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Kontra Kommando
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Gez said:
It isn't possible for everybody to be rich. Because richness is a relative concept. Suppose some fairy Godmother twirls her magic wand and everybody on Earth, without any exception, receives one free billion dollars. Everybody is now rich, isn't it? No, it just made dollars worthless, and everybody is now poorer than they were before.


Actually, all I meant was that the government should invest more in education. If people are more educated, they would be able to make smarter choices. In turn, the hope is that they would enrich their lives.


Gez said:
It isn't possible for everybody to be rich.


I agree, I never said it was possible.

The goal is not to evenly distribute income, but to better prepare people to earn it themselves. Its more about leveling the playing field, and not just doling out wealth.

Last edited by Kontra Kommando on 01-23-14 at 15:35

Old Post 01-23-14 15:23 #
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doomgargoyle
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Maes said:


Only that in this case, he'd probably be right. Greece has more in common with the stereotypes attached to banana republics, than it does with Western countries -which is one of the reasons it allowed itself to be hit that hard by the crisis, and why people seem to more or less accept it, with a disproportionate lack of reaction -or a midirected reaction, at best.



Well, actually Greece got into the situation it is now, because they trusted and got "assistance" from the very same financial institutions in the US that created the entire financial recession of 08.

Old Post 01-23-14 15:26 #
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Phobus
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I think I'm about ready to find a way to get Gez elected as president of the world. I had a rant on the short sightedness and misuse of targets and metrics in Britain at every level last night. This seems to be a global problem, along with corruption of "the elite" and obfuscation through use of bullshit and statistics by middle management types (e.g. career politicians)

Old Post 01-23-14 15:36 #
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Gez
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Yeah, education is slow since you need the kid generation to grow into the adult generation. Fairy Godmother's magic wand was the optimally efficient scenario for instant change. It had the advantage of being irrefutable as a thought exercise since it's magic.

Point is, you cannot have a system where everybody is rich. You can have a system where everybody is middle-class, though. It does involve aggressively taxing the wealthy (so as to lower them from upper-class to middle-class) and giving generously to the poor (so as to raise them from lower-class to middle-class).

Turns out that it's what would be best for the society at large, in fact. All people would be spending most of their income, meaning that the economy would be a very well oiled machine, instead of a situation like today's where most of the money sits idly in a few hands who cannot spend as much as they earn so they just invest it in speculative schemes because they're bored and can't think of anything better to do with it. Problem is, this would have the wealthy boohooing and waaaaahaaaing over how it's unfair to them and how the poor people don't deserve to have money because they're lazy good-for-nothing layabouts.

Basically, education alone isn't how you'd get a society without poverty. Education is useful for its own sake -- it allows progress in all domains -- but it doesn't create wealth.

Old Post 01-23-14 15:36 #
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Kontra Kommando
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Gez said:
Yeah, education is slow since you need the kid generation to grow into the adult generation. Fairy Godmother's magic wand was the optimally efficient scenario for instant change. It had the advantage of being irrefutable as a thought exercise since it's magic.

Point is, you cannot have a system where everybody is rich. You can have a system where everybody is middle-class, though. It does involve aggressively taxing the wealthy (so as to lower them from upper-class to middle-class) and giving generously to the poor (so as to raise them from lower-class to middle-class).

Turns out that it's what would be best for the society at large, in fact. All people would be spending most of their income, meaning that the economy would be a very well oiled machine, instead of a situation like today's where most of the money sits idly in a few hands who cannot spend as much as they earn so they just invest it in speculative schemes because they're bored and can't think of anything better to do with it. Problem is, this would have the wealthy boohooing and waaaaahaaaing over how it's unfair to them and how the poor people don't deserve to have money because they're lazy good-for-nothing layabouts.

Basically, education alone isn't how you'd get a society without poverty. Education is useful for its own sake -- it allows progress in all domains -- but it doesn't create wealth.



My point was that if people know more about what is going on, than perhaps there could be this type of paradigm shift in society. There is a correlation between education, and political participation. http://web.mit.edu/berinsky/www/files/edu.pdf This is also why I said people should get involved move in local politics, and with their state politics. This is where the significant change could happen. If you have an ignorant population in a democracy, than people are going to make ignorant choices in the voting booth.

