Category Archives: government

Taxes = Happiness

Name the happiest people in the world.
Name the highest taxes paid by people and corporations in the world.

Guess what? They (tend) to be the same people.

This is a simple plot (R code below) of 108 countries plotted by their “happiness quotient” in relation to their combined personal and highest corporate tax rate.

happytax

That line means that, in general, the higher the tax rate, the happier people reported to be (see cite below). This has been documented before. And a new report is due soon that will further elucidate this relationship.

The bottom line? If you take the recent US Republican tax bill that passed (Dec 2017), then what these fools have done is slid the United States BACKWARDS on that line. By reducing taxes (they say) across the board, they effectively want the Citizens of the United States to be more miserable than they are now.

Happy Holidaze!

[R Code]

lmod <- lm(happiness ~ taxrate, data = happytax)
plot(happiness ~ taxrate, data = happytax, pch = 19, 
 main = "happiness vs. taxrate", 
 xlab = "taxrate",
 ylab = "happiness")
abline(lmod)

[Cite:]
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_tax_rates
https://tradingeconomics.com/country-list/personal-income-tax-rate
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_Happiness_Report


My Dystopian Life

The topic is a tired one. And this post is not meant to wipe the sleep from its eyes. I often find myself writing stories in this genre, therefore, I’d like to put all this here so as to keep track of it.

Note, I tend to focus on “apocalyptic” dystopians. Those other story lines, that come about through gradual oppression, I don’t much care for. (Hell, we live in one now.)

I’ll be updating this post, from time to time, and commenting with links and data.

Reasons why dystopian stories are alluring:

  1. A return to survival mode.
  2. Simpler cause and effect living.
  3. The elimination of wealth inequality.
  4. Imagining and preparing for the worst.
  5. Societal “clean slate” thinking.

A return to survival mode

Let’s face it, the act of survival (in the Western world) is less than challenging. On average, most people do not have to worry about surviving from day to day. (Many caveats to this, I know, but that’s not the point now.) As animals, humans, when threatened, have a fierce will to live. In fact, we evolved during such times when our ferocity undoubtedly determined the survival of our genes. We’ve lost that edge.

“Attack that sales meeting!” “Tear into that engine overhaul!” “Shred that software bug!” Nope, sorry. Our million year old survival instincts are just not triggered these days.

I think a return to a time (or reading about one) when every decision you make, throughout the day, influences your personal and family’s survival gives us a momentary boost of Darwin’s and London’s “Survival of the fittest,” and “Eat or be eaten,” sense of immediacy. Choices would mean something again.

Simpler cause and effect living

Similar to a return to survival mode, a jump into a post-apocalyptic world simplifies one’s life. Would you have to manage your IRA? Worry about interest rates? Think about saving for yours or your child’s college education? Second guess that office photo you posted on fadebook? Hell no! That shit would be history, a quaint recollection as you lie beneath a glowing sky lit by strange aurora, listening to the wild dogs circle your camp.

When you buy a new cellphone, how much impact does that really have on your life? Diddly squat! That’s how much.

If you fail to step quietly through the broken, rubble-strewn town, what effect, then, when you neglectfully kick that empty jerry-can waking the denizens that lurk there in the shadows? One hell-of-a-lot!

We have no agency in our lives today. (Of course we do. But not the kind that will get you killed within seconds or minutes after your mistake — unless we’re talking about stepping in front of a bus or texting while driving.) Meaningful agency is lost to us. A return to learning to survive, where every action and choice matters, would be a refreshing reemergence of “feeling alive!”

Return to equality

Take the world and turn off the internet. Turn off the lights. Turn off the electricity. Turn off the water and food delivery and medicine production and police protection, fire protection, military protection. Turn everything off that makes our technological society what it is today.

Now tell me, what’s your net worth now? Yeah, exactly! You are worth whatever you have in your backpack — and that’s it! Those of you in your razorwire shrouded compounds? Your food will run out eventually. Do you have private generators? Fuel production has ceased. This is a drastic simplification of course, but the vast differences in “wealth” we have today? Those would vanish overnight in a post-apocalyptic scenario.

Just to see a time when your own wits and skills of survival lend you a modicum of superiority would be worth watching the end of technological society. Or so many dystopian novels would have us believe (including mine).

