Assorted links

by on August 10, 2014 at 1:55 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1 prior_approval August 10, 2014 at 2:13 pm

‘Very easy rider: Now Google plans driverless robot motorbike – and wants permission to start testing them on the road’

This makes little sense – speaking as a motorcycle rider, why bother?

2 derek August 10, 2014 at 3:17 pm

I’ll mark this date as something worth noting. August 10 2014 I agree with prior_approval.

3 Yancey Ward August 10, 2014 at 5:38 pm

Damn! World ends at midnight.

4 Nick_L August 10, 2014 at 7:44 pm

Courier motorcycles for one. Have that package or those documents delivered quickly and cheaply. Deliver medical supplies to a road accident or disaster area without risk to the rider.

5 prior_approval August 10, 2014 at 2:19 pm

And this was fun –

‘¿Y España? “Me preocupa el futuro político de la Unión Europea y de España. Ustedes afrontan grandes decisiones. Escocia, con Reino Unido. Reino Unido, o lo que quede de él, y la UE. Cataluña y España. El crecimiento de un partido semifascista en Francia. No pretendo predecir lo que ocurrirá, pero cuando lo miro, como extranjero, veo demasiadas cosas malas, demasiadas fuerzas empujando en la dirección incorrecta”.’

After google translate –

‘And Spain? “I worry about the political future of the European Union and Spain. Guys face big decisions. Scotland with UK. Britain, or what remains of it, and the EU. Catalonia and Spain. Growing a semi-fascist party France. pretend not predict what will happen, but when I look at it as an outsider, I see too many bad things, too many forces pushing in the wrong direction.”‘

Seriously – is eurogeddon that difficult to translate into Spanish?

6 anon August 10, 2014 at 3:18 pm

4. The Santa Fe minimum wage experiment.

Reminded me of some language in “A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court” by Mark Twain:

“What those people valued was high wages; it didn’t seem to be a matter of any consequence to them whether the high wages would buy anything or not.”

7 dan1111 August 10, 2014 at 5:20 pm


Personally, I am skeptical of a story that amounts to “Some people think it’s good. Some people think it’s bad. We are not going to show you any data.”

8 The Other Jim August 11, 2014 at 1:31 pm

Exactly. In the WaPo, there are only two possible outcomes for liberal experiments: Incredible Rousing Success, or Mixed Results.

They are claiming Mixed Results. What does that tell you?

(But hey, the sky didn’t fall! That’s one in the plus column, yes???)

9 Flocccina August 19, 2014 at 4:54 pm

+1 Yes that lack of concrete data made the read a waste of time.

10 Kevin Erdmann August 10, 2014 at 3:19 pm

I am not certain that a functional guaranteed income could be maintained. But, it seems to me that the main advantage of it would be to give the recipients the freedom to allocate funds in functioning markets. Today, the justification for screwing up functioning markets in so many areas is frequently because there are some very poor people who wouldn’t be able to afford the good or service, so we implement some sort of price control or system of subsidies. Ideally, if every household had some minimum level of sustenance from which to decide how to allocate services for themselves, then maybe there wouldn’t be as much of a political justification for market distortions that end up screwing everything up. Maybe that’s a pipe dream.

11 Luke August 10, 2014 at 3:30 pm

“semifascista en Francia”

My spanish is really bad, maybe I misunderstand something.

But otherwise. Seriously?

12 Bryan Willman August 10, 2014 at 4:49 pm

All of the talk about “guaranteed income” misses these key points:
1. The function of welfare is NOT to “take care of the less needy” – it is to make a problem go away as cheaply as possible – and it is reviled by people from all walks of life.
2. Economics reflects status and selection – and you can pretty much assure just as for Santa Fe’s “the wages went up, the rent went up, the food went up, you still can’t make ends meet” that a true guaranteed minimum wage would basically inflate the cost of living enough so it’s real buying power approached zero.

I agree with Kevin Erdmann that a system with less weirdness and distortion would be a good thing, but I think the reality is that the weirdness and distortion are features of the current system – that is, economics reflects a particular judgement about the value of some people, and government and social policy wish to force a somewhat different judgement. Any plan to force such judgements of the economy to be different will be per force be distortions of the economy. And they may, at that huge meta level, be a good thing.

