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Someone please cancel 2019 already?

So last night a British government was handed the biggest defeat in modern parliamentary history (since the middling-late 19th century, at any rate) in its attempt to systematically disenfranchise three million EU citizens, violate the Good Friday Agreement, generate a requirement for a racist and invasive population tracking system (hint: that's an implicit corollary of the NI border backstop, and the Home Office has had a hard-on for a National Identity Register since the 1950s), and irreparably damage the British financial, services, and manufacturing sectors ... all in the name of preserving Conservative Party unity.

(Lest we forget, in a 2015 poll of how the public prioritized different political issues, EU membership came tenth out of a field of ten.)

In the USA, the Republican-induced shutdown of government spending has resulted in Coast Guards being paid out of a charity, Air Traffic Controllers being fed pizza paid for by the Canadian counterparts, and diabetic civil servants desperately rationing their insulin and just hoping to wake up in the morning. If it goes on much longer, a lot of those civil servants won't be around to come back to work: they'll have had to go looking for jobs elsewhere. And yet, the shutdown continues because the mafia shill in the big house desperately needs a distraction from the 17 different investigations into his crime ring, and "build a wall" rallies his party base.

It's almost like these were two sides of the same coin, isn't it?

I'm trying to remember if I said this on my blog some time over the last 20 years, but: one of my working principles is that the event horizon in politics in a democracy is no more than 5 years. (Or: the maximum time between elections.) Consider Germany in January 1934, and how outlandish and dystopian the situation would have sounded if you'd described it to a German citizen in January 1929. (30% unemployment! A dictator and a state of emergency! Concentration camps! Anti-Jewish laws!)

Here's a reflection: the value proposition of democracy is that it provides for a peaceful transfer of power, once an incumbent regime loses its political legitimacy. If you have a working democracy you don't need revolutions to get rid of incompetent leadership. As Enoch Powell said, "every politician's career ends in failure" (unless they die unexpectedly): in a democracy they agree to step down, and life goes on.

But when you get a faction, party, or regime that no longer subscribes to the idea of democracy and refuses to back down gracefully, you get back the old problems: pressure for change builds up and when it erupts the effects can be devastating and unpleasant--especially, as we've had a crash-course reminder in recent years, when the tools of communication make it really easy for dangerous demagogues to draw a following.

I think we can safely say that since 2013, the grip of the beige dictatorship on the western system has been broken. Unfortunately, we're now living through a period of turbulence analogous to that which followed the collapse of the Age of Monarchies in Europe, 1917-1919 (during which pretty much every monarchy in central and eastern Europe went down like a row of dominoes). It took until 1945 for the dust to settle and a stable, broadly social-democratic new order to emerge in the west: I just hope our current turbulence settles down before 2045, because otherwise our planetary climate and biosphere is fucked.

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1:

So much for "The End of History. Again.

I no longer think its inconceivable that Trump will seek to stay in the White House by extraordinary means come 2020, even if he loses in a landslide (and given the rabid base of his, a landslide is unlikely).

The real Eminence Grise in the US is not Trump--but Senate Leader McConnell. HE's the real playcaller here the last few years. The whole Merrick Garland affair just brought that to full prominence, and this continued shutdown here, really is his doing.

2:

I can't think of another modern British Prime Minister or US President that wouldn't have resigned faced with the current position they find themselves in. It is unprecedented that they are both clinging to power by any means necessary.

The trigger to both of these is politicians starting to work against the 1%, even though is small steps. The 1% has mobilised and used their wealth to flood the disadvantaged with emotive propaganda against "the other". This is not really about May and Trump, or even Rees-Mogg and McConnell, but those that sit behind funding them.

This sounds too much like a wild conspiracy theory about dark money and hidden puppeteers, perhaps I need to lighten up and just enjoy life whilst I can.

3:

Conspiracy theories are dangerous because they play to our cognitive bias—we hominids take what Daniel Dennett calls an intentional stance, seeing motivations behind natural phenomena, because it's a side-effect of us possessing a theory of mind, which has been selected for via evolution for hundreds of millions of years (because it's a survival trait).

Having said that, I generally do give credence to two types of conspiracy:

a) Convergent interests,

and

b) Cover-ups.

Cover-ups are easy: nobody wants to take the blame for something bad, so when something bad happens, it's very easy for anyone in a control hierarchy that failed to prevent it to fall into cover-my-ass behaviour. And the emergent outcome of CYA is a cover-up conspiracy (none of the CYA folks want to rock the boat or blow the whistle on each other because to do so is to attract attention).

The former, convergence of common goals, is a broader category (cover-ups are one very specific example). One may look at the way all the tobacco companies pushed the junk science about smoking not causing cancer between the 1900s and 1970s. Or the way that all petrochemical resource extraction corporations fund outlets that downplay climate change. It's not an actual conspiracy with an organizing committee and an agenda, it's just that they all stand to lose a mind-bogglingly vast sum of money and power if they don't follow certain policies.

Humans, in other words, are eusocial hive apes.

The conspiracy you've pointed to is thus an example of type (a): we've allowed our financial machinery to undergo regulatory capture by wealth-accumulative investment structures. These are now concentrating wealth in very few hands, leading to rising inequality. The hands that hold the wealth thus have to pursue certain strategies or they will lose their wealth.

The question now is whether our underlying political structures are strong enough to support a rebalancing, without themselves needing radical restructuring (meaning: revolution) first.

4:

The five year thing explains almost all government educational policies - since it takes a couple of years to implement any change and at least two years (often much more) to see the results in terms of marks, standards, university places, etc. all fiascos can be blamed on previous governments.

5:

Another problem is how said "rebalancing" is going to work. To risk an imminnent Godwin, the Nazis were also about "rebalancing"; in the beginning, that might have included all property holder, in the end, they settled on Jews and people in the annexed territories.

Some "leftists" going "national" again makes me really think if I should add a Lenin mask to my personality inventory, Including the Cheka...

It's quite interesting reading Gysi sometimes, if you remember that if German politics were Game of Thrones, Gysi might be Varys[1]. No, he's still got his genitals, the analogy is in a different regard...

[1] And the German Christian Democrats might be the Nightwatch. A bunch of robbers and rapists, with a few honourable men.

6:

I do not currently see a way out of this mess.

Barnier is being applauded for negotiating an unacceptable withdrawal agreement. May's government and the civil service have conducted what is almost certainly the best ever example of how not to negotiate an agreement. Corbyn and supporters are only interested in seeking political advantage for themselves.

Parliament is a helpless pack of destructively squabbling children only capable of saying no, not fair ... lorded over by one of the most divisive speakers in history.

The chances of framing and agreeing sensible neutral referendum question(s) are slim to nonexistent.

And we face several more years of this:
Plainly our current democratic institutions are no longer fit for purpose (and that includes the EU).

Time for some sort of (hopefully quiet) revolution.

7:

It seems to me that the idea that politicians could possibly have any influence over the earth's chaotic climate system looks like a bourgeois liberal version of the anti-demographic impulses that you have ascribed to conservatives.

In a technological world where all the social progress for the last 200 years has been based on the availability of relatively cheap and abundant energy, to say that the abundance of energy should be curtailed because of some perceived risk in the future is neither progressive nor demographic. The future will always carry risks and to wish it otherwise is a delusion.

Bill

8:

Er, you missed "Violate the Scotland Act" (in a number of ways; the first that springs to mind is stripping the Scots Parliament of its powers over fisheries).

9:

Reminder: Godwin's Law does not apply to discussions of Adolf Hitler, the NSDAP, and actual swastika-wearing synagogue-burning card-holding Nazi Party members.

(It's a heuristic about the general tendency of political arguments on the internet to devolve into name-calling, not a ban on calling horses equines.)

Having said that, I'd like to avoid getting too deep into a discussion of German politics circa 1919-45. And the "Game of Thrones" metaphors go right past me—I like most of George's other work (hey, I'm even in the most recent Wild Cards anthology!) but GoT leaves me cold: bounced hard 2-3 times off book one and gave up, never bothered with the TV show (because it's TV).

10:

I disagree with all of your perspectives while agreeing with the general direction of your conclusions.

It's quite possible that, even barring a revolution, this fiasco will lead to the break-up of the UK before the dust settles.

12:

In the absence of the Mandate, how do we get a government that will revoke article 50? What narrative do we need to make, say, David Lammy the national unity Prime Minister to revoke article 50 and what other policy agenda could gather enough MPs to defect to it?

13:

Should Liz II, go down to 10 Downing street and tell Theresa to sort the mess out now?
At what point are people going to want someone who has authority to kick some ass?
If not now when?

14:

Here's my take on the situation, which somewhat agrees with your theory, but is maybe a bit more encompassing:

Democracies provide that peaceful transition of power by giving people enough feeling of a say in governance that they prevent something worse. As electorates get larger, that proposition gets increasingly diminished - which is enough of a problem on its own - but even worse is that governments have very little incentive to control bureaucratic bloat or modernize in any meaningful way. Most citizens of Democracies (excluding a very that have remained agile) are faced with continuing to interact with a government that only ever gets larger and more expensive, and consistently traps every potential interaction in a maze of rules and paperwork straight out of the 50s or earlier. The only thing comparable to nearly any interaction with government is trying to wring money out of an insurance company.

All of this is while the rest of society has modernized such that you can do anything from your smart phone in about 5 minutes. The only viable reaction people feel they're left with is to support populist movements that pretty much promise to tear down the whole system. See Trump, Bernie, Brexit, Yellow Vests...

15:

I was thinking earlier in the other thread that the way the breakdown of cosmopolitanism appears to become manifest in the UK is not a million miles from the end of Yugoslavia, something no-one really expected either. How fast can an (etic) ethnic-national category acquire a violently negative epithet in a certain population and how fast can that population grow, borg itself across its host (emic) ethnic-national category? I wouldn’t have imagined the UK would possess such internal division, but I also thought its trajectory was toward more inclusiveness and apparently that was incorrect.

16:

Well if the peaceful transition of power is breaking down in democracies, and there are problems with political-national entities holding their provinces together and managing unrest, and this is widespread, then the early 17th century would seem to provide the closest precedent in terms of a series of events and a trajectory for the future. Long story short - it’s not pretty and given nuclear weapons and climate change, it’s a challenge to imagine any positive outcome.

17:

Can we have our Beige Dictatorship back please?

18:

Well, my thought was that it may provide a reason for the unilateral revocation of the Act of Union with England (1707).

19:

I've seen a few commentators recently posit that the current general clusterfuck being experienced in the UK, USA and Australia has a lot to do with that crusty old bastard Rupert Murdoch.

His "News Corpse" has been the organisation who has been pushing the hard right agenda in each of those countries, and as such, the political systems are ridiculously destabilised in each. In Australia, Rupert flies in when he's not getting enough money out of the country anymore and pushes an agenda that deposes a sitting prime minister - it's 2019 and we've had 6 of the buggers since 2009.

Food for thought...

20:

Should Liz II, go down to 10 Downing street and tell Theresa to sort the mess out now?

That's Not Possible. At least, not in this reality tunnel.

Liz is most of the way to being 91 years old and was pro-Brexit in the first place (probably because of a combination of rose-tinted wing-mirrors and being a wee bit out of touch with modern supply chain logistics).

She's also dedicated her entire life to not putting the monarchy on the opposite side of the barricades from the public, and she's not going to fuck it up now by pissing off a not-quite-majority of the population by pissing in their wheaties.

The nearest she might get is to Strongly Suggest a snap general election, if a total parliamentary gridlock develops and if the PM of the day asks her opinion.

Remember, she's lived through WW2 and Suez and the Cold War and none of them could hold a candle (from her point of view) to the Abdication Crisis or even the death of Diana Spencer.

21:

I think that when we are looking at modern protests such as the state of politics in the UK and the French Yellow Vest movement, we may be being blinded to the broader picture by a couple of special cases.

In France, for the last few decades, the only way to make the Government sit up and take notice of pretty much anything was for the entire nation to go out on strike. Petty minor disputes turn into national issues because this is more or less the only way to get the government to listen; when the populace contains a sizeable minority who have *lots* of grievances, then you get this widespread rioting.

In Britain we have a not-dissimilar situation. Power in Britain is very heavily centralised so that only the MPs have much say over taxation. This leads to a situation where local government is somewhat irrelevant, and it doesn't much matter whom one votes for with the result that voting is rather tribal. Core Labour voters would famously vote for a pig if a red rosette were affixed to it.

In both cases decentralising power and tax-raising powers is the answer. If who you vote into power at a local level matters economically to you and if local votes can be used to hold local officials accountable for local issues, then voters will slowly begin to realise that politics matters. When this happens, extremists will start to become persona non grata, and voters will start to pay a lot more attention to political promises and outcomes.

22:

The Beige Dictatorship presided over the financialization of just about every relationship in our society.

It did so because there was no effective opposition—it was a cross-party consensus—and the competing parties were captured by the financial system. (You can't deliver voters with out putting a chicken in every pot, so you pander to those who have enough money to promise everyone chicken, and in the end they wind up dictating the season story arc, even if they're not actually running the show.)

At first everything seems to be going fine, there's prosperity and newly privatized enterprises and so on and so forth, but after a management generation the new C-suite operators forget what it was like before they were promoted to masters of the universe and begin to think the state is there for their cherry-picking.

(In the case of the UK I'd put this somewhere in the 1990s, between the privatization of British Rail and the introduction of Public-Private Partnerships to run outsourced public services.)

Then fast-forward a generation and the house of cards collapses (in 2008). But the beige dictatorship's masters are still dictating policy (or at least chanting, "give us all your money"), so we're reaping the whirlwind.

23:

I'm not arguing against that narrative. (Rupe isn't known in the pages of Private Eye as "the Dirty Digger" for nothing ...)

24:

" by pissing in their wheaties."

Ugh. Charlie, I know you make a living from putting images to paper, but that's not an image that ever belonged in my head...

25:
Having said that, I'd like to avoid getting too deep into a discussion of German politics circa 1919-45.

I agree, though I wonder if a general look at the European developments after 1919 might help somewhat with establishing failure modes. And with this, Germany is the example I have most informations about, though I could likely get into Italian history with a little googlework.

About GoT, err, we had quite a laugh with those comparisons by me with my last working place[1]. Better keep any further discussions about it after the 300[2] comments mark, though.

As for Gregor Gysi, he is a key politician of "The Left", though he became a lot less prominent lately. Germans usually agree that he is quite intelligent, and then the discussion devolves about his interactions with the GDR Stasi. There being interviews of him where he flat out (at least IMHO) says some of his criticisms of Reunification at the time were just to explain it to old SED cadres doesn't make it any better. So for me he's a somewhat ambiguous character, polarizing at times.

OTOH, he could easily become quite popular by going for "national solutions", which is actually what the current chairperson of "The Left", Sahra Wagenknecht[3], might be doing. So Gysi not taking that road is a plus in my opinion[4].

[1] Quite a high percentage of people there also had a youth misspent with Star Trek TNG[1a], though I have no idea if ending in hel(l|p) desk was in any way correlated or caused by it. Left me with a lingering suspicion an analysis of a bad book, movie or series can be more interesting than the original.
[2] I'm not sure about the actual number.
[3] For those in the commentariat still stuck with GoT comparisons, no, Wagenknecht is very decidedly not Cersei. And I'd leave any further allusions to the books and series after the 300 comment mark, if ever.
[4] Not that I would think of myself as "politically savvy" most of the times.

26:

"shitting in their sausage casserole" is more, ummm, redolent.

27:

Here's some hope and some fear from the United States. The good news is that democratic politics is working the way it is supposed to. I spend a lot of time back in Brooklyn, where the Democratic Socialists have been organizing a slow takeover of the local Democratic Party. They've had some spectacular successes (Representative Ocasio, aka "AOC") and some not-so-spectacular ones (State Senator Salazar), but the real effect has been to shift the Overton Window towards the left. Consider, for example, how Senator Harris has carefully danced leftward, or the increasingly hysterical GOP broadsides against socialism. This is how small-d democratic politics is supposed to work. It's how countries peacefully exit the beige dictatorship.

(Before falling into a new one, of course, but you and I might disagree as to whether beige epochs are a failure mode or just a temporary equilibrium.)

I know at least one Democratic Socialist activist from Brooklyn who is working hard to help them gain control of the Democrats solely that she can go back to opposing most of what they want to do. It's all about the Overton Window, baby, without a real left you can't safely vote for the right.

The first fear is that American political parties have tribalized. In other words, the United States has become Trinidad and Tobago. You have weak party institutions but strong (racialized) partisans, who won't vote for the other side because they are the other side. You can strike a tactical deal with the Koch brothers or a libertarian to get something your voters need; you can't do much with someone who thinks you're basically anti-American. (So far this has been asymmetric but it is starting to creep into Democratic politics as well. I fear that my Brooklyn friend's ambition may be thwarted by this development, if it continues.)

My worry for your country, Charlie, is twofold. First, your parties seem to be tribalizing but not around economic policy; rather, around affective identity prescriptions. The voter in Boston, England, who seems to view Brexit the same way that Guinean nationalists viewed breaking with the French Community: the economic cost is besides the point when you're discussing national liberation.

Second, it seems as though party discipline over there is collapsing, turning your Westminster system into something rather more akin to our separation of powers, only with the executive indirectly elected by Parliament. That could work -- and your electoral system is much better than ours -- but would this Brexit farce have gotten as bad as it has back when Prime Ministers commanded backbenchers like a drill sergeant or when everyone lived in fear of calling a premature election?

28:

Well, FWI Corwin has called for a formal vote of no confidence in the government. My main issue with this is that I have no confidence in either the Con Party or Liebour. In fact the largest party in the "Palace of Oathbreakers" I have any confidence in is the SNP.

Greg, before replying, please ask yourself if you feel any differently about the Con Party or Liebour?

29:

The Fixed Term Parliament act is turning into the the 2nd worst outcome of the Coalition Government (Cameron's belife he would be in a 2nd Coalition and thus would be reluctantly forced to abandon his promises of a a Europe ref was of course the worst). Had it not been in lace the government would have fallen last night

30:

I understand a lot of US banks are now offering US Federal employees 0%-interest-loans to tide them over, which says something interesting …

Very fortunately, we now have the spectacle of the Brexiteers fighting amongst themselves ( “Soft” / May’s Deal / Hard / No Deal ) - & it looks a though “The City” has made a move ….
IF we are lucky we will get a second referendum, assuming Corby’s “No Confidence” vote crashes, as seems likely.
Polls suggest an absolute majority for “remain” of approx. 54 / 46 % or maybe better.
Can we believe that?
IF we get a 3-option vote, then all “remain" has to do is get 51% + second preferences.
PREDICTIONS?

Charlie @ 10
I REALLY hope you are wrong.
It’s very noticeable that the SNP are pushing for BRITAIN to stay in the EU & pushing Indyref2 down the agenda. Much as I usually disagree with them & don’t like them personally, I think they are correct on this issue.

Nojay @ 17
YES – the Beige was actually preferable – I think.

Dan H @ 21
a situation where local government is somewhat irrelevant … And often horribly corrupt, if not in a financial sense. LBWF has this problem.

Paws @ 28
I hate to say it, but you are almost certainly correct.
Whether we leave or remain, I don’t think either the CON-servatives or LIE-bour will remain as presently structured.
Both are likely to split – the right of the tories joining with UKIP-lite to form an allegiance to “The King over the Water” ( I.e. continuing to want a “pure” Brexit ) whilst the momentum faction of Lliebour are likely to do the same, for what they will probably call “Ingsoc”.
We MIGHT even get an actual SDP, this time.

The last time this happened was when Robert Peel put Country before Party & repealed the Corn Laws.

Rlloyd27 @ 29
WHEW!
THe fucking LAST thing we need right now is a General Election

31:
I think we can safely say that since 2013, the grip of the beige dictatorship on the western system has been broken.

I've been wondering when you'd get around to revisiting that. "The failure mode of democracy is greedy hateful stupid people?"

32:

your electoral system is much better than ours

Only in that ours appears better able to accommodate a 3rd national (by nation I mean a country which is a member of the UN in its own right) party and regional parties. For example, can you see a situation ever arising in the Yousay where the balance of power in Congress was held by, say, "The New England Party"?

33:

Cautionary tales in history books should help, but ambitious spawn are too good at rationalizing their way around the lessons, such as reading about mid 19th century planters who lost nearly everything over their resentment at slavery being forbidden in new territories and thinking "That's because they drank corn liquor, I'm immune because I drink gin!", or some other mental contortion that makes acquisition okay.
I think that the real foundationless fantasy in Star Trek was the post-scarcity economy.

34:

Except, decentralization and local control bring different problems of their own. Centralization of authority isn't something that happens just because empire-builders at the center want it that way. It's a response the the dysfunction that results when local control gets out of its depth, which is often.

35:
Only in that ours appears better able to accommodate a 3rd national (by nation I mean a country which is a member of the UN in its own right) party and regional parties.

USian here. I read @Noel Maurer as talking about the fact that you can't have divided government, where the legislature and the executive are different factions. The situation that obtains about half the time in the US is that the President does not command a majority in Congress, and so can't get a program enacted. But the electorate do not understand this and blame the President for not getting anything accomplished.

Your electoral system proper does also have the advantage of not being tied to a Procrustean bed of an election calendar, as ours is.

36:

The first fear is that American political parties have tribalized. In other words, the United States has become Trinidad and Tobago.

The UK has to some extent been tribalized for over a century; recall that Labour started out as the party of the Trades Union movement, and was strongly class-based until after 1945 (despite the Fabians).

Scotland ... weird case. Until the 1960s it was quite conservative, although the party they voted for was the Unionist Party (which merged with the English Conservatives). Thatcher made an electoral calculation that she could buy votes down south by expending them up north; this handed Scotland to Labour for about 25 years. Meanwhile, the SNP—who were nicknamed "tartan tories" into the early 1980s—gradually rebooted by defining their identity in opposition to Thatcherism, which put them in a position to inherit a lot of Labour votes once New Labour (under Blair/Brown) drifted rightwards and became complacent.

The Brexit identity politics is a new and rather frightening thing: anger at diminished expectations and immigration (just as in rural America) finds a lightning rod, and the Westminster party system is just tight enough that minority factions like UKIP work to build their own national platform rather than caucusing within an existing party (most of the time).

I don't think PMs ever commanded back-benchers without challenge, though. A big majority for the ruling party (over 10%) gives backbench MPs the luxury of occasionally rebelling against the party line without significant personal consequence; meanwhile, a tiny majority–or, as now, a minority government—drastically empowers backbench MPs by acting as a force-multiplier for threats of rebellion. Only when a government has a sweet spot majority is the whip's office able to effortlessly command their troops.

37:

The Procustean electoral calendar the US runs on made a lot of sense before the telegraph and the steam locomotive: how else do you synchronise elections across a nation where the travel time is measured in weeks?

With modern communications and transport yeah nope, the drawbacks are now glaringly obvious. And while making constitutional changes should be difficult, the US constitution in its current form raises ridiculous barriers to necessary modernization tweaks.

38:
I read @Noel Maurer as talking about the fact that you can't have divided government, where the legislature and the executive are different factions.

I'm not sure if that's a general proposition or just about the USA.

I doesn't work in the US at the moment, but IMHO that's not an absolute. Which might say something about the internal stat of the USA.

It has been quite a common situation in Germany in the past, where e.g. Christian Democrats might have gotten the majority of the "popular vote" and thus the Bundestag, while the seats of the Bundesrat were distributed among the federal states according to a system favouring smaller states.

And in the UK, they even have a word for it, loyal opposition.

39:

And lets not forget the tendency of many USicans to invest the US constitution with the values of Holy Writ, handed down by infallible forefathers whose boots modern politicians are not fit to lick.

40:

I'd just like to take a moment to pointlessly vent that no matter what happens in the rest of the UK regarding Brexit, Northern Ireland will still be in the pocket of a bunch of theocratic bigots who think progress and human rights peaked somewhere in the 17th Century, and are in no small part responsible for the utter shit show that UK politics has become in the last two years.

Yes. I am angry about this. Why do you ask?

41:

I have a bunch of thoughts on this.

One is environmentally we don't have until 2045. We've got until 2030 or less. That's what's mobilizing hundreds of millions of people around the planet.

The second problem is that it's not precisely generational politics, although I agree that the US Baby Boomers and Gen Xers are at the heart of the political problem at the moment, and we won't really go down until the 2030s.

The third problem is that the US/UK mess isn't mass politics, it's the politics of the few. I can't find the Obama quote, but back around 2014 he noted that a few hundred very wealthy people effectively controlled who got to be president, through their donations. This is the opposite of deep state, it's a plutocracy trying to turn itself into an aristocracy. And as one military thinker noted (in a wonderful book titled Underbug), one of the tech problems we face isn't a robot apocalypse, it's the wealthy, the powerful, and dictators using technology to gain mass power with few people and lots of computers. We've already seen that with botnets, of course, as well as with FB and Alphabet's mass spying systems, and we'll likely see the drones developed for the war on brown people (excuse me, terror) turned onto whiter populations sooner or later, just as the technology of machine guns and concentration camps, first used in Africa (such as the Namibian genocide) turned up a decade later in Europe in WWI.

In any case, we've got two sets of struggles: between the wealthy trying to instantiate their various visions of the world (Bloomberg and Gates vs. Koch and the Waltons, etc in the US. Hypothetically, of course), and between the wealthy few and billions of people resisting them around the world (note that the wealthy control more resources than do the billions...).

Fourth, we've got the Mexican Standoff of petroleum. The last country to abandon it keeps the military power it enables. This standoff in turn enables that whole problematic political-industrial ecosystem around it. That is, unless people find successful ways (infowar, cyberwar, mass nonviolence) to make heavy metal warfare irrelevant. And in this regard, it's important to not forget Gandhi. He dealt the British Empire its biggest defeat without firing a shot. So on one side we've got the system that's killing the planet fighting for its continued existence, vampire-like and trying to keep everyone complicit, while everyone else tries to figure out how to make it irrelevant.

These conflicts leads to an unpredictable future with a lot of potential forks. To what degree will the world of aristocratic dronewar instantiate itself? How many nonviolent geniuses will arise from the teeming billions, and will they be able to do anything? Will the Millennials prematurely shut the Boomers and Xers out of US power, and how far will my people dribble on into the 2030s? Since we BoomXers are the people who tried to make everything about economics and brought on the ideology of the beige dictatorship, getting us out of the way would cause a very different zeitgeist to become the default.

It's worth looking at this at a mosaic. I don't think any one political system will conquer the planet. Rather, I suspect that different spots will have different victors, as it has always been.

Anyway, SF seems to have been preeminently the literature of the Boomers and the Xers. Now that we're living through our cyberpunk fantasies, perhaps it's time to get into near future SF, aka thrillers?

42:

the idea that you can have a society made up of bosses and people scrambling to become bosses that is, at the same time a democracy is, well, a contradiction. if junior ministers look, sound, and act like corporate vice presidents it's because they ultimately answer to the same group of people. the idea that me and Bill Gates are equal in the eyes of the law and government is absurdly counter-factual.

but the only idea more absurd than Brexit, is that Britain could survive without 'the City' or that the City could survive without American guns. It's the greatest sin of "the Left," in both the US and the UK, that they pretend the economies that their respective states preside over can be "reformed" in isolation, that they don't exist to play specific roles in a global system. The Anglo-American sphere without it's guns and banks is a howling waste: any "Left" government, out of survival, could only promise to keep those guns and banks, but use them for good!

if global right-wing political movements look, sound, and act alike, it's because they are all auditioning for the same group of people, who survived 2008 but now realize that they are walking a high-wire without any safety lines.

43:

near future SF, aka thrillers

AKA urban SF/Fantasy perhaps?

44:

We've got until 2030 or less.

We've actually got until 1980 (about the time of the Miner's Strike here in the UK, by an odd coincidence) when we broke through the 350ppm barrier. Remember when that was a disaster and we only had until 1990 (Kyoto?) to fix things?

The Eternal Optimists always set the last breakpoint about ten years in the future because they're optimists. In other news, carbon emissions increased by about 2.7% in 2018 according to some reports.

https://www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-fossil-fuel-emissions-in-2018-increasing-at-fastest-rate-for-seven-years

From The Fine Article: "Continued emissions growth in 2019 “appear likely”" not surprising as India and Africa continue to increase their GDP and quality of life standards.

45:

Well, I have 2 comments on that:-
1) "The 6 Counties".
2) Derry.

Enough said?

46:

One of the huge missed opportunities of the 1997-2010 period was the signal failure of the Blair government to give serious consideration to the Bragg Method for transitioning to a fully-elected House of Lords (as a representative upper house).

The Bragg Method was designed to not require additional ballot papers, and would have been a bolt-on for FPTP that nevertheless rebalanced Westminster politics to be somewhat more proportional, giving us a functioning upper chamber and reducing the need to replace FPTP for the commons.

Alas, Tony Blair wanted to retain the patronage of appointing peers and torpedoed it before going into the clusterfuck vote on Lords reform that gave us an outcome nobody really wanted—a mostly appointed house retaining some of the hereditary peers' seats on a revolving/internally elected basis. Thus, ironically, ensuring that the only people who get a democratic vote for members of the upper chamber are hereditary aristocrats.

47:

whenever anyone mentions "tweaking" the US constitution, I imagine all of the billionaires of the US in a room hashing things out:

Article 1. one preferred share, one vote
Article 2. stack-ranking for all, it's up or out if you want to be a citizen!
Article 3. U.S. Department of Human Resources...
Article 4....

please, no one mention the constitution; it's not safe.

48:

I shall assume that you are obliquely referring to whether Brexit may be the pebble that precedes the United Ireland landslide.

While the lines have shifted, they have shifted less than some would like to imagine. The key thing to remember is that a United Ireland is not just a function of the will of the NI populace, but also the will of both the politicians and general public in ROI; while ideologically many in ROI are in favour of re-uniting North and South, there are enough (especially the politicians) who can see the potential economic and socio-political upheaval re-unification would cause to keep it at arms' length.

Whichever way Brexit shakes out, NI is likely to become a bigger economic and political basket case in it's aftermath (the consequences of no-deal in particular will be devastating for NI).

The attractiveness of a UI may increase in the North, while for exactly the same reasons decrease in the South.

It would not surprise me at all to see a referendum called within the next couple of decades, and win by a narrow majority north of the border and lose by a narrow majority south of it.

(Although equally, I could be completely wrong!)

49:

Re regional parties, look at where the Republican party gets elected these days. Look where they do NOT get elected. It's de-facto become a regional party (at the national level, state Republican parties tend to be more reasonable and more about "good government", modulus some exemptions like WI and KS). The interesting thing is last time we had a situation like this, it ended up in Civil War. I think we are about to see a great political re-alignment in US politics and who knows how it will play out, either a new set of dual parties (see Whig to Republican transition) or at least the parties themselves looking very different (which has happened before, the Repubs and Democrats have almost exactly swapped policies over the last 100 years or so). Part of what's happening in the US is precisely that the old guard are endangered, they know it, and they are desperately doing everything they can to put off the dias irae. Tying themselves to Trump was a desperate move that is already blowing up in their face but they don't know what else to do.

50:

I'd have to look up the specifics, but IIRC the Bundesrat being distributed according to states and not proportional vote sometimes made for the Social Democrats controlling the Bundesrat in the early Adenauer years, while the CDU always had a plurality and 277 of 519 seats at times.

Majority of states being SPD-led might also explain why got a second TV channel (the ZDf was called Adenauer TV for a time).

Democratically not sound, but that being the time of the Spiegel affair, it might have been for the better in the long run.

Please note other Germans might offer a different account.

51:

In both cases decentralising power and tax-raising powers is the answer.

Which may explain recent Ontario neocon politics — to whit, disempowerment of local governments in the name of "efficiency" (which is a crock of fecal matter, as amalgamations etc have never reduced costs).

Make local politicians powerless, leading to widespread public disengagement as well as fewer politicians-in-training. Also leaves the public sphere to those with a strong axe to grind and the time/resources to get involved at a higher level.

(Although I'd bet more of self-interest — in in some cases, personal vindictiveness.)

52:

The US Constitution may not be perfect (it isn't), but I wouldn't trust the politicians I've seen in my lifetime to do nearly as good a job. Half the problems with it are that it doesn't have anyway of enforcing itself, so it only gets applied when some power block decides they like what it says.

I would revoke the amendment that decided on direct election of Senators. The state governments appointing the Senators gave states power against the feds infringing on their proper duties. And a lot of things in there are not reasonable when there's fast transport and nearly instant communication. But half the problem is that they clear meaning of the phrases is twisted by lawyers. Consider how in the 1800's corporations were declared to be "people". It fixed a real problem, but only at the cost of tremendous new problems. And that "ruling" was created by a law clerk, not by a judge or jury. But it was upheld by the Supreme Court because it was useful to those in power, not because it validly expresses what the words said.

53:

Getting rid of direct elected senators is a common hobby horse of the Koch-brothers type. It's because it's MUCH easier to corrupt a state government than a federal one (see, eg West Virginia). With all due respect but please read some of the history of the gilded age leading up to WHY we directly elect them today, state appointed senators really don't work in practice.

54:

the shutdown continues because the mafia shill in the big house desperately needs a distraction from the 17 different investigations into his crime ring, and "build a wall" rallies his party base

I don't think it's *just* a distraction, it's also a goal in its own right. The Republican Party has increasingly been opposed to the very idea of government (much less democracy). Government is useful to the extent it can enable looting of the economy for wealthy interests, but it's best if it doesn't do anything else. In addition, you have the bleeding edge of the far right (with its most infamous example being Steve Bannon) who openly want to burn the whole thing down.

The longer this shutdown goes on, the better from their point of view. There are probably enough GOP Senators who want to be reelected (to keep the graft going; not to actually do anything) and realize their voters won't take it. They'll end it at some point. But the damage done in the meantime is not a distraction--it's the whole point. Like everything else happening right now, even getting some responsible beige technocrats back in power dedicated full time to fixing the damage will take decades. And we don't have decades.

55:

If you want to say that the States appointing Senators has different problems, I'll agree with you. I'm just not convinced that they are worse. Yes, it means that we get corrupted Senators from corrupted states. But it also means that the state governments have a lever on the federal government. And if most states are corrupted in the same way, you've already got an extremely bad problem. (That's happened repeatedly, of course.)

FWIW, the current situation generally results in Senators being owned by corporations. I don't really think this is any better.

