1127: "Congress"

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:02 am UTC

Klear wrote: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.

No, because I'm talking about two different systems which address two different problems. It's like objecting to a piece of electronics because it could never handle an irregular power supply, and getting the reply that that is true, but this device was suggested in the context of another device intended to clean power. So if that device is not working as intended, then yes, we still have the original problem at hand, but if so, we wouldn't have been talking about this device in the first place.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:08 am UTC

But it is utopia to eliminate concentration of wealth and thus reduce social differences. You can't do that without some extreme repressions, and probably not even then.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Nov 14, 2012 12:36 pm UTC

Klear wrote:But it is utopia to eliminate concentration of wealth and thus reduce social differences. You can't do that without some extreme repressions, and probably not even then.


He doesn't need to eliminate concentration of wealth. Just keep it from getting too much out of hand.

One approach: If the population is moderately religious, sacrifice the wealthiest individual to the gods at the winter solstice, as a representative to tell the gods what the people need. A great honor. Rich people who do not feel religious or altruistic will tend to moderate their wealth.

2nd approach: Go to war often. Appoint the richest people military commanders and let them recruit soldiers at their own expense. The ones who are too chintzy at that will have poorly-equipped soldiers protecting them.

3rd approach: Land tax + inflation. People pay a fixed rate for land, say 4% of what they think it's worth. If somebody else thinks it's worth more than 25x tax paid, they can buy it at that price. Meanwhile, inflate the money supply fast enough to reduce the value of saved money. People who want to accumulate wealth will do it other sneakier ways, for example a network of owed favors.

4th approach: Spread the idea that good people give away their surplus wealth. Get that dominant in the culture. Wealthy people will do only inconspicuous consumption. To the extent they successfully hide their wealth, other people won't get bothered about it.

5th approach: Try to get everything decentralized. Whenever there's a bottleneck in anything important, the people who regulate that bottleneck can concentrate wealth. So judges can become wealthy if they get to choose who loses lawsuits or who goes to prison. Business managers can become wealthy if they get to decide which suppliers to buy from -- they can accept bad deals for the company in exchange for good deals for themselves. Etc etc. In general, if you get to make choices that affect other people more than your choices affect yourself, you can let them pay to influence your choices. So to reduce this method for wealth creation, we should reduce the opportunities to make this sort of choice.

Etc.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:30 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote: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.


Historically, this would end up as lynch mobs, and Jim Crow laws (in large portions of the US - not so sure about the rest of the world, but it wouldn't surprise me either.)



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.


SO, you're arguing for an objective morality, but admit that you have no reason for this, and even admit that there is no way to prove if it is objective or not? Did I miss something?


EDIT: spelling.
Last edited by eran_rathan on Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:16 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:40 pm UTC

I'd like to point out that the extreme repressions are present in all of your approaches. Besides, I doubt any of them could be put into practice and be stable.

I don't want to be difficult, but I hate it when people make social/political constructs with no regard for human nature. I mean, you're not likely to think of anything significantly better than the ideal communism, and you're not going to get anything significantly more realistic and obtainable.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Red Hal » Wed Nov 14, 2012 1:56 pm UTC

Start in the corporation. Mandate that no employee's total earnings (include emoluments, stock options and so on) from a corporation may be less than 5% of the total earnings paid to the highest-paid employee, board-members included. Second, only gross profit not re-invested in the business should be liable for tax. Third, gross profit paid as a bonus to staff attracts negative taxation, offsetting profits paid out to shareholders in the form of dividend. Fourth, ban short-selling and make naked shorts in particular a criminal offence. None of this is repressive, it merely modifies the profit motive. If you want to take home a million per year that's fine, just don't pay your employees less than 50,000.

Edit: Of course, if all your work is outsourced ...
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:10 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:Start in the corporation. Mandate that no employee's total earnings (include emoluments, stock options and so on) from a corporation may be less than 5% of the total earnings paid to the highest-paid employee, board-members included. Second, only gross profit not re-invested in the business should be liable for tax. Third, gross profit paid as a bonus to staff attracts negative taxation, offsetting profits paid out to shareholders in the form of dividend. Fourth, ban short-selling and make naked shorts in particular a criminal offence. None of this is repressive, it merely modifies the profit motive. If you want to take home a million per year that's fine, just don't pay your employees less than 50,000.

Edit: Of course, if all your work is outsourced ...


So, a janitor working in a richer company would get much greater pay than those working elsewhere? I'm pretty sure that would wreak havoc in... something. Besides, there's got to be a million way to get around it, outsourcing work, which you mention, being one of them.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Red Hal » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:19 pm UTC

Yes, a janitor working in a richer company would get much greater pay, but if you combine it with a minimum wage .... In any case the idea is to cap maximum earnings and redistribute wealth, not make for wealthy janitors. In smaller companies the pay differential is smaller to start with, and in "Mom & Pop" stores it will have little-to-no effect on existing pay scales. However bear in mind that that is only one of the measures I proposed.

Regarding outsourcing, somewhere down the line will be a company that can not outsource any further, since it has employees that are doing the work that is sub-(sub-sub-...)contracted for, and the rules will apply. In any case, that can be easily clamped down on by extending the 25x rule to sub-contractors recursively. Indeed, even the threat of implementing that would be sufficient.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Wed Nov 14, 2012 2:54 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:Start in the corporation. Mandate that no employee's total earnings (include emoluments, stock options and so on) from a corporation may be less than 5% of the total earnings paid to the highest-paid employee, board-members included. Second, only gross profit not re-invested in the business should be liable for tax. Third, gross profit paid as a bonus to staff attracts negative taxation, offsetting profits paid out to shareholders in the form of dividend. Fourth, ban short-selling and make naked shorts in particular a criminal offence. None of this is repressive, it merely modifies the profit motive. If you want to take home a million per year that's fine, just don't pay your employees less than 50,000.

Edit: Of course, if all your work is outsourced ...


But again. Why? How does this solve more problems than it creates?
Firstly, a large amount of 'wealthy' people don't create their wealth through wages. Investing $1000 in the stock market at the right time can make you a billionaire.
Secondly, some employees are inherently worth more to a company than others. The CEO of a company contributes more than 20 times more value than a janitor.

If your goal is to redistribute wealth, staging a military coup and forcibly instituting communism is probably a better and less problem-riddled way of getting there. And it still wouldn't work.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby eran_rathan » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:04 pm UTC

Trasvi wrote:The CEO of a company contributes more than 20 times more value than a janitor.


That depends on a lot of different factors, I think - though I do agree with your other point re: military coup.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Red Hal » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:34 pm UTC

Trasvi wrote:But again. Why? How does this solve more problems than it creates?
Firstly, a large amount of 'wealthy' people don't create their wealth through wages. Investing $1000 in the stock market at the right time can make you a billionaire.
Secondly, some employees are inherently worth more to a company than others. The CEO of a company contributes more than 20 times more value than a janitor.

If your goal is to redistribute wealth, staging a military coup and forcibly instituting communism is probably a better and less problem-riddled way of getting there. And it still wouldn't work.
I don't mind if someone gets wealthy through the stock market, but I have a problem with short-selling. The purpose is to redistribute wealth more equitably, not make everyone the same.

Secondly, I disagree with your assertion regarding the contribution of worth. It is easy to construct scenarios in which the opposite is true, which leaves you - at best - with "Some CEOs of some companies". Irrespective of that, why should pay be on a direct one-for-one with value contributed? And how would you measure value in the first place? Is it share price? I worked for a company that had a succession of CEOs that came in over the course of three years, talked up the company, watched the share price jump, exercised their share options then left. The last one never got the chance as we ceased trading and filed for bankruptcy. Those CEOs, in my opinion, contributed negative value to the company.

Let's also take the case of the Royal Bank of Scotland; losses during the financial crisis (value?) £24.1bn, money paid to the CEO (Fred Goodwin) £20m.

The next CEO, Stephen Hester. 2010 losses, £1.1bn. Payments to Hester? circa £8m.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Wed Nov 14, 2012 3:56 pm UTC

That is just a matter of making is easier to fire such a CEO, much like you'd fire a janitor that comes to work in dirty boots, doesn't clean anything and only leaves a mess behind him. I get it that you hate CEOs, but that's hardly a reason to build a new system completely from scratch.

Edit: also, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to these things, but in your example of a CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, how much of the losses were indeed the CEO's fault? It was during the crisis, after all. Some losses are to be expected, likely unavoidable.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Red Hal » Wed Nov 14, 2012 4:20 pm UTC

I don't hate CEOs, I hate the unalloyed profit motive that has lead us to the current state of affairs. You made an assertion, I countered with examples that disproved the general case of your assertion. In any case, I am trying to avoid rebuilding from scratch as that would be as close to impossible as makes no difference. On the other hand, a cap on the wage spread is both eminently possible and enforceable.

As to RBS, it is no stranger to controversy, as a cursory glance at the search results for "RBS controversy" would show. However, in terms of the 2007 fiscal crisis, the construction of a £340m HQ in Edinburgh, and another one worth half-a-billion in the U.S., were a little spendthrift, and the purchase of ABN Amro and heavy investment in the sub-prime market were - it is alleged - direct consequences of Goodwin's expansionist ethos.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Nov 14, 2012 5:09 pm UTC

Klear wrote:Edit: also, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to these things, but in your example of a CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, how much of the losses were indeed the CEO's fault? It was during the crisis, after all. Some losses are to be expected, likely unavoidable.


Either the company's performance reflects the CEO's contributions and justifies his exorbitant salary, or the company's performance is driven by external forces, and all the CEO needs to do is provide a figurehead. In the former case, they should be blamed for the losses; in the latter, they shouldn't be so highly paid for the successes.

If you assume the CEO has any influence on the company's performance, then paying them the same amount regardless of that performance minimises their incentive to do well at their job...

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:01 pm UTC

Red Hal wrote:Start in the corporation. Mandate that no employee's total earnings (include emoluments, stock options and so on) from a corporation may be less than 5% of the total earnings paid to the highest-paid employee, board-members included.


There are lots of ways to provide perqs that don't show. It might be better not to drive corporations too far toward such deception, since that makes it harder for them to do their own accounting too.

But one side effect of your idea might be to do less work inhouse. That could do some good.

Second, only gross profit not re-invested in the business should be liable for tax.


I see that you'd want to encourage re-investment. But businesses that have no plausible use for new investment might still do so to avoid tax, particularly if they saw a way to generate perqs.

