« Water | Main | What are They Thinking??? »

January 14, 2024

Comments

Last year it was a sarcastic joke, now Florida has made it reality:
***They are coming for the dictionaries.***
One Florida school district has now removed dictionaries (namely Merriam-Webster) and encyclopedias from shelves in school libraries. In case of the Merriam-Webster a reason given is that it contains (among other things) the word "sex".

Takes me back to my homeschooling parent mindset: there is something wrong with the fact that schooling is compulsory but quality education is not.

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez.

Texas, surprise surprise.

From the wiki entry:

San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez, 411 U.S. 1 (1973), was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held that San Antonio Independent School District's financing system, which was based on local property taxes, was not a violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause.[1]

The majority opinion, reversing the District Court, stated that the appellees did not sufficiently prove a textual basis, within the U.S. Constitution, supporting the principle that education is a fundamental right. Urging that the school financing system led to wealth-based discrimination, the plaintiffs had argued that the fundamental right to education should be applied to the States, through the Fourteenth Amendment. The Court found that there was no such fundamental right and that the unequal school financing system was not subject to strict scrutiny.

There was a NJ judge, some years back, that ruled against the state on funding issues, bounced back and forth, then ruled:

"I meant what I said,
and I said what I meant.
The schools must be funded.
One hundred percent."

@Snarki -- I haven't kept up, but we've had similar issues in Maine. They weren't related to constitutionality, but to following the existing state law about the share the state is supposed to be contributing to local school districts. (Which, when i was last paying attention, the state had never actually managed to do. I could be very out of date on this...)

Hartmut, in a similar case recently, nous speculated that this might have been the action of sane librarians/school admin, hoping that the principle of reductio ad absurdum would bring people to their senses. If so, it appears it has not done so yet.

Any timeline that has a "Pres. Trump" in it is immune to reductio ad absurdum.

IIRC, there are now going to be some mathematical proofs that will fail.

The news clips I got said it was 'parents' again.
Could of course be strawpersons (again) but even in that case it more likely comes from proponents not opponents.

Fighting the right wing scream machine: It is a tough row to hoe, I'll tell you. I was recently bombarded with the FACT that Dr. Anthony Fauci has a net worth north of $10,000,000 conveyed to me in an accusatory tone that made it sound as if it were some telling and terrible outrage.

So I did my own research (danger! danger!).

Once you get past all the right wing rags cited in the initial Google search (there are many) one finds that he and his wife were knocking down over $600,000 per year in salary. So they are doing pretty well, but building up a $10m nest egg over,say 40 years is, to say the least, not some big surprise.

But people take this shit and run with it. We are so fucked.

The only way out is to beat them politically. Beat them until they beg for mercy or shut the fuck up.

So, Dr Fauci being worth $10 million is an outrage, but TIFG being (supposedly) worth over 100 times that is not? Good to know.

Although I suppose that having inherited wealth, rather than actually earned it, makes a difference.

The only way out is to beat them politically. Beat them until they beg for mercy or shut the fuck up.

Yes I said yes I will Yes. (Ulysses joke)

Or, to put it another way, bobbyp: FYLTGE, with all possible force.

What is TIFG? Thanks.

(Acronyms are my nemesis, and yes, I googled it but it's surely not The Independent Funeral Group, right?)

maybe:

The Ill-Fitting Garibaldis

lol

The Indicted Former Guy.

thanks

If the forecast is accurate, the difference between the outside temperature and where I'll have the thermostat set will be 84 degrees tonight. Pretty good challenge for the insulation and furnace. Anyone who's anywhere that's close to that, stay safe.

Small local Colorado cultural note... The National Western Stock Show is held in Denver in mid-January every year. A big arctic blast and snow in mid-January occurs often enough to be referred to as "stock show weather."

"stock show weather"

Reminds me of how, for decades, the first week of September was 1) the California state fair, and 2) the only rain between May 1 and late October. Which latter startled people . . . every year!

What is TIFG?

Thank\it's\Friday\God. Translated from the original dyslexian.

I have recently, for no reason I can recall, been getting emails of pieces by someone called Shalom Auslander, of whom I was previously unaware. They are often very funny, and I have a weak spot for anybody who has, like him I gather, rejected any brand of ultra-religious background. I hesitate to link this, since he says in it he is speaking "Jew to Jew", but it says so much of what I think about the defence of language. I used to argue with sapient about my refusal to call Trump et al Nazis, so it particularly spoke to me on that, but of course it also goes much wider. And, FWIW, I very much liked this, as he lays out the basis of his argument:

the sword of censorship maims none so mortally as the powerless.

https://www.tabletmag.com/sections/community/articles/n-word-nazis-shalom-auslander?utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email

Thank you for an excellent article. And funny, too, while heart-breakingly serious.

I am concerned about "antisemitism" being overused, especially since some of the current overuse is to distort its meaning into something it doesn't mean at all.

Changing the meaning of a word is different than overusing a word so that the word no longer has an effect. The latter is the crying "Wolf!" phenomenon. The former is more like crying "wolf" at the sight of the sheep dog.