56:

There's no particular time limit. There's a sliding scale of risks which will need to be taken to mitigate Climate Change. Had Al Gore been elected President in 2000, we could have eliminated Climate Change without significant risk. If we start now, we can avoid the worst risk. If we start in 2035, we'll have no choice but to take some pretty bad risks.

What do I mean when I say risk? Aerosols. Ferrous Sulfate. High Altitude atomic blasts to put more dust into the air. Orbital shields. Building nuke plants very quickly, and without decent quality controls... etc.

Right now we might get away with nothing more than Ferrous Sulfate use (we've got a little time to figure that one out,) well-designed nukes and an international tree-planting program with a Manhattan projects kind of priority. It just gets worse from here.

Wait thirty years and the risks we'll need to take involve things like "killing billions" and "handing out nuke plans and uranium to high-school kids."

But instead of real worries (why can't grifters grift off of global warming instead?) we're dealing with "building a wall."

Sad.

57:

"High Altitude atomic blasts to put more dust into the air."

Uhm no.

If you want an atomic blast to put dust in the air, you need the fireball to interact with the ground where the dust is. The approx 100kg of mass in the atomic "device" itself would make no difference to the planets albedo.

The biggest problems with that kind of geo-engineering is calibration.

You cannot start out with a small blast, because that will not carry the dust high enough to matter, and if your best guess for a big enough one is too big, you can wave a lot of the planets population goodbye to starvation over the next decade.

If you want to f**k about with the albedo, you want to do it in a way where you can regulate the f**kery both up AND down, and nobody has any good proposals for that, which are a) technologically feasible and b) sane.

58:

I'm a little twitchy about atmospheric shields or geoengineering. The problem is that those aerosols need to be lofted in perpetuity, or at least for a few centuries until we get the surplus GHGs out of the air. If we stop the atmospheric shields for whatever reason, we very rapidly get into whatever greenhouse conditions our [GHG] level has in for us, and that could be very bad, very fast.

Incidentally, I don't think that, were Gore President, we would have solved global warming. It's like a cure for diabetes. It's not hard to get your A1C down low enough that you're no longer functionally a type 2 diabetic, but it is very, very easy to screw up and jack the A1C level right back up into the red zone. Climate change is a chronic condition we have to live with, and right now, we're talking about whether we're going to be fit, disciplined, and terribly boring, or obese, blind, and getting our legs amputated.

Finally, when I'm talking about 2030 as a deadline, that's because we're in a situation in the climate models where we can have maximum effect on the trajectory of the future climate. Right now, the models of atmospheric [GHG] in 2100 have a huge chunk of uncertainty that depends on human choices now. Certainly we could have had even more effect back in the 1980s, but the size of the effect that we can have (IIRC and the models are correct) starts shrinking in a nonlinear fashion after around 2030. In a sense, we're in the singularity right now, but it's a climatic singularity. What we do now matters more for future climates than what we do in 2040 or 2050. This is unlike fusion, which is always 30 years in the future. We really do seem to have a window in which to act.

59:

Um, no, when we had the Civil War, there was a geographically unified slaveholding bloc and the rest of the country was finding other ways to industrialize.

At this point, we're better off than the 60s, which had cities burning and leaders being assassinated.

More to the point, only one side wants a shooting war, apparently because they're thinking the South Shall Rise Again, only with better guns (cf Turtledove's Guns of the South, and that they will win the war this time. Unfortunately for them, the rest of us paid attention to the lessons of WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Gandhi, and King, and we've realized that effective tactics have changed drastically. That's why we're not bothering with guns, but are very concerned about the flow of information.

60:

Weird thought: right now the US and UK have quantum leadership, schrodinger's pols, if you will. By that I mean that the PM and the President seem to be living in states of quantum superposition. In theory, they're two of the most powerful people in the world. But also in theory, one's an ex-PM presiding, while the other is impeached and possibly an indicted felon. Which way will their political wave functions collapse? How long can we keep this superposition in play?

I noted that only because it's not quite the same thing as being a weak politician. Obama was weak in his last term, simply because most of what he could do was blocked by the Republican Congress. Here we've got a situation where the weakness is because no one knows which reality will win out, and having divergent futures makes for strategic uncertainty. Do we ignore them or kowtow to them?

61:

USAin here.

Charlie, I think you're a little off in calling Trump supporters the party base. The party has morphed from financial conservatism to some weird warped religious fundamentalism that twitches whenever Fox News shouts. Their biggest fear is a primary election challenger, and that's now a real possibility.

The thing that got Trump elected is an ongoing decline in voter turnout, which changed radically in last year's mid-term election. This had been good for the Republicans and bad for the Dems, particularly in mid-term elections. Yes, there were lots of other factors, including Trump doing some excellent targeted campaigning. But Trump has been showing his weaknesses and slowly losing a lot of his base, even though he still maintains a rabid core. My parents even are having doubts about whether they'd vote for him again if he's able to stand for the '20 election.

But he cannot remain in office if he is not re-elected. The Constitution is quite clear - once the next President is sworn in, he's no longer the President and there's nothing he can do about it, his term will have ended. He'll still have Secret Service protection for the rest of his life (hopefully behind bars), but he'll be quietly removed from the place that he described in such derogatory terms, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and be put on a plane back to NYC. Dubya didn't do it, Obama didn't do it, he can't do it either.

62:

I believe that a large fraction of the German population considered 1934's situation to be not at all dystopian, and though I am generally not a cheery sort, I think a larger fraction than here in the States would something similar. I think notions of democracy and of humans' civil rights were for awhile supported by many more Germans than had internalised them as part of their core ideology—such were more akin to their clothes than to their religion.

I think, for example, that formal anti-racism has been accepted as a core ideology by most in the U.S., to the point where many who object to its implications would refuse to admit disagreement with the basic idea. The major U.S. political party that has been doing its best for and by practical white supremacy has felt the need to condemn a Congressman who bluntly said that he supports it. Now, an hypocritical and limited supported for racial equality is not as good as the genuine article, but its existence both bolsters the real thing and shows that the notion is still powerful enough to demand lip-service—Vice does not pay tribute to Virtue unless It thinks it to be in Its best interests.

Similarly, though I expect massive attempts to suppress minority voting, any explicit such or out-and-out cancellation of elections is probably off the table.

That is all to say, I think the situation here is

Serious, but not desperate.

63:

Make that "Serious, but not as desperate as it should be" ?

64:

Had Al Gore been elected President in 2000, we could have eliminated Climate Change without significant risk.

He was almost as divisive as HC or DT. 1/3 to 1/2 of the country would have been throwing bricks in his path just because he was AG.

65:

Tying themselves to Trump was a desperate move that is already blowing up in their face but they don't know what else to do.

I don't think the word "tying" is all that accurate. There was a tsunami and they either climbed up on the rafts as they came by or got swept away.

66:

Had Al Gore been elected President in 2000, we could have eliminated Climate Change without significant risk.

If that had happened, we would now have morons—and by morons I mean front-rank politicians comparable to Boris Johnson in prominence (i.e. contenders for the very top spot) publicly declaring that climate change was either a false alarm or a hoax or trivially fixable and there's really no problem with loosening the belt and rolling coal.

(Remember Y2K and the huge amount of work that went into ensuring all our mainframe systems didn't keel over and die on 1/1/2000? A few weeks ago BoJo publicly declared that Y2K was a false alarm generated by alarmist geeks to ensure their jobs, just like the problem in re-jigging the UK's customs system to cope with a sudden no-deal Brexit ...)

Seriously, human memory is very poor on a time scale of single-digit years, never mind decades. And if you weren't there, you probably didn't notice how pants-wettingly dangerous the situation was.

67:

history of the gilded age leading up to WHY we directly elect them today, state appointed senators really don't work in practice.

Well it did mean the powerful Senators had more power than the Pres. But so what. :)

68:

It is precisely because of the non-linearity of climate that we have been able to have an effect on it,…

…an effect due to decisions made by millions of business owners, billions of consumers, and (roughly) thousands of politicians over the past few centuries.

And yes, cheap energy has been very good for billions, but the difference between preferring a set of technologies and worshipping it is willingness to admit possible down-sides and limitations. Every technology has a finite sphere of benign usefulness; in evaluating this, we should distinguish between a 'risk' and that which is known to be a problem. For example, increasing use of nuclear power risks increased nuclear terrorism, continual and increased burning of fossil fuels will raise the mean temperature (with attendant risks).

Underlying the benefits to billions you rightly tout has been an Enlightenment unwillingness to throw up our hands and delegate responsibility for what comes to some deity or unknowable Chaos (Aieee!). To a larger extent than ever before, we have accepted responsibility for what will come of us, and with that rejected blindly staying a course once we've become aware of undesirable aspects of where it will lead.

69:
The Procustean electoral calendar the US runs on made a lot of sense before the telegraph and the steam locomotive

Indeed, even that quadrennial atrocity, the Electoral College, made sense in 18th-Century terms. Tabulating and reporting the votes of individual citizens in a national election would have been intractable.

As someone noted upthread, a depressingly large fraction of my fellow citizens seem to think of the Constitution as Holy Writ, the work of demigods whose like we shall not see again and whose work is beyond the right of we lesser moderns to even question.

This is all incidental to the point that Presidential systems, where the executive can have the responsibility to make and carry out policy but not the legal authority to do so (because the legislature obstructs) are inferior to Parliamentary ones where responsibility and authority are not so divided. The few countries that modeled their constitutions on the US model have generally had periods of some kind of dictatorial rule, when the division produced intolerable dysfunction.

70:

I believe that a large fraction of the German population considered 1934's situation to be not at all dystopian, and though I am generally not a cheery sort, I think a larger fraction than here in the States would something similar.

1934 Germany was a country that had been beaten in a global war. And was told by the military that it was wining but the politicians gave up and agreed to the reparations. (Talk about your real fake news....) Which impoverished the country for a while. And were told they could not have a military of much any force.

The US and UK are not in that same place. Although the Vietnam War is somewhat similar.

71:

A few weeks ago BoJo publicly declared that Y2K was a false alarm generated by alarmist geeks to ensure their jobs,

Non tech people over here believe that in spades. It seems to go along with "all news I don't like is fake" and "anything anyone high in the government is a lie", unless it's my guy.

72:

I can't say for sure what carbon path we'd be on had Al Gore won in 2000, mostly because I don't think he could have gotten a serious bill through Congress. That would have to wait for the following McCain administration.

Counterfactuals aside, global warming and Y2K have one similarity, which is that once fixed it's hard to unfix them. Once you get a decade down the carbon reduction path, two things happen. First, interests around low-carbon industries coalesce. Second, it becomes increasingly uneconomical to go back to the old ways -- you can't un-insulate a house and green energy is gets ever cheaper. Even if you relaxed the rules, no one would want to build the gas-fired plant.

The exception (for now) is transport, but even there consider the opposition to the Trump Administration's attempt to freeze fuel economy standards: the UAW and Ford came out flatly in opposition, Toyota came out weakly in opposition, and GM, Fiat-Chrysler and Honda said the administration's planned freeze goes too far.

Humans will always tend to see a crisis avoided as a crisis that never existed. For some problems, that's a human failure mode. But for others, like carbon emissions, you can safely hand the steering wheel back to the Boris Johnsons and Scott Walkers of the world once you've made it through the hairy terrain.

73:

Even if you relaxed the rules, no one would want to build the gas-fired plant.

Yup. Here in the UK, the last coal-fired power station shut down for good last year, and the coal mines are all (or almost all) dead (and in many cases flooded/collapsed). Yes, there are the odd steam-powered coal-burning locomotives still in service pulling trains for enthusiasts, but there's no going back, and compared to the thousands of electric multiple units in service (and the considerable number of diesel-electric units on routes not yet electrified) they're clearly slower and less functional — like vintage cars, they're used for weekend outings, not daily commuting.

I suspect Ford, Toyota, VW, et al have zero problem moving to electric vehicles because, battery tech permitting, they require less maintenance overall and the car manufacturers would love an opportunity to obsolesce the existing auto fleets, getting most of the old gas- and diesel-burners off the roads and replacing them with the shiny! new! non-polluting! electrics.

Also: an automobile product generation is 7-10 years. Which is longer than a two-term US presidential incumbency. It would be the height of folly for the car manufacturers to reverse their ten year strategies for reducing emissions just because Trump says they can: who knows what the next POTUS' agenda will be?

74:

My 2¢ worth ... a consolidated response to what's already been posted at this point.

Princejvstin @ 1: The real Eminence Grise in the US is not Trump--but Senate Leader McConnell."

"Grey Eminence" really doesn't fit McConnell very well. He's not pulling strings behind the scenes. He's a greedy, opportunistic bottom feeder bought and paid for by the fossil fuels oligarchy (aka Koch Brothers).

Despite his sensitivity to "Fox and Friends", Trump doesn't really have an "Eminence Grise". He's too incoherent and chaotic to tolerate one.

-------------------------

Derek @ 24:

"by pissing in their wheaties."
Ugh. Charlie, I know you make a living from putting images to paper, but that's not an image that ever belonged in my head..

Not to mention it's 50 years out of date slang. None of the cool kids will use that and wouldn't even admit to recognizing the phrase.

-------------------------

Greg Tingey @ 30: I understand a lot of US banks are now offering US Federal employees 0%-interest-loans to tide them over, which says something interesting …

Can you say Adjustable Rate Liars Loan? Just sign here and don't bother reading the fine print. Trust me! Have I ever lied to you before?

-------------------------

paws4thot @ 32:

your electoral system is much better than ours

Only in that ours appears better able to accommodate a 3rd national (by nation I mean a country which is a member of the UN in its own right) party and regional parties. For example, can you see a situation ever arising in the Yousay where the balance of power in Congress was held by, say, "The New England Party"?

If you have access to a time machine, you might try the period between the War of 1812 and the American Civil War.

-------------------------

Dave_the_Proc @ 39: And lets not forget the tendency of many USicans to invest the US constitution with the values of Holy Writ, handed down by infallible forefathers whose boots modern politicians are not fit to lick.

Not so much to the Constitution itself, but their interpretation of what they think the Constitution means.

Original Intent means what I say it means and anyone who says different is a lying pinko commie blah blah blah blah ...

-------------------------

Heteromeles @ 41: Since we BoomXers are the people who tried to make everything about economics and brought on the ideology of the beige dictatorship, getting us out of the way would cause a very different zeitgeist to become the default.

Boomers, Xers and even Millenials are not monolithic blocks.

-------------------------

ennui @ 47: whenever anyone mentions "tweaking" the US constitution, I imagine all of the billionaires of the US in a room hashing things out:"

Article 1. one preferred share, one vote
Article 2. stack-ranking for all, it's up or out if you want to be a citizen!
Article 3. U.S. Department of Human Resources...
Article 4....

please, no one mention the constitution; it's not safe.

I very much doubt there will ever be another Constitutional amendment. But if there were, I propose the following.

A corporation is not a person. Only natural born persons are "persons" and only natural born persons have rights.

-------------------------

whomever @ 49: Re regional parties ... It's de-facto become a regional party (at the national level, state Republican parties tend to be more reasonable and more about "good government", modulus some exemptions like WI and KS).

"Good Government" went out the window years ago. Wisconsin and Kansas are NOT exemptions any more. They're the vanguard of the GOP push for "permanent majority" status by gerrymandering and suppression of non-white voters.

-------------------------

Charles H @ 52: I would revoke the amendment that decided on direct election of Senators.

Wouldn't change a thing in Washington other than to replace our current corporate overlords with a different set of corporate overlords.

-------------------------

PS: The current system may not be better than when state legislatures appointed Senators, but conditions could be a whole lot worse.

And whoever it was that was thinking a vote of no confidence will possibly lead to a new referendum on BREXIT ... KEEP DREAMING. There ain't gonna be another referendum. The choice is going down to the wire either May is able to make some kind of deal Parliament can compromise on or it's going to be a NO DEAL hard BREXIT. If I were a betting man, I'd bet on NO DEAL.

Trump will get his wall before the UK gets a BREXIT deal. It would make me happy to be proven wrong on BREXIT, but it's not going to happen.

Damn! I hope I'm not turning into "she of many names".

75:

an automobile product generation is 7-10 years. Which is longer than a two-term US presidential incumbency. It would be the height of folly for the car manufacturers to reverse their ten year strategies for reducing emissions

Yep. In the US once you get past the initial reactions to radical change and as long as the rules apply to everyone, are doable, and the timeline isn't nuts, they really don't care or even prefer being required to come out with something new.

I assume that's true most everywhere except for places run by crusty old types who don't think change is every worth doing. (Henry Ford I)

76:

I suspect Ford, Toyota, VW, et al have zero problem moving to electric vehicles because, battery tech permitting, they require less maintenance overall and the car manufacturers would love an opportunity to obsolesce the existing auto fleets, getting most of the old gas- and diesel-burners off the roads and replacing them with the shiny! new! non-polluting! electrics.

You missed the biggest incentive: repairs. As the guy who sold us the Bolt said, he planned to get all his profits from repairing our car, since we had to bring it to him for servicing. Similarly, I've got several relatives working in independent auto shops. They're not fond of our Bolt, because there's nothing (Tranny, oil, tune-up) that they can repair on it. One of their kids decided to get out of the auto shop business precisely because there will be less space for independent repair shops with the first few generations of electric cars. Over time, especially if the cars last more than a decade, after-market and independent parts and repair ecosystems will develop. But right now, this is a great way for the car companies to recapture a chunk of the market.

Actually, the car market's increastingly driven by Chinese demands, less so by the US market. And China wants eCars for the same reason any sane person does: they're fun to drive and "save the planet."

Incidentally, while I haven't driven a Tesla, I love the video-game controller that is the Bolt steering wheel. it's covered with 18 buttons. Sounds like a lot, but it's a wonderful haptic controller for most of the car's functions, and because the buttons are different shapes, you can use it even when the wheel's turned 270 degrees. You don't have look at it to use it. Contrast that with the glass display for some of the AC functions, where you have to take your eyes off the road to hit the icon. I know Tesla's gone the other way, with it's 100% glass cockpit, but I love not having to take my eyes off the road to do stuff.

77:

BTW as of Jan 9 (or so depending on your time zone), we are closer to Y2038 than Y2k.

78:

I very much doubt there will ever be another Constitutional amendment. But if there were, I propose the following.

A corporation is not a person. Only natural born persons are "persons" and only natural born persons have rights.


This reminds me of a saying to the effect "I will believe a corporation is a person when I see Texas execute one by lethal injection".

79:

People who say that should actually read the decision. SCOTUS did not declare that corporations are humans and have rights; what they ruled was that corporations are comprised of people, and those people do not lose their rights by collecting through a corporation. You know, like unions.


80:

A corporation is not a person. Only natural born persons are "persons" and only natural born persons have rights.

Why do you hate AI?

81:

Humans, in other words, are eusocial hive apes.

Well, since no women carries octuplets for all of her multi-century life, I don't think we're eusocial. Social yes, but there's a difference.

Anyway, good news from last year that I somehow missed was Lisa Margonelli's Underbug, a story that's notionally about termites but really about the way science gets done and all the ways researchers try to use termites as model systems.

One of the more obvious ways is as inspiration for swarming robots. The research Margonelli followed generally failed to find anything of use, although they did develop the TERMES robot. However, one experiment they did inadvertently shed light on who termites actually work, when they analyzed it properly years later.

The roboticists started by assuming termites were interchangeable units, which is what they wanted their swarmbots to be. When they finally were able to analyze the movements of every single termite in an experiment, it turned out that the termites were individuals with widely varying work ethics. A small minority of termites did a vast majority of the work, most termites only got intermittently involved, and a large group were accomplished slackers. This was why trying to process the actions of termites as if they were all equal and interchangeable failed so miserably.

However, it did lead to the novel hypothesis that termite swarms and human swarms are far more alike than we might have guessed. Apparently slacking is widespread among social critters, as there are similar findings for ants, too. Also based on what I read, I'd suggest that Rainbow Gatherings aren't all that dissimilar to termite swarms.

Underbug's a fun book, incidentally. Highly recommended.

82:

Dave the Proc @ 40
Um, err … YES
Yes again for # 48
You know what I would prefer, but not in either of our lifetimes, I suspect …

Charlie @ 46
Hate to say it, but the LAST thing we need is a directly-elected Upper House … because that’s more of the same – i.e. – “whipped” tight party control
We actually need a REAL SENATE ™ with people like Attenborough & senior surgeons & academics in it, who own no allegiance at all to any party or usual factional interest.
Problem is, how to keep them honest & not subject to crooks gaming the system….

Rp @ 51
Exactly, some Boroughs in Greater London have this, with specific local-to-borough crooks ( NOT in the financial sense) are running everything, being thoroughly hated, but there is nothing the locals can do about this.
Guess how I know? ….
…. Se also whomever @ 53 It's because it's MUCH easier to corrupt a state government than a federal one Yup, London Borough of Waltham Forest in internal-manipulation terms, or LB Tower Hamlets in vote-rigging ( The latter now fixed )

JBS
Brexit … I think we are going to get a 2nd ( i.e. a 3rd ) referendum – Parliament will not permit a No-deal (any more)
Outcome of next referendum is a n other question.


Climate Change
READ “New Naturalist # 134 “Early Humans” by Nick Ashton.
Dealing with the history of humanity in what we now call Britain in the past million years, with all the climate changes in between, including the long periods with no humans at all & the various human species that also appeared & vanished & re-appeared …
H. antecessor / heidelbergensis / neandertalensis / sapiens

83:

AIs are corporations?

The notion that corporations are people is bad law anyway, as it originated in an unsigned opinion by a legal clerk attached to an unrelated lawsuit. That bit of commentary was picked up and run with. While yes, functionally there are good reasons for legal personhood for corporations, we need to distinguish between that and political personhood.

In addition to the idea that, for the purposes of the voting or holding human rights, corporations are not humans, I would add that money is not speech under the US Constitution. Corporations are legally people so that you can have a contract with a corporation or sue a corporation, rather than having to contract with or sue a particular individual within a corporation. That makes sense and is a financial issue. It's been tied to the political action by claiming that money is speech and corporations are people. Do away with both equivalencies, and it's politics regains becomes the province of real people again.

Since corporations are pieces of paper with writing on them, I think it should be fairly easy to distinguish between AIs and corporations.

84:

Um, no, when we had the Civil War, there was a geographically unified slaveholding bloc and the rest of the country was finding other ways to industrialize.
That's not quite as true as you'd think. William W. Freehling's two volume masterpiece The Road to Disunion makes it clear that there were at least five possible 'zones' of slaveholding: northern states that had abolished slavery, indeterminate just-entering states, southern states drifting away from slavery, southern slaveholding states where things were rather stable, and the Deep South where slaveholding was the basic underpinning of the economy. With the exception of the incoming states, as a rule of thumb those zones gradually drifted southward between 1780 and 1860, concentrating more and more slaves into the deep south.

Those last three zones were sometimes a bloc and sometimes not. Hence you got things like slaveholding states Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, and Delaware siding with the Union, and slaveholding West Virginia splitting off and going with the Union.

85:

Slight slip of the keyboard there, you mean the last coal fired power station in Scotland.
There are still 9 of them in England, amounting to 14GW output according to the internet.

86:

People who say that should actually read the decision. SCOTUS did not declare that corporations are humans and have rights; what they ruled was that corporations are comprised of people, and those people do not lose their rights by collecting through a corporation. You know, like unions.


Which decision are you referring to, Santa Clara County vs Southern Pacific Railroad?

87:

The other problem is that you can very rarely prove that your preventative measures actually prevented a catastrophe.

My father was an epidemiologist working in public health. It was (and is) a constant battle to keep funding levels up for preventative programs, because generally speaking you can't show that spending $1 on prevention saved $100 in costs ‚ because if the $1 works then the $100 expense never happens.

Analogies don't work; people just say "it's not the same thing". Statistical analysis doesn't work; people just say "you can lie about anything with statistics". Even two comparable events* don't work because people say "they aren't the same thing".

At first I thought it was a neurological quirk in how people regarded risk, but the same people who demanded public health spending be held to an impossible standard were those who supported bailing out banks and clamping down on any activity that might possibly be claimed to support 'terrorism'. So now I'm more inclined to think ulterior motives**.


*Say SARS spread and effects in Vancouver and Toronto.

**I've always been rather cynical, though.

88:

etic? emic? phukaday?

Not sure that the end of Yugoslavia was really beyond prediction. History of the Balkans is that if someone isn't sitting on them hard they all start fighting each other, and Yugoslavia was in large part a Serbian vision to begin with, which they only pulled off because of the atypical conditions prevailing after WW1. It's just that it had been around for long enough that people outside the region were used to not thinking about it.

Britain is probably also an example of getting used to not thinking about it. The "hidden attitudes" problem certainly existed - that a proportion of the reduction of intolerance of out-groups was apparent rather than real, with the attitudes being driven underground rather than dropped. You could still encounter it in situations where people knew enough of each other well enough to be confident that expressing it would draw less censure than objecting to it. It wasn't a surprise that when the referendum pulled the scab off there was some pus underneath, but I for one was not expecting there to be so much that it'd run down your arm and drip off your elbow.

89:

Yes. It's been awhile since I read that though.

90:

I agree that the Civil War situation was more complex. However, the current situation, where there's a coastal/urban vs. interior/rural split really doesn't look like the antebellum situation by a long shot. Cities and rural areas getting into a civil war in the US would cause mutually assured destruction on both sides, as there's no conceivable physical boundary that would allow either group to successfully secede, and both groups need each other to survive (for example, rural farmers need urban ports in order to make their money selling grain overseas. Cities need farms to feed them).

91:

dsrtao @ 80:

A corporation is not a person. Only natural born persons are "persons" and only natural born persons have rights.

Why do you hate AI?

I don't. But Trevayne hit the nail right on the head @ 78.

"I will believe a corporation is a person when I see Texas execute one by lethal injection".
92:

I guess I see what Charlie calls the 'beige dictatorship' as a general case of the politics (and myth) of inevitability. Y'know, how it's inevitable that the rising tide of economic progress will lift all boats or that all nations will travel the road to democracy, so we don't have to pay attention to what's going on. This is of course a profoundly anti-historical standpoint and comes unstuck when things turn out to not be so inevitable. The current problems of the EU are in large part due to clothing itself in just such a myth and that's why Brexit is as much an existential crisis for the EU as it is for Britain.

93:

Greg Tingey @ 82:

JBS
Brexit … I think we are going to get a 2nd ( i.e. a 3rd ) referendum – Parliament will not permit a No-deal (any more)
Outcome of next referendum is a n other question.

For your sake (for ALL of y'alls' sake) I hope you're right and I'm wrong. But I think you're underestimating the propensity of politicians to screw things up. Nobody wants it, but you're going to get it because everybody expects the other guy to blink first.

94:

Regarding a second referendum I think you'll be disappointed Greg. My guess is that the Abilene effect is in high gear and you'll get a result that satisfies no one.

95:

Actually, there's an interesting and messy legal question: "what's a person?"

Biologically, we've got more non-human cells than human cells in our bodies (since bacterial cells are much smaller than eukaryotic cells, they mass less but number far more), so if we're counting cells and genotypes, we're not unitary beings. Worse, mothers often have cells and DNA from their children circulating in their bloodstreams. This is normal, but it means that mothers are genetic chimeras, so defining a human on the basis of DNA is problematic. And this doesn't even get into the issues with cancers, weirdness like fraternal twins fused into a single human, or people with transplanted tissues.

We could argue that a human is a single soul, but there's no physiological evidence for "me" inside a brain. It rather looks like "I" am an emergent phenomenon covering over a multitude of subfunctions arguing it out, although someone may find the "I" neurons eventually. So right now, at least, we can't argue that there's a physical instantiation of identity, the possession of which would make a person an individual.

Then we get to AI. I'm not so concerned that we'll make AIs people, because we don't regard donkeys as people. However, if we start thinking about extending rights to AIs, we also have to think about extending human rights to stuff that's much more intimate: our data and online lives. For many of us, those are as much a part of who we are as our eyeballs are. Right now that stuff is "data," not human, but if we start thinking about AI systems as human, it also makes sense for our online personas to be part of us and given at least the rights of AIs, if not of full humans.

Anyway, I'm sure the lawyers could have fun with this, and presumably they already have been. However, we do have this disjunct between legal theories of personhood, which date back to (AFAIK) medieval metaphysics, and what more modern research says we actually are.

96:

"Power in Britain is very heavily centralised so that only the MPs have much say over taxation... ...decentralising power and tax-raising powers is the answer."

An answer; another approach would be to get away from taxation being such a significant decision-influencer.

Currently we have a system which is heavily focused (a) on taxing individuals and (b) making sure they bloody well know about it. This gives a disproportionate disadvantage to any party whose policies are perceived to result in increased taxation, regardless of how true it is, and discourages people from evaluating those policies on their actual merit. At the same time by far the largest chunk of individual taxation is collected automatically, which creates a situation where changing the names of things without actually changing any things - as politicians of all flavours so love to do - does actually work. (Well, mostly works in the majority of cases, and makes the tidying up of loose ends that is still required easier to do.)

Job adverts invariably quote the wages on offer before tax. This figure is essentially a lie, since it's not what you actually get paid. Your wage slip then compounds the insult by listing the dirty great chunk that you didn't get paid, so every pay day your level of tax-related pissed-off-ness gets reset. But at least the deduction of the tax and paying it to the government is all handled automatically by your employer's computer, so you are spared that hassle.

So change a few names... so that "wages" does now mean what you actually get paid, and it is that figure which appears in job adverts. It is also the only figure which appears on your pay slip, since the pre-tax figure is irrelevant. Now you can also straightforwardly get rid of all the awkwardnesses that make it such a blessing to have someone else's computer handling an individual's tax calculation; tax is the same function of pay for everyone, and any differences are taken care of by adjusting the pre-tax figure to keep the advertised wage the same. (And you start off with the coefficients of the function adjusted so that the differences cancel out and the total pre-tax figure for a company's staff doesn't change either. ("Same function for everyone" might have to mean "...everyone at a given company" to begin with and the further adjustment to "everyone, full stop" made later.))

Now you can do some more changing of what you call things, and stop calling income tax anything to do with an individual anyway, instead calling it a function of a company's total wage bill. In practical terms, it already is that: that is how it is being calculated, and that is how it is being paid, even under the system that we have at present. The adjustments so far are basically making that more blatantly obvious, so that when you change the names it's obvious that you're not changing anything real.

Note that following the transition, nothing real has changed: everyone is still getting the same amount of money in their pay packet, and the company is still paying the same amount of wage-related tax to the government. But by changing the names of things we have changed the idea of the connection between the individual and the income tax payment from "technically non-fiction" to "fiction through and through", and therefore we can now get rid of that idea altogether.

The revised situation has several advantages, including:

You've got rid of this massive lever labelled "INCOME TAX" for politicians to pull on people at elections. However it changes, people still get paid the same amount. Its influence is now limited to employers, who are a minority and may not even be people, so it isn't a massive ball and chain on progressive policies.

It torpedos this horrible notion that people only have a value to society if they pay income tax, which is used as a hammer of the disabled and a prop to the illusion of the necessity of unnecessary work, and other nasty things.

It puts a stop to highly-paid employees indulging in tax dodges.

It makes it possible to set the coefficients of the tax function such that paying crap wages increases the amount of tax paid, so the company might as well pay decent wages instead.

I could probably think of more, but it's getting late :)

97:

If you currently have a progressive tax regime that applies a higher marginal tax rate to individuals with higher income, then there is no mathematically-equivalent system that only looks at an employer's TOTAL wages paid without regard to how much is being paid to specific individuals.

In fact, there isn't a mathematically-equivalent system that taxes employers based only on the wages that they pay even if you DO look at how much is being paid to each individual, because individuals can have more than one source of income.

So if you want to describe this as a tax on employers without actually changing the amount paid, then the employer needs to know all of the employee's other sources of income in order to calculate its tax, and the employer will be charged different amounts of money to maintain the same post-tax wages depending on the employee's circumstances outside the company. (Which now makes some employees "cheaper" than others at the same "wage", with a new set of hiring incentives and a new set of pressures employers will place on employees to behave in certain economic ways...)

It is, of course, possible to attach different words to things. But if the marginal tax rate depends on total personal income from all sources, then describing it as a personal income tax is really the simplest and most direct way of describing it.

98:

Would any of the people arguing against corporate personhood be willing to describe your position for me in more concrete terms?

(I'm assuming this isn't actually an argument over the WORD "person" but instead has to do with some specific legal ramifications that you don't like. Which ramifications, specifically?)

99:

Even if you relaxed the rules, no one would want to build the gas-fired plant.

In Australia we found that even if the government pays for it no credible business will take the risk that future governments will not agree to be bound by whatever promises the current lot made. Even when dealing with a bunch who paid the best part of a billion dollars to a "charity" that uses the Great Barrier Reef to raise funds. The semi-independent regulator can't see the point of talking about coal any more except in the "our dog is going to a farm in the country" way...

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2018/jul/17/renewables-will-replace-ageing-coal-plants-at-lowest-cost-aemo-says

https://theconversation.com/coal-does-not-have-an-economic-future-in-australia-102718

100:

> FWIW, the current situation generally results in Senators being owned by corporations. I don't really think this is any better.

In honesty the bigger issue is the lack of term limits. Your Senators and Representatives have utterly insane incumbency rates for a functioning electoral system. The genuine voting stats are often better than those your average third world dictator with a rigged vote is willing to try and pass off.

Put in a mandatory limit, say two consecutive Senate terms or five House followed by a mandatory 1-2 term stand down, and you'll force a change of occupant every decade or so, which will at least require the background interests to start their bribes again from scratch.

101:

change so "wages" does now mean what you actually get paid, and it is that figure which appears in job adverts.

Requires a flat tax with no deductions, not even a low income one. Otherwise the local high schooler who takes the part time job (currently zero tax) will pay the same as me taking that as my second job (on a 50% marginal rate).

But it wouldn't work anyway. Australia has this already because in theory the employer pays a superannuation amount into the finance industry on top of your wage. There's no law requiring them to ignore it when advertising jobs, so most include it in the ad. A $100,000 package is very different to $100,000 salary (mostly) because the package rate almost certainly includes the 10% super and the salary figure doesn't. Casual staff have the added bonus that a lot of small businesses simply don't pay the super and unless the employee checks it they might never find out.