Third, gross profit paid as a bonus to staff attracts negative taxation, offsetting profits paid out to shareholders in the form of dividend.


There are lots of problems with the way we do ownership, but putting more of the tax on owners and less on employees might not help much. When I try to think of it I get such complicated results I can't really guess what to expect.

Fourth, ban short-selling and make naked shorts in particular a criminal offence.


I 100% agree with this. Better yet, design stock markets from scratch to meet new goals. The currently-accepted main goal is liquidity. If you want to sell stock you can find a buyer at some price in seconds. Short selling means that if you want to buy you can find a seller at some price in seconds, usually, even if none of the actual owners want to sell at any price. Existing markets are very good at providing liquidity except when they occasionally break down, but maybe that shouldn't be the main goal. If I intend to buy for the long-term then it's OK if it takes a few days to sell when I want to sell.

None of this is repressive, it merely modifies the profit motive. If you want to take home a million per year that's fine, just don't pay your employees less than 50,000.


I like the idea of putting size limits on corporations, both in terms of number of employees and in terms of sales. There will be more competition if it's a bunch of small companies competing than a few giant ones. Competition is good, right? And if one company gets too big they can split in two -- they were very good at doing things at one size, so two companies that are very good at that size are better than one twice the size that faces new challenges due to its new circumstances.

Free market competition would do a lot to reduce excess profits. But of course, I don't know that profits are an important source of consolidation of wealth. That might happen mostly for other reasons.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Klear » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:15 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
Klear wrote:Edit: also, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to these things, but in your example of a CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, how much of the losses were indeed the CEO's fault? It was during the crisis, after all. Some losses are to be expected, likely unavoidable.


Either the company's performance reflects the CEO's contributions and justifies his exorbitant salary, or the company's performance is driven by external forces, and all the CEO needs to do is provide a figurehead. In the former case, they should be blamed for the losses; in the latter, they shouldn't be so highly paid for the successes.

If you assume the CEO has any influence on the company's performance, then paying them the same amount regardless of that performance minimises their incentive to do well at their job...


Uhm... performance of companies are affected by both external and internal forces. I'm not arguing in favour of this particular guy. He probably screwed up badly, but it's well possible that recession hit, a company loses money, but thanks to a CEO, it loses a lot less than it would have.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Wed Nov 14, 2012 6:46 pm UTC

Klear wrote:
rmsgrey wrote:
Klear wrote:Edit: also, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to these things, but in your example of a CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, how much of the losses were indeed the CEO's fault? It was during the crisis, after all. Some losses are to be expected, likely unavoidable.


Either the company's performance reflects the CEO's contributions and justifies his exorbitant salary, or the company's performance is driven by external forces, and all the CEO needs to do is provide a figurehead. In the former case, they should be blamed for the losses; in the latter, they shouldn't be so highly paid for the successes.

If you assume the CEO has any influence on the company's performance, then paying them the same amount regardless of that performance minimises their incentive to do well at their job...


Uhm... performance of companies are affected by both external and internal forces. I'm not arguing in favour of this particular guy. He probably screwed up badly, but it's well possible that recession hit, a company loses money, but thanks to a CEO, it loses a lot less than it would have.


Yes. In short, it's impossible for an outsider to measure a CEO's performance. It's very difficult for his Board of Directors to measure his performance, unless he does things that are obviously far from accepted practices.

So how should we decide how much money he should get? Oh, that's none of our business. His BOD will decide that, and unless you're on the BOD then just send your proxy to whoever you want.

Oh, you're not a stockholder? Then it's even less your business. If you don't like something MicroSoft does, then don't buy from MicroSoft. It's that simple. If you *really* don't like something MicroSoft does, then sue them. If justice is on your side, you'll win. Right?

Those are your rights. If everybody minds his own business then it will all work out right in the end. Or if you don't believe that, you could look for government regulation or something....

OK, back to the question how much to pay a CEO. How much is the company worth? If the CEO is sneaky enough, he can sell out to some other company. He sabotages his own company in sneaky undetectable ways, he siphons as much money from it as he can while the other company quietly pays him too, and then when his own company fails and you fire him, he walks away rich. So if the company itself is valuable then you need to pay the CEO more to do the best he can, than anybody else will pay him to do the worst he can. That may come out to a considerable sum.

You pay the CEO to make decisions. You can't micro-manage him, and decide which individual decisions are right or wrong. So you have to trust him right up to the point you distrust him enough to fire him. Since you trust him, you also want to be the highest bidder for his loyalty.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby neremanth » Wed Nov 14, 2012 8:05 pm UTC

(Sorry, another long one)
Spoiler:
Pfhorrest wrote: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.

Well, I certainly agree that a system of competing subscription justice services would work much better in a society such as yours than one such as ours, assuming that the elimination of rent does indeed as we are predicting lead to much greater economic inequality. It might even be a moderately bad thing in such a society instead of a terrible travesty of justice. Nevertheless, I do think that in the vast majority of democracies at least, including your thought experiment society, a single tax-funded not-for-profit justice provider operated, controlled or regulated by government is the most fair option.

Pfhorrest wrote: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).

Well yes, that was the point I was trying to make: that both the information and the medium it is encoded in are important, at least when you receive your purchase, and in the sense that there will be acceptable and unacceptable formats/media (not in the sense that there is only ever one acceptable medium). Still, the sandwich is very different to a comic. It's much easier to create a copy of the comic than a 'copy' of the sandwich, the cost of the preferred medium for receiving the comic is cheaper than the cost of the preferred medium for receiving the sandwich, and the 'copy' of the sandwich is consumed in order to be enjoyed (and the medium is perishable even if I decided not to eat the sandwich but just contemplate its beauty) so that the purchaser will likely be in the market for another 'copy' of the sandwich again in the near future.

I guess you could sell memory sticks with a copy of a comic on them under your proposed rules, I just don't think you could sell downloads, because then you're not selling a physical medium that contains the information.

Pfhorrest wrote: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.

Well, from your elaboration, I don't think that is the latter of the two alternatives I described (I don't think it's either of them, though it sounds to be closer to the latter, sure), but that's not important because I think I understand what you're saying now. (I'll note in passing that I agree that many - maybe even most - things are right or wrong independent of whether or not people believe they are wrong - I just don't believe that rights follow automatically from morality, I think that they are society's promises to an individual and are of course informed by morality, but not completely determined by it).

I am concerned by the idea of different providers of justice offering different moral principles to their subscribers. I realise you'd probably have some overarching things that all providers had to include like it being wrong to kill someone (except in self defense etc etc), but I still think this could easily lead to great difficulties when there was a dispute between two individuals subscribed to different services when the services disagree about the morality of the disputed action. If Person A does something to Person B that Person B feels is wrong and has harmed them, and Person B subscribes to a service that agrees with that point of view while Person A subscribes to a service that says what Person A did was absolutely fine, then Person A's service has an obligation to protect Person A from retribution by Person B's service while Person B's service has an obligation to exact retribution on Person A, and those obligations are irreconcilable.

Pfhorrest wrote: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.

Hmm, ok. I was worried by the system of bookkeeping you were describing where they didn't exchange any money while the employment was going on but the transactions of wood and completed chairs were recorded, and thought once employment came to an end the book would be consulted for a final reckoning up with actual money; but so long as there were laws in place that allowed the employee to put everything straight by finishing the chair they were on, guaranteed them the right to stay and do that, and prohibited the balance from ever going more than one chair's worth of wood in the employee's direction at any one time, that'd work ok.

________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Red Hal wrote:Start in the corporation. Mandate that no employee's total earnings (include emoluments, stock options and so on) from a corporation may be less than 5% of the total earnings paid to the highest-paid employee, board-members included. Second, only gross profit not re-invested in the business should be liable for tax. Third, gross profit paid as a bonus to staff attracts negative taxation, offsetting profits paid out to shareholders in the form of dividend. Fourth, ban short-selling and make naked shorts in particular a criminal offence. None of this is repressive, it merely modifies the profit motive. If you want to take home a million per year that's fine, just don't pay your employees less than 50,000.


That'd get my vote (though yes, there'd need to be a way to stop people just outsourcing). I'm not sure that 5% isn't a bit low still; but it's definitely a step in the right direction.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

rmsgrey wrote:
Klear wrote:Edit: also, I'm quite ignorant when it comes to these things, but in your example of a CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland, how much of the losses were indeed the CEO's fault? It was during the crisis, after all. Some losses are to be expected, likely unavoidable.

Either the company's performance reflects the CEO's contributions and justifies his exorbitant salary, or the company's performance is driven by external forces, and all the CEO needs to do is provide a figurehead. In the former case, they should be blamed for the losses; in the latter, they shouldn't be so highly paid for the successes.

Exactly. By the same token that losses during an economic crisis may be partially or wholly due to factors outside the CEO's control, gains during good economic times may also be.
Klear wrote:it's well possible that recession hit, a company loses money, but thanks to a CEO, it loses a lot less than it would have.

And it's certainly possible that in a favourable economic climate a company makes money, but, under this particular CEO, less than the average amount it could have made across all possible CEOs.

Everybody assumes that the correct price for an individual's labour is the amount at which that labour is valued by the purchaser. That might make sense economically (supply and demand and all that), but just in terms of what's "fair", you could look at it another way: presumably the janitor and the CEO value their non-work time equally, so why should an hour's work from the janitor receive less than an hour's work from the CEO? If the CEO enjoys their job more than the janitor enjoys theirs (which of course certainly need not be the case, but what if...) then the loss of free time for the CEO is more compensated by that enjoyment than the loss of free time for the janitor so you could even argue that the CEO (in that scenario) should be paid less. I mean, obviously it's never going to happen, and obviously it's not practical to work out how much each person enjoys their job; but I do wonder why people conflate "answer to an economics question about labour supply and demand in a free market" with "most morally righteous distribution of earnings".

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby ijuin » Wed Nov 14, 2012 9:08 pm UTC

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.


A contract in and of itself creates new obligations insofar as the contracting parties are willing to adhere to the agreement (i.e. "honesty"). Removing the ability to create such obligations would essentially entail the removal of the need for trust to exist between contracting parties, and instead require that all dealings be resolved immediately (i.e. no time-separation between delivery of parts of the agreement). Unfortunately, in the real world, many dealings involve actions that take place over a span of time, and thus must be paid either in advance, upon delivery, or in installments.

