e.g. some siblings or spouses own a house together, some investors own a company together, etc), and some issues about "pseudo-public" and "pseudo-private" property, those being private properly temporarily and revokably treated as public property (e.g a public storefront or restaurant or an open-door club with no bouncer) and public property temporarily and revokably treated as private property (e.g. a camp site).

- Contracts wouldn't be so much banned as they would be simply not enforced. People are free to agree to anything they want, but the government won't send men with guns to make sure everyone lives up to their end; and they will send men with guns to make sure you don't sent your own men with guns, as part of protecting people's rights in themselves (e.g. rights against assault, battery, abduction, etc). So you can still have "gentleman's agreements" backed by no force of law, but those aren't reliable enough to build widespread economic instruments out of.

- Most small-item rent (e.g. iceskates, tools, etc) can be handled as a used-item market. The "renter" is just a source known to buy and sell used goods, buying at lower price than he sells of course, justifying that markup by the convenience he provides. You buy your skates, use them, and sell them back, at a loss proportional to how much the market values that convenience. If you're not happy with that, you can buy the skates and sell them later elsewhere, or even buy them elsewhere and sell them here if that's to your advantage somehow (if they're the kind of skates this "renter" deals in, at least; he's not obliged to buy skates he doesn't want back).

- You could still sell things on payment terms other than upon-receipt. This would allow people to buy expensive things on installment, so you could e.g. pay an ordinary monthly "rent" amount every month and slowly buy off a house, or a car, or whatever. The difference from rent is after a certain number of payments it's yours. The difference between this and loans at interest is that failure to pay is just like if my company buys a shipment of widgets on net 30 terms and then doesn't pay -- it's just theft. Combined with my views on what's appropriate punishment -- basically restitution, the guilty party has to take responsibility for fixing any damage done -- and this is tantamount to repossession with refund of the partial payments thus far, plus any provable incidental losses the seller incurred. But you can't just easily and thoughtlessly enter a situation where you will gradually start owing more and more money and sink deeper and deeper into a hole of interest by taking out an interest-bearing loan. (Incidentally, interest-free loans would still be perfectly permissible, if anyone cared to offer them; you're free to let someone else use your money if you like, same as any of your other property. Charitable loans like student grants could take this form).

On the subject of housing prices in particular, I agree with the assessment that prices would go down due to the lack of housing rental and the lack of mortgages caused by the absence of interest, since people with property they're not using (e.g. to live in) would have to either let it rot and go to waste, or sell it at a price and on terms more people can afford without a mortgage (e.g. something comparable to ordinary rent payments). And the demand for new housing would prop that up some too, and it might be possible that less housing would be built for a while because the housing that already exists is being shuffled under the new system and that is better fulfilling people's needs than new construction would. But eventually people would need new houses and have to pay whatever it costs to build them. It would just mean housing would be built as needed and not as a speculative investment by people hoping to rake in money for nothing by renting it out.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby neremanth » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:25 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:- Most small-item rent (e.g. iceskates, tools, etc) can be handled as a used-item market. The "renter" is just a source known to buy and sell used goods, buying at lower price than he sells of course, justifying that markup by the convenience he provides. You buy your skates, use them, and sell them back, at a loss proportional to how much the market values that convenience. If you're not happy with that, you can buy the skates and sell them later elsewhere, or even buy them elsewhere and sell them here if that's to your advantage somehow (if they're the kind of skates this "renter" deals in, at least; he's not obliged to buy skates he doesn't want back).

The thing with that is, it means that if I want to go skating and I don't have my own pair of skates, I don't need just the small amount of money that it costs at the moment to rent a pair, I need essentially the purchase price (maybe the second-hand purchase price, but still) of a pair of skates plus that amount. I don't know what that would come to, but I can imagine maybe somewhere between £50 and £100. Sure, I'll get it back again in an hour or two when I return the skates, so that's no problem if I have lots of money in my account. But if I'm not so well off, I just might not be able to afford to go skating if it's coming up to the end of the month. It'd be even worse with something like a rowing boat or punt. Or (what would under our current system be) a hire car. Or a hotel room. Or a holiday cottage.

- You could still sell things on payment terms other than upon-receipt. This would allow people to buy expensive things on installment, so you could e.g. pay an ordinary monthly "rent" amount every month and slowly buy off a house, or a car, or whatever. The difference from rent is after a certain number of payments it's yours. The difference between this and loans at interest is that failure to pay is just like if my company buys a shipment of widgets on net 30 terms and then doesn't pay -- it's just theft. Combined with my views on what's appropriate punishment -- basically restitution, the guilty party has to take responsibility for fixing any damage done -- and this is tantamount to repossession with refund of the partial payments thus far, plus any provable incidental losses the seller incurred. But you can't just easily and thoughtlessly enter a situation where you will gradually start owing more and more money and sink deeper and deeper into a hole of interest by taking out an interest-bearing loan. (Incidentally, interest-free loans would still be perfectly permissible, if anyone cared to offer them; you're free to let someone else use your money if you like, same as any of your other property. Charitable loans like student grants could take this form).

Well, the installment scheme sounds pretty good. That definitely makes your proposal more acceptable to me. I'm still not completely sold though: at what point does the ownership transfer? Because if it's not until I've finished making my payments, presumably that means I can't sell the house to someone else until then? Which would mean I basically couldn't move for a couple of decades. That seems somewhat disadvantageous.

Interest free loans for students would be brilliant. But it does seem rather unfair on the lenders that what they get back will be worth less than what they gave since some time has passed and there has been inflation. Or are you thinking there wouldn't be inflation in this economy? Or does "interest at the rate of inflation" count as interest free?

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Fri Nov 09, 2012 10:41 pm UTC

speising wrote:If that is true, effectively no new houses would be built.
Have you ever built a house? Do you know what that costs? Are prices for houses really much higher than costs?


I expect that without our financial structure, we would build houses that were far more modular.

Like you start out with something like a one-room cabin. It needs plumbing, a sink, toilet, and shower, and it needs some kind of stove.

When you get the money maybe you build a separate bedroom, with a path between them. And later maybe a third room with another path. Later you get your paths graveled, and paved, and maybe even enclosed with maybe even more rooms off them.

Or maybe you'd start with four cabins off a central utility core, and when your income is high enough you sell your cabin and buy something ritzier.

There's nothing particularly wrong with buying what you can afford, except that you don't get the joy of going deeply into debt so you can consume a whole lot early.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 10, 2012 1:22 am UTC

neremanth wrote:Well, the installment scheme sounds pretty good. That definitely makes your proposal more acceptable to me. I'm still not completely sold though: at what point does the ownership transfer? Because if it's not until I've finished making my payments, presumably that means I can't sell the house to someone else until then? Which would mean I basically couldn't move for a couple of decades. That seems somewhat disadvantageous.

I would say it transfers immediately, so you definitely can sell your house before you're finished making payments (and use the money to finish those payments early, and get started on buying another). That's how I imagine the replacement of housing rent would go. So you make a year's payments in one place, move somewhere else and sell that place, paying it off and in effect getting your "rent" back, then put that down as a big start on your new place, and so on, until eventually you own something, somewhere. This was actually the primary motivating factor which lead me down this line of thought to begin with -- my overriding life goal right now is just to eventually own something I can live in, so that when I'm too old to work I don't end up unable to pay rent and thrown out into the street. If it weren't for having to pay rent, i.e. if I had equity equivalent to what I've spent on housing, I would be about $60k into a house right now, and would be much less terrified of the future. As it is, I'm $0 into a house at 30 years old and scared shitless, desperately trying to save enough that I can even start putting money into something I own instead of someone else's pockets -- while having that saving impeded by having to put it into their pockets.

Interest free loans for students would be brilliant. But it does seem rather unfair on the lenders that what they get back will be worth less than what they gave since some time has passed and there has been inflation. Or are you thinking there wouldn't be inflation in this economy? Or does "interest at the rate of inflation" count as interest free?

Inflation wouldn't be affected by this idea that I can think of, and I wouldn't factor it into whether a loan counts as interest-free or not. But yeah, it would not be in the lender's self-interest, which is why I said they are free to do so if they want, and suggested charitable lending as an example of when someone might want to despite the lack of personal profit in it. E.g. I give interest-free loans to friends and family all the time; someone's a little short on cash at the end of the month and hungry, I'll buy them groceries and let them pay me back out of their next paycheck. If someone on a larger scale (e.g. a government or charitable foundation) wanted to help people out like that too, they would be able to do so under my system.

J Thomas wrote:I expect that without our financial structure, we would build houses that were far more modular.

Like you start out with something like a one-room cabin. It needs plumbing, a sink, toilet, and shower, and it needs some kind of stove.

When you get the money maybe you build a separate bedroom, with a path between them. And later maybe a third room with another path. Later you get your paths graveled, and paved, and maybe even enclosed with maybe even more rooms off them.

This is my current scheme for eventually owning something to live in. I want to first save up to buy an empty lot somewhere, and a motorhome to live in on it temporarily. Then when I'm no longer renting I should be able to save much more quickly to eventually upgrade to a proper mobile home. That would honestly be enough to retire in and I would feel comfortable with the future at that point, but if I still had good money coming in and nothing more urgent to spend it on, I would build (or have built) an external "guest room" with a useless main hallway that currently leads nowhere (but planning for expansion). Then add a bathroom when I can afford that, and a kitchen when I can afford that, and now I've got a minimalist house, and can sell the mobile home, and gradually expand the house (living room, other bedrooms or an office or whatever) on the rest of the lot where the mobile home used to sit.

I think it would also give me a nice sense of doing something with my life, some kind of progress and forward motion, that I haven't really had since I graduated. Life's been one long endless grind with nothing to show, at best (and at worst, one catastrophic setback after another); even though I'm making a lot more now than I was right out of school, it's still not enough to change my quality of life substantially -- I worked through college and have have almost always earned enough money to comfortably live my modest lifestyle (with the exception of one year of starvation, but that was during school), and all I really want beyond what I have is a space to be that's not really someone else's space and full of other people still, so all the greater income just goes into saving for the next catastrophe or, if they will finally stop happening, eventually a down payment on that empty lot.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby rmsgrey » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:22 am UTC

speising wrote:If that is true, effectively no new houses would be built.
Have you ever built a house? Do you know what that costs? Are prices for houses really much higher than costs?


Depends how much you have to pay for land suitable to build houses on, and for any necessary permits to build the housing there, the going rate for building contractors, how much the architect can get away with charging, oh and the cost of raw materials (including transport to the site).

Most of those have room to drop once they price new construction out of viable ranges.

Besides, the idea of every single person having their own two-bedroom apartment with 5 rooms and a bit of corridor is pretty modern - here in the UK, if you go back 20 years, the norm was that once you left your parents' place, you moved into a shared house with people (hopefully friends after a while!) or a flat with shared kitchen, or married and moved in with your spouse, or otherwise shared living space with people. Going back to that would be no bad thing...