Preparation for the worst case

Imagine the end of all convenience. The end of easy calories, of secure sleep, of clean water. Dwell on this imagined world; examine it in your mind, angle by angle. Now, pull back from this catastrophe and look around you. We have it pretty damn good today, don’t we? But it could be worse, much worse. By considering such End-of-Times scenarios you’ve both prepared yourself for the possibility, and you’ve reestablished your sense of what is important to you today.

Prepare for the worst, but live and survive today. Know that you have evaluated the ramifications of Armageddon but also know that, were it to arrive, you’re prepared. Your task would then be a constantly adjusting triage: evaluate, act, move on. Your future, cataclysm or not, will unfold (or not), and all you can truly do is handle the “now”.

Clean slate

Take the U.S. Constitution, patch the holes (corporations are not people!), add some equality of citizen amendments, and maybe some term limits, now, wipe the slate of human government clean and then apply your new World Constitution to civilization.

There! All better.

Well, not quite. While you were struggling to survive, a bunch of bad actors sprung up with their massive caches of ammunition and alt-right supremacy notions and bloomed, like a red tide, beneath your clean slate.

But at least your thoughts and intentions were true. They must count for something. Right?

An apocalypse and the dystopia that would follow “could” evolve into a new and beautiful utopia. This is one of the appeals of dystopian stories — the possibility that from the ashes a new, equitable and loving society could emerge. (Cough, cough!)

A list of dystopian novels I’ve read:

  • The Road
  • Alas Babylon
  • On the Beach
  • The Girl with all the Gifts
  • Far North
  • Earth Abides
  • Robopocalypse
  • Terraforming Earth
  • Stranger
  • Hunger Games
  • Divergent
  • Maze Runner
  • The Dead Lands
  • The Giver
  • Battle Royale
  • World Made by Hand
  • Night Work
  • The Last Man

Non fiction:

  • The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch
  • (Numerous others to be listed soon, before, you know, The End.)

REFERENCES:
https://anonymole.wordpress.com/2016/01/21/drake-equation-more-on-the-topic/


Taxes? Payment for privileges.

Who doesn’t like socialism? Well, if you consider all that society provides for itself already, nobody shouldn’t like socialism. That is, rejoice in Socialism — cuz’ we’re already in it.

Who likes paying taxes? Well, if you consider calling them payment for privileges then maybe they wouldn’t feel like taxes. Let’s say we DON’T tax anybody’s income anymore. But then everyone would be forced to independently purchase things like the following:

Protection from:
• Foreign nation states,
• Criminal activity,
• Medical catastrophe
• Fire,
• you know, all those things a national, state and local government setup of systems does for our protection.

And then there are the perks we would each have to pay for:

• A maintained and well marked road system,
• A system of education,
• A system of justice,
• A system of water delivery and sewage handling,
• An electricity system,
• Systems for managing air traffic, boat traffic, compliance for building, food safety…

If you examine that list you’ll come to the conclusion that, hell!, we already are living in a socialistic society. Without all that money (taxes) to pay for all those common good services, we’d be a helluva lot worse off.

Now how about upping the tax on the wealth? “Booooo,” all the wealthy will say, but wait a minute Mr. & Mrs. Oligarch, do you like having a trustworthy banking and investment system? You like being able to buy and own vast swaths of land, buildings, planes and boats? You like living in a safe, well protected and just system? Well, it’s gonna cost ya… Because, you know, you wouldn’t be wealthy if We The People weren’t here to provide all of that protection.

One would think that a natural algorithm would be that the more wealth you possess the more you owe it to society as the protector and provider of that wealth. The fallacious theory of “I’m a self-made man!” ignores the fact that all of one’s success is based on living in and working with a society that provides all of the protections and benefits previously mentioned. No one stands alone. The wealthy tend to think it’s they who have succeeded when in reality it is society that enable all of that success. No society, no success.

If the wealthy don’t like this theory well maybe they should consider that in the coming apocalypse, when society has collapsed, dissolved even, and they’re standing there, alone, having to protect themselves, feed themselves, clothe themselves, shelter themselves and they wonder, “how can we rebuild our wealth?”, and the answer comes that you, they, can’t because they’re spending all their time surviving. Then they might realize that only a society can support wealth. And that the more wealth one owns the more one owes society for the opportunity to have acquired it.