Let us say that you wish for me to build a house for you. It takes a month from groundbreaking until completion to build the house due to the fact that, even if I had unlimited resources and workers, only so much people and materials can cram into the workspace at once time, as well as the need for paint and plaster to dry, etc--it is inherently a "spread over time" activity. Now, you could pay me in advance so that I could use the money to pay for the workers and materials (requiring you to trust that I will deliver), or you could pay me at the time that I hand over possession of the finished house (resulting in me fronting the construction cost in the expectation that you will pay), or you could pay me for the work in installments over a longer span of time. No matter how the transaction proceeds, one of us is providing money/labor/goods in exchange for something that the other will deliver at a later time--the "spread over time" nature of the construction makes a simultaneous exchange of all value impossible.

The alternative here is that I, as a building contractor, construct the houses in advance of actually finding a buyer rather than building them to order, as that is the only way that I can imagine to circumvent the state of having promises waiting to be fulfilled.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby rmsgrey » Wed Nov 14, 2012 10:51 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:Yes. In short, it's impossible for an outsider to measure a CEO's performance. It's very difficult for his Board of Directors to measure his performance, unless he does things that are obviously far from accepted practices.

So how should we decide how much money he should get? Oh, that's none of our business. His BOD will decide that, and unless you're on the BOD then just send your proxy to whoever you want.

Oh, you're not a stockholder? Then it's even less your business.


One of the reasons people get so upset about the RBS bonuses is that they're largely funded by the government bailout, so it looks to an outsider like the CEOs are getting paid large sums for being clever enough to get into the top job at an organisation that's backed by the government money (there's a separate issue when you start comparing the bonuses paid to top management with the combined annual wage of all the people sacked because times are tight).

I agree that it's generally none of my business if an organisation is dumb enough to agree to keep paying someone small fortunes so long as they can avoid getting fired - until my democratically elected representatives start spending my taxes on that person's extravagant bonuses. Once it's my taxes going to paying for it, it becomes my business.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:01 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
J Thomas wrote:Yes. In short, it's impossible for an outsider to measure a CEO's performance. It's very difficult for his Board of Directors to measure his performance, unless he does things that are obviously far from accepted practices.

So how should we decide how much money he should get? Oh, that's none of our business. His BOD will decide that, and unless you're on the BOD then just send your proxy to whoever you want.

Oh, you're not a stockholder? Then it's even less your business.


One of the reasons people get so upset about the RBS bonuses is that they're largely funded by the government bailout, so it looks to an outsider like the CEOs are getting paid large sums for being clever enough to get into the top job at an organisation that's backed by the government money (there's a separate issue when you start comparing the bonuses paid to top management with the combined annual wage of all the people sacked because times are tight).

I agree that it's generally none of my business if an organisation is dumb enough to agree to keep paying someone small fortunes so long as they can avoid getting fired - until my democratically elected representatives start spending my taxes on that person's extravagant bonuses. Once it's my taxes going to paying for it, it becomes my business.


Good point! And it isn't just handing out money. Government can give him contracts that look like free bidding, but that are carefully designed so that nobody but him can meet the details of the specs. Government can design laws that favor him over his competitors, and laws that favor his industry over competing industries.

Even if the rules aren't intentionally designed to help some businesses and hurt others, still it's almost impossible to avoid doing that. If you try hard to make sure that a new law is fair to everybody, it will never get out of debate.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:46 am UTC

The example of a CEO was just to point out someone who has a larger degree of influence over the company than a janitor. Substitute in 'lead engineer' or 'chief of design' if it makes you feel better. Jonny Ives is worth a hell of a lot more to Apple than any single Genius Bar guy, and should be paid accordingly. Isn't that the whole point of getting paid: your employer pays you what your labour is worth to him, which is presumably some percentage of what you contribute to the company?
Not only do some jobs contribute more than 20 times more to a company, so jobs are inherently harder, more distasteful or more dangerous than others, and so should be paid accordingly. A brain surgeon who puts 10 (?) years into training for his job should get (a lot) more money than the teenager working the gift shop.
Restricting the size of companies seems again to be incomprehensibly stupid. Where do you draw the line? Some companies inherently require more work force than others. Some grow linearly with number of locations, others grow faster or slower. People WANT to be able to go to the same store in any area of the country, or to be able to buy the same product anywhere in the world. Having large companies (especially with a large lowest tier) in fact is much more efficient at distributing wealth than 10 different companies doing exactly the same job, because (presumably) the upper levels of management don't need to be replicated ten times over.

If your goal is to redistribute wealth, then just raise taxes on the rich and remove a few tax cuts. Boom, easy, and it doesn't involve the collapse of every mechanism of commerce as we know it.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerialTroll » Thu Nov 15, 2012 12:54 am UTC

Trasvi wrote:The example of a CEO was just to point out someone who has a larger degree of influence over the company than a janitor. Substitute in 'lead engineer' or 'chief of design' if it makes you feel better. Jonny Ives is worth a hell of a lot more to Apple than any single Genius Bar guy, and should be paid accordingly. Isn't that the whole point of getting paid: your employer pays you what your labour is worth to him, which is presumably some percentage of what you contribute to the company?
Not only do some jobs contribute more than 20 times more to a company, so jobs are inherently harder, more distasteful or more dangerous than others, and so should be paid accordingly. A brain surgeon who puts 10 (?) years into training for his job should get (a lot) more money than the teenager working the gift shop.
Restricting the size of companies seems again to be incomprehensibly stupid. Where do you draw the line? Some companies inherently require more work force than others. Some grow linearly with number of locations, others grow faster or slower. People WANT to be able to go to the same store in any area of the country, or to be able to buy the same product anywhere in the world. Having large companies (especially with a large lowest tier) in fact is much more efficient at distributing wealth than 10 different companies doing exactly the same job, because (presumably) the upper levels of management don't need to be replicated ten times over.

If your goal is to redistribute wealth, then just raise taxes on the rich and remove a few tax cuts. Boom, easy, and it doesn't involve the collapse of every mechanism of commerce as we know it.


I agree with part of your points and disagree with other parts. Let me start with the disagreement.

1) There is absolutely no morality behind what folks get paid. It is all about supply and demand. 20 years of schooling, skills, other components have an impact on the supply part of the curve, but are not what ultimately drives pay. Do not ever mistake pay as having some mystical rationale or morality behind it. My wife is a stay at home mom and has a job that is very important to society but gets paid zero. I'm in management and make a metric crapton of money but don't work as hard as others who make 1/3 what I do. Part of it is my skillset. Part of it is luck. And you could argue part of my skillset (IQ 150, Triple Nine Society is luck as well... I sure didn't design my genes). I have never looked at my paycheck and said "boy, I deserve all of this". The market says I should get paid what I do, and I am thankful for that.

Now the agreement.

2) I agree, that the market should not be messed with. Use taxes to help others acquire skills or financially support those who will never be able to make it. We have gained a boatload of productivity in the past 60 years, we can afford to take care of the bottom portion of the bell curve. Create "make work" jobs and fund them from my taxes. I make a lot and have no problem sharing it. Make the rest of us do the same. If anyone wants to cry "socialism", I'll say "damn straight".

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:59 am UTC

SerialTroll wrote:1) There is absolutely no morality behind what folks get paid. It is all about supply and demand. 20 years of schooling, skills, other components have an impact on the supply part of the curve, but are not what ultimately drives pay. Do not ever mistake pay as having some mystical rationale or morality behind it. My wife is a stay at home mom and has a job that is very important to society but gets paid zero. I'm in management and make a metric crapton of money but don't work as hard as others who make 1/3 what I do. Part of it is my skillset. Part of it is luck. And you could argue part of my skillset (IQ 150, Triple Nine Society is luck as well... I sure didn't design my genes). I have never looked at my paycheck and said "boy, I deserve all of this". The market says I should get paid what I do, and I am thankful for that.


I didn't mean to insinuate that there is morality behind wages. You're right that there is nothing saying that X years of study should equate to more pay : it is supply of people with those X years of study that dictates their wages. I meant to say there is rationality on behalf of the business, and that forcing them to pay unskilled/noncontributing members even 5% of the most skilled/contributing members is forcing them to do irrational things which would be detrimental to the company and to society as a whole.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby SerialTroll » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:17 am UTC

Trasvi wrote:
SerialTroll wrote:1) There is absolutely no morality behind what folks get paid. It is all about supply and demand. 20 years of schooling, skills, other components have an impact on the supply part of the curve, but are not what ultimately drives pay. Do not ever mistake pay as having some mystical rationale or morality behind it. My wife is a stay at home mom and has a job that is very important to society but gets paid zero. I'm in management and make a metric crapton of money but don't work as hard as others who make 1/3 what I do. Part of it is my skillset. Part of it is luck. And you could argue part of my skillset (IQ 150, Triple Nine Society is luck as well... I sure didn't design my genes). I have never looked at my paycheck and said "boy, I deserve all of this". The market says I should get paid what I do, and I am thankful for that.


I didn't mean to insinuate that there is morality behind wages. You're right that there is nothing saying that X years of study should equate to more pay : it is supply of people with those X years of study that dictates their wages. I meant to say there is rationality on behalf of the business, and that forcing them to pay unskilled/noncontributing members even 5% of the most skilled/contributing members is forcing them to do irrational things which would be detrimental to the company and to society as a whole.


Agreed 100%.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Nov 15, 2012 2:37 am UTC

eran_rathan wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote: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.

Historically, this would end up as lynch mobs, and Jim Crow laws (in large portions of the US - not so sure about the rest of the world, but it wouldn't surprise me either.)

I'm don't follow. Being able to say "we were wrong" leads to lynch mobs and Jim Crow laws, how? I don't see the connection there at all.

SO, you're arguing for an objective morality, but admit that you have no reason for this, and even admit that there is no way to prove if it is objective or not? Did I miss something?

I'm kind of trying not to go into this subject because J Thomas and I keep getting into it over and over and it's consumed several threads already, but what the heck.

I'm arguing that if there is any true morality then it must be an objective one, because a "relative good" is just something someone wants, in the same sense that a "relative truth" is just something someone believes, and mere wants and beliefs are importantly less than full-fledged goods and truths, in that a good is something it is correct to want and a truth is something it is correct to believe.