Old Post 01-23-14 16:28 #
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Maes
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doomgargoyle said:
Well, actually Greece got into the situation it is now, because they trusted and got "assistance" from the very same financial institutions in the US that created the entire financial recession of 08.


It's much more complicated than that actually -the modern state of Greece was practically a protectorate non-stop, since its inception.

Old Post 01-23-14 16:41 #
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Memfis
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wtf so much carmack bashing on a doom forum
worship the lord

Old Post 01-23-14 17:01 #
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Kontra Kommando
Let's attack aggressively


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Memfis said:
wtf so much carmack bashing on a doom forum
worship the lord



You're right, even hardcore conservatives can put aside Jesus's politics to worship him.

Old Post 01-23-14 17:12 #
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Graf Zahl
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Gez said:
You can have a system where everybody is middle-class, though. It does involve aggressively taxing the wealthy (so as to lower them from upper-class to middle-class) and giving generously to the poor (so as to raise them from lower-class to middle-class).



No, you can't. It'd never work. Either the rich leave or stop working hard, dragging everything down.

Old Post 01-23-14 17:25 #
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That's what they said about [insert every social program ever invented], but rich folk still manage to covet and hoard money just fine.

Old Post 01-23-14 17:28 #
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nicolas monti
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Graf Zahl said:


No, you can't. It'd never work. Either the rich leave or stop working hard, dragging everything down.



What about the scandinavian model? they pay lot of taxes, the market is very regulated but everything seems to work fine, they have good health care for everyone, free education and one of the best life standards, nobody is stopping working.

Old Post 01-23-14 17:36 #
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Shaviro
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Actually here in Denmark some did stop working and quite a few rich/ambitious people & companies left. Graf Zahl is absolutely right.

Old Post 01-23-14 17:52 #
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Gez
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Graf Zahl said:
No, you can't. It'd never work. Either the rich leave or stop working hard, dragging everything down.


They can't really drag everything down because the amount of work they produce isn't proportionate with the wealth they have. Working hard isn't the main factor behind their fortune in the majority of cases.

They can leave, because there are countless countries that serve as tax havens. So the solution is to invade and annex these countries! }:D

Anyway, policies are in the hands of the financial elite, who dictate their terms to everyone. The real reason we can't have a more aggressive wealth redistribution system is that they wouldn't allow it. The EU is a perfect example of this, where it has been decided that monetary policies -- and therefore the entire economy of the whole continent -- should be protected from the whims of democracy, and safely in the hands of an independent council of appointed technocrats (a good number of which are "former" members of Goldman Sachs). All hail the ECB!


Shaviro said:
Actually here in Denmark some did stop working and quite a few rich/ambitious people & companies left. Graf Zahl is absolutely right.


Wouldn't be a problem if the EU allowed tariffs again. "So, your company is getting out of our country so as not to pay taxes? Fine, but now your goods will be imported, and therefore subject to taxes, so they'll have a disadvantage competing with the equivalent products of companies that stayed here."

Old Post 01-23-14 17:57 #
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How about creating a society that's for everyone, thriving on their differences and not just a gray mass of 9 to 5? The large post you wrote earlier is well written, but impossible to take seriously due to all of the extreme generalizations about businesses and the private sector in general. 0% state, 100% free market libertarians are crazy, sure, but your pipe dream there is just as crazy. Have you been screwed over by some company or something? You sound *almost* as bitter as I do in game discussions ;)

As for policies being in the hands of the financial elite; in this country there are more people living off of the state than people earning for it. Politics has for years been dominated by the middle-class or even the lower middle-class. It's only now when the politicians have been forced to do last-minute changes that we see decisions favouring entrepreneurship and ambitious hard-working (as in more than keeping a 9-5 job) people.

Old Post 01-23-14 18:13 #
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Shaviro said:
Politics has for years been dominated by wherever the most votes come from.

Fixed that for you. Where a politician gets his votes and who he serves aren't always the same group. Fortunately, we have decades of historical precedent and empirical data to prove whose policies actually help the greatest amount of people. Trickle-down Reaganomics doesn't work; as has already been stated, QED corporate net profits don't translate into reduced poverty and unemployment.