Both are behaviors with negative consequences; however, using a word that is one size up from a perhaps more accurate word is not really crying "Wolf!" and not really changing the meaning of the word. It seems more like legitimate conversation based on interpretations of the precise meaning. A discussion point is raised.

Are the killings in Gaza a war crime? Mass murder? Necessary collateral damage? Genocide? Justifiable because it's just Palestinians dying, so what? Justifiable for defense?

Is using "genocide" crying wolf? Or changing the meaning of "genocide" into something else? Or does the use of "genocide" create a discussion of exactly how bad the killings are on the scale from collateral damage to genocide with mass murder and war crimes as stops along the way?

But maybe I'm splitting hairs.

Probably I'm splitting hairs.

Anyway, very thoughtful and useful article. Thank you.

It's been pretty quiet around here the last few days, and I've been busy with the start of a new quarter and juggling three sections of a research writing class. Best I can do for the moment to contribute is to drop this link in for grist:

https://www.humanities.uci.edu/news/rethinking-conflict

Emphasizing the figure of the Mizrahi Jew, Mor challenges the duality and presumed symmetry of the “conflict” framework. This framework, she argues, misleadingly implies an equivalent, zero-sum competition between the Israeli colonizers and the Palestinian colonized. She further grapples with the complex status of Mizrahi Jews as both colonizers and victims of displacement.

“My grandfather, like many other Iraqi Jews of his generation, did not want to leave Iraq. In order to push the Jewish community out of Iraq, Israel had to resort to shady deals with the Iraqi government and to heavy pressures to make the city appear unsafe,” she explains. “This is where the symmetry argument crumbles, for it was in fact the same cause, the Zionist regime in then nascent Israel, that was largely responsible for both displacements, of Palestinians from Palestine and of Mizrahi Jews from the Arab world.”

The book calls for a triangulation, considering the involvement not just of Jews and Arabs, but of European and non-European Jews, various Palestinian groups (exiled Palestinians, Palestinians within 1948-borders Israel who are its citizens and those in the Occupied Territories) and, crucially, European imperialism.

Have not read the book, do not know Mor personally, but it sounds like an interesting, timely book drawing from a rich context.

Another publishing icon strikes out.

"That is why it is an absolute tragedy to hear on Friday that some 70 years after its first iconic cover, which featured future baseball Hall of Famer Eddie Matthews, Sports Illustrated may soon be dead. We are not talking about a typical reduction in talent or a decline in quality. (Layoffs have plagued the magazine in recent years. Then there was the recent scandal where Sports Illustrated was accused of using artificial-intelligence-generated stories and fake bylines and eschewing journalism for poorly worded drek around which to frame ads.) The Arena Group, which had a license from Authentic Brands Group to publish SI, is laying off a huge portion of the writers and editors. Authentic Brands Group bought the magazine for $110 million in 2019."
Why the news of Sports Illustrated's downfall hits me so hard: This was to be the year that my son graduated from Sports Illustrated Kids to the real thing. When I was a boy, I thought the magazine would always be around.

One of Cain's Laws™ says that any situation where it is easier to become rich by shuffling financial papers than by providing the underlying goods and services will end badly. The SI situation would seem like a good example: the group that actually does the publishing pays someone else $15M per year to license the Sports Illustrated name.

From today's NYT, this is one of my gift links on various subjects we have discussed here (as well as, if only tangentially, the appeal of Trump to some sections of the population):

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/01/20/opinion/trauma-pain-assault.html?unlocked_article_code=1.PE0.wmlb.fZda0aMCqKTR&smid=url-share

One gauge of how many Americans are struggling is that average weekly nonsupervisory wages, a metric for blue-collar earnings, were lower in the first half of 2023 than they had been (adjusted for inflation) in the first half of 1969. That’s not a misprint.

Another: If the federal minimum wage of 1968 had kept pace with inflation and productivity, it would now be more than $25 an hour. Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.

***

The Princeton economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton popularized the term “deaths of despair” for the tumbling life expectancy among working-class Americans since 2010, but the tragedy goes far beyond the staggering mortality. For each person who dies from drugs, alcohol and suicide, many others are mired in addiction and heap pain on their families.

***

The challenges are particularly acute for Black and Native American men. Native American males have a life expectancy of only 61.5 years, shorter than men in India, Egypt and Venezuela. And the median wage of Black men in 2020 was only 55 percent of that of white men, a smaller share than it had been in the late 1960s.

***

“Capitalism in America today is not working for the two-thirds of adults who do not have a B.A.,” Professor Deaton said in a lecture in Amsterdam. When a Nobel Prize-winning economist warns that capitalism is failing most Americans, it’s worth paying attention.

One gauge of how many Americans are struggling is that average weekly nonsupervisory wages, a metric for blue-collar earnings, were lower in the first half of 2023 than they had been (adjusted for inflation) in the first half of 1969. That’s not a misprint.

Another: If the federal minimum wage of 1968 had kept pace with inflation and productivity, it would now be more than $25 an hour. Instead, it’s stuck at $7.25.

I have written about this here using a simple-minded comparison of college costs vs minimum wage in exactly 1968 (when I left home for college) vs. now.

