Morning Ed: Business


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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217 Responses

  1. Avatar Damon says:

    UI: Indeed. Nothing more annoying than finding out someone broke something. One wonders if they ever bother to do any research.

    Pizza: I wonder how long those pizzas keep warm in those containers at 20 below?

    Subprime auto: This was a train wreck that was forseeable. Avg cost of car 30+k. Loan terms going from 5 to 6 and 7 years. You can blame cash for klunkers.Report

    • Avatar Mo says:

      Cash for clunkers had a limited effect overall and was almost 8 years ago. The number of cars turned in was 690K. That’s less than half of the number of cars sold every month. There were short term effects in 2009, but blaming subprime auto loan issues today on a program that had a small impact close to a decade ago is ridiculous. Also the rise in subprime loans didn’t begin in earnest until mid 2011, 2 years after cash for clunkers.Report

      • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

        It is an article of faith in some circles that Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac were the cause of the housing bubble. The facts are irrelevant here. I am using “article of faith” literally. This is a religious doctrine, not a conclusion based on facts and logic. Blaming subprime auto loans on a small program from eight years ago is in the same vein, the key being that it was a small government program. Were there a larger or more recent government program to which the blame could be assigned, that would be the explanation offered, but it doesn’t really matter. What is important is that the government at some point did something, and anything bad since then can be blamed on it.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          @richard-hershberger Oh I know, I frequently get into arguments with people about this as I worked at Countrywide in their subprime division from 2003-2005. My job at the time was doing performance analytics, creating appropriate branch footprinting and measuring product performance. So I had a nice view of what their priorities were and what the SES of the targets were. What’s interesting is that it all completely flies in the face of all the claims about the CRA being responsible. My belief is the people that push the Frannie/CRA line either have ideological or personal (i.e. they don’t want to be held responsible) reasons for it. Because the reality on the ground was very very different.Report

      • Avatar Damon says:

        Your link addressed the financial stimulus impact of the program, not the impact of taking those cars out of the market, which contributed to driving up the price of used cars by lowering supply. Consequently, trying to buy an older car got more difficult. (Iknow, I was looking at the time) Did it drive the subprime auto fiasco? No, but it contributed. (I was being a bit sarcastic) The greater contribution is the continued regulation to add “safety” and increased CAFE standards. Frankly, I fail to see why I must buy a car with a backup camera because of safety. I’ve caused 1 accident in 30 years of driving and I wasn’t backing up. And as I have told others, if I hit you backing up, you shouldn’t have been trespassing on my property / playing in the street in the first place. 🙂Report

        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          Are backup cameras mandatory now?Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            Yes. You may thank me if you like.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            As of 2014, they’ll be mandatory for any car made in 2018 and afterwards.

            That said, as far as I could tell from shopping, they’ve been standard equipment on most cars since 2010 or so. You can get an economy trim level that doesn’t have the camera, but there’s generally not a huge price difference for doing that (and the camera is never a separate line item, it’s part of a package that is either fully fitted or not present.)Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          That backup camera is less than 1% of your purchase price.
          Trust me, you want mandatory backup cameras — so I don’t back into YOU.

          We do a lot of things because they’re good for the community as a whole, even if you’re the bestest driver ever.Report

          • Avatar Damon says:

            Yes, it’s a small part of the cost of the car. But it’s a mandatory cost increase. Just like the changes made for CAFE standards. Just like the air bags. Just like a lot of stuff. I’m all for this stuff being optional, and letting the insurance company decide if they’ll offer discounts if I buy it, just like I’d get a discount if I had an alarm system in my house.

            And another things. Remember the car commercial where the guy is driving around thinking about something other can driving, and the land departure warnings go on and the auto breaking, etc? I kept yelling at the tv because they guy wasn’t DRIVING. The commercial, understandably was demonstrating all the nice safety features, but at the same time, they were demonstrating how NOT to drive. Know why I’m a safe driver? I pay attention.

            “We do a lot of things because they’re good for the community as a whole,” Screw that if it raises my costs.Report

            • Avatar Kim says:

              There’s tons of safety things that I don’t mind if you bitch about. Most of them make the car heavier, which reduces maneuverability and makes it less safe.

              Do you object to flu shots too?Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck says:

              You sound like one of those crusty old dudes who’s salty about the inclusion of instrumentation other than a speedometer, a fuel-level indicator, and an oil light. Dammit, people oughta know when to change gear by the sound the engine makes!Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                And the onion tied around your waist, which was the fashion at the time.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                No dude…

                I know when to shift up by looking at the Tachometer. In my old car, it was about 4-5K, but that was a in line 6. In my old Honda, it was about 6-7K 🙂

                I very much like my MFI screen. Consumption, foretasted distance to go, connection to my phone, navigation, etc., it’s all there. But—i chose that. I don’t get to choose back up cameras, auto stop, twin turbo 4 cylinders, and all the other stuff that’s coming down the pike to meet cafe or safety requirements.

                I will admit, i have a running joke that I long to be “that old guy” sitting on the porch yelling at those damn kids and taking their Frisbee when it lands in my yard. I’m only being somewhat serious.. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Thing is, the number of mandated features where the law drives production, rather than severely lags it, is pretty slim.

                Backup cameras were going to be in every car not because the law requires it, but because it’s very popular feature, and it’s cheaper to build all the cars with the cameras, than to have a few without. Same with stuff like airbags, and auto safety features (lane departure, collision avoidance, etc.).

                At some point, they become so popular they become standard, because it’s cheaper to make them standard. If a law is passed, it’s there to catch the edge cases.Report

              • Avatar PD Shaw says:

                Are these new features really popular, or do manufacturers believe a bunch of shiny new-electronic / computerized features will sell more cars at a fairly small increase in price?

                I don’t want a backup camera on anything other than an SUV; I can see better without them in regular cars.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Sure they are, people love new whiz bang stuff in their cars! It’s part coolness, part utility, part signalling (I remember when power windows and seats was the mark of distinction in a car!). Toss in bundling features together into a package (the Ltd pkg, the XL pkg, etc.), and people will pay the price hike to get the one or two features they really want, even though it includes a half dozen they might never use.

                The number of purists who resist the gizmos is small enough to not be much of a consideration. Those guys will just walk in and do a custom order, or just buy a bare bones base model and mod it after the purchase.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                My recollection on airbags, specifically, wasn’t that they were not originally popular, didn’t work well, and were not in high demand. Then, in stepped our dear leaders and mandated them. That’s when short people started getting killed by them.

                But we’ll never know about these items will we, since it’s mandated. Funny, ’cause you know how hard it is to get a 6 cylinder IC engine nowadays?Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                First gen airbags sucked, but that wasn in the 70;s and early 80’s. 2nd gen was much better (late 80’s, early 90’s – IIRC).

                Federal mandate was 1998, by then they were in most luxury and mid range vehicles.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Funny, ’cause you know how hard it is to get a 6 cylinder IC engine nowadays?

                Just try to get a manual transmission…Report

              • I’ve got a 6 cylinder IC engine in my Accord. Admittedly, it’s an older car, but it looks like the 2017 version of the same model is also a 6.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Both of my cars are 6 cyl (an 08 & a 16). Both are SUVs.Report

              • Mine is just a way-too-big-now -that-the-kids-are-grown sedan. I’ll downsize if the damned thing ever breaks.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Now that my wife has the Highlander, when I replace the Tribeca, it will be with something much smaller, preferably hybrid or electric. I only commute 7 miles one way.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Tell me about it! You know how bad it is? Back before my divorce, I had a “cough” German car. While at the shop, I was told by an apologetic service guy, that he was sorry for the delay since they could not find a guy around who could drive a manual. This from a company that makes manual only versions of some of it’s cars.

                I shook my head ruefully…..Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Any sports car. The first one that springs to mind is the Ford Mustang. Hardly an unknown car (at least in my parts).

                IIRC, the “automatic” version is optional. And more expensive (mostly because they give you some gadgets to make it feel a bit more manual).Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Personally, I hate shifting as a normal thing. I like electrics/hybrids/CVTs.

                Now, on a race track, when I want to have fun, then I want the stick.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Me too, but my wife wanted a manual. It’s still somewhat standard in some trucks, sports cars, and some crossovers.

                Mostly, however, automatics are overall cheaper, more efficient, and age better.

                Manuals, if you know how to use one, are often more fun — as long as you’re not in traffic.

                People can, if they want, y pretend the hand of the government is behind it — safety regs, or CAFE standards, or just the looming liberal displeasure with all things fun or whatever — but the reality is — cheaper, more efficient, and less likely to break (it’s harder, among other things, for a driver to screw it up).

                Oh, and did I mention more popular? Most people prefer not to mess with a stick in every day driving…Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                now that’s a statement heard infrequently. “My wife wanted the stick”.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Especially when that driving involves grid lock.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                CAFE regs are directly responsible for you not having a 1) full size spare or 2) a doughnut. They are responsible for the phase out of v8s and 6s and the rise of twin turbo 4s. The same for auto stop. The same for direct injection. There aren’t massive demand waves for this sort of stuff.

                The manual vs auto? That’s more customer driven, but there’s also a cafe component in that autos now generally get marginally better mileage than sticks.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                As someone who just bought a manual V6 with a full sized spare (well, my wife did), I can assure you those still exist. I could have gotten the V8, but that’s a rather ridiculous amount of power for a car that weight.

                I wonder how they avoided those burdensome government regs?

                A mid-60s V8 Corvette did 0 to 60 in 5.69 seconds. A 2015 V6 Mustang does it in 5.5. A 2012 V6 Acura does it in 5.4.

                You don’t see a lot of V8’s because most high performance cars can outperform the V8’s of the 70s and 80s with V6’s. And that’s the edge of the performance envelope for people who don’t race.

                More efficient, superior performance, cheaper price, better mileage.

                And the difference between, say, a V6 and a V8 Mustang? Nothing that 95% of Mustang buyers would notice. It’s pretty much bragging rights for people who drive solely on public roads.Report

              • Avatar Damon says:

                Yes, they still exist. As common as they used to be? No.

                What make and model was the car? Because my stepmother was shopping for SUVs last year and no spare at all.

                BMW X5–nada
                VX Toureg-nada
                Audi Q something-nada

                My 2012 VX sedan has no spare…just a can of fix of flat. And it’s the top of the line.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I wonder how they avoided those burdensome government regs?

                Simple, they classified them as SUVs. SUVs fall into the same bucket as trucks. Don’t believe me? The Subaru Outback has, for most of it’s run, clearly been nothing more than a station wagon. But because it comes standard with 4WD (AWD is technically 4WD), it’s a truck for CAFE purposes.

                Any wonder AWD became so popular so fast?

                ETA: At least, that is how the Subaru dealer explained it to me when I asked.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                I’m literally talking about a Mustang. 🙂

                V6, full tire (I think. Now I’m trying to remember if that was another car we looked at. If it’s a small one, it’s due to trunk size not government regulations).Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Oh, well, that’s not an SUV.

                I think performance cars are outside of CAFE, because they aren’t considered fleet. Not sure.Report

              • Avatar Mo says:

                The reason there are fewer V6s and V8s is because Turbo 4s are better now than they were before. A 2000 Mustang GT had 260 hp and 320 lb-ft of torque. It had a 0-60 time of 6.0 seconds and 14.7 quarter mile time. A 2017 Mustang with the 4 cylinder Ecoboost has 310 hp and the same 320 lb-ft of torque. It has a 0-60 time of 5.5 seconds and 13.9 quarter mile time. Are you complaining about performance or engine sizes? Because the new one is faster, more fuel efficient and more powerful. No one complains that their new LG washer has a smaller motor than the one they grew up with in the 90s because the technology has gotten better.Report

              • Avatar dragonfrog says:

                I had the distinct impression that, while the efficiency of automatics was improving gradually, manual transmissions are still significantly more fuel efficient. I may be mistaken there though.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                A manual versus the old 3 speed automatics was no contest. You had to work to get worse gas mileage than the automatic.

                My car is a 5 speed auto, my wife’s is a 6. The shifting is controlled by software, not vacuum pressure, and it’s looking at a lot more operating parameters than RPM.

                A driver with a stick has to work hard to beat an auto these days.Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                2013 Nissan Versa, manual transmission and windows. (50 mpg at 55mph)Report

        • Avatar dragonfrog says:

          If someone kills my child while backing up, I will give not much of a crap how they try to shift the blame. I understand why they might try – it’s probably preferable to drinking oneself to death from guilt. I will probably be too angry to rationally internalize that.

          And ultimately “who’s to blame” would be completely irrelevant. A child would be dead, unnecessarily.Report

        • Avatar Mo says:

          It also addressed the actual size of the used car market. C4C took under 700K cars off the market. In 2009, there were over 35 million used cars sold. So that program took the equivalent of <2% of sales. But that assumes all those cars were sellable, when a good chunk of them were end of life vehicles anyway. Subprime auto loans didn't pick up for another 2 years after that. Aside from an assertion, what evidence do you have that it contributed when C4C was small and there was enough time for the market to clear out the pricing effects of cash for clunkers.Report

          • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

            It’s pretty common that whenever something goes wrong, a certain segment will find the nearest government program that’s even peripherally related and come up with a just-so story.

            I don’t see why the subprime auto thing should be surprising at all. A lot of people made a lot of money on the housing version and the investors probably think they’ve learned how to avoid being the ones holding the bag this time around. There are also reasons to believe that the subprime auto loan market can’t get anywhere near as bad as a subprime home loan market.Report

            • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

              A lot of people made a lot of money on the housing version and the investors probably think they’ve learned how to avoid being the ones holding the bag this time around.

              I.E. The smartest guy in the room syndrome.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              If I see “Flip this Car” on TV, then I know it’s time to switch to cash-only holdings. Possibly overseas. 🙂

              I won’t deal with a dealership that offers subprime car loans. I stick with my credit union (1.89%) which also, rather nicely, keeps me from overpaying too much. (If I ask for more than the blue book value, tax title and license, and a reasonably priced extended warranty — should I be so crazy — they’ll refuse it as collateral).

              I have had pretty good luck with Carmax, but that’s about 70% variety and 30% not wanting to haggle. They always seem so sad when i won’t finance through them, but they all admit they can’t beat 2%.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                So long as it isn’t India.
                Or Europe.
                The powers that be don’t like cash very much. Too hard to seize.
                Have you heard of the concept of a bail-in?Report

            • Avatar Mo says:

              There are a few advantages to the subprime auto thing. It’s a lot easier to repo a car, so the market will flush out faster. If all of your neighbors lose their cars through bad loans, your car doesn’t lose much value and people don’t buy cars as investments. If financially strained you can move to a smaller, cheaper car without having to turn your life upside down. A collapse in subprime auto loans would be more like the 2000 bubble pop than the 2008 collapse.Report

              • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

                Yup. There are a lot of reasons to think that this won’t result in a big collapse like housing. Just a long grinding period of a lot of people who shouldn’t be borrowing that money getting drained dry by lenders.

                The payday loan industry makes a good living making loans that will never be paid off. Given how it seems to work, the subprime car loan industry can probably exist indefinitely doing the same thing.Report

  2. Avatar Kolohe says:

    A teevee segment I saw yesterday said they’ve already canx the use of real live reindeer due to reindeer orneryness, and have switched over to scooters dressed as reindeer.

    But I am surprised, being Japan and all, no robotic reindeer?Report

  3. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    It sounds like Santa’s workshop needs to be unionized. Hard working reindeer and elves should not have to work a second job to pay the bills. It also sounds like Domino’s Japan is about to have a “I thought turkeys could fly” moment.Report

  4. Avatar notme says:

    Jeep Carrying Castro’s Ashes Breaks Down During Funeral Procession

    How fitting that they can’t even inter him without a breakdown.Report

  5. Avatar notme says:

    Pelosi: ‘I Don’t Think that People Want a New Direction’

    She’s either delusional or senile.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      Does going backwards count as a new direction?Report

      • Avatar Marchmaine says:

        Sometimes its the smartest direction to go.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Here’s a quote from C.S. Lewis:

          We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.


          • Agreed that turning aside from blind faith in the untrammeled free market and once again valuing people over profits is the path of wisdom.

            Provided they’re the right people.Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            Lewis always admitted one can never be too careful what one reads.

            When men have come to the edge of a precipice, it is the lover of life who has the spirit to leap backwards, and only the pessimist who continues to believe in progress.


        • Avatar Kazzy says:

          I don’t disagree with that.

          But much of Trump’s support was driven by promises he made to return things to the way they once were. Or, at least, how people claim they once were. His slogan was not, “Make American Great.” It was, “Make America Great Again.” It was pretty clearly a call for a return to something. So I think the question stands as to whether or not this qualifies as a new direction (in terms of what people want… not in terms of what Trump actually does).Report

          • Avatar Marchmaine says:

            I don’t think you’re reading that correctly. You are focusing on the *again* as the key part of the sentence, not the *great*

            But that’s why its a great slogan… none of the terms are defined… so they mean whatever the hearer wants them to mean.

            But, contra the nostalgia version, if we were to say we wanted the bailout to make GM great again, we wouldn’t assume that the objective was to make 1955 Chevrolet Bel Airs start rolling off the factory floors. We’d understand that the goal was to “make great cars” whatever that means… but whatever it means, it would mean great 21st century cars.

            Conservatism as Nostalgia is an intellectual tic that I think the left side needs to control for; its just sloppy thinking.

            Now, the fact that Great is completely undefined is exactly the sort of campaign jujitsu that would have flipped Trump. Make him define his terms. Instead, saying that America was *already* great, was conceding the point without a fight.

            {Worse, it was sending a conflicting message that America has lots of important Democratic issues that only Democrats can fix – so it was unconvincing to any hearers}Report

      • Avatar notme says:

        Voting for her is certainly going backwards.Report

  6. Avatar J_A says:


    My former company hired a Chnese EPC contractor to build a turn key plant in Lat Am. The details of the story would take a very long time, but let’s say that it all started going south when they committed to build the plant according to USA codes, and, not six months later, we found out all the engineering design was being made under Chinese construction cids be Use, of course, the Chinese engineers didn’t know what the USA Codes were. They didn’t know any other code (actually, the engineering had been subcontracted out, to a different entity, and that entity wasn’t going to retrain their engineers for our benefit)

    At the end of the story, when, two years after the original delivery date, and only 40% advance, the Contractor was fired, a Western contractor was brought in to finish the project, which required the Western contractor to train themselves on the Chinese codes (so that the interface with the already delivered major equipment worked). The total cost, between two and three times the cost of having used a Western contractor, and about five years after schedule. And a major arbitration is still going on disputing hundreds of millions of dollars the contractor is arguing is owed to them for breach of contract.

    Why was the Chinese contractor chosen? Because the price was so cheap it would cover any conceivable contingency.

    [Note: I was not part of the team that made that decision, though later I became marginally involved in the project. But the real problem was that those that negotiated the deal put too much faith in the written contract and did not think through about how actual process was supposed to work. Like, how would they get USA code engineers in China? How were we going to check that before the design was almost complete?]Report

    • Avatar Kim says:

      Most importantly, they forgot to put “scapegoat” in their organizational plan. ;-PReport

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      See also: the 787Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      A few years back I was reading a lot about outsourcing in the legal profession. I have always been skeptical. The linked piece, for all that it is about a different business entirely, seems on point. I can imagine some limited areas where it would work, but I don’t see my job going offshore.Report

    • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

      This is what happens when your engineering, process, and productions guys are largely out of the loop when it comes to contracts.Report

  7. Avatar Kim says:

    Is outsourcing good or bad?
    Well, it depends on how comfortable you are with child slave labor.
    People do seem to bitch a lot about insourcing — when the kids decide America is safer, and travel up here across Mexico.Report

  8. Avatar Autolukos says:

    Some views on the Taiwan callReport

    • Avatar Kim says:

      If this was a planned strategy, then I’m cautiously optimistic. Trump isn’t a terribly good businessman, but he’s an excellent conman. This is the stick, wielded as gently as possible.

      He’s doing this before he’s even in office, which is actually brilliant (can’t do much consequential because he’s still a private citizen).Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        Isn’t being a “good conman” a function of how sophisticated the people you’re conning are? He’s clearly excellent and squeezing money from the types of people who thought Trump University was legit, but how well will those strategies work against other countries run by experienced leaders and staffed by good analysts?

        As I understand his history, he had a bunch of early flame outs / daddy bailouts followed by a success with Trump Tower. Then he got legit investment for legit projects in the late 80s and 90s and has been losing followership for anything other than branding ever since all of those products went south. All of that is why he was siphoning off cash from his campaign funds (people who actually have $10B in assets don’t usually bother stealing a few hundred grand). Is there any indication that he still has the ability to sell sophisticated buyers on giving him big pots of cash?Report

        • Avatar Kim says:

          Well, he’s been coopted (this is NOT a surprise). He’s putting Hillary’s choice in as Treasury Secretary.

          Solar Fucking Roadways manages to con tons of people that really ought to know better (liberal arts majors!).

          A good deal of being a grifter or a conman is telling people what they want to hear. SJWs have the ritual down pat. “I’m sooooo sad, my life is soooo terrible, give me money!”

          Trump seems like the type of guy to mindfuck at chess, rather than playing the actual game. (I know an experienced game designer who does the same thing. Hates chess, actually.). You’d be amazed at exactly how much you can get people off their game if you don’t do the predictable things (Idiots do this a lot, it’s a large part of why the entire deepstate had to talk GWB out of invading Iran).Report

    • This was a planned action by the incoming President elect and was neither ad-hoc or done without deliberation.

      1. How does he know this?
      2. Even if that’s true, doing it without consultation with the current administration is completely irresponsible.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        So far indications are that it was a planned action. Folks within their community are saying so, and is little anonymous sourcing suggesting otherwise (as there is when things go off-script). I wasn’t sure at first, and am still not entirely sure, but I’m leaning in the direction of it being deliberate.

        I agree with you on #2.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        I sincerely doubt he did it without any consultation with the current administration. (whether or not they’ll admit it — and whether or not he talked with the Diplomatic Corps. He’s on record as getting National Security Briefs, so he’s at least had an ear open to … military concerns (Hope to Hell he listens to the military on global warming)).Report

      • Avatar Autolukos says:

        WaPo quotes a Tsai aide by name, as well as Stephen Yates from the US side (it seems like he’s not directly involved with the Trump camp but has contacts inside? Not sure).

        More generally, when a guy spends a large part of his campaign bashing China and brings in advisers who want to lean more towards Taiwan, deliberate provocation is the obvious interpretation. I tend to agree that it’s an irresponsible stunt to pull during the transition, but what do you expect from this crowd?Report

          • Avatar Autolukos says:

            But look on the bright side: this is how the Fallout future starts!Report

          • Avatar Kim says:

            No, that was the other candidate.
            Literally, the foreign policy of Hillary Clinton had a 1 in 3 chance of a limited nuclear war in 2017 (first 200 days or so).Report

            • Literally

              I have a list of words you use incorrectly, right here.Report

            • Avatar Gaelen says:

              Never change Kim.Report

            • Avatar Brent F says:

              A huge amount of internet anti-Clinton messaging on foriegn policy was that she was the real risk for a great power war. This makes zero sense.

              H. Clinton is a Washington establishmentarian right down to her core. You can fault the Washington establishment for so many things but the one thing they’ve figured out is how to not have a great power war. Like bubonic plague, this is a major blight on mankind that appears to have been more or less solved, albeit could come back if conditions that lead to it being solved sufficiently change.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I’m talking a Limited Nuclear War. The Powers that Be (particularly the “neocon” side — the military industrial complex) would gain power if that were to occur.

                The situation has changed, dude. The Powers that Be are acting like this is the endtimes, and that means “grab all the money and run.”

                Up next is restrictions on the internet, because that’ll be blamed for Trump winning.Report

  9. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    OK, I am going to just keep banging this drum:

    There is a growing consensus among futurists and visionaries of various backgrounds that the challenges of an automated economy will require implementing a universal basic income. These thinkers range from former SEIU president Andy Stern to Robert Reich to a wide range of entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. Martin Luther King, Jr., advocated for it, as did conservative Milton Friedman.

    Related, Warehouses Promised Jobs, But Hired Robots InsteadReport

    • Avatar Saul Degraw says:


      I agree but that doesn’t change the fact that the basic advocate for UBI seems to be someone with a graduate school level education and no real power. You have people with former power like Robert Recih. You even have some tech giants like Elon Musk but none of these people are elected politicians.

      UBI seems too wonky for many too grasp still.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        I’d argue it’s not wonky enough, thus easily demagogued.Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        Yes, and I distinctly remember that in mid 70’s, the idea of cutting taxes to spur growth was too cerebral, something only the green eyeshade guys cared about.
        Things change, facts on the ground change, and people become receptive to new ideas.

        Particularly when its their friends and neighbors talking about it, on comment blogs, family gatherings, Facebook feeds and so on.

        There isn’t a silver bullet, a One Weird Trick that will demolish Trump and Ryan tomorrow. Its going to be years of fighting and arguing.Report

    • Avatar Joe Sal says:

      There is a real basic problem with automated economy.

      It is no surprise it follows damn near the same tangent, as:

      “There is a real basic problem with socialist economy.”

      That someone could look at the capital formations of those two scenarios and reach for UBI is somewhat troubling.

      Not on a ideology basis, but on a parametrics basis.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Someone like me could easily be bought off with the UBI. My job involves a great deal of labor from which I am alienated, a lot of downtime, a lot of “fireman” work (waiting for something to go wrong), a lot of “hurry up and wait” work, and being told “hey, we’ll give you 80% of your salary to sit quietly at home and be a content generator” is something that strikes me as *AWESOME*.

        HELLS YES. (Do you guys do drug testing?)

        People who have worked jobs from which they were not alienated from their labor being offered a UBI instead of more work from which they were not alienated strikes me as a direct insult to them. I don’t know if the whole “how could it be an insult?” attitude is something that makes the insult worse or whether it mitigates it somewhat…Report

        • Avatar Joe Sal says:

          The parameter I was talking about was when the UBI monthly checks drops to $0 dollars per month because capital fomation has dropped to $0 per month.

          There exists this really strange thing about how preferences in personal means of production and exchange has to do with capital formations, and how that is connected to capital formation in the macro sense. All that stuff…..forget about it.

          I’m sure the new ‘automation economy’ can be designed, built and run without any considerations to subjective value.

          This isn’t a ‘let’s all be rich and on perpetual holiday’ plan.

          This is a ‘let’s all be poor, out of work, and subservient to robots’ plan.

          I don’t know how that circle squares, even though it’s like the major thing constantly dragged to the table.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

          As with automation, a lot of time a vast change is pitched as a simple overnight singular event.
          As in, suppose you told Don Draper in 1963 that soon all the secretaries typing away on carbon paper would be automated. He would imagine that one day they would wheel in a bunch of pretty female robots who would sit and type the memos.
          Instead it was the slow gradual creep of changes- photocopiers replacing carbon, email replacing memos, and keyboards making it easy for even the executives to type their own mail.

          But I’m thinking a UBI may work in the opposite direction- a series of gradual policy changes, that doesn’t look like a revolutionary boom of the cannon.

          Like I mentioned before, a series of “Competitiveness” measures that subsidize certain industries, which essentially transfer cash from the Treasury to worker’s pockets. Combined with health insurance measures, preferential hiring and contracting, and so on.

          The rub,as always, is how to pay for this. And again, it doesn’t need to be a singular silver bullet but a series of actions that transfer ownership of automation away from individual hands to the collective hands.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            “The rub,as always, is how to pay for this.”

            Consider Romney’s 47% remark.

            Maybe we already know how to pay for it. Maybe we’re already doing it.Report

          • Avatar Joe Sal says:

            “ownership of automation away from individual hands to the collective hands.”


    • Avatar Morat20 says:

      I can’t recall who used this analogy (possibly even here on this forum) but the thing about the future of manufacturing is that workers aren’t buggy whip makers being replaced by the car.

      They’re the horses.

      When the industrial revolution replaced muscle power (human or otherwise) with dexterity and intelligence, you could shift — humans were still needed, doing things only humans could do.

      We’re still plowing fields, planting crops, digging mines, building cars, designing computers — but more and more of that is done with fewer and fewer people. We’re on the cusp of cutting 3+ million transport jobs (ironically even as we praise Uber and Lyft as the new type of work, self-driving cars are already on the horizon to kill that). We’ve been replacing paralegals with expert systems.

      The big growth areas are services (and even then, grocery stores are looking at self-checkout, and I’ve seen restaurants trying to cut out the waitstaff as much as possible with self-ordering). Health care is probably the only big growth area on the horizon, because it’s hard to automate a lot of nursing.

      Our current economic model is about to run into a wall called “We can make and maintain all the stuff we consume, from food to energy to entertainment, without anything remotely close to full employment. So who is going to buy all the crap we make, when so many won’t have anything to do to earn money in the first place?”Report

      • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

        workers aren’t buggy whip makers being replaced by the car.
        They’re the horses.

        Damn, I’m stealing this.Report

      • Avatar Burt Likko says:

        It is precisely for comments like this that I and the other editors and all of the writers devote such time and effort into this site.Report

      • Avatar DensityDuck says:

        “workers aren’t buggy whip makers being replaced by the car. They’re the horses.

        You’re definitely right about this but…

        “who is going to buy all the crap we make, when so many won’t have anything to do to earn money in the first place?”

        And if you put two hundred families into the same building then where are they going to keep their midden pits, their vegetable plots, their chicken coops? Where will they stable their cows?Report

        • Avatar Morat20 says:

          Let me know when you have an answer, not the blithe assurance of one arising in time.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck says:

            And yet. Somehow we managed to figure out the magic technology needed to have two hundred families live in the same building.Report

            • Avatar Morat20 says:

              Let me know when you have an answer, not the blithe assurance of one arising in time.

              (Not to mention the fact that you’re predicting a technological answer to an economic problem. Which is…weird.)Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Let me know when you have an answer, not the blithe assurance of one arising in time.”

                See I could actually put something here, but then it’ll be a game of “oh well THAT won’t work because you aren’t using TRUE Scotsmen”, and there’s no real use in doing that.

                “Not to mention the fact that you’re predicting a technological answer to an economic problem”

                Apparently you forgot that you started the conversation by listing a bunch of technological advances…?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Productivity advances, actually.

                That being the core problem you’re not addressing: What do you do if society reaches a point where only a fraction of the populace is needed to produce all the goods and services the population can consume?

                How do you run an economy wherein even, oh, 40% of the working age population is unemployable because there is no need for their labor?

                How’s that economy work?

                And how does that 40% cope? How does society cope with them? How does the economic system work if that large a chunk of the population has no income? How do you avoid a fun spiral wherein even as you produce more goods with less human labor, fewer people have incomes that allow them to purchase it?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “How do you run an economy wherein even, oh, 40% of the working age population is unemployable because there is no need for their labor? ”

                Who cares that they’re unemployable?

                “How do you avoid a fun spiral wherein even as you produce more goods with less human labor, fewer people have incomes that allow them to purchase it?”

                Why is that latter statement necessarily true?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How do you run an economy wherein even, oh, 40% of the working age population is unemployable because there is no need for their labor?

                There are always things to do.
                Many of them are less valuable than the minimum wage, however.

                And how does that 40% cope? How does society cope with them? How does the economic system work if that large a chunk of the population has no income?

                Maybe put them to work doing things that are necessary but worth less than the minimum wage?

                I’m honestly not kidding here. Even something as simple as “walk around with a nifty nabber and a bucket” and someone whose job it is to get the cigarette butts from the sidewalks can help with the above. Well, that’s the cities, for rural areas, I remain a big fan of raising chickens.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Who pays for it?

                Taxes? Who pays for those, with a giant chunk of the population unemployed?

                And why would they, in a world where we already had screeds against the “lucky duckies” too poor to need to pay income taxes? (Just, you know, all those other taxes. FICA, state taxes, sales taxes…)

                And how is this cheaper than building a machine to do it? Because you’re advocating paying people to do the job less efficiently and more expensively than automation can do it.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                This assumes the political field can’t, or won’t, change in response to new realities.

                I.E. If nothing else changes except that more people become permanently unemployed, I agree with @morat20.

                But that ‘if’ is doing a lot of work.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                I’m sure something WILL change. But how? To what?

                The edges of the problem are already on us. We’re looking at a transition that’ll probably take decades, but we just got out of an election wherein that’s one of the central problems.

                Wherein we had discussions that boiled down to “Do you tell them the jobs won’t come back, or lie to them?”. You can run a mine with a fraction the number of miners as 40 years ago. You can run a factory with 5% of the workers as 30 years ago.

                Doesn’t matter if you leave the factory here or not, when most of your workforce has gone…obsolete.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m sure something WILL change. But how? To what?

                Yep, we live in interesting times. This is the industrial revolution, but vastly larger, and faster. And to answer @gaelen, no, I have no guarantee, or really hope, that given our trends in selecting politicians, we will chose ones that will trade power for what is best for the future. At least, not without some serious protests coming to their doorsteps.

                But I could be wrong. Culture could change dramatically in the face of economic decline, and culture drives politics.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                That’s a good point. But I’d flip it around on you. Why do you think the changes the political field might make would be beneficial?

                Ie. Why would it be UBI or whatever, instead of massive protectism, etcReport

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Once robots reach a certain point, foreign labor ceases to be an issue.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                It’s more that the worldwide protectionism hurts consumers.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Will Truman:
                Once robots reach a certain point, foreign labor ceases to be an issue.

                True, there were no visible immigrants on the Jetsons.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Maybe not immigrants, but I bet Rosie was an import.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                The existence of Spacely Sprockets and Cogswell Cogs, coupled with what we see of George Jetson’s work ethic, goes to Gaelen’s point of a domestic industrial base supported by massive protective tariffs and possibly direct goverment subsidies.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Isn’t @morat20 arguing that, in the absence of difficult and wise policy, it will be very (avoidably, tragically) bad? Thus, we should try to make the political response a good one.Report

              • Avatar Gaelen says:

                I agree, but was responding to Oscar.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “Taxes? Who pays for those, with a giant chunk of the population unemployed?”

                The top 5% of earners cover 59% of all income tax revenues, and the top 25% cover 86%. So, maybe “who pays for those” is “the same people who’re paying right now”.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Having vast technological progress result in a decrease in income and standard of living for huge numbers of working people is likely not a politically sustainable result.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman says:

                Yup. If this comes to pass, the main question is whether they’re working at artificially super-inflated wages, or whether we just let them do their own thing.

                Also, what we do about people having kids whose labor we won’t need.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Maybe this will turn out to be what Westworld is about.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Also, what we do about people having kids whose labor we won’t need.

                Pets or meat.Report

              • Avatar El Muneco says:

                Logan’s Run.
                Downside: everybody dies at 30
                Upside: Jenny AgutterReport

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                That is a compelling upside…Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                “technological progress for corporate profit and government rent seeking is not politically sustainable”Report

              • Avatar Joe Sal says:

                “Productivity advances, actually.”
                Most of the problems of productivity pivot around corporate/state productivity advancements, not advancements in productivity that align with individuals preferences in means of production (or exchange).

                The more automation and production is distributed, the more you will see this problem disappear.

                Labor surplus will not be as big a problem, because when wealth was concentrated at the point of production it was much easier to take time off until the wealth was reduced to the point of motivating capital formation again.

                Capitalism was a working model at one time.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird says:

        Simon Penner had a great tweetstorm here. If you don’t feel like clicking through, hey, and who has the time? I’ll recreate it:

        This past weekend I threw a party, and some straight up communists ended up at my house.

        After dinner, I go to the washroom. When I got back, there is a heated discussion going on about violently seizing the means of production

        First off, thought these people didn’t exist. I assumed everyone on Twitter were just performative edgelords and ignorant students. lolnope

        Secondly not one of the four commies offered to give me some cash for the pizzas I bought for 12 people

        The shitposting is above this point. The wise words are below this point

        They were vaguely talking about seizing the means of production, but this sounded hilarious and ananchronistic in context

        It felt kind of like a council of cats discussing their plans to finally catch that red dot. What would they even do if they got it?

        Thing is, for all their talk, they don’t understand that in the US, people have unprecedented ownership of the means of production already

        From an economics perspective: thats what investments are. Index funds. Insurance funds. Treasuries. Even bank deposits. That’s what that is

        But more importantly, straw poll to my followers: What _is_ the “means of production”. Point to it. Send me a photo of it.

        n 2016, in the United States of America, these are photos of the _real_ means of production

        (Photo of iPhone) (Photo of laptop)

        With a laptop, you can do _all_ knowledge work. Software is free (if you’ve already rejected the idea of intellectual property, anyway)

        With a laptop you can write software that makes any element of machinery do whatever you want. You have an amazing communications tool

        You have a portal to learn anything humanity has ever learned, for free. Usually legally for free, but always for free

        You have the most elaborate musical instrument known to man. You can train yourself to fly in a flight simulator.

        You can engage in a wide variety of home science, between journal articles, computational resources, and the capacity for simulation

        For the cost of a few thousand dollars (two months’ minimum wage; not easy but doable for all) you can outfit it with whatever you need

        You have art tools that world famous artists from 50 years ago could only dream of

        And the phone. A mobile sensors suite better than anything most military, naval, and space vessels ever did

        You can trivially process payments. Consumers do not understand how game changing this is

        Tired: Ten thousand dollar proprietary POS systems
        Wired: $500 iPad + square/stripe/whatever

        The communists in my house yelling about taking the means of production don’t realize THEY ALREADY HAVE THEM

        And, already having them, what are they doing with them? Not much. They don’t even understand what they have on their person

        There is wisdom in contemplating this.


        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “You can trivially process payments. Consumers do not understand how game changing this is”

          A tangent on this. My wife sells her jewelry at farmers’ markets, and uses Square for payment processing. She plugs a thingy into her phone, swipes the card, customer signs (on the phone), later that day Square makes a deposit to her bank account. The thingy cost fifteen dollars, and Square takes a three-percent cut of every transaction.

          The procedure used to be that she’d swipe the card onto copier paper (using a swiper that barely worked and cost $75). At the end of the day she’d call the credit-card company, type in the details–customer name, address, zip, card number, and transaction amount–by punching buttons on the phone keypad. After doing all this (for nearly two hours on days with lots of sales) the company would, after five to seven business days, mail her a check. For this service she paid twenty dollars a month, plus a ten-cent flat fee on every swipe *and* five percent of the transaction.

          It’s one of those things that normally you wouldn’t have any reason to know about, but when you do learn about it, you wonder how anyone ever put up with the old way.Report

        • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:


        • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

          Asserting that the “means of production” is hardware and software is like telling a mechanic in 1923 that he already owned the means of production since he had a toolbox with wrenches.

          Production of what? Does he own the parts that he bolts together, or the final product?
          Does a tech worker own the wealth he produces? For that matter, who even “owns” our software, outright fee simple? More and more it is leased or simply used, not owned. EULA doesn’t stand for “End Owner License Agreement”.

          As I mentioned below in my comment about automation, who owns the wealth that robots, AI and automation are creating?
          Who rightfully should own it?

          A robot fells a tree and trims it within seconds into finished lumber; another CADCAM machine mills the lumber and assembles it into a table.
          Who is the rightful owner of this wealth?Report

          • Avatar Morat20 says:

            The guy that can afford to buy them.

            Oh hey there wealth concentration and income inequality. It’s not surprising to see you here.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird says:

            Production of what? Well, from what I can tell, “Content”.

            He specifically mentions that the computer is a musical instrument, an art tool, a phone, a library with damn near every book ever written…

            What could you create with such a device?
            What could *NOT* create with such a device!Report

            • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

              What could *NOT* create with such a device!

              A home in which to live; a meal to eat; clothing to wear.

              You know, the little things in life.

              OK, but what about these things, that you can make with a computer. What are you going to do with them?

              Exchange them for food, clothing, housing? How, since they are so cheap to produce that everyone has one?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If someone wanted to run off to the wilderness and build a cabin and homestead some acreage, would you be down with that or would you demand that the cabin be built in accordance with OSHA standards after an environmental impact survey is done?

                Because it certainly seems like the game is rigged. People in rural areas told to move to cities, people in cities not particularly employable, SO NOW WHAT?!?

                Well, could we even *TRY* the benign neglect thing and leave them to their own devices and see if they, among themselves, can create a small bartertown?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                How many people in ruralia do you think actually want to be subsistence farmers totally disconnected from the global economy?Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                How would they afford the land? It ain’t free, and the whole point here is they’ve got no jobs and no income.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Only the ones with daddy’s gold card in their pocket…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Probably fewer than 20.

                But part of me would think that it’d be nice for them to have the option.

                You know, as a “well, if you don’t like being on welfare in the city, what are you going to do?” answer.

                Instead of “well, I’ll go off and we’ll make a small community and live together” “NOT WITHOUT A PERMIT YOU WON’T! Now answer the question!”Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                So then what do our regulations have to do with the problem of automation? Even if we accept that that’s what’s keeping people from going to Walden, if going to Walden is only a workable solution for an incredibly tiny minority of those dealing with this problem, turn deregulation isn’t going to meaningfully help.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, it seems like we’ve created one hell of a catch-22.

                We’re talking about them having no thing to do, then when someone suggests something that they might do, being told “no, that’s not an option besides nobody would want to do that anyway”.

                Can they create their own communities? “With what?”

                Well, my main suggestion, at this point, would be to sterilize anyone who is not capable of working.

                We should probably start sterilizing them now, to help head off a problem in the future.

                Oh, and we should put a stop to immigration real freakin’ quick. The last thing we need is more people who can’t find jobs.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                It’s a bit odd that we’ve jumped to eugenics as a solution before noticing the amount of immense wealth and the near elimination of material scarcity that is creating the problem.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:


                I don’t think so.

                I think it’ll be a lot more popular than telling assistant managers that they have to give money to the people who were fired when the kiosks replaced the cashiers.

                A lot more popular by a damn sight.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                So we agree that our politics are probably dysfunctional enough that we’ll react to the capacity to produce previously unimaginable abundance by making millions of people impoverished and miserable?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Doesn’t have to be millions. If we get them sterilized quickly, we could reduce it to tens of thousands.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                What are you trying to get at with thing about eugenics? I don’t get it.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                What are these unemployed millions allowed to do? They aren’t hireable because there are no jobs. We, as a society, will need to provide them with education, food, shelter, and, presumably, entertainments.

                Why would we, as a society, permit them to continue to create more unemployables who we, as a society, will be providing with education, food, shelter, and, presumably, entertainments?

                I mean, if they could take care of themselves, that’d be one thing.

                But we’ve already established that they cannot take care of themselves.

                They would need to be spayed/neutered and cared for until they pass.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Given the inapplicability of his argument, I think it’s a reflexive action more than a thought out point.

                After all, consider his solution: Get rid of all the unemployed. Awesome, you’ve now reduced demand for over-supply even more, and productivity and automation will move on.

                Guess what? More workers not needed. More killing them off.

                Now if you squint at his eugenics point, assume you and I are evil people who hate blue collar workers, I suppose you might think “Oh that Morat, he’s saying the future will render blue collar workers — those people he looks DOWN on and DESPISES — irrelevant. He’d probably want them removed from the gene pool so their uselessness doesn’t pass on”. I mean you can make his argument make weird sense.

                Except, of course, the last people to fall before the might robots will probably be the plumbers and electricians and especially the nurses and healthcare aides.

                Expert systems to take the place of ‘knowledge based’ jobs will be quicker off the mark. You don’t need to design a robot that can fix your toilet. You just need an expert system that can diagnose you or draft legal paperwork.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                We still don’t have a computer that can recognize porn when it sees it. We’re, um, working on that one.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                I’m probbly not the guy to ask about subsistence farming, what with my Agrotopian Walden-esque quasi-Amish fantasies.

                But- even if people were to detach and do exactly that- where would they get the land?
                Remember that robot lumberjack in my link?
                It resides on millions of acres owned by corporate interests, or federal land leased to corporate interests.

                Ammon Bundy sort of put his finger on this issue, didn’t he?

                Who owns the land and the wealth it can produce?
                Why should we accept the answer as legitimate?Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                So yeah, for all of these reasons, this strikes me as a non-answer, @jaybird . Farmers have been businessmen embedded in global supply chains for centuries. Those that aren’t will struggle to maintain a standard of living even vastly below that enjoyed by even poor people in modern America, and there isn’t space for 100 million people or whatever to do this.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m just hammering out if there would be anyplace for someone to go if they wanted to exit.

                It seems that exit is not an option.

                Doctor assisted suicide, I suppose.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                So there is no where that they are allowed to go, no where that they are allowed to live, no where that they are allowed to be left alone without being told that they need to pay the rent to the man…

                I’d ask whether the mother had a permit to breed.Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                This was the premise of Firefly, after all.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Yeah, there’s a big part being left out here.

                No, generally speaking if there’s something that you don’t own you can’t just go and claim it — even if people on the intertubes think it’s really romantic for you to do so.

                “So some guy just wants his own house, and you have one just sitting there, so why can’t he just break in and take over one of the rooms and not pay you anything? I guess there’s no place for people who just want to be left alone and not owe the man to go these days.”Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                You can’t get a job because nobody can afford to hire you except for the people rich enough to hire robots to do what you would be doing for them for a lot cheaper.

                Oh, and they’re not allowed to leave.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Oh, well then by all means. Just grab whatever you can and call it yours.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Yeah, that’s where I see it going too.

                Maybe we should do something about all of the guns in the country…Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly says:

                Also, I’d be interested to see the Venn diagram of people who think you should be able to claim land so-called “owned” by the government if you’re feeling like a pioneer, and people who support sanctuary cities.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Wait. Firefly is about a space squatter? How the hell did I miss that?Report

              • Avatar Kolohe says:

                Firefly is the typical Western in almost all its tropes. Zoe and Mal are former Confederate soldiers in these tropes, except for the ‘Confederacy’ not having any of that slavery thing (that we know of)Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                But apparently with all that Confederate property confiscation and squatting and so on. I could see that from Jane or even Wash. But not Mal. Never Mal.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Dude, remember the episode with the ghost ship that had been raided by Reavers? They wanted to salvage the colony supplies and sell them. The government ships didn’t allow that.

                It wouldn’t have been civilized.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                “I aim to misbehave.”

                Along a certain set of constraints, anyway.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                When did you become a communist, comrade?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                When I went to Doha and saw that the richest country in the world still had slaves.

                I wrote an essay about it.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Frankly, I can’t tell if we disagree or not because you’re being very oblique. The gulf states are a different problem; they have slaves because they have money, want things, are morally reprehensible, and don’t want to work. In the future @morat20 fears, there are no slaves because even humans working for free are too expensive to compete with robots, who do the job better anyway.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                And if there are no slaves because even humans working for free are too expensive to compete with robots, why in the hell are these too expensive humans permitted to breed in the first place?

                I am skeptical that we have finally found a place where the government doesn’t have jurisdiction.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Can you just cut to the chase and tell me what you’re getting at? Seems we’re going around and around and illuminating little.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Morat20 seems to be presenting us with a problem where automation has taken everyone’s job and therefore nobody has any money.

                Jaybird is asking what Morat20 thinks ought to be done about that.

                Because nobody seems to be proposing “break the machine” as an answer, and there doesn’t seem to be another solution beyond “make fewer people”.

                (I’m suggesting “let’s first establish that there’s a problem” but that doesn’t seem to be getting any traction.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                (I’m suggesting “let’s first establish that there’s a problem” but that doesn’t seem to be getting any traction.)

                There will very likely be a bunch of free computers for the proles. A handful of proles will make “authentic” poetry, music, art, so on and that will always be in demand among the roboted class.

                Hell, they will probably be needed to make the pornography that the roboted class will watch as they rut with their sexbots.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Would this conversation be going any better if we talked about whether “there’s a problem”* or not?

                *whatever that means. One person’s problem is another person’s problem free utopia.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Probably, I guess.

                But here are the premises as far as I can tell:

                IN THE YEAR 2000, robots will replace all labor, leaving everyone unemployed but only those who own robots will have wealth.

                The robotless will be unemployed and unemployable because even if they worked for free, they’d be more expensive to society because of their food/shelter/entertainment needs than the robots who only need electricity and routine maintenance (presumably provided by routine maintenance ‘bots).

                The unemployed will not have money with which to purchase food, shelter, or entertainment because, as we said, they’re unemployable.

                The unemployed will not have the option of going off and living in Walden because, come on, nobody would want to do that. Also, that land is owned by the government or by robot owners.

                Did I miss any?Report

              • Avatar Burt Likko says:

                Maybe a post consisting of an illustrative vignette, portraying in fictionalized form what they think our inevitable future dystopia actually looks like?

                Come to think of it, a series of these from different authors might make for an interesting and thought-provoking, if depressing, series of posts.

                Who’s up for Dystopia Week?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I (clapping emoji) am (clapping emoji) in (clapping emoji) for (clapping emoji) Dystopia (clapping emoji) Week.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Who’s up for Dystopia Week?

                Heck, I’ve got thoughts and feelings about this stuff. Even I might write an essay for something this epic.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                I’m game, if you can hold off until the new year.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Oscar, we gotta be timely on this. Prioritize.Report

              • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

                Fine, I’ll reschedule my knee surgery…Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                Only a day or two… tops.Report

              • Avatar Kim says:

                I am. Citing India.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                I was thinking more of your premises. You’ve been all over the map on in this thread, conflating (intentionally or not) description, prescription and prediction. All in a reversie ju-jitsu style that doesn’t seem to be throwing your confused interlocutors to the mat.

                DD claims he understands you, but I chalk that up more to historical alliances than anything happening in this thread. 🙂Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Well, when we started, I was 100% down with talking about how everybody is (potentially) set to be a content creator with a cheap laptop, the internet at their fingers, and so on.

                That got the rejoinder of “well, if nobody has jobs because they aren’t employable because of robots, where are they going to get these laptops from?”

                And I thought that using that baseline of the future was interesting enough to run with.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                That’s not what I’m saying about the Walden thing. I’m saying that life as a subsistence farmer is nasty, brutish and short, so if the outcome is that people go to Walden because the economy is too efficient, then we have failed profoundly.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If they can’t even buy a laptop because the economy is too efficient, then our failure goes to some pretty weird places.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                Which is hilarious, because my original point was: “If this is the future, what do we do about it?”

                As in “I worry about this trend, because even if it just gets rid of — say — 30% of the workforce need we’re in trouble economically and I don’t know how to solve it”.

                Making fewer people won’t help. Productivity will continue to increase.

                Asking me for solutions is pretty funny, because my initial post was “I have no idea how this is solved”.

                Which led to Jaybird apparently eugenics as if someone other than him was suggesting it.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Because nobody seems to be proposing “break the machine” as an answer, and there doesn’t seem to be another solution beyond “make fewer people”.

                Well, SOME people would propose that the machines be socialized and the bountiful wealth distributed freely.

                But thats just science fiction.Report

              • Avatar Morat20 says:

                I’m honestly more worried about the transitional period than the final outcome.

                Post-scarcity is post-scarcity, and there’s plenty of models of how that can work.

                But the interval, when scarcity intersects with large unemployment and an economic system still working on exchanges of labor?

                Ouch. Ugly.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Because its not like post-labor is an event. Rather is is a gradual series of shocks and ripples that spread out unevenly and affect different things and people.

                Which is why its important to start the discussion and awareness now, because this is going to be years, maybe decades to resolve.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I think that we’re going to find another wrinkle. You know the one thing that they won’t be able to make more of?

                Positional goods.

                And, get this, as we get closer and closer and closer to post-scarcity, positional goods get more and more and more valuable.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                If we have established that all of these people who cannot take responsibility for themselves are our responsibility, I’m suggesting that we will most likely take responsibility for these people who cannot take responsibility for themselves.Report

              • Avatar Don Zeko says:

                Since when is this a scenario in which people aren’t taking responsibility for themselves? We live in an advanced capitalist society, meaning that basically nobody is capable of taking care of themselves. Instead, we can do a few things that we trade with other people for all of these things that we need. The people rendered unemployable* in Morat’s scenario are perfectly capable of doing all sorts of things: driving trucks, digging ditches, translating instruction manuals, finding items in card catalogues, etc. etc. etc. It’s just that somebody built a better lightbulb and all of a sudden nobody anywhere is willing to pay them for any of the things they can do. We’ll still have food and shelter and services and consumer goods in abundance. Whether those people get any of those things that we have in abundance depends upon how we organize our society and distribute those resources. i hope we’ll do it in a way that makes us better off, but I fear that we’ll wind up making tons of people miserable for a long period, and all because we can’t solve this fundamentally political problem.

                *And for the record, I don’t see why we’re referring to this group of people as “they” when it will almost certainly include “we,” meaning us namby-pamby well-educated professionals, a lot sooner than we’d like.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I didn’t say “aren’t”, I said “cannot”. They don’t have jobs and they aren’t employable. Why? Because, as you said, “nobody anywhere is willing to pay them for any of the things they can do”.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                So I keep coming back to the concept of ownership, and why we accept it as legitimate.

                We still operate on this Lockean premise that if someone mixes their labor with land, the resulting wealth is properly theirs.

                But this assumes there is a nexus, a tight connection between the individual’s labor and the wealth.
                I felled this tree, I trimmed it to lumber, I built the table, so the table is rightfully mine.

                Its a powerfully persuasive and intuitively easy to grasp idea.

                But when labor is reduced to zero, it is the holders of land who are gifted with an unlimited supply of free labor, even as the supply of natural resources stays relatively constant.

                So the moral nexus between the labor and wealth is broken; the landholder adds nothing to the chain, yet is given all the wealth.
                The legitimacy becomes increasingly preposterous.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater says:

                So the moral nexus between the labor and wealth is broken;

                The economic nexus is broken too, seems to me.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                “A home in which to live; a meal to eat; clothing to wear.”

                Why are these so expensive?

                What makes that be true?

                OWS had iPhones. I am assured by many people who assure me that they know what’s up that OWS was all poor people. Therefore, poor people have at least enough money to buy the most successful and advanced computing device in human history. Doesn’t that mean anything?Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                As has been repeatedly pointed out by advocates of the global trade structure, the most advanced computing device in human history has become so cheap as to be disposable.

                How many OWS participants owned their own home?Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck says:

                Why can’t they?

                Not every place is downtown San Francisco.Report

              • Avatar Chip Daniels says:

                Still wonder why Trump won?Report

  10. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    RE: UI

    I love how that articles goes all the way through without once mentioning “get you to look at ads”.

    Facebook didn’t introduce “Top News” because it thought Top News was a cool and interesting idea that users really would prefer. They introduced it so that they could sell “push your ad higher in users’ News Feed to make sure they see it first”.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      RE: UI

      Also, this:
      “Rewriting the function will give you something “clean”, but you’re likely to miss out on some of those edge cases.”

      Which is, incidentally, why all those “fair tax” or “flat tax” proposals are useless. The existing tax code is actually quite simple–IF you have a single source of income, never invest anywhere, and don’t own anything.Report

  11. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    And it’s not something we can really blame on Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, or the government pushing loans.

    Hello, have you met us?

    Of course we can blame it on those things. I have no doubt many people on radio stations already are.Report

  12. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    Canada’s Liberal government promised in their election platform that 2015 would be the last first past the post election in Canada.

    Once elected, they delayed eight months before kicking off a multi-party parliamentary committee to study how to reform the electoral system. When this committee released its report, the Liberal members released a separate report undercutting the majority report, and the Liberal minister in charge of electoral reform immediately set about insulting both the report and the committee.

    Now they’ve released an online survey on electoral reform that asks a bunch of vague and fluffy questions about “values” and nowhere asks concrete questions (e.g. “should a party’s seat count closely reflect its popular vote count?”)

    This is not playing well so far.Report