102:

Note that the tax office do check this stuff occasionally, and in theory the "fair work authority" can chase this stuff up, but the usual result is that the business involved is phoenixed without paying up. In that situation the tax office takes company tax and GST, then employee tax payments, then unpaid super goes into the "everything else" list and good luck with that. Meanwhile it's 50/50 whether customers will even notice the "change of ownership".

AFAIK there's no provision here to recover unpaid pay-as-you-go tax from the hapless employee, unlike in the US. Viz, if your employer took tax out of your pay and stole it, that's between them and the tax office.

103:

The problem is the Citizens United vs. FEC ruling in the US, which ruled that the First Amendment prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for political communications by corporations (non-profit or for-profit), labor unions, or other corporations. This decision rests on the notion that corporations are the equivalent of people under the 14th Amendment (specifically the equal protection clause), and that money spent on communication is the equivalent of speech under the First Amendment.

Since this was a Supreme Court ruling, something like an amendment to the constitution is needed to fix it. Without it, we have unlimited spending by special interests on all sides, which currently skews federal elections to favor the big money. It also turns presidential elections into billion-dollar, 24 month endurance trials (for the observers), as we've found.

The initial idea comes from Santa Clara County vs. Southern Pacific Railroad Co.. There, to quote Wikipedia, "The headnote, which is "not the work of the Court, but are simply the work of the Reporter, giving his understanding of the decision, prepared for the convenience of the profession",[3] was written by the court reporter, former president of the Newburgh and New York Railway Company J.C. Bancroft Davis. He said the following:

"One of the points made and discussed at length in the brief of counsel for defendants in error was that 'corporations are persons within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.' Before argument, Mr. Chief Justice Waite said: The court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.[4]

"So the headnote was a reporting by the Court Reporter of the Chief Justice's interpretation of the Justices' opinions. But the issue of applicability of "Equal Protection to any persons" to the railroads was not addressed in the decision of the Court in the case."

This headnote is what the ruling that "corporations are people" is based on, under the theory that corporations are people under the 14th Amendment (which fixed the issues around slavery after the Civil War).

The Santa Clara case, incidentally, was about whether the railroads could deduct their mortgage debts from the value of their lands for the purposes of paying taxes to California, because under California law at that time, only individuals could do this.

The general feeling seems to be that Citizens United was a travesty that should be overturned, and there may even be bipartisan (albeit non-monied) support for doing away with it.

104:

Since this was a Supreme Court ruling, something like an amendment to the constitution is needed to fix it.

Not always. Many times SCOTUC rulings occur because of a lack of law by Congress. I think this is one that can be radically changed by Congress. But then again they have been talking about such since the days of Clinton/Gingrich. So 20+ years with no result.

105:

I'm a little twitchy about atmospheric shields or geoengineering.

Yeah, me too. The big priority is certainly to get the carbon level lower, but I think my big point is that the longer we wait, the higher risks will be necessary to fix the problem; however anyone construes "fixing the problem."

Imagine it as a rising exponential curve with "how long we wait" as one axis and "risk necessary to fix the problem as the other."

106:

"...then the employer needs to know all of the employee's other sources of income in order to calculate its tax..."

No, they don't. What you're describing is actually the existing system - employers currently need to know all about the employee's other-income status (if any) to deduct the correct amount of tax. To be sure, the information is all aggregated into the employee's "tax code" so the employer doesn't have to add it all up themselves, but they still need to have it to do the calculation.

After the transformation, all that stuff becomes irrelevant. The employer doesn't need to know anything about the employee's circumstances, and nobody has a "tax code" any more. Indeed, under the absolutely minimal possible version of the revised system, they wouldn't even need to know how many employees they had or how much they were paying each one (well, they would, of course, but not for tax purposes they wouldn't) - only what their total wage bill was and what the tax percentage was - though I'm not suggesting that that's necessarily the best formula to use.

"...individuals can have more than one source of income."

Doesn't matter, because the idea that it's the employee's tax but the employer calculates and pays it for them "out of the goodness of their heart" no longer applies. It's nothing to do with the employee any more. The employer simply pays them whatever they agreed to and in addition pays some tax. "More than one source" just means more than one payer of tax.

107:

The major U.S. political party that has been doing its best for and by practical white supremacy has felt the need to condemn a Congressman who bluntly said that he supports it.

I think you've got this wrong. IMHO what happened to Steve King is a warning to Trump.

108:

Obviously I was talking about the Platonic Ideal of Al Gore.

109:

I think the urban/rural split is even more significant. People are leaving the rural areas in droves, not just because of the economy, but because of the attitudes of the entrenched power structures in most small towns. The the ones who leave go to college (and don't come back) and the ones who stay have a correspondingly lower educational level. Essentially, the small towns are driving away their own sanity checkers.

110:

only what their total wage bill was and what the tax percentage was

I still don't understand how this could be consistently progressive. How does Alice who works one salaried job end up paying the same tax as Bob who works 12 different jobs? Otherwise it's just a flat tax which is a disaster. Or, I suppose, you've simply made personal tax returns into a giant shitstorm*.

Can you explain how that doesn't have all the problems of a flax tax system, plus bonus problems from making audits harder due to less information having to be kept by employers?

Platonic ideals of tax systems are all very well, but in practice not all employers rush to immediately pay all the tax they owe. Detailed tracking is required to enable audits to be carried out. So either your proposal doesn't affect the data requirements, or it's going to make evasion easier.

Please don't think that just saying "tax is 50% of the wages you pay" will help, because it will simply lead to a new type of mis-labelling of payments. In the worst case, wholesale mislabelling, but at the very least self-employed and sham-employed people will switch things around to take advantage.

* Imagine the tax levied is the average of a progressive system. Anyone earning less is now going to get a huge refund at the end of the tax year, and those earning more will get a huge tax bill. It's going to break a whole lot of people.

111:

If the U.S. allocated 10 billion dollars a year to paying legislators, and insisted on the death penalty for anyone convicted of taking a bribe, we'd have both cheaper and better government.

112:

Not just income, but outgo as well. For example, how do you calculate a charitable donation? And how do you make a charitable donation if your employer doesn't like the charity?

113:

the small towns are driving away their own sanity checkers.

I think it's more accurate to say that the cities are vacuuming up the smart people. This is fractal, BTW. Small settlements lose people to larger ones, right up to slighter smaller countries lose their best to slightly larger/richer ones.

All those immigrant doctors employed by the NHS came from somewhere, and generally it's a poorer country that put in all the effort to raise and educate the child then train them as a doctor, only to see that 25 year investment move to the UK. I went to university with an African guy who was well aware of that, and he was determined to "go back where you came from" specifically to counter the problem. AFAIK he did and has stayed there.

But at the micro level, many aboriginal communities in Australia have this problem and it is a big part of why they can't help themselves. Any kid who can, leaves. The alternative is staying on the dole in a disadvantaged community spending their life fighting the arbitrary decisions of bureaucrats and mining companies, hoping that anything and everything they build isn't destroyed. At least in the city they might get some of the rights other people get, or even a job!

114:

If by "insisted" you mean "actively sought out instances, applied the law fairly, and carried out executions" then yeah, might work.

But imagine instead you had the current law enforcement system. Or even just kept the "presidential pardon" part of it. Worse, imagine you kept that *and* had a vindictive moron as president.

115:

"Requires a flat tax with no deductions, not even a low income one. Otherwise the local high schooler who takes the part time job (currently zero tax) will pay the same as me taking that as my second job (on a 50% marginal rate)."

You're missing the distinction between making the transition and the transformed situation. I may well not have been clear enough! Under the transformed situation neither you nor the high schooler would pay any tax, because it's nothing to do with the employee any more. You both get paid all of however much they were offering, and the tax on it, which is the same whichever of you they employ, is purely a matter between the employer and the government.

Stuff such as you describe is indeed relevant during the transition period, but because it's only a temporary measure you can do things to get around it that wouldn't be any good in a permanent situation, such as arranging the schedule for the transition to minimise the impact of such things, making ad-hoc payments/deductions to cover the gaps, and allowing that even after the transition there may be hangovers from the old system that you just have to tolerate as anomalies until they fade out by natural wastage, as people change jobs, retire, get ill, die, etc.

The target is that after the transition everyone is being paid the same amount as they were before, as measured by the actual number of beer tokens in their sweaty mitt, and the government is receiving the same amount in tax. The majority of cases are "simple" so you can get most of the way there with simple blanket rules; the more complicated cases you need to allow some leeway for in the second part of the target, since they won't all cancel out, but they will gradually cease to exist once the transition is complete and new cases aren't being generated any more. It almost certainly isn't possible to do it cleverly enough that they're never a problem in the first place, but I'm not saying it is, only that such cases are a minority and it should be possible to keep the problem down to a level where it can be accommodated until it solves itself by the passage of time. Indeed there are lots of details that I didn't get round to, after all the post is long enough already :)

116:

It could be both. I'm guessing that a hidebound small town doesn't have a very good idea about how to either keep or attract smart people. ("We shut down the /comics/gaming store, because Satan.") IMHO a small town (more probably the county the small town is in) could do things to attract smarter people... "Tiny town on the edge of the mountains builds colocation center, offers cheap housing and tax breaks to new businesses." Or whatever.

Mostly, they just don't.

117:

I heard an interesting theory this morning: Trump may be using this shutdown as an excuse to purge his enemies from the government.

The President can't fire non-political appointees he doesn't like on a whim. The process to remove them is quite cumbersome. There is an exception though: if the employees have not shown up to work in at least 30 days. You see where I'm going with this.

118:

Since we're talking small towns again, I'll point out the common statistic: 56% of US lives in metros > 1 million, 68% metros > 500k, 77% metros > 250k

119:

"Or, I suppose, you've simply made personal tax returns into a giant shitstorm*."

No, I've eliminated the whole concept of "personal tax returns"...

From the individual's viewpoint, I suppose it is in some ways equivalent to a flat tax system... with a zero rate. But what it actually is is the elimination of the concept of a personal income tax altogether.

"bonus problems from making audits harder due to less information having to be kept by employers"

No, that makes audits easier. They have to keep much less information and the calculations required are vastly simplified, so there is much less opportunity for obfuscation and much less stuff that the auditors need to dig out.

"self-employed and sham-employed people will switch things around to take advantage"

They do that already, but their ability to do it depends on the notion that they should be paying the tax themselves in the first place. Under the revised system the tax related to their pay is entirely down to whoever is really employing them and there isn't anything that they themselves can fiddle. "Self-employed" status as a regulation-dodging pretence doesn't mean anything any more. (To be sure, there would be a problem with the handful of people who genuinely do employ themselves, but it's the same problem that exists already and always will exist in any situation where one person lying is all it takes.)

120:

...Note also that the post I was originally replying to was about taxation in Britain, and my posts are assuming the British context, where for nearly everyone their income tax is handled automatically by their employer's computer and although everyone is liable, next to nobody has to file a tax return themselves, because this automated system does the necessary. I know that you'd have to go about it differently in the US where AIUI there does exist a similar automated mechanism but people still have to file tax returns personally regardless. I have no idea how things work in Australia but I don't doubt that it would have to be done differently differently there. The desirability of it in different countries is probably another variable, depending on how their flavour of income tax interacts with their flavour of politics, their flavour of money-related social values and other less definable factors.

121:

But what it actually is is the elimination of the concept of a personal income tax altogether.

Along with tax deductions, obviously, but more subtly all the things that are paid via the personal tax system go away as well. Or are paid directly as subsidies. I can see the attraction of that, but I fear that government will be incentivised to remove them (charitable donations... good luck getting the government to give money to the "centre for the elimination of government"), and a lot of citizens will not like the obviousness. "you can apply for the mortgage holder subsidy" "capital gains subsidy" etc, all of which are currently given as tax deductions or lower tax rates.

There would be some confusion initially I expect, either due to the complete removal of all tax on non-earned income, or the revelation that anyone who owns shares is now a small business owner with employee (themselves). Either will be ugly.

But not as ugly as the flat tax effects. Which you still haven't addressed. The reasons for a progressive income tax system are well-understood, and the consequences of a flat system likewise. Simply saying "but there is no income tax" doesn't make the problems go away. As I said, you now have the schoolkid's part time job paying the same tax rate as applied to the last million on Bill Gates' income. Or, should you simply not tax the rich at all, you have the schoolkid paying tax when they didn't before, and Bill Gates not paying tax when he used to. Sound fair and reasonable? Only if you forget that the reason we don't do it that way is the guillotine.

122:

taxation in Britain

I know little about that, Australian and Aotearoa I have experience of, the US I have read about, but the UK not so much. You do have progressive taxation though, and varying tax rates depending on the activity (viz, corporate tax rates differ from individual, there are death and capital gains taxes etc), and it would astonish me if there are no tax deductions. The tax evasion leak/scandal suggests that there are variations in tax treatment between individuals. Jimmy Carr might be a corporation for tax purposes but I suggest that any change in the tax system should be in the direction of making rich people pay *more* tax rather than less.

I wonder about "next to no-one has to file tax returns themselves", could it be that your sample is biased towards wage-earners and away from sole traders/self-employed people (not least Uber drivers and other sham contractors). You seem to assume that no-one will be permitted to do that, which means (I assume) a minimum company size of, say, 50 staff in order to prevent small "sham companies" where the formerly self-employed simply pair up. But that's going to wreck genuine self-employed people.

Lack of personal tax deductions will make sham companies much more attractive and likely drop the income threshold where they become effectively essential. I'm really curious about how this new tax system would deal with "I don't get much salary, mostly I get share options and bonuses".

One of the reasons the tax code is complex is because people are complex, and unless you're willing to be utterly brutal the tax system has to work with that. By brutal I mean "selling Buckingham Palace to an oligarch" level brutal, not just "widespread freezing to death in the streets" (since that latter has been voted for already). If you want the same total tax income but much lower personal tax, you need to make it up somewhere else. Either tax rich people some other way, or hike regressive taxes (VAT etc) and watch more people die of poverty. The alternative is either a much smaller government or lies and debt "$350M a week for the NHS" I think the slogan says.

The other thing is that this change could make Universal Credit look simple and small-scale. Lack of tax deductions but similarly progressive taxation would mean benefits/subsidies have to go up and a lot more people get them. Either through the "tax and subsidy office", or through the existing benefit system. Neither are really set up for that (the tax office doesn't currently issue monthly payments to 1/3* of the population, and neither does the benefit system).

* could easily end up being 100%, depending on just how willing the new operator is to maintain existing subsidies.

123:

I don't remember the actual number, but back a few years a scary fraction of 'Tea Party' types—almost all of whom got Trumped-up—were keen on the works of one Willard Cleon Skousen, who argued that the U.S.A.'s founders were literally divinely inspired.

это курам на смех.

124:

You seem to have missed the points so widely that I'm not sure I can usefully answer...

"all the things that are paid via the personal tax system go away as well"

No they don't. The same amount of tax is collected so the things that are paid for by it still are paid for.

"complete removal of all tax on non-earned income"

I didn't say that nor did I intend to imply it. Whoever pays the income also pays the tax; whether it's "non-earned" or not doesn't come into it.

"...flat tax effects. Which you still haven't addressed."

There is no tax to be "flat". I don't see how I can make it any clearer.

I have acknowledged that in one sense a tax that isn't there at all can be regarded as the limiting case of a flat-rate tax as the rate coefficient goes to zero, but I've also said I don't think that's useful. By the same token a tax that isn't there at all can be regarded as the limiting case of an exponential tax as the rate coefficient goes to zero. I don't think that's useful either, but feel free to switch to that model if it makes you feel better than the flat model does.

"schoolkid paying tax... Bill Gates not paying tax..."

Neither of them is paying tax. The tax related to Bill Gates's pay is paid by Microsoft, and the tax related to the schoolkid's pay is paid by whoever her employer is.

"I suggest that any change in the tax system should be in the direction of making rich people pay *more* tax rather than less."

At the moment tax related to rich people's income often goes unpaid because it's their liability to pay it and they can use a variety of hooky methods to pretend they're not being paid the income to avoid paying it. The revised system makes that evasion impossible.

"I wonder about "next to no-one has to file tax returns themselves","

IIRC Charlie pointed this out the other day as a UK peculiarity in contrast to the US where everyone does it.

"could it be that your sample is biased towards wage-earners and away from sole traders/self-employed people"

I'm asserting that "wage-earners" are the great majority of cases, especially when you include the people who actually are but pretend not to be as a means of evasion which will no longer be meaningful.

"...Uber drivers and other sham contractors). You seem to assume that no-one will be permitted to do that,"

Not at all. I'm simply saying that it won't work as a means of playing games with the tax system any more.

"...going to wreck genuine self-employed people."

Genuinely self-employed people - as opposed to the above pretend kind - see effectively no change in their situation. If they really are paying themselves then they inevitably already have to work out their own tax and pay it. If however someone else is paying them, it's the someone else who pays the tax.

"Lack of personal tax deductions will make sham companies much more attractive and likely drop the income threshold where they become effectively essential."

Sham companies will become pointless. Or even counterproductive: whoever pays the sham company has to pay tax and the sham company also has to pay tax when it pays the person.

"I'm really curious about how this new tax system would deal with "I don't get much salary, mostly I get share options and bonuses"."

Those things count as "pay in kind" so they attract tax according to how much they're worth. Not a new problem; see the tale of the chap who paid his employees in gold sovereigns.

"If you want the same total tax income but much lower personal tax, you need to make it up somewhere else."

There isn't anything to "make up". The same amount of tax is paid, it's just that paying it is no longer any concern of the recipient of the income, so it's not "personal".

"...benefits/subsidies have to go up and a lot more people get them"

Nobody is getting paid any less so the call for them is no greater than at present.

125:

Re "We actually need a REAL SENATE ™ with people like Attenborough & senior surgeons & academics in it, who own no allegiance at all to any party or usual factional interest. Problem is, how to keep them honest & not subject to crooks gaming the system…."

Actually, problem is more how to get them interested in undertaking the role in the first place. IMHO, most of them would rather do something much more productive with their time...

And more generally, being a NZ'er, I don't understand why do you really think you need a senate or upper house (or whatever you call it) anyhow. NZ got rid of their "upper house" years ago and it doesn't appear to have made much difference. (See... https://www.parliament.nz/en/visit-and-learn/history-and-buildings/evolution-of-parliament/legislative-council/ ).

Note however, I am not trying to suggest NZ system better, but it is simpler.

126:

IMHO, most of them would rather do something much more productive with their time...

The mostly-appointed-now House of Lords is a part-time deal for its occupants. Some of them do attend and work there full-time so to speak -- they don't have to go out fund-raising or hold constituency surgery meetings listening to their "customers" since they don't have any in particular. They can hold a national or even global view of things rather than being focussed on representing a small area of the country with about two hundred thousand people living there.

Lessee, the HoL Science committee is headed at the moment by Lord Patel, KT FMedSci FRSE. He's been in the Lords since 1999 but he recently "retired" from being Dundee University's Chancellor after a run of about 10 years or so in parallel with his work in the Lords.

127:

Ok, forgive me if this is teaching an economist to count. From an existing employer* point of view "I pay Sam X. I do paperwork and pay the government X+Y". There is no substantive change if we decide that Y is called "employment tax" instead of "income tax". It's all just rolled into "total cost of hiring someone".

Also, since there are no deductions available (because there's no income tax payable), that means that if I want to invest my savings I just have to wear the cost. Say I buy a decent camera and get back into taking photos for money. Instead of depreciating the camera over 3 years and claiming the cost on tax, I pay no tax and I get no deduction. But my clients are now employers and have to pay employment tax on top of whatever I charge them. They can't claim the cost of me or my camera either unless they're hiring me through a business.

Alternatively, I can form a company and do all the paperwork and make all the payments that that involves, then pay the tax on the wages I pay myself. Which is just like now, as already noted... except that I don't do that because it would make the small-scale "photos for money" stuff laughably low-paying. If I make $2000/year and registering etc a company costs $1000 plus 10 hours of admin every quarter... why bother?

"the things that are paid via the personal tax system go away as well"
No they don't. The same amount of tax is collected so the things that are paid for by it still are paid for.

I didn't say "paid for", I said "paid". Most obviously tax deductible charitable donations. But also any tax credit, deduction, refund, whatever you want to call it that reduces the tax owed, those can no longer be done via the tax system. There's a few UK examples here: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/personal-tax-credits-statistics

Those things count as "pay in kind" so they attract tax

Great. For everyone, or just for UK tax residents? Who's responsible for making sure the tax is paid, and who's liable if it isn't? Currently if my boss doesn't collect and remit tax on my income he's in deep trouble. But your system seems to suggest that if I tip a pizza delivery person, now I'm the employer and need to remit tax on that payment. But realistically when I want to buy anything the very first question will be "are you a registered business because I will not ever pay a person for anything". Electricians, taxis, street vendors, accountants... no business tax number, no customer. I suppose it's one way to get rid of sham contracting.

At the rich end of the spectrum, you're now going to have to track a bunch of things that aren't tracked well or at all (capital gains on foreign property, for example). Employment tax will be payable on dividend income from shares as well as interest from bank accounts ... but by the payer rather than the payee. The dividend imputation systems used in Australia and Aotearoa will have to stop since there's no longer an individual taxpayer to receive the credits.

I'm not rich enough to know all the details, just informed enough to know the dodges and scams exist. For example, in Australia there are a lot of forestry investments that pay out tax deductions from the cost of planting and growing the trees, then a big taxable chunk of cash at harvest time. That "negative income stream" will vanish but if you use a flat tax the rate will be lower. It might be a win for the rich end overall (the glibertarians certainly think so, as do their opponents). You could grandfather stuff like that, but some of them run for 99 years so you'll be dual taxing for a long time.

There will be weird edge cases too, from tax on non-company use of company cars through to tax on the cleaning of uniforms that fast food staff are required to buy (uniforms which will presumably no longer be tax deductible, and hence cleaning them won't be either. When that's done by the employer tax will need to be paid).

* I think your proposal will create a whole new class of employers, the "customers of non-company traders".

128:

The same amount of tax is paid

But is it progressive or flat rate? In other words, does the employer just say "we paid a million in wages, so we have to pay half a million in tax"?

If so, that's a flat tax and you still need to explain how that's going to work as something more than a glibertarian fantasy. See above "Bill Gates and the babysitter".

129:

being a NZ'er, I don't understand why do you really think you need a senate or upper house (or whatever you call it) anyhow

Bro, look west. Australia has a mix of unicameral and bicameral parliaments because Australia is really into playing around with democracy.

Unicameral parliaments have a much greater tendency to go rogue, because if a party gets a safe majority in that one house they have the whole "elected dictatorship" thing happening. Aotearoa has also seen that, notably with Muldoon and then the Rogergnomes. Where there's a second chamber there's usually some restraint on the worst excesses, as we see on the occasions when a party or coalition has majorities in both houses and uses that to pass exciting new laws (Howard's anti-union ones, for example).

I also think quite a lot of the enthusiasm in Nukefreeland for electoral reform came from the excesses of simple-majority governments. What I think saves us from needing a second house is the tiny parliament and tiny population. When you have 600 MPs in the lower house an upper house is a good idea. When each of 100 MPs represents 40,000 people you don't have the same issues of scale. To some extent list MPs also fulfil that role.

130:

From an existing employer* point of view "I pay Sam X. I do paperwork and pay the government X+Y".

Sorry, loss of text. Should read "From an existing employer* point of view "I pay Sam X. I do paperwork and pay the government Y, for a total cost of X+Y".

I really want the "can edit my post for 1 minute" button :) Apparently I proofread much better after I've posted rather than in the preview mode.

131:

"'In both cases decentralising power and tax-raising powers is the answer.'"

"Which may explain recent Ontario neocon politics — to whit, disempowerment of local governments in the name of "efficiency""

Precisely. Yes, decentralized taxation gives more control to the locals--and thus is always going to be impossible because the higher-level authorities are never giving up their power.

However, what Dan's suggesting is neo-feudalism. Feudal kings didn't tax the people, they taxed their Barons; the barons taxed their landholders; and the landholders taxed the peasants. Keeping the taxation local gives local authorities an incentive to prevent the free movement of labor. It also gives them an incentive to _force_ the movement of undesirables (another thing seen in Canada, where more than one story has been told of Alberta welfare agencies offering people one-way bus tickets to Vancouver).

132:

Well, I was just making a general statement on where I stand on the "6 Counties Question".

I suspect your analysis may well be correct though.

133:

The most we ever get to see is pretty much a map coloured red, blue (and maybe purple?) at state level. This might work out OK for Senators and POTUS but I do know it won't be that helpful for Representatives in the more densely populated states.

134:

"Make the rich pay more tax" doesn't necessarily work well.

I've heard a personal account (by a now famous person) from about 1960 of working in a garage, fueling cars for the owners.

$rich_guy gets his $prestige_car filled up at a cost, even then, of several £. $attendant asks for a tip, and is given £0-02, with the statement "The government takes 98% of every pound I make. Here's the rest of that pound". (rates have been altered slightly, to require less knowledge of UK currency)

As for "selling Buck House", that's actually the property of the British Crown, rather than the personal holding of a member of the British royal family.

135:

The rich guy with the car in your story didn't know how marginal tax rates worked, either that or he made billions each year (in 1960s terms) in which case he employed tax lawyers to move money around and prevent him paying more tax than he needed to under law. Quick Google suggests the top earned income tax rate at that time was about 83% for earnings over £20,000 (or about £190,000 in today's money). The 98% rate included unearned income such as trust fund payouts, investments and the like so "making" that money being taxed at 98% is a bit of a misnomer.

In comparison someone working as a coal-miner back then might be earning about £10 a week or £500 p.a.

My guess is that it's a neat story, made up to explain how the person telling the story didn't want to pay lots of tax either.

136:

While the majority of us in NI find the Derry/Londonderry nomenclature laughable and a subject for jest, I would be cautious in using the term "Six Counties" or "Occupied Six Counties". It is an ideologically freighted term, most often associated with those who consider "by the armalite and ballot box" an acceptable political strategy, or by Republicans leaning heavily into the sectarian vote.

137:

There's some weird assumptions being made here about how a lot of people who aren't just salaried employees manage their tax affairs. And even if you're a a salaried employee, your pension, student loan, healthcare etc etc comes out pre-tax, at least partly as a means of shunting as much of your salary as is possible into the lower bracket. What happens if you go from contracting to normal full time employment? The people writing off the VAT from cameras, laptops and other doodads against a limited company they use for a bit of work on the side are of far less concern than telly presenters and CEOs using the more eclectic and interesting forms of tax relief.

Moving the perceived income tax burden for Jane earning £25k from her payslip into some invisible bucket handled by her employer doesn't really do anything except generate an enormous amount of work and cost to refactor the existing system for the limited benefit of making salaries posted on job adverts more transparent and trying to shift peoples cognitive biases. I don't think that would be particularly beneficial in any case as any sense of bitterness as to the inequality in society about how much tax people is directed at footballers and the uber-rich rather than the person three doors down with a slightly newer car and a slightly smaller mortgage.

138:
It seems to me that the idea that politicians could possibly have any influence over the earth's chaotic climate system looks like a bourgeois liberal version of the anti-demographic impulses that you have ascribed to conservatives.

So, OK, I realise I'm probably wasting my time but let's debunk this idiocy.

The first idiot claim is that the climate is chaotic in some way which makes it utterly unpredictable.

I need a term which includes climate (long-term averages) and weather (short-term behaviour) and I'll use 'Earth System' ('ES' for short) for this.

First of all we know that the ES is chaotic on various timescales: on timescales from minutes to weeks that's why weather prediction is hard. It is also probably chaotic on much longer timescales (millennia or longer).

But we also know two interesting things. Firstly a lot of interesting quantities (temperature, precipitation &c) not only have bounds on their values, they also have well-defined means over interesting timescales (years to centuries). (Note that having bounds on values and having well-defined means is not the same thing, for reasons I'm not going to explain here). Secondly, as well as these quantities having well-defined means there are bounds on their differentials: how fast they change.

We don't know this on theoretical grounds (we might but I expect we do not) but on experimental grounds which are far stronger.

The reason we know this is that life exists and more specifically trees exist. Trees have two interesting properties: they are sensitive to temperature, rainfall &c, and they don't move very fast. In particular trees can only move by having offspring that grow somewhere else, and this process takes is slow. Oak trees do not reach sexual maturity until they are about 20-25 and don't start producing serious crops of acorns until they are 50. And the acorns from a given tree probably don't move very far from it. Oak might be able to move at a mile or so a century.

And there are significant numbers of oak trees. This tells us, experimentally, that the ES has well-defined averages for temperature &c over timescales of a year and that these averages have changed only rather slowly over a timescale long enough for oaks to have evolved, which is millions of years.

Note that this is not saying that the ES millions of years ago was the same as it is today: it is saying that the rate of change between then and now has been low enough that oak forests have been able to migrate, at miles a century, to deal with the rate of change. Over millions of years the ES may still have changed really significantly (and in fact has done so): it just changed rather slowly.

So, what this shows, beyond doubt, is that while the ES may be chaotic, there is a range of timescales (from months to millennia roughly) where there are well-defined means and where the rates of change of these means with time is rather low. This regime is what we call 'climate': trees (and, more broadly, life) exists because climate exists. In this climate regime we can treat the ES as non-chaotic, because experimentally it is.

So then, the second idiot claim is 'politicians can't influence the climate because reasons'. Well, debunking this needs three steps.

The first step is to establish that the CO2 greenhouse effect is real: to do this look at Venus. Venus has a very high albedo, so although it is closer to the Sun than Earth, less power from the Sun gets either absorbed in the atmosphere or reaches the surface than it does on Earth -- most of it gets reflected straight back to space. But the surface temperature of Venus is about 730K -- hotter than Mercury. And that's because the atmosphere is mostly CO2.

The second step is to put some numbers on the CO2 greenhouse effect so we know whether the amount of CO2 generated by human activity is significant. Doing this is beyond the scope of this comment and requires numerical modelling, but anyone who is reasonably competent at the physics and a reasonable programmer can write a simple-minded model in a few weeks which gives answers which are in the right ballpark (you need to model the atmosphere as more than a single layer to get something that is reasonable, but you don't need to solve any of the dynamics). More detailed models produce better answers, of course. And we can compare the models with data for the last century or more, and they're pretty good.

And the result of this is that the amount of CO2 human activity generates is indeed sufficient to shift various important climate averages (temperature, rainfall) at a rate of change very much faster than they have changed for a long time (hundreds of thousands to millions of years). Note that it's not the change that matters, but the rate of change because life cares about the rate of change. As an example, the rate of change of temperature at the end of ice-ages (they warm much faster than they cool) is about a degree every thousand years. The rate of change of temperature now is about a degree every century: ten times higher.

The third step is to show that politicians can influence human activity. I think I can safely say this is not in doubt.

OK, so that's half an hour I won't get back.

139:

Considering that we have few, if any, current political figures of the intellectual stature of Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Franklin, or Hamilton the Constitution deserves respect, perhaps even some worship. Federalism and the separation of powers are protecting us to this day, even in these horrible times.

Behind all these failures is, I think, a failure of philosophy. I am not aware of any current thinking that allows us to design a reinvigorated 21st century democracy; as yet there is nothing with the intellectual power of the philosophies of the Enlightenment.

140:

The oak tree example you use isn't a good one, sadly -- foragers, wind and weather can expand the growth of oak forests a lot faster than you suggest, assuming the conditions for growth outside the forest boundaries exist. Squirrels and other foragers take seeds, acorns etc. and "squirrel" them away in holes, tree branches are ripped off in storms carrying acorns as much as several kilometres on the wind, branches fall in streams and are washed away in floods etc.

I recently saw pizza move a hundred metres in a single afternoon via a combination of such factors -- a seagull snatched up a piece of a half-eaten pizza from the roadway, squabbling in the flock caused it to be dropped on a roof where later the wind blew it off and into the gutter some distance from where it started. If it can happen to pizza it can happen to acorns...

141:

Pigeon:

taxation in Britain, and my posts are assuming the British context, where for nearly everyone their income tax is handled automatically by their employer's computer and although everyone is liable, next to nobody has to file a tax return themselves, because this automated system does the necessary.

This caricature is laughably out of date.

Self-employment has exploded in the UK in the past decade, and not because the "self-employed" want it; it's because corporations employing contractors don't have to give them the same degree of workplace/health and safety/vacation rights as actual employees. This in turn mirrors the way work is outsourced between government and corporations and corporations and smaller agencies.

HMRC tried to address this with "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's a duck" rules like IR35 (if you work under an employer's direction on their equipment/premises, you're an employee even if you're a limited company — at least for purposes of claiming deductible expenses). But all that does is create a rod to beat the back of these "self-employed", without giving them back any of the sick pay, vacation time, or employment rights they've been stripped of.

Dicking with the tax system will just make this worse for them, while not affecting the employers at all.

I'm an anomaly: I'm old-school self-employed, running a business and inventing my own products and selling them wherever the hell I like (70% of my income effectively comes from exports outside the EU). I don't have an employer you can point to, and if I did, I'd have about eight of them (currently) and
they'd range from a US-based multinational to a volunteer-staffed crowdsourcing campaign in France. Seriously, individual income tax makes it easier for HMRC to handle the million-or-two edge cases like me. The alternative would be mandatory incorporation, as in some other EU countries which don't recognize self-employment at all (they run their tax system on the principle that everybody works for some organization: the only way to work with them is to own your own organization, and deal with all the bureaucracy that a real company would be expected to deal with).

I do not pretend to have an answer to this problem.

But I can say that Pigeon's idea of how the British system works is fundamentally out of date and wrong, and wouldn't fix the underlying problem (if anything it'd make it worse).

142:

f you want the same total tax income but much lower personal tax, you need to make it up somewhere else.

Two words (stolen from Thomas Pickety): wealth tax.

Everybody pays a tax on their total accumulated assets. An exemption for personal affects (your clothes, phone, and laptop, basically), an allowance for "rainy day" savings (£10,000 in the bank), Pension (£250,000 in a pension scheme), primary home (£180,000 — yes, I know the average dwelling in the UK is valued at about £180,000: bear with me), and transport (£5000 for a basic car).

After these levels, everyone gets soaked for a percentage of the value of their assets each year. It'll be a progressive tax, probably in the range 0.1% to 2.5%, with the top marginal rate only applying to assets in the tens of millions.

The goal is to put a brake on the growth of accumulations of surplus value. Remember, tax is not levied to pay for government outgoings: the government can always create more money. Tax is levied to take surplus currency out of circulation, thereby generating exchanges and driving economic activity. If you want a concrete analogy, most people think of money as being physical markers of value (gold coins), but in practice it's more like electricity.