Have been super busy but will try to respond to this and to the last few recent comments when I get a break. They're all kind of connected. (Of course.)

They throw in productivity, but it distorts the number. Which makes the 1968 number in current dollars closer to $13.75. it's worth noting that historically 1968 was the peak value of the minimum wage. So comparing it is also a little bit of sleight of hand. All those numbers are in Wikipedia.

Mostly to say that the large and growing number of places that have targeted $15 have it about right.

They throw in productivity, but it distorts the number.

Not exactly. The assertion is this: If the minimum wage was tied to productivity increases, then the minimum wage would be "X" (this is standard marginal product analysis in free market economic theory) which is different than just viewing minimum wages in inflation adjusted terms over the last 50 years.

The public policy implications of the observed wage lag (and resultant wealth disparities) are fairly obvious, but conservatives want a tilted playing field where regular workers are both poor and powerless. As with culture war issues the cruelty is the point. It is a feature, not a bug of the right wing project.

For those of you who enjoy looking at charts:

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1065466/real-nominal-value-minimum-wage-us/

https://www.statista.com/statistics/1056023/value-minimum-wage-grew-productivity-us/#:~:text=In%202021%2C%20the%20minimum%20wage,has%20remained%20unchanged%20since%202009.

Have a good day!

I know many here, if not all, will be rather sympathetic to this idea:

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2024/jan/21/how-much-personal-wealth-is-enough-ingrid-robeyns-limitarianism

For Ingrid Robeyns, a professor of philosophy and economics at the University of Utrecht in the Netherlands, the urgency of that question is long overdue. Not only does Robeyns argue for a limit to wealth, she is prepared to put a number on it. Or actually two numbers: the first a political ambition, the second an appeal to ethical conscience. The first is this: “In a country with a socioeconomic profile similar to the Netherlands, where I live, we should aim to create a society in which no one has more than €10m. There shouldn’t be any decamillionaires.” That aspiration, what Robeyns calls a realistic “political threshold”, an outcome for policymakers to strive for, comes with a second figure attached, which is more an appeal to collective morality. “I contend,” Robeyns argues, “that for people who live in a society with a solid pension system, the ethical limit [on wealth] will be around 1 million pounds, dollars or euros per person.” Those limits, she suggests, are not only the ones that would create the fairest and most effective kinds of society, but they represent the maximum levels that also would make individuals – including billionaires and decamillionaires – happiest (just rewatch Succession if you don’t agree).

Robeyns has a name for this philosophy, an argument that she hopes can become a movement. She calls it, in the title of a new book, Limitarianism. Robeyns, 51, grew up in Belgium and gained her PhD at Cambridge under Amartya Sen, the guru of development economics. While most of her academic peers were committed to work on poverty reduction, however, Robeyns has always been focused on the flipside of inequality – the effects of grossly excessive private wealth on our precarious public sphere and our unravelling democracy and environment. Levelling up, she argues, will never be possible without some very serious levelling down. George Monbiot, in a Guardian article praising Robeyns’s work, called that latter, urgent truism, still “perhaps the most blasphemous idea in contemporary discourse”.

I know many here, if not all, will be rather sympathetic to this idea

Countme in. Thanks.

I know many here, if not all, will be rather sympathetic to this idea

Not me! Some counterarguments.

"Fix Poverty, Not Inequality

Never mind that some of the most provocative data on inequality is sketchy (economist Thomas Piketty's work suffers from close scrutiny) and inequality, at least in the U.S., appears to be declining. In fact, people's well-being doesn't depend on the gap between their income and that of the wealthy; it depends on their purchasing power.

"Poverty and inequality are different things, but they are often conflated in political discussions," point out the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards and Ryan Bourne. "High poverty levels, which are clearly undesirable, are often caused by bad policies, such as a lack of open markets and equal treatment. Wealth inequality is different—it cannot be judged good or bad by itself because it may reflect either a growing economy that is lifting all boats or a shrinking economy caused by corruption."

To focus on what's really important—reducing poverty—we need to emphasize the "liberalism, in the free-market European sense" that brought hundreds of millions of people a measure of prosperity in a very short period of time. That means rejecting Oxfam's toxic prescription for an empowered state that's more likely to increase suffering by meddling in the lives of people who really should be left alone to do their best for themselves. And if some people become trillionaires along the way, good for them."
The World Could Soon Have Its First Trillionaire. Good!: A new report brings remarkable economic illiteracy to its focus on poverty and inequality.

The problem with measuring the personal minimum wage against productivity is simple. One is a measure of personal income, the other is the measure of the economy as a whole divided by what?

Meaning productivity in the economy actually gets chewed up by other income factors, not the least of which is the doubling of the work force since 1968.

The first chart is a measure of the buying power of the minimum wage. The second chart actually measures nothing.

It seems to me, on a quick skim of the Reason piece, that they may have switched from a discussion of wealth inequality, to one of income inequality, and used that as justification to discount the other position.

Are any of y'all seeing this too, or am I just reading through too quickly.