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby ijuin » Sat Nov 10, 2012 6:35 am UTC

Good point--what do most single people need with a second bedroom anyway unless they have frequent overnight guests? My first apartment was one room with a kitchenette and a very cramped bathroom (any smaller and it would not have had a bathtub). The whole place was like 200 square feet, but since I was alone and didn't own indoor exercise equipment or other space-eating stuff, it was quite sufficient. I had room for my desk and sofa and bed and bookshelves and "entertainment center" (TV/VCR/game consoles/whatever), and that was all I really needed. I don't really see why a single person "needs" 3 times or more space than this except because they want to keep a lot of bulky stuff.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 10, 2012 7:55 am UTC

Exactly. I've lived my adult entire life with nothing more than a bedroom, occasionally my own small bathroom but usually a shared one, and a shared kitchen and living room -- plus around three other people with their own rooms sharing all those same common spaces. I would love if I could buy something like the kinds of places I've rented, minus the three superfluous bedrooms and the living room I don't use, and just have my bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. But nobody builds anything small and affordable like that, it's all million dollar McMansions.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Sat Nov 10, 2012 2:48 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I would say it transfers immediately, so you definitely can sell your house before you're finished making payments (and use the money to finish those payments early, and get started on buying another). That's how I imagine the replacement of housing rent would go. So you make a year's payments in one place, move somewhere else and sell that place, paying it off and in effect getting your "rent" back, then put that down as a big start on your new place, and so on, until eventually you own something, somewhere.


It could be hard to find someone willing to pay you to whole sum if people usually paid for their houses over time. Additionally, you would have to find a buyer from your previous house at the same time as a new place where you want to move.

Also - 1) "buy" a house, make your first payment, 2) sell the house for its full worth, 3) keep paying the payments for the house to its previous owner each month 4) you now basically have an interest-free loan.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Sat Nov 10, 2012 3:50 pm UTC

Klear wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:I would say it transfers immediately, so you definitely can sell your house before you're finished making payments (and use the money to finish those payments early, and get started on buying another). That's how I imagine the replacement of housing rent would go. So you make a year's payments in one place, move somewhere else and sell that place, paying it off and in effect getting your "rent" back, then put that down as a big start on your new place, and so on, until eventually you own something, somewhere.


It could be hard to find someone willing to pay you to whole sum if people usually paid for their houses over time. Additionally, you would have to find a buyer from your previous house at the same time as a new place where you want to move.


Sure. The new guy won't pay the whole sum any more than you did.

One way to do it is, say you own 5% of your old place. The new guy moves in and starts making payments, and every month you get 5% of them. Your share in the old place gradually declines as he pays you off.

A second approach -- the people who own the major share in the house don't want to bother with the details about all their old renters. So they get everybody to agree that the guy with the smallest share gets paid first. After he's paid off then the next guy gets paid.

A third approach -- the one who owns the largest share gets paid until he is paid off. Then the one who owns the largest share at that time gets paid until he is paid off. This way, if you move a lot your money is tied up for a long time. You'll never see it unless somebody stays there long enough to buy the whole place. This is a sort of tax on short term rentals in favor of people who build houses and people who tend to stay put.

A fourth approach -- the one with the oldest claim gets paid first. Then the guy who builds houses gets his money back as quickly as reasonably possible.

Presumably you'll find out how the previous owners have agreed to handle this, before you buy.

Also - 1) "buy" a house, make your first payment, 2) sell the house for its full worth, 3) keep paying the payments for the house to its previous owner each month 4) you now basically have an interest-free loan.


I see lots of potential for problems here. The original owners sold you all rights in exchange for your promise to pay in the future. That was nice of them.Then you find somebody who will pay the whole sum immediately. You're lucky the last owners didn't find him or they would have sold to him instead.

But they did sell to you. Next month a fire breaks out, let's say due to your mismanagement. The whole house burns down and you die. The old owners are so unlucky! They have nothing but that first payment, because they hoped you would live and pay them in the future, and it didn't happen. They should have chosen somebody else.

Insurance companies exist to handle this sort of thing. Insurance companies get rich. They get rich partly because they have extensive actuarial tables and you don't, so they know what their bets are worth more than you do. It's partly because you are willing to pay more for security than it might rationally be worth. It might be partly because they are enjoying a game of Gambler's Ruin; they don't know about rare events which will cost them tremendous amounts of money in the future so they count the money they should be storing up for those events as profit. When the catastrophe happens they will have to go bankrupt instead of pay off. The poor, unfortunate insurance companies.... Free competition in a free insurance market is skewed because of economy of scale, the biggest insurance company is the most profitable, other things equal. It is buying risk, and the bigger the company the more the risks average out.

I dunno. When you only buy and sell and have no contracts for future services, it seems like there's a certain purity for it. But when you say you're buying and selling but you're actually writing contracts for future payments, it doesn't look that different from what we already have.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Nov 10, 2012 11:11 pm UTC

I agree mostly with what JT just wrote, but would like to add that there could be an equivalent role for something like banks to perform a kind of financial service still compatible with this model that could avoid a lot of the complications of multiple people paying each other off in chain (which would be a valid arrangement, but annoyingly complex), and of having to find a buyer and another seller simultaneously. You could have companies which are in the business of buying and selling houses, all the time, and have the money on hand to do so outright. When someone wants to sell a house, instead of selling to some peon who can only pay monthly payments on it over decades, they sell to this big company who pays them outright. The big company then sells it to people on installment plans. Of course to turn a profit the big company will sell for more than it buys for, but they're also providing a convenience mediating the market, and the difference they will be able to sustain will be proportional to the value of that convenience.

In the end it would look a lot like a mortgage looks, and as far as types of debt go mortgages are about the least objectionable ones I see (and the only kind I'd be willing to go into), it's just (in addition to minor technical differences) too difficult to get one because of the rental market supplanting what would be the low-end home market. If, instead of renting a house from someone mediated via a property management company, that someone sold it to that company who was then slowly selling it to me, things wouldn't be too different from how they are now, except that eventually I would own this place, instead of eventually getting thrown out of it when I'm too old to work and so can't continue the indefinite, unending payments.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby speising » Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:22 am UTC

A difference, and the reason you can afford rent but not mortgage today is that the rent is lower, precisely as depreciation for the fact that you don't acquire ownership.

Basically, rent is only the revenue part of the monthly payments of the company you are envisioning.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Sun Nov 11, 2012 2:05 am UTC

speising wrote:A difference, and the reason you can afford rent but not mortgage today is that the rent is lower, precisely as depreciation for the fact that you don't acquire ownership.

Basically, rent is only the revenue part of the monthly payments of the company you are envisioning.


That makes sense, but is it true?

Didn't people regularly buy houses and rent them out for more than the mortgage? I guess what made it work was that they could rent to people who weren't eligible to buy, who had to rent.

Your explanation seems to have the implicit assumption that the system makes sense, and that there's some sort of fairness to it. I don't think those assumptions are justified.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Nov 12, 2012 7:52 am UTC

What JT said, and I still haven't seen a refutation of my assertion (which either or both JT and RMS backed up earlier IIRC) that if the rental market could not exist, property owners would be faced with the options of either let the property rot unused since not everybody can afford to buy and you can't make money by renting anymore, or sell at prices and on terms that the bulk of potential buyers can actually afford, i.e. true market prices. And that it is in the property-owner's best interest to do the latter instead of the former, so if those are their choices they will do the latter.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby ijuin » Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:59 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:Exactly. I've lived my adult entire life with nothing more than a bedroom, occasionally my own small bathroom but usually a shared one, and a shared kitchen and living room -- plus around three other people with their own rooms sharing all those same common spaces. I would love if I could buy something like the kinds of places I've rented, minus the three superfluous bedrooms and the living room I don't use, and just have my bedroom, a bathroom, and a kitchen. But nobody builds anything small and affordable like that, it's all million dollar McMansions.


I never like sharing a bathroom with people who aren't my flat-mates because it means that I have to be presentable every time I go to the toilet--very bad if I have to go in a hurry and have no time to find or put on my clothes. But yes, extra bedrooms are really unnecessary for a person living alone except either for ego boost or keeping lots of stuff (conspicuous consumption?). I would however say that for multiple adults/teenagers living together, opposite-sex people should probably not share a bedroom unless they are sleeping together in the sexual sense.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Nov 12, 2012 1:35 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:What JT said, and I still haven't seen a refutation of my assertion (which either or both JT and RMS backed up earlier IIRC) that if the rental market could not exist, property owners would be faced with the options of either let the property rot unused since not everybody can afford to buy and you can't make money by renting anymore, or sell at prices and on terms that the bulk of potential buyers can actually afford, i.e. true market prices. And that it is in the property-owner's best interest to do the latter instead of the former, so if those are their choices they will do the latter.


People are ingenious at making stuff up. Today we have condos where you own an apartment without actually owning any of the land it's on. Perhaps we would invent an abstraction people could buy, like "the right to live here for the month of April" that doesn't include permanent ownership of the property. So it isn't a "rental", it's sale of a specific right.

You want cheap housing, and you have trouble finding it. I guess part of the problem is that people who build housing prefer to make more money than less, and so they prefer to build things that richer people will buy rather than poorer people. If you build a place intending for poor people to live there, you reduce the property values of everywhere around you. So it's only to be expected that housing gets built for well-off people, and later when somebody can't sell it for that and lots of poor people want a place to live, they figure out some way to split it into lots of apartments and rent those.

It might be easier to get rental housing if it was easier to change zoning. Like, if you could arrange a lot of pre-fab bedrooms and pre-fab bathrooms, then you could stack them up in warehouses or factories when that turns into the best use for that space. And then you could have rental space close to some of the jobs!

This has some ideas that are not oriented around being cheap, but that could be adapted.
http://weburbanist.com/2007/12/20/7-of- ... le-hotels/

Pre-fab bathrooms could start out like what you get in a motor home -- connect it to a water supply and then expensively send a truck around to pump out the wastes. Or like a mobile home. And it goes up from there. Design buildings that could easily accommodate them and you can get things like private bathrooms for SROs pretty easily, without having to design for that beyond the flexibility to add it. One example:
http://www.designboom.com/design/yonoh- ... om-system/

I can imagine something like that working. Get a way to build cheap housing in a commercial-zoned area. Stack up a lot of modules in a warehouse or something. Make it easy and cheap to clean the hallways, and arrange some sort of security, and you have something. People in ritzy areas today have trouble getting cheap labor because there isn't enough cheap housing so the help has to commute, which drives up costs. Similarly for big commercial areas.

But you want to build equity, and this doesn't help at all with that. Here's a possibility -- if we could set up a financial structure for forced saving. You save money and get a tax break, and neither you nor your creditors can get any of it until it comes due, no matter what. When you're poor you can expect regular emergencies that wipe out your savings, so we need a way to save anyway. So while you're young you live in a warehouse, and then when you're too old to work you move someplace where things are cheap and buy or rent there.

I knew an untenured english professor who worked construction long enough to build a cabin up in the mountains he loved. He persuaded a timber company to sell him 20 acres without cutting it first. For about $5000 he built something. It had big shutters over the windows so when it was locked nobody could see in. He said people are much less likely to break into a place when they can't see that there's anything valuable inside. He had a bed, and a propane stove, and a sink, and a lot of bookshelves. (He ran a pipe from a stream at a spot that was higher than the cabin.) He had a shovel for his bathroom, and he built the cabin beside a 6 foot waterfall that he used for a shower, in season. He liked it a lot. I slept on his front porch once after a caving trip and I didn't like the mosquitoes at all. But he smoked a pipe and the mosquitoes didn't bother him much.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby rmsgrey » Mon Nov 12, 2012 4:36 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
speising wrote:A difference, and the reason you can afford rent but not mortgage today is that the rent is lower, precisely as depreciation for the fact that you don't acquire ownership.

