I started writing and it got too long for just a comment. So, I expanded on it on my blog.
But, basically, it is one thing to talk about the difficulties of reducing the value of all goods and services produced in the economy to a single number. I agree, GDP is an imperfect measure.
It is a whole other thing to convert the individual states of well-being of three hundred million or a billion people to a single number and base decisions on whether that single number goes up or down.
Such a quantification is the ultimate certification of the desire accept the destruction of the individual in service of the state.
Having taught Intro Stats for a good many years, let me assure you that being good at algebra, or being able to solve a line integral are not sufficient to make heads or tails out of statistics. However, not having the capacity for some abstract reasoning required by algebra is an extreme impediment to actually understanding statistics.
Most people do not and cannot understand statistics. That includes almost everyone in academia as well, and I am pretty sure political scientists who can actually understand what a significance test means can be counted on the toes on a cat's paw. They cannot and will not come to grips with Stats because understanding it would lead to an honest evaluation of the importance of their work.
I am sorry, I just don't get the notion that one can somehow understand understand anything that requires quantitative and abstract reasoning without not being intimidated by simple mechanics. That doesn't mean never ever using a calculator. That means being able to do simple things like solving a single equation with a single unknown.
I recently wrote:
A primer on polls for those comfortable with a little algebra
I used to begin my lectures on probability in Intro Stats with the following slide:
Probability is a normalized denumerably additive measure defined over a sigma algebra of subsets of an abstract space.
If I remember correctly, that's a direct quotation from Kolmogorov, but I can't find the chapter and verse right now.
Following it was a flurry of note-taking activity despite the fact that my slides were available on the course web site (and apparently widely disseminated through a bunch of sites in complete violation of my copyrights). Why do people start writing stuff down if they don't understand it? Every time I put that slide up, I hoped someone would yell "Well, what on earth does that mean?" instead of writing it down, but I was regularly disappointed.
The real lesson here is that there's never an incumbent that isn't at risk of being unseated, no matter how widespread the adoption of their product or service
That is essentially true in the marketplace. In fact, the bigger the profits a company is milking by exploiting its size and dominance, the greater the incentive for others to come up with a replacement, or close enough substitute.
The one exception to this are incumbents that are "regulated" by a government. In most cases, this means they have the government given right to be the sole provider of something in return for oversight by politicians or bureaucrats with regard to price and service levels.
In all cases, this leads to inflated prices, and bad service as the "regulated" firm uses the police powers of the state to keep competitors out, and establishes prices by bargaining with said politicians and bureaucrats then in response to competition and consumer choice.
LEGAL NOTICE: This programme is now the subject of legal proceedings for defamation and malicious falsehood brought by Tesla Motors Ltd and Tesla Motors Inc against the BBC.
Jeremy said "we've worked out that on our track it would run out after 55 miles."
It is amazing that withing the span of about 120 years, we've come from being confined to within a few miles of where you were born or completely abandoning your family and friends to people intent on preventing you from staying in close touch with family if you choose to immigrate. Why do these people hate my grandmother?
Those of us old enough to remember the Napster non-sense are still baffled by how many billions of dollars the entertainment industry was willing to give up to be able to stick with their old business models.
When Napster first came on the scene, they could have moved ahead and co-opted it for mere pennies. They could have shut it down later if things did not work out. Of course, now we know things would have worked out and worked out very well indeed, for one simple reason: While the marginal cost of allowing one more person to download an MP3 is close to nothing, people are willing to pay at least a dollar for a genuine, high quality audio file.
Nooooo, it would have been heresy for a bunch of lawyers to settle for a win-win solution. No sir! We must win and customers must lose even though what we win is but a miniscule portion of the dough Apple made with iTunes. Coincidentally, the inventor of the intarwebs was available to lend a sympathetic ear, and the stupid DMCA was passed with one significant "loophole" that allowed more win-win solutions to be developed: Safe harbors.
Now, we are at a crossroads again. There is a win-win solution: The large content publishers with their stockpiles of cash can take chances on innovative startups and find new ways of making even more money. But, nah, the lawyer mentality balks at that. Someone must always lose. There can't be win-win.
Therefore, we get SOPA (which actually means "stick" in Turkish ;-)
When a pair of ostriches bearing the young meets another pair, the parents will fight and the winning pair will be parents of both pairs' offspring. It has been reported that the biggest group of ostriches contains 300 offspring!
If true, this is kind of curious, and suggests somehow that possession of others' offspring enhances the fitness of one's own.
There's a longstanding myth about ostriches that, when frightened, they will bury their head in the sand and pretend the danger isn't there. This, of course, is ridiculous. Such horribly unadaptive behavior would have been bred out of the species by the evolutionary process (or by whichever God you believe in tweaking his code a bit) as hungry African predators would have delighted in seeing stationary feathery meals.
Of course, if such behavior were triggered after the ostrich had a chance to reproduce, there would be no a priori reason to expect that it would lead to extinction. It might even be adaptive if offspring that can fend for themselves get a chance to escape while the predators occupied themselves with the stationary adult.