Piketty grounds his work in property ownership for a reason. He's concerned with wealth concentration, not income inequality. I took Robeyn's work as also being concerned with wealth rather than with income.

Again, am I making unwarranted assumptions here? If so, please elucidate.

The second chart actually measures nothing.

Actually, productivity growth tends to swamp the demographics in the long run, all things being equal.

Please be so kind as to explain to us how US GNP is governed solely or even mostly by labor force population growth. Your hypothesis would project a GNP (real terms) of about $10 trillion in 2021 based on its doubling due to labor force growth also doubling (GNP was about $5 trillion in 1968).

In fact, real GNP in 2021 approached $20 trillion. How do you explain the difference?

Population growth is a big factor in GNP growth, but dismissing productivity growth is simply wrong headed---but it does go nicely with claims that Social Security will "go broke" any day now.

A squib from Dean Baker on productivity:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/cifamerica/2011/mar/07/economy-useconomicgrowth

Off for a walk. Have a good one.

I took Robeyn's work as also being concerned with wealth rather than with income.

Yup. From later in the article I linked:

For society to pursue these aims – as it eventually must – Robeyns argues that a radical reform of taxation to concentrate on wealth rather than income is clearly necessary. She makes the case that inheritance is the ultimate non-meritocratic advantage, and has to be largely a collective, not a familial benefit.

Bobby,

Your numbers are good. The workforce doubled plus an almost 100% increase in real income of the workforce when you count benefits increases. Productivity grew by approximately 4 times over that time. Accounting for flat overall simple wage growth per person despite productivity gains

I did say "in large part" because productivity impacts and it's impacted by a number of factors. It just is not a proxy to measure minimum wage by.

Okay, I did some work to try to get clear of the usual conservative thinktank pushback against Piketty to try to find something that actually engages with what Piketty is trying to understand, and not merely looking for flaws in his analytical models. This piece from the Boston Review seems like a good start.

https://www.bostonreview.net/articles/marshall-steinbaum-beyond-piketty/

It's hard to pick a representative excerpt here, because Steinbaum does a good job of supporting his argument and building towards his conclusion. You really do need the whole of it to see the outlines of why he thinks Piketty may represent a sea-change even when Steinbaum accepts the criticisms of Piketty's analysis.

(Same disclaimers apply here: I'm skimming, and I'm out of my depth and having to rely upon the assurances of those with more experience in the discipline.)

I took Robeyn's work as also being concerned with wealth rather than with income.

The link, although I couldn't find a quote in my fast read of the article, said "how much ... is enough"? It seems to me the "Enough" is the critical point.

At the low end, money is super important. You need enough to put food in your belly, clothes on your back, and a roof over your head.** As your income rises, you get to things that are still necessities in the modern world, albeit less critical ones. And you start looking at luxuries (defined here as "not necessities").

But at some point you max out. You have all your necessities covered. You have funds set aside for emergencies. You have reasonable progress towards funding your retirement. You have a sufficient number and varieties of luxuries that, if you get another, it essentially means you don't have time to enjoy both it and all the ones you already have. Time being the one thing you can't buy more of -- pauper or prince, there's only 24 hours in a day.

At that point, you have enough. There is simply no economic reason for more. For higher income. For more wealth. The only reason is to be able to say, to those who have no clue what you do or why it might be significant, "See, I'm better than you because I'm paid/worth more!" In other words, it's just a dick measuring contest.

At that point, I see on reason not to tax income at close to 100%. You only need more to impress others. And you can do that with your pre-tax pay.

Similarly with wealth. Once you've got all the luxuries you have time for, you really don't need more. Even if you're driven by a need to turn your kids into life-long parisites, there's still a limit to how much you need. At which point, inheritance taxes aren't doing anyone any real damage either.

Note that none of this is mandating equality of outcomes. Nor does it remove the incentive to work, to innovate, to "get ahead." No matter what the folks at Reason want to claim.

** Ditto, of course, for those you are personally responsible for supporting.

Thanks for the link, nous. Good article. Political economy lives.

"Time being the one thing you can't buy more of -- pauper or prince, there's only 24 hours in a day."

Which is exactly why Elon Musk needs to move to Mars, so he can get that extra 39.6 minutes per day.

BTW, I read Piketty's book, and it was a long tough slog through 19th century econometric data, mostly French. Plus 20th century, but by then the data was mostly "professionally" compiled. Not sure that any pundit bitching at Piketty should be taken seriously unless they're willing to do a detailed reanalysis of that data, and show their work.

I think Robyens is connected with 'Doughnut Economics', an idea developed by Kate Raworth. A link for those who want to dig in with links to more reading at the bottom.

https://sustainable-prosperity.eu/sustainable-prosperity/doughnut-economics/

And this is a Guardian long read from June
https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/jun/08/the-planets-economist-has-kate-raworth-found-a-model-for-sustainable-living

What human beings need most - aside from the basics of air, water, food, clothing, and shelter - is human connection. We have evolved socially and technologically to talk ourselves out of it in far too many ways.

Rethinking economics to get away from growth as the primary goal means understanding the differences between standard of living and quality of life.