Basically, rent is only the revenue part of the monthly payments of the company you are envisioning.


That makes sense, but is it true?

Didn't people regularly buy houses and rent them out for more than the mortgage? I guess what made it work was that they could rent to people who weren't eligible to buy, who had to rent.

Your explanation seems to have the implicit assumption that the system makes sense, and that there's some sort of fairness to it. I don't think those assumptions are justified.


Traditionally, a mortgage only covers part of the cost of the property - so you put up, say, 25% of the price of the house, and the bank pays 75%. If you can't afford a quarter of the house's price, then your only option is to rent it.

Sometimes you get "rent-to-own" arrangements, where some portion of the rent payment is notionally set aside as an investment in your eventual purchase of the house - here in the UK, a lot of council-owned rented accommodation was put onto rent-to-own a while back (on the theory that it would increase the renters' stakes in the properties and encourage them to keep them in better condition and contribute more to the community).

Depending on the size of the mortgage relative to the value of the property, competitive rent can easily be more than the mortgage payments (and, in the long-term, even if the rent doesn't cover the full mortgage payments, once the mortgage is paid off, the rent will continue to accumulate...).

The catch with mortgages is that they allow house prices to go up to four times what people could afford to pay if they had to purchase upfront rather than being able to pay a smaller deposit and then make regular payments for the next 30 years - in the short run, they enable people who couldn't afford houses at the old price to buy houses after all, but once the price stabilises, the same people who couldn't afford houses before mortgages still can't afford them under the new system. You have similar issues with medical insurance (treatment costs are based on what insurers are willing to pay, not on what patients can afford) and higher education (here in the UK, degrees are funded by, effectively, government money funded by a modified graduate tax) - the price, what someone pays upfront to get it, and what they eventually pay in the long-run are three separate numbers, with only tenuous connections to each other.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Fire Brns » Mon Nov 12, 2012 6:00 pm UTC

neremanth wrote:
Fire Brns wrote:70% of building costs are labor.

I calculated material wise a year ago, Renaissance era red brick and plaster housing costs about 2k per 10 sqft on non-irrigated pine forest. Modern concrete costs significantly less but you have to run water, electricity, and cable which I had a harder time getting accurate numbers on.

So... quite expensive then?

Yes. Much more if you build on land with any value, which is where they stick any neighborhood. In reality it is not very expensive for what is being done, it is just hard to accrue that much money.
J Thomas wrote:I expect that without our financial structure, we would build houses that were far more modular.

Like you start out with something like a one-room cabin. It needs plumbing, a sink, toilet, and shower, and it needs some kind of stove.

When you get the money maybe you build a separate bedroom, with a path between them. And later maybe a third room with another path. Later you get your paths graveled, and paved, and maybe even enclosed with maybe even more rooms off them.

Or maybe you'd start with four cabins off a central utility core, and when your income is high enough you sell your cabin and buy something ritzier.

There's nothing particularly wrong with buying what you can afford, except that you don't get the joy of going deeply into debt so you can consume a whole lot early.
Funny enough I was trying to figure that problem out too, 50% of the problem here is structural integrity. We have hurricanes to deal with here and anything like a shipping container would not hold up long term if you poked a bunch of holes in it for doors and windows and then stacked them. Insulation, compactability, and even aesthetics need to be taken into account.

Chinese factories often have an employee bunking system but suicide rates are high if they don't install bars to jump proof the windows. Personally I think a company offering housing for employees is a great idea if they can get it right but the instance I mentioned functions more like a prison factory.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Nov 12, 2012 8:16 pm UTC

Fire Brns wrote: ....
J Thomas wrote:I expect that without our financial structure, we would build houses that were far more modular.
....
There's nothing particularly wrong with buying what you can afford, except that you don't get the joy of going deeply into debt so you can consume a whole lot early.


Funny enough I was trying to figure that problem out too, 50% of the problem here is structural integrity. We have hurricanes to deal with here and anything like a shipping container would not hold up long term if you poked a bunch of holes in it for doors and windows and then stacked them. Insulation, compactability, and even aesthetics need to be taken into account


We could make small housing units much cheaper in factories than onsite. Build in the insulation etc in the factory. Hurricane resistance? How hurricane resistant are stick-built houses? But if it helps you could have lots of precision work done in the factory and then cast concrete around it. Esthetics could be added later, or to some extent people could choose the design before the factory builds it.

If it's housing units that would be set up inside an existing warehouse etc, they get whatever strength the preexisting building provides. Since they wouldn't bear loads themselves they could be much flimsier. There's the issue that anybody with a chainsaw could easily break into one, but that's true with most houses today.

Chinese factories often have an employee bunking system but suicide rates are high if they don't install bars to jump proof the windows. Personally I think a company offering housing for employees is a great idea if they can get it right but the instance I mentioned functions more like a prison factory.


Yes, you need more than one choice. It's possible to build a company town and make it work. But if it doesn't work then the employees are getting all their eggs from the same basket. Probably better if everybody involved gets alternatives.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:17 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:People are ingenious at making stuff up. Today we have condos where you own an apartment without actually owning any of the land it's on. Perhaps we would invent an abstraction people could buy, like "the right to live here for the month of April" that doesn't include permanent ownership of the property. So it isn't a "rental", it's sale of a specific right.

That would go completely against the starting premise of this thought experiment though, which is that there is a set standard of property rights -- you have permission to do mostly anything to things you own, including yourself, and obligations to not do much of anything to things you don't own, including other people -- and all we can do is swap around who owns what. Where "what" means real, existing, physical things, not made-up bundles of rights. Figuratively, we divide up the world that already existed before we came along and put people's names on different parts of it, and then who's allowed or required to do what follows directly from whose name is where. We don't get to make up new imaginary things to put names on, or to directly say who is allowed or required to do what.

It follows from that that the only way to make money from something you own, besides using it productively yourself, is to sell it someone else. You can't give someone else an enforceable claim to the use of it (a right to use it) without selling it to them, so you have nothing that you can trade anyone for money except for (ownership of) the property itself. So if you have something (e.g. a house), and have no productive use for it yourself (e.g. more houses than you can live in), then you either have something sitting around going to waste to no benefit to yourself, or you can sell it to someone on whatever terms necessary to make that sale.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby eran_rathan » Mon Nov 12, 2012 9:49 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:People are ingenious at making stuff up. Today we have condos where you own an apartment without actually owning any of the land it's on. Perhaps we would invent an abstraction people could buy, like "the right to live here for the month of April" that doesn't include permanent ownership of the property. So it isn't a "rental", it's sale of a specific right.

That would go completely against the starting premise of this thought experiment though, which is that there is a set standard of property rights -- you have permission to do mostly anything to things you own, including yourself, and obligations to not do much of anything to things you don't own, including other people -- and all we can do is swap around who owns what. Where "what" means real, existing, physical things, not made-up bundles of rights. Figuratively, we divide up the world that already existed before we came along and put people's names on different parts of it, and then who's allowed or required to do what follows directly from whose name is where. We don't get to make up new imaginary things to put names on, or to directly say who is allowed or required to do what.

It follows from that that the only way to make money from something you own, besides using it productively yourself, is to sell it someone else. You can't give someone else an enforceable claim to the use of it (a right to use it) without selling it to them, so you have nothing that you can trade anyone for money except for (ownership of) the property itself. So if you have something (e.g. a house), and have no productive use for it yourself (e.g. more houses than you can live in), then you either have something sitting around going to waste to no benefit to yourself, or you can sell it to someone on whatever terms necessary to make that sale.


But how would you handle things like infrastructure, utilities, stuff like that?
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Mon Nov 12, 2012 10:37 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:But how would you handle things like infrastructure, utilities, stuff like that?

Things like roads, pipes, cables, etc? Joint ownership, as described earlier. The initial state of everything is wholly-inclusive, public ownership, and by (at least tacit) public consent that ownership can be restricted to fewer people than "everybody everywhere", down to individual people if desires, but there's no problem with more than one person owning something. Something can be owned by a town, city, state, or country -- meaning by the people of that geographic unit -- and when you buy or sell land attached to those kinds of networks, you would also want to buy or sell the share of the network. Or when building a new development and connecting it to that network for the first time, you would buy into the network yourself, and then pass that on to whoever you sold the land to, etc.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Mon Nov 12, 2012 11:15 pm UTC

eran_rathan wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:People are ingenious at making stuff up. Today we have condos where you own an apartment without actually owning any of the land it's on. Perhaps we would invent an abstraction people could buy, like "the right to live here for the month of April" that doesn't include permanent ownership of the property. So it isn't a "rental", it's sale of a specific right.

That would go completely against the starting premise of this thought experiment though, which is that there is a set standard of property rights -- you have permission to do mostly anything to things you own, including yourself, and obligations to not do much of anything to things you don't own, including other people -- and all we can do is swap around who owns what. Where "what" means real, existing, physical things, not made-up bundles of rights. Figuratively, we divide up the world that already existed before we came along and put people's names on different parts of it, and then who's allowed or required to do what follows directly from whose name is where. We don't get to make up new imaginary things to put names on, or to directly say who is allowed or required to do what.


That's an interesting idea and I can't imagine how we'd get from here to there. So you can't sell your labor. You can't buy things on time, because a promise to pay at some future time is a new imaginary thing we put a name on. You can't just sell the right to transit your property -- perhaps roads could be government property? You give or sell land to the government when you want to allow a road through your property?

If you want to enforce your property rights -- if somebody comes onto your land and refuses to obey you or to leave, can you hire your own private police force to back you up? Maybe not legally, but if you pay them and they do enforce your orders, it ought to work. You just can't sue each other in the courts if you have a disagreement. Say they decide they own your land and throw you off it, I guess the government should do something about that. OK, enforcing the laws wouldn't be about owning property. It would be something separate. Maybe you pay your taxes and then the government enforces laws for you, and it pays the enforcers with some of the taxes.

So anyway, no patents or intellectual property rights. I'm fine with that, I think. If you sell somebody a story or an internet carrtoon or something, after they own their copy can they make copies and sell them themselves?

It follows from that that the only way to make money from something you own, besides using it productively yourself, is to sell it someone else. You can't give someone else an enforceable claim to the use of it (a right to use it) without selling it to them, so you have nothing that you can trade anyone for money except for (ownership of) the property itself. So if you have something (e.g. a house), and have no productive use for it yourself (e.g. more houses than you can live in), then you either have something sitting around going to waste to no benefit to yourself, or you can sell it to someone on whatever terms necessary to make that sale.


We already have condos. You could sell just one room of your house to somebody. As long as you and they get along, they get bathroom privileges. Why would they buy a room when bathroom privileges could be withdrawn at any time? Because they want a room and can afford it, and they think it will work out. Perhaps if they make voluntary monthly peace offerings of money it is more likely they can get along with you and continue to live in their room....

But how would you handle things like infrastructure, utilities, stuff like that?