And then I'm arguing that any argument over what is good, just like arguments about what is true, will come down to some base assumptions that something is the correct answer to that type of question. Someone can always question that assumption (e.g. the solipsist who denies any reality beyond his perceptions, the egotist who denies any morality besides his desires), and then you have no way of really backing it up from deeper logical premises; but you can point out that without that assumption you're left saying "there is no answer", and that is just as much an assumption as its negation. We can only make assumptions one way or the other at this foundational level, so it comes down to mere pragmatic reasoning on which assumption should we choose to make: that there are some answers which we may not know yet but that we can try to find, or that there are no answers so we should just give up on it? For anyone interested in finding any answers that might be there, the first is the more pragmatic assumption to operate under; and for anyone uninterested in finding such answers, they've just excused themselves from the conversation so what do we care what they think?

Trasvi wrote:If your goal is to redistribute wealth, then just raise taxes on the rich and remove a few tax cuts.

My goal is not to redistribute wealth, but to prevent wealth from redistributing to the already-wealthy simply in virtue of them being wealthy; to prevent people from making money merely off of having more money. The litmus test is that if your business model wouldn't be feasible in a world where everyone was as rich as you, then you are somehow making money simply from having more money, not from actually doing something of intrinsic value to anyone which they would pay you for even if they were as rich as you. (E.g. all the things rich people pay poor people to do, and would want to pay for even if the poor people were all rich too). The goal is to cure that disease at its source, rather than just treating the symptom by taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

A simultaneous goal is maximizing liberty, i.e. minimizing coercion, and so the idea is to find a way to undermine the mechanisms by which wealth accumulates wealth by doing less (e.g. not enforcing contracts, or at least certain kinds of them), by simply not supporting those mechanisms, rather than by actively punishing people who utilize them.

A tertiary, more abstract goal is to integrate this into a system founded on well-justified principles.

ijuin wrote:A contract in and of itself creates new obligations insofar as the contracting parties are willing to adhere to the agreement (i.e. "honesty"). Removing the ability to create such obligations would essentially entail the removal of the need for trust to exist between contracting parties

Honesty and trust do not create obligations; in fact just the inverse, if you have honesty and trust you don't need obligations. You need enforceable obligations when the other party's honesty can't be trusted. Under my system people would still be able to promise things to each other and live up to those promises if they are honest, or to accept promises if they are trusting; it simply wouldn't create any enforceable obligation to live up to those promises (thus discouraging their widespread use among strangers in the market). A contract would create an obligation to fulfill such promises, and I am explicitly saying "lets not make contracts, here are principled reasons why not to, and here are a bunch of beneficial effects that would follow from that..."

instead require that all dealings be resolved immediately (i.e. no time-separation between delivery of parts of the agreement). Unfortunately, in the real world, many dealings involve actions that take place over a span of time, and thus must be paid either in advance, upon delivery, or in installments.

I've been saying all over this thread that I see no problem with displacement of delivery in time or space, if that is what was bought and sold. This relates to the digital media discussion too. Form, substance, place, and time are all important aspects of a thing, and when you buy a thing you're buying it at least tacitly understanding what values of those variables are acceptable. "I want this quantity of this substance arranged in this form at this place and this time." If any of those variables has the wrong value, you're just not getting the thing you paid for. So I can trade you some money here and now for a house there and then just fine, without it being anything other than a simple trade.

neremanth wrote:Well, I certainly agree that a system of competing subscription justice services would work much better in a society such as yours than one such as ours, assuming that the elimination of rent does indeed as we are predicting lead to much greater economic inequality. It might even be a moderately bad thing in such a society instead of a terrible travesty of justice. Nevertheless, I do think that in the vast majority of democracies at least, including your thought experiment society, a single tax-funded not-for-profit justice provider operated, controlled or regulated by government is the most fair option.

The problem is that taxes per se are not possible under the principles of my thought experiment society, so we're looking for ways to make up for their loss. (And what exactly do you mean by "government" here separate from "justice provider"? A government is just an certain kind of organization of people, and the question at hand is how to fund such an organization without violating certain principles that look desirable to uphold).

Well yes, that was the point I was trying to make: that both the information and the medium it is encoded in are important, at least when you receive your purchase, and in the sense that there will be acceptable and unacceptable formats/media (not in the sense that there is only ever one acceptable medium). Still, the sandwich is very different to a comic. It's much easier to create a copy of the comic than a 'copy' of the sandwich, the cost of the preferred medium for receiving the comic is cheaper than the cost of the preferred medium for receiving the sandwich, and the 'copy' of the sandwich is consumed in order to be enjoyed (and the medium is perishable even if I decided not to eat the sandwich but just contemplate its beauty) so that the purchaser will likely be in the market for another 'copy' of the sandwich again in the near future.

Those are all technological limitations however, not differences in principle. Until quite recently it was as difficult to replicate an image as it was to replicate a sandwich, and in the future it may be as easy to replicate a sandwich as it is to replicate an image today.

I guess you could sell memory sticks with a copy of a comic on them under your proposed rules, I just don't think you could sell downloads, because then you're not selling a physical medium that contains the information.

Nobody has addressed the TCP-over-ping-pong-balls analogy yet. If I can sell you a stream of colored balls (which you intend to discard once transcribing the list of their colors into a different medium), why can't I sell you a stream of photons or electrons or whatever? Sure I'm not literally transmitting the same photons or electrons from my location to your location, but I'm paying someone to deliver them to you; there could just as well be a ping-pong-ball-network-service-provider who I could pay to stream colored balls to you out of their reserves in a certain pattern. And you're just going to throw away the photons or electrons when you're done with them, but how is that different from the ping-pong balls, or for that matter many postal letters? You got the information from the medium I sent it in and then discarded the medium after transcribing the information (or your machine did all this for you automatically), but there was still a medium involved.

neremanth wrote:Well, from your elaboration, I don't think that is the latter of the two alternatives I described (I don't think it's either of them, though it sounds to be closer to the latter, sure), but that's not important because I think I understand what you're saying now. (I'll note in passing that I agree that many - maybe even most - things are right or wrong independent of whether or not people believe they are wrong - I just don't believe that rights follow automatically from morality, I think that they are society's promises to an individual and are of course informed by morality, but not completely determined by it).

I'm curious to hear your elaboration on how you think my position is different from your second alternative, as I suspect that may partly explain our disagreement on the parenthetical matter of the relation between rights and morality.

I am concerned by the idea of different providers of justice offering different moral principles to their subscribers. I realise you'd probably have some overarching things that all providers had to include like it being wrong to kill someone (except in self defense etc etc), but I still think this could easily lead to great difficulties when there was a dispute between two individuals subscribed to different services when the services disagree about the morality of the disputed action. If Person A does something to Person B that Person B feels is wrong and has harmed them, and Person B subscribes to a service that agrees with that point of view while Person A subscribes to a service that says what Person A did was absolutely fine, then Person A's service has an obligation to protect Person A from retribution by Person B's service while Person B's service has an obligation to exact retribution on Person A, and those obligations are irreconcilable.

The idea was that the pressure to avoid having such conflicts with each other would force different justice providers to come to agreements on fair and impartial principles (in a way somewhat like the idea of having one kid slice the sandwich and the other kid pick their slice; if you're afraid of getting the short end of the stick, you are motivated to make sure the stick is cut evenly). And that pressure from their customers would ensure that those agreed-upon principles are widely acceptable to the populace.

I would not impose from outside the system any limits on what principles might be adopted, because I might be wrong in my ideal principles. I do of course have an idea of what the correct principles would be (which is mostly what we're talking about here), and if we were magically starting a new society with such a market of justice providers they would all be starting out with those principles, but then they would be free to work out corrections to them as necessary, based on independent arguments from non-authoritarian sources, the need to come to agreement with other providers to avoid conflict, and the need to appease their clients in order to stay in business.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:14 am UTC

Trasvi wrote:The example of a CEO was just to point out someone who has a larger degree of influence over the company than a janitor. Substitute in 'lead engineer' or 'chief of design' if it makes you feel better. Jonny Ives is worth a hell of a lot more to Apple than any single Genius Bar guy, and should be paid accordingly. Isn't that the whole point of getting paid: your employer pays you what your labour is worth to him, which is presumably some percentage of what you contribute to the company?


Of course not! Look at it this way -- how much would it cost your employer to actually find out how much your labor is worth to him? That would take some pretty sophisticated accounting, right? Do you imagine your employer actually pays those costs? Of course he doesn't. More likely the flowchart goes more like this:

Has Trasvi been blamed for some obvious fuckup?
yes /\no
\/
Is Trasvi popular? Would I get blamed if I fired him?
yes /\no
\/
Would it be difficult to replace Trasvi with someone with similar or better skills, cheaper?
yes/\no
\/
Choose. Fire Trasvi or keep him.

If Trasvi is to be kept, is he an outstanding player who is getting courted by other companies?
yes/\no
/ Don't offer raise or bonus, except maybe a token bonus given to everybody.
/
Does Trasvi know trade secrets etc we need to keep out of competitors' hands?
yes/\no
/ Probably let them have him.
/
Is he getting offers that are more than he's probably worth?
yes/\no
/ Offer enough to keep him.
/
Let the other guy pay through the nose.

Not only do some jobs contribute more than 20 times more to a company, so jobs are inherently harder, more distasteful or more dangerous than others, and so should be paid accordingly. A brain surgeon who puts 10 (?) years into training for his job should get (a lot) more money than the teenager working the gift shop.


This is the labor theory of value, which says that if the work is harder to do it should pay more. A long time ago capitalist economists believed in the labor theory of value, but within the last 100 years or so only communists have accepted it.

Restricting the size of companies seems again to be incomprehensibly stupid. Where do you draw the line?


Well, the obvious approach is to start out assigning an upper limit and gradually reduce the limit, and by the time the lobbyists get it watered down you'll have done some good. If we required every corporation with more than 2 million employees to split into two corporations with half that many employees, only Walmart would be affected.

Then in a few years, require every corporation with more than 1 million employees to split in half. Only the two Walmarts would be affected.

Then later we require every corporation with more than 500,000 employees to split in half. Only the four Walmarts would be affected.

Then we require every corporation with more than 250,000 employees to split in half. The eight Walmarts would be affected, along with IBM, McDonald's, Target, Hewlett-Packard, Kroger, UPS, GE, PepsiCo, Sears, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway , Citigroup, Wells Fargo , Yum Brands, Home Depot , J.P. Morgan, AT&T, and FedEx.

You can argue that we are better off with one Walmart instead of 16 Walmarts engaging in free-market competition. You might make a reasonable argument about UPS and FedEx. Can you with a straight face argue that the US economy is better off with any of the others being the size they are? Surely in 2008 we would have been far better off if BoA, Citigroup, Wells Fargo, and JP Morgan were not too big to be allowed to fail.