Does taking a helicopter to work make people happy? (I wouldn't know.)

I don't know about taking a helicopter to work, but the helicopter on Mars makes me happy.

I don't know about helicopters, but the few times I got to fly somewhere on the corporate jet made me very happy. I understand why the really rich people (or those who can get the company to pop for it) have their own jet. Or at least buy a part of a timeshare arrangement.

I'm going to take a risk and speculate that the happiness you get from spending time with your grandchildren would outlast and outweigh the happiness you would get from continually flying on the corporate jet. I guess there's no reason you couldn't do both, but once we keep adding similar examples, you're up against the 24-hours-in-a-day limit wj mentioned. (Maybe the jet would save some of that time.)

HSH,

The problem with happiness is the fact that you cannot locate it on one of those celestial indifference curves that current economic theory uses as the foundation of their theoretical
and frictionless differential edifice.

I mean, what's the trade-off? Less happiness?

On productivity:
A barber charges $20 for a haircut which takes 20 minutes. If he raises the price to $30, does that make him 50% more productive in the "productivity" statistics? If he keeps it at $20, but accomplishes the haircut in 10 minutes, does that make him 100% more "productive"?

On wealth taxes:
If you pay property taxes, you're paying a "wealth tax". Every US jurisdiction I ever heard of taxes houses based on their "worth", not the owner's income. What's the difference between "wealth" in a house and "wealth" in a stock portfolio?

--TP

If you pay property taxes, you're paying a "wealth tax".

Property taxes, particularly local property taxes, date back to times when keeping track of income was difficult/impossible. Also, property was typically used to generate income. The blacksmith's family lived in a building tacked on to the forge. US states generally are shifting away from property taxes to some form of income/sales taxes. Eg, the typical state funds approximately half of local school districts with state money from state income/sales taxes.

A barber charges $20 for a haircut which takes 20 minutes. If he raises the price to $30, does that make him 50% more productive in the "productivity" statistics? If he keeps it at $20, but accomplishes the haircut in 10 minutes, does that make him 100% more "productive"?

Consider Baumol's Cost Disease. The classic example -- or at least the one I remember today -- is fifth grade teachers. Fifth grade teachers teach classes that are about the same size they were 60 years ago, and teach much the same material they did 60 years ago. Why should their salaries reflect productivity gains generally? (I know my answer, but am curious about others' answers.)

The advantage of property taxes for tax authorities is that it's very visible and can be photographed.

"Swimming pools matter because the French property tax system is based on the theoretical rental value of a home and its surrounding lands. That means building additions to your house or improving the grounds—for example, by adding a pool—can come with a costly tax bill. According to Ars Technica, a new pool adds about 200 euros to the average French property tax coffers. The General Directorate of Public Finance—their IRS equivalent—believes it could collect as much as 40 million euros in additional taxes when the A.I. tool is deployed across the rest of the country, per The Verge."
Artificial Intelligence Helps French Tax Authorities Find Thousands of Untaxed Swimming Pools: When taxing authorities get more resources and power, they will find ways to make everyone pay more.


I wouldn't be surprised if the IRS and other government departments are working on AI methods to audit tax returns and other financial data.

I'm always amazed by how many errors in a comment can be revealed by clicking the post button. :(

I'm always amazed by how many errors in a comment can be revealed by clicking the post button. :(

Amen, brother, amen.

Why should their salaries reflect productivity gains generally?

Well, if you goal is to eliminate 5th grade teachers, go for it.

A barber charges $20 for a haircut which takes 20 minutes. If he raises the price to $30, does that make him 50% more productive in the "productivity" statistics?

Only if he still performs the same number of haircuts in the same amount of time. Generally speaking, if you raise your price by 50% your "output" goes down accordingly* (you are a price taker, remember?) and productivity, measured in dollars, is unchanged.

As a bidding contractor, if I continually throw out outrageously high bids, I get no work and my output is zero. I would be a drag on the calculation of overall economic productivity.

*people go somewhere else to get their haircuts, or wear their hair longer!

nose bleed tax rates are one way to deal with income and/or wealth inequality. The problem with this is that those who benefit from such a setup are loath to give it up, and generally speaking their wealth comes with a good deal of political clout.

So we should look at restructuring market relations and incentives....incentives that would preclude grabbing that big a piece of the pie to begin with.

Then you don't have the bloodletting over "confiscating their wealth", which sounds bad and hurts people's fee fees.

Amen, brother, amen.

I was thinking of subcontracting out my posts to AI. This would also raise GNP and help Joe Biden get re-elected.

Win-win.

So why bother with taxes *at all*? Why not just create more money? It's not like we live in olden-times when "money" was a pile of shiny metal. It's pieces of paper, or increasingly, bits on a computer. With multi-terabyte drives available, I don't think we're going to run out of "bits".
So why not just create money to fund government, and avoid hassling the citizenry?

Answer: ever-increasing money causes huge inflation, right?

Okay, so that tells us something important: the (modern) reason for taxation is to have macroeconomic stability. Which means that the *form* of taxation should be to promote macroeconomic stability: otherwise, why bother?