Is this wealth hatred? Bah! A certain dynamic of wealth in a society is necessary. Achievable betterment, the lifting of station through education, ideation, creation and hard work should always be possible and acknowledged. But even then, such betterment is a function of society and must be recognized. Taxation is one of the tools for that recognition.

Without a taxation system, throughout its history, to build all of the protection and privilege systems I mentioned above, no society would exist. Without taxes (historic and present) I couldn’t ever have written this blog — nor could you been able to read it. Which, by the way, thanks.


Self-regulating Systems

Nature knows how to self-regulate. The cycles of feast or famine are simple examples of such systems. Too much browse for caribou produces too many caribou calves, which then feeds too many wolves which then produce too many pups which then grow up and eat too many caribou… Leading to too few caribou, starving too many wolves, which end up producing too few new pups, which then let too many new caribou to prosper. Yeah, The Lion King was right, it’s a circle, sometimes it’s a big circle and sometimes it’s a little one. But around and around it goes.

Other self regulating system examples are the human body: when we get hot, we sweat, which cools us down. If we get too cool then we shiver which produces excess heat which warms us up.

The climate is generally a homeostatic system – a system that reaches an equilibrium (or oscillates between extremes, the average of which is steady over time). Ignoring humans impact for now, too much CO2, produces too much plant growth, which then extracts much more CO2 (a greenhouse gas) which then allows the planet to cool, which kills or retards plant growth allowing the decay of plant material to return the CO2 to the atmosphere which then heats up and allows plants to thrive again.

Over the years I’ve tried to figure out how to apply such self-regulating behaviors to social systems. For instance, I dreamed up a number of Constitutional Amendments, one of which addressed campaign contribution limits. I figured that if we used median wage as the basis for contributions — this would self regulate: every citizen could contribute one days gross wage, per candidate, per year. If politicians wanted greater contributions — they should work to elevate wages.

Another one is: what should be the minimum wage for any one location? I figured that the cost of living should determine the minimum wage; it would cost more to live in New York, NY than in Lincoln, NB. To create an algorithm for this: if we use the median monthly cost of an apartment as the basis for minimum wage: $1000 / mo. rent multiplied by 2 and divided by 100 would give us $20/hr. At 20 dollars an hour, a $1000 a month rent seems reasonable. If you want to raise rent, you have to raise wages too. If you want to lower wages, you have to lower the cost of rent.

All sort of systems can be redesigned with self-regulation in mind. Taxes for instance. Or how to handle income inequality. I’ve posted on these topics here if you’re curious. But what about other applications? Healthcare? Are there self-regulatory aspects we could apply there? I’ve posted my thoughts on the “win/win” vs the “win/lose” aspect of capitalism. That seems like a candidate for determine when free-markets should be used. In fact when the “win/win” impact of capitalism is applied, supply and demand also finds its own equilibrium.

Tragedy of the commons algorithms? Water rights algorithms? Gun laws? Energy production and consumption? Land use? The elimination of biases in the hiring process for employers? I’m sure there are many facets of life that would benefit from an intelligent analysis and design of algorithms which would produce a self-regulating system.


Aristocracy stymied corptocracy

European countries do not kowtow to corporations the way the United States does. In the US, the corporations own the politicians and they do the bidding of the plutocrats and the oligarchs — you know, the share holders and board members.

But European countries don’t let corporations run the show. And I wondered why this is.

Could it be that because Europe has had the bad taste in its collective mouth regarding kings and queens through the ages, that when it came time to form democratic governments they KNEW how to construct rules of government that limited the power of the powerful?

In the US, the new aristocracy are the corporate plutocrats that run and pay for government. The Koch asshats, and their ilk. When the corporations were just beginning to become “a thing” in the US, the likes of the robber barons, the train tycoons, the oil and steel magnates (Rockefeller and Morgan) we tried to handle them and the monopolies they formed (as all true capitalistic enterprises will eventually try to do). But when dozens, then hundreds and then tens of thousands of corporations and the power they wielded rose and demanded control of the country, its resources and its wealth — US Citizens had NO IDEA what to do? Why? Because we’d never had tyrants trying to run our lives for century after century.

So, is the United States just an aristocratic victim in the making because there’s no way that the plutocrats in power are going to relinquish that power? Or, like Europeans, can we learn to control the corptocracy?