143:

it is saying that the rate of change between then and now has been low enough that oak forests have been able to migrate, at miles a century, to deal with the rate of change.

I'm afraid you're only half-right.

Remember that average diurnal temperatures vary with altitude. So an oak forest on the lower slopes of a mountain, below the tree line, can move as the tree line shifts in response to longer-term climate changes. A mile of altitude is a big temperature drop: it doesn't take many decades for the zone of forestation to climb or descend the sides of a valley.

So your inference about the ES being long-term stable (in human terms) is ... not wrong, but incomplete enough to invalidate your subsequent conclusions.

144:

another thing seen in Canada, where more than one story has been told of Alberta welfare agencies offering people one-way bus tickets to Vancouver

In Canada welfare is a municipal responsibility, so municipalities have a real incentive to encourage welfare recipients to leave.

Back in the 90s when Mel Eastman was mayor of North York* he made a big deal about how there weren't homeless people in North York. There weren't any shelters — instead case workers would give them TTC tickets so they could go downtown to Toronto. Which meant Toronto taxpayers paid for them rather than North York taxpayers.

*This is pre-amalgamation.

145:

HMRC tried to address this with "if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck it's a duck" rules like IR35 (if you work under an employer's direction on their equipment/premises, you're an employee even if you're a limited company — at least for purposes of claiming deductible expenses). But all that does is create a rod to beat the back of these "self-employed", without giving them back any of the sick pay, vacation time, or employment rights they've been stripped of.

Back in the 90s I had a friend who was outsourced by a Canadian government agency, which essentially told all non-managers that they were now contractors and adjusted their salaries because a whole bunch of expenses were suddenly tax-deductible.

Except that Revenue Canada ruled that they were indeed employees, because they worked for a single employer, had no control over hours/methods of work, etc.

The government agency told the worker/contractors that no, Revenue Canada was wrong, and that they were indeed independent contractors. So my friend ended up caught between two branches of the bureaucracy, with no benefits, less take-home pay, and no tax deductions.

146:

I keep getting this itch to build a game in the sim genre that models this correctly, just so that some more people will understand that the household mental model so many people use is laughably wrong. Heck, a pithy summary or analogy would help.

147:

I think this may reinforce your point:
http://robertreich.org/post/181848967520
Mr. Reich helpfully points out a second way low tax rates enrich the rich.

148:

Remember that average diurnal temperatures vary with altitude.... A mile of altitude is a big temperature drop: it doesn't take many decades for the zone of forestation to climb or descend the sides of a valley.

Indeed. The climate of Denver, at 1500 meters, is quite different than the climate 20 miles west at 3000 meters. In parts of the Southwestern US, we're seeing the creation of new "sky islands" where species become isolated as the climate zones move up in elevation. Also shrinkage of some of the older islands: movement into steeper terrain that's just naked rock takes a long time. In some cases, more time than climate change is going to allow.

149:

Actually, you're wrong about rates of change, but it's an extremely useful discussion.

The basic notion about oaks and the rate that birds and squirrels move acorns--normally!--is correct, and it's a big concern now.

The problem is historical: evidence from geology (google Heinrich events, check the temperature proxies in ice cores) shows that, especially during ice ages the climate was extremely variable. One researcher (Richard Alley Two Mile Time Machine) compared the temperature trace during the last ice age to something like a yoyo being played with on a roller coaster. During an ice age, there are (semi-)chaotic oscillations between three temperature states, the switches between states appeared to occur on a scale of years to decades, and the states lasted maybe 1-2000 years. I'm one of the people who believes that this bounce between temperature regimes is what kept humans from inventing civilization for the first 300,000-odd years of our existence, but that's a sideline.

The second part of the paradox is that we can measure how far trees spread historically by looking at pollen records in lakes. This was done back east by Margaret Davis and her students. We can also look at modern rates of spread. Two things pop up in the historical record: one is that trees spread at vastly different rates. Beeches are still expanding from the last ice age, while birches long ago occupied their historic range. Forest composition changes over time, and the forests of 5000 years ago wouldn't be familiar. Forests are not superorganisms: they're patterns made by dominant species following their own ecological imperatives. This realization is why I don't do vegetation ecology any more (got my masters in it).

THE CRITICAL POINT: some trees demonstrably spread far faster than their modern dispersal rates allow, sometimes hundreds of times faster. This was particularly the case in the reforesting of Europe following ice ages. What's going on? The best hypothesis is that the trees never entirely left the glaciated landscape. These "nascent foci" were probably small populations that hung on in warmer, sunnier pockets on sheltered mountains and canyons. When the climate became more favorable, plants expanded out, and sometimes did so well that they dominated the local vegetation. Similarly, cold-adapted plants retreated into little refuges on the north sides of hills and similar as the climate warmed, and they would expand again as the ice advanced.

There's even genetic evidence for this being widespread in California, but that would take another 500 words to explain. The bottom line there is that the evidence suggests that we're a biodiversity hotspot, not because California has higher rates of plant speciation, but because we've got unusually low rates of plant extinction, due most likely to our wildly diverse terrain. There are lots of mountains and canyons where plants can hang out when the climate changes for hotter or colder.

The bottom line is that plants have historically migrated faster than their simple dispersal distances would indicate, and they might have done so where they managed to hang on in little pocket populations until the climate changed to favor their expansion out of their refugia.

This, incidentally, is why I do a lot of conservation work: plants have dealt with rapid climate change in their genetically recent past, so there's a chance that they can migrate fast to deal with our mess too. Saving those refugia, and saving the wildlife corridors that link them, appears to be the best tool we have for ameliorating the oncoming Sixth Extinction. Unfortunately, too many of these refugia--we call them parks--are isolated pockets run more on the Indian Reservation model, where the plants are supposedly "kept in their proper state of nature," which means that the park is managed to appear as the managers think it did in the 19th century (aka "wild"), except that they don't have enough money for weed control. The plants can live within the park, so long as they don't change things too much, and if they try to grow outside the park, they are often killed as weeds in people's landscaping. We're getting a little better about this, but not much.

The treatment of animals and plants in parks is akin to the way American Indians are treated by many whites: we revere them, so long as they're hunting with obsidian arrowheads and living in teepees, to fulfill our Romantic vision of preserving a past closer to nature. We don't deal with their modern problems of poverty, addiction, and discrimination at all well, because we see those (wrongly) as issues with them assimilating into white culture. I'm not suggesting that Indians are animals, because they're often more humane than we are. Rather, I'm suggesting that people, animals, and plants need to move, and that's really, really hard to do when we confine them to reservations and insist that they fulfill a role that neither they nor the world want them to be confined to.

150:

I wonder is we're looking at the makings of a zombie-like state of perpetual-but-not-quite Brexit. Where the deadline is extended to stop a crash out, MP's continue to have no consensus on realistic terms the EU will accept, and no one is quite willing to allow the catastrophic outcome. So the UK remains in a perpetual state of ever-extended article 50 deadlines, remaining a defacto EU member, always approaching but not quite reaching and end game.

151:
Squirrels and other foragers take seeds, acorns etc. and "squirrel" them away in holes, tree branches are ripped off in storms carrying acorns as much as several kilometres on the wind, branches fall in streams and are washed away in floods etc.

Yes, I'm assuming acorns get moved some miles: that's how I get my miles-a-century figure. If an acorn gets moved a distance d, not eaten, and grows into a tree, it takes 25 years before that tree produces acorns of its own which in turn get moved. So the rate of migration of the forest is no more than 4d/century. It's the time it takes the tree to reach maturity which matters.

I'm sure there are odd cases where acorns get moved really large distances (in rivers probably), but I doubt those cause forests to drift.

152:

California tried term limits, and the result was that "decent" politicians were forced out. By "decent" I mean the ones that had their names associated as backers of policies that worked well, or that people liked. They were replaced by those who were more submissive to their corporate donors.

When brand identification becomes less important, quality suffers. Here the "brand" was the politician's name. Other times it's something like a line of screwdrivers. It's true in both cases.

153:

Actually, there are many intelligent political theorists out there right now. It's just that none of them have much power.

154:

Um, no. California HAS term limits. This is good and bad, as you've noted, depending on the quality of whoever is leaving.

The real problem with term limits is that the electeds lose their long term memory, because they only see a particular problem for at most eight years before they have to go work somewhere else. Since many developments take 20 years plus, as do many chronic issues, this means that the memory on these issues comes to reside in the senior bureaucracy, in lobbyists and consultants, and in activists like me. We unelecteds are the ones who learn what has worked, and the short-term politicians become our enablers, if they can get up the learning curve fast enough to understand what we're trying to tell them, and are humble enough to listen. This leads to a different dynamic with a different set of shortcomings.

155:

I'm not sure the EU has a reason to extend the deadline if it only leads to protracted deadlock. There seems little prospect of any attainable deal getting through parliament but there is a deadline for leaving with no deal (which the great majority of MPs are against). Calling the whole thing off (withdrawing article 50 unilaterally before the deadline) now seems like the only feasible option.

156:

Exactly right -- institutional memory. I would only add that there are two sides to the senior bureaucracy -- the people over on the executive side just below the level of political appointees, and the permanent legislative staff. Note that starting in the 90s, Congress did away with a lot of their permanent staff, a bad decision that (fortunately, IMO) the individual states have not generally repeated.

157:

If there are forested plains then the altitude problem goes away (because then you need to move large horizontal distances, and can't cheat). I've quietly assumed there are: perhaps there aren't though, which would be interesting.

158:

One of the problems the USA will have in a couple of decades is that 70% of the population will be so concentrated that they will be represented by 30% of the senators, which means 30% of the population will control 70% of the senators. So the U.S. Senate will be quite distorted, but the House will theoretically still be representative of the concentration.

159:

The ice-age thing is interesting: I'd assumed that the variations in temperatures from cores were noise & in fact written some code to smooth it away, but from what you're saying they're not. Unfortunately the place I get the core data sets from now says 'The website you are trying to access is not available at this time due to a lapse in appropriation.' So, I can't say what I think about that in a public forum because someone will find it and trace it back to me and I'll get waterboarded or something.

160:

Trees aren't the only participants when considering the impacts of climate change on where which plants live. I've spent almost my entire life on the edges of the North American steppes, where the trees and grasses slug it out for dominance. If one of the affects of warming is that areas become effectively drier, the grasses may win.

161:

Antistone @ 98: Would any of the people arguing against corporate personhood be willing to describe your position for me in more concrete terms?

(I'm assuming this isn't actually an argument over the WORD "person" but instead has to do with some specific legal ramifications that you don't like. Which ramifications, specifically?)

I don't quite understand how "argument over the WORD" fits, my objection is not to the semantics; not an objection to using a word wrongly.

I object to what corporations DO as "persons". Corporations as "persons" gives management/proprietors undue power. It acts as a shield that permits officers/proprietors to get away with crimes that real persons would not. If I swindle you out of your life savings, I'm liable. I can go to jail & will have to pay back the money I've stolen.

Not so if I'm shielded by having worked through a corporation person. At most, the corporation will have to pay a token fine & probably get to keep the stolen money, especially if it has already distributed it as dividends, bonuses or executive compensation.

If I'm willfully negligent and cause someone's death, I will be tried and if convicted imprisoned for a long time or even sentenced to death. When a corporation is willfully negligent that doesn't happen. That can't happen.

Where corporations are held to be persons, the whole concept of the "limited liability" corporation is a license to defraud; to commit mayhem without responsibility or accountability.

I would abolish "limited liability" if I could. Make the shareholders and corporate officers fully accountable for wrongs done by the corporation. I can't. But revoking the "person-hood" for corporations is a small step in the right direction.

162:

I can go to jail & will have to pay back the money I've stolen... The corporation will have to pay a token fine & probably get to keep the stolen money

I share that objection. If it can't go to jail it's not a person. I see no reason why we shouldn't punish criminal corporations either the same way we do other criminal organisations - jail members solely for the crime of being associated with them; or by removing their liberty - suspend their registration, ban them from trading or otherwise operating.

That alone would make incorporation less attractive, which I think is a useful thing. I wonder whether perhaps a time limit might be useful as well, so they're not immortal. Require that after at most 99 years they be wound up and their assets returned to shareholders, with provisions to prevent phoenixing.

But then... what problem are we trying to solve, and would the result of the above actually be better? Specifically for big, intractable problems like "build and operate this nuclear reactor then clean it up afterwards". Albeit I don't think companies are the right structure for that (not least because non of them show any sign of being capable of doing it) and since the government inevitably ends up carrying the can, maybe only governments can do things like that. Note that that doesn't mean government necessarily does it well, merely that corporations necessarily do it badly.

163:

Mayhem @ 100:

"FWIW, the current situation generally results in Senators being owned by corporations. I don't really think this is any better."

In honesty the bigger issue is the lack of term limits. Your Senators and Representatives have utterly insane incumbency rates for a functioning electoral system. The genuine voting stats are often better than those your average third world dictator with a rigged vote is willing to try and pass off.

Put in a mandatory limit, say two consecutive Senate terms or five House followed by a mandatory 1-2 term stand down, and you'll force a change of occupant every decade or so, which will at least require the background interests to start their bribes again from scratch.

That would be a pretty good idea, although I would prefer a maximum of three terms for Senators and nine for the House; limiting both to 18 years total time in office and not counting any break in service against the term limit.

Where I think the Founding Fathers really screwed up was life tenure for judges. That WILL require a Constitutional Amendment to rectify.

The best suggestion I've seen would create a Supreme Court of 9 justices serving 18 year terms, staggered two years apart. I'd keep Presidential appointment and Senatorial confirmation. Basically, at the beginning of every Congress, the President would get to nominate one new Justice.

At the beginning of the next Congress, the President would get to nominate another new Justice (for a maximum of 5 from a Vice President who became President under the terms of the 22nd Amendment). The Senate would not be allowed to refuse confirmation hearings to prevent a President from appointing a Justice like McConnell did with Merrick Garland.

Of course, if one of the Justices had to leave the bench prematurely (either through death or resignation) the then incumbent President would nominate a replacement to be confirmed by the Senate. That replacement would only serve the remainder of the term for the justice who was replaced. I would allow the replacement justice to be subsequently nominated for a full 18 year term of his/her own. The Chief Justice would be whichever justice had served the longest (i.e. the position of Chief Justice would sift down through the ranks over time.)

164:

Honestly, I do not believe the reign of the beige dictatorship to be over. In most countries the power still remains in the same hands.

The Trump Regime in the USA looks like Koch brothers. As before. A bit spice added. In UK the Brexit looks like the ultimate power-grab by the existing elites (they would have done fine in the EU, but if there will be an exit, then let it be a suitable one).

In my country the still ruling government does everything possible in order to make the result of the next election void (coming in a few months). Changing civil servants (in some cases stretching the law, but hey, we changed the one holding the relevant position) and making binding agreements with private companies. Milking the cow as far as possible.

This is all still the Beige Dictatorship in action. As we should know, the Shock Therapy makes even better results than the normal action.

165:

_Moz_ @ 101: Requires a flat tax with no deductions, not even a low income one. Otherwise the local high schooler who takes the part time job (currently zero tax) will pay the same as me taking that as my second job (on a 50% marginal rate).

A "flat" tax is only acceptable if it applies to ALL income, earned and unearned, from whatever source derived. Enforcement would need to be Draconian. I would suggest forfeiture of 100% of the income on which tax was not paid and escalating from there.

166:

Troutwaxer @ 116: It could be both. I'm guessing that a hidebound small town doesn't have a very good idea about how to either keep or attract smart people. ("We shut down the /comics/gaming store, because Satan.") IMHO a small town (more probably the county the small town is in) could do things to attract smarter people... "Tiny town on the edge of the mountains builds colocation center, offers cheap housing and tax breaks to new businesses." Or whatever.

Mostly, they just don't.

The stupid, "hidebound" small towns are the ones that make the news. "Stupid" makes easy reporting for lazy reporters. But that's not where the problem is.

More commonly, the small towns just don't have the resources to keep their best and brightest from going off to the big city. Even if the kids can find challenging, satisfying jobs, there's still nothing to do when they're not working. The town didn't shut down the "/comics/gaming store", the store went out of business because there weren't enough customers to keep it open ... especially when the next town over managed to attract a Walmart.

You don't need to build a new collocation center. Just refurbish some of the empty storefronts on Main Street & subsidize the rent.

Why doesn't this happen? Because the town just doesn't have the money. They lost their tax base in the last recession ... or the one before that.

167:

Ioan @ 117: I heard an interesting theory this morning: Trump may be using this shutdown as an excuse to purge his enemies from the government.

The President can't fire non-political appointees he doesn't like on a whim. The process to remove them is quite cumbersome. There is an exception though: if the employees have not shown up to work in at least 30 days. You see where I'm going with this.

It's an interesting theory, but I don't think it's going to work. The courts won't allow him to claim he's dismissing employees "for cause" if the reason they don't show up is that the government shut down and they're not receiving their paychecks. That would violate the 13th and 14th Amendments.

If the government reopened and paychecks started going out (including back pay due to workers furloughed through no fault of their own) and the workers didn't come back to work THEN, he might have a case, but I think you can see why that isn't going to happen.

168:

Please, name some of them. Real question, not a rhetorical trap.

169:

Charlie Stross @ 142:

"[I]f you want the same total tax income but much lower personal tax, you need to make it up somewhere else."

Two words (stolen from Thomas Pickety): wealth tax.

Everybody pays a tax on their total accumulated assets. An exemption for personal affects (your clothes, phone, and laptop, basically), an allowance for "rainy day" savings (£10,000 in the bank), Pension (£250,000 in a pension scheme), primary home (£180,000 — yes, I know the average dwelling in the UK is valued at about £180,000: bear with me), and transport (£5000 for a basic car).

After these levels, everyone gets soaked for a percentage of the value of their assets each year. It'll be a progressive tax, probably in the range 0.1% to 2.5%, with the top marginal rate only applying to assets in the tens of millions.

The goal is to put a brake on the growth of accumulations of surplus value. Remember, tax is not levied to pay for government outgoings: the government can always create more money. Tax is levied to take surplus currency out of circulation, thereby generating exchanges and driving economic activity. If you want a concrete analogy, most people think of money as being physical markers of value (gold coins), but in practice it's more like electricity.

I don't see how that would ever be acceptable. It looks to me like it penalizes my small lifetime accumulation of assets more than it penalizes inherited wealth. And it's a scheme under which no one who derived their accumulated assets from EARNED INCOME, rather than from RENTS would ever be able to retire. You'd have to bust your ass every year just to make up the difference in the assets taxed away.

Maybe if the tax bracket was based on total accumulated assets, but after the first time you payed the tax on your total assets, the tax itself should only be on the INCREASE in the value of your assets from the previous tax period. Otherwise you're being taxed on the same assets over and over and over and ... maybe that's not really a problem for the ultra wealthy, but it would sure hurt me.

170:

Pigeon, I can't tell if you have completely failed to understand the math, or if I have completely failed to understand what you think you're accomplishing, but one of those is definitely true.

Let me propose an example:

Suppose that right how, company A has 20 employees who each take home $20k post-tax income, while company B has 2 employees who each take home $200k post-tax income. (For simplicity, assume that none of these employees have any other income.)

Under a progressive income tax, the wages paid by company B trigger heavier (total) taxes than those paid by company A, because the people receiving them are in a higher tax bracket.

But the total post-tax wages paid by both companies is identical ($4M), so in ANY tax system where that is the only thing that matters, they MUST both be triggering equal taxes with their wages (by definition).

Therefore, you have either increased the taxes associated with company A's wages, or reduced the taxes associated with company B's wages, or both. Full stop. No other option. They used to be inequal, and now they're equal, so something has changed.

Because of that difference, your proposal is NOT simply renaming things while leaving everyone with an equal amount of money. Even if those 12 employees are all getting the same amount of post-tax wages (which seems unenforceable, but let's imagine), at least one of those two companies is now paying a different amount of money than it used to. The owners or shareholders in those companies therefore have different amounts of money than they did under the old regime, even if all "wages" remain fixed.

You can argue that your proposal is better than the status quo if you want, but that discussion must necessarily involve an examination of how some financial entities now have more money than they used to and others have less and whether redistributing wealth in this way was a good idea. It's not simply a psychological trick, you are actually taking money out of someone's pocket and putting it into someone else's.

You can't eliminate independent variables from the tax calculations without changing the amount of tax that someone owes. There will always be two examples that are identical except for the variable you eliminated, and that means those examples used to incur different taxes but now incur the same tax, which means someone is paying a different amount.

171:

A "flat" tax is only acceptable if it applies to ALL income

{cries} Even in the US context a flat tax is a bad idea because it's regressive, in practice even more so than sales taxes. Some flat tax proponents welcome that, others try to mitigate it with a tax free threshold (which Pigeon has ruled out). Where flat tax works is when it's reforming the incredibly complex, badly enforced tax systems of former eastern bloc countries. So maybe it would help Greece, but it would break Britain.

Maybe try this article or this one

The arguments for a flat tax often end up reading like this:

Massive benefits in investment and job growth following Trump’s American tax cuts show us that ...

To which the rest of us can only say "huh?". The "investment" was in share buy-backs and there was no extra job growth.

172:

IGNORING evberything else ...
Charlie @ 142
Nothing personal but fuck right off.
A wealth tax would see me on the street, homeless, with no possible method of finding anywhere to live at all ... & a homeless Birman kitton + about 8000 books as well.
VERY UN-CLEVER.
Let's not go there, shall we?
[ "Wealth Tax" ]

173:

So to clarify...the group of people protesting this decision on the grounds that corporations should not count as persons are those who feel BOTH:

1. Corporations SHOULD NOT be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, but

2. Rich individual human beings SHOULD be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns

...because anyone who wanted to apply the same restrictions to both corporations and individuals wouldn't have any particular need to put them in different categories (or at least, that wouldn't be the central issue). Do I understand correctly?

174:

"It'll be a progressive tax, probably in the range 0.1% to 2.5%" ... It looks to me like it penalizes my small lifetime accumulation of assets more than it penalizes inherited wealth.

How so? You're paying at most 0.25% on assets that should be earning you 3-5%, the billionaire is effectively paying 2.5% (because the overwhelming majority of their wealth is taxed at the top marginal rate). It's very likely you would actually be paying zero because you'll be under the million dollar threshold, and if you're not then we're not talking about the accumulated wealth of even a second decile wage earner.

There will still be edge cases, the poor old lady who just happened to live in what's now an incredibly wealthy suburb so she's working class but the land her old shack sits on is worth millions. That tax will force her to take out a reverse mortgage and could leave her kids with only half the unearned wealth they expected to get when she dies! Tragedy!

I kind of sympathise, one side of my family was forced to sell off their farm over the years to pay land tax. They had the (bad?) luck to own a small farm in the middle of what is now Auckland... as the city expanded their land value went up, land tax went up... they had to sell off or go bankrupt. But on the other hand, being down to your last couple of acres of land in the middle of a major city is not exactly penury. That side of the family is very well off, thankyouverymuch, because they own a couple of acres of houses in the middle of a major city.

175:

I think corporations should not be permitted to donate or campaign at all, and neither should most people. Politics should be restricted to voters, and only voters. In related news I think that the franchise should be universal - if you have the right to be in a country you're subject to their laws and should get the associated privileges and obligations. Like voting.

I agree that restricting spending would be a partial work-around, and it's worth fighting for because it's far more likely to be implemented sooner than my preference (I'm an incrementalist). I think the limit should be low, and expressed as a percentage of median disposal income. That gives rich people an incentive to lift the median wage :)

I also campaigned for same sex marriage (twice!) on the basis that it's closer to marriage equality than what we had before, even though it most definitely is not marriage equality (both campaigns claimed it was equality... both knowingly lied about that in the name of "it's easier to understand").

176:

So sort of a Brexit event horizon, then?

177:

Oh, the difference between a spending/donating cap for people and corporations is that corporations are more likely to be able to donate, and there's no limit to the number of corporations.

Take the case of someone willing to put a million dollars into a political campaign. If the limit is $100,000 they can simply split their spending over 10 companies because the cost of forming a company is trivial compared to $100,000 (and that person likely already has control of multiple corporate entities). But if the limit is $1000 it gets more complex, because the marginal cost of finding/forming an incorporation is likely close to $1000 if you have to pay staff to do the work.

OTOH workarounds like telling your employees "you will donate $1000 to this campaign" can work, and the nice way to do that is "I will reimburse you the donation plus $50". It's hard to effectively legislate against that kind of behaviour. Imagine one limiting case: the campaign issues a medal or other trinket to $1000 donors, and the employer looks for those on eBay and buys them. Is that an illegal evasion of the campaign fundraising limit or just the free market in action "I collect MAGA hats"...

178:

Um, I do believe that requiring your employees to donate on your behalf is illegal in the US? It's easier to come up with an infinite regress of corporations and PACs to do the donations instead. In fact, I seem to recall that OGH proposed something like this in one of his novels...

179:

requiring your employees to donate on your behalf is illegal in the US

I recall reading about a case where that happened, which is why I brought it up. Then again, I likely read about it because of enforcement action. But what happens to the employees who complain? I suspect you'd only need to fire one or two for the rest to get the idea that next time they're just going to donate and get on with their lives.

If the $1M to spend goes $10,000 on admin, $10,000 on fines and $980,000 to the campaign that's still a huge win for the "other people can only spend $1000" rich person.

That said, IIRC it's about $200 to buy a shelf company in NZ and only about $200/year to keep it going if it has almost-zero activity. You could definitely bring the marginal cost down if you had hundreds of them doing the same thing (and the regulatory cost might drop too). Jurisdiction shopping might work, depending on the details of the campaign and laws (if you can use 10,000 Panamanian companies to donate anywhere in the world, for example).

Hence my preference: only voters can get involved.

180:

I seem to recall that OGH proposed something like this in one of his novels...

I took that as a reference to the real world, since that's what happens in Australia and Aotearoa. Ahem. Sorry, "appears to happen". Wouldn't want to slander anyone, would we now.

Australia has donation disclosure limits, but they apply separately to each state and territory, so even though they appear low the $10,000 limit turns into "for each of 8 or 9 entities" and that's before we get into microparties that exist only to harvest preferences. Combine that with reporting delays (a year after the election) and lax enforcement (wholesale refusal to comply earns you a sternly worded letter) and they become laws that have no useful effect and only affect those who choose to comply with them (viz, The Greens suffer but the brown parties don't).

In many ways spending limits and restrictions on third party campaigns make more sense just because they're easier top enforce. But they need proper penalties too, with a demonstrated willingness to disqualify candidates (in preferential systems) or re-run elections without the offender (in other systems). I suspect your "Vote Leave" mob would be much less willing to play silly buggers if the result was that a year later the courts said "we order the referendum re-run without the leave option"... "oh wait, we already know the inevitable result, we declare remain to have won".

181:

This article is both clear and horrible:

The FEC prohibits employers from coercing workers when it comes to monetary donations or fundraising. But the rules are not as clear about what happens if the corporation, acting independent from the campaign, compels workers to, say, stuff envelopes. ...

Some have argued that election law, as it currently stands, permits employers to actually require workers to participate in certain independent political activities, such as attending a rally. Others say it's more of a gray area that hasn't yet been sorted out...

The complaints alleged the Ohio-based coal mining company mandated that workers attend a Mitt Romney rally during 2012 - images of miners standing behind the shirt-sleeved GOP nominee were later used in Romney advertisements -- as well as that the company pressured workers to make donations to the company's political action committee, reimbursing them with bonuses. In both cases, the commissioners deadlocked along party lines, closing the complaints without taking any action.

Political appointees deciding whether the party that appointed them should face legal consequences... what could possibly go wrong?

182:

Another problem with term limits, one that embraces institutional memory, is that big governments are difficult to run, due to their sheer complexity. If you have rapid turnover of oversight at the top, you get into what the DoD reportedly does, which is to launder their funds so thoroughly that no one on the outside apparently knows where the money goes.

I'd suggest that money owning politicians is not cured by term limits. If a pol is constantly campaigning for a new position, they need huge amounts of money. And that makes them vulnerable. If they have lifetime tenure, that makes the vulnerable too.

There are a couple of solutions. One is the old Jeffersonian ideal of rewriting the Constitution every few generations. I mean, look how well that worked in France. Erm, yeah. However, the point is that rejiggering the machinery of state can make it difficult to pull the same scams that work now. Unfortunately, the scamsters have both the incentive and resources to do the rewriting...

A second solution is the really old solution of the jubilee: reset the game every 40-50 years and start over. This sounds brutal and probably needs a king to make it work, but it may turn out to be one way around the wealth accumulation problem.

Then there's the old George Plunkitt solution of Honest versus dishonest graft. Honest graft exploits the system, dishonest graft breaks the law. Rather than making a perfect, crime-free government, it might be simpler to establish an overriding ethic that 1) the system has to perpetuate itself, period, and 2) if you can make money while keeping everything working, feel free to do so, but remember this is your secondary job, not your primary job, and 3) if you get too stupid or too greedy, and especially if you threaten the continued existence of the system, you're out with extreme prejudice. This is under the notion of good parasites not killing their host, especially when they'll have extreme difficulties finding another host.

I should point out that these three solutions are not mutually exclusive, although I think that implementing all three at once is firmly in the realm of science fiction.

183:

Just a random thought: I keep wondering if Elizabeth II will go down in history the way Kamehameha I did. King Kamehameha I unified the Hawaiian Islands. Unfortunately, diseases introduced during his reign decimated the population of the islands, leaving him when he died with a small fraction of the subject's he'd had when he unified the archipelago. Elizabeth II will go down in history as a much-loved royal. However, when she was born, England was one of history's great empires. Depending on Brexit and when she passes, the backfire from Brexit might conceivably have turned the UK into England, Wales, and various tiny islands. And she presided over this devolution.

Just a thought about two great insular monarchs. Greatness is a tricky thing, no?

184:

I have an opinion that taxes should be transparent. Think of the government as the more predictable version of the Mafia.

You work here? You should pay some taxes on income cause working is harder while being shot at.

You keep your stuff here? Then there's a protection fee - we call that a wealth tax.

Oh look, you drive on the roads? Gas tax.

I suspect that a wealth tax would tend to dampen speculative bubbles - stocks with gigantic values but no earnings would be valued a bit lower. It also discourages unproductive uses of capital.

The thing I'd like - which would probably result in a violent revolution - would be not handling zoning or land use restrictions locally. Letting the poors move into small enough residences that they could afford them would be pretty unpopular.

On the 'bright' side, from a game-theoretic perspective:

1. Trump: cave or no cave?

Cave? Lose election.
No cave?

2. Democrats: cave or no cave?
Cave? No benefit.
No cave? If Trump doesn't cave, crater the economy - which is traditionally very bad for the party in power.

While there's gigantic economic damage and people are genuinely being hurt - on the bright side - the longer this goes - the worse it is for the Republicans. I hope.

Also, in terms of bright sides, Maine's experiment with ranked choice may someday give a way to adjust out of unhealthy stasis quicker. It is more important than gerrymandering.


185:

not handling zoning or land use restrictions locally.

"we'd love you to set off some nuclear bombs way over there on land we control but don't care about". The same approach is used today everywhere from Kakadu/Ranger to Galilee/Carmichael/Great Barrier Reef. The / indicate different names for the same area depending on whether you're talking about World Heritage or the extractive economy. Note that the GBR and Kakadu are significantly more profitable as tourist attractions than mines, but there's less wealth concentration in tourism so it's harder to focus political attention on that aspect.

186:

Well if parliament is not working, there is still her royal highness Queen Elizabeth.

According to one of my favorite YouTube channels ("Today I found Out" with Simon Whistler - who is both very informative and very witty), despite what people think about the British monarch being a mere figure head, Liz is actually very powerful:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiDCwqpupj8

Perhaps she can still send a few people to the Tower to get their heads chopped off.

Problems solved!

187:

Well if you really want sleepless nights, read "America the Farewell Tour" by Chris Hedges:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GeE5WnTUsF8

and

https://www.truthdig.com/articles/reign-of-idiots/

The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy.

There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it.

The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses. They live in privileged compounds where they eat chocolate cake and order missile strikes. They see the state as a projection of their vanity. The Roman, Mayan, French, Habsburg, Ottoman, Romanov, Wilhelmine, Pahlavi and Soviet dynasties crumbled because the whims and obsessions of ruling idiots were law.

Donald Trump is the face of our collective idiocy. He is what lies behind the mask of our professed civility and rationality—a sputtering, narcissistic, bloodthirsty megalomaniac. He wields armies and fleets against the wretched of the earth, blithely ignores the catastrophic human misery caused by global warming, pillages on behalf of global oligarchs and at night sits slack-jawed in front of a television set before opening his “beautiful” Twitter account. He is our version of the Roman emperor Nero, who allocated vast state expenditures to attain magical powers, the Chinese emperor Qin Shi Huang, who funded repeated expeditions to a mythical island of immortals to bring back the potion that would give him eternal life, and a decayed Russian royalty that sat around reading tarot cards and attending séances as their nation was decimated by war and revolution brewed in the streets.

188:

To add to the doom and gloom, an update of Huston after Hurricane Harvey.

Rising Risk
https://youtu.be/MHtb3FCma5E?t=1328

People swooped in and bought the destroyed houses, now they are replacing them, just in time for the next major storm somewhere down the road. Making no effort to deal with the actual cause of the flooding, which was overbuilding. They need to restore open areas. Design an actual city with multistory housing, not an endless sprawling suburb, filled with Mac-mansions.

189:

Wealth taxes are basically a way of forcing people to move their assets outside of your jurisdiction. Which is exactly the opposite of what most nations want to see happen

They are also likely to do some really strange things to the stock market, like encouraging people to invest in stocks where the majority of the shareholders aren’t wealthy. I have no idea where that would lead

The reason capital gains taxes even sort of work is in order to move the wealth out of your jurisdiction they have to incurr the tax

A more sane way might be just to tax capital gains income as regular income

190:

Trying to keep money out of politics is like draining the ocean, not going to happen unless you end up getting rid of money or getting rid of politics first.

Better to harness it. Unlimited donations, with transparency, and taxed on a steep progressive curve. And let the revenue service investigate any structuring schemes the same way they do for other taxing and reporting requirements.

191:

Unlimited donations, with transparency, and taxed on a steep progressive curve.