That is why I'm a staunch advocate of HIGH taxes on excess capital gains, MODERATE taxes on interest/dividends, and LOW taxes on wages: because most economic "bubbles" are caused by investments that have capital gains.

Nobody should listen to me for economic advice, so it's safe for me to advocate my preferred system. Mostly because 90%+ of the world is still stuck in a medieval understanding of what "money" is, and what "taxes" are for.

</rant>

U tell 'em, Snarki! The hang ups folks have about "money" is surpassed only by the hang ups they have about sex.

bobbyp: Only if he still performs the same number of haircuts in the same amount of time. Generally speaking, if you raise your price by 50% your "output" goes down accordingly* (you are a price taker, remember?) and productivity, measured in dollars, is unchanged.

Actually, I was asking about definitions, not practicalities. That's an "all else being equal" thing. So, does GDP go up, down, or sideways if the barber's income goes up due to higher price, same number of haircuts? Does his "productivity" go up if he takes half as long to finish a haircut, price and number of haircuts remaining constant? I'm just trying to understand how statistics like "GDP" and "productivity" are defined.

--TP

The classic example -- or at least the one I remember today -- is fifth grade teachers. Fifth grade teachers teach classes that are about the same size they were 60 years ago, and teach much the same material they did 60 years ago. Why should their salaries reflect productivity gains generally?

Briefly, what kids learn there is just as important to their ability to function as adults as it ever was.** So teachers' compensation should be tied to the overall economy. As a matter of simplicity, tie it to the per capita GDP.

** Actually, of course, the importance of an educated workforce has substantially increased. So teacher compensation should rise faster than average.

Tony,
Labor productivity is "a measure of economic performance that compares the amount of output with the amount of labor used to produce that output" (BLS).

So for this PARTICULAR barber, productivity remains unchanged when the price goes up but the production rate (efficiency) does not change.

If the barber is provided an electric cutter and can perform a haircut in half the time it used to take, then productivity has increased.

Ascertaining an aggregate productivity measure is complicated (just how many donuts were produced last year, mr. labor statistitian?). So we resort to using GNP measures of various kinds, but that number is expressed in dollars, and the "value" of dollars can and does change.

The classic example on an aggregate basis is agriculture where the number of labor hours to produce X amount of product is dramatically less than it was a century ago.

If you want to get into the gory details, I suggest you start here:

https://www.bls.gov/productivity/

Thanks.

also this....

GNP includes both goods and services. How do you measure the "productivity" of a Broadway play? Well, consider this scenario: Labor hours remain unchanged year over year, but inflation adjusted or "real" GNP goes up. This implies an increase in productivity. We are producing more stuff using the same amount of labor inputs. But what about those spongers making Broadway plays? The social ability to have a higher standard of living due to increased productivity enables us, as a society, to both meet our material needs and engage in other socially desirable activities, like paying big bucks to watch a play.

The classic example on an aggregate basis is agriculture where the number of labor hours to produce X amount of product is dramatically less than it was a century ago.

There's still child labor on farms. But instead of doing hard physical work, the ten-year-old is sitting in the air-conditioned cab of a half-a-million-dollar machine with the productivity of a thousand laborers.

So we resort to using GNP measures of various kinds, but that number is expressed in dollars, and the "value" of dollars can and does change.

Therein lies the rub for Tony P., or so I am guessing. Somewhere along the way, haircuts get converted to dollars, so $30 haircuts become more output than $20 haircuts in the aggregated measures. (This assumes that 30 is always more than 20, regardless of the fluctuating value of the dollar. ;^} )

Fifth grade teachers teach classes that are about the same size they were 60 years ago, and teach much the same material they did 60 years ago. Why should their salaries reflect productivity gains generally?

Because things cost more than they did 60 years ago, and teachers need to eat.

There's still child labor on farms. But instead of doing hard physical work, the ten-year-old is sitting in the air-conditioned cab of a half-a-million-dollar machine with the productivity of a thousand laborers.

I can remember being a 10 year old sitting on the tractor. It didn't have air conditioning. But then, neither did the house.

Because things cost more than they did 60 years ago, and teachers need to eat.

Prices have been going up recently. But most things including food are cheaper than they were 60 years ago in the number of hours you have to work to buy them.

I can remember being a 10 year old sitting on the tractor. It didn't have air conditioning. But then, neither did the house.

I may have been twelve or so when I started working with a tractor. The clapboard house certainly didn't have A/C.

I don't recall it being a particularly rough childhood. But then, my parents were adamant that school came first.

Gosh, Mr. Peabody...

But most things including food are cheaper than they were 60 years ago in the number of hours you have to work to buy them.

Not if your hourly rate is what it was in 1964.

hsh: Therein lies the rub for Tony P., or so I am guessing.

hairshirt gets me :)

I still remember my economics prof explaining that if you divide annual GDP by tons of vanadium used per year, you get a number that can reasonably be called the "productivity of vanadium in $/ton".

Substitute "haircuts" for "tons of vanadium" and you get a similar productivity metric. Or substitute "5th grade classes" or "Broadway performances" for "tons of vanadium", if you like numbers with ridiculous units. It's fun, but possibly pointless.

