Nicholas Batik’s Techdirt Profile


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  • Mar 18th, 2015 @ 3:31pm

    A Nice Idea, but...

    At first blush, this idea seems to hold merit - supporting those in need at the basic level so no one suffers. The problem is, this has been tried in a variety of forms which result in one or more of the following outcomes:

    1. disincentivizes work
    2. stagnates creativity
    3. results in inflationary pressures
    4. will expand an entitlement mentality
    5. ignores the nature of "value"

    Let's take these in order.

    1. Disincentivizes work

    Years ago my dad told me to get a job. It wasn't until he cut off my allowance that I actually got serious about it. This provided a valuable life lesson for me. Others have similarly observed that many on unemployment don't seriously start applying for work until the benefits run out.

    A friend grew up on a beach in Hawaii. When she got hungry, she when into the forest and picked fruit. This is a perfect example of a modern aboriginal life style. Unfortunately, this only works if you live in a location where you can sustain yourself. Few people live thusly. Most need to acquire sustinence and shelter from someone (paid) or something (installed, serviced, and upgraded).

    The phrase "Tragedy of the Commons" came from the first year of the Pilgrims' settlement where they decided to “Share everything, share the work, and we’ll share the harvest.” The net result was everyone scaled back on their labors, complaining about other people reaping the benefit of their work, and assuming others would make up their shortfall.

    This speaks to a basic human reality - people won't work unless they have to.

    2. Stagnates creativity

    Necessity is the mother of invention. In the book The Obstacle Is the Way, Ryan Holiday describes how struggle and difficulty is the impetus behind creative solutions. Compare, for example, the level of innovation and entrepreneurship in the U.S. as compared to socialist countries.

    Automation and mechanization can free us from the drudgery of undesirable jobs, but not from the need to innovate.

    It is in fact the unfortunate nature of those jobs that stimulated the creative efforts to automate them. The assumption with BIG is that if we take away stress and discomfort we will free people to create, but the reality is more like the example of the hunter tribe described in the podcast - 3 hours of hunting followed by a life of leisure.

    Furthermore, advances in innovation and creativity need a large number of participants. As people opt out of work in favor of pursing fun, fewer people will be available for the long, hard hours of focused creativity that most real advancements need.

    3. Results in inflationary pressures

    Every place where an industry or service has been subsidized, or loans guaranteed or "incentivized" with public money, the price has gone up. It is not hard to understand this basic cycle: if an ordinary individual can afford $1,000 for a semester of school, that is what the tuition will be, but if Student Aid is available for $10,000 per semester, not surprisingly, the tuition will become $10,000.

    There are too many examples in too many industries to list, so google it. Here's a place to start

    4. Will expand an entitlement mentality

    In the book Systemantics: How Systems Work and Especially How They Fail, John Gall details how systems will never voluntarily disassemble themselves, and always strives to grow. Name a single government program that has gotten smaller.

    We have probably all experience the "entitlement mentality." When signing up for cable or phone service with the 1-year price-saver special, did you get angry when your bill went up at the end of the year? You knew that it would - you read and signed the agreement. Yet we all feel that flush of anger and feeling of being ripped-off when the provider does exactly what they said they would do, and we agreed to.

    And what are we angry about? We are "entitled" to that lower price! Nope, not really, but the feeling is very real, and those feeling, associated with all forms of entitlements, have lead to riots, arson and looting, followed by politicians promising better subsidies and entitlements.

    Consider that a flat sceen TV, cable, and cell phones are now considered a "necessity" in today's welfare programs.

    5. Ignores the nature of "value"

    David Gerrold's book A Matter For Men: The War Against the Chtorr had one of the best treatises on the nature of the value of labor. If people value your product or service, they are happy to pay for it. Conversely, if nobody wants what you offer, it has no value.

    Much of the discussion around providing basic living subsidies for people assumes that it will free them to create. Yet if we consider the nature of value, if they create something of value, there will be a sustaining market for it. The only time someone would need their creative efforts subsidized is if what they create hold no value for anyone, perhaps themselves included.

    William Gibson famously said The future is already here — it's just not very evenly distributed. We must understand from this that while we are looking at a world of automation guaranteeing leisure, much of the rest of the world is struggling with simple survival. They are the ones most in need of our innovations, and the value that provides to them, so unless we are willing to engage in difficult work, we will never be able to create a better world for those who need it most.

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 5:00pm

    (untitled comment)

    "The last mile is just too expensive to expect multiple competitors in that space."

    I tried to make this point toward the beginning of this little dust-up, but I think you said it better.

    Every industry starts as a collection of freelancers - from wildcat oil men to garage-office code writers. Eventually somebody starts to make money, then they consolidate the industry, and the giants are born. Hence the oligopolies, duopolies, or monopolies you mentioned.

    Good luck on preventing that, nobody has yet.

    Rosneft is mostly owned by the Russian government, Lukoil is mostly private. Sinopec is Chinese owned. Our own oil companies are mostly private but with government regulation as Anonymous Coward pointed out. Yet private or governmental, regulated or not, can anyone identify a single difference between any of them? Once you get to that size, everything starts to look the same.

    Interesting history on UNE-P. I was not aware of that.

    It's easy to pick up the sense of frustration: Innovation takes time and is unpredictable. Regulation promises quicker response, but I fear longer-term consequences.

    Consider this: when was the last time you used a phone book? Right, me either. But part of the 1984 Bell System divestiture, required every baby-bell and baby-bell wannabe to print a phone book.

    So here we are 3 decades later with massive print runs that go from deliver truck to dumpster because nobody knows how to turn off the obsolete regulation.