That might work. Australia makes the first $1500/year donated to a political party tax deductible (because more democratic involvement is better, y'all), so we already have the "negative tax" end of the curve. Maybe start by saying any donation over the disclosure threshold is taxed at 30% (or the company tax rate).

I can imagine that being yet another sensible idea that The Greens and their sympathetic microparties support, but everyone else opposes either reflexively (tax bad, transparency bad) or opposes because The Greens support it (the self-labelled "left" wing of the Labour Party).

192:

Australia makes the first $1500/year donated to a political party tax deductible (because more democratic involvement is better, y'all), so we already have the "negative tax" end of the curve...

Oh, I like that! A progressive taxation plan sounds good. As you point out, we want people to participate in their government and not be crushed by whoever has the deepest slush fund.

I suggest, for places like the United States, a tax schedule relative to the election cycle. It's both reasonable and honest to donate to a favored candidate a few months before an election; years in advance, rather less so. (Donald Trump set up a fund for his 2020 campaign in January 2017, because he has no clue how to not look like a crook.) Those of you who live in places with short elections that aren't scheduled years in advance can write this off as someone else's problem and another Weird American Thing.

193:

_Moz_ replied to JBS @ 171:

"Massive benefits in investment and job growth following Trump’s American tax cuts show us that ..."

To which the rest of us can only say "huh?". The "investment" was in share buy-backs and there was no extra job growth.

Please be careful how you format your responses so that you NEVER again attribute another's statements to me.

I am DEEPLY OFFENDED that you put someone else's lies into my mouth.

194:

Antistone @ 173: So to clarify...the group of people protesting this decision on the grounds that corporations should not count as persons are those who feel BOTH:

1. Corporations SHOULD NOT be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns, but

2. Rich individual human beings SHOULD be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money on political campaigns

...because anyone who wanted to apply the same restrictions to both corporations and individuals wouldn't have any particular need to put them in different categories (or at least, that wouldn't be the central issue). Do I understand correctly?

No. You do not.

While I accept your first proposition, I do not accept your second (nor your third). No one should be allowed to buy elections, whether they are a corporation or individually wealthy. Whatever categories you might want to put them in is immaterial.

195:

“self-labelled "left" wing”

I quite like your suggestion that Albanese would make a great stay at home dad.

Recently an old friend (both senses of the word) and neighbour who happens to be active in the local ALP branch threw something like this at me (I’m slightly active in the Greens, not as much as I should be) imagining it was some sort of invective. That is, that the attraction of the Greens is really only as a policy engine for the ALP, and that Greens policies usually eventually become ALP ones. Because, actually isn’t that a good thing? Kinda wish opposing “deterrence” would figure as such, but that’s still out of bounds. It’s more that we’re playing tug-of-war with the Overton window with the One Nations and the Fraser Annings... though really, I suppose that’s the one useful purpose for the Left Renewal types, sigh.

Greg@172 Actually as Charlie proposed it, and as most of the people talking it through here would most likely agree, it would not mean that at all. Your primary residence (within reason) would attract at least some degree of exemption and the whole thing would require a threshold. TL;DR if your property is such that you’d be affected, there’s no way selling it would leave you in penury or realistically render you homeless.

196:

RP @ 144
THAT appalling system was tried in Tudor England – shove the responsibility on to someone else …
Replaced by “Speenhamland”, which didn’t work either, replaced by the 1834 Poor Law – characterised (both of them) by Dickens … oops.

Charlie @ RP @ 145 etc.
The “Duck Test” is slowly, but surely being used to squeeze Uber out of our system I’m glad to say … means (assuming Supreme Court follows previous decisions ) that Uber “employees” are actually employees, which means Uber owes HMRC several tens (at least) of £millions in Employers’ NI contributions, how sad.

Heteromeles @ 149
Get a copy of one of the recent New Naturalists, No. # 134
Early Humans, by Nick Ashton - deals with humanity in Britain over most of the past million years. It ends with a scenario I’ve mentioned before, the early-mesolithic family on the muddy shores of the Severn …..
It deals in depth with the vast & often rapid changes in climate during that period.
… & @ 182
Honest & Dishonest Graft ? - a Kipling poem on the same.

Tbh @ 151
Oaks will no longer grow in shaded areas in England ( Oak wilt fungus ) … but they are still springing up all over the place, because of their dispersal … by Jays, who can easily deposit a viable acorn well over a mile away form its parent tree.

Moz @ 171
I’m mostly staying out of the “tax” debate because every single one of you is wrong in some way or another … but: “Sales Taxes” are often though of as a good idea, because rich people buy more & more expensive things than poor -people, except the problem is … a tax on food.
GB has got round this by exempting fresh food from VAT … mostly.
Postscript to self @ 172 – or are you exempting “personal private residence” from a “Wealth Tax”?
They don’t usually, though ….
…. & @ 175
In the UK, mostly, corporations are NOT ALLOWED to contribute huge sums to election campaigns, so we don’t get the obscene spectacle provided by the US example. Indeed, the Brexit-Leave people have got themselves in to entire well-deserved trouble for exactly this behaviour. [ Not nearly enough trouble, incidentally, but that’s another story. ]

Erwin @ 184
Apparently the Trump shutdown is already slowing the US economy … the longer it goes on the fewer jobs & money-circulation there is – people are already noticing 7 the few sensible R’s appear to be worrying about it.
DD @ 187
Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Wars of Justinian in 5th-6th C Italy ….

UHG @ 189
Except, … moving your wealth out of the country to avoid a “Wealth Tax” … you can’t do that if you ONLY asset is the house you live in ( Like me )
Which is why it’s a REALLY BAD IDEA.
… & Damian @ 195 – noted. I would like clarification, though.

^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
P.S.
W.T.F ???
I've had to re-format my hyperlinks twice, bacuse something is dicking with the presence, absence & "shape" of my quote-maks in the links - what's bloody going on?

197:

JBS, I'm really sorry. There's limited formatting options and I tried to make it clear that I was quoting the source linked to immediately before that line.

Moz wrote:
up reading like this: Massive benefits

Not sure how to deal with that... since this is a reply to JBS I fear you're going to take it as me claiming you wrote the bit after "Moz wrote:"...

Suggestions welcomed.

198:

_Moz_ @ 174:

It looks to me like it penalizes my small lifetime accumulation of assets more than it penalizes inherited wealth.

How so? You're paying at most 0.25% on assets that should be earning you 3-5%, the billionaire is effectively paying 2.5% (because the overwhelming majority of their wealth is taxed at the top marginal rate). It's very likely you would actually be paying zero because you'll be under the million dollar threshold, and if you're not then we're not talking about the accumulated wealth of even a second decile wage earner.

There will still be edge cases, the poor old lady who just happened to live in what's now an incredibly wealthy suburb so she's working class but the land her old shack sits on is worth millions. That tax will force her to take out a reverse mortgage and could leave her kids with only half the unearned wealth they expected to get when she dies! Tragedy!

I kind of sympathise, one side of my family was forced to sell off their farm over the years to pay land tax. They had the (bad?) luck to own a small farm in the middle of what is now Auckland... as the city expanded their land value went up, land tax went up... they had to sell off or go bankrupt. But on the other hand, being down to your last couple of acres of land in the middle of a major city is not exactly penury. That side of the family is very well off, thankyouverymuch, because they own a couple of acres of houses in the middle of a major city.

I too am working class; lower half of the second quintile. My "income" is half Social-Security and half retired pay from the U.S. Army. I'm retired and unable to work due to health issues that I believe are related to my time in the Army, but are not accepted as such by the VA, although I do get medical care.

I don't have assets earning 3-5%. I own the house I live in and have a modest IRA in a credit union equal to about 3 years "income". Without my house and the VA medical, I'd be living under a bridge somewhere, another homeless vet panhandling on the street corner ... or already dead.

I've worked hard for more than 50 years; scrimped and saved to prepare for retirement. There won't be any unearned wealth left for my heirs. They'll be lucky if there's enough left to bury me when I die.

A "wealth tax" as proposed would slowly strip my assets, hastening the day I'll be out on the street, homeless.

199:

Meanwhile ...
If you thought T May was arrogant & stupid - try this - Corbyn doing his amazingly incompetent best to prevent either talks or a second Referendum.

200:

"Wealth Tax"

We need better methods of transferring both wealth and income from the rich (particularly inherited wealth: great to see that the % of the UK rich list due to inherited rather than self-made wealth has been declining significantly) to the not-rich.

But finding a solution to asset flight is not simple without some sort of global cooperation.

Comparing the UK and Sweden: Sweden has a better Gini coefficient for income than UK but rather worse Gini for wealth. Sweden tried to address this problem some years back with a wealth tax and succeeded in only temporarily improving their wealth Gini, presumably because the rich temporarily moved their assets out of Sweden's jurisdiction.

201:

I own the house I live in and have a modest IRA in a credit union equal to about 3 years "income".... A "wealth tax" as proposed would slowly strip my assets,

The wealth tax being discussed wouldn't affect you directly, the effect if anything would be a drop in the tax you pay on other income (via tax substitution). The whole point of making it progressive is so people like you don't pay it. Any kind of "applies to everything" tax is not just bad for you, it's a significant administrative burden on the system as well.

202:

Meantime, the present prediction for the effects of AGW here (Scotland, circa 57.5N) are for it to be colder and wetter.

203:

What Corbyn says means that T May should agree with the EU to take no-deal off the table: takes two to tango : its meaningless for the UK to unilaterally take no-deal off because no deal is what happens if the UK cannot come up with a deal that passes both parliament and the EU.

The best bet for taking no deal off is Remain, but I don't think Corbyn is a remainer or that he thinks he is asking T May to switch to Remain before he lifts his boycott.

204:

The "tax free threshold" requirement is why when Pigeon talked about a flat tax on all income I kept talking about babies who have savings accounts opened for them, kids doing babysitting and people begging in the street. If you tax all income regardless, all those people now have to go through the tax system. It's a waste of time and effort if nothing else (and there is always something else). Economists call it fiscal drag or something similar.

Likewise the wealth tax only cutting in after the first million. If you have one million and one dollars of net assets you pay 0.25% of one dollar on that... effectively it kicks in at one million and four dollars :)

Australia has a possibly official "incidental income" rule that basically says if you happen to make a small profit on something you do for other reasons you can keep it. You can't claim related deductions, but it means that for example if I set up a bulk buy and because I'm experienced I set it up to run a small surplus, I don't have to religiously track the whole process and declare the (for example) $100 surplus as taxable income.

Having just been through the process of having 250kg of rice in my garage while I ate my way through it, I can't emphasise enough that when setting up bulk buys you need to be ready for people to not pay, pay and not collect, or change their mind about what they want after you've had their order delivered to you but before they pick it up. Ahem.

205:

Personally I didn't for a moment think those were your words. I took it to be a quote from the linked article.

206:

(Scotland, circa 57.5N) are for it to be colder and wetter.

En-poss-ee-bleh! How could any part of Scotland possibly get colder and wetter? The inhabitants already die of heat exhaustion if temperatures get above freezing, and burn to a crisp if the sun comes out for more than half an hour. Next thing you'll be trying to tell us that half The Netherlands is already below sea level or something equally ridiculous.

207:

I would abolish "limited liability" if I could. Make the shareholders and corporate officers fully accountable for wrongs done by the corporation. I can't.
With the note that I'm stating the position in UK law this looks like a fundamental misunderstanding of Limited Liability. LL limits the personal liability of stakeholders in a corporation in the event of bankruptcy of the corporation to the face value of their stake: for example, if you hold 3_600 shares of £0-01 in $corporation, your personal liability for that corporation's debts is 3600 * 0.01, ie £36-00. If those shares were trading at, say £3-00 per share your personal loss of net worth would be £10_800, which could be written off against any Capital Gains Tax liability in the present or next tax years.

LL specifically does not offer corporate officials any protection against criminal charges resulting from any acts, omissions or willful neglect of their duties and responsibilities as officers of the corporation.

208:

To be fair to Greg and JBS, I think that in general people in the UK and especially in the USA are less used to concepts like general exemptions, thresholds and means testing than we are. Even where their national systems have such things, they are under explained and not widely understood.

I actually quite like Pigeon’s idea. I agree it’s probably unworkable, but I appreciate how it could work in a certain way, though would question whether all the implications are desirable. The reason I like it is because I’ve always suspected that names and how they play to ideological prejudices are more important than we usually credit. The sort of people who’d regard a socially enforced closed shop labour union with a monopoly over a certain trade as worse than Stalin, never seem to have the slightest problem if you call it the Royal Australian College of Physicians or similar.

I guess it’s the same way that in Australia businesses adversting their prices ex-GST would attract some unwelcome attention from the ACCC, not to mention the way this would be an own goal in terms of reputation building. Apparently this behaviour is not just legal but normal (even coercively normative) in the USA, and that’s the sort of thing Pigeon’s getting at (I think).

209:

Greg: the flip side of the "wealth tax" coin is usually a requirement that it be coupled with a working welfare state, i.e. one that provides cradle-to-grave free-at-point-of-delivery healthcare, unemployment insurance, income support for those who can't work, and a working state pension system. Oh, and probably decent quality social housing as well. (Note that the latter would deflate the housing market substantially, so is impossible to debate in the UK—but it would actually benefit you, because you're not planning on moving anywhere, and your home would drop in value into the zero-rated bracket for wealth tax purposes. Similarly: your pension investments? They get taxed progressively, but you also get a lift from a working state pension system rather than the withered vestige we've got today.

In other words, it's not about you: it's about massively squeezing the soaring Gini coefficient we've been saddled with by the oligarchs, for the benefit of everyone except the 0.1%.

Remember, in the USA today about 40% of the population have less than $500 in accumulated assets; in the UK, it's not too different. These people are being hammered by current policies that favour the oligarchs and the elderly (who have paid-up houses with a high book value, and pension savings with ditto, and who turn out to vote for the pro-oligarch party). We need to rebalance things badly. But if we simply try to tax the rich, the rich will find better ways to hide their income.

210:

Meanwhile in Australia it's forecast to just keep getting hotter. Peaked at 41 degrees in my back yard today at about 3pm, and 34 degrees inside.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-01-18/temperature-in-sydney-soars/4471424

211:

We need to rebalance things badly.

Sorry man but I am laughing *at* you. We already balance things appallingly badly, and the current UK government is doing absolutely everything badly :D

If your government was in Police custody they'd be lying in a corner claiming the sobriety test was unfair because the room was spinning and the floor wasn't level.

Mind you, our government would be standing at the custody desk swaying and covered in their own blood while saying "you should see the other guy" and punching themselves in the face every time they got a hand free.

212:

The main issue I have with the wealth tax concept is that the truly wealthy people won't have to pay it.

Of course this applies to income tax and every other tax, and is a consequence of who gets to write the tax laws.

So first we need a government composed of perfectly spherical incorruptible politicians...

213:

I think that in general people in the UK and especially in the USA are less used to concepts like

I'm sorry, I also have a tendency to forget that other people didn't grow up with an accountant helping them with schoolwork. I have been known to say out loud "it's just maths" while whistle-stopping through fairly complex financial stuff. It's maths plus a whole lot of knowledge of tax, investment, corporation and property law.

Speaking of which, here's an economist dreaming of a socialist utopia in the Guardian today. Some of the topics we've just been talking about here.

214:

Just a random thought: I keep wondering if Elizabeth II will go down in history the way Kamehameha I did. ... when she was born, England was one of history's great empires. Depending on Brexit and when she passes, the backfire from Brexit might conceivably have turned the UK into England, Wales, and various tiny islands. And she presided over this devolution.

You give her far too much credit for having anything to do with what's going on.

E2 was crowned in February 1952. The British Empire was already collapsing, largely due to the cost of war loans leveraged by one Theodore Roosevelt in 1940, whose price for US support (prior to Pearl Harbour) was basically the end of the empire in India and Africa. Britain bled dry during the second world war—in September 1945 the nation was barely solvent, and rationing wasn't abolished until 1953. In 1956, the impossibility of keeping the empire east of Suez on life support on a vastly diminished stream of loot (from India) became glaringly obvious. Imperial bureaucracies are a fixed cost: once the size of the empire being governed began to drop, the profitability of operating the remnants also began to drop (bear in mind that the colonized didn't much like it: see, for example, the Mau Mau in Malaysia, and other liberation movements that began to gain traction after the Indian Peoples Congress showed that it was possible to throw off the yoke).

So Elizabeth II was crowned just in time to ride the thing all the way down.

Meanwhile, Elizabeth II's childhood was dominated by two events: the war, but more personally, the crisis around her uncle, Edward VIII. E8's forced abdication in 1938 was leveraged because he was too close to Hitler—personal friends, no less—and it was clear to almost everybody that war was inevitable. (The "peace in our time" shtick with Neville Chamberlain? Chamberlain went straight from that aerodrome to Number 10 and ordered up a mind-bogglingly expensive rearmament program. He's remembered for his public words, but his private actions speak volumes.) The abdication crisis nearly turned into a crisis for the institution of the monarchy, and the stress of being king during a world war broke her father's health: subsequently E2 has always pursued one mission in adult life, and that's to preserve the monarchy.

You do not preserve a notionally-impartial institution by taking sides in a fight that will cause half your followers to question your sanity (Brexit). You preserve it by floating serenely over the surface and let your minions deal with the crap.

Lizzie has nothing to do with the state of politics in the UK; she provides useful input into diplomatic relations (when the FO bother to ask her) because she's known pretty much every world leader for 75 years, but that's about it. She's not a ruler, she's a unifying figurehead. And there's a pretty good chance that when she goes, it'll mark the beginning of the end for the institution of constitutional monarchy.

215:

despite what people think about the British monarch being a mere figure head, Liz is actually very powerful:

Ahem: that's just a youtube video, optimized for click-throughs to their ads.

The truth is more like, there are a bunch of powers notionally attached to the crown that remain on the books because they haven't been used for a Very Long Time. By this definition the monarch has a lot of powerful tools. However, if she tries to use any of those levers, it automatically triggers a constitutional crisis, and the outcome of any monarch/parliament showdown since 1649 is that parliament wins and the monarch loses (in extremis, loses their life).

Nobody's going to behead Lizzie, but it's totally conceivable that if she started acting up, a tame doctor would diagnose dementia (she's 92) and she'd be forced to abdicate in favour of a more tractable monarch.

If a replacement monarch proved less manageable, then further steps would be taken.

The only way the monarch gets to exercise those special powers is if the regular political system crashes in flames and whoever's left in charge asks the monarch to flip a coin (e.g. dissolve parliament, triggering a fresh general election).

Finally, the death penalty is illegal under UK law in all member nations of the union, thanks to the Human Rights Act, which codified the ECHR in UK legal systems. Even if the tories push Brexit through and repeal the HRA (as Theresa May seems to want), it'll still be illegal in Scotland (where the ECHR/HRA rights are baked into the Scotland Act, which makes removing them a constitutional crisis issue).

216:

that Greens policies usually eventually become ALP ones. ... we’re playing tug-of-war with the Overton window

I largely agree, and one of my favourite moments in Australian politics was Pauline Hanson saying when leaving parliament "I have won, my policies are now the policies of the government". I don't like her or her policies, but she had that bit right - the goal of minor parties is exactly to have their policies stolen, put into practice, and lose all their voters to what is now so mainstream and obvious that why would anyone vote for the minor party any more?

Meanwhile, I'm in NSW so The Greens are not my first choice (hooray factions, legal infighting and sexual harassment coverups). I'm more of the "shifting the policy window within The Greens" group, because I think they've pre-compromised far too much on their green policies and need a good firm kick up the arse. The next elections (state and federal due first half of this year) I will likely volunteer with "The Science Party" who have finally cleaned up their policies and dumped the nasty bits. I am impressed.

I'm a member of "Save the Planet" and known to the local Greens coven as well as the ALP (and LEAN, the Labour Environment Action Network), because I have volunteered for both at various times. It looks as though I will try volunteering with the scientists. That makes me happy.

What do we want?
Evidence based policy!
When do we want it?
After peer review!

217:

A "wealth tax" as proposed would slowly strip my assets, hastening the day I'll be out on the street, homeless.

You missed the "progressive" angle, with a zero-rated tier for a reasonable home and pension.

Which is to say, you'd probably be exempt. (Three year's average income in the UK would be around £75,000, up to £150K if you want to be generous and include the middle class professionals; note I pencilled in a threshold of £250K, or about a decade's average wages.)

218:

We already balance things appallingly badly,

I'm talking about rebalancing in the long term—back to roughly 1950-level inequality in the UK, for example (after the most radical left government in British history brought in a welfare state and a marginal income tax rate of 83% and hammered the hereditary aristocrats with inheritance tax).

In other words, "rebalancing" because it sounds better than "revolution" as a way of achieving something closer to a working social democratic/socialist state. (Talking about "revolution" tends to bring up unhealthy ideas about achieving goals through mass murder, and I want that off the table as an option before we begin.)

219:

Charlie,
Just a wee correction regarding coal mines. When you're mining coal using what used to be termed the Welsh Method (because the Welsh coal miners were, a couple of hundred years ago, at the forefront of mining technology) and is now termed longwall mining, you start by digging a long tunnel through your coal seam.

Then you install a long line of hydraulic roof support machines, huge and wonderfully beautiful things, and then you bring in the face mining machine. Coal mining consists then of cutting away a metre or so of coal from the working face, then making all the roof support machine take a step forwards, towards the working face. The rock roof behind them is then unsupported. At the end of each shift you quite often used to get quite a big area of space, roof unsupported, behind the line of roof supports. The miners used to call it a ballroom, but never went in because the roof here was expected to collapse (and did).

When you've mined out a seam by longwall mining, that area has always collapsed. It probably hasn't finished collapsing, but it has always mostly collapsed. Coal mines generally consist of seams of coal interspersed with seams of fireclay, sand and so on. All of this lot is fairly porous, so coal mines always need water pumps running 24/7, and also always need ventilation running to clear methane, carbon oxides and the like from the mine.

As soon as you abandon a mine, it floods, and over time the roadways and other tunnels also collapse. Every single mine becomes first dangerous, then lethal then impassable in fairly short order after abandonment unless it is a shallow pillar & stall working.

How do I know all of this? My house is built on old mine workings, so researching what was going on seemed like a good idea at the time.

220:

Most wealthy people do not accumulate large amounts of actual currency, or currency sitting in a bank account. What they do is invest their money in various investment vehicles, which end up being stocks, shares and the like.

If you then start trying to levy a wealth tax, then these accumulations of wealth are going to vanish overseas, and likely not be invested in the British economy at all for fear of government confiscation. At a stroke, a wealth tax would dramatically reduce the amount in investment in UK businesses, and at the same time would raise next to no money.

About all it would do is prove a political point, the point being that these elected politicians are really, really stupid.

221:

@Charlie 209:

The UK Gini income coefficient is not soaring dramatically - its actually been fairly stable recently. The problem is the increasing ratio of extreme %s at the top and bottom rather than the middle 80%

https://www.equalitytrust.org.uk/how-has-inequality-changed

222:

There seem to be large dollop of British Narcissism fuelling the Brexit Chaos.

There is this thing that every single time anyone from the EU-utters a single word on anything, a loud chorus of Brexiteer media pundits and politicians will chant: "They loves us, they wants us, they needs us, they don't want us to leave, ever, but we will, once they give us a better deal because they love us ... et cetera".

Theresa May, George Corbyn and all those ass-clowns writing for Daily Mail, fully believe that running out the clock will finally make the EU "see sense" and give Great Britain the "better than what everyone else has"-Deal that Great Britain clearly, obviously, deserve to have because they are better people than those "Euros"!

In addition, it seems to be incomprehensible to the UK side that the EU side also possess interests and principles of their own that they will not abandon, even if it will be at significant financial costs to them.

We seem to have been propelled into an 'Age of Unreason' were 'being right' is seen as better than 'being anything else', including just 'being alive'. Not very different to the mentality of a Suicide Bomber, I'd say.

All this means that "Games of Chicken" are a perfectly viable strategy for leaders of major western powers to adopt and that Brexit is going to happen because the Tory Government will have to pass legislation to cancel or extend the deadline, with passing legislation being a task they are very clearly unable to perform. I doubt they could pass a round of drinks at this stage.

I think also that Brexit has to happen because of the toxicity of the whole debate. It will not be useful to cancel or extend A.50, then have the EU parliament fill up with UKIP'ers and Nigel Farange's, their numbers swollen and their fervour newly energised by "The Betrayal of Brexit", and them joining up with Le Pen & Co!

----
I have seen a few divorces from narcissist partners and they do not go down quietly. Narcissists have their own grief process. Their "Five Stages" are: Denial, anger, bargaining, depression and stalking! The sequence loops back and repeat!!

I think for the 'Stalking Phase', we can expect generous British, and US funnelled via London, funding for all manner of "Yellow Vests", Len Pen, "Obanites", Alt-Right/News Media and whatever else that the EU can be hammered with as punishment for abandoning Great Britain.

223:

Charles W
Of course not … Corby wants to be in charge of a UK-style of Venezuela …..
Agree that best bet is ”Remain” – but that is realistically going to require a third referendum …

Charlie @ 209
Agree with everything you say … but that assumes that the “Wealth Tax” law would be written sanely & with sensible “bottom limits” aren’t we?
Oh, look! A whole squadron of Pigs …
[ … see also dbp @ 212 … ]
@ 214 – THANK YOU for that about Chamberlain – Stanley Baldwin was the one who got us into the mess ….
@ 217 … thanks to insane London property prices, even my falling-down Victorian house is probably worth over £1 million, plus the £25k I can’t afford to underpin it … my father paid £2700 in 1948 …..
@ 218 - no too early – I REMEMBER the 1950’s … let’s make it some time between 1960 & 1970 for Gini coefficient, please?
… see also Charles W @ 221

Fajensen @ 222
Yes – almost.
IF we can get a 2nd ( or 3rd ) Referendum I predict “Remain” by a sizeable majority & yes, the remaining UKIPpers etc will join with the really unsavoury right - & we will have minor troubles on the streets … but by & large they will become the modern Jacobites, toasting the “King over the Water” & any actual violent protest will be stamped on.

224:

#215 is a very similar analysis to my own; Score another barrowload of own goals for the "Palace of Oathbreakers" generally, and the Brexit faction in particular.

225:

My house is built on old mine workings

My sister has a place in Canmore (and old mining town rejuvenated as a mecca for outdoor enthusiasts). Lots of abandoned mines all over the place, and often no longer any records of where they are — until they collapse and you get a sinkhole,

For example:
https://www.rmoutlook.com/article/dyrgas-gate-sinkhole-turns-six-years-old-20160526

226:

"The main issue I have with the wealth tax concept is that the truly wealthy people won't have to pay it."

The truly wealthy spend hundreds of millions of dollars every year lobbying for more favorable taxes in the US. They put up with Donald Trump in the whitehouse for more favorable taxes. They became vastly more wealthy as the tax system was changed to favor them rather than disfavor them over 50+ years.

It is a myth that the super rich desperately want the regular people to believe so they give up hope, roll over, and allow them to continue increasing their share.

227:

There are very good reasons for limiting the liability for minor shareholders. Major share holders *are* (officially) liable. But the liabilities that are theoretically present are never (hardly ever) enforced. And perhaps the limitation on the liability for the minor shareholders is too limited. ("You might lose your investment, but that's all.") One of the arguments for the current form of "limited liability" is that it's easy to build in automatic enforcement. That's not true for most alternative formulations.

But the control of the corporation rests with the major stockholders (more then 10% of the stock), the board of directors, and the CEO. And they aren't legally immune, they're just never prosecuted.

228:

Yes, that is true, but sometimes they can't easily.

For example the Grosvenor family - the Dukes of Westminster - own most of Mayfair and Belgravia and a fair chunk of the rest of the UK alongside substantial assets in the wider world. The Duke's personal assets were valued at something like £9-10billion when he died a few years back. In theory the State should have gotten a 40% inheritance tax bill from that, which was roughly equivalent to the cost of the NHS!.

They paid no inheritance taxes whatsoever ... indeed I am given to understand the state ended up owing the family money instead.

Yes, trust funds and so on are deliberately designed to protect family assets should someone die. But there needs to be a limit.

At the end of the day, Mayfair and Belgravia is in London. It's very hard to pick it up and move it overseas, despite what the ownership of the title deeds say. And it is particularly lucrative, because it houses all lots of embassies and banks and so on.
Either the returns stay in the UK, in which case it can be taxed, or it leaves the UK, at which point it should be taxed. Would that limit investment? Potentially, but not in a bad way.

229:

Unfortunately, I'm not widely read in that area. It doesn't interest me. I occasionally encounter them, so I know they exist, but this doesn't help answer "How do I find them?" It's worth remembering that John Locke wrote quite a bit before the US revolution. And a lot of the people I'm thinking of write Science Fiction (it pays the bills) rather than philosophy (it doesn't)...and the defect there is unless you're really subtle you can't put a complete idea into one story.

Also, being intelligent political philosophers doesn't mean I agree with them. Robert Anton Wilson had a lot of very good points and arguments, but being intelligent didn't result in pushing a system that I feel would work. Charles Stross has a lot of implicit arguments about what kind of things we should expect governments to do, but his proposals for something that would work are ... at best unconvincing. (But he believes things will fall apart no matter what we try...and he may be right.) Even Alan Dean Foster has come up with arguments along that line...his solution, the Collegatarch (see "The I Inside") might well work, but it's beyond our current technological abilities, and "How do you get there from here?".

James Hogan has come up with several different approaches, none of them convincing, all beyond our current technological abilities, but some of his proposals don't look unreachable from here. Just unlikely to be reached. And one or two of them might work.

Just about every major science fiction writer plays with building a better government. I rarely find one that's both convincing and plausibly reachable.

OTOH, I tend to find the serious political theorists bat-shit crazy. And the economists are worse.

Part of the problem is that the solution to "largely automated jobs, but many are still required" is intrinsically intractable, and all decent solutions to what it looks like on the far side of that state are strongly undesirable to all those who are currently powerful.

Now if we could find a sound economic justification for nearly independent large mobile space habitats that would change the complexion of the problem. Especially if we solve the problem of relatively cheap controlled fusion. (I.e., cheap enough that each habitat could/should have its own power source.)

The problem has two basic parts:
1) what will our technological capabilities be x years in the future. (I include sociology in these capabilities.)
2) how does one transition from the current state to the desired state.

This is probably why most of the answers, insufficient as they are, come out of science fiction. If your technology is static, then that's not the right place to look, but if it's rapidly changing, no other place is going to consider it. Except futurologists, and they are all ideologues rather than modelers, because it doesn't pay well otherwise. (Even then you've got to be both a good writer and lucky. Compare "Future Shock" with "Profiles of the Future" to see what I mean.)

230:

Sigh.

>roughly equivalent to the cost of the NHS deficit!.

This site really badly needs that 1-2min edit your post feature.

231:

It's not that I feel rich individuals should be allowed to spend unlimited amounts of money to finance political campaigns...but it's that I don't think they should be able to do so anonymously by hiding behind a corporate veil.

I can certainly understand grounds for saying there should be limits on the amount one is allowed to spend on a political campaign...but the rules on how to do that aren't clear, and that would validly require a constitutional amendment. (It was said long ago "The power of the press belongs to the man who owns one.".)

So I consider it worse to have corporations bribing candidates than to have rich sponsors doing so, even though I consider the second abominable.

232:

@ Greg - I've had to re-format my hyperlinks twice, bacuse something is dicking with the presence, absence & "shape" of my quote-maks in the links - what's bloody going on?

You're probably using a word processor rather than an editor to create your posts. Don't use MS Word, or Libre Office or anything like that because they'll use smartquotes (and depending on the font in use, you might not see them.) Use Notepad or something similar and your links should work just fine.

233:

What do we want?
Evidence based policy!
When do we want it?
After peer review!

Do you mind if I steel that for my book?

234:

paws4thot @ 207:

"I would abolish "limited liability" if I could. Make the shareholders and corporate officers fully accountable for wrongs done by the corporation."

With the note that I'm stating the position in UK law this looks like a fundamental misunderstanding of Limited Liability. LL limits the personal liability of stakeholders in a corporation in the event of bankruptcy of the corporation to the face value of their stake ...

LL specifically does not offer corporate officials any protection against criminal charges resulting from any acts, omissions or willful neglect of their duties and responsibilities as officers of the corporation.

You're right. That's how the law was written; how it is supposed to work. I'm commenting on how it actually works, particularly how the courts in the U.S. have come to apply it.

Protecting shareholders hardly even applies any more. In practice, "limited liability" now protects Corporate Management even from accountability to the shareholders.

235:

Damian @ 208: To be fair to Greg and JBS, I think that in general people in the UK and especially in the USA are less used to concepts like general exemptions, thresholds and means testing than we are. Even where their national systems have such things, they are under explained and not widely understood.

I understand "general exemptions, thresholds and means testing". I have to deal with them every year when I go to figure out my income taxes (Federal and State) either to pay them or more often file for a refund of the over-payment, since taxes have been withheld from every "paycheck" I've ever received. It's one of the reasons I've become so well educated on the way government taxes earned income differently from the way it taxes unearned income.

I already pay "wealth tax" several times a year[1] as well. Over here, they're called property taxes. And oddly enough, the way they work there is no "threshold" below which tax does not apply, but there is a maximum value above which the taxes are capped.

I've also paid "flat" taxes for FICA (Federal Insurance Contributions Act, AKA Social Security) & Medicare. Again there's no "threshold", but there is a cap. The first dollar earned is taxed at the same rate as the 128,400th dollar earned. The 128,401st dollar and any dollars above that are exempt from taxation due to the FICA "wage base limit". Medicare taxes are not subject to the FICA "wage base limit".

[1] Real Estate & personal property taxes for the current year (2019) are due in September of the preceding year (2018), and must be paid by the end of the first week in January to avoid penalty. Property tax on vehicles are collected when the registration comes due.

236:

Charlie Stross @ 209: Greg: the flip side of the "wealth tax" coin is usually a requirement that it be coupled with a working welfare state, i.e. one that provides cradle-to-grave free-at-point-of-delivery healthcare, unemployment insurance, income support for those who can't work, and a working state pension system. Oh, and probably decent quality social housing as well.

If they implemented a "wealth tax" system in the U.S. we wouldn't get any of those benefits. And the system would be rigged so there's no "threshold", but there would be a cap; a maximum value above which there would be no tax.

How it should work in theory and how it will work in practice are two different things defined by the golden rule - Them what has the gold makes the rules.