Dividing GDP by "hours worked" is more pointfull. But you have to define both the numerator and denominator sensibly. Defining GDP in terms of nominal dollars would be silly, for instance.

I mean, you can always divide one number by another and the result tells you something. What that quotient means depends on how you defined the numbers in the first place.

--TP

IKR? The whole point is about how much 5th grade teachers should be paid.

On another note, nous (and Michael Cain for geographical reasons), I'm going to Colorado to see Clutch for 2 nights at the Stanley Hotel this spring. Staying in the hotel (the inspiration for the Overlook in The Shining for those who don't know) gets you access to the afterparties - one featuring an acoustic set and one with the band DJing. Should be bangin' (and I get to be in Colorado!).

Cross posted - I meant that first part as a response to russell.

In an absolute sense "food is cheap".

That, I claim is the essence of "civilization". Food is cheap, we don't have to do subsistence farming to survive.

It does let you put those "EXPENSIVE EGGS!1!!" in perspective.

On another, but related, subject, we talked not long ago about whether class-based (using US definition of class) as opposed to race-based affirmative action would make more sense. For anybody interested, this (somewhat depressing) piece is a gift link on the subject from today's WaPo:

https://wapo.st/3StRz1o

Fifth grade teachers teach classes that are about the same size they were 60 years ago, and teach much the same material they did 60 years ago. Why should their salaries reflect productivity gains generally?

The classes might be the same size but the content and expectations are not. Those teachers sixty years ago weren't expected to accomdate a wide range of learners--one size lesson to fit all, and so what if a kid had learning problems of some kind. Also that teacher is expected to teach reading, writing, arithmetic, science, health, history, government, and more. (depending on state requirements.) They are expected to administer tests and respond by re-teaching those kids who are not up to par on the tests. IN addition, they are expected to notice, report and cope with the emotional fall out of sexual and physical abuse while coping with harassment from parents--all this with a half hour lunch and short breaks when the kids get a quick art or music or PE class.
And of course every single year someone with an agenda wants their agenda added to the curriculum. The agendas are often very worthy, but teachers already are expected to do more than one human in a room with twenty-five kids is going to be able to do.

The classes might be the same size but the content and expectations are not. Those teachers sixty years ago weren't expected to accomdate a wide range of learners--one size lesson to fit all, and so what if a kid had learning problems of some kind.

This is school choice week. :)

I went to a Catholic school in a parish of working class immigrants. The classes sizes were huge. My grade typically had more than 40 kids in the room, and we were the smallest class of the 8 grades the school taught for my whole tenure there.

My impression is therefore skewed, but still, I was pretty sure class sizes had gotten smaller over the years, and this chart suggests that they did. Sort of a quibble, I suppose, because as has already been touched on, "productivity" doesn't really apply to classrooms.

A BJ commenter had a long, cogent comment on productivity in relation to college costs a while back, but I don't have time to try to find it right now. But if we're going to talk about various things people get paid for, I would like to add (in addition to education and the theater) pro sports. Seems like people have to get paid (i.e., as russell says, have grocery money and generally a decent life) for all kinds of things that can't be framed in "productivity" terms.

That, I claim is the essence of "civilization". Food is cheap, we don't have to do subsistence farming to survive.

Yep, surplus calories. Preferably in a form that allows storage. TTBOMK, no one has done it at scale without grain of some sort. Sounds like one of those odd things from the Connections shows: from grass to rockets to the moon.

This was somewhat cheering on an otherwise depressing day. Electricity in the US is on pace to be 100% renewable by 2060, 100% non-fossil fuel (ie, include nuclear in the calculation) by 2050. In states with renewable mandates, the utilities are ahead of the mandate. In states w/o mandates, the change is still happening.

The Transwest Express, Sunzia, and Colorado Pathway transmission projects, all hundreds of miles long intended to move bulk power from renewable sources to demand centers in the Western Interconnect broke ground last year.

TTBOMK, no one has done it at scale without grain of some sort.

Grains are the least costly to produce followed by legumes, root/starchy vegetables, and oilseeds.

But at some point you max out. You have all your necessities covered. You have funds set aside for emergencies. You have reasonable progress towards funding your retirement. You have a sufficient number and varieties of luxuries that, if you get another, it essentially means you don't have time to enjoy both it and all the ones you already have. Time being the one thing you can't buy more of -- pauper or prince, there's only 24 hours in a day.

Some of your money you spend on goods you can enjoy, some you spend on paying people to do things for you so that you have more time to enjoy spending your money.

There's still child labor on farms. But instead of doing hard physical work, the ten-year-old is sitting in the air-conditioned cab of a half-a-million-dollar machine with the productivity of a thousand laborers.


https://www.cbsnews.com/news/child-labor-marc-jac-poultry-teenager-death/

This YouTube video touches on some of the same elements as in the comments.