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 2:47pm

    Parting Thoughts

    1.My "partisan bias" tends to the libertarian/anarchist.

    2. I rarely believe government is the answer. Even the best policies eventually get amended. Then they are no longer the best policies, but it literally takes an act of congress to get rid of them. Once you start down that road...

    3. "The only solution to the situation appears to be governmental." Do you mean the spying, data gathering, property-seizing, money-wasting, corruption riddled government? Or is there a different one I don't know about? Do you read any of the other daily articles here? Why does anyone think that THIS time, they are going to get it right, and the implementation will be flawless.

    4. Any and all regulation to "punish" the terrible, awful, no-good, very bad, cheating, swindling, (adjective of your choice) companies, never punishes the companies. They pass on the cost, and the consumer suffers.

    5. Historically, innovation has proved the undoing of every monopoly. Look how digital media has broken the strangle-hold of publishing houses and music studios; micro-lending and crowd-funding have provided alternative to the banking industry. Before that, the automobile changed the dynamic of the all-powerful railroad industry. I will put my faith in creativity and a garage full of pissed-off innovators rather than bureaucracy.

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 1:37pm

    Re: Re: Why do we want the net regulated?

    Technically yes, realistically no.

    So I see your point. But the question is what is most likely to "fix" it - technological innovation, or government regulation.

    I tend to view regulation as a collaboration between government and big business in a way that serves them both, and us not at all.

    I came out of the era of big iron in the 70's when IBM ruled supreme, and everyone called for them to be regulated. Then these little unheard of companies called "Apple" and "Microsoft" changed everything.

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Why do we want the net regulated?

    I get the effective monopoly on the infrastructure, part. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it), it was the big companies that had the capital and were willing to make the long term investment to build it.

    I know there have been several attempts by municipalities to take ownership of wired/wireless pipes, but generally those have failed because they weren't willing to devote budget to support them, and ultimately the went back into private hands.

    The game changer is always the new technology on the horizon - the unexpected. Think about how many 3rd world countries bypassed the cost of landlines and went straight to cellular.

    I've always maintained that technology ultimately move the power into the hands of those who use it.

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 1:22pm

    Re: Re: Why do we want the net regulated?

    Sorry jackn, I don't understand: What "false logic"?

    I would appreciate if you could spell out the issue in detail, because I find this whole mess confusing. What, exactly are the counter-claims?

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 1:18pm

    Re: Re: Why do we want the net regulated?

    Thanks, Mike.

    A Big problem for me is the constantly shifting meaning of "net neutrality" - including what current and former administrations claim they want, and what their designated agencies say they will implement. Since no one speaks in english, and every bill is a mountain of unreadable debt, I am naturally suspect of all of it.

    Is it possible to just say "Everybody back away. We are not going to touch anything?"

  • Feb 19th, 2015 @ 12:37pm

    Re: Re: Why do we want the net regulated?

    Thank you. My point exactly.

  • Aug 1st, 2013 @ 2:11pm

    Re: Boycott

    Wrong target. When you subscribe with the phone company you sign-off on the "I agree to..." notice regarding the collection of your data for business purposes, however grudgingly you may do so.

    As jilocasin points out, the issue is not the companies that collect, and eventually expire that data, it is the government that re-purposes and infinitely retains it, without our knowledge or consent.

    The question is: How do you boycott the government?

  • Jul 31st, 2013 @ 8:39pm

    There is an implied contract with both public and private data

    The courts have already established that there are numerous venues within which you have no expectation of privacy. What is missing in this discussion is the implied contract that is associated with your public data, specifically that your public data is casual, random, limited, and segregated.

    It may be easiest to illustrate those with example:

    It is understood that if you venture into public you will be observed. No one expects privacy in that setting. You may encounter the same people in the same places, at the same times, or randomly at different times and venues, but you would become suspicious if you encountered the same person everywhere you went. You would probably suspect stalking.

    If that person recorded which lights turned on in the windows of your house, the order they turned on and their duration, when you opened and closed window shades, the time you entered and exited your house, where you went, what you bought, who you met, and so on, you would necessarily be worried. All that information is public, but it has crossed a threshold of limited, casual and random.

    It is understood that this behavior implies nefarious intent. Even if that person is a law enforcement officer, we have historically required reasonable suspicion of behavior, or a court order authorizing their collection of your public data on such a scale.

    If a store owner tracks your purchases to provide better service and try to better meet your needs, that is laudable. If he starts following you around the shopping mall to see what else you buy, that rapidly degrades into creepy behavior.

    We expect that grocery stores will track our grocery habits, the phone company will monitor our calling patterns, the credit card company will analyze typical and non-typical purchases to prevent fraud. Although all this data is ostensibly public, implied in this understanding is the segregation of that data. If the phone company started acquiring our grocery records, we would demand to know why, and act to put a stop to it.

    In order for the government to carry out its appointed tasks, it must obtain from its citizens specific personal data, that if disclosed, could result in loss of harm to that citizen. We entrust this information with the understanding that those in authority will take all necessary safeguards to protect it from disclosure or unauthorized use.

    When that same authority accumulates all our public data, from all of the available sources, combines that the private data of our financial and tax records, medical records, licenses, legal filings, driving records, political and religions affiliations, and all other disclosures, then it has far exceeded the authority issued by its citizenry.

    That it should then use this unprecedented store of information to identify and target individuals for propaganda and behavioral modification, as well as provide policing agencies the ability to observe and analyze the totality of every citizen's life for any and all activities that may be used to incriminate those individuals, for the entire duration of their lives, then it has crossed the boundaries of implied consent of both the public and private stores of data, and has ventured into realm of treason against its people.