237:

dpb @ 212: So first we need a government composed of perfectly spherical incorruptible politicians...

Couldn't we just take the corruptible politicians we already have and run them through a hydraulic stamping mill to form them into perfect spheres?

Might have to lop off some extraneous bits here and there to smooth the surface, but I don't see where that would be a problem.

238:

“Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.” H.L. Mencken

239:

Charlie Stross @ 214: E2 was crowned in February 1952. The British Empire was already collapsing, largely due to the cost of war loans leveraged by one Theodore Roosevelt in 1940, whose price for US support (prior to Pearl Harbour) was basically the end of the empire in India and Africa.

Teddy died in 1919. I think you mean Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Lizzie has nothing to do with the state of politics in the UK; she provides useful input into diplomatic relations (when the FO bother to ask her) because she's known pretty much every world leader for 75 years, but that's about it. She's not a ruler, she's a unifying figurehead. And there's a pretty good chance that when she goes, it'll mark the beginning of the end for the institution of constitutional monarchy.

Do you think Charlie will be crowned King? Or will Parliament force them to skip a generation and put William on the throne? Historically, the Williams (I, II, III and IV) appear to have prospered & been more successful than either of the Charlies (I or II).

240:

Charlie Stross @ 217:

A "wealth tax" as proposed would slowly strip my assets, hastening the day I'll be out on the street, homeless.

You missed the "progressive" angle, with a zero-rated tier for a reasonable home and pension.

I didn't miss it. I just don't believe it.

Perhaps I would be exempt under your proposal, but those with the power to control writing the tax laws are never going to implement a tax structure that taxes the weathly more than it taxes me.

241:

"Convergent interests"

There's a book from the late sixties, called "The Strawberry Statement" (of which I have two copies, mine, and one that was my late wife's). It was written by one of the leaders of the Columbia (Univ) student strike in the late sixties. Among the things they did was occupy the University President's office, and they went through his files. Not "conspiracy", but "one dirty hand washing another."

As I said, I have two copies, one of which I could loan....

242:

If I run for office next year, that's going to be one of my bullet points, that Faux "News" is *not* a news outlet (dammit, Obama wimped out on that). To use his own language, it's a fascist propaganda mill, owned by someone who got annoyed that Australia wouldn't let him outright own 75% of *all* their media, and, from what I've read, set a corporate environment such that the employees felt it was ok to outright bribe government officials in Oz, the UK and the US, and it has *always* pushed the bounds to the right of "what was acceptable", until the literal fascists in the US are "just another opinion".....

Damn it, where's my tumbrels?!

243:

Two much decentralization is a Bad Idea. Were the US that decentralized, then, for example, President Eisenhower couldn't have sent the troops into the South in the mid-fifties to desegregate the schools.

"Smaller government" is a right-wing bugaboo, because it's a lot easier for multi-millionaires and billionaires and companies to *own* the local government. Look up "company town".

244:

There is not a single member of the GOP who is fit to lick Lincoln's shoes, much less any of the Founding Fathers.

They are 150% wholly-owned toadies of the billionaires.

245:

When they start their shooting war, I need to make like Mr. T, and start welding steel on the front of my vehicle.

A large minivan has a *lot* more impact than a bullet.

246:

There's another thing about the car companies in the US: I really think that, underneath, they've got a lot of reasons to want to go electric, and the reasons are the petrochemical industry.

It's my belief, based on the fact that they put out fuel-efficient cars, and then, 2-4 years later, put out gas-guzzlers, that they're leaned on, heavily, by oil money.

Oh, another datum: I cannot buy a hybrid minivan in the US. NO ONE sells them, even though I see the same lines for sale in the UK and Europe as hybrids. THAT is unquestionably oil money.

247:

I dunno, I think McConnel is. He's the one who disabled Obama, and he's the one enabling Trump. Most, if not all, of the government shutdown would be over, I think, if he would let bills come to a vote.

248:

This is for the whole subthread of corporations/persons.

In the US, corporations are "artificial persons". The 14th Amendment, section 1, refers to all persons "born or naturalized."

Corporations are not born or naturalized, in the sense of the authors. Therefore, you shouldn't need a Constitional Amendment, all you need is a law to negate a lot of bad court decisions: "Corporations are not actual persons, and therefore have no reasonable expectation of free political speech."

Done. I like to refer to this, if I were putting it up, as the Dick Notebart bill. In the mid-nineties, I was working for Ameritech, the Baby Bell that used to be in the midwest, and he was our CEO. During the arguments about deregulating the telecom industry, all who weren't union (I was "management", since I do computers) were *REQUIRED* to write to our Senators and Congresscritters supporting dereg. When I dallied, my Director told me he didn't like to do it (and I still believe him), but upper management were REQUIRING me not only to do it, but to give *them* electronic copies of the letters.

Oh, that's right: right after I started, all us half a dozen new employees were *required* to attend a hard-sell session, to get us to contribute to the company PAC. (I didn't.)

Going on, then I'd submit another bill, saying, simply, "Money is not free speech, as anyone in the 1% thereby disenfranchises 90% of the population."

249:

Nah. Trouble is, there *are* good legislators, and this would make more trouble. When my late wife and I relocated to Chicago from Austin, one of our Senators was Paul Simon (not the singer). A couple years later - please, non-USans, remember that a Senator's term is 6 years - he decided to retire from the Senate, and said, in a published interview, that one of the things he disliked was the fact that every single day he was in office, he had to raise $10k for the next election cycle.

How about a non-compete clause? For as long as you served in Congress, you cannot take a position funded, directly or indirectly, from an industry or company you regulated?

250:

Everyone knows that was bought and paid for by the 0.1%.

As I said, above, it means all of the rest of us (the "takers", as Romney called us) are disenfranchised.

AND DO NOT MENTION UNIONS IN THIS - THAT IS FASCIST BULLSHIT!!!!!!!!!!!!

And I can PROVE it: about 6 years ago, I did something that NO ONE has ever done: I went to the IRS website and did some searching, including getting help from a *very* helpful employee there.

There are just over 6600 "labor organizations" - not all are unions - in the US. Their ENTIRE NET WORTH, including pension funds, strike funds, and property, like union halls, TOTALLED $26B.

TOTAL.

Now, less, has Apple added to its $78B IN CASH in the last year or two? How 'bout M$? Or Exxon? Or the medical insurance industry?

I'd love to put it to unions as to whether they'd give up donating to campaigns if companies were prevented from doing the same.... How fast do you think they'd say 'hell, yes!"?

251:

I know I've mentioned this before, over the years: I heard an interview, back in the nineties, with the last living member of FDR's Cabinet, and he said, in so many words, that the reason for the inheritance tax (known by Murdoch & co as the "death tax") was to prevent a class of inherited wealth in the US.

252:

Break up Walmart. They have destroyed *many* small towns.

Hell, I've mentioned before, I heard a story back in the nineties, that somewhere out west, they opened a store at the edge of a town, and drove EVERY SINGLE BUSINESS, with the exception of the pharmacy, out of business. Then, five years later, they decided it wasn't "profitable" enough, and they closed it, and told folks to go to the nearest one, 30 mi away or so.

253:

Please reconsider your last sentence, in the light of the use of commas, or lack thereof.

254:

The British Empire was already collapsing, largely due to the cost of war loans leveraged by one Theodore Roosevelt in 1940, whose price for US support (prior to Pearl Harbour) was basically the end of the empire in India and Africa.

That's a bit of a stretch again FDR.

In 1939, 1940 the US about 70% against ANY war. Many of them against it even if attacked. FDR knew that there was about a 99% chance of the US getting into the war. But due to public thought there was no way to say that out loud. At times he even made public speeches where he would not commit to war even if attacked. He barely got through Congress a draft and re-armament "just in case".

He would have lost the election in 1940 if he had supported joining on the side of the UK in any way other than selling stuff to them.

It was Congress that demanded that the UK (and USSR) pay for stuff. Lend-Lease (which basically was a huge discount on "stuff") was opposed in the Congress via statements such as "the longest single step this nation has yet taken toward direct involvement in the war abroad" by the folks against even that.

Of course that public opinion was there in spite of at least 4 naval engagements prior to Dec 7, 1941. One of these involved the German sinking of a US destroyer.

255:

That comment was supposed to point to Charlie's comment, not JBS.

256:

so coal mines always need water pumps running 24/

And if you're above the water table you might get this.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Centralia_mine_fire

257:

That was a common sign/chant at the various "March for Science" events, it's not something I came up with.

https://twitter.com/LDNsciencemarch/status/855747446772834304

https://duckduckgo.com/?q=What+do+we+want+Evidence+based+policy+When+do+we+want+it+After+peer+review

Even the daily fail managed to put the whole thing in a headline

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4435746/Doctor-joins-March-Science-London.html

So... be my guest?

258:

Time was the National Coal Board (NCB) had a bounty for maps of old coal mines and their workings because the NCB was liable under law for all coal mine-induced subsidence anywhere in the UK. The deal was that if you built a house on a known mine site and it subsided you were shit out of luck regarding compensation, if it turned out later the NCB didn't know about it until it happened then you were quids in.

Someone else mentioned longwall -- my father's work in later life as a fitter in a couple of Scottish collieries was keeping hydraulic coal-cutting and moving machinery working. Longwall was quite a late development in coal-mining and since nearly the shallow easy-to-get coal had already been cut by hand, a lot of longwall operations were done at a sufficient depth that surface subsidence wasn't noticeable even after the backspace (I never heard the term ballroom) collapsed (the term I heard him use was infilled). It took time, a slow movement of the ceiling squeezing down to meet the floor. Normal longwall shearing left support pillars of uncut coal and spoil behind the face since the panzers (the self-advancing hydraulic jacks and shields) covering the cutting machines and loading belts taking the coal and spoil back from the face couldn't carry the total roof load by themselves.

259:

are due in September of the preceding year (2018), and must be paid by the end of the first week in January to avoid penalty.

I've always had trouble with the meaning of the word "due" in that sense.

To me they are DUE in January but they will take the money up to 4 months early.

I'm sure it has to due with some arcane phrasing of the state constitution or a 150 year old state law on taxes.

260:

to Chicago from Austin, one of our Senators was Paul Simon (not the singer)

I sort of remember him. I grew up near Paducah Ky, and southern Illinois was a big factor in the lives of the locals.

Long after I had moved away, my father would refer to him as "Simple Simon" when I visited.

261:

with the last living member of FDR's Cabinet, and he said, in so many words, that the reason for the inheritance tax (known by Murdoch & co as the "death tax") was to prevent a class of inherited wealth in the US.

Which grates a bit as FDR and all his relations were all about inherited wealth and worked hard to keep it.

262:

in the U.S. we wouldn't get any of those benefits. And the system would be rigged so there's no "threshold", but there would be a cap; a maximum value above

I realise that to some extent that is a valid observation of how the US governments work. But at the same time if you always act in accordance with the idea that all government action must inevitable fail, you are doomed. The only two reasonable responses I can see are emigration and suicide. My preference would be that the US reforms slowly and gently, but I fear they will reform dramatically and painfully. Revolutions are only glorious in hindsight.

My personal approach is to have two goals in mind: what I actually want, and what I think I can get. Hence the "campaign for same sex marriage while wanting marriage equality" above. These sorts of discussions of how things might be, and Quiggin's article on socialist utopia and so on, are useful ways to think through "what I actually want". In a way having Eeyore present is a useful reminder that such people exist, but it's better to have an informed pessimist who says "will not work because..."

Personally I've experienced a whole lot of significant political system changes in my life, New Zealand switched from a command economy to a free market one (Muldoon really did impose government price fixing), the creation of the Waitangi Tribunal (arguably NZ's highest court), the introduction of MMP (don't like the voting system? Change it), a bunch of changes to how sex is regulated and so on. All of that happened much more democratically than the US or UK commonly permit, possibly because of size as much as anything.

263:

Which grates a bit as FDR and all his relations were all about inherited wealth and worked hard to keep it.

So he was a class traitor, is that the problem? Or is it that he governed through the Great Depression, had a clear-eyed view of what caused it, and tried to set up systems that would prevent it from happening again?

264:

"taxation in Britain, and my posts are assuming the British context, where for nearly everyone their income tax is handled automatically by their employer's computer and although everyone is liable, next to nobody has to file a tax return themselves, because this automated system does the necessary."

"This caricature is laughably out of date."

Ahem:

"the vast majority of the UK population don't file income tax returns at all: tax is deducted at source via the employers by PAYE (Pay As You Earn)."

http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2018/11/brexit-means-brexit.html#comment-2056059

265:

"Pigeon talked about a flat tax on all income"

No, that isn't what I was talking about. That's just what you insist on saying I was talking about no matter how many times I tell you I wasn't.

"I kept talking about babies who have savings accounts opened for them, kids doing babysitting and people begging in the street. If you tax all income regardless, all those people now have to go through the tax system."

AFAIK babysitters and beggars do in theory have to go through the tax system (unless they're underage). It's still taxable income, it's just that the amounts are so trivial and the hassle of actually collecting them so great that nobody cares.

(Benefits are also taxable income, which is really bloody silly, but the minimum tax threshold is a lot more than the benefits so nobody actually pays any.)

As for underage savings accounts, that definitely happens already. I opened one for myself as a teenager and the building society insisted on knocking a bit off the interest for tax even though I was too young to have to pay it.

266:

"...all who weren't union (I was "management", since I do computers) were *REQUIRED* to write to our Senators and Congresscritters supporting dereg."

If I couldn't get away with procrastinating until they forgot about it, I'd probably have written a second letter privately, pointing out that the company letter was only written under threat and therefore should be disregarded, what I really think is (blah blah blah). And I'd have written it on a big sheet of something that doesn't fold and decorated it with colourful flowers or something to make sure it attracted more attention than the company letters.

267:

"I've had to re-format my hyperlinks twice, bacuse something is dicking with the presence, absence & "shape" of my quote-maks in the links - what's bloody going on?"

You're writing the post using some der-brained piece of software which has a "dumb quotes" feature that is turned on.

Somewhere, there will be an option to turn it off.

(The option will probably call it "smart quotes", but "dumb quotes" is a more accurate name, because they break things (as you noticed) in order to achieve nothing useful.)

268:

“The British Empire was already collapsing, largely due to the cost of war loans leveraged by one Theodore Roosevelt in 1940, whose price for US support (prior to Pearl Harbour) was basically the end of the empire in India and Africa.”

Seriously ? Do you really not believe the Indians themselves might have just had a slight little bit to do with that ?

This sentence is hogwash and borderline racist

269:

A hole appeared in the driveway leading to my parents' house and those of their immediate neighbours. Nobody had any idea this might happen and I still don't think anyone knows anything more than that it was a few hundred years old and a few hundred feet deep. They put a concrete lid on it but it's anyone's guess where the rest of the mine goes.

Come to that, I'm not even sure what they were digging up. The local mineral resource is salt and it is extracted by solvation and has been since Roman times. The resulting subsidence gives interesting demonstrations of just how far you can twist and distort a half-timbered building without it falling down.

270:

This is the British national debt interest payments as a% of gdp

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_the_British_national_debt

The Fact that the British Empire finally collapsed is in no way surprising , the fact that it survived as long as it did is surprising

271:

I found this interesting:
https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/opinion/sunday/brexit-ireland-empire.html
"The Malign Incompetence Of The British Ruling Class", in fairness, the UK seems to have no exclusive on that phenomenon and there seems to be no lack of it in the private sector.

272:

To be fair, I don't credit Kamehameha I with the loss of something like two-thirds of his people: that was due to disease.

Being on the throne is not the same thing as doing...

273:

...Faux "News" is *not* a news outlet (dammit, Obama wimped out on that).

Agreed. If I became president the first thing I would do is withdraw Fox's "White House" press credentials. "It is our opinion that they are nothing more than a propaganda mill."

Then I'd sic the IRS on the bastards.

274:

In many ways, having McConnel come to grief over the shutdown is preferable to having him come to grief over Trump.

275:

Sorry.

...because it won't look like the Democrats/Deep State are after him.

276:

Once you had "native" soldiers with something like a high-school education plus real military experience, it was game over for the empire - guerrilla war is a sergeants war (for the most part.)

277:

"Or will Parliament force them to skip a generation and put William on the throne?"

What for? Prince Charles may be a bit of a div but fucking with the succession is serious shit and nobody expects him to get us into a massive war or go round slaughtering people because they go to the wrong church or anything like that. And he's not exactly a youngster so William will get his turn soon enough in any case. It would just stir up a lot of trouble to achieve nothing useful (a bit like dumb quotes).

I think people suggest it mainly because they don't like the idea of a monarchy in the first place, and their dislike misleads them into having an idea of the significance of the royals which is a couple of hundred years out of date.

It is, though, pretty likely that when he does become king he'll call himself something other than Charles because of what happened to the last two. (While the public at large carry on calling him Charles because that's what they've been used to all their lives.)

278:

Once you had "native" soldiers with something like a high-school education plus real military experience, it was game over for the empire

As opposed to the cheap fake military experience that resulting in great British victories like the battle of Gate Pa?

Technological superiority and a willingness to commit massacres were far more important to the empire than any amount of experience in European warfare. Politics was also important, their divide and conquer systems were genius, in the same sense that Stalin and Mao were political geniuses. They knew what they wanted and they got it, with the cost being paid by others.

279:

The only thing important to colonial revolutionaries (such as the Mau Mau, forex) who want control of their own country is the ability to make sure the country costs more to govern than it produces. Nothing else is required.

I suspect that if the U.K. had not been busy with multiple other matters, including Gandhi in India, they might have kept Kenya, or any other little countries they wanted to keep. Unfortunately, the problem of revolutions breaking out all-over when the U.K. also had responsibilities on the European Continent meant that there was just too much to do.

If I ever write an "alternate universe" story it will be set in a world where the U.K. gave countries like India and Kenya representation in Parliament and the Empire remained an Empire.

280:

ID card scare is overblown. Even the dictatorial hard-right fascist state of Sweden has them...

If UK had an ID card system, then they could have enforced EU-provided immigration rules, and pretty much 90% of the objection to the EU from the public would have disappeared in a puff of smoke.

281:

I'm not going to cover the problem of why the Empire collapsed, but the idea of giving Kenya or India representation in Parliament would not have survived. Most likely that these countries would have been declared Dominions with significant autonomy and a foreign policy decided in London. Ironically, the British Empire would have resembled the European Union.

282:

It is, though, pretty likely that when he does become king he'll call himself something other than Charles

Rumour hath it that Chuck is much enamoured of his grandfather, George VI and conveniently has George as one of his "middle" names and that he'd like to be named George VII on his ascension to the throne. King Arthur is another possibility...

283:

The British Empire didn't so much collapse but sit down in a comfy chair and exchange its hobnailed boots for a pair of warm slippers.

284:

Troutwaxer @ 232
Ah, right, that explains it … effing MS have “uograded” Word I assume & this now happens. Right. Note-pad it is ….

JBS @ 225
I don’t believe that level of complexity … no wonder people in the US hate paying taxes … it’s not (just) the money it’s the insane hassle involved.

& @ 236
As I said earlier, regarding a wealth tax: … but that assumes that the “Wealth Tax” law would be written sanely & with sensible “bottom limits” aren’t we?
Oh, look! A whole squadron of Pigs …

& @ 240 too ….
Like you I don’t believe it.

Incidentally, this was tried in France up until some time in the late 70’ early 80’s. IT DID NOT WORK, but the outsides of private buildings were deliberately kept shabby & falling-apart

David L @ 254
Well a lot of that was the Deutscher-Amerika Bund, wasn’t it?
See this utterly revolting picture - and the date

Pigeon @ 269
Like this building, you mean? I can testify that no wall, floor or surface is perpandicular to any other wall, floor or surface & that none of those surfaces are planar ....

& @ 277
Same as George VI was "Bertie" ( Albert Frederick Arthur George )

Hakan @ 280
PROVIDED that more than one ID is allowed - & NOT the ONLY THE STATE ID model.
So that a "valid ID" might be a possible "state" one, a driver's licence, a geriatric's bus-pass ... + one or two others I can't think of right now, f'rinstance.

285:

“Prince Charles may be a bit of a div but fucking with the succession is serious shit”

That depends on whether it’s an external or internal agent doing the fucking....

There has been speculation that The Monarchy (as hive mind rather than individual”) is of the view that Charles is a divisive figure (and tainted by the whole Diana/Camilla business into the bargain), that his children are seen as a much more saleable proposition, and that (assuming he manages to outlive his mother which seems by no means a dead cert) he may well be persuaded to declare himself out of the running and abdicate himself pretty much straight into retirement.

As OGH says, Liz has made the continuity of the monarchy a priority, and probably sees the long term viability of the family business as more important than any single member of the family...

286:

Do you think Charlie will be crowned King? Or will Parliament force them to skip a generation and put William on the throne? Historically, the Williams (I, II, III and IV) appear to have prospered & been more successful than either of the Charlies (I or II).

Firstly, parliament can't block Charles from following his ma — not without passing an act of parliament (with the effective status of a constitutional amendment) that would have to be signed into law by the reigning monarch, be that Elizabeth II or Henry IX (Charles has expressed his intention of being crowned a Henry—one of his middle names—rather than going for Charles III).

Secondly, this presupposes that Charles doesn't predecease his mum, in which case the question is already answered. (That family have very long female life expectancy—it's quite possible she won't die until Charlies is in his late eighties.)

Thirdly, even if Charles does become king, he won't be king for very long—he'll be the Edward VII to his mum's Victoria. (Edward VII reigned for just 9 years, because he didn't become king until he was 59; Charles is already 70.)

So we're likely to see Liz followed briefly by Henry IX, and Henry IX to be replaced by King William VIII within a very short period, giving the institution an appearance of instability. Which is why I suspect Liz II's death will mark the beginning of the end.

287:

How about a non-compete clause? For as long as you served in Congress, you cannot take a position funded, directly or indirectly, from an industry or company you regulated?

Not good enough: you run into the British problem, which is that a Minister (ordinary MPs don't have much power unless they're part of the government) can regulate/control industries, award contracts, etc., with zero financial interest ... until they leave office and notionally retire from politics, at which point they suddenly crop up in ridiculously well-paid non-executive directorship roles. (Who could have expected that?)

You need punitive laws for ex-government members being involved in any industry they regulated for a good long period (5-10 years) after leaving office. And a ban on MPs with shares or paid remuneration of any kind from a given industry having anything to do with that industry while in office (either as committee members or ministers or, in fact, even voting on issues relating to industry funding or regulation as an ordinary MP).

288:

Oh, the Indians had a hell of a lot to do with the end of the Raj. But it's an interesting question as to how much longer the imperial occupier would have been able to string things out if the USA hadn't leaned on them hard to shut down the empire.

Which of course was not entirely selfless: the USA inherited a whole shitload of the British empire's meddlesome propensities in, for example, Iran and Iraq (where the oil came from: see also, Battleships).

I'm guessing that without the US leaning hard on the UK to shut down the empire, things might have followed a pattern closer to the end of the French empire in Indochina, right down to a festering war of independence and a final Dien Bien Phu like humiliation some time in the late 1940s or early 1950s (and a Soviet-assisted India). Ghandi gets the good press for promoting non-violent resistance, but there were militant independence groups under way at the same time, and it was only a matter of time before things hotted up (as, in the event, they did. during Partition).

289:

You didn't see (and fight) the UK Home Office originated plan for the National Identity Register that the Blair government tried to push through in the 00s (killing it was one of the few good things the first Cameron-led government did).

It was an authoritarian nightmare: not a simple ID-authentication scheme, but something rather more like the citizen registration system China is building their social scoring system on top of. Using biometrics as a key into every single government-related database, loosening restrictions on govt employees accessing personal data, hefty punishments (up to imprisonment) for failing to notify the authorities if you moved within two weeks, mandatory requirement to produce it on demand, oh, and hefty fees for registering and obtaining an ID card (because Home Office).

As it happens, there is a lightweight identity authentication system in the UK today, the Identity and Passport Office database: about 85% of us have biometric government-issued ID in the shape of a passport. Link the IPO DB up to the DVLA (driver license) database and allow the DVLA to issue "lightweight" identity certification in the shape of a not-valid-for-driving-or-foreign-travel ID card and you could have a more or less global system, with an implicit opt-out for folks with weird religious issues (the whole "Number of the Beast" nonsense) or zero need for it (they've checked into an old age home for good, last stop before the graveyard: or they're just 18 months old).

But the last time the UK had a mandatory ID card was during the second world war, and it was abolished in the 1950s after a civil rights campaign because the police were using it to harass people.

290:

the imperial occupier would have been able to string things out if the USA hadn't leaned on them hard to shut down the empire.

We still have odd bits of no-nonsense take-no-substitutes parts of the Empire, strangely enough BECAUSE of the USA. Take, for example, the island of Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean which has a British postcode (BBND 1ZZ) but also an American military-post zipcode (96595). We'd have quite happily handed it back to India decades ago but the US military wanted it as an unsinkable aircraft carrier/Airstrip Two and an unsinkable aircraft carrier/Airstrip Two it remains to this day.

291:

"If you want to say that the States appointing Senators has different problems, I'll agree with you. I'm just not convinced that they are worse. Yes, it means that we get corrupted Senators from corrupted states. But it also means that the state governments have a lever on the federal government. "

I live in Michigan, a gerrymandered state - that means when the Republicans win a strong minority, they have a majority in both houses of the state legistlature.

Next door is Wisonsin, where it was something like Democrats getting 55% of the vote, Republicans getting 60% or more of the legislature.

The only offices in both states which represent the *people*.are statewide offices.

292:

""Make the rich pay more tax" doesn't necessarily work well."

Actually, for the US, very high marginal tax rates worked fine. Now, right-wing economists say that was because things were different then, but they also scream that far lower tax rates would destroy the economy.

"I've heard a personal account (by a now famous person) from about 1960 of working in a garage, fueling cars for the owners.

$rich_guy gets his $prestige_car filled up at a cost, even then, of several £. $attendant asks for a tip, and is given £0-02, with the statement "The government takes 98% of every pound I make. Here's the rest of that pound". (rates have been altered slightly, to require less knowledge of UK currency)"


I think that that should be classified under 'rich people being @ssholes', rather than economic analysis.

293:

OK under this proposed taxation system let us suppose there is a company (C) with a part-time job opening that pays £10000 annually. Now suppose there are two applicants for this job, A and B. A is unemployed and this would be their only job, which falls below the tax threshold. So if C employs A it costs them £10000. B has another part-time job at company D paying £10000 already so if B takes this job his combined earnings are above the tax threshold (let's say that's £12500). The tax liability is split between both employers so he has taxable income of £3750 at each employer. Let's say the basic rate of income tax is 10% that's £375 that BOTH C and D have to pay the government as tax annually for employing B at his net £10000 from each. So it costs company C more to hire B than to hire A, and B costs D more if he gets another job. The only way this problem doesn't occur is if there is no lower tax threshold and everyone pays the same rate (no higher tax rate bands either).

294:

You presume that the people who are anti-Eu and the propaganda outlets are all operating in good faith. Even if the government had bothered to try and deal with the EU immigrants that it was allowed to do so, the propaganda would just have lied or pivoted to something else. I mean we're in a system and culture so degraded that boris Johnson lied yesterday or the day before about mentioning Turkey, claiming he hadn't spoken about lots of Turks coming to the UK from the EU after it joined, when in fact he had, several times. Yet nobody but some people on twitter seem to have noticed or care about it.

Moreover, there is a constant issue with the British government that anything which sounds like a good idea in another functioning democracy such as Sweden, will be implemented in the most authoritarian and retrograde way possible, leading to massive hardship and nastiness.

295:

Technological superiority and a willingness to commit massacres were far more important to the empire than any amount of experience in European warfare.

Or, as Belloc put it:

Whatever happens we have got
The Maxim Gun, and they have not.

296:

I disagree, that's not a good question. I think that the Empire was DOA by WWII. At most, I could see Singapore and Kendah remain if the Malaysian independence movement had been more anti-Chinese. Short story: Chinese in SE Asia have the same stereotypes as Jews in Europe (along with the pogroms). I could also see them trying to keep South Africa in, with all the problems that would introduce.

A better question would be would the Empire have survived if there was no WWI and no Spanish Flu. A note that the Indian National Congress was organized by veterans of WWI.

297:

Ironically, the British Empire would have resembled the European Union.

Damn! That would have sucked!

/snark

298:

How about this: Pay your legislators really well, by which I mean millions and give them great pensions (so they don't have to earn a living afterwards.) When they retire they can have any government job for which they're qualified, run for another office, teach civics (wouldn't that be awesome) and be paid at their pension rate, not the usual salary for the job. But they can't take a job in the private sector for ten years.

Also, public finance of elections is a big one if you want to avoid corruption. (I think this is already done in the U.K.)

299:

Your argument that "CO2 matters in climate because Venus" has a hole: Venus has a lot more atmosphere than Earth and the ground level pressure is 92 Earth atmospheres. Even if Venus had the same atmospheric concentration as Earth, the ground-level temperature would still be higher.

A chart of temperature and pressure vs altitude on Venus gives a temperature of 75C at ~1 Earth atmosphere; c.f. 14C average for Earth. This still supports the argument of CO2 greenhouse heating but the effect is not nearly so strong as you claim.

300:

Certainly you don't need to look at Venus to say anything about CO2; we have lab experiments and measurements on earth looking up and in space looking down, which enable us to say almost everything we need to know about CO2 as a greenhouse gas.

301:

That would only slightly ameliorate things. Power attracts corruptible personalities and crazed lunatics, so they'd find ways around it. Our lawmakers already get paid reasonably well and get decent pensions.

302:

Charlie @ 289
Which is why I proposed a polycentric "more-than-one-card-acceptable" scheme, as I too remember Blair's "ID" ideas, shudder.
Also guthrie @ 294
Moreover, there is a constant issue with the British government that anything which sounds like a good idea in another functioning democracy such as Sweden, will be implemented in the most authoritarian and retrograde way possible

303:

whitroth @ 247: I dunno, I think McConnel is. He's the one who disabled Obama, and he's the one enabling Trump. Most, if not all, of the government shutdown would be over, I think, if he would let bills come to a vote.

Being "a greedy, opportunistic bottom feeder bought and paid for by the fossil fuels oligarchy" does not make one an Eminence Grise. It just makes you lower than whale shit; one of the scumbag lizard people.

304:

whitroth @ 251: I know I've mentioned this before, over the years: I heard an interview, back in the nineties, with the last living member of FDR's Cabinet, and he said, in so many words, that the reason for the inheritance tax (known by Murdoch & co as the "death tax") was to prevent a class of inherited wealth in the US.

"A power to dispose of estates for ever is manifestly absurd. The earth and the fulness of it belongs to every generation, and the preceding one can have no right to bind it up from posterity. Such extension of property is quite unnatural."
     Thomas Jefferson

It wasn't just FDR's cabinet. The idea that inherited wealth is a threat to democratic governance goes back to the Enlightenment. Jefferson got the idea from Adam Smith.

305:

David L @ 254: Of course that public opinion was there in spite of at least 4 naval engagements prior to Dec 7, 1941. One of these involved the German sinking of a US destroyer.

Did you have a friend on that good Reuben James?

306:

_Moz_ @ 262:

"in the U.S. we wouldn't get any of those benefits. And the system would be rigged so there's no "threshold", but there would be a cap; a maximum value above"

I realise that to some extent that is a valid observation of how the US governments work. But at the same time if you always act in accordance with the idea that all government action must inevitable fail, you are doomed.

It's a good thing then that I don't always act that way.

I'm more "You gotta' keep a close watch on the bastards, 'cause you know they're gonna' try to screw us again if we let them."

307:

The only way this problem doesn't occur is if there is no lower tax threshold and everyone pays the same rate

That appears to be the essence of Pigeon's position, but we're not allowed to call it a flat tax (or income tax). In this case, the employer pays tax based on how much they pay in wages. Calling it PAYG or calling it whatever Pigeon calls it, it's still paid by employers.

It's apparently also going to be paid by companies when they pay dividends, banks when they pay interest, customers when they pay sole traders and also foreigners whenever they transfer anything of value to a UK taxpayer (the number of which will probably drop as a result of the difficulty of getting said foreign entities to register with the UK tax system).

Saying "employers don't have to record the details" just means it's going to be impossible to audit the result (and surely no employer would take advantage of that).

308:

>Iran and Iraq (where the oil came from: see also, Battleships)

You might be interested in this video on how oil was the only thing of importance in WWII at a time when the US produced 70% of the world's oil and Venezuela and the USSR produced most of the rest.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVo5I0xNRhg

It explains why Japan went to war and how the shortage of oil drove every major German strategic decision, and sparked Hitler's fights with his generals.

And how certain armchair generals are wrong to claim that Germany should have driven the British from the Middle East before invading Russia (there were essentially no Persian Gulf oil fields at the time, and no way to get such oil back to Europe). Rommel crossing Suez and advancing to Basra would have gained nothing but sand. Besides, the Italians (who unbeknownst to them were sitting on an ocean of oil in Libya) had no oil for the Italian navy to ship supplies that would make such an advance possible.

Or that the Germans should have driven on Moscow instead of turning south to encircle and destroy the 600,000 troops of the Soviet southern front around Kiev. The big mistake was resuming the advance on Moscow instead of ignoring Moscow and going for the Caucasus oil fields in 1941 instead of a year later. Russian oil from Baku was shipped by barge up the Volga. Seizing Stalingrad would in effect cut the jugular of the Soviet Union (the goal of Fall Blau the following year). In late summer 1941, Guderian after his Kiev encirclement was as far From Stalingrad as he was from Moscow, and Soviet resistance on the southern front had been shredded.

German generals like Rommel and Guderian were like pampered athletes, primadonnas who had no understanding of larger economic issues underpinning the war effort.

The war was essentially won and lost in the Caucasus, the largest oil producing area outside of the US in the 1940s. Had Germany been able to seize these oil fields and simultaneously deny them to the Soviets, Germany would no longer be short of oil and the Red Army would have to fight on foot and the Red Air force would be grounded due to lack of oil. Without oil the Russians never could have launched a counter attack let alone advance to Berlin.

While a German advance to the Urals was a logistical fantasy, a stalemate on the Eastern front that left Germany in control of the Baltics, Belorussia, Ukraine and Caucasus is as good as a win for Germany. With a stalemate and possibly a separate peace in the east, the Germans could have tripled the number of divisions defending the Atlantic wall, making D-Day almost impossible.

Until maybe the Americans drop the A-Bomb on Berlin.