Old Post 01-23-14 18:49 #
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Shaviro
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You didn't fix anything. You stated the obvious which was already apparent in my post. Anyway, I am basing my arguments on my own country. I can't really parttake much in the US government discussion. All I can say is that the (should be) obvious thing is that there are different tools for different times for different people. You can't just take your own personal view on the world and extrapolate that to everybody else. People are different and have way different views on the world and its values. Arguing whether serving the rich or the poor is the be-all end-all solution is just as retarded as debating whether the CPU, Storage Drive or the Power Supply is more important in a computer.

I'll definitely say that the scandinavian model is probably closer to something really good than many other models, but that doesn't mean there is no course correction to be done. Times change and so do the required politics. As for Denmark's case, we will be going toward libertarianism for a few years yet, because we desperately need to be improving our ability to compete with Sweden and Germany.

Old Post 01-23-14 19:00 #
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BlackFish
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Carmack said:
and that society as a whole would be better off with a government that was less ambitious.



Before I say anything I'm going to say this bluntly, I'm quite ignorant of politics. What knowledge I do have of it though I have to disagree with the last bit of this sentence. If we don't have a government that's ambitious, how is society to grow and evolve in the longterm?



So much of the government just grinds up money, like shoveling cash into a wood chipper. It is ghastly to watch. Billions and billions of dollars. Imagine every stupid dot-com company that you ever heard of that suckered in millions of dollars of investor money before leaving a smoking crater in the ground with nothing to show for it. Add up all that waste, all that stupidity. All together, it is a rounding error versus the analogous program results in the government. Private enterprises can’t go on squandering resources like that for long, but it is standard operating procedure for the government.



The bit that I can agree on here somewhat is that franchise abuse may ultimately create a crash in terms of movies and video games. People aren't going to want Call of Duty 9000 because it's the same thing from 10 years ago. A lot of potential for quality media is wasted because the corporations know they have an efficient way of getting customers by selling the same thing over and over again. However we're thankfully in an age where technology gets slightly better every year thanks to people showing off things at CES and such. It would be nice though if politics didn't get in the way for other things, like stem cell research.

America's politics to me can use a lot of love, as most of it to me is old men bickering over nothing, and yes, that's inefficient. However there's places in much worse political conditions than America that make's America's sillyness pale in comparison.

My silly ideal world of a government is one that promotes the arts and sciences that ultimately motivates humanity to grow, and we end up colonizing space and such as a result.

This post is probably going to get blasted one way or the other, but oh well.

Old Post 01-23-14 19:32 #
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gggmork
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For a long time, humanity has been host to an organized group of inbred, sadistic, intraspecific Kleptoparasitic, sociopathic royalty infected by general paresis of the insane from the vampire planet of Transylvania.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kleptoparasitism
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genera...s_of_the_insane
This parasitic group genetically artificially selects mass stockholm syndrome in its host by only allowing obedient slaves to breed. Those who didn't obediently build pyramids when whipped were sent do Vlad the Impaler types, and their children were sacrificed. Today, slaves are forced to build schools instead of pyramids where children are still sacrificed, spiritually, and only the obedient exit with any chance to breed. At the memetic level, children are taught to believe in god and santa to sculpt their brains into authoritarian obedience stockholm syndrome and classically condition them with heaven & hell or presents & coal. Santa is a dictator. His elves are depicted as willing slaves in movies like the Polar Express starring Tom Hanks, a known pineapple fritter thief, and the presents for the annual orgy of corporate driven conspicuous consumption of shiny plastic pre-landfill bobbles is made by child slaves. Santa is god training for children and god is authority training for adults. Since your parents bred, and only slaves are allowed to breed, of course you are likely to be a statist, its in your genes and neural paths. We are being sculpted into social insect drones. The government doesn't even allow poor people to sleep in their cars. Hook yourself up as a battery in the matrix, in your coffin size agenda 21 apartment, or go to jail and work for 50 cents an hour to make it impossible for others to compete and where guards who are rewarded with money and breeding privileges can trigger gang fights on purpose from their guard towers for amusement.