If we occasionally reduce the maximum size for corporations, at some point we'll get a sense that we've taken it far enough. Unfortunately that's likely to come from lobbyists and not from any sort of objective data, but them's the breaks. It wasn't any sort of objective data that got us to let big corporations grow to their bloated sizes, either. That was lobbyists too.

Some companies inherently require more work force than others. Some grow linearly with number of locations, others grow faster or slower. People WANT to be able to go to the same store in any area of the country, or to be able to buy the same product anywhere in the world. Having large companies (especially with a large lowest tier) in fact is much more efficient at distributing wealth than 10 different companies doing exactly the same job, because (presumably) the upper levels of management don't need to be replicated ten times over.


I understand that these are the most common arguments against free markets. Sure, free markets are inherently inefficient, and it's more efficient to have monopolies instead -- just have one upper level of management, etc. I guess I shouldn't be surprised you are against free markets, lots of liberals feel that way.

If your goal is to redistribute wealth, then just raise taxes on the rich and remove a few tax cuts. Boom, easy, and it doesn't involve the collapse of every mechanism of commerce as we know it.


It isn't necessary to do much to mechanisms of commerce. Just eliminate fractional-reserve banking, set up honest free markets, and limit the size of corporations by employees and by income. Then free markets will naturally tend to redistribute wealth to people who actually produce. Then we can afford a dole so that less productive people can still afford necessities that free markets will efficiently provide for them.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:00 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
Trasvi wrote:If your goal is to redistribute wealth, then just raise taxes on the rich and remove a few tax cuts.

My goal is not to redistribute wealth, but to prevent wealth from redistributing to the already-wealthy simply in virtue of them being wealthy; to prevent people from making money merely off of having more money. The litmus test is that if your business model wouldn't be feasible in a world where everyone was as rich as you, then you are somehow making money simply from having more money, not from actually doing something of intrinsic value to anyone which they would pay you for even if they were as rich as you. (E.g. all the things rich people pay poor people to do, and would want to pay for even if the poor people were all rich too). The goal is to cure that disease at its source, rather than just treating the symptom by taking from the rich and giving to the poor.

A simultaneous goal is maximizing liberty, i.e. minimizing coercion, and so the idea is to find a way to undermine the mechanisms by which wealth accumulates wealth by doing less (e.g. not enforcing contracts, or at least certain kinds of them), by simply not supporting those mechanisms, rather than by actively punishing people who utilize them.

A tertiary, more abstract goal is to integrate this into a system founded on well-justified principles.


Why are we preventing people from making money off money? Actually, isn't 'making money off money' the entire point of commerce? Start with $10, buy something for $10, input some labour, and sell it to someone else for $15? That's money making money.
In a world where everyone was suddenly magically exactly as wealthy as each other and earned the same wage, within hours you'd have people who were more wealthy and others who were less wealthy, and people who were earning more money than others. Some people just don't care as much about money as other people, or some favour instant gratification over long term. Some people value their time, and so are willing to trade money for other people's time. It isn't about 'rich people paying poor people', its about human nature and different people wanting different things.

I'm not sure where you get the concept that contacts 'punish' those who utilise them; they only punish those who wish to break them. But aside from that: all of your mechanisms proposed are just swapping some liberties for others; removing my ability to run a company as large as I want, or to pay people whatever I want, or to purchase only a limited set of rights to property if that is what I wish to do.


instead require that all dealings be resolved immediately (i.e. no time-separation between delivery of parts of the agreement). Unfortunately, in the real world, many dealings involve actions that take place over a span of time, and thus must be paid either in advance, upon delivery, or in installments.

I've been saying all over this thread that I see no problem with displacement of delivery in time or space, if that is what was bought and sold. This relates to the digital media discussion too. Form, substance, place, and time are all important aspects of a thing, and when you buy a thing you're buying it at least tacitly understanding what values of those variables are acceptable. "I want this quantity of this substance arranged in this form at this place and this time." If any of those variables has the wrong value, you're just not getting the thing you paid for. So I can trade you some money here and now for a house there and then just fine, without it being anything other than a simple trade.


But what if, I pay you $X for a house to be delivered in Y time, and you don't live up to that? Am I just out of luck that you didn't live up to your end, and I should know not to trust you in the future? Or are you arrested for theft of my money (or property?). If it is enforced by arrest, then how is that different to a contract in any way other than semantics?
In a society where we can't possibly personally know everyone who we do business with, where business transactions are conducted on wide time scales involving multitudes of people, removing some kind of enforceable agreement system would be devastating, especially as transactions get larger and larger and the temptation to abscond with the money increases.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Thu Nov 15, 2012 4:25 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Trasvi wrote:The example of a CEO was just to point out someone who has a larger degree of influence over the company than a janitor. Substitute in 'lead engineer' or 'chief of design' if it makes you feel better. Jonny Ives is worth a hell of a lot more to Apple than any single Genius Bar guy, and should be paid accordingly. Isn't that the whole point of getting paid: your employer pays you what your labour is worth to him, which is presumably some percentage of what you contribute to the company?


Of course not! Look at it this way -- how much would it cost your employer to actually find out how much your labor is worth to him? That would take some pretty sophisticated accounting, right?

I didn't mean to say that it is directly calculated from my contribution; more of a rough idea, or an agreed amount that is some small fixed part of the company. But still, most good businesses should have some kind of automated recording metrics to determine which employees are performing.


Not only do some jobs contribute more than 20 times more to a company, so jobs are inherently harder, more distasteful or more dangerous than others, and so should be paid accordingly. A brain surgeon who puts 10 (?) years into training for his job should get (a lot) more money than the teenager working the gift shop.

This is the labor theory of value, which says that if the work is harder to do it should pay more. A long time ago capitalist economists believed in the labor theory of value, but within the last 100 years or so only communists have accepted it.

You're correct, I misspoke and skipped a step of the process. I meant: difficult/distasteful/dangerous work--> (in general) Less supply of people who can fulfil that work --> higher cost of wages.
There is excess supply of unskilled teenage shop assistants, but low supply/high demand for brain surgeons/CEO's, and thus attempting to fix the wages of one as some percentage of the wages of the other creates deadweight loss.


Some companies inherently require more work force than others. Some grow linearly with number of locations, others grow faster or slower. People WANT to be able to go to the same store in any area of the country, or to be able to buy the same product anywhere in the world. Having large companies (especially with a large lowest tier) in fact is much more efficient at distributing wealth than 10 different companies doing exactly the same job, because (presumably) the upper levels of management don't need to be replicated ten times over.


I understand that these are the most common arguments against free markets. Sure, free markets are inherently inefficient, and it's more efficient to have monopolies instead -- just have one upper level of management, etc. I guess I shouldn't be surprised you are against free markets, lots of liberals feel that way.

I'm not against 'free markets'; I think that the market should be as free as possible, with government assistance to help ensure that it can run as efficiently as possible for consumers. I can't comprehend how your solution of imposing artificial government limits on the size of a company is more of a 'free market' than one which allows contracts between companies. There is nothing inherently contradictory about monopolies existing in a free market - most forms are more likely to arise in a free market than one with government input. Monopolies can act with less, as much or more efficiency than a conglomerate of other companies, and there's nothing wrong with monopolies so long as they don't engage in detrimental practices to maintain their monopoly.
I was talking about splitting the Wal-Marts of the world into smaller companies. Going from one Walmart to 8 Walmarts would only serve increase the number of CEO's who get paid 20x more than their employees. And considering again that wages themselves aren't an enormous factor in the wealth of the very wealthy, capping the size of companies and artificially managing the wage levels is not going to assist with your goal of preventing the wealthy from making more money.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Thu Nov 15, 2012 6:45 am UTC

Trasvi wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Trasvi wrote:The example of a CEO was just to point out someone who has a larger degree of influence over the company than a janitor. Substitute in 'lead engineer' or 'chief of design' if it makes you feel better. Jonny Ives is worth a hell of a lot more to Apple than any single Genius Bar guy, and should be paid accordingly. Isn't that the whole point of getting paid: your employer pays you what your labour is worth to him, which is presumably some percentage of what you contribute to the company?


Of course not! Look at it this way -- how much would it cost your employer to actually find out how much your labor is worth to him? That would take some pretty sophisticated accounting, right?

I didn't mean to say that it is directly calculated from my contribution; more of a rough idea, or an agreed amount that is some small fixed part of the company. But still, most good businesses should have some kind of automated recording metrics to determine which employees are performing.


You can have that for some things. Like, for tech support calls you can record which people on average take longer to resolve the calls, and punish them for that. Of course this is likely to result in connections getting lost if it looks like a transaction will take too long. Whatever you count as performance is what employees will learn to maximize.

Not only do some jobs contribute more than 20 times more to a company, so jobs are inherently harder, more distasteful or more dangerous than others, and so should be paid accordingly. A brain surgeon who puts 10 (?) years into training for his job should get (a lot) more money than the teenager working the gift shop.

This is the labor theory of value, which says that if the work is harder to do it should pay more. A long time ago capitalist economists believed in the labor theory of value, but within the last 100 years or so only communists have accepted it.

You're correct, I misspoke and skipped a step of the process. I meant: difficult/distasteful/dangerous work--> (in general) Less supply of people who can fulfil that work --> higher cost of wages.


Jobs that are distasteful/dangerous may not get high pay. People who're desperate for jobs will take them regardless.
Jobs that are difficult to do well may simply wind up being done badly. Perhaps the company will find a way to redefine its mission so those jobs don't have to be done at all. For example, lots of companies do badly at tech support and still get a lot of business.

Then there are jobs for which it's very hard to measure quality. Management, for example.

There is excess supply of unskilled teenage shop assistants, but low supply/high demand for brain surgeons/CEO's, and thus attempting to fix the wages of one as some percentage of the wages of the other creates deadweight loss.


?? Did you have an idea that the number of brain surgeons reflects demand? Perhaps you have some sort of ideological reason to suppose that?

And why would you think there's a low supply of CEOs? There are more than 27 million companies in the USA, so that something like 9% of Americans are CEOs. Well OK, most of them don't have payrolls. That cuts it down to 6 million. Maybe 2.3 million with more than 4 employees. Still, that's 2.3 million actual CEOs, plus large numbers of Harvard MBAs who would be very happy to become the CEO of a business if somebody would just hire them to do that.