You connect up to the gas line and buy natural gas. Somebody runs the infrastructure and collects the money. Similarly for electricity etc. Sewage would be backward -- you pay them to take it away, and if somebody else will take it for less you might let them. Telephone is special. What are you paying them for? Signals? Information? If you don't pay them they ignore you. What property exactly do you buy from them?
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby buddy431 » Tue Nov 13, 2012 2:33 am UTC

A large percentage of the world population is prohibited from charging interest on loans. So this "thought experiment" might not be as academic as you're treating it. While many of the practices run counter to what you're going for, you might want to take a look at some of the ways that financial transactions are done when you can't charge interest. Rather than giving someone a mortgage, the bank would buy a house, and then sell it to the consumer at a profit, and allow them to live in it while they pay it off in installments. To me, these sort of mental gymnastics are silly, but the point is that many people obviously think being able to lend money (with interest) is a good thing, and will therefore do so, even if their religion nominally precludes it. This gives me the sneaking suspicion that being able to lend money with interest is indeed a beneficial practice.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:49 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:So you can't sell your labor.

That I'm not completely sure about, and if so, I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Eliminating wage labor would undermine a more traditional target of capitalism (capital-owners "extracting value" from people who work from them), which wasn't my target but might not be a bad thing. But there's a question of how, even if everyone was their own business and selling each other things in a complex B2B relationship instead of employer-employee relationships, how could a business even sell a service. Some things are easily translated: you trade someone wood and money in exchange for an assembled chair, for example, and that amounts to paying him to assemble the wood into a chair. Other things, like paying for a massage, or medical services, I'm not certain. Some other services, like deliveries, can be modeled if we allow for transfer of ownership at specified times and places other than here and now (see below): I'll trade you money and this package here and now in exchange for the same package elsewhere later. However that threatens to let in the same things the system is specifically designed to impede (e.g. "I'll trade you this house here now for some money and this house here later"), so I'm not sure that's a desirable feature.

You can't buy things on time, because a promise to pay at some future time is a new imaginary thing we put a name on.

I don't see it as buying a promise. You are buying/selling a thing, and just accepting delivery/payment on different terms. If delivery/payment is not made, the transaction is void and if you retain possession of the thing/money (depending on which end of the transaction you're on), you have just stolen it. It's exactly the same as if you walk up to the counter at a store with a bag of chips, agree to buy the chips for a dollar, and then keep the chips but don't hand over the dollar; or conversely, if you ask the clerk for something from behind the counter, hand over the agreed-upon price, and then he doesn't hand you the thing. In either case someone is just stealing from someone, not failing to live up to a promise. The time delay we're talking about is longer than the few seconds seen in those kinds of transactions, but fundamentally the same. (And spatial displacement is a pretty common factor as well: if I walk into a piano store and pay them for a piano to be delivered by piano-movers to my house, and they fail to deliver it but insist that there is a piano in a warehouse somewhere which is mine now, that's not good enough, because they haven't handed over possession of the thing they were trading at the specified time and place).

If you want to enforce your property rights -- if somebody comes onto your land and refuses to obey you or to leave, can you hire your own private police force to back you up? Maybe not legally, but if you pay them and they do enforce your orders, it ought to work. You just can't sue each other in the courts if you have a disagreement. Say they decide they own your land and throw you off it, I guess the government should do something about that. OK, enforcing the laws wouldn't be about owning property. It would be something separate. Maybe you pay your taxes and then the government enforces laws for you, and it pays the enforcers with some of the taxes.

Police and courts are just services (and we do need some way to sell services) -- namely enforcement of your rights and mediation of disputes. In principle it's just like paying private security and a private mediator, except with traditional states you don't have a right not to buy those services (because they're funded by taxes). I think that with people being less than angels, we will need to pay for those services one way or another; we will need some kind of government, someone to protect the liberty that all this is supposed to be about. Having a bunch of small private providers of these services would be essentially a bunch of small governments; feudal estates, or city-states maybe. Better and more stable for civilization would be for them to consolidate or at least cooperate (perhaps federate), and that would probably work best if they were operating as non-profit organizations of some kind. The problem then is how to fund non-profit providers of social services like this, without undermining the principles they're supposed to be defending by taking money under threat of force in taxes. I have some other thoughts on that subject you've probably heard from me before, but that's another big thorny problem, so for now lets suffice that I agree that somehow we need to fund some kind of government somehow, in order for anybody to effectively enjoy the rights that are the foundation of this system.

One thought I've recently had on this subject -- not replacing taxes per se, but funding at least this level of government -- was loosely inspired by auto insurance. When two people get in an auto accident, their insurance companies both look at the evidence at hand and determine who is at fault; and both want to find that their guy is not at fault, but they know what if they both deny it somebody is going to sue somebody and one of them will end up being liable and having to pay anyway, so they have agreed-upon standards of evidence and fault. It struck me that police and courts could be funded something similar to that: unless you want to be all on your own against the dangerous world, you pay your favorite "justice insurance" to be there to stand up for you if you get in a conflict with someone. That someone may or may not subscribe to the same justice system; if they do, then the justice system operates as you knew it would, according to the rules of evidence etc that you knew it would (which is presumably why you picked it, that's the 'feature' they're selling), and finds you or they are at fault and holds whoever responsible for whatever damages. If not, then your justice system goes to their justice system and either they somehow peaceably decide whose client to hold at fault, each side trying to defend their client as best as they can because they don't want to be liable for you to the other guy, and whoever is at fault, their justice provider pays restitution to the other (who make restitutions for their client) and then deals with their client accordingly (like auto insurance "raising your rates" if you're found at fault in an auto accident); or else, if the two justice systems can't cooperate peaceably, then they are your "guards" protecting you from the other guy's "thugs", and your two justice systems in essence go to war.

They're not going to like doing that a lot (going to war with each other), which will provide incentives for them to cooperate on devising fair and impartial rules of evidence and fault, or even higher levels of meta-justice (justice systems who agree on some reasonable standards of evidence and fault banding together to defend each other from those who don't agree on those standards and so are being, from their perspective, unreasonable). Meanwhile their clients can just walk out and stop paying them if they don't like the changes to the rules of evidence and fault, but without literally walking out of their homes -- just stop paying that justice system and subscribe to another one instead -- and this would provide a better check on unjust "legislation" (the standards of evidence and fault) than requiring people to leave their homes and jobs and friends and family and make a dangerous move somewhere far away if they don't like the direction their government is taking.

So anyway, no patents or intellectual property rights. I'm fine with that, I think. If you sell somebody a story or an internet carrtoon or something, after they own their copy can they make copies and sell them themselves?

Yes, that is an intended effect.

We already have condos. You could sell just one room of your house to somebody.

Sure, that would be fine.

As long as you and they get along, they get bathroom privileges. Why would they buy a room when bathroom privileges could be withdrawn at any time? Because they want a room and can afford it, and they think it will work out. Perhaps if they make voluntary monthly peace offerings of money it is more likely they can get along with you and continue to live in their room....

Or you can just jointly own the common areas. Sell them a room and one share of the commons.

You connect up to the gas line and buy natural gas. Somebody runs the infrastructure and collects the money. Similarly for electricity etc. Sewage would be backward -- you pay them to take it away, and if somebody else will take it for less you might let them.

Pretty much yeah.

Telephone is special. What are you paying them for? Signals? Information? If you don't pay them they ignore you. What property exactly do you buy from them?

Telecommunications and trade in digital products has got me thinking in some more abstract terms about what even constitutes an ordinary physical thing you can buy. I'm a general proponent of an information-theoretic view of the universe, and though my thoughts in this area aren't well-formulated yet, I'm thinking that we consider that every thing that you might want to buy, even ordinary physical things, is essentially the same thing as an digital file: you're buying data in some medium, and in all cases it's just energy (the underlying medium of the universe) arranged into some pattern (the data). That ham sandwich I bought at the deli is energy in a pattern of fermions and bosons in turn arranged into protons, neutrons, electrons, and the bosons, in turn arranged into atoms of mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, with some other trace elements, in turn arranged into particular molecules which are arranged into various protein and carbohydrate structures which in turn arranged into tissues of various sorts which are arranged in layers at the appropriate temperature and smothered in delicious dijon-mayo sauce.

The sandwich just is that arrangement of energy, and what I'm paying for is more the arrangement of it that way than the energy itself; the energy unbound from that form would be less than useless to me (and a large swath of the California central coast which would really prefer it stay bound up more or less in that form). So when you buy information, you're not really buying anything different than when you buy a sandwich; it's just a much smaller amount of information in a different medium. And paying someone to deliver information is no different than paying them to deliver letters or packages, which brings us back to the first paragraph of this reply.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby ijuin » Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:14 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That would go completely against the starting premise of this thought experiment though, which is that there is a set standard of property rights -- you have permission to do mostly anything to things you own, including yourself, and obligations to not do much of anything to things you don't own, including other people -- and all we can do is swap around who owns what. Where "what" means real, existing, physical things, not made-up bundles of rights. Figuratively, we divide up the world that already existed before we came along and put people's names on different parts of it, and then who's allowed or required to do what follows directly from whose name is where. We don't get to make up new imaginary things to put names on, or to directly say who is allowed or required to do what.

It follows from that that the only way to make money from something you own, besides using it productively yourself, is to sell it someone else. You can't give someone else an enforceable claim to the use of it (a right to use it) without selling it to them, so you have nothing that you can trade anyone for money except for (ownership of) the property itself. So if you have something (e.g. a house), and have no productive use for it yourself (e.g. more houses than you can live in), then you either have something sitting around going to waste to no benefit to yourself, or you can sell it to someone on whatever terms necessary to make that sale.


The assumption here appears to be that "property rights" are a unified, indivisible set. In other words, it is assumed impossible to sell only some of the rights to a piece of property. For example, an arrangement whereby I sell you the rights to build on a plot of land that I own, yet retain the mineral rights (i.e. any inorganic materials or fossil fuels extracted from the land or beneath it belong to me) would be impermissible under such a principle.

On the other hand, why should I not grant permission for specific, limited uses upon the mutual consent of myself and other contracting parties? If somebody wants to pay me for the right to put up advertising signs on my land and I accept the offer, why should I not do so, barring objection from the neighbors?

I think that the real philosophical stumbling-block here is the idea that, under a temporary "rental" arrangement, the permission to use the property can be suspended or rescinded without a "resale" back to the original owner--the tenant has no "in perpetuo" claim to the property, unlike a "proper" owner. However, the logistics of transferring ownership for very short term use (a few days and less) are generally too cumbersome to be practical as compared to a fee-for-use structure. Would you "buy" a hotel room for one night and "sell" it back, and would doing so require you to put down a large "down payment" or collateral that is much larger than the one-day usage fee?

buddy431 wrote:A large percentage of the world population is prohibited from charging interest on loans. So this "thought experiment" might not be as academic as you're treating it. While many of the practices run counter to what you're going for, you might want to take a look at some of the ways that financial transactions are done when you can't charge interest. Rather than giving someone a mortgage, the bank would buy a house, and then sell it to the consumer at a profit, and allow them to live in it while they pay it off in installments. To me, these sort of mental gymnastics are silly, but the point is that many people obviously think being able to lend money (with interest) is a good thing, and will therefore do so, even if their religion nominally precludes it. This gives me the sneaking suspicion that being able to lend money with interest is indeed a beneficial practice.