"When you have a hierarchy that's organized by people and institutions, the people who rise to the top of those hierarchies become corrupted and co-opted and they gradually subvert the purpose of a hierarchical system to serve their own needs. This repeats in every political system and every social system we have. As soon as you get to the top you pull up the ladder so none of the rabble can get up there with you. A decentralized system will always deliver more value to every node in the network than a hierarchical system, and with better accountability, predictability, less uncertainty, less risk, and is much harder to corrupt and co-opt, and now we're doing it to money."
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6kfYQhdUNXg

Old Post 01-23-14 21:54 #
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TheCupboard
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^ 4/5 would read again, that one is a keeper

Old Post 01-23-14 22:18 #
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Holering
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Quasar said:
He's mostly correct. The US government is horrible at accomplishing anything, except for increasingly removing our freedoms. They're becoming very efficient at that.


I agree...

So when is the last time we could backup a copy of a legally purchased game without breaking the law?

Old Post 01-23-14 23:20 #
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Technician
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Holering said:
So when is the last time we could backup a copy of a legally purchased game without breaking the law?
Never.

Old Post 01-23-14 23:48 #
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myk
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Odd that we never saw this before, since he wrote it in 2010. Perhaps by now he changed his mind about these things. Just like he could look back sometimes and see how he could have done some past game code in a better way.

http://tomtomtom.files.wordpress.com/2011/12/248240-ck_goodbye_large.gif
“No! I must kill the demons” he shouted
The radio said “No, John. You are the demons”
And then John was Billy Blaze.



This is not to say that it doesn’t provide many valuable and even critical services, but that the cost of having the government provide them is much higher than you would tolerate from a company or individual you chose to do business with. For almost every task, it is a poor tool.
Most infrastructure can have little or no competition. For example, should we have various sewage tubes running to our houses and then use and pay for the one we think offers the best service for its price? That's efficient?

Try and cover fundamental rights (life, health, education, and so on) with cost-saving or profit as a priority. Private enterprise is "efficient" because it just cuts out anything it feels is unprofitable. It's efficient to itself, but not necessarily to society. The State cannot do that without serious consequences which bring disorder, disease and disruption. It must answer to all.

Governments must cover that uncertain and changing space that is the whole geographic region they cover plus their broader relations. A private company pretty much abstracts itself to its own trade and can rationalize and cut back at will. Just like Carmack abstracted himself to make his self contained games and machines.


Without growth, you get a zero sum game of fighting over the pie that breeds all sorts of problems in government and society.
It would have been more practical if John had simply specified how red tape, taxing or officials impeded his rocket building ambitions (growth) instead of projecting his annoyance at everything else. He was the one talking about over-ambition and misplaced idealism... Well, it's always good to start somewhere:


When I was a young man, I wanted to change the world. I found it was difficult to change the world, so I tried to change my nation.
When I found I couldn't change the nation, I began to focus on my town. I couldn't change the town and as an older man, I tried to change my family.
Now, as an old man, I realize the only thing I can change is myself, and suddenly I realize that if long ago I had changed myself, I could have made an impact on my family. My family and I could have made an impact on our town. Their impact could have changed the nation and I could indeed have changed the world.


~ Unknown Monk (around 1100 A.D.)



It is entertaining to imagine a corporate turnaround expert being told to get the federal house in shape, but it can’t happen.
Is this serious? Say hello to Mingo for me, or ask the Europeans about their trokia lovelies. This guy seems to fit like a glove... or mitt, too.


Even if you could snap your fingers and get it, do you really want a razor sharp federal apparatus ready to efficiently carry out the mandates of whoever is the supreme central planner at the moment?
Corporate efficiency governance is indeed more at home in dictatorships or eroded democracy.


However, a lot is done in the name of misplaced idealism. It isn’t hard to look around the world and find something that you feel needs fixing. The world gets to be a better place by people taking action to improve things, but it is easy for the thought to occur that if the government can be made to address your issue, it could give results far greater than what you would be able to accomplish with direct action. Even if you knew that it wasn’t going to be managed especially well, it would make up for it in volume. This has an obvious appeal.
The self-interest part was right, but the other part that makes the government get called up is the endless unmet demands of society. Ideals are the least of it. It's not people finding "something to fix" like some kind of curious and abstracted hacker tweaking a code for the hell of it, it's involved people bearing existence with all its troubles and toils, relating to a historically formed system of public institutions that allow society to coordinate at large and thrive.