WW2 was truly the first oil war.

309:

One thing the tax office in Australia struggles with is cash-based businesses. The ones I'm used to are things like music festivals and rallies, but IIRC pubs and tradespeople are the big players of concern. Auditing them is tricky because there's no simple relationship between what they buy and what they sell - the input cost of a litre of beer is easy, but was it sold during happy hour for $1 or after midnight for $10? Likewise a plumber - the hardware they buy is easy, but did they spend an hour on the job and 7 in the pub, or 8 on the job? Was the job straight cash, a mix, or exactly what it says on the paperwork?

What makes it slightly easier is that wages, hours worked and staff details have to be recorded and receipts/pay slips given to everyone. If a pub says "we paid 400 hours in wages to 40 staff but only sold $10000 worth of beer" the tax office has a hearty laugh then says "get in the van".

Simplifying that by saying the employer doesn't have to account for employee payments in any detail, not even "we paid Alice $100 and Bob $100", means not just that Alice and Bob are SoL if they think they've been underpaid, but the tax office just lost a lot of insight into the business. "yeah, we paid $5000 in wages but most of that went to me because I own the pub"... who can argue, since there's no record-keeping required?

310:

Besides, the Italians (who unbeknownst to them were sitting on an ocean of oil in Libya)

Oddly enough the Japanese were sitting on a small sea, if not an ocean of oil in Manchuria which they conquered back in 1931. The Daqing oil field was discovered in 1959 and it is still producing significant amounts of oil today (1 Mbpd according to Wikipedia which is never wrong).

This is a minor plot point in the milSF time-travel story "Zipang", a manga version of "The Final Countdown" from the Japanese POV (JMSDF Aegis cruiser from late 1990s ends up in the Battle of the Coral Sea. Hilarity ensues).

311:

Parliament can't block Charles from following his ma — not without passing an act of parliament (with the effective status of a constitutional amendment)

And not just the parliament of the United Kingdom of England, Wales, Scotland and Nortern Ireland. The Perth Agreement of the 2011 CHOGM harmonised succession laws across the Commonwealth realms, and this recent example shows that changes in succession would also require legislation in Australia (in Australian parliament and in each state parliament per the 2011 precedent), Canada, NZ and a host of Caribbean and Pacific island nations. If the UK made a change to skip over Charles unilaterally, there is a risk that the succession would not be in harmony across the Commonwealth leading to a situation where Henry IX is king of some countries but not of the UK. Sometimes people appear to believe the monarch of Australia (for instance) is ex official the monarch of the UK, but that simply isn’t the case.

The interesting thing is that choosing a different line of succession is a real option for Commonwealth countries who wish to retain the present form of government unchanged while transitioning further away from the historial relationship with the UK. Harry has always been very popular, for instance, and I guess more recently. But there are still plenty of Hapsburg, Bourbon and Hohenzollern heirs banging around Europe and I don’t see any good reason to limit the options to the house of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. The concept would sort of require the individual being willing to move to and become a citizen of the country involved, renouncing their current nationality (assuming these are different of course). It’s not that big an ask, when you think about it, and it was pretty common back in the heyday of monarchy.

I should point out, because we’re in a world where expressing a point of view is inevitably taken as advocating for it, that this is not something I support or my own preferred path forward for Australia. I feel I shouldn’t need to make this point, but apparently I have to. My own preference is for constitutional change to recognise the presence and primacy of pre-European Australian people and their ownership and stewardship of the land, as part of re-evaluating how our legislatures and executive committees and individual executive roles relate to each other and to a broader range of consultative processes than are presently available. A revived ATSIC with reinvigorated election processes. A second Senate, perhaps. It has to be not just about “recognition”, but about embracing the richness of indigenous culture and knowledge as an important component of the future.

For bad reasons, none of them pleasant to discuss, this viewpoint is still outside the “left” edge of the Overton window in Australia at the moment. I’m in the camp that says mostly evil is a product of ignorance, and as Vimes would say “They are not in possession of the facts”. The problem is the resistance to acquiring “facts” on display in so much of the community (and the world). That makes it the job of everyone in possession of an understanding of the implications of some of this information that is currently inexpressible in the mainstream to relieve others of their ignorance - but it’s always harder than it sounds!

312:

I'm more "You gotta' keep a close watch on the bastards, 'cause you know they're gonna' try to screw us again if we let them."

Ah good, you understand the dilemma of living in a democracy. Democracy means rule by the people, which means us slobs. If we want democracy to work, we've got to spend the hours at the meetings, doing things we don't have any knack for and don't enjoy, like keeping the pols informed about reality, or trying to keep politicians and bureaucrats within spitting distance of honest and caring about keeping the system going, even though the damn thing is one huge kludge that needs constant tinkering.

The problem with democracy in general is that most people don't actually want to do the work of running the place: not the work of being an elected or even electing a politician, but the work of speaking up in front of the school board, or taking a seat on your local planning group, or whatever. There's an enormous amount of that stuff that needs doing, and it's primarily done by volunteer labor. That's the real democracy. If you won't (or can't) do it, then power inevitably reverts to those who will do it, and pretty soon you're complaining that you're living in a plutocracy, or an oligopoly, or whatever.

Ben Franklin was wrong: it's not that the price of freedom is eternal vigilance, it's that the price of democracy is eternal participation.

313:

Greg Tingey @ 284: replied to JBS: I don’t believe that level of complexity … no wonder people in the US hate paying taxes … it’s not (just) the money it’s the insane hassle involved.

I wouldn't really mind if it was just the "insane hassle". It's all I've ever known.

"As soon as the land of any country has all become private property, the landlords, like all other men, love to reap where they never sowed, and demand a rent even for its natural produce."
     — Adam Smith: The Wealth of Nations

What really pisses me off is the disparity in the way unearned income is treated in relation to earned income ... and how, if someone like me does manage to accrue any "unearned" income it's still treated differently (taxed at a higher rate) than the "unearned" income of those who don't have to work for a living.

My wages have always been taxed at a higher rate than any equal amount of dividends or capital gains. While I have been allowed to defer the taxes on my IRA and 401k contributions, there were strict limits on how much I could "contribute".

When withdrawn, the "increase in value" from those tax deferred savings are taxed as simple income, rather than at the lower rates for carried interest, dividends or capital gains. Note I put "increase in value" in scare quotes, because for the last 10 years or so the IRA has been earning less than the rate of inflation & the 401k rises and falls in value along with the stock market. In the last year it's plunged.


314:

JayGee @ 285:

“Prince Charles may be a bit of a div but fucking with the succession is serious shit”

That depends on whether it’s an external or internal agent doing the fucking....

There has been speculation that The Monarchy (as hive mind rather than individual”) is of the view that Charles is a divisive figure (and tainted by the whole Diana/Camilla business into the bargain), that his children are seen as a much more saleable proposition, and that (assuming he manages to outlive his mother which seems by no means a dead cert) he may well be persuaded to declare himself out of the running and abdicate himself pretty much straight into retirement.

As OGH says, Liz has made the continuity of the monarchy a priority, and probably sees the long term viability of the family business as more important than any single member of the family...

Yeah. Hadn't thought it from the point of view of The Monarchy, just noticed the parallels between Eddie 8 wanting to marry a divorcee who was also a Roman Catholic. Not sure whether Camilla is a Roman Catholic, but I know she has been. And as you say there's that whole Diana business. It's just idle curiosity because I've heard both sides of the argument. Don't really know if I will live long enough to to see what happens.

I don't really have an opinion as such, being over here on the other side of the pond, although I note that the Royal Family does seem to be pretty good at attracting the tourist dollars (maybe even tourist Euros & Yen) and that has to be a consideration balance-of-trade-wise.

315:

Charlie Stross @ 287: You need punitive laws for ex-government members being involved in any industry they regulated for a good long period (5-10 years) after leaving office. And a ban on MPs with shares or paid remuneration of any kind from a given industry having anything to do with that industry while in office (either as committee members or ministers or, in fact, even voting on issues relating to industry funding or regulation as an ordinary MP).

I don't suppose there's any chance they'd bring back Drawing and Quartering for that?

316:

Referring again to the Perth Agreement, the effects across all Commonwealth realms including the UK were (quoting from Wikipedia but list formatting added):


  • "replacing male-preference primogeniture, under which male descendants take precedence over females in the line of succession, with absolute primogeniture;

  • "ending the disqualification of those married to Roman Catholics; and

  • "limiting the number of individuals in line to the throne requiring permission from the sovereign to marry.


"However, the ban on Catholics and other non-Protestants becoming sovereign and the requirement for the sovereign to be in communion with the Church of England remained."


Therefore I'm pretty sure the Catholicism issue isn't a thing anymore, unless the Prince of Wales were to convert to Catholicism himself. Note that permission (from his mum) to marry Camilla was needed when it happened, so it's not like that is a potential cause for anything much now.

Charles is not especially popular in Australia either, and some say this may be the tipping point for the minimalist republican option, where we change all references to The Crown to something very neutral and start calling the Governor General the President. Personally I think this is more complex than it sounds and provides ample opportunity for mischief because "something very neutral" is one of those placeholders that would itself be a tug of war trophy.

317:

Welfare responsibilities vary dramatically between provinces. Municipal government power and mandate is defined by the provincial governments. Municipal governments do not exist in the constitution as an entity, and only exist as defined by their respective provinces.

In Ontario it is a municipal responsibility to administer welfare payments. Alberta and BC hold that power at the provincial Ministry level. Not sure about the other provinces at this point, theoretically any of them can devolve or retake that responsibility at any time.

In BC it is further complicated by differing municipalities having different levels of responsibility, defined by different Acts. More after 300 if it is of interest to anyone but a dusty political science wonk such as myself.

318:

I really doubt the Germans could manage the logistics for a push on the Caucasus in 1941, Stalingrad may be as close to Rostov as Rostov is to Moscow but Baku is as far from Stalingrad as Stalingrad is from Rostov. Operation Uranus would have taken place in the winter of 1941/42 using the shock armies that attacked between Moscow and Leningrad.
You are also doubling the front and the Germans will still have their original issues with winter gear and even if they take the oilfields, the ones that they did capture in the Stalingrad offensive in 1942 ware so wrecked that (from memory) I believe the estimates were it would take a year to get them into production.
Then there is the issue of transporting the oil back to Europe.

319:

DD @ 308
WW2 was truly the first oil war
Erm, no.
Anglo-Persian - the forunner of BP, I think ...
Their products were essential for the Grand Fleet - the "Queen Elizabeth" class superdreadnaughts ran on oil, as did all the more recent ships.
WWI was also an oil war, "Jellicoe Specials" of Welsh coal notwithstanding.

Heteromeles @ 312
... or trying to keep politicians and bureaucrats within spitting distance of honest ... AND SANE - let's not forget that.
Not when the tories have gor rabid brexiteers laying waste the moderates & the exact same happening at the other side, where "momentum" ( Militant under another name ) are trying to remove anyone sane, or who looks like a Social Democrat.
The exact same problem applies to small organisations everywhere - who actually wants the work of being, say Treasurer or Secretary of an Alloment association or a Morris Side?
THEN you get some pathetic very small-time power-grabber or control freak in the job & - if you are luacky, the oragnisation survives - sometimes they don't to everyone's loss.

JBS
You DO REALISE that, in GB, until some time in the late 70's-early 80's a writers' income, after the actual year of publication was treated as Unearned, don't you?
Define "unearned Income" ... [ It's why so many Brit writers then, re-located to Man or "Eire" ]

320:

Re Pigeon's suggestion,

Would not a flat tax of say 35-50% and a universal basic income of say 10-20 thousand pounds more or less sort the issue that flat taxes aren't fair? (Flat taxes seem acceptable for every other tax from vat to speeding fines, I'm not sure why income tax is something we get up in arms about)

321:

Would not a flat tax of say 35-50% and a universal basic income of say 10-20 thousand pounds more or less sort the issue that flat taxes aren't fair?

It would definitely help. But people are complex, and when they mix things get even more complex. There are reasons, sometimes good reasons, for the complexity of law and specifically tax law. Society works better with smaller wealth disparities, for example, and progressive taxation is one way to discourage both great wealth and great poverty. So something more complex than your idea (itself more complex than Pigeon's) is probably desirable.

(Flat taxes seem acceptable for every other tax from vat to speeding fines, I'm not sure why income tax is something we get up in arms about)

Pragmatically, because income tax is where a great many transfer payments take place, everything from progressive taxation to the US mortgage interest subsidy. The extreme case of "let's just not" means either discarding all the stuff currently done via income tax, or coming up with new ways to do it. Either way it's not going to be as simple as "yippee, burn the tax code we're free".

One example: imagine a country that has some form of public health care, and someone with a significant disability. Specifically, one that takes more than the basic income to support a decent life but also prevents the person from working. Somehow we have to get extra money to this particular person... the tax system will be involved, not least as the source of funds. But do those fund attract income tax. Ooops, now we have complexity back.

Things are different now to how they've been in the past, and they're generally more complex. In many cases it's "just" that existing complexity is more visible (for example kids in Yemen and Chicago can talk to each other, and material from either can go viral and be seen by more people than existed in 1900). But in others it's the combinatorial explosion of multitudinous factors that, if they existed at all in 1900, have now been joined by so many new ones that they might as well all be new. AGW existed in 1900, for example, but it was tiny. So did "the wireless" although that was perilously close to theoretical. But there were no cities with more than 10M people, and only a billion or so people total. These days we have billions more people *and* they call all talk to each other.

For taxation there are new problems - it's trivial to move large amounts of money round the world very quickly - but also new opportunities - it's easier to track that money than ever before. How we tax that money is a bit of an open question, because while there are lots of ideas the current philosophy of money makes it hard to implement any of them.

322:

Germans don't need to go to Baku, only cut off oil shipment on the Volga by seizing Stalingrad. All they needed to meet their own oils needs was Grozny and Maikop in the norther Caucasus.

And without oil, there is nothing to fuel such a Soviet counterattack, all the tanks in the world being useless without petrol. So any such Soviet counterattack would have ended up a disaster like Operation Mars (which was directed against an equally exposed salient at Ryzhev). Furthermore, this alternative history German position at Stalingrad would have its flanks defended by other Germans, not low grade Italians and Romanian troops as in our timeline's Stalingrad.

But, you are right, in many ways the key to the war was Baku.

The Allies understood this, which is why the developed the plans for Operation Pike early in the war when it looked like Hitler and Stalin were going to be allies after dividing up Poland between them. A single mass bomber raid would have turned Baku into an inferno and taken with it 90% of Soviet oil production, essentially crippling the Russian war effort.

Which brings us to the only good strategic reason for an Axis Mediterranean offensive prior to Barbarossa. As I noted there were no Persian Gulf Oil fields at the time but Rommel taking Suez would have enormous repercussions.

Not that cutting off British shipping was the goal. British shipping did not go through the Med until after Italy fell, it went around the Cape of Good Hope. Prior to then, British convoys sailing the Med would be decimated by Axis dive bombers based in Sicily. Those that tried (like the emergency Tiger Convoy shipping supplies to 8th army) suffered unacceptable loses before they could reach Alexandria.

In this sense Gibraltar was unimportant and Malta could be avoided by shipping through the French Tunisian port of Tunis. With the loss of Suez, the British would have probably abandoned these exposed and useless outposts.

What Rommel reaching Suez would do was trigger an all out Arab revolt against the British. A smaller revolt in Iraq had to actually be squashed by the British. But in this timeline, a defeated British army would be forced to retreat back as far as East Africa and India. This would isolate the rest of the Middle East and the Balkans from British influence.

So no Yugoslav revolt against the Axis, and no staunch Greek resistance against the Italians. So no Balkan campaign delaying Barbarossa by a few critical weeks (though the late spring thaw and raspunitza mud conditions probably did more to delay the start of Barbarossa).

But most importantly Turkey would join the Axis. The Germans actually obtained a copy of Operation Pike's planning documents after the fall of France. They understood the Soviet's oil vulnerability and their Achilles heel at Baku. Luftwaffe bombers based in eastern Turkey could have performed their own version of Operation Pike, crippling the Soviet Union on the first day of Barbarossa. Without oil during the entire Russian campaign, the Soviets would have been in a hopeless position.

Under these conditions a complete collapse and total defeat of the USSR becomes very possible.

(I should try this strategy next time I play HOI3)

323:

Then the decisive element would how big was the Soviet strategic oil reserve in 1941. I am extremely sceptical that the Germans could extend a sustained supply line to Stalingrad in the winter of 1941/42 to hold the city. Though it might work in HOI3.
The Germans do not have the divisions to hold the 2.k - 3k miles of front resulting from that action.

324:

>how big was the Soviet strategic oil reserve in 1941

http://www.visions.az/en/news/580/588903a7/

Stalingrad was a prime target for Hitler. It is enough to look at a map of oil deposits and oil pipelines in the east during World War II to imagine the possible development of the war if the city had fallen. In that case the Germans would have controlled the Volga, the main artery of the USSR, and would have cut off the Urals, the location for virtually all the evacuated factories. Oil reserves in the isolated part of the USSR, where the main body of the Red Army was deployed, would have lasted for 10 or 15 days.

As for other Soviet sources of oil:

https://history.stackexchange.com/questions/8512/could-the-soviet-union-have-continued-fighting-world-war-ii-without-caucasus-oil

"Hitler had a big point though. In 1940 Baku was producing 22.2 million metric tons of oil, comprising 72% of total Soviet oil production. In 1941, it produced 25.4 Mt"

Source: http://karbuz.blogspot.com/2006/10/oil-logistics-lesson-from-wwii-3.html, which sources in turn from "The Prize: The Epic Quest for Oil, Money & Power" by Daniel Yergin

I'll need to see if 1941/42 estimates exist, but 72% loss would likely cripple USSR.

As far as Soviets migrating oil production East, the same article continues:

All the nine drilling offices, oil-expedition and oil-construction trusts as well as various other enterprises with their staffs were transferred to an area near Kuybishev, (Russia Federation in Tartarstan near the Ural Mountains north of Kazakhstan). This city soon came to be known as "the Second Baku".

Despite the severe frost the drillers started searching for oil and thanks to day and night working, the Bakuis in the region of Povolzhye increased the fuel extraction in "Kinelneft" trust that first year by 66% and by 42% in entire region of Kuybishev. As a result, five new oil and gas fields were discovered and huge oil refinery construction projects were undertaken, including the first pipe line between Kuybishev and Buturslan was built that same year.

No numbers are given for totals, but if Baku was 72%, plus Grozny and Maikop probably adding up to at least 5-10% more, the rest of Eastern USSR was at most 20-25% - and even oncreasing that WHOLE by 66% would only get you 40% of pre-caucasus-capture totals.

325:

(Flat taxes seem acceptable for every other tax from vat to speeding fines, I'm not sure why income tax is something we get up in arms about)

Not everywhere! In Finland, the speeding fines beyond the lowest ones are affected by the perpetrator's income, and there is a news story every couple of years about an angry millionaire speeding and getting fined for it. Angry, because the fines seem to hurt their wallet, which to me kind of seems to be one of the points of fines.

A flat VAT is a bad thing, in my opinion, exactly because it is really a regressive tax - those with less money pay more VAT from their income. The political situation here is not very receptive to the idea of lowering the VAT and increasing progressive taxes to nullify that, but it's what I'd like.

326:

This write up:

http://karbuz.blogspot.com/2006/10/oil-logistics-lesson-from-wwii-3.html

provides an excellent analysis of Soviet oil vulnerability and details of Operation Pike planning.

327:

The problem about such taxation systems are that they are vindictive, more than regressive. The top rate hit 101% once in the UK, and quite poor people with only private savings (in lieu of pensions) were penalised. Punitive death duties did massive harm to the environment by forcing sell-offs to corporate purchasers and for unsuitable building. The current ones are no better, just differently vindictive.
,hj

328:

I meant progressive! We had a brief period of sanity, with all income treated the same way and capital gains tax the same as the top level, but not for long.

329:

A Russian-speaking friend claimed that "brekzit" had become a verb in some eastern-European parts, meaning: saying goodbye to everyone as if you're about to leave, but then not actually leaving.

330:

DD @ 322
As I noted there were no Persian Gulf Oil fields at the time
UTTER BOLLOCKS - PLEASE read my previous link about Anglo-Persian ( which became BP ) ??????

331:

I was thinking more of this one... http://media-cdn.tripadvisor.com/media/photo-s/09/d5/d3/d5/historic-view-of-bullocks.jpg

Tricky to walk inside, not only because nothing is level or square or planar, but also you get weird mangled-perspective effects like that room in the Science Museum which throw you off.

332:

Damian, I am not disputing your claims about the importance of the Caucasian oil fields to the Soviet war effort but to the claim that the Germans could attacked Stalingrad much earlier then they did in 1942.
They did not take Kiev before September 1941 so when they took Rostov in November 1941 those forces were reliant on road supply from a rail head probably not far from Kiev. I no longer have good references for that sort of thing to hand.
However, they did not keep Rostov but abandoned it shortly after and I would say that lack of supply was a significant factor and they did not have another go until the summer of 1942 and no drive on Stalingrad is possible without a secure hold on Rostov and the Donbass.
We can agree to differ and note I am not saying cutting the Soviet Union from the oil would be insignificant but that I really doubt that it could attempted earlier than it was even then it required more troops and more importantly equipment than the Reich had at its disposal.
The real issue with the assorted Romanian/Hungarian/Italian formations holding the Don bend was the lack of artillery and antitank assets and much of what they had was obsolete.

333:

Greg Tingey @ 319: JBS
You DO REALISE that, in GB, until some time in the late 70's-early 80's a writers' income, after the actual year of publication was treated as Unearned, don't you?
Define "unearned Income" ... [ It's why so many Brit writers then, re-located to Man or "Eire" ]

"Unearned Income" would be any income that is NOT "Earned Income"; i.e. not derived from work. Think "economic rents" in its broadest meaning; interest, dividends, capital gains ...

Royalty payments to writers would not, in my opinion, be "unearned" no matter how the IRS or the Inland Revenue might "treat" them. IF, however having them "treated" as "unearned" is advantageous to the writers in terms of the taxes they have to pay on their income, I wouldn't object.

I don't even object to a modest advantageous tax treatment for unearned income, but the system as it stands now has gotten out of whack. It's become too extreme when billionaire investors pay less total taxes than do their secretaries (which flaw in the system I note has been pointed out by a billionaire investor).

And it seems those in power in Congress want to make it MORE unfair rather than less. Although, maybe the Democrats in the House will manage to reverse that trend. Who in Parliament is going to attempt it?

334:

(Benefits are also taxable income, which is really bloody silly, but the minimum tax threshold is a lot more than the benefits so nobody actually pays any.)

In the US, if you also have other income, up to 85% of Social Security income can be taxable. The income limits that are used in this calculation were set in 1986 and are not indexed to inflation.

335:

gasdive @ 320: Re Pigeon's suggestion,
Would not a flat tax of say 35-50% and a universal basic income of say 10-20 thousand pounds more or less sort the issue that flat taxes aren't fair? (Flat taxes seem acceptable for every other tax from vat to speeding fines, I'm not sure why income tax is something we get up in arms about)

I don't think any system of taxation yet devised has been fair. I don't think it's possible. There will always be those who are taxed too much and those who are taxed to little.

The best we can hope for is to devise a system that minimizes unfairness and mitigates some of the more egregious wrongs. It's a system that needs to be constantly revised, because someone will always find a way to cheat and others will always be victimized.

But I think we can do better than we are right now.

336:

"(itself more complex than Pigeon's)"

NOT MINE. YOURS.

Your straw man argument is not "my idea" and I do not want to be associated with it. So stop calling it mine. You've got gasdive doing it as well now, ffs. I've already pointed out several times that your idea is not mine only to be completely ignored and I'm getting fed up with it.

Your arguments also include: other things which I have also addressed several times only for you to bring up the exact same point again as if I hadn't said anything; things that happen under the existing system; loss of privileges the existing system grants to the rich; and things that are just silly. Yet you haven't managed to argue against my proposal at all, because you haven't argued against anything but your own strawman distortion of it.

For some reason which I don't understand it seems that the proposal does not trigger any comprehension in those who read it but it does act as a potent trigger of irrational behaviour. It has spurred others as well as you to recast it in their own ideas and then argue against their misinterpretation; you're just the most repetitive and the most vocal. It's even made Charlie directly contradict his own statement from a couple of threads back. When I've posted it elsewhere in the past it has attracted different but equally irrational objections.

It's bloody weird - somehow or other a temporary wartime measure has become so deeply internalised that people have lost the ability to conceive of a world where it doesn't operate exactly the same as things do at present, and suggesting any change causes such intense cognitive dissonance that they fly immediately to the extremes of entrenched opposition and completely skip over any rational consideration. It's as if I suggested that perhaps we don't need blackout curtains and blast tape any more, and instead of considering the possible advantages everyone flew off the handle and ranted about how being able to see out of the windows would make people start eating babies.

So I don't see any point in trying to carry on arguing my point until I've managed to work out just what the fuck it is that makes people across the spectrum as firmly attached to a socially divisive measure that hands power to regressive parties and is used to argue that people at the bottom of the pile are worthless encumbrances as they are to their own genitals.

337:

In the US, if you also have other income, up to 85% of Social Security income can be taxable.

In Australia benefits are means tested, so while you don't in theory pay extra tax on other income you lose a chunk of your benefit. Which given the mutable nature of money is impossible to distinguish from a high marginal tax rate. In the worst case it can go over 100% (typically when a solo mother gets a job and loses the dole, and various child/parenting benefits but doesn't earn enough to gain from the childcare rebates). Our tax boffins make some attempt to keep the marginal rate below 90% or so, but fail often enough that we get regular media stories about the problem.

It's non-trivial, because Australia has more means testing than just about anywhere and it works really well 90% of the time. The way out would normally be to give the administrators some discretion but we have ruled that out for the very good reason that discretion means staff getting to exercise their prejudices and cleaning up that mess costs money. Neither are acceptable (see: unfavourable media coverage above). My preference would be a simple cap, or a sliding cap (once the marginal tax rate exceeds 50% it becomes exponentially less effective, so a theoretical 100% rate becomes "50 + log(50)" percent or something equivalent).

Means testing is a relatively fair and transparent way to avoid "rich beneficiaries" while having generous but affordable benefits. You just write the basic benefit as "anyone with kids gets $100/week per kid extra untaxed income" or whatever you want, then add "which reduces by 5% for every dollar they earn over the average wage".

If nothing else it means that anyone whining they don't get the benefit is generally rich enough that it's hard to raise much sympathy for them. "we had to sell our second mansion to fund our nanny because we don't get the child tax benefit"... I think even the US media would struggle to sell that as a horror story of lost entitlement.

338:

it seems that the proposal does not trigger any comprehension

That's because you keep saying the same thing repeatedly even when people don't get it. I've tried to be generous and understand what you mean because it seems there is a serious proposal somewhere in there, but I'm really finding it hard.

Generally when I try to explain something and three or four people completely fail to understand, and no-one else chimes in to try to explain it, I conclude that whatever the merits *I* see in my idea, my explanation is deficient.

In this case, I keep trying to reflect what you say back in my words, a traditional way to make sure we have a shared understanding. You don't seem to like that, but since your terminology is unfamiliar to me having you just repeat your definition comes across as Humpty Dumpty-like. The whole "that's irrelevant and you just don't get it" doesn't help. Pick something I've said that is vaguely correct and try to lead me from there to what you really mean.

Saying "this isn't a tax, it's a levy" is very familiar from Australian politics to the point where people generally can't even be bothered deriding the claimants. We just eyeroll and ignore them. You really seriously seem to be in that group with your "this isn't income tax, it's a tax on income" stuff. If you go right back you'll see that my first response included "we have that in Australia and it does not work, employers advertise '$XXX package', meaning total cost to them"... which I think is an important objection but you've ignored. How would that not happen?

339:

The thing about Fast Eddie is that social attitudes to the whole marriage/divorce thing were vastly different to what they are now, in ways that I for one find it difficult to grasp. The religious objection to marrying after divorce, which nobody gives a shit about now, was serious stuff back then, and people really did care about it.

My gran used to object if the neighbours hung their washing out on a Sunday. By the time I became aware she thought this it was already an old fogey's objection to some footling trivia that was difficult to take seriously. But in Fast Eddie's time "everyone" had had the same kind of indoctrinatory upbringing as my gran and views like that were just normal. When it came to post-divorce marriage rather than just washing, and a royal doing it too, people really did think it was a terrible thing for the Fid Def to do.

It's amazing what utterly bizarre shit people used to get themselves in a froth over. Centuries of war and revolution kicked off by an argument over how many buttons to do up. (Even more amazingly, that one's still going, albeit in such specialised circles that nobody gets to hear about it.)

340:

“It's amazing what utterly bizarre shit people used to get themselves in a froth over.”
Never forget:
In a hundred years people will say the same about our most passionate debates.

341:

In a hundred years people will say the same about our most passionate debates.

I will {fight to the death}type my fingers to the bone to prove you wrong! The key question of our era, the one that will resound down the ages, that will live forever in the annals of world history, is whether "the intervention" is a civil war or merely normal government that meets some definitions of the term (viz, the use of a nations military to enforce laws specially written to outlaw a subset of the population).

342:

On a more important note, There are two major issues that I think should addressed at a global political level. I am drafting a missive to the UN even as we speak.

First, Moveable Type's refusal to allow me to edit my posts, even for a minute or so; and second, the ongoing blocking of the <strike> tag.

343:

I think it was Louis the XIV who said that, "the art of taxation consists in so plucking the goose as to obtain the largest possible amount of feathers with the smallest possible amount of hissing"? Which is a great summary of behavioural economics, or why some taxes work even though their inefficient or regressive and others don't or are deemed to be political poison.

The underlying problem about tax policy is (steps on soap box) that in politics tax reform is driven by rich white guys in support of rich white guys. Case in point, the Australian economist Patricia App deconstructed our Productivity Commission's latest finding that there's been no increase in income inequality in recent decades. She found that it was flawed as it ignored the economic contribution of stay at home partners (mostly women) of goods and services and so neatly assumed these cost nothing when they needed to be bought, because both partners now worked. Of course the Productivity Commission is dominated by, you guessed it, middle aged white guys.

Re-run the numbers as App did and you find that low (and high) income earners in Australia over the last decade have done OK (the rich really OK) but in the middle deciles not so much. Of course that's also where most female incomes sit. As the coup de grace, Apps then calculated out the labour supply elasticity of labour and found that people work harder for an increase in income the less they get, contrary to what the rich white guys reckon. In fact for the top decile despite all the tax improvements for them over the last decade or so have demonstrated negligible increases in hours worked.

All of which is actually bad for the economy, and bad for most working women (with children) but that of course won't stop the rich white guys banging on endlessly about side issues like how good reducing the marginal company tax rate would be, even though the modelling shows its a it's a very marginal proposition*. Yet another reason why people feel disconnected from their political class. Not governing from the middle really.

*The proponents of cutting the rate have framed the debate in terms of what we'll surely lose as companies go offshore to lower taxed countries, which skews people's decisions given human beings loss aversion preferences. Another example of behavioural economics.

344:

One might wish for tax policy framed for the overall benefit of most of the people rather than most of the money. With tax policy, as in trade, the .001% focus too much on immediate benefit, too little on "What will be left for our customers to spend?".

345:

I have no idea what you mean

"Treasurer Joe Hockey and Finance Minister Mathias Cormann pictured smoking cigars ahead of tough budget"

346:

Maybe it's an Australian perspective as I arrived at the same place independently.

This is how I see your proposal.

When I buy a widget that costs 11 dollars, 10 dollars goes to the widget seller and 1 dollar goes to the taxman as GST/VAT/salestax. That dollar isn't tagged "received from Jason" and at the end of the fin year I'm not called to account to justify all my GST tax. It's just lumped all in together and handed over. Items that have different tax rates are all lumped together similarly. So when I buy fresh food, which is GST exempt, sanitary napkins that I pay 10% (being clearly luxury items) and petrol, that has both GST and excise, that's all fine, completely transparent to me and dealt with by the retailer as a lump sum payment.

You'd like wages to be the same. The apprentice gets paid below the taxable threshold, so you as the employer hold none of his wage. The office manager is taxed 30% for every dollar over 18000, so you hold 15% of her 36000 dollars and put it in a pot. The CEO pays 50% for every dollar over 40000, so you put 100k in the pot as well.

That's fine, the apprentice thinks they get paid 18000, the middle manager thinks she gets paid 30600 (despite the company having to pay out 36000) and the CEO thinks they get whatever that works out as. The situation is exactly as it was before except that no-one puts in a tax return. If there's something like a charitable donation, then you take your receipt to an office and they pay out what would have been your tax deduction as cash.

But then the problems start...

You're the apprentice and your tools are tax deductible. You front at the office with receipts for 500 dollars. How much do they hand over? Nothing? (because you earnt below the taxable rate and paid no tax). 30% of the face value of the receipts? (Because that's the tax rate most people pay) 50% (because if they don't know what tax rate you're on, perhaps they should use the top tax rate to avoid underpaying)

What if the middle manager makes pizza from 6-11pm every night? How does the pizza place pay her? As a worker under 18000 she should pay no tax, but she's already earning 36000. If they advertised that as a 12000 dollar job, then they should pay her 12000, but then they have to pay 30% on 4000 of that plus 50% of the remaining 8000. Meaning she costs the pizza place 17200, where someone whose only job was pizza making, would have cost them 12000. She could just tell them that it's her only job, but that's fraud. Otherwise the situation is not the same as the current one.

[[ spellung corrected - mod ]]

347:

Some sort of edit function, even if it was so you could click an "edited" link and see the versions.
Wad-was
Them-then
only job would have-only job was pizza making, would have

348:

fajensen wrote:

All this means that "Games of Chicken" are a perfectly viable strategy for leaders of major western powers to adopt and that Brexit is going to happen because the Tory Government will have to pass legislation to cancel or extend the deadline, with passing legislation being a task they are very clearly unable to perform. I doubt they could pass a round of drinks at this stage.

On the above theme, I found compelling a recent piece by London-based Aussie novelist and lawyer Helen Dale. I'm wondering what you of Charlie's commentariat will think of it.

Dale reviews a couple of the elements involved, starting with Cameron's utter ineptitude and the Fixed-Term Parliaments Act, May's role as the pole around which the Conservatives are haplessly revolving, and: 'We are confronted by what electoral systems wonks and statisticians call a Condorcet paradox. There are Commons majorities against everything but no majority for anything.'