Some companies inherently require more work force than others. Some grow linearly with number of locations, others grow faster or slower. People WANT to be able to go to the same store in any area of the country, or to be able to buy the same product anywhere in the world. Having large companies (especially with a large lowest tier) in fact is much more efficient at distributing wealth than 10 different companies doing exactly the same job, because (presumably) the upper levels of management don't need to be replicated ten times over.


I understand that these are the most common arguments against free markets. Sure, free markets are inherently inefficient, and it's more efficient to have monopolies instead -- just have one upper level of management, etc. I guess I shouldn't be surprised you are against free markets, lots of liberals feel that way.

I'm not against 'free markets'; I think that the market should be as free as possible, with government assistance to help ensure that it can run as efficiently as possible for consumers. I can't comprehend how your solution of imposing artificial government limits on the size of a company is more of a 'free market' than one which allows contracts between companies.


I don't at this point advocate not allowing contracts. That's Pfhorrest's idea. I think it's interesting but I don't think he's figured out about his loopholes yet.

There is nothing inherently contradictory about monopolies existing in a free market - most forms are more likely to arise in a free market than one with government input. Monopolies can act with less, as much or more efficiency than a conglomerate of other companies, and there's nothing wrong with monopolies so long as they don't engage in detrimental practices to maintain their monopoly.


Well no, monopolies are constrained markets, not free. When there are enough buyers and sellers you can establish a market price. That doesn't work with a monopoly. The ultimate absurdity comes when you have two monopolies trying to buy and sell to each other....

I was talking about splitting the Wal-Marts of the world into smaller companies. Going from one Walmart to 8 Walmarts would only serve increase the number of CEO's who get paid 20x more than their employees.


Would it? Imagine how much the CEOs must get if there were 1000 Walmarts, then! No, the CEO of a company with 1000 employees will likely make more, other things equal, than the CEO of a company with only 50 employees. Why would the CEO of one of a Walmart with 250,000 employees get paid as much as the CEO of a Walmart with 2 million employees? What we are doing is removing a layer of management, and turning people at a lower level who previously were not CEOs, into CEOs. The result is slightly fewer people in management, not more people.

And considering again that wages themselves aren't an enormous factor in the wealth of the very wealthy, capping the size of companies and artificially managing the wage levels is not going to assist with your goal of preventing the wealthy from making more money.


It would reduce the amount of restraint of trade, resulting in more wealth circulating.

But things like that can't prevent wealthy people from getting wealthier. Here's one way they can do that: People whose fertility is poor tend to get richer. If you are an only child, then you are likely to inherit some of the money your parents didn't spend on your brothers and sisters who were not born. If your parents were both only children, that made your grandparents richer. Etc. If you marry an only child and then have only one child, that child is likely to get more money still.

You can't stop people concentrating wealth this way, short of just plain taking it away from them or not letting them inherit it. And doesn't it seem sad to take their money from them, when they are weeding themselves out of the gene pool?
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Trasvi » Thu Nov 15, 2012 7:42 am UTC

J Thomas wrote:You can have that for some things. Like, for tech support calls you can record which people on average take longer to resolve the calls, and punish them for that. Of course this is likely to result in connections getting lost if it looks like a transaction will take too long. Whatever you count as performance is what employees will learn to maximize.

You can do this for all things, it might just take a bit longer to work out how - it might not necessarily be automated, but it can be easily tracked. Determining the metrics isn't necessarily easy, but it is possible to get them right. If people in a call centre are hanging up on purpose, that probably means you have the metrics wrong.
Jobs that are distasteful/dangerous may not get high pay. People who're desperate for jobs will take them regardless.
Jobs that are difficult to do well may simply wind up being done badly. Perhaps the company will find a way to redefine its mission so those jobs don't have to be done at all. For example, lots of companies do badly at tech support and still get a lot of business.
Then there are jobs for which it's very hard to measure quality. Management, for example.
There is excess supply of unskilled teenage shop assistants, but low supply/high demand for brain surgeons/CEO's, and thus attempting to fix the wages of one as some percentage of the wages of the other creates deadweight loss.


?? Did you have an idea that the number of brain surgeons reflects demand? Perhaps you have some sort of ideological reason to suppose that?

And why would you think there's a low supply of CEOs? There are more than 27 million companies in the USA, so that something like 9% of Americans are CEOs. Well OK, most of them don't have payrolls. That cuts it down to 6 million. Maybe 2.3 million with more than 4 employees. Still, that's 2.3 million actual CEOs, plus large numbers of Harvard MBAs who would be very happy to become the CEO of a business if somebody would just hire them to do that.

If there is sufficient demand for 'jobs' in general, then yes, the supplier of the job has the ability to dictate terms. And when there is a high demand for workers, the workers get to dictate the terms.

Forgetting my specific examples of a ceo/brain surgeon/checkout chick for a moment; the argument is that skilled workers are harder to come by than unskilled workers (because skilled workers can also be unskillled workers) and so as long as skilled workers are in demand, they will command higher prices than unskilled workers. If they aren't in demand, then their wages will fall, to a point where people deciding whether to pursue further skills will choose not to due to the low wage gap, and soon enough you'll have a demand for skilled workers again. wrt Surgeons: In Australia, the universities actively control the number of enrolments (and thus presumably the number of people who graduate to become brain surgeons) and so they can regulate the supply to match demand that way (because they look bad if their graduates don't get jobs).
If you really think skilled 'CEOs' are a dime a dozen, then why do companies pay their CEOs hundreds of thousands of dollars when supply is so high and they could just go grab any Harvard MBA?
Its not exactly a revolutionary idea; perhaps I've gotten the specific terms wrong but the outcome is roughly the same. People with skills which are in demand will get paid at least as much as people with no skills. Lawyers and Engineers and Surgeons getting paid more than checkout chicks: because their skills are in demand. And if their skills are so much in demand that the wages they can command are far higher than what a checkout chick does, why would you try to stop this?

Well no, monopolies are constrained markets, not free. When there are enough buyers and sellers you can establish a market price. That doesn't work with a monopoly. The ultimate absurdity comes when you have two monopolies trying to buy and sell to each other....

'Free market' generally means 'non government controlled market', not 'freedom to do what you like market'. Monopolies can form in truly free markets, and are (generally) broken by controlled markets. A monopoly can still act as normal within the market and change their prices like any other entity, they just rarely have incentive to do this.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby arthurd006_5 » Thu Nov 15, 2012 9:53 am UTC

rmsgrey wrote:If you assume the CEO has any influence on the company's performance, then paying them the same amount regardless of that performance minimises their incentive to do well at their job...


The bidding-for-loyalty argument, which I've seen in this thread, I think is valid. This incentive-causes-result argument, there's a fair amount of evidence to disprove. On TED, it's discussed at least once in the context of "the candle problem".

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby eran_rathan » Thu Nov 15, 2012 1:14 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
eran_rathan wrote:
Pfhorrest wrote: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.

Historically, this would end up as lynch mobs, and Jim Crow laws (in large portions of the US - not so sure about the rest of the world, but it wouldn't surprise me either.)

I'm don't follow. Being able to say "we were wrong" leads to lynch mobs and Jim Crow laws, how? I don't see the connection there at all.


Coming at it from a Lockean/Rousseau perspective, I think that the idea of 'inherent, unalienable rights' most perforce be the abiding principle of any society - Nearly every time that what rights certain people are allowed to have has come up to a popular vote, it has been in favour of restricting rights for certain minorities (Notable exceptions - Nineteenth Amendment, recent votes for SSM). Look at the Civil Rights Movement for instance - without the top-down imposition of rights that had been guaranteed from the government over the objections of local government and with the threat of the use of force, many states in the South would still have people of color be second-class citizens. Without the threat of force, or other coercion, how would you proposed a situation like that be handled? Self-deportation, perhaps?

SO, you're arguing for an objective morality, but admit that you have no reason for this, and even admit that there is no way to prove if it is objective or not? Did I miss something?

I'm kind of trying not to go into this subject because J Thomas and I keep getting into it over and over and it's consumed several threads already, but what the heck.

I'm arguing that if there is any true morality then it must be an objective one, because a "relative good" is just something someone wants, in the same sense that a "relative truth" is just something someone believes, and mere wants and beliefs are importantly less than full-fledged goods and truths, in that a good is something it is correct to want and a truth is something it is correct to believe.


Hm. I'm more interested in practicality rather than big T Truth - I'm a Newtonian in a relativistic universe - my approximations are good enough for every-day use. :wink:

And whenever talking about "Good" or "Bad" or Right or Wrong, you need to append "for whom?" to each and every one of those statements.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Thu Nov 15, 2012 3:35 pm UTC

Trasvi wrote:
J Thomas wrote:You can have that for some things. Like, for tech support calls you can record which people on average take longer to resolve the calls, and punish them for that. Of course this is likely to result in connections getting lost if it looks like a transaction will take too long. Whatever you count as performance is what employees will learn to maximize.

You can do this for all things, it might just take a bit longer to work out how - it might not necessarily be automated, but it can be easily tracked. Determining the metrics isn't necessarily easy, but it is possible to get them right. If people in a call centre are hanging up on purpose, that probably means you have the metrics wrong.


Yes, that's my point. It's very very easy to get the metrics wrong. Different for each job, of course. So if you go that route you must monitor each job, noticing what exactly you want, and what you get, and adjust what you measure and what you reward. Somebody smart has to do this and it takes a whole lot of his time. But there is an alternative -- train people in what you want, look for customer reviews etc to get a sense how well it works, occasionally reward somebody or punish somebody who attracts your attention, and hope.

The people who want to do a good job will look for ways to do it better. People who just try to get through the day will do that. People who goof off more than the norm will get others disrespecting them. So you read that. People who look like they just don't care at all, you fire. People that everybody disrespects, you fire. People that make a show of trying hard and being competent, you promote. And you pay a whole lot of attention to customer feedback because that's what really counts. You can't afford to spend a whole lot of time micro-managing your subordinates anyway, because you have your own work to do.

There is excess supply of unskilled teenage shop assistants, but low supply/high demand for brain surgeons/CEO's, and thus attempting to fix the wages of one as some percentage of the wages of the other creates deadweight loss.


?? Did you have an idea that the number of brain surgeons reflects demand? Perhaps you have some sort of ideological reason to suppose that?

And why would you think there's a low supply of CEOs? There are more than 27 million companies in the USA, so that something like 9% of Americans are CEOs. Well OK, most of them don't have payrolls. That cuts it down to 6 million. Maybe 2.3 million with more than 4 employees. Still, that's 2.3 million actual CEOs, plus large numbers of Harvard MBAs who would be very happy to become the CEO of a business if somebody would just hire them to do that.