Every idealistic cry for the government to “Do Something” means raising revenue, which means taking money from people to spend in the name of the new cause instead of letting it be used for whatever purpose the earner would have preferred.
When you pay taxes, you're just passing on what belongs to everybody because we all live in societies that give us more than what we can ever provide. You may argue in every case if any specific tax is fair or appropriate, but taxes in general don't take your money. It's not yours.


When you get an appallingly high utility bill, you start thinking about turning off some lights and changing the thermostat. When your taxes are higher than all your other bills put together, what do you do?
You can vote or organize protests, for example. But this isn't an issue that's exclusive to taxes. If food, housing, health care or education are very expensive, what can you do? Maybe they're cheaper in Texas, huh?


Also, it is horribly crass to say it, but taxes are extracted by the threat of force.
Not as much as looking down on feeding starving children, the justice system, chemotherapy for the elderly, and so on.

DOOM is a video game that's on digital mediums, and these can be physically copied indefinitely. This means people could just distribute copies to everyone and play for free. We paid for it, though... why? The gun that makes us pay taxes was also pointed at us saying we can't pirate it. And warezing DOOM has way less nasty effects than letting children starve or watching old ladies die of cancer! At worst, it would have killed John's game programming, forcing him to be a mechanic in a garage instead of a millionaire game maker.


Graf Zahl said:
No, you can't. It'd never work. Either the rich leave or stop working hard, dragging everything down.
There's nothing magical that lets them run off with their wealth. The main fiscal paradises are set up or sponsored by world powers. Currently, if the US and China made a treaty to domesticate these havens, the outflows you're seeing now wouldn't be happening on any significant level.

As for stopping hard work, just look at the levels of unemployment and inactivity in developed nations, which rely on banking schemes to separate wealth from the dirty masses. Otherwise inactivity happens heavily in economies that rely more on offshore sweatshops and cheap immigrant workers. That is, inequality is behind it.

Old Post 01-25-14 00:45 #
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Phml
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Each word you type to rail against Carmack only proves his point further. When there's no metric to determine efficiency, when there's no motivation for anyone to give their best, then people just sit there ranting on video game forums instead of doing something positive.

Old Post 01-25-14 11:03 #
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dew
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Phml said:
Each word you type to rail against Carmack only proves his point further. When there's no metric to determine efficiency, when there's no motivation for anyone to give their best, then people just sit there ranting on video game forums instead of doing something positive.

Your words mean to cut, but such forum conversations can refine your stances, broaden your horizons or even (ever so rarely) break out of your misconceptions. That's growth, even though it may not fit your definitions.

Old Post 01-25-14 13:45 #
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myk
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Phml said:
When there's no metric to determine efficiency, when there's no motivation for anyone to give their best, then people just sit there ranting on video game forums instead of doing something positive.
I pointed to a metric based on human welfare instead of investor profit. It's motivated, as I noted, in my reply to "misplaced idealism", largely by people thriving to avoid having miserable lives. The main motor for the majority of the world population is welfare, not wealthiness. It's hardly something I came up with. But I don't just sit here ranting on video game forums, as I hardly spend all week here, and this is something worth discussing everywhere.

And yes, it seems ironic as a topic in a video game forum when games are so usable in the evasion of reality (I mean sad things like starving people or inequality), but playing is really a basic function of humanity and evasion is a door in front of whatever it avoids.

Someone coming to a gaming site to avoid the drag of reality and just "have some 'brainless' fun" may at any point want to vent that out and consider and face some things previously ignored or avoided, without really losing love for games.

Old Post 01-25-14 14:18 #
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Graf Zahl said:
No, you can't. It'd never work. Either the rich leave or stop working hard, dragging everything down.


Nah, there's little evidence this actually happens. Conservatives shit their pants in anger back in 2008 because high taxes were driving people away from Maryland and New Jersey. Turned out, there was little to no evidence that this actually happened.

What other country will provide rich business and individuals the security and capability to amass such an enormous amount of wealth? Even if they added 2 additional tax tiers with the highest being 90%, The wealthy aren't going anywhere.

