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Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

When Your Return On Investment Doesn’t

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As a resident of the Twin Cities I’ve recently suffered the bullshit spewed by stadium advocates. When the local handegg team started whining about wanting an even bigger stadium the smart people said it was a stupid idea and the stupid people said it was a smart idea. The stupid side claimed the stadium will bring a huge boost to the local economy. People from around the country will supposedly flock to the new stadium where they wouldn’t have come to the old stadium (apparently handegg fans travel to games for the buildings, not to watch the teams). This, in turn, will flood local eateries, convenience stores, hotels, and every other business with patrons. And that will lead to a flood of tax revenue (handegg fans also seem to think tax revenue is a meritorious thing). Since everybody will benefit, they claim in spite of facts, the stadium should be at least publicly funded.

One issue never touched by stadium advocates is what happens when the breadwinning team decides to leave? That’s the question denizens of St. Louis are probably wishing they had asked themselves before they built their shiny new stadium:

The St. Louis Rams’ decision to relocate to Los Angeles brought a double dose of bad news for the city’s residents on Tuesday: Not only are they losing the football team they’ve hosted for the last 21 years, they also still have to pay for the stadium they built to lure the Rams to their hometown in the first place.

At the beginning of 2015, city and state taxpayers still owed more than $100 million in debt on the bonds used to finance the Edward Jones Dome, the stadium St. Louis put $280 million in public funds behind in 1995.

It isn’t scheduled to pay off that debt until at least 2021, and that could be more difficult without the Rams and the $500,000 rent payment the team made each year. The city itself owes $5 million per year over that period, and the loss of the Rams could increase costs in the short-term.

Politicians, being incapable of admitting to fuck ups, are trying to spin this to their favor. But the bottom line is the city will have to pay off the stadium without a continuos source of rent. That will almost certainly lead to a rise in property taxes if not other taxes to make up the difference.

Publicly funded stadiums are nothing more than exercises in transferring wealth from the people to the politicians and their cronies. Even though the Rams are moving on the team gets to enjoy a great deal of wealth it otherwise wouldn’t have had because it was tight with the local politicians who were willing to put the tax victims on the line.

Written by Christopher Burg

January 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am

Take Immediate Payment Over Promises Of Future Benefits

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Pensions used to be one of the most sought after benefits and it’s easy to see why. On paper a pension allows you to put in your 30 years and receive a paycheck for the rest of your life. But things don’t always work out as planned. Many pensioners are learning the hard lesson that if you don’t have your compensation in hand you may never receive it:

Ken Petersen spent 30 years as a Teamster trucker, loading and hauling utility poles, fertilizer and other freight. All those years his employers socked money away for the monthly pension check Petersen has received since he retired from trucking in 2003.

Now, to save the Teamsters Central States Pension Fund from collapse, its trustees want to slash the pensions of 272,600 fund members, nearly 15,000 of whom are Minnesotan. Thousands are already retired and living on the pensions.

Petersen, 65, and working in a South St. Paul elementary school to make ends meet, said his monthly pretax retirement check would be chopped from $2,550 to $1,274.

The only constant in the universe is change. Pensions only work if certain criteria remain constant. The amount being paid into a pension fund must be greater than or equal to the amount being paid out. Pensioners have to die at the calculated rate, which is difficult to calculate due to improving medical technology. Whoever manages the pension account must not go bankrupt otherwise the account disappears. In other words there are numerous economic conditions under which a pension can fail.

Pensions, like stock options, are a gamble. They may pay off or they may not. This is why I tell people they don’t have any compensation that isn’t in their hand. If you’re offered a slightly larger paycheck now or a future pension take the bigger paycheck. Even if you looks like you’ll earn less over time it’s guaranