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AvatarComments by Dark Matter in reply to North*

On “Protecting Workers Is How We Protect the Economy

I don't view "popular" as a measurement of good economic policy.

Hugo Chavez was popular. Taxes are unpopular. Getting free stuff from the gov is popular.


This formatted wrong and then I didn't have the ability to edit it:

There doesn’t seem to be any federal-level effort to ensure people keep their homes and apartments…

They haven’t come up with a single, sane, policy that treats the outback of Montana, the inner city of Detroit, and the streets of San Francisco as though they all have the same housing issues. Hmm… there’s probably a reason for that.

As for inequality, good news! The stock market tanking has seriously narrowed the gap. So if that’s the yardstick we want to use to measure “good”, then the virus has been a massively good thing. IMHO that kind of result calls into question whether this is a sane yardstick.


It took radical progressive thinking to lift the United States out of the Great Depression.

After the first 8 years America really should have wondered if that "thinking" wasn't part of the problem. We didn't get out of the Depression until the World War forced FDR to turn his attention away from the economy.

Whether his fight against inequality came at the expense of the economy is very much a question worth asking. Individual programs seem fine, but I've seen strong arguments he tanked a recovery or two in there.

FDR’s radically progressive vision was so popular that the nation had to impose its first-ever presidential term limits to get him out of the White House.

FDR died in 1945. The 22nd AM was passed in 1951.

Most Presidents who serve two terms could go on to serve more. Washington set the tone by deciding more was a path to dictatorship.

The Second Bill of Rights would have declared that every American has the right to a job, a “decent living,” an “adequate wage,” a “decent home,” health care, economic protection “during sickness, accident, old age or unemployment” and, finally, “a good education.”

What happens if "the right to a job with a adequate wage" exists but NO ONE wants to hire me at that wage? Does the gov step in and have me twittle my thumbs at $30 an hour? Why should I try to be economically productive if jobs like that are the default?

With the money Mr. Bezos makes in a single day, he could shutter every Whole Foods location in America and give each one of his employees paid sick leave.

You are confusing income and wealth. Whole Foods has 91k employees, the CEO makes 15 million a year, ergo "paid sick leave" costs roughly fifty cents per person per year?

Math from progressives when they're talking about the rich gets interesting.

On March 23, 2020, the Lieutenant Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, said on Fox News that elderly Americans should be willing to lay down their lives for the stock market:

Dan Patrick said on Fox News Monday night that "lots of" grandparents would be willing to die in order to save the economy for their grandchildren.... The country will collapse if we shut down for three months."

He's clearly talking about the economy, that thing which supplies jobs, money, taxes and so forth as opposed to just the stock market.

this wealthy, lucky man is never actually going to have to perform the self-sacrifice he’s telling the rest of us to make.

The interview with Patrick wasn't done with him wearing a mask. Politicians meet lots of people.

Dan Patrick is 70 years old and has 3+ grandchildren. Self-sacrifice is exactly what he was talking about.

There doesn’t seem to be any federal-level effort to ensure people keep their homes and apartments...

They haven't come up with a single, sane, policy that treats the outback of Montana, the inner city of Detroit, and the streets of San Francisco as though they all have the same housing issues. Hmm... there's probably a reason for that.

As for inequality, good news! The stock market tanking has seriously narrowed the gap. So if that's the yardstick we want to use to measure "good", then the virus has been a massively good thing. IMHO that kind of result calls into question whether this is a sane yardstick.

On “Carnage: 6.6 Million in Initial Jobless Claims, 10 Million Two Week Total

The same moral code that says we should respect this behavior can also say that we should ban that other behavior. The boundary lines between the two are always being negotiated and litigated.

True. This is why I'm comfortable dropping 9 and 10 digit fines on organizations which cover up their agents raping children.

However it's also true that what we have now has been worked out over MANY years and we have the examples of many countries. It should not be scrapped without extremely careful research and evaluation.

It's the whole Democracy issue, it's not that the current system is great but that the others that we've tried are worse.


Depends on what our goal posts are. If the idea is to prevent this virus from being able to attack anyone (which to be fair is the normal definition of HI), then yes, we need a very high percentage.

If the idea is just to contain it enough that the hospitals don't get overrun and the HC system can keep it down to a manageable level? Then the people with serious levels of exposure (sometimes called social butterflies) will get it and we're lose that as a transmission vector.

That would be the cops, HC workers, and others whose jobs are to encounter large numbers of people all the time.

That won't drive the numbers down to zero, aka chicken pox, but we can (and will need to) live with it killing people at a level less than the flu.

On “Going for the Grocery Gold

I went shopping this weekend... it was a lot more stressful than I expected and I have an expensive face mask I'd bought years ago and put on a shelf.

This would be a good month to be avoiding that sort of thing.

On “Joe Biden: Staying Alive

RE: Howard
I think you're still putting Howard's statements on Trump, which is not to say he handled that well. Speaking as a father, the solution is to not go on the Howard Stern show.

It would be more useful to hear “this is how I am going to make things substantively better for you and your family”

Agreed, fully, the message "I'm going to take their stuff and give it to you" is nasty, effective, and leads to people fighting over stuff the have (or hiding it) and not making new stuff.

There's a lot of spin on this sort of thing "you didn't build that", "they don't deserve it", "pay their fair share", "they're taking your jobs" but whatever.

On “Carnage: 6.6 Million in Initial Jobless Claims, 10 Million Two Week Total

Yes. The really nasty drawback is you can point to those people and they're real.

The nasty advantage of some other systems is, because you can't point to those people, they're not real, even if their numbers are much higher.


Are you at all aware of the history and origins of unionization in the US, Dark? You’ve conveniently reversed the order of things.

Yes I do know the history, but my strong inclination is to ignore anything that happened more than 75 years ago.

The glory years of unions as a force of good depended on management as evil, i.e. management deliberately working people to death, stealing worker pay, engaging in violence, etc.

Those glory years existed, but everyone involved is long dead, we've had like 5 or so wars, and every aspect of society has been redone.

Modern Unions need to justify their existence based on modern conditions.

On “Joe Biden: Staying Alive

He can’t even refrain from talking about his daughter as a hot piece of ass he’s so insecure.

That was Howard Stern. Trump simply agreed.

At that point in time his daughter was a model and this sort thing was helpful for her career.

That women, as a group, are so stupid or insecure that a man with money can sexually assault them.

Wilt Chamberlain had sex with something like 20k women (and this may be a conservative estimate). If you're an A-lister in multiple categories to the point where you attract groupies, then you live in a different sexual world.

Demagogues always appeal to this notion that their followers have just gotten a raw deal.

Yes... although this is a BSDI thing.

One of the problems in a Democracy is it's ALWAYS possible mathematically to claim (correctly) to the majority that they're getting a raw deal and would be better off with a serious change.

On “Carnage: 6.6 Million in Initial Jobless Claims, 10 Million Two Week Total

I think that impression is pretty good... but the WW2 era was hugely distorting on the fabric of Germany Society.

If that's what we need for unions to play nice with the capitalists, then that's not the solution, it's the problem.


I would vote for something between A and B.


...would poor people, or middle class families, or the elderly, or people with preconditions, be able access quality healthcare on (what you view) as an idealized market?

The word "quality" is doing a lot of heavy lifting there. The answer is it depends on whether you're judging by absolute or relative measures.

If you have a problem which is bleeding edge and requires a very new very expensive solution, then obviously not.

However HC would be a LOT cheaper so the definition of "can't afford treatment" would have to be moved down a lot; I.e. from an absolute measure there would be more HC available and fewer people priced out of the market than currently exist.

However imho it is simply a fairytale to pretend that expensive bleeding edge solutions are available for all in whatever system, and we're paying a lot of money to maintain that fairytale.

Also you asked about an idealized market and not a realistic market one, so oh boy. We're probably looking at a 20x reduction in costs, which I'm getting by asking the internet about expensive pet treatments for human diseases (cancer) with the understanding that for pets this is a niche market. Assuming that's an outlier we might still be looking at 5x reductions.

With a 5x reduction and insurance used as insurance rather than as a way for everyone to freeload on everyone, then we're looking at a vast increase in the net human good...

...and yes, this means putting up with crying eyes of people dying because they're priced out of the system. And not believing politicians who claim there will be no crying eyes if they're elected.


And the suggestion that the public somehow “fix” the problems like monopolies and externalities is no different than saying we should “fix” society itself.

Pointing to a single problem affecting a single industry and saying we should pass a law is doable and has been done many times.

For example housing costs are out of control in many parts of the country because there's no increase in supply, which is caused by local people using local zoning and other governmental tools to shut down it's creation.

The long term solution is to strip localities of those tools or restrict them a lot. Make NIMBY types pay for the endless reviews they want. Ban square footage requirements. Put a cap on how many weeks a board can keep a developer hanging and how many bites of the apple they get.

human behavior is one of the most complex and unpredictable things in existence.

Thus why Economics is call "the dismal science". However trying to claim we don't know everything and it's a soft science shouldn't open it up to claiming we know nothing so we should ignore supply/demand.


I would like Americans to think of the corporate form of business as a privilege that is granted with the intention of benefiting the public’s interest as much as the shareholder’s interests.

I dislike the idea of making economic activities (including and especially job creation) a "privilege".

Having said that, can you define "benefiting the public's interest"?

Amazon has roughly 800k employees. I don't understand why that's not "benefiting the public's interest" on the face of it, and that's ignoring all of the other benefits we the public get from Amazon.

I like the German example of giving a stronger voice to the workers, placing their interests on an equal footing with the investors.

My general impression of Germany is they're a mono-culture and have had less problems with unions behaving badly.

My impression of unions in general is they're a competitive disadvantage on a company. Their decline in both the US and Germany(?) seem to reflect that.


Corporate personhood is not the same as the Shareholder Value Theory.

To the best of my knowledge, SVT isn't a legal theory, nor a law, nor anything other than some idea of governance. No court would accept it as something that would shield a company from behaving badly.

The rest of this seems lacking in details in terms of what problems you're trying to solve and how you intend to motivate corporations to solve them.


Do you agree there are sorts of ways US systems fail to not only achieve their putative goals, but directly fail *people* as well?

Yes, absolutely. HC is even a good example of that, although parts of the system are good, cheap, and widely available; HC for pets. Lasik eye care. Plastic surgery.

The parts of the system that are working are the ones which are using something close to markets, price signals exist and are allowed to work. The rest of the system is largely market free and shielded from price signals. We might claim it already works on social goals.

Market failure is a thing, Chip's definition isn't bad, but when we're looking at market failure we figure out why and fix that as opposed to doubling down on things which presumably will make it worse. Further obfuscating price signals, and shielding corporations from ROI seems unlikely to make things cheaper.

To be very clear, there are situations where the market fails. Monopolies, public goods, costs that are unloaded onto the commons... however there's also government mismanagement, and misregulation.

If the FDA is too restrictive, the solution probably isn't to make companies care less about it. If local housing authories prevent the creation of enough housing to meet demand in the name of social goals, then that's a description of the problem, not the solution.


It didn’t exist during the postwar economic boom, it didn’t exist in the 19th century Industrial age.

In the 1886 case Santa Clara v. Southern Pacific – 118 U.S. 394 (1886), Chief Justice Waite of the Supreme Court orally directed the lawyers that the Fourteenth Amendment equal protection clause guarantees constitutional protections to corporations in addition to natural persons, and the oral argument should focus on other issues in the case.

So in 1886 the Supremes thought it so well established that there was no point in talking about it. It seems to have been created in 1818.

As for the rest of the world (same link): In the United States and most countries, corporations, as legal persons, have a right to enter into contracts with other parties and to sue or be sued in court in the same way as natural persons or unincorporated associations of persons.

It's also noteworthy that the US ranks towards the very top of countries when judged on corporate governance.

The idea that corporations are public entities and that the public has a legitimate interest in their outcomes is the “bedrock economic theory” throughout the world.

You have been very vague on what you're trying to do (other than overturn bedrock economic principles) so if you can point to other countries successfully doing something and are trying to copy them, please point to them and supply links.

Again, the only countries I can think of who have tried what I think you're suggesting are communist experiments which ended poorly.


The current theory is one of the bedrocks of our economic system. Other systems which have used your suggestion have worked poorly... including many of your "broad social goals".

Are you willing to make people/corporations/society poorer for this desire? Or are you insisting it will make something work better?


Nine months. Nine whole months to retool for a new profession?

6 or 9. Work ticked up in the middle of this so 3 months of that was old tech.

And on a side note, that's happened again since then.

So like, an unemployed guy today, or a million or ten million unemployed guys will be ready to take your place at cheaper wages in January 2021?

You'd think... but recruiting is hard. MUCH harder than if your logic actually worked so it clearly doesn't.

Human laborers have become like disposable phones, where it is cheaper to throw the old one out rather than fix it.

A job lasts for a year or two, more rarely three. I've worked 8 years at my current place.

If we ignore that my title hasn't changed, I figure I've had 4 jobs. Something new comes up. I beat on it until I work myself out of a job. Then something new comes up. The need for SW is increasing, not decreasing, that cycle isn't stopping any time soon.

Without this virus I would be in the middle of yet another retooling and job switch.

Of course without this virus we'd be at full employment.

That's a serious disconnect between the doom and gloom talk and the numbers.


I do not understand why more people don't learn to code.

Now to be clear, I didn't retool over one weekend, I saw my end coming years ahead of time. I got serious about changing 6 or 9 months a head of time.


So some people will experience a high demand, while many others will find themselves useless.

The first is great, the latter can be fixed.

I was the absolute master of a technology. It was replaced and I was fired. It was my bread and butter for 10 years or so. That technology isn't used anywhere anymore.

Overnight I went from high demand to useless... if we stop the story there.

I was unemployed for two days. Fired on Friday and started new job on Monday. I saw it coming and retooled, found a new job before the old one hit the fan.


Let talk specifics so we don’t end up talking past each other...

Yes, let's.

What specifically do you want to have happen, and how specifically do you intend to have corporations make that happen?

At the moment both your examples and mine hit the radar as a list of bad ideas, so let me put a different social goal out there.

Ending Child Labor. To make that happen we outlawed child labor. I can think of a few other examples, mostly dealing with negative externalities. However at the moment you are being very vague and don't seem to want things in those sorts of catagories.

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