"Apparently us guys think about the Roman Empire 5 times a day, but from an economic Perspective it's hard to see why. While they did build a lot of architectural monuments, their economy was actually rather pathetic by almost all metrics. Why was Rome, which had a large empire and notoriety throughout Europe for millennia after its demise, actually a very weak economy? "
The Rather Pathetic Economy of the Roman Empire

Thanks for the above, lj. I offer this:

https://www.hrw.org/news/2023/05/04/us-should-end-child-labor-agriculture

Child labor on the farm is an abomination, idyllic rural memories aside.

That will free the kids up for proper factory work. ;-)

I really appreciate this thread and all the links, which I've gathered to read over time. So thanks, everyone.

*****

Meanwhile, relating to some of our other continuing topics, there's this.

It couldn't happen to a more deserving psychopath. (Although he deserves a lot worse than a stupid AI-generated picture at this point.)

I'm not religious (to put it gently), but the picture at the link is an abomination, and not just because he has six fingers. There's some good in religion, there's nothing good in Clickbait. A picture of him in church is revolting.

It's kind of mind-boggling that any human being could be so thoroughly without redeeming qualities as he is. With some bad guys, at least we could say, "Well, he's nice to his dog." Not this guy, he hates dogs....

It's kind of mind-boggling that any human being could be so thoroughly without redeeming qualities as he is.

Seconded, thirded, ad infinitum.

The pundits seem to be saying that if he is the nominee, it is much better for the Dems than any other R challengers. I can see the thinking, and desperately hope it's true, and that it's enough to do for him once and for all. Meanwhile, the rest of the world waits in disbelief, terror, and with bated breath. Apart, that is, from his fellow amoral and narcissistic "strongmen" (Bibi, BoJo, Modi, Putin, Milei etc etc).

Child labor on the farm is an abomination, idyllic rural memories aside.

You might want to note that the examples given are mostly kids working 12 hour shifts, 100 hour weeks, using equipment without adequate safety features, etc. Which would be objectionable for an adult worker as well.

I submit that it would be sufficient to put kids working in agriculture on the same basis as kids working in other sectors:

  • Not during school hours.
  • Limited total hours per week. Say 20 during the school year, 40 during the summer.
  • Some safety requirements beyond those required for adults. (Although I suspect that there would be fewer than you expect, assuming that there are adequate safety requirements for adults in those jobs.)
That sort of thing.

Now, you may to get exercised about kids in agriculture working long hours from stark economic necessity. But that isn't, at its heart, a problem of child labor, now, is it.

"the picture at the link is an abomination, and not just because he has six fingers"

My name is Inigo Montoya. You kill my father. Prepare to die.

"the picture at the link is an abomination, and not just because he has six fingers"

My name is Inigo Montoya. You kill my father. Prepare to die.

Just because: there's something else wrong with that picture of Clickbait in church: the orientations are wrong. Among other things.

Windows in churches tend to be at the sides. You pray facing the altar, which usually does not place you with windows at your back.

Not only that, now that I'm looking at it again, but the pews look backwards. Or he looks backwards in relation to the pews. There should be a bench/seat behind him, but there isn't.

The AI ought to go into a church sometime and get a reality check. ;-)

And yet more on wealth and inequality:

https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2024/jan/24/britain-richest-10-per-cent-wealthy-inequality-labour-private-schools

(And for anybody remotely interested, when I referred earlier to a US type definition of class, what I really meant was that it was defined by wealth or its lack. As all ObWiers surely know, the UK type definition is much weirder, and quite apart from the inequality question which we are considering, probably becoming less important than once it was.)

Apart, that is, from his fellow amoral and narcissistic "strongmen" (Bibi, BoJo, Modi, Putin, Milei etc etc).

Milei speaks. He doesn't give me the impression of an authoritarian beyond his efforts to turn the Argentine ship of state as fast as possible.

AI-generated English translation of Milei’s 2024 Davos Talk(In His Accent)

The AI ought to go into a church sometime and get a reality check.

The problem with the neural net stuff is that we generally have no idea what is being learned when we train a billion-parameter model using millions of images. Will it learn that things have fronts and backs, and the orientation matters? I haven't seen any examples of a generative image model that also explains what's in the image, and how those objects relate to one another.

Will it learn that things have fronts and backs, and the orientation matters?

Thanks, Michael, for articulating a generalization of at least one of the sources of my skepticism.

For this specific example I would say: that picture suggests that the answer is no. Or not yet.

More generally: there's no end to the list of things that humans know that we're not even aware that we know. How much more so for an AI?

Not to say that I believe an AI is "aware" .....

there's no end to the list of things that humans know that we're not even aware that we know.

God, I hope so. Otherwise, I'm totally screwed.

I haven't seen any examples of a generative image model that also explains what's in the image, and how those objects relate to one another.

So what do they say: "church"? "Inside of church"? "Christian church"? Somewhere the AI that made that pictures must have acquired a notion of what "praying" might look like....

Now, you may to get exercised about kids in agriculture working long hours from stark economic necessity. But that isn't, at its heart, a problem of child labor, now, is it.

Insofar as this work is not voluntary in any meaningful sense of the term, I would submit that, yes, it certainly is.

As for actual regulations, you might be surprised to know that we actually do have a few (with, um, too many exemptions).

The comments to this entry are closed.