Old Post 01-25-14 15:13 #
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Kontra Kommando
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Scuba Steve said:


Nah, there's little evidence this actually happens. Conservatives shit their pants in anger back in 2008 because high taxes were driving people away from Maryland and New Jersey. Turned out, there was little to no evidence that this actually happened.



I can't speak for Maryland, but there is in fact a mass exodus from NJ. So much so, that there was a call for redistricting not too long ago. Now there are only 12 congressional districts, before we had 13. We also only have 12 electoral votes now as well. I would definitely say the cost of living is what's driving people out. Not to mention, it is very polluted here, and many people eventually develop various forms of cancer at a higher rate. The only reason for staying is if you manage to get a career near the New York Metropolitan area, or near Philadelphia. Ultimately, it makes the most sense to save up as much as possible, taking advantage of the higher income rate here; then moving out to a more affordable part of the country for retirement. We also have the highest car insurance in the nation, as well as the worst maintained roads. Not to mention paying for rising tolls for your daily commute. Despite the fact that we have high taxes, our public schools students are not achieving as much as hoped. There is a lot of corruption here in politics by both democrats and republicans. It doesn't even matter if you cut taxes. Every time it happens, the authorities will become more aggressive in giving out tickets. They've installed red light cameras, in a partnership with private companies, that dole out $85 fines. There was a scandal a few months ago, that one of them was off, and was "accidentally" giving out tickest to innocent people; nobody was reimbursed.

Also, I'm sure its influenced by what is known as the second Great Migration, of African-Americans moving back to the South. More, and more, African-Americans have been leaving the larger urban cities, and moving back to the South; much of it due to financial reasons, and to be near their extended families. This coincides with what people of other ethnic groups are doing in this area, and other urban areas as well. People seek to own property and retire where its the most affordable, especially if they don't have to worry about children. New Jersey really is no place for that.

Last edited by Kontra Kommando on 01-26-14 at 04:06

Old Post 01-26-14 02:13 #
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would you fellas agree with me that the best form of government, in my reckonening, is the game Doom. Not socialism, not democracy, but the game Doom. So, e.g, how would the economy run? The answer is to just play Doom and not think about it. Or, how about the divide of government control and private property? Just shut up about it and play Doom.

lets discuss this.

Old Post 01-30-14 15:06 #
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Ralphis
IDL Founder


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Are you suggesting that we give Doomocracy a trial run?

Old Post 01-30-14 16:17 #
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Nightmare Doom
On probation


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BTW here's the full transcript of the entire article just incase the link below in my original post doesn't work:

http://wayback.archive.org/web/2010.../government.htm


John Carmack on 10-28-2010



Almost everything that I write publicly is about technical details in software or aerospace, and the points are usually not very contentious. I’m going to go out on a limb today and talk about a much more banal topic -– government. This is sort of an open letter to my mother and stepfather, who are intelligent people, but we don’t see eye to eye on political issues. A couple brief conversations a year during visits doesn’t really establish much, and I have wanted to make a more carefully considered set of points.



I had nearly disqualified myself from discuss politics by not bothering to cast a vote for almost 20 years after I was legally able to. I was busy. I paid millions of dollars of taxes without any dodges, and just focused on my work. Listening to political speeches full of carefully calculated rhetoric is almost physically painful to me, and I diligently avoided it.



A couple things slowly brought me around to paying more attention. A computer game company doesn’t need to have much to do with the government, but a company that flies rocket ships is a different matter. Due to Armadillo Aerospace, in the last decade I have observed and interacted with a lot of different agencies, civil servants, and congressmen, and I have collected enough data points to form some opinions. The second thing that has changed for me is becoming a father; with two young sons, I think more about how the world might look in twenty or thirty years when they are adults.



I am an optimist on almost all fronts. Throughout history, there have always been those that argue that the world is going to hell, yet here we are, better off than any previous generation. Not only are things pretty damn good, but there is a lot of positive inertia that makes it likely that things will continue to improve for quite some time. We aren’t balanced at a precipice, where the result of any given election can pitch us into darkness.