13 Ed August 10, 2014 at 5:19 pm

I think the “talk” of the guaranteed income is really a pragmatic recognition that, given trends in automation and the labor force participation rate, we are entering a scenario in the mid-term future where the median working age adult will not have a job. If you rule out a guaranteed income in that situation, what then?

14 Bryan Willman August 10, 2014 at 10:13 pm

In that circumstance, or any that very much resemble it, the very structure and meaning of money would have to change.

Today money is the medium of account, of exchange, and store of value. But all of those presume that (virtually) all actors in society create some kind of value which can earn money to trade with others. In other words, everybody does some kind of work, or is attached to somebody (spouse, parent) who does some kind of work, or did in the past.

If we postulate a world where, say, 50% of the population literally cannot have a productive job, AND the current circumstance where you cannot make your living from nature because you don’t own it persists, then the nature of money will change, and the nature of society along with it. Various people have imagined various structures. I expect anything that actually appears will be complex and sometimes nasty (like most everything else in life.)

Money is a human creation that has use only in dealing with the claims of other people. If a great deal of the consumable output of the economy isn’t actually from people, then money will have to have a very different character.

15 Yancey Ward August 10, 2014 at 5:43 pm

I have never really thought a BIG was ever going to work. Just as soon as the first news stories appear where Dad spent all the money on booze that was supposed to pay for the school lunches for the children, you would start to see the welfare programs themselves resurrected. I doubt it would even take 5 years to end up with all them resurrected to fill in the gaps from poor behavior.

16 Kevin Erdmann August 10, 2014 at 6:51 pm

It would be nice to try it, but I agree with Yancey. That’s why it’s the libertarians who talk about it. Progressives and Conservatives are basically just two wings of the Conservative party. The first sign of free will with a guaranteed income will lead to bipartisan tinkering.

17 Bryan Willman August 10, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Actually, you are both on target, and your comments illustrate a real issue.

The actual intended beneficiary of most welfare programs is some child. We’ve mostly given up on drunk dad, but we’d like his children to grow up to be productive members of society – and “we” know that requires certain things (school, food, etc.) It’s really not about the free will or lack thereof of drunk dad. It’s about making sure the real nominal target of the program (the children) get what we want them to get.

The other real target is various rent seekers who suckle from the teat of government, and they are also sure to oppose anything as simple as BIG.

18 Brian Donohue August 11, 2014 at 7:51 am

Very tricky issue, I agree. Morgan Warstler is a visionary lunatic with interesting ideas here.

Y’all would admit though, that the impulse to protect people from themselves can be fraught. The surest way to grow a childish citizenry is to treat citizens as children.

19 Dave K August 11, 2014 at 12:32 pm

Is there any reason why a BIG can’t be instituted for those without children and the patchwork of current programs maintained for families? This might add more bureaucracy vs. less…just a thought.

20 Flocccina August 19, 2014 at 5:05 pm

Dad spent all the money on booze that was supposed to pay for the school lunches for the children

Today dad has to trade the food stamps for booze or cash. Look in reality food is very cheap and people can and do have their children taken away for neglect now. In BIG world dad and mom have fewer excuses and more of the better poor parents will perhaps be able to keep their children. Also thankful almost all parents even heroin addicts care for their children and the few who don’t can mess them up just as bad now.

21 Dismalist August 10, 2014 at 7:50 pm

#4, Santa Fe Minimum Wages: Local minimum wages lead to nothing measurable locally, except that local wages have gone up! Lower productivity workers migrate out, where they earn less than otherwise. Local policies like that lead to a wage differential, nothing else. Locals aside, Is this what anybody wants?

22 jasonl August 10, 2014 at 8:14 pm

BIG better thought of as a supplement to targeted goods welfare not a replacement. It doesn’t save you from incapacity to decide as in addiction or just plain bad judgement. What it can do is supplement above a completely crappy life those living on publicly provided goods if we decide that kind of life is going to be the fate of too many people for avg is over or other type reasons. It’s actually more like EITC than food stamps.

23 Locke August 10, 2014 at 9:09 pm

It looks like Progressives are starting to take notice of all the universal basic income talk coming from libertarians and classical liberals. Even Krugman is frothing at the mouth about it.

It’s funny. Progressives love to label conservatives in the GOP as nay-saying obstructionists with no ideas to contribute. Yet when libertarians and market oriented liberals come along with big ideas like a UBI, the reaction from Progressives is more vehement than the one towards the intellectually bankrupt conservatives.