My understanding is that the actual objected-to part of charging interest is the "time-value of money" idea, whereby if the loan just sits there with no payments, it appreciates in value on its own, with nobody actually doing anything to add value to it, which flies in the face of the belief that economic value is based on the inherent value of the goods and labor embodied in the traded items as opposed to just exponentially growing by merely existing. Most alternatives to charging interest instead charge a specific markup amount that is calculated in advance, under the assumption that making future installment payments earlier or later will not change the amount owed and that any penalties for late payment bear relation only to the amount of payment that is late rather than to the amount of still-unpaid principal (as interest would accrue on the principal). This dissociates lending from the "time is money" principle.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Tue Nov 13, 2012 4:57 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Perhaps we would invent an abstraction people could buy, like "the right to live here for the month of April" that doesn't include permanent ownership of the property. So it isn't a "rental", it's sale of a specific right.


That would go completely against the starting premise of this thought experiment though, which is that there is a set standard of property rights -- you have permission to do mostly anything to things you own, including yourself, and obligations to not do much of anything to things you don't own, including other people -- and all we can do is swap around who owns what. Where "what" means real, existing, physical things, not made-up bundles of rights. Figuratively, we divide up the world that already existed before we came along and put people's names on different parts of it, and then who's allowed or required to do what follows directly from whose name is where. We don't get to make up new imaginary things to put names on, or to directly say who is allowed or required to do what.


OK. I'm not sure I understand that, but on the surface it looks clear.

So you can't sell your labor.

That I'm not completely sure about, and if so, I'm not sure whether that's a good thing or a bad thing. Eliminating wage labor would undermine a more traditional target of capitalism (capital-owners "extracting value" from people who work from them), which wasn't my target but might not be a bad thing. But there's a question of how, even if everyone was their own business and selling each other things in a complex B2B relationship instead of employer-employee relationships, how could a business even sell a service. Some things are easily translated: you trade someone wood and money in exchange for an assembled chair, for example, and that amounts to paying him to assemble the wood into a chair.


Sure. Or just pay him for the chair, and he can buy the wood himself.

Other things, like paying for a massage, or medical services, I'm not certain. Some other services, like deliveries, can be modeled if we allow for transfer of ownership at specified times and places other than here and now (see below): I'll trade you money and this package here and now in exchange for the same package elsewhere later. However that threatens to let in the same things the system is specifically designed to impede (e.g. "I'll trade you this house here now for some money and this house here later"), so I'm not sure that's a desirable feature.


Yes. Sometimes it looks kind of clear, and other times it looks like new imaginary things to put names on, or saying who's allowed or required to do what.

You can't buy things on time, because a promise to pay at some future time is a new imaginary thing we put a name on.

I don't see it as buying a promise. You are buying/selling a thing, and just accepting delivery/payment on different terms. If delivery/payment is not made, the transaction is void and if you retain possession of the thing/money (depending on which end of the transaction you're on), you have just stolen it.


Because you did in fact promise to deliver when they did their part, and they accepted the promise in lieu of the actual property that you promised to give them.

So, how about if you want to rent out a house month-to-month. They pay you a month's rent and deposit in advance, and you sell them the house. They promise they will sell it back to you and to no one else, in the same condition you sold it to them. They also promise to pay you the whole value of the house, but you will accept payment next month. Every month you agree to delay the payment for the whole house until the next month, and they promise to sell it back to you for what they paid you. When they move out, they pay you the whole price and you pay them the whole price and you're even.

Police and courts are just services (and we do need some way to sell services) -- namely enforcement of your rights and mediation of disputes.


Worse and worse! We started out, you just buy and sell real physical things and you don't sell abstract rights. But now we have courts that sell abstract mediation of disputes -- they are in fact directly selling you rights, which is about as abstract as it gets. And police are selling enforcement, which can help you or hurt you depending on what the courts do.

.... The problem then is how to fund non-profit providers of social services like this, without undermining the principles they're supposed to be defending by taking money under threat of force in taxes.


It looks to me like we've already undermined like hell the principle that we just buy and sell physical properties and not weird complex abstract rights.

We already have condos. You could sell just one room of your house to somebody.

Sure, that would be fine.

As long as you and they get along, they get bathroom privileges. Why would they buy a room when bathroom privileges could be withdrawn at any time? Because they want a room and can afford it, and they think it will work out. Perhaps if they make voluntary monthly peace offerings of money it is more likely they can get along with you and continue to live in their room....

Or you can just jointly own the common areas. Sell them a room and one share of the commons.[/quote]

So now we have "commons" for which you can sell partial abstract rights. It keeps getting murkier.

.... And paying someone to deliver information is no different than paying them to deliver letters or packages, which brings us back to the first paragraph of this reply.


No. There's got to be a difference between paying somebody to give you a physical package, versus pay them to deliver you abstract information. One of them is a physical thing, and the other is some kind of abstract right.

It looks to me like it was an interesting idea, but it just failed. Human beings don't know how to get along without exchanging weird combinations of abstract rights.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 13, 2012 7:24 am UTC

ijuin wrote:The assumption here appears to be that "property rights" are a unified, indivisible set. In other words, it is assumed impossible to sell only some of the rights to a piece of property.

I wouldn't call that an assumption, but a direct implication, yes.

For example, an arrangement whereby I sell you the rights to build on a plot of land that I own, yet retain the mineral rights (i.e. any inorganic materials or fossil fuels extracted from the land or beneath it belong to me) would be impermissible under such a principle.

Correct.

On the other hand, why should I not grant permission for specific, limited uses upon the mutual consent of myself and other contracting parties? If somebody wants to pay me for the right to put up advertising signs on my land and I accept the offer, why should I not do so, barring objection from the neighbors?

The assumption at work here, or premise if you like (which itself is the conclusion of another argument if we want to go even deeper here), is that it is only necessarily wrong (impermissible) to do something to things that belong to others, including themselves (their bodies), against their consent; (or equivalently, since obligation is the de Morgan dual of permission, that it is obligatory for you to refrain from doing so); and that consequently there is nothing necessarily wrong with doing (it is permissible to do) anything to things which are exclusively your own. Since rights are made up of your permissions (for liberty rights) and others' obligations (for claim rights), that means everyone has the liberty right to do anything they want with themselves or their things, and claim rights against anyone else doing anything else to themselves or their things. That is tantamount to a classical liberal view of property rights, so we can say for short that the only rights are property rights.

(When there are multiple owners of the same property, this implies that each has rights to it only to the extent that they do not infringe on others' equal rights to it).

But starting from that premise that those are the only rights, and that that is the case not because we agreed that it would be so, but just because that's what's actually right or wrong (however we are to construe "actually right or wrong", which is a complex metaethical question I can also delve into if we really want), we cannot then just agree that certain other things are necessarily wrong and therefore impermissible and therefore that that we have obligations to refrain from them and that others therefore have claim rights to such against us. I know J Thomas will agree with this part vehemently so I'm trying to phrase it as nonconfrontationally as possible, but it's basically taking the classical liberal / libertarian premise of natural rights and moral universalism (of some variety) and running with it, and saying that whatever is right or wrong (even if that turns out to be nothing) is so for reasons other than we believe it to be so, because belief does not make fact. As a consequence, we cannot give people new rights; people have whatever rights they have. Those rights may be conditional, "do not X if/unless Y", and we can maybe change the factuality of Y, but not the normativity of "do not X if/unless Y". So if we say "do not act upon anything if someone else owns it and that someone else objects to you taking that action upon it", then that someone else is capable of changing whether or not they own the thing, and whether or not they object to your action, but that can't change whether or not you ought to obey that imperative.

But what you ask for in your first sentence above is perfectly possible under that imperative. You may withhold objection from specific, limited uses of your property if you like, and that will make it permissible for others to use it like that. However, that does not give them a claim right to that usage -- they can't tell you to fuck off if you decide to object again. It's still yours, and their use of it is not secured in any way; you're just being nice to them for the moment. For a nice volatile image: it's like if a girl implies that if you buy her dinner she will sleep with you; then come time for the sex she's decided you're an asshole and isn't up for that anymore; it's still her body and you have no claim to it, and she is free to tell you to go fuck yourself instead. This is just extending that principle to not only everyone's body in every way, but their property as well. Like I said earlier, I can let you punch me in the face, and you giving me money may convince me to let you punch me in the face, but I cannot sell you a right to punch me in the face; if I object, you still have to stop.

(If there was an interaction someone thought was a sale, but it turns out that someone thought they were buying something that wasn't able to be sold or didn't exist at all, then the seller just stole from the buyer and owes him his money back. This same principle applies to these sorts of situations, and the other kinds of transactions that are happening now under the guise of rent and interest etc; the buyer deserves his money back).

I think that the real philosophical stumbling-block here is the idea that, under a temporary "rental" arrangement, the permission to use the property can be suspended or rescinded without a "resale" back to the original owner--the tenant has no "in perpetuo" claim to the property, unlike a "proper" owner.

But under present systems, the renter does supposedly acquire some claim to it; their right to make use of it is secured for some specified time. Under my system, you cannot sell such a right by itself, because you cannot by agreement just create the obligations which constitute that right; the only obligation is to refrain from acting on someone else's property. So in order to give yourself that obligation and therefore give them any claim rights to the property, you have to relinquish ownership of it to them. At which point it's theirs and you can't take it back unless they sell it back to you.

You could permit them to use it (by not objecting to their use), and they might give you money to convince you to give that permission, but that permission is not a claim right, and that would be a really risky arrangement between strangers on something so important as housing, and so couldn't reliably serve as a widespread economic instrument.

However, the logistics of transferring ownership for very short term use (a few days and less) are generally too cumbersome to be practical as compared to a fee-for-use structure. Would you "buy" a hotel room for one night and "sell" it back, and would doing so require you to put down a large "down payment" or collateral that is much larger than the one-day usage fee?

I admit that hotels are one of the difficulties I'm struggling with on this idea (or rather, how to implement hotels under such a system). I have some ideas but none of them are clearly correct so I'll spare them for now.

J Thomas wrote:
Some things are easily translated: you trade someone wood and money in exchange for an assembled chair, for example, and that amounts to paying him to assemble the wood into a chair.

Sure. Or just pay him for the chair, and he can buy the wood himself.

Well, the point of that example was how to implement an arrangement which under the current system would be an employee laboring on materials owned by his employer, and being paid for that labor. A possible reinterpretation of that (which may not be necessary depending on the solution to implementing sale of services in general) is that the employer is both a supplier to and a customer of the laborer, who buys those materials from him and then sells a finished product back to him. (Of course they wouldn't waste time swapping cash around all day, they'd just keep a ledger of materials bought and products sold and who owes who what, and settle out every few weeks, like a regular payroll cycle).

You can't buy things on time, because a promise to pay at some future time is a new imaginary thing we put a name on.

I don't see it as buying a promise. You are buying/selling a thing, and just accepting delivery/payment on different terms. If delivery/payment is not made, the transaction is void and if you retain possession of the thing/money (depending on which end of the transaction you're on), you have just stolen it.

Because you did in fact promise to deliver when they did their part, and they accepted the promise in lieu of the actual property that you promised to give them.

How is that any different to the much shorter-term "promise" I make to hand over cash before walking out of a store with my chips, or the similar "promise" the clerk makes to hand me a product from behind the counter immediately after I hand him my cash. Only the time scale differs as far as I can see, one person is still holding up their end and then standing there waiting for the other person to hold up their end. Under your interpretation, it would be impossible for anyone to ever buy or sell anything, because there is always some delay in delivery; what does it matter, in principle, if it's 30 seconds or 30 days?