If there is sufficient demand for 'jobs' in general, then yes, the supplier of the job has the ability to dictate terms. And when there is a high demand for workers, the workers get to dictate the terms.


Yes, and when workers get to dictate the terms is a good opportunity for automation. Automation has a high up-front cost, but if you're going to be paying a lot anyway, it might be worth it. If you can define the job well enough to judge how well human workers do at it, then you can probably write a script for it.

Forgetting my specific examples of a ceo/brain surgeon/checkout chick for a moment; the argument is that skilled workers are harder to come by than unskilled workers (because skilled workers can also be unskillled workers) and so as long as skilled workers are in demand, they will command higher prices than unskilled workers.


Sure. Nowadays that can adjust real quick. Like, it used to be that web designers were very much in demand. But then we got automated tools to build webpages so anybody could do it. Professional webdesigners learned to put dancing bunnies and innovative fonts on their pages, things that only a professional could maintain. But more and more stuff got easy to do, until I started meeting webdesigners at parties who argued that they knew how to make truly *pleasing* webpages. You could always tell an amateur page because they were eyesores, they didn't know how to do it *right*. By then I was sure that demand was fading away at their price range.

If they aren't in demand, then their wages will fall, to a point where people deciding whether to pursue further skills will choose not to due to the low wage gap, and soon enough you'll have a demand for skilled workers again. wrt Surgeons: In Australia, the universities actively control the number of enrolments (and thus presumably the number of people who graduate to become brain surgeons) and so they can regulate the supply to match demand that way (because they look bad if their graduates don't get jobs).


How many brain surgeons are there in the USA? I couldn't find a certain answer, but somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000. I found a claim that 160/year graduate. Since neurosurgeons graduate around age 32-33, and assuming their reflexes let them continue to age 65, that would imply around 5000 at steady state.

How many brain surgeons are needed? I don't know that either. Say they perform around 250 surgeries a year, each, that's somewhere around 125,000. There are around 1.7 million traumatic brain injuries/year in the USA, and 3/4 of them are concussions and other "mild" things. That leaves only around 400,000 serious injuries. About 2% of Americans have a brain aneurysm and 30,000 of those rupture/year, with a 40% death rate and a 40% chance of permanent disability. About 700,000 people get CVA (stroke) each year. It isn't at all obvious how many people would benefit from brain surgery. Brain surgeons choose the best prospective surgical patients and operate on them, and leave the rest for other treatments. If there were more brain surgeons could they keep their prices as high? Why not? I've never heard of anybody who shopped around for the cheapest brain surgeon. Why would you think supply and demand applies to this situation?

If you really think skilled 'CEOs' are a dime a dozen, then why do companies pay their CEOs hundreds of thousands of dollars when supply is so high and they could just go grab any Harvard MBA?


Because they don't want just a Harvard MBA, of course. It's an important job so they want somebody with a proven track record. Why would anybody think you would be a good CEO just because you have spent years studying how to be a good CEO? Obviously, the only real candidates are CEOs who are already running successful businesses that are on a par with the one that's doing the search. You don't want somebody from a bigger and more prestigious company -- if he takes the job it indicates he's on the downslide. You don't want somebody from a small pipsqueak company -- he hasn't shown he can handle the work. The pool of acceptable candidates is not very large, and they're all running successful companies already. Why should they take on your challenges? They might fail and hurt their reputations, while they know how to do what they're already doing.

One reason to accept the new job is that you offer to pay them more money. Another reason is that if they've been doing everything they can to pump up their current company's reputation in the short run, they might want to get out before the consequences catch up to them.

Another option is to promote from within. You take somebody who's spend 25 or 30 years being a subordinate, and you make him the top guy. He knows a whole lot about the business, maybe more than anybody else in the world, but does he know how to make decisions answerable to no one? He may not have any practice at it.

Its not exactly a revolutionary idea; perhaps I've gotten the specific terms wrong but the outcome is roughly the same. People with skills which are in demand will get paid at least as much as people with no skills. Lawyers and Engineers and Surgeons getting paid more than checkout chicks: because their skills are in demand.


How do you measure how competent a lawyer is? Do you look at his track record for winning cases? But if he has the luxury of choosing his cases, he will choose ones he can win. People tend to pay more to professionals when they have no good way to judge how good the professional actually is. Engineers fail by building something that does not work or that falls down. How do surgeons fail? By inspiring too many malpractice suits? If a professional is still in business then you can figure he's at least mediocre, if he was completely incompetent he wouldn't be able to still practice. So yer buys yer ticket and yer takes yer chances.

And if their skills are so much in demand that the wages they can command are far higher than what a checkout chick does, why would you try to stop this?


I wouldn't. I would, though, encourage the largest corporations to break up into smaller ones. The larger the company, the harder it is for the CEO to even tell much about what's going on. The less competition is possible. If there is a cost to have more smaller businesses doing free competition, likely that cost is worth paying.

Well no, monopolies are constrained markets, not free. When there are enough buyers and sellers you can establish a market price. That doesn't work with a monopoly. The ultimate absurdity comes when you have two monopolies trying to buy and sell to each other....

'Free market' generally means 'non government controlled market', not 'freedom to do what you like market'.


That's a polemical distinction. To my way of thinking, when you don't have free competition then you have lost the advantage you want to claim for free markets.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby rmsgrey » Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:07 pm UTC

J Thomas wrote:
Well no, monopolies are constrained markets, not free. When there are enough buyers and sellers you can establish a market price. That doesn't work with a monopoly. The ultimate absurdity comes when you have two monopolies trying to buy and sell to each other....

'Free market' generally means 'non government controlled market', not 'freedom to do what you like market'.


That's a polemical distinction. To my way of thinking, when you don't have free competition then you have lost the advantage you want to claim for free markets.


Which may be the problem with "free" markets - at least in anything where a monopoly tends to develop naturally (like, say, computer operating systems)

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby neremanth » Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:44 pm UTC

(More long stuff under the button)
Spoiler:
SerialTroll wrote:1) There is absolutely no morality behind what folks get paid. It is all about supply and demand. 20 years of schooling, skills, other components have an impact on the supply part of the curve, but are not what ultimately drives pay. Do not ever mistake pay as having some mystical rationale or morality behind it. My wife is a stay at home mom and has a job that is very important to society but gets paid zero. I'm in management and make a metric crapton of money but don't work as hard as others who make 1/3 what I do. Part of it is my skillset. Part of it is luck. And you could argue part of my skillset (IQ 150, Triple Nine Society is luck as well... I sure didn't design my genes). I have never looked at my paycheck and said "boy, I deserve all of this". The market says I should get paid what I do, and I am thankful for that.

This is what I was trying to say, but you've expressed it much better!
Trasvi wrote:I didn't mean to insinuate that there is morality behind wages. You're right that there is nothing saying that X years of study should equate to more pay : it is supply of people with those X years of study that dictates their wages.

...So it looks like maybe more people share that opinion than I thought. Well, I'm happy to have been wrong about that.

SerialTroll wrote:Use taxes to help others acquire skills or financially support those who will never be able to make it. We have gained a boatload of productivity in the past 60 years, we can afford to take care of the bottom portion of the bell curve. Create "make work" jobs and fund them from my taxes. I make a lot and have no problem sharing it. Make the rest of us do the same. If anyone wants to cry "socialism", I'll say "damn straight".

That gets my support! (I don't understand why 'socialism' is apparently such a dirty word, to those from the US at least).

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Pfhorrest wrote:Under my system people would still be able to promise things to each other and live up to those promises if they are honest, or to accept promises if they are trusting; it simply wouldn't create any enforceable obligation to live up to those promises (thus discouraging their widespread use among strangers in the market).

...Wouldn't that be likely to lead to an old boys' network? People are still going to want to make deals of various kinds other than the property transactions that are the only kind with official support, even if they aren't legally enforceable. So, as you say, people will only be willing to deal with their immediate circle, which I would imagine would be largely composed of people with a similar financial standing - making it harder for individuals who start out poorer to break into commerce. I know abolishing rentals is supposed to put everyone on a less unequal footing economically, which would probably make this less of a problem - but that's if things do indeed become more equal which they might not with this phenomenon tending to push things in the other direction.

Pfhorrest wrote:I've been saying all over this thread that I see no problem with displacement of delivery in time or space, if that is what was bought and sold.

Are you saying that an agreement to hand over goods of description x at time A and place B in return for money of amount y at time(s) C and place D/by payment method D would be the only kind of contract legally enforceable, rather than that literally no contracts would be legally enforceable? Because if so I think there may be some miscommunication going on here.

Pfhorrest wrote:The problem is that taxes per se are not possible under the principles of my thought experiment society

I think I missed that bit. Is it part of the description of the thought experiment, or is it a consequence of other aspects of the description? (I'm in favour of taxes; so since your thought experiment doesn't allow them I'd say that yes, of course we need to find some other way to pay for the things taxes pay for, but let me note that I think this aspect of the thought experiment makes the society it describes inherently less ideal: my opinion is that it would be better to allow them).

Pfhorrest wrote:what exactly do you mean by "government" here separate from "justice provider"? A government is just an certain kind of organization of people, and the question at hand is how to fund such an organization without violating certain principles that look desirable to uphold

The government and the justice provider certainly might be the same body; the phrasing was intended to allow the possibility that they might not be, rather than to say they definitely couldn't be. I guess I think of a government as the entity that passes laws, administers the budget to which our taxes contribute, has diplomatic relations with the corresponding entities of other countries, and may provide certain services (e.g. health, education, justice,...) by paying for them and providing some degree of management and/or regulation of them. (Of course, a government wouldn't have to do all of that to be a government - e.g. in your scenario with no taxes and no laws (?) two of those functions don't exist - so I guess I'd call 'the government' whichever body filled most of those roles). I certainly don't consider the police or the courts to be 'the government' although I'd say they were operated and regulated by the government (in the UK at least, and for the moment). I think that might be more of a semantic than a substantive difference though.

Pfhorrest wrote:Nobody has addressed the TCP-over-ping-pong-balls analogy yet. If I can sell you a stream of colored balls (which you intend to discard once transcribing the list of their colors into a different medium), why can't I sell you a stream of photons or electrons or whatever? Sure I'm not literally transmitting the same photons or electrons from my location to your location, but I'm paying someone to deliver them to you; there could just as well be a ping-pong-ball-network-service-provider who I could pay to stream colored balls to you out of their reserves in a certain pattern. And you're just going to throw away the photons or electrons when you're done with them, but how is that different from the ping-pong balls, or for that matter many postal letters? You got the information from the medium I sent it in and then discarded the medium after transcribing the information (or your machine did all this for you automatically), but there was still a medium involved.