Progressives cannot abide a challenger with better ideas. Its all about intellectual property and branding.

24 chuck martel August 10, 2014 at 9:21 pm

4. ” roughly 54 percent of the Hispanic population 25 or older never attended college.”

If true, is this good or bad or what? Wouldn’t it be just as illuminating to say, “Almost 46% of local Hispanics 25 or older have attended college?”

25 Flocccina August 19, 2014 at 5:27 pm


26 Rimfax August 11, 2014 at 12:15 am

The efficiencies Konczal shows are astonishing. Last I’d heard, the most efficient private charities delivered 85% to beneficiaries and that government programs never ventured over 50%.

Are these 90+% efficiencies accurate?

27 Ricardo August 11, 2014 at 2:49 am

Social Security’s OASI, DI and SSI programs together will, according to their FY 2014 budget, pay out $913 billion to beneficiaries over the course of the year. Their budget request for the same fiscal year to cover operational costs is $12.297 billion — that means only 1.3% of the total cost of SS will be taken up by the cost of running the agency.

Now, $12.3 billion is still a lot of money but the benchmark you just provided shows it is remarkably cheap. It is almost as if there are economies of scale in big government programs…

28 Michael Cain August 11, 2014 at 11:48 am

Big, simple government programs.

29 TMC August 11, 2014 at 12:25 pm

They only distribute the money, not collect it.
Probably not the most difficult part of what the charities it’s being compared to does.

30 Thomas August 12, 2014 at 9:55 am

Voluntary charity is inherently more efficient than mandatory charity given equal administration costs, by definition. The efficiency of mandatory charities, such as social security and medicare, should at the very least incorporate an estimate of deadweight loss. On the other hand, 12.3 billion dollars is an awfully large amount of money to do what social security does: receive taxes, document receipts, verify recipients, and send out checks. How little could a tech firm push this amount to? Real charities generally have to find recipients and so aren’t as simple as direct deposit in – direct deposit out.

31 Brian Donohue August 11, 2014 at 7:28 am

1. Not sure, I note that the blue bar covers “benefits and services”, which seems a little squishy. In the case of cash transfer programs, what are the services?

2. Ricardo makes a good point regarding Social Security, economies of scale, and overhead. I always want to hive off Social Security from the rest of the conversation. Does this make me more of a “pragmatic libertarian”, or no libertarian at all? Social Security, IMO, is a testament to the idea of “social insurance”. There is a species of citizen that draws the line between real “social insurance” and all the rest but maintains libertarian sympathies. When feeling bold, we include Hayek among our members.

3. The classic way to attack libertarians is the ole ‘reductio ad absurdum’, as we saw tirelessly repeated in the previous thread. To me, this feels like tying modern ‘progressives’ to Marx. Pragmatic progressives correctly bridle at this.

32 Ricardo August 11, 2014 at 2:31 am

Three problems with guaranteed income:

1. It has very little chance of ever happening. I am surprised this is being treated by some people as a “new” idea — Hayek and Friedman supported similar ideas decades ago and they have never caught on (one reason among many being the Romney-esque objection to a society where lots of people take from the government more than they contribute).
2. On the off-chance this does get taken seriously in American policy-making circles, we can expect many of the supporters to do what Newt Gingrich did to the idea of mandating health insurance coverage — to unceremoniously denounce the idea, declare it as socialist and question the good faith of those liberals and progressives who might be convinced to advocate it.
3. It fundamentally misses the fact that welfare-spending plays the dual roles of risk-sharing and income redistribution. A guaranteed income might make Social Security (mostly) obsolete but it won’t remove the need for Medicare or Medicaid since these are programs that insure people against the sort of catastrophic risk that cannot be compensated for through a guaranteed income. Someone facing a $400,000 heart operation doesn’t need a minimum income — he needs $400,000.

33 Brian Donohue August 11, 2014 at 7:45 am

#2. I disagree with Konczal’s reasoning- the point of the guaranteed income is to get rid of the myriad patchwork services that are probably a lot less effieicnt than the ‘big 7’ anyway. But even using his lowball $25 billion number sounds like a pretty good start to me.