So, how about if you want to rent out a house month-to-month. They pay you a month's rent and deposit in advance, and you sell them the house. They promise they will sell it back to you and to no one else, in the same condition you sold it to them. They also promise to pay you the whole value of the house, but you will accept payment next month. Every month you agree to delay the payment for the whole house until the next month, and they promise to sell it back to you for what they paid you. When they move out, they pay you the whole price and you pay them the whole price and you're even.

Unless I'm misreading this scenario, it sounds like in the end I get my house back in the same condition and they get all of their money back, which would be fine under my system, but I'm not sure why we would want to come to that arrangement. Unless I was one of those companies in the business of adding liquidity to the housing market, in which case I sell it to them expecting to buy it back later and then sell it to someone else, but I don't know why all that complicated month-to-month arrangement is necessary for that (though they would probably be paying me off in monthly installments, and upon sale of the house back to me would pay off the remaining installments with the proceeds and keep the equivalent of what they had already paid in -- minus the difference in my selling price and my buying price, of course, which if they don't like they're free to shop for another buyer instead, but I'm really convenient, so that might not be worth it).

Police and courts are just services (and we do need some way to sell services) -- namely enforcement of your rights and mediation of disputes.

Worse and worse! We started out, you just buy and sell real physical things and you don't sell abstract rights. But now we have courts that sell abstract mediation of disputes

The very first hurdle we hit was "how do you sell services", and my response was that I'm not 100% certain of the mechanics of it but I do intend for it to be possible to sell services somehow. I'm just not sure how to integrate that into the rest of the system. (Think of this like trying to implement a columns layout in CSS; it was obvious how with HTML tables, but we want to get rid of tables for principled reasons, but columns are useful, so we want to figure out how to make them with CSS too). However we get over that hurdle, it handles this case too.

they are in fact directly selling you rights, which is about as abstract as it gets. And police are selling enforcement, which can help you or hurt you depending on what the courts do.

They are not selling rights, they are selling mediation of a dispute over whose rights have been violated. This is an ordinary service that people actually sell in real life today. "I will listen fairly and impartially to both of your cases, weigh them according to this process, tell you who is right according to these standards, and have these nice men with guns enforce my decision. Would you like to buy that service, knowing that I might find you wrong? Or would you rather just fight about it yourselves?" Although today the "I will have these nice men with guns enforce my decision" part is carried out by proxy of contracts and government; you agree to be bound to the decision in a contact, and the government just enforces that contract. And the "just fight about it yourselves" part is "just sue each other in a regular court instead", because that's the fallback under today's system. I'm suggesting implementing regular courts like this too, and relying on the fact that few people will want to fight all their own battles all by themselves to get most people into buying some kind of "justice insurance" like this to look after their interests -- just like people set up governments to protect themselves, since this is a form of government, merely a stateless one. And the few people (mostly wackos) who think they are hot shit and can fight all their own fights, and don't want to be beholden to any kind of fair process (since they can shop around until they find one they think is fair), will have to get through everybody else's justice systems first, just like the police ostensibly protect people from vigilante justice today.

Or you can just jointly own the common areas. Sell them a room and one share of the commons.

So now we have "commons" for which you can sell partial abstract rights. It keeps getting murkier.

"Commons" in this context means a specific part of an ordinary house layout -- the areas used by all the residents, like the kitchen and bathroom and living room, as opposed to the private bedrooms used only by one resident each -- not any special kind of property or abstract right. Likewise, a share of something is not some abstract right you're selling; you are just sharing ownership. Joint ownership was a possibility of this from the beginning. Most of the universe is jointly owned on this account of things, as by default everything starts off publicly (all-inclusively jointly) owned, by everyone. Completely exclusive ownership by exactly one party is the minority case. I don't know how you missed this as I've talked about it in two or three other posts already.

.... And paying someone to deliver information is no different than paying them to deliver letters or packages, which brings us back to the first paragraph of this reply.

No. There's got to be a difference between paying somebody to give you a physical package, versus pay them to deliver you abstract information. One of them is a physical thing, and the other is some kind of abstract right.

You seem to have just ignored the argument I made toward why they are not so dissimilar, and decided to declare that they must be dissimilar.

Lets try this one instead. If we have some way of paying people to delivery physical things to specific other places at specific times, I could pay someone to make a whole bunch of deliveries of little black and white balls in a specific order, couldn't I? Each ball would be one delivery, and I can specify when and where it is to be delivered, and I can buy as many such deliveries as I want, can't I? Well if I can do that, I can transmit binary information, just in a really inefficient way. Any other kind of transmission of information is fundamentally the same, just delivering different tokens of ones and zeroes in a different medium.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:19 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
ijuin wrote:The assumption here appears to be that "property rights" are a unified, indivisible set. In other words, it is assumed impossible to sell only some of the rights to a piece of property.

I wouldn't call that an assumption, but a direct implication, yes.


Or you can just jointly own the common areas. Sell them a room and one share of the commons.

So now we have "commons" for which you can sell partial abstract rights. It keeps getting murkier.

"Commons" in this context means a specific part of an ordinary house layout -- the areas used by all the residents, like the kitchen and bathroom and living room, as opposed to the private bedrooms used only by one resident each -- not any special kind of property or abstract right. Likewise, a share of something is not some abstract right you're selling; you are just sharing ownership. Joint ownership was a possibility of this from the beginning. Most of the universe is jointly owned on this account of things, as by default everything starts off publicly (all-inclusively jointly) owned, by everyone. Completely exclusive ownership by exactly one party is the minority case. I don't know how you missed this as I've talked about it in two or three other posts already.


If I do have complete exclusive ownership of something, and then I share ownership, aren't I selling only some of the rights to the property? The new owner can't do everything he wants with his property but only whatever we jointly agree he can do, and -- if the shares are equal -- I can no longer do everything I want but only whatever we jointly agree I can do. It sure looks to me like I've sold only partial rights to the property.

Since rights are made up of your permissions (for liberty rights) and others' obligations (for claim rights), that means everyone has the liberty right to do anything they want with themselves or their things, and claim rights against anyone else doing anything else to themselves or their things. That is tantamount to a classical liberal view of property rights, so we can say for short that the only rights are property rights.

(When there are multiple owners of the same property, this implies that each has rights to it only to the extent that they do not infringe on others' equal rights to it).


That leaves open the possibility that people can have unequal rights, doesn't it?

.... So if we say "do not act upon anything if someone else owns it and that someone else objects to you taking that action upon it", then that someone else is capable of changing whether or not they own the thing, and whether or not they object to your action, but that can't change whether or not you ought to obey that imperative.

.... You may withhold objection from specific, limited uses of your property if you like, and that will make it permissible for others to use it like that. However, that does not give them a claim right to that usage -- they can't tell you to fuck off if you decide to object again. It's still yours, and their use of it is not secured in any way; you're just being nice to them for the moment. For a nice volatile image: it's like if a girl implies that if you buy her dinner she will sleep with you; then come time for the sex she's decided you're an asshole and isn't up for that anymore; it's still her body and you have no claim to it, and she is free to tell you to go fuck yourself instead.


In that case isn't she obligated to give you the dinner back? (I think if I was in that situation and the woman vomited up the dinner I'd given her, I'd be pretty sure the deal was off.)

(If there was an interaction someone thought was a sale, but it turns out that someone thought they were buying something that wasn't able to be sold or didn't exist at all, then the seller just stole from the buyer and owes him his money back. This same principle applies to these sorts of situations, and the other kinds of transactions that are happening now under the guise of rent and interest etc; the buyer deserves his money back).


You can't buy things on time, because a promise to pay at some future time is a new imaginary thing we put a name on.

I don't see it as buying a promise. You are buying/selling a thing, and just accepting delivery/payment on different terms. If delivery/payment is not made, the transaction is void and if you retain possession of the thing/money (depending on which end of the transaction you're on), you have just stolen it.

Because you did in fact promise to deliver when they did their part, and they accepted the promise in lieu of the actual property that you promised to give them.

How is that any different to the much shorter-term "promise" I make to hand over cash before walking out of a store with my chips, or the similar "promise" the clerk makes to hand me a product from behind the counter immediately after I hand him my cash. Only the time scale differs as far as I can see, one person is still holding up their end and then standing there waiting for the other person to hold up their end. Under your interpretation, it would be impossible for anyone to ever buy or sell anything, because there is always some delay in delivery; what does it matter, in principle, if it's 30 seconds or 30 days?


It doesn't. So, in a real deal, they put their product on the counter and you put your money on the counter. You both agree to the sale. Then you pick up your product whenever you want (but not too long if it's their counter and they might want to use it for something else) and they pick up their money whenever they want. You don't have any obligation to both pick up your property at the same instant.

In a promise-deal, you fulfill your side, and they imply that they will fulfill their side. At any moment they can choose not to go through with the deal after all. Then you deserve your money back, your dinner back, your virginity back, or whatever.

After the deal is complete you don't have the right to change your mind. They can sell stuff back to you at a negotiated price. But while the deal is only promised they can still back out.

I think that the real philosophical stumbling-block here is the idea that, under a temporary "rental" arrangement, the permission to use the property can be suspended or rescinded without a "resale" back to the original owner--the tenant has no "in perpetuo" claim to the property, unlike a "proper" owner.

But under present systems, the renter does supposedly acquire some claim to it; their right to make use of it is secured for some specified time. Under my system, you cannot sell such a right by itself, because you cannot by agreement just create the obligations which constitute that right; the only obligation is to refrain from acting on someone else's property. So in order to give yourself that obligation and therefore give them any claim rights to the property, you have to relinquish ownership of it to them. At which point it's theirs and you can't take it back unless they sell it back to you.


So, how about if you want to rent out a house month-to-month. They pay you a month's rent and deposit in advance, and you sell them the house. They promise they will sell it back to you and to no one else, in the same condition you sold it to them. They also promise to pay you the whole value of the house, but you will accept payment next month.

Unless I'm misreading this scenario, it sounds like in the end I get my house back in the same condition and they get all of their money back, which would be fine under my system, but I'm not sure why we would want to come to that arrangement.


So you can rent it out, that's why. They pay their rent every month. Any month they don't pay their rent, you can demand payment for the whole house at the rate originally agreed, say 10 times the market value. They promised to pay, they can either pay or the deal is off and they have to move out. If they have damaged your property, you deserve compensation. I think if the details are worked out carefully we can have something that's exactly the same as rent, except we can claim that there is no such thing as rent but only sale of all rights.

J Thomas wrote:
Some things are easily translated: you trade someone wood and money in exchange for an assembled chair, for example, and that amounts to paying him to assemble the wood into a chair.

Sure. Or just pay him for the chair, and he can buy the wood himself.

Well, the point of that example was how to implement an arrangement which under the current system would be an employee laboring on materials owned by his employer, and being paid for that labor. A possible reinterpretation of that (which may not be necessary depending on the solution to implementing sale of services in general) is that the employer is both a supplier to and a customer of the laborer, who buys those materials from him and then sells a finished product back to him.


So, I'm required to buy my materials from one source? Why not let me buy the materials wherever I want, but then the buyer can reject the product if he thinks the quality is low. I guess it comes out to the same thing, he can reject anything that isn't made entirely from materials bought from him. But then, you can sell the product to whoever will buy it, and you aren't an employee at all....