She thinks (hopes?) that Plan B will go down in ruins, that a second referendum to join the EEA or any similar idea would do likewise, and that such failures will be necessary before a second referendum to reverse the 2016 result would be feasible. And she made sense for me of Corbyn's position in light of Labour demographics in different regions. Have a look.

349:

Indeed, and how could they not understand that that was a truly bad optic? I mean were they totally bereft of an ounce of political savvy? Whenever I see something like that I think of a great book by Tavris and Aronson called 'Mistakes Were Made', which seeks to answer that rhetorical question by showing how cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and other cognitive biases can incrementally lead people to extreme positions. Like thinking it's OK to shill for the Chinese government as an MP, or visiting your online girlfriend on the government dime, or continuing to plow blood and money into an unwindable war in SE Asia.

350:

Plan B will go down in ruins, that a second referendum to join the EEA or any similar idea would do likewise, and that such failures will be necessary before a second referendum to reverse the 2016 result would be feasible.

That does seem likely IMO. Insofar as May can negotiate and has people to negotiate with, she seems to have a talent for ending up with the worst possible outcome from all parties. After the referendum a cynic who predicted the current situation would have been called nasty and pessimistic.

My guess is that the rabids will work to prevent any deal, May and Corbyn will refuse to compromise on incompatible demands for the deal, and at the last minute parliament will try to pass a bill deferring brexit. I suspect the EU will cave but lay down onerous conditions along the lines of "you keep paying us and obeying our rules but get no further say until you come up with a deal that we can accept".

If I thought a different outcome would produce a better result for the people of Britain I'd hope for that, but I fear the reflexive cruelty of the Tories means you're going to suffer regardless. Perhaps the goal is to make things so bad for so many people now that a hard Brexit seems like relief?

351:

Moz @ 350
Almost entirely correct.
Howver: the reflexive cruelty of the Tories
NO - If you had said the reflexive cruelty of theBrexiteers, I would have agreed with you.
Remember, there are a lot of tories who are remainers.
The word you were looking for was: STUPIDITY - which is where J Corbyn comes in - the last bloody thing we need in the middle of all this mess is anothe General Election, after all ...

[[ html repaired - mod]]

352:

But then the problems start...

That's where the flat tax, no deductions thing is actually important. Rather than 4-to-10 different tax rates (with the various levies) there's only one, and it starts at zero income. Likewise there are no deductions or benefits-paid-as-tax. It's just a flat "how much you got? Give us half" system.

Which could simplify the tax system a lot, I think. But at the expense of either fairness or a vastly more complex benefits system.

The simple way is everyone pays 35%, right down to that baby with the savings account. It needn't actually be a huge PITA either, especially if the tax office is allowed to simply tax everyone and let people who are not tax residents claim it back when they leave (or via reciprocal taxation agreements). Banks just tax all interest payments, listed companies tax all dividends, money transfer offices tax all incoming remittences, stock exchanges tax all share transfers (oh, wait, capital gains are not quite that simple to tax).

The pain would be either mass starvation and homelessness as people on the breadline now lost half or more of their income (ie, pay 35% tax *and* lose all their tax credits); or people get the same payments as now but they'd have to register with the benefit office and claim whatever allowances they're entitled to. Said benefit office would have a lot more customers and pay out a lot more money every week. And they would be paying every week, because people on the breadline don't have the savings to wait 2 weeks or a month... see "universal credit" and similar cruelties in other countries (or the US government shutdown). Transfer payments are a huge and complex area, especially if you include tax deductions.

I suspect Pigeon proposes to eliminate all of most of them in favour of a very small number of tightly targeted benefits, plus a universal basic income. Viz, you get the UBI, a parenting payment, a disability allowance and possibly a housing allowance. But even those three are probably more than ideal in the minds of the "simple system" purists. The UK universal benefit system is more complex than that and it is horrible even without the deliberate delays and cruelties - there just aren't enough different allowances to cater for the diverse needs of the people forced into the system.

Which is why I've been trying to get Pigeon to explain how they think the above should work. There's got to be some cunning plan that makes the above a simplistic and needlessly cruel interpretation of the actual proposal. I just can't see what it is.

353:

STUPIDITY - the last bloody thing we need in the middle of all this mess is another General Election

With the system you have, the only options for the two major parties are "everything on the table" negotiations or a fight to the death. There really isn't another option that works in the time available. But the incentives for both leaders, and both party hierarchies, are to double down and refuse to "be weak" and "compromise themselves" by negotiating. I think Corbyn has a factionalised rabble behind him just like May does, but less publicly because who really gives a shit what the opposition are doing when the government is providing such great media?

Ideally we would have seen the whole parliament form into factions based on how they think things should work, appoint representatives and those reps would negotiate with each other until they had a deal that a majority would agree to. But because those factions cross party lines and the party system has fossilised into UK politics, that can't happen.

Right now if, say, 350 "remain" MPs got together and thrashed out a deal between themselves, the media would explode (Rupert would go berserk) and the party hierarchies would be apoplectic (the expulsions would start very quickly). I think it would be ugly, and I wouldn't be surprised to see actual lynchings outside parliament.

Likewise reforming the electoral system to encourage more parties... that's not a fast process. It took Aotearoa with only 4M people at least 10 years to go from "oh shit" to "MMP actually works". IMO you want independent parties that stand for: far right brexit; conservative brexit; conservative remain; labour remain; labour brexit and probably three or four others (plus the regional parties, including EVEL or whatever the English parochialists want to call themselves).

What you have instead is two major parties who define themselves largely in opposition to each other. Breaking that isn't something you can do in the 2 months before Brexit. Well, except in the "it's broken now" sense :(

354:

First, Moveable Type's refusal to allow me to edit my posts, even for a minute or so; and second, the ongoing blocking of the tag.

a) I just enabled the <strike> tag; I didn't know anybody used it (what's wrong with the abbreviated form, <s>, anyway?)

b) If you want an actual upgrade to MT, that will cost you roughly €1000 per year on an ongoing basis, because Six Apart discontinued the open source licensed version I'm still using and it's now only available with a commercial support contract aimed at businesses.

One of these years if I get really bored I might look into spending a month or two replacing/upgrading the MT system to a Joomla based CMS. That's open source, and I know the Joomla project's main public person quite well ... but the cost is measured in time and learning curve rather than money, and it's actually rather expensive when you work it out.

355:

Re: b)

If I have to choose between revealing my true identity as barely literate, and waiting an extra two months for your next book....

I hereby admit to frequent misspellings, unstructured sentences and a total inability to proof my chicken scratchings.

356:

"On the above theme, I found compelling a recent piece by London-based Aussie novelist and lawyer Helen Dale. I'm wondering what you of Charlie's commentariat will think of it."

Paywalled, unfortunately. Your capsule summary of it seems pretty on-point though - especially the 'no majority for anything' trap that parliament is in currently.

Regards
Luke

357:

...The big mistake was resuming the advance on Moscow instead of ignoring Moscow and going for the Caucasus oil fields in 1941...

The big mistake was invading the USSR. It was almost as stupid as their plans for SEALION, and the invasion of the UK (which if attempted would have resulted in six-figure casualties for Germany for zero gain).

There was a debate a couple of years ago about the German strategy for the USSR on the Army Rumour Service; among the more interesting contributions (other than those about the strategic, operational, and logistic incompetence of the Germans), was one on the force densities that they appeared to believe were adequate.

Basically, they were screwed from the start. Yes, they had nine months of early successes, right up to the gates of Moscow; so what. After the initial advantages as the first mover, they were utterly pwned - just as they were in every other operational theatre. Their navy was monstered by mid-1940, pretty much leaving only the U-boat arm (which then took 75% casualties). Their air force was screwed by 1943, leaving only a tactical force capable of gaining local air superiority for short periods - and lost even that by 1944. Their army was getting a kicking by late 1942, a severe kicking by 1943, and smashed flat everywhere by 1944.

The German economy was outproduced in tanks, ships, and aircraft, in every year of the war, by UK production alone. Those trucks that weren't adequately destroyed by their former owners at Dunkirk in 1940, instantly doubled the German truck fleet - but the Germans still required thousands of horses for every Division, because so much of their artillery and logistics were horse-drawn.

Basically, they were doomed from the start, they were just too incompetent to realise it.

358:

"On the above theme, I found compelling a recent piece by London-based Aussie novelist and lawyer Helen Dale. I'm wondering what you of Charlie's commentariat will think of it."

Paywalled, unfortunately.

It may be a regional thing rather than an actual paywall. If you have a VPN, try selecting a server in OZ. Worked fine for me.

359:

Not actually paywalled. I infer that the Australian's Web site just uses a particularly nasty sort of checking for whether this URL has been visited before.

1. Open a private browsing window. (May not be necessary, but couldn't hurt.)
2. Then, in that window, do a search engine search for the article title, which is 'Blowing up Westminster: Brexit is achieving what Fawkes could not'.

I'm not certain, but I think what happens is that The Australian's Web site transparently redirects you to a hashed URL, and subsequent attempts to reload that URL by any user including the first one cause the site to hit you up for a subscription.

Ms. Dale's argument about the 'no majority for anything' dilemma is indeed exactly what happens in a Condorcet paradox. When that situation arises, generically, the eventual winner depends on the order in which options are presented and voted, and this is where Ms. Dale thinks she sees strategy being carried out by Speaker John Bercow, deciding the order of votes so that reversal of the 2016 vote is the last option standing.

360:

I recall one chapter in a book discussing the complete failure of German military intelligence, because before they reached Moscow they were fighting divisions they hadn't known existed. Over confidence due to lack of accurate information is a common problem.

361:

#292 - I agree your statement about $rich_man_born_out_of_wedlock, but would trust my source to have recounted the anecdote accurately (for values of accurately relating to his remembrance).

362:

the complete failure of German military intelligence, because before they reached Moscow they were fighting divisions they hadn't known existed

While that may be true, it isn't, in itself, a mark against German intelligence. Russia is vast, the Soviets had excellent counterintelligence and were paranoid about foreign spies. The US was in a similar position after WW II until reconnaissance satellites became available, and even then there were not a few surprises concerning Soviet order of battle.

363:

Nope. Just read more history than the average person. Not that I'm an expert by any means.

There's a collection of folks who get together for a beer or two every month or so and the core of the group is based on folks with ties to the UK and it's empire of the past. (I'm an invited guest to this group.) I was surprised by the folks who didn't realize that most of them didn't realize that the RJ was sunk before the war and that FDR wasn't sure how to deal with Europe after Dec 7, 1941 until Hitler fixed the questions by declaring war on the US first. They thought the US declared war on Germany first.

364:

Well a lot of that was the Deutscher-Amerika Bund, wasn’t it? ... See this utterly revolting picture - and the date

In the US it was known as the German American Bund.

A lot of it? Not really. They were a small but vocal and with some very influential members. Heck, your king was with them.

The appeal was that (remember news reels was the high tech media of the day) Germany had gotten out of the recession without those liberal policies of FDR. So they much be doing things right.

The anti-war sentiment of the general US population had many facets. A LOT of it was people still being pissed off that they had to go save Europe's butt in 1917 and didn't want to do it again. (Legit or not this was how maybe 1/2 of the country felt.) The US didn't enter the League of Nations due to this sentiment. And this sentiment was wide spread even throughout WWII.

The US was VERY isolationist during the first half of the 1900s. To an extend that most Europeans don't get. And most current US citizens don't get either. Until Trump won. And it exposed how many over here still don't get the connected world they live in.

365:

OK, for the UK (with the note that figures are chosen for ease of working out in one's head on the fly, rather than correctness):-

In April and May Hector is unemployed, and receives £900 a month in state benefits (includes rent or mortgage payment, UK "Council Tax", which is a form of property tax. This would give him an annualised income of £10_800). On June first, he gets a permanent job paying £2_000 a month, so that will extrapolate to £20_000 from employment, plus £1_800 from benefits, for a total extrapolated annual income of £21_800. He gets a single person's Income Tax Allowance of £11_000.

Had he remained unemployed and receiving benefit for the whole year, he would have received £10_800, which was potentially liable for Income Tax, but is below his Allowance, so no actual Income Tax is due.

Since he obtained this job, we have to calculate a tax bill based on the extrapolated income and the Allowance, which we do by:-
1) Taxable income = Income - Allowance => 21_800 - 11_000 = 10_800.
2) Calculate Pay As You Earn (PAYE) Income Tax as Taxable Income * Tax Rate / Months remaining in tax year.
If Tax Rate is 20%, this gives 10_800 * 0.2 / 10 for £216 to be deducted each month.

As you can see, he is paying tax on his total income, but, had he been dependent on benefits for the whole year, no actual liability would have been incurred since his income was less than his allowance.

366:

National IDs in the US was a near riot issue back in the 70s. Conservatives placed the issue near the coming of the anti-Christ. So it never happened.

About a year ago my uber right wing niece in law posted on Facebook that a simple solution to most of our illegal immigration issues would go away if the federal government would just issue ID cards to every citizen.

In the idea of not rocking the family boat any more than it already was being rocked I didn't rise to the occasion.

367:

Basically, they were doomed from the start, they were just too incompetent to realise it.

Didn't the German military want to wait until 44 or so to start things but Hitler was impatient?

368:

The US was in a similar position after WW II until reconnaissance satellites became available

There was a reason that Gary Powers was shot down. The CIA wanted photos of the interior of the USSR. Prior to his flight all of the overflights had been arcs that went in and out quickly. (Relatively speaking.)

369:

I think the EU has a huge disincentive to extend Article 50. If any extension happens beyond the European Parliamentary elections, expect the UK delegation to be dominated by UKIP (or whatever they call themselves now). Since continent-wide populists are expected to make gains, this would magnify the problem.

370:

"There are still 9 of them in England, amounting to 14GW output according to the internet."

There are 7 in the UK as a whole generating 11 GW. 2 of them closed last year

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_active_coal_fired_power_stations_in_the_United_Kingdom

371:

Saying "this isn't a tax, it's a levy" is very familiar from Australian politics

Among Canadian neocons the preferred term is "fee" rathe than levy. And "tax" is anything that you don't want to pay, whether or not it's collected by the government.

Of course, fees are flat-rate no matter what your income, which is much fairer (for neocon standard of "fair").

372:

the ongoing blocking of the strike tag

So your right to strike has been removed? Welcome to the Brave New Neocon World ;-)

373:

David L @ 368
I give you the English Electric Camberra
QUOTE: Throughout most of the 1950s, the Canberra could fly at a higher altitude than any other bomber or even any other aircraft in the world. In 1957, one Canberra established a world altitude record of 70,310 feet (21,430 m). In February 1951, another Canberra set another world record when it became the first jet aircraft to make a non-stop transatlantic flight. Due to its ability to evade the early jet interceptor aircraft and its significant performance advancement over contemporary piston-engined bombers, the Canberra became a popular aircraft on the export market, being procured for service in the air forces of many nations both inside and outside of the Commonwealth of Nations. The type was also licence produced in Australia and the US, the latter building it as the Martin B-57 Canberra. ENDQUOTE

374:

If you have a VPN

On that note, and going way off-topic, can anyone recommend a decent VPN that would work on a Mac running OSX 10.10? (Ideally it would also work on my iPad running iOS 9.3.5 for travelling, but that's not as important.) I'm in Canada if that makes a difference.

375:

Re: ' ... she costs the pizza place 17200, where someone whose only job was pizza making, would have cost them 12000. She could just tell them that it's her only job, but that's fraud.'

Not familiar with other countries' employment-income tax systems hence my question: does your country have a version of a social security number? This is a form of centralized ID - unique to each individual, provided solely by the federal gov't and is one of a limited number of documents that can be used as reliable proof of identity. I've had to provide this (SSN) to every employer and every bank I've ever dealt with ... because it's required by tax law.

Given that most major credit cards can track your moment-by-moment purchases as well as tell you if there's any fishy behavior, I wonder why national gov'ts haven't tried using the SSN for automatically calculating, revising and taxing income(s). Such a system could be pre-programmed for 'allowances' (special deductions) via trackable certified/authenticated apps that are downloadable exclusively off the taxman's site. Part of or an extension to this app might even tell you how much more tax you owe if your taxable income climbs up to the next level meaning you have to pay more tax on erveything you had already earned to-date. (This way you could choose to start paying more right away instead of waiting until tax-time when you might not have extra $000s kicking around.)

To the comp-sci folk: Please let me know (in plain English) what the likeliest tech problems are with this scenario. Thanks!

376:

VPN:

I'm using NordVPN (https://nordvpn.com/) which is currently selling for ~USD 3.00/month on a three-year purchase. It gets good reviews and, for my part, seems to do everything expected of it. So far.

Neither I, my relatives or cats(*) have any investment in Nord. Caveat emptor, YMMV, etc, etc, etc.

(*) We don't currently have a cat.

377:

P.S.:

I'm running NordVPN on Windows 10, Android phone and a Kindle Fire en Panamá, where we are because of cold avoidance. Often autoconnects through Costa Rica, which works fine, but changing servers to other places is simple.

378:

Quite a few people predicted something like the current chaos, actually. There were enough people who had said 'over my dead body' about each option to deduce that. There is probably worse to come, too.

379:

I won't bring up the tech problems, but I can bring up social problems that this faces in the US

1. Tax software companies (TurboTax, HRBlock). Every time Congress has proposed creating such a system, they've strenuously lobbied to kill it.

2. 7% of US residents don't have a bank account
https://www.usnews.com/news/business/articles/2018-10-23/americans-who-do-not-have-a-bank-account-falls-to-record-low

Some of those are groups which have an aversion to modern technology (the Amish, survivalists). Others are people in isolated areas (Northern Alaska, N.A. Reservations). Some are in US territories. And then finally, you have the very poor in both the inner city and rural areas. Obviously, there's overlap between these groups.

a. Just because someone has a bank account, doesn't mean that they use it for most of their transactions.

b. While you're not going to get much money tracking that economy, you still have to track it for the purposes of benefits. From my understanding, benefit agencies use the IRS database rather than create their own. I could be wrong?

3. "Fed data, so in total, 76.9 percent of Americans (192 million) have credit card, a charge card or both"
https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/ownership-statistics.php

This doesn't include debit cards, but it does jive with what a former coworker said. He used to work for a credit agency, and mentioned that around 20% of the US population could only be tracked with their use of checks. Add that to the 7% who don't have a Bank Account, and the numbers are close.

Note that while 95% of US residents have a cell phone, just 77% have a smartphone. I'm guessing there's an almost identical overlap between those who have a smartphone and those who have a credit card. I wonder what you could do with flip phones for tax purposes?

http://www.pewinternet.org/fact-sheet/mobile/

I wonder what similar statistics are in other countries?

380:

The biggest problem I can see is something that's already a problem: what happens when one's SSN is stolen?

The SSN system is horribly designed as a means of authentication. Many of it's problems would go away if everyone's SSN were public knowledge, but too many things have been built on the assumption that they are not for that to be a painless transformation.

381:

First, I heard the "simple Simon" from right wingers, and nobody else, when we were first in Chicago.

Second, to file under the heading of "the exception proves the rule" was that there have usually been some tiny portion of the wealthy, as there were a tiny portion of the "nobility", who actually believed in noblesse oblige.

Hell, as much as I hate Bill the Gates, he was just headlined as saying "best investment I've ever made" for donating $10B or so for world health.

And it you think *that's* something, just wait till I win the lottery.... (g)

382:

I was considering not actually sending them to my legislators. Your idea would have been better. At any rate, I wrote a waffling one that could be taken either way, depending on the reader. With liberals representing me....

383:

to Daniel Duffy @326
I've heard an excellent lecture about this from this guy:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVo5I0xNRhg
Don't ask him to do any political stuff though, he isn't professional, so he is stumbling over simplest questions regularly.

Though even he does not really address much the second-most important reason in winning the war - the evacuation of industry. This story is even somewhat related to my current employment.

to Lars @329
A Russian-speaking friend claimed that "brekzit" had become a verb in some eastern-European parts, meaning: saying goodbye to everyone as if you're about to leave, but then not actually leaving.

Never heard this joke before.

384:

Really? I'd never heard that about guerilla war, but it makes perfect sense.

385:

No, thank you. The GOP is pushing this really hard in the US, in the form of "voter IDs", mostly for folks without drivers' licenses... and then they make them impossible to get. The state of Georgia, I think required them... and then shut down *ALL* the registration sites inside of one small city - they went from, I think it was 30, to *one*, outside the city, inconvenient for what passes for public transportation in the US South.

Oh, and Social Security cards in the US have printed on them, explicitly, "Not to be used for identification", even though for a bunch of years, doctors and schools used them, though they're getting away from that now.

386:

Charlie, either you're not thinking in US terms (can't imagine why(g)), or I didn't explain it clearly enough.

1. Congresscritters (technically, Rrepresentatives) serve two yr terms.
2. Senators server six year terms.

So, if a Congresscritter stays in for three terms, let's say, or someone does one term as Senator, that would ban them for six years after leaving. Two terms as Senator, and you're out for 12 years before you can get money.

Given the "next quarter is long-term thinking" in the US, that's a long time for some rich company to remember to give them a job at the end of.

387:

Yup. It wasn't bad in the US back in the day. Hey, I was living in a commune - four of us in an apt that we shared, and could afford my share (ok, the apartment was not a great part of town, but still) I was making it on... I think it was a minimum wage as a library page of $1.41/hr, and not full time.

About the estate tax - for exactly the same reason, I want a *serious* top tax brackets. 70%-80% would be really good. Not just to raise money, not just to prevent a hereditary monied class, but because once you have so much that you can afford hot and cold running prostitutes every night, and platinum toilet fixtures (none of this hoi polloi gold that the Malignant Carcinoma likes), what do you do with the money... except to *buy* governments.*

And "unearned income" - right now, in the US, interest, difidends, and capital gains wind up taxed at around 14% - that's what Romney was talking about in '12, when he was running for President. Americans here - I want to simplify the tax code: get rid completely of 1040 SchedulesB and D, and roll ALL INCOME into INCOME. Right now, that would mean the wealthy would be paying 38%, not 14%, on almost all their income.

* As I understand it, fashion, as we know it, was invented in the court of the Sun King, with his requirement that the French nobility attend court for a month out of the year, and clothing, the kind the nobility wore, was EX$$$$PEN$$$IVE. It was a means of beggering the nobility, so they couldn't build up private armies to overthrow him....

388:

*sigh*

As we learned back in the sixties and early seventies, "participatory democracy" too often turned into "rule by the long-winded".

389:

Y'know, reading this, I wonder how much was isolationism... and how much it was newly-minted Americans who didn't want to pull the governments, and nobility they'd fled, chestnuts out of the fire.

Remember, there was a *lot* of left-wing sentiment in the US, and much of it was internationalist. Lessee, the Socialist candidate for President in ... was it 1908, or 1912, got nearly a million votes. And before 1919, you almost needed a Red Card (IWW membership card) to ride the rails in the midwest.

My take on why Wilson went into WWI, after campaigning against going to war, was to stop the socialist revolution that could well have spread to Europe from Russia. There *had* been mutinies on the front lines towards the end.

390:

That's neocon libertarian world!

I refuse to give up my right of association, and to peaceably dissemble. I'm on strike! I want to use "less than" g "greater than", the way it's always been! \

391:

Well, I live in Georgia in the US, and that is not the case re: voter ID cards. They are available if people w/o driver's licenses or other form of ID (like a passport) want them, but they're not required.

The arguable suppression technique here was requiring a photo ID at all in order to vote, when the evidence of voter fraud was nonexistent. The offering of the alternative ID cards (for free) was intended to show no bias, though obviously, there is always bias against the poor and working class when you require extra steps in order to do something.

392:

That is a cue for me to quote Kipling - as I am on holiday with only a tablet, you are let off!

393:

The germans really only had two realistic avenues of victory in WW2

1: peace with the UK after the fall of France
2: then being the first to develop the Abomb

And even that path is pretty far fetched

As Sun Tzu said “tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat”, this adequately describes the eastern front for the Germans

394:

Totally off any topic in sight, but this might be slightly useful for world-building purposes for you fictioneers:

https://www.fema.gov/media-library-data/20130726-1624-20490-0371/430_ch4.pdf

395:

I just enabled the <strike> tag

Thank you, m'lud. I don't know why I don't use the 's' tag, I think habit. But no, I never tried it here.

Upgrading the site is one of those things that I would like, but it's a long way down the "Moz's list of things Charlie should do". insofar as you have any interest in my preferences :)

396:

Cf “this isn’t a subsidy, it’s a tax rebate”. Very few people are fooled by that one over here, but it still gets an airing every now and then. I sometimes get mileage out of referring to owners of small businesses that would not be profitable without the diesel subsidy as welfare recipients, but it doesn’t really do much to win hearts and minds.

397:

Please let me know (in plain English) what the likeliest tech problems are with this scenario

The thing to remember is that the people currently doing that tracking fall into two groups: ones who don't really care about accuracy, they just want a record of most of the spending by most of the people; and those who care a lot about accuracy but only for the parts that they control.

Viz, if your rewards card misses a few transactions or adds a few extras in you're probably not going to be too fussed, and if you are the provider is not going to find it hard to just give you extra points to make you go away. Your bank, on the other hand, will not do that if there's money missing from your account, they they put a lot of work into making their system very accurate and they charge you accordingly for that.

A government system that wanted all transactions recorded accurately would be the worst of both worlds. Computer people still don't have a way to secure that kind of "everyone gets access" system, or build something that big. The cost would be staggering and probably not worth the benefit.

Thing is though, for tax fraud they don't need it. They can use the loyalty card approach and just look for people with unusual spending patterns, just as they do with banks (who also care about fraud). As usual 80% of the problem comes from 20% of the people, so the tax office can focus on them (or ignore them and focus on the poorest, depending on the politics of the government).

398:

I believe Queen Elizabeth the first had a similar approach to dealing with potential plotters in the nobility. She'd go visit them for a month or so, by the end of that they'd be in no financial position to plot anything. Also saved on the royal housekeeping.

399:

"participatory democracy" too often turned into "rule by the long-winded".

There has been progress on that front since then, though. We have the spokescouncil model, where groups of 5-10 discuss, send a rep into a next level up group of 5-10 and so on until the top level announce a consensus proposal which the whole group either endorse or not. It works quite for for discovering the consensus position if there is one, but when it fails there's generally no recovery (I prefer the "factional grouping" resolution, where if you have space you allocate corners of the room to the major axes of disagreement and ask people to move towards where they stand on those axes. Often you get a big bundle with some outliers, and that can be resolved. But when you get separate groups in separate corners you have a very graphic representation of why consensus is impossible for now).

There's a bunch of similar systems, that's the one I'm familiar with from Australian green and anarchist circles.

In many ways citizens juries and deliberative democracy in general are a way apply this to nations and other large groups. Rather than try to persuade everyone, get a representative sample together and have them thrash it out on behalf, then present their conclusion to the larger group. Ireland found that very useful with the "OMG don't talk about abortion" referendum.

Online there is the "endless online forum" approach, and the much more effective "he's the man and he's got the vote" approach used by Linux/Linus and many others. For those groups it's transition that's hard, but they're normally saved by the low cost of forking and merging. Viz, dictatorship is fine as long as you can leave and take your stuff with you. So it's not possible with citizenship, sadly.

400:

Um, that was 40 years ago? I take it you have participated since then, no?

As Moz noted, we have progressed a bit since then. For example, everybody in the local City Council and Board of Supervisors has speaking time limits, including the Councilmembers and Supervisors.

401:

The NYT has things to say "The Malign Incompetence of the British Ruling Class. With Brexit, the chumocrats who drew borders from India to Ireland are getting a taste of their own medicine."

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/01/17/opinion/sunday/brexit-ireland-empire.html

402:

_Moz_ @ 342: On a more important note, There are two major issues that I think should addressed at a global political level. I am drafting a missive to the UN even as we speak.

First, Moveable Type's refusal to allow me to edit my posts, even for a minute or so; and second, the ongoing blocking of the <strike> tag.

I really don't see the problem. You can edit your comment as many times as you want in [Preview] before hitting the [Submit] button. Just keep refreshing the preview until you get your comment the way you want it. Then click [Submit]

What can you do with the <strike> tag that you can't do with the <s> tag?

Strike-thru with the <s> tag seems to work just fine.

403:

Re that "perimeter security design" FEMA pdf, interesting, thanks. (Is the year written 2013 as suggested by the url?)

404:

Martin @ 357:

"...The big mistake was resuming the advance on Moscow instead of ignoring Moscow and going for the Caucasus oil fields in 1941..."

The big mistake was invading the USSR. ... Basically, they were doomed from the start, they were just too incompetent to realise it.

Germany's BIG mistake was invading Poland and starting the war in the first place. It's clear Hitler had come to believe the British & French would never stand up to him. What might they have done before then to convince Hitler he couldn't get away with it?

It's my understanding that most of what drove Chamberlain at Munich was an assessment that Germany was in better shape militarily than it was; that Britain couldn't stop him. I think Hitler believed this too, although both were mistaken.

405:

Just keep refreshing the preview until you get your comment the way you want it. Then click [Submit]

... and see the obvious typo in your post. There's a context switch or some other difference that means some of us see new bugs only after hitting submit. I think it's the jump from "I have this in my head and I see it on the page" to "that is what I wrote".

The s tag rather than strike is just some kind of quirk in my brain where I can't remember that it exists. Probably because a goodly chunk of my life is spent in an environment where abbreviations are so harmful that they are grounds for rejection of submitted work (writing software). The result is that I sit there going "grr why no strike tag" rather than "ok, use s tag". I occasionally use <em> as well, but since that's allowed here it's not a problem.

406:

Meanwhile I am dealing with SIA, one of those delightful communication standards written before computers were invented* that lingers around because it's so widely relied on by hardware that's still working. More accurately, it is one of the things that created the huge emphasis on backward and forward compatibility in computing.

Q. How can the transmitter know the SIA level of the receiver? Does a compliant device have to have automatic level setting?
A. SIA Level information is not automated. Refer to the product documentation or inquire of the manufacturer

Although in good news there is automated detection of the baud rates, with different carrier tones for 110 and 300 baud.

Objectives: ... g) Provide a secure data path not easily accessed with available hardware, such as personal computers, modems, etc.

Yes, really, one of the goals was to make it incompatible with everything else for "security by obscurity". The SIP came along and now everyone can do it. I told you it was old.

Oh, and by pure luck the "extended data block" is binary so we can send UTF8 text in those blocks. Not all standards are so generous (hey there email, how's it going?)

* not really but you could be forgiven for thinking so.

407:

whitroth @ 385: No, thank you. The GOP is pushing this really hard in the US, in the form of "voter IDs", mostly for folks without drivers' licenses... and then they make them impossible to get. The state of Georgia, I think required them... and then shut down *ALL* the registration sites inside of one small city - they went from, I think it was 30, to *one*, outside the city, inconvenient for what passes for public transportation in the US South.

Oh, and Social Security cards in the US have printed on them, explicitly, "Not to be used for identification", even though for a bunch of years, doctors and schools used them, though they're getting away from that now.

That was Alabama that shut down all of the driver's license offices after requiring photo ID (only available from the driver's license office) for voting. Georgia was where the GOP candidate for Governor was also the Secretary of State responsible for overseeing the conduct of the election.

He threw out THOUSANDS of absentee ballots and absentee ballot requests for not being filled out properly ... things like the Voter Registration form had only First & Last Names and the ballot had First Name, Middle Initial and Last Name of the voter (or vice versa) OR women who registered to vote under their maiden names before getting married & didn't update their voter registration with their husband's last name OR the voter who was registered at a different address than was on their driver's license.

Technically you're supposed to go down to DMV & get a replacement Driver's License within thirty days of changing your residence address. It can get expensive at $15 - $20 a pop if you're low income and get evicted two or three times a year.

.

Social Security cards are not supposed to be used for identification, but they are a REQUIRED form of identification if you want a JOB. Employers are REQUIRED to have a photocopy of every employee's Social Security card on file in case they're audited by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

408:

Re: ' They can use the loyalty card approach and just look for people with unusual spending patterns, just as they do with banks (who also care about fraud).'

Thanks! Seems to me that because credit/reward/bank cards have been around for about 30 years, their operating-security systems should be fairly robust by now. The feds don't have to build a new system from scratch, just use something that's been tested and build a few additional safeguards on top. Could also use sci-tech funding/grants as a carrot to get input from leading academics/researchers. Toss enough money and prestige on this project and you could probably get outfits like IBM interested.

Also (I'm guessing here) if the fed dept that issued such a card was perceived as neutral/benign staffed entirely by boring non-politically appointees, you'd get more people willing to acquire such a card esp. if doing so ensured getting their social benefits accurately and on time.

Smartphone ownership - some places have been experimenting with handing out smartphones to people at risk. The phone is usually a cheaper brand (under $100*) but does the job. Way cheaper to distribute this to every economically struggling USian than a buying an iffy F35!


* Hey, you could probably talk a smartphone manufacturer to come up with an even cheaper model/price if you said you needed 1 million units by next year.

409:

"It's my understanding that most of what drove Chamberlain at Munich was an assessment that Germany was in better shape militarily than it was; that Britain couldn't stop him. I think Hitler believed this too, although both were mistaken."

From what I've casually gathered, the whole point of Munich was to buy two years, and the British were frantically rearming.

'Peace in our time' was just to calm the British people for the moment.

410:

The feds don't have to build a new system from scratch, just use something that's been tested and build a few additional safeguards on top.

That's not really how security works. Remember the "NSA loses hacking tools" thing? It's the physical equivalent of those "every fire cabinet has the same key" things, only now you propose to build the nations tax system relying on the security of those boxes (and the uniqueness of the SSN).

smartphone manufacturer to come up with an even cheaper model...

Try *billion*, not million. On that note, you're also adding "must be more secure than an ATM" to the requirements, when two multibillion dollar companies who really, really want security have been unable to provide even "don't let my kids use my credit card" level security. Making it be the core of your complete financial profile... scary stuff. Did I mention that the communications system that smartphone uses is designed to be insecure? "Stingray"among many others make devices that exploit the insecurity and they're now very affordable.

As long as you limit it to "we want a general idea of what most people do" it's pretty easy and a bit of extra software and a few million free phones will do it. But you just can't, with current technology, make it your government issued ID and secure data storage device.

This is not "go to the moon", this is "run a bus service to orbit" and we still can't do the latter.