However, trends do matter. Small, nearly painless losses accumulate over the years, and the world can slowly change into something you don’t want while you weren’t paying attention. It doesn’t take a cataclysmic crash, just a slow accretion of over regulation, taxation, and dependency that chokes the vibrant processes that produce wealth and growth. Without growth, you get a zero sum game of fighting over the pie that breeds all sorts of problems in government and society.



My core thesis is that the federal government delivers very poor value for the resources it consumes, and that society as a whole would be better off with a government that was less ambitious. This is not to say that it doesn’t provide many valuable and even critical services, but that the cost of having the government provide them is much higher than you would tolerate from a company or individual you chose to do business with. For almost every task, it is a poor tool.



So much of the government just grinds up money, like shoveling cash into a wood chipper. It is ghastly to watch. Billions and billions of dollars. Imagine every stupid dot-com company that you ever heard of that suckered in millions of dollars of investor money before leaving a smoking crater in the ground with nothing to show for it. Add up all that waste, all that stupidity. All together, it is a rounding error versus the analogous program results in the government. Private enterprises can’t go on squandering resources like that for long, but it is standard operating procedure for the government.



Well, can’t we make the government more efficient, so they can accomplish its tasks for less, or do more good work? Sure, there is room for improvement everywhere, but there are important fundamental limits. It is entertaining to imagine a corporate turnaround expert being told to get the federal house in shape, but it can’t happen. The modern civil service employment arrangement is probably superior to the historic jobs-as-political-spoils approach, but it insulates the workforce from the forces that improve commercial enterprises, and the voting influence of each worker is completely uncorrelated with their value. Without the goal and scorecard of profit, it is hard to even make value judgments between people and programs, so there are few checks against mounting inefficiency and abject failure, let alone evolution towards improvement.



Even if you could snap your fingers and get it, do you really want a razor sharp federal apparatus ready to efficiently carry out the mandates of whoever is the supreme central planner at the moment? The US government was explicitly designed to make that difficult, and I think that was wise.



So, the federal government is essentially doomed to inefficiency, no matter who is in charge or what policies they want it to implement. I probably haven’t lost too many people at this point – almost nobody thinks that the federal government is a paragon of efficiency, and it doesn’t take too much of an open mind to entertain the possibility that it might be much worse than you thought (it is).



Given the inefficiency, why is the federal government called upon to do so many things? A large part is naked self interest, which is never going to go away -- lots of people play the game to their best advantage, and even take pride in their ability to get more than they give.



However, a lot is done in the name of misplaced idealism. It isn’t hard to look around the world and find something that you feel needs fixing. The world gets to be a better place by people taking action to improve things, but it is easy for the thought to occur that if the government can be made to address your issue, it could give results far greater than what you would be able to accomplish with direct action. Even if you knew that it wasn’t going to be managed especially well, it would make up for it in volume. This has an obvious appeal.



Every idealistic cry for the government to “Do Something” means raising revenue, which means taking money from people to spend in the name of the new cause instead of letting it be used for whatever purpose the earner would have preferred.



It is unfortunate that income taxes get deducted automatically from most people’s paychecks, before they ever see the money they earned. A large chunk of the population thinks that tax day is when you get a nice little refund check. Good trick, that. If everyone was required to pay taxes like they pay their utilities, attitudes would probably change. When you get an appallingly high utility bill, you start thinking about turning off some lights and changing the thermostat. When your taxes are higher than all your other bills put together, what do you do? You can make a bit of a difference by living in Texas instead of California, but you don’t have many options regarding the bulk of it.



Also, it is horribly crass to say it, but taxes are extracted by the threat of force. I know a man (Walt Anderson), who has been in jail for a decade because the IRS disagreed with how his foundations were set up, so it isn’t an academic statement. What things do you care strongly enough about to feel morally justified in pointing a gun at me to get me to pay for them? A few layers of distance by proxy let most people avoid thinking about it, but that is really what it boils down to. Feeding starving children? The justice system? Chemotherapy for the elderly? Viagra for the indigent? Corn subsidies?



Helping people directly can be a noble thing. Forcing other people to do it with great inefficiency? Not so much. There isn’t a single thing that I would petition the federal government to add to its task list, and I would ask that it stop doing the majority of the things that it is currently doing. My vote is going to the candidates that at least vector in that direction.

Old Post 01-30-14 16:55 #
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