I don't really know much physics; you may be right. I thought downloading something from you didn't mean I gained any electrons or that you lost any, but I'd be quite prepared to admit I was wrong about that. Even if there is a real transfer of electrons, I'm a bit dubious about whether one can own a specific electron: (again with the poor knowledge of physics, but) aren't they hopping around all the time? If that's true, I'd have thought you'd have to choose between "I own this [gold bar/egg sandwich/body/whatever], and if it loses some electrons and gains some while it's sitting there it's still the same [gold bar/sandwich/body/etc], and it's still mine: I don't have to compensate whoever those electrons belonged to before for their loss and my acquisition of them" and "I own these specific electrons, and if some of them go into someone else's [gold bar/egg sandwich/body/whatever] then they're still my electrons, which makes it a different [gold bar/egg sandwich/body/etc] which I know own an exceedingly tiny fraction of". And I would say the former option is preferable. Ping pong balls don't have that problem; maybe electrons don't either in which case ok.

Pfhorrest wrote:I'm curious to hear your elaboration on how you think my position is different from your second alternative, as I suspect that may partly explain our disagreement on the parenthetical matter of the relation between rights and morality.

Reading it through again it's actually not very different from what I put as my second alternative - sorry about that. The only difference is that I implied that rights were determined at the beginning and then set in stone, but that's not really an important difference and that aspect wasn't the problem I had with that possibility. It's not about being able to change our minds if we realise we'd come to wrong conclusions about what is a right and what isn't, it's that I think (despite most things being wrong or not wrong independently of what anyone has to say about the matter) a right only exists because we decide to grant it to ourselves. (It's an opinion I've only formed recently, so my thinking is quite open to further evolution; and it's also possible that I'm inadvertantly abusing the defnition of the word "right" in which case I'll also revise my thinking - I wouldn't want to do a Steve!)

Pfhorrest wrote:The idea was that the pressure to avoid having such conflicts with each other would force different justice providers to come to agreements on fair and impartial principles (in a way somewhat like the idea of having one kid slice the sandwich and the other kid pick their slice; if you're afraid of getting the short end of the stick, you are motivated to make sure the stick is cut evenly). And that pressure from their customers would ensure that those agreed-upon principles are widely acceptable to the populace.

Well, if they did naturally come to a consensus on the principles they upheld, then I'm not sure any of this would really hold:
they can shop around until they find one they think is fair

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)

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

I mean sure, you could have a great degree of overlap, but you can't have a situation in which you have any choice about which principles you want to be held to together with a guarantee that you will be held to those and no others. If there is any difference between systems, then you are effectively bound by the union of their prohibitions, because if you do something allowed by your system that is prohibited in any other then you run the risk that you might be called to account for that. (If the thing you want to do only affects one other person then you are only bound by the union of the prohibitions of your and their justice provider rather than of all providers, but still). Which effectively reduces the choice available to you anyway, because it makes your likely outcomes under different providers more similar. Compare that to the present system where it is much more certain whether any action on your part would warrant negative repercussions, but things can still be changed as desired (at least in theory...) by voting for representatives who will enact/repeal laws.

If the systems do eventually come to a complete consensus, the issue of conflicting principles is still going to arise during the transition period when everything is coming to that equilibrium. And wouldn't the system have quite a bit of inertia? Sure, the justice systems are being informed by the debates on morality, so if some debate causes a revolution in people's thinking most of the systems will probably want to change their principles accordingly. But no system can be the first to make the change because having different principles to all the other providers causes all those same headaches. Unless the justice providers have regular conferences where they get together and discuss changes they'd like to make, and then make them multilaterally if there's enough of them to make it worthwhile?

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby J Thomas » Thu Nov 15, 2012 5:56 pm UTC

rmsgrey wrote:
J Thomas wrote:
Well no, monopolies are constrained markets, not free. When there are enough buyers and sellers you can establish a market price. That doesn't work with a monopoly. The ultimate absurdity comes when you have two monopolies trying to buy and sell to each other....

'Free market' generally means 'non government controlled market', not 'freedom to do what you like market'.


That's a polemical distinction. To my way of thinking, when you don't have free competition then you have lost the advantage you want to claim for free markets.


Which may be the problem with "free" markets - at least in anything where a monopoly tends to develop naturally (like, say, computer operating systems)


That's a good example. In hindsight, I think what customers wanted was standards. They wanted to buy software and just have it run. Microsoft promised that. If you bought a standard PC and a Microsoft OS and Microsoft apps, it would just run. And if you plugged in any sort of card the maker went to a whole lot of trouble to make sure it ran with Microsoft drivers, and their proprietary drivers worked with Microsoft. What MS gave us was standards, when it was more important to have a standard than it was to have a good standard.

But when they had an economic monopoly, then it turned out they wouldn't even maintain compatibility with themselves. Whenever they wanted people to buy again they'd create incompatible new versions and everybody who needed compatibility with other users had to shell out.

What the users wanted was compatibility standards, and there was no adequate mechanism set up to fund that. So what they got instead was economic monopoly. That didn't work very well, but we still don't have an adequate way to fund compatibility standards to get what we want instead.
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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby vathelokai » Thu Nov 22, 2012 5:43 am UTC

*AHEM*
There are still typos in the large version online, namely "Eiesnhower", in the left most side of the senate column at approx 1956.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby duckbreath » Sat Dec 08, 2012 3:53 am UTC

This info-graphic is way oversimplified. It has the Democrats as the left party and the Republicans, Whigs and Federalists as the right. This is definitely not the case through most of US history. Examples - in the first years Federalists were definitely the pro-government party and the Democratic-Republican Jeffersonians the more conservative in regards to government intervention. At the same time, the Jeffersonians were for expanding democracy (except to blacks) - which could be more liberal, while the anti-slavery movements came from Federalists and Whigs - so in the that case they are more left.

The chart is really off in the 1860's when we had the most radical congress in our history - the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments - of course these were all Republicans - while the stauch conservative opposition - which would align with the KKK were the Democrats. Yet the chart shows this period to be overwhelmingly conservative - when it was the most left in our history (in regards to the time period).

So the charts is bogus. In addition, this is also so evident in our current congress. For example - I'd say we have one true Senator of the left - Bernie Sanders, a handful of left leaning, but most Democrats are center left/moderate (Cantwell, Murray, and my senators in Oregon while at least 30 plus Republicans can be identified as hard right - (much more right than
Bernie Sanders is left) - yet the chart shows that the current Senate is pretty even between Hard right/Hard Left - Moderate Left/Right and Slight Left/Right. That's beyond absurd - 36 Senators just voted against some basic UN treaty to treat disabled people fairly because of a conspiracy theory on the UN taking over US Law - where are the 36 senators voting to give solidarity to Raul Castro? - which in terms of right/left would be a similiar resolution.

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Re: 1127: "Congress"

Postby Pfhorrest » Sat Dec 08, 2012 10:02 pm UTC

duckbreath wrote:This info-graphic is way oversimplified. It has the Democrats as the left party and the Republicans, Whigs and Federalists as the right. This is definitely not the case through most of US history. Examples - in the first years Federalists were definitely the pro-government party and the Democratic-Republican Jeffersonians the more conservative in regards to government intervention. At the same time, the Jeffersonians were for expanding democracy (except to blacks) - which could be more liberal, while the anti-slavery movements came from Federalists and Whigs - so in the that case they are more left.

The chart is really off in the 1860's when we had the most radical congress in our history - the 13th, 14th and 15th amendments - of course these were all Republicans - while the stauch conservative opposition - which would align with the KKK were the Democrats. Yet the chart shows this period to be overwhelmingly conservative - when it was the most left in our history (in regards to the time period).

So the charts is bogus. In addition, this is also so evident in our current congress. For example - I'd say we have one true Senator of the left - Bernie Sanders, a handful of left leaning, but most Democrats are center left/moderate (Cantwell, Murray, and my senators in Oregon while at least 30 plus Republicans can be identified as hard right - (much more right than
Bernie Sanders is left) - yet the chart shows that the current Senate is pretty even between Hard right/Hard Left - Moderate Left/Right and Slight Left/Right. That's beyond absurd - 36 Senators just voted against some basic UN treaty to treat disabled people fairly because of a conspiracy theory on the UN taking over US Law - where are the 36 senators voting to give solidarity to Raul Castro? - which in terms of right/left would be a similiar resolution.


You seem to make the historically parochial assumption that "left" means "pro-government". It doesn't. The only persistent defining feature of left-right politics since the coinage of the terms has been the left advocating for the "commoners" (lower class) and the right advocating for the "nobles" (upper class). That's how the terms were coined, that's how it persists today. Over the centuries both sides have appealed to quite different policies toward the ends of their constituencies: originally the nobles had the government in their pockets and so the left advocated more liberty and less government control, which is why they got called "liberals" (what would today be called "libertarians"); the right resisted that in favor of the status quo (of noble-favoring government control), and so we called "conservatives". After that original left more or less completely won and the old aristocracies crumbled, socialist movements started advocating the use of government to benefit the commoners, and that became the new left; the right meanwhile resisted that further change still, and a significant and growing portion wanted the old ways back too. Nowadays that middle philosophy seems to be overlooked almost entirely, and the left advocates the use of government to benefit the lower classes and restrictions on its ability to benefit the upper classes, while the right advocates the use of government to benefit the upper classes and restrictions on its ability to benefit the lower classes.

The Federalists wanted a powerful government like the monarchy they had just thrown off, and so were at that time right-wing or conservative. The Democratic-Republicans were far more liberal in comparison, wanting much less government power to ensure that it couldn't abuse the common people, and so were the left-wing liberals. As the chart shows, the old right lost pretty much completely, and by the time of the New Deal the new left had decided that government wasn't a bad thing if used to benefit the common people. I might agree with you thought that the partied swung around each other around the 1860s -- abolitionism is a pretty left-wing stance any way you slice it. But the chart is showing data of what various congresses have voted like in comparison to the ones immediately before and after them, and apparently the transition from Democratic-Republicans to Jacksonian Democrats to the New Deal and on down to today has a continuous voting pattern even as their policies changed, so they all get shown on the same, left, side; and conversely with the right as well.
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