Police and courts are just services (and we do need some way to sell services) -- namely enforcement of your rights and mediation of disputes.

Worse and worse! We started out, you just buy and sell real physical things and you don't sell abstract rights. But now we have courts that sell abstract mediation of disputes

The very first hurdle we hit was "how do you sell services", and my response was that I'm not 100% certain of the mechanics of it but I do intend for it to be possible to sell services somehow.


.... That would go completely against the starting premise of this thought experiment though, which is that there is a set standard of property rights -- you have permission to do mostly anything to things you own, including yourself, and obligations to not do much of anything to things you don't own, including other people -- and all we can do is swap around who owns what. Where "what" means real, existing, physical things, not made-up bundles of rights.


If a service is a real, existing, physical thing then there's no problem. If a service is something else, then you violate your starting premise if you sell it.

they are in fact directly selling you rights, which is about as abstract as it gets. And police are selling enforcement, which can help you or hurt you depending on what the courts do.

They are not selling rights, they are selling mediation of a dispute over whose rights have been violated.


They decide what your rights are, and they enforce their decision. You may have actual absolute rights which are independent of them, but you don't actually get to enjoy those. The rights you get to actually have in practice are the rights the legal system and police sell to you.

This is an ordinary service that people actually sell in real life today.


Yes, but your thought experiment started out with the premise that all you could do was buy or sell rights to real, existing physical things. In real life today people buy all sorts of made-up bundles of rights like this, but that doesn't give people permission to sell justice in your system.

.... And paying someone to deliver information is no different than paying them to deliver letters or packages, which brings us back to the first paragraph of this reply.

No. There's got to be a difference between paying somebody to give you a physical package, versus pay them to deliver you abstract information. One of them is a physical thing, and the other is some kind of abstract right.

You seem to have just ignored the argument I made toward why they are not so dissimilar, and decided to declare that they must be dissimilar.


Well yes, they are. Say you buy a piece of wood which has been carved. You have bought a piece of wood, a physical thing. Now say what is carved on it is a series of random numbers, perhaps the passwords for a collection of bank accounts which could be stolen from with the passwords. Did you buy the wood or the numbers? You bought the wood. You can't buy a number. You can't even buy a number in the real world, at best you buy joint use with everybody else who uses that number.

Information can be copied and it is irrelevant which is the original and which is the copy. Information can be shared, and each person who shares it has the whole thing, you don't lose information when you give it away. It is not a real, existing, physical thing. If you buy and sell rights to information then you are not buying and selling real, existing, physical things, you are selling made-up bundles of rights and your starting premise is violated.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Tue Nov 13, 2012 11:54 am UTC

I'm curious what the problem is that you're trying to solve. This proposed 'solution' introduces a multitude of new problems, fundamentally changes the way that commerce of any kind would work, removes freedoms previously available to people, for no particular result that I can discern.
Is it to avoid the 'evil coercion' of the government enforcing contracts? Or is it to prevent people going into debt?

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Tue Nov 13, 2012 12:28 pm UTC

Trasvi wrote:I'm curious what the problem is that you're trying to solve. This proposed 'solution' introduces a multitude of new problems, fundamentally changes the way that commerce of any kind would work, removes freedoms previously available to people, for no particular result that I can discern.
Is it to avoid the 'evil coercion' of the government enforcing contracts? Or is it to prevent people going into debt?


It is because he doesn't like paying rent, so he's building a system without it.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby eran_rathan » Tue Nov 13, 2012 3:39 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:One thought I've recently had on this subject -- not replacing taxes per se, but funding at least this level of government -- was loosely inspired by auto insurance. When two people get in an auto accident, their insurance companies both look at the evidence at hand and determine who is at fault; and both want to find that their guy is not at fault, but they know what if they both deny it somebody is going to sue somebody and one of them will end up being liable and having to pay anyway, so they have agreed-upon standards of evidence and fault. It struck me that police and courts could be funded something similar to that: unless you want to be all on your own against the dangerous world, you pay your favorite "justice insurance" to be there to stand up for you if you get in a conflict with someone. That someone may or may not subscribe to the same justice system; if they do, then the justice system operates as you knew it would, according to the rules of evidence etc that you knew it would (which is presumably why you picked it, that's the 'feature' they're selling), and finds you or they are at fault and holds whoever responsible for whatever damages. If not, then your justice system goes to their justice system and either they somehow peaceably decide whose client to hold at fault, each side trying to defend their client as best as they can because they don't want to be liable for you to the other guy, and whoever is at fault, their justice provider pays restitution to the other (who make restitutions for their client) and then deals with their client accordingly (like auto insurance "raising your rates" if you're found at fault in an auto accident); or else, if the two justice systems can't cooperate peaceably, then they are your "guards" protecting you from the other guy's "thugs", and your two justice systems in essence go to war.


So, (as my boundary law professor was wont to point out), "you get just as much justice as you can afford." In other words, rich people win, poor people get fucked.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Tue Nov 13, 2012 5:21 pm UTC

Trasvi wrote:I'm curious what the problem is that you're trying to solve. This proposed 'solution' introduces a multitude of new problems, fundamentally changes the way that commerce of any kind would work, removes freedoms previously available to people, for no particular result that I can discern.
Is it to avoid the 'evil coercion' of the government enforcing contracts? Or is it to prevent people going into debt?


I'm sympathetic. Suppose that there is a real objective morality, and it goes this way. Then when we set up something else that trades rights we don't actually have, we are in fact trading wrongs and it will be bad for people even though it might be particularly convenient for some people in the short run.

On the other hand, suppose we can have any morality we agree to. Then something based on very plain simple rules is good unless it has bad consequences. Various groups of people will want to try new social compacts, and if this looks like it could work out, people might try it. Then over a long period of time it could spread through whole cultures, if it works well.

I don't think this particular morality is that good. It starts out simple and then we start getting special cases, and then whole contradictions, because there are things people want that it just does not supply. If we're going to supply those things then the fundamental premise has to be expanded somehow, and that's likely to reduce its charm. But it's a good try.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby neremanth » Tue Nov 13, 2012 8:08 pm UTC

(Long post is long, sorry!)
Spoiler:
Pfhorrest wrote:When someone wants to sell a house, instead of selling to some peon who can only pay monthly payments on it over decades, they sell to this big company who pays them outright. The big company then sells it to people on installment plans. Of course to turn a profit the big company will sell for more than it buys for, but they're also providing a convenience mediating the market, and the difference they will be able to sustain will be proportional to the value of that convenience

That all makes sense, and makes me happier with your idea.

eran_rathan wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:One thought I've recently had on this subject -- not replacing taxes per se, but funding at least this level of government -- was loosely inspired by auto insurance. When two people get in an auto accident, their insurance companies both look at the evidence at hand and determine who is at fault; and both want to find that their guy is not at fault, but they know what if they both deny it somebody is going to sue somebody and one of them will end up being liable and having to pay anyway, so they have agreed-upon standards of evidence and fault. It struck me that police and courts could be funded something similar to that: unless you want to be all on your own against the dangerous world, you pay your favorite "justice insurance" to be there to stand up for you if you get in a conflict with someone. That someone may or may not subscribe to the same justice system; if they do, then the justice system operates as you knew it would, according to the rules of evidence etc that you knew it would (which is presumably why you picked it, that's the 'feature' they're selling), and finds you or they are at fault and holds whoever responsible for whatever damages. If not, then your justice system goes to their justice system and either they somehow peaceably decide whose client to hold at fault, each side trying to defend their client as best as they can because they don't want to be liable for you to the other guy, and whoever is at fault, their justice provider pays restitution to the other (who make restitutions for their client) and then deals with their client accordingly (like auto insurance "raising your rates" if you're found at fault in an auto accident); or else, if the two justice systems can't cooperate peaceably, then they are your "guards" protecting you from the other guy's "thugs", and your two justice systems in essence go to war.

So, (as my boundary law professor was wont to point out), "you get just as much justice as you can afford." In other words, rich people win, poor people get fucked.

Expanding on eran_rathan's point, which also ocurred to me, is there anything to stop these justice services charging different people different prices? (Whether supposedly on the grounds that different people have different risks of requiring their services or just outright offering different price tiers). Because I can very easily see that becoming a system in which if you can afford more, you pay a higher premium, and when two users of the same service who are paying different prices for it have a disagreement, the judgement automatically goes with the one whose premium is higher. (After all, if the payer of the lower premium chooses to take their custom elsewhere, the service won't have lost much, and in any case all the other services have the same policy anyway, so moving won't actually make things any better).

I can actually also see the pricing going the other way - the poor being charged disproportionately much of their income because they haven't invested in the latest state of the art security systems etc.

And what about someone who can't afford to pay any justice service premiums at all?

(These certainly aren't my only objections to the idea, but they're the most obvious and easiest to articulate right now. I may add some more later).

Pfhorrest wrote:That ham sandwich I bought at the deli is energy in a pattern of fermions and bosons in turn arranged into protons, neutrons, electrons, and the bosons, in turn arranged into atoms of mostly carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, and nitrogen, with some other trace elements, in turn arranged into particular molecules which are arranged into various protein and carbohydrate structures which in turn arranged into tissues of various sorts which are arranged in layers at the appropriate temperature and smothered in delicious dijon-mayo sauce.

The sandwich just is that arrangement of energy, and what I'm paying for is more the arrangement of it that way than the energy itself; the energy unbound from that form would be less than useless to me (and a large swath of the California central coast which would really prefer it stay bound up more or less in that form). So when you buy information, you're not really buying anything different than when you buy a sandwich; it's just a much smaller amount of information in a different medium.

I disagree. The information is certainly an important part of what you're buying, and yes, as you argue, the sandwich is worthless without it. But can you honestly say you'd be happy if the deli sold you the information without the atoms? That is, if you handed over your money and in return you got a memory stick that contained a file in which was recorded all the information you mention about the arrangement of the molecules, atoms and subatomic particles?

I, personally, am happy with selling information - though I think it's important to distinguish between the rights to the information and a copy of the information; it's the same distinction that was mentioned earlier about whether you just get a copy of the comic or whether you're allowed to make a copy of your copy and do whatever you like with it, or whether you're allowed to object if other people, including the previous owner of your copy, retain copies and/or make further copies. However, I think in your system as you've stated it so far, it would not be possible to sell information. But you could certainly modify your system to allow that - and I take it from what you said in response to other posts that you would want to do that in such a way that the only thing you could sell was a copy and that posession of a copy automatically allowed one to make further copies to do what one wanted with.

Pfhorrest wrote:But starting from that premise that those are the only rights, and that that is the case not because we agreed that it would be so, but just because that's what's actually right or wrong (however we are to construe "actually right or wrong", which is a complex metaethical question I can also delve into if we really want), we cannot then just agree that certain other things are necessarily wrong and therefore impermissible and therefore that that we have obligations to refrain from them and that others therefore have claim rights to such against us. I know J Thomas will agree with this part vehemently so I'm trying to phrase it as nonconfrontationally as possible, but it's basically taking the classical liberal / libertarian premise of natural rights and moral universalism (of some variety) and running with it, and saying that whatever is right or wrong (even if that turns out to be nothing) is so for reasons other than we believe it to be so, because belief does not make fact. As a consequence, we cannot give people new rights; people have whatever rights they have. Those rights may be conditional, "do not X if/unless Y", and we can maybe change the factuality of Y, but not the normativity of "do not X if/unless Y". So if we say "do not act upon anything if someone else owns it and that someone else objects to you taking that action upon it", then that someone else is capable of changing whether or not they own the thing, and whether or not they object to your action, but that can't change whether or not you ought to obey that imperative.