First off, thank you very much for picking this up.
I am not as concerned with police officers' actions as I am with the attitude of the members of the commission that they can freely restrict people's right to record and disseminate news.
The "disruptive behavior" criterion seems to be anything that bothers the commission chairperson. A commission that is working on restricting the supply of transportation services to citizens of a city whose work does not involve anything related to national security, or violation of anyone's privacy has no acceptable reason to restrict the information flow.
It seems to me that various public officials preferred the days when no one knew about the meetings which were announced on a dusty panel in the basement of the city sanitation services department, no one attended them and no one watched them on public access TV.
There's no point in acting surprised about it. All the planning charts and demolition orders have been on display at your local planning department in Alpha Centauri for 50 of your Earth years, so you've had plenty of time to lodge any formal complaint and itís far too late to start making a fuss about it now. Ö What do you mean you've never been to Alpha Centauri? Oh, for heaven's sake, mankind, it's only four light years away, you know. I'm sorry, but if you can't be bothered to take an interest in local affairs, that's your own lookout. Energize the demolition beams.
Today's technology is making it easier for such things to come out in the open and we are better off for it.
I don't understand why you would want to institute a fee for immigration. What is the advantage of that?
The idea is to set the fee somewhere near the poverty line to ensure that only people who expect make more that (i.e. who believe they can provide more value than they might impose social costs in today's generous welfare environment) to choose to come. Plus, $10,000 is comparable to the monetary outlays --if not the psychic costs-- people incur to come to the U.S. to work illegally, and why not take that rent and maybe fund stronger border controls etc.
... however, I am not sure if the word "value" has been overloaded here. The demand curve shows the willingness of consumers to pay for each and every unit of the good. The "willingness to pay" (WTP) is the result of maximizing preference with respect to a budget constraint, so we can have things like "I value my gadget a gajillion dollars" without having the resources to buy it.
The other meaning of "valuing something" is the willingness to protect and preserve it and put it to its best use once you have it. If you can get as many free mosquito nets as you want for free, there is really no need to protect and preserve the net because you can get one whenever you want.
Now, the budget constraint of a poor person may prevent them from being able to pay the price, but that does not negate the fact that they might get a great benefit from such nets. If, in addition, you cannot get as many free nets as you want as often as you want, then you will "value" the free bed net in the sense that you will want to protect and preserve it and put it to its best use.
I do not find the experimental evidence convincing that there is anything other than budget constraints and a resulting downward sloping demand curve operating here.
The fact that this is undermining any local enterprising entrepreneur from trying to produce/procure bed nets and sell them is important. In the long run, it is much more important for poor countries that there are people who are willing to set up production (and employ people) which will not happen so long as anything and everything of value to the local population drops from the sky in an aid basket.
And the idea that we'll be able to hire our own personal servants, because we can pay them next to nothing? That's rich. How can I afford to pay someone two dollars a day when I'm only paid two dollars a day for my work?
Why would you be paid two dollars a day for your work? Do you not produce anything of value?
Also, even among low skilled labor, there is opportunity to distinguish oneself and command a higher pay by the quality of one's work. Except in union shops where you cannot treat good workers well and get rid of bad workers.
So what you are saying is that there are some people who are in such a horrid situation that working for scraps of food and a mat is better than their currently horrific situation and your solution is to say: "Sorry, you can't even have food scraps and a mat. You'll just had to starve and sleep under a bridge." How generous of you.
That happens already. Have you visited a car wash in the NYC metro area lately? Or seen what happens in Chinese restaurants?
However, more importantly for citizens, minimum wage laws hurt low skilled workers by preventing them from being attractive enough for an employer to take a chance on them thereby limiting their opportunities to gain work experience.
Minimum wage laws would have to be abolished along with real immigration reform so that coming to the U.S. does not look artificially more attractive to foreign low skilled workers. The only people who would willingly choose to take the risk of starting a new life would be those who believed their output would afford them an acceptable living standard after they have paid the fee, ensuring that only net positive contributors would arrive.
Minimum wage/prevailing wage laws constitute an exercise of market power by those who already have a job to keep competitors out.
As someone who dealt with the various subparts of the U.S. visa & immigration system to ensure that I stayed in the U.S. legally, I think it is time for real immigration reform.
Such a system would have only three main categories: Immigrants, tourists, diplomats. In addition to background checks, immigrants would have to pay a flat fee for each member of their family who wants to move to the U.S.
Real immigration reform is not accommodating people who have already broken laws, but about making sure to attract with the highest productivity. Given the choice between paying $10,000 to the U.S. government and being a legitimate member of society versus spending the same amount of money to pay human smugglers who enslave them, even the poorest immigrants would prefer the latter. The U.S. would benefit not only from more programmers but also from more low-skilled workers. Details on my blog: http://blog.qtau.com/2010/05/real-immigration-reform-now.html
Ideally, along with such real immigration reform, minimum wage/prevailing wage laws would also be abolished.