He writes: “If all the administrative costs were reduced to 1 percent, you’d save around $25 billion dollars. That’s not going to add enough cash to create a floor under poverty, much less a BIG, by any means.”

But but but, wouldn’t we also have all the money used to pay ‘benefits and services’ under these programs?

Government in the USA is extracting $17,000 per citizen this year in taxes. Such numbers make thoughts of a ‘guaranteed income’ spring to mind naturally.

34 Brian Donohue August 11, 2014 at 7:58 am

OT- Scott Sumner knocks one outta the park:

Excerpt: “The plight of the American middle class is perhaps the phoniest issue I’ve ever seen.”

35 byomtov August 11, 2014 at 12:14 pm


I’m not sure what that’s all about.

Despite Shakespeare’s colossal prestige, you seldom see his works cited today to underline a point of pious liberal conventional wisdom.

Or a point of pious conservative conventional wisdom either.

As for the divine right issue in the history plays, well, I don’t see him having a lot of trouble with Bolingbroke (the future Henry IV) overthrowing Richard II, whose speeches are full of assertions of divine right, e.g.

The breath of worldly men cannot depose
The deputy elected by the Lord:
For every man that Bolingbroke hath press’d
To lift shrewd steel against our golden crown,
God for his Richard hath in heavenly pay
A glorious angel: then, if angels fight,
Weak men must fall, for heaven still guards the right.

That Henry, not Richard, was an ancestor of Elizabeth might have mattered more than Shakespeare’s views on divine right.

36 Zach August 11, 2014 at 7:23 pm

Despite Shakespeare’s colossal prestige, you seldom see his works cited today to underline a point of pious liberal conventional wisdom.

Or a point of pious conservative conventional wisdom either.

The pious conventional wisdom nowadays is that art should consciously advance — if not physically embody — progressive causes. Having preceded Marx, Shakespeare can hope for nothing more than Dante’s virtuous pagans, in the Limbo of being “a product of his time.”

The entire question of whether we should downgrade or distance ourselves from Shakespeare because of his (inferred) position on political questions of current interest only makes sense in the context of liberal conventional wisdom.

37 Zach August 11, 2014 at 7:38 pm

In fact, casting Shakespeare into the outer darkness for failing to embody a political position is an example of drawing on his colossal prestige to advance a point of conventional wisdom.

38 byomtov August 11, 2014 at 9:19 pm

I don’t know what the “pious conventional wisdom” is, actually.

But I don’t exactly see Shakespeare being cast into the outer darkness. Indeed, his plays seem quite popular, especially in the more liberal precincts of the country.

So I really have not much of an idea of the point you are trying to make, and, as far as my understanding goes, it seems wrong to me.

39 Flocccina August 19, 2014 at 3:39 pm

#2 $200/week per adult citzen

1. You raise the tax rate on lower income people to consume that $200. Income up to $26,000/year tax rate would be taxed at a 40% rate. So at $26,000/year of earnings the net take from the BIG would be zero. The tax rate would then drop to the current rate form money above $26,000 and rise form there.
2. With the BIG you eliminate SS.There is no need to SS with a BIG.
3. You replace Medicaid and medicare with something like this:

The state would provide insurance to all Americans but the annual deductible would be equal to the family’s trailing year adjusted income minus the poverty line income (say $25,000 for a family of 4) + $300. So a family of 4 with a trailing year adjusted income of $30,000 would have a deductible of $5,300. A family of 4 with a trailing year adjusted income of $80,000 would have a deductible of $55,300. Middle class and rich people could fill the gap with private supplemental insurance but this should be full taxed. This would encourage the middle class and rich, who are generally capable people, to demand prices from medical providers and might force down costs. They could opt to pay for most health-care out of pocket while the poor often less capable would be protected.
It is not a perfect plan but it might help. Some deregulation of health-care would also help the poor gain access. The gauntlet that Doctors have to run these days to get to practice seems like an anachronism in today’s world. Let smart people get to practice medicine after on the job training. Let the medical businesses decide who is qualified to practice medicine. 12 years of training to tell if my child has an ear infection is overkill and reduces access to health-care for the poor.
Another benefit of my plan is that it would encourage capable Americans (the rich and middle class) to be a counter weight politically against the providers.

Of course our politicians are too corrupt to set up such a program (and you would still need programs for the very disabled) but we are talking theory in any discussion of a BIG.

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