Not sure I completely understood all of this. I'm particularly interested in the part I've bolded. Are you saying that we agree right at the beginning of founding our society what our rights are (and these rights may be expressed conditionally, along the lines 'You have the right to do this thing in this situation but not in this situation'), and then we can't change any of these at a later date (and in particular we can't sell or transfer rights - the only way to change a person's rights is to change the situation they are in so that different rights apply to them according to our initial formulation)? If so, then I'm not sure I completely agree but I don't have too much of a problem with that. Or are you saying that rights are rights; regardless of what we might decide to set down as rights when we set up our society, there are certain things that are rights and certain things that aren't, and asserting things that aren't rights as rights doesn't magically turn them into rights? If so, I disagree. (Because I think we don't have any naturally occurring rights, not even a right to life or a right to property, and that all rights are simply things we as a society grant to each individual, because it is much much more pleasant to live in a society where those things are treated as rights than one where they are not). I'm asking about this not to argue about it - I think it might be one of those opinion things where argument is not very useful, and also I realise this is your thought experiment and you're entitled to use your opinions to define it. I'm mentioning all this partly to understand where you're coming from, and also to note that I may be coming from somewhere else (which will influence how good your thought experiment sounds to me).

Pfhorrest wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Some things are easily translated: you trade someone wood and money in exchange for an assembled chair, for example, and that amounts to paying him to assemble the wood into a chair.

Sure. Or just pay him for the chair, and he can buy the wood himself.

Well, the point of that example was how to implement an arrangement which under the current system would be an employee laboring on materials owned by his employer, and being paid for that labor. A possible reinterpretation of that (which may not be necessary depending on the solution to implementing sale of services in general) is that the employer is both a supplier to and a customer of the laborer, who buys those materials from him and then sells a finished product back to him. (Of course they wouldn't waste time swapping cash around all day, they'd just keep a ledger of materials bought and products sold and who owes who what, and settle out every few weeks, like a regular payroll cycle).


I'd be a bit worried that an employee might end up being sacked (or if that's no longer a thing, finding their services no longer required) at a time when they had bought a reasonably large amount of wood from the employer, leading to them being dismissed with all that wood on their hands either instead of back pay (if the employer also owed them for their labour at that point) or, worse, having to be paid for from their own pocket (if the employer doesn't owe for their labour at that point and the wood is on the books as having been sold to them - though I suppose in that case maybe they could just refuse to pay and leave the wood with the employer and that'd be ok?). In theory that would be ok, because the employee can just sell the wood and get their money, but in practice it would be a pain having to do so, and what if the employer had taken an (unwarranted) dislike to the employee, so that not only was he/she unwilling to buy the wood back, but he/she had also been spreading rumours that made rival employers in the same and other trades using wood reluctant to buy from him/her?
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

J Thomas wrote:if you could arrange a lot of pre-fab bedrooms and pre-fab bathrooms, then you could stack them up in warehouses or factories when that turns into the best use for that space.

Of course, any house is better than none, so if this was all I could afford I'd take it and be grateful to get it - but I have to say, living inside a house inside a warehouse/factory sounds quite gloomy (both literally and, consequently, what with the effect of daylight on mood and all, figuratively).

J Thomas wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote:For a nice volatile image: it's like if a girl implies that if you buy her dinner she will sleep with you; then come time for the sex she's decided you're an asshole and isn't up for that anymore; it's still her body and you have no claim to it, and she is free to tell you to go fuck yourself instead.
In that case isn't she obligated to give you the dinner back? (I think if I was in that situation and the woman vomited up the dinner I'd given her, I'd be pretty sure the deal was off.)

Well, if she is (or if she's obligated to give you the price of the dinner back, rather less disgustingly), that would mean the original dinner-for-sex arrangement was prostitution. Just saying.
___________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

ijuin wrote:I would however say that for multiple adults/teenagers living together, opposite-sex people should probably not share a bedroom unless they are sleeping together in the sexual sense.

I would really hate to share a bedroom even with someone of the same sex that I wasn't sleeping with, but maybe that's just me. (I actually quite like the idea of even me and the currently hypothetical person I was sleeping with having separate bedrooms, so I realise my views on this may be nonstandard).

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:19 pm UTC

neremanth wrote:
eran_rathan wrote:So, (as my boundary law professor was wont to point out), "you get just as much justice as you can afford." In other words, rich people win, poor people get fucked.

Expanding on eran_rathan's point, which also ocurred to me, is there anything to stop these justice services charging different people different prices? (Whether supposedly on the grounds that different people have different risks of requiring their services or just outright offering different price tiers). Because I can very easily see that becoming a system in which if you can afford more, you pay a higher premium, and when two users of the same service who are paying different prices for it have a disagreement, the judgement automatically goes with the one whose premium is higher. (After all, if the payer of the lower premium chooses to take their custom elsewhere, the service won't have lost much, and in any case all the other services have the same policy anyway, so moving won't actually make things any better).

I can actually also see the pricing going the other way - the poor being charged disproportionately much of their income because they haven't invested in the latest state of the art security systems etc.

And what about someone who can't afford to pay any justice service premiums at all?

(These certainly aren't my only objections to the idea, but they're the most obvious and easiest to articulate right now. I may add some more later).

These are very plausible objections, which is why before I went on this tangent I was talking about the provision of justice operating best as some kind of non-profit system, which then raised the question of how to fund such social services in general. This was a tangent to that, an alternate thought on how it might even be able to function as a for-profit system. The two might even be combinable: the non-profit social service provided (from whatever funding source we work out) is a subsidization of subscription to such a for-profit system of your choice, rather than the service directly. Like food stamps vs just giving someone food.

As a small defense to that tangential idea, as unattached to it as I am: the usury-free market in which this is to have been set is designed specifically to avoid the concentration of wealth, and so under such a system, if it works, you would have significantly less income disparity in the first place. If most people are unable to afford a vital thing needed by anyone in society, then you've got some bigger problem that needs fixing. But there will always be some people who are disabled or otherwise incapable in one way or another of providing for themselves, so that doesn't solve the problem universally, and some kind of non-profit social service is still needed.

Pfhorrest wrote:I disagree. The information is certainly an important part of what you're buying, and yes, as you argue, the sandwich is worthless without it. But can you honestly say you'd be happy if the deli sold you the information without the atoms? That is, if you handed over your money and in return you got a memory stick that contained a file in which was recorded all the information you mention about the arrangement of the molecules, atoms and subatomic particles?

The medium matters. If I pay someone for a digital photo, and they deliver a series of a few million black and white ping-pong balls and claim that they have delivered what I requested, that's not going to be any more satisfactory than the sandwich on a USB stick. In either case you buy information in a certain medium that's useful to you, not just the information in abstract. If you change either the form of the substance of a thing, it's not the same thing; so when you're buying a thing, you're buying both the form and the substance together. In some cases you may intend just to discard the substance and transcribe the form into another substance (e.g. when receiving a series of photons over a fiberoptic line or whatever, and transcribing that information in to magnetic patterns on a ceramic platter), but it's still important to you that you receive it in that substance (and not, say, ping-pong balls).

Not sure I completely understood all of this. I'm particularly interested in the part I've bolded. Are you saying that we agree right at the beginning of founding our society what our rights are (and these rights may be expressed conditionally, along the lines 'You have the right to do this thing in this situation but not in this situation'), and then we can't change any of these at a later date (and in particular we can't sell or transfer rights - the only way to change a person's rights is to change the situation they are in so that different rights apply to them according to our initial formulation)? If so, then I'm not sure I completely agree but I don't have too much of a problem with that. Or are you saying that rights are rights; regardless of what we might decide to set down as rights when we set up our society, there are certain things that are rights and certain things that aren't, and asserting things that aren't rights as rights doesn't magically turn them into rights? If so, I disagree. (Because I think we don't have any naturally occurring rights, not even a right to life or a right to property, and that all rights are simply things we as a society grant to each individual, because it is much much more pleasant to live in a society where those things are treated as rights than one where they are not). I'm asking about this not to argue about it - I think it might be one of those opinion things where argument is not very useful, and also I realise this is your thought experiment and you're entitled to use your opinions to define it. I'm mentioning all this partly to understand where you're coming from, and also to note that I may be coming from somewhere else (which will influence how good your thought experiment sounds to me).

It is the latter. We would of course start out our society with some sort of agreement on what those universal rights were, but we could always revisit that later and decide that we were wrong and revise our understanding of what universal rights people have. (And actually I envision that this would be an ongoing process, legislation-by-fiat replaced by non-authoritative groups debating normative principles on their own merits, and the useful results of those deliberations being adopted into practice by different providers of justice, which are selected by their clients specifically for which such principles they operate under; much like how scientists argue evidence and theories regardless of their application, engineers take the useful results of science and apply them, to build things that consumers want).

But the underlying idea is that rights are not things created by popular belief in them; something doesn't actually become right or wrong based on whether people think it's right or wrong. (If it turns out that nothing is really right or wrong in any sense stronger than widespread belief of such, then in that case no normative claim is really valid, nothing is really impermissible, and nobody really has any obligations or rights; but I would make a separate argument that we can never prove that to be the case and must never assume it to be the case, so our arguments must remain about what is universally right or wrong, not whether anything is at all). So if things don't become right or wrong because anyone thinks so, then we cannot change who has what rights by agreeing that it be so; we can only change the things that those rights might be conditional upon.

I'd be a bit worried that an employee might end up being sacked (or if that's no longer a thing, finding their services no longer required) at a time when they had bought a reasonably large amount of wood from the employer, leading to them being dismissed with all that wood on their hands either instead of back pay (if the employer also owed them for their labour at that point) or, worse, having to be paid for from their own pocket (if the employer doesn't owe for their labour at that point and the wood is on the books as having been sold to them - though I suppose in that case maybe they could just refuse to pay and leave the wood with the employer and that'd be ok?). In theory that would be ok, because the employee can just sell the wood and get their money, but in practice it would be a pain having to do so, and what if the employer had taken an (unwarranted) dislike to the employee, so that not only was he/she unwilling to buy the wood back, but he/she had also been spreading rumours that made rival employers in the same and other trades using wood reluctant to buy from him/her?

The way it was set up was "I will trade you this wood and some money for an assembled chair", so since you don't have two separate transactions ("I will trade you this wood for some money", "I will trade you even more money for an assembled chair"), you would never end up with that kind of trade imbalance. At worst, the 'employee' would have to finish the last chair he was working on before leaving.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Tue Nov 13, 2012 10:55 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:As a small defense to that tangential idea, as unattached to it as I am: the usury-free market in which this is to have been set is designed specifically to avoid the concentration of wealth, and so under such a system, if it works, you would have significantly less income disparity in the first place. If most people are unable to afford a vital thing needed by anyone in society, then you've got some bigger problem that needs fixing. But there will always be some people who are disabled or otherwise incapable in one way or another of providing for themselves, so that doesn't solve the problem universally, and some kind of non-profit social service is still needed.


With this, you are almost saying that this system is a utopia, and since utopias are good and work perfectly, this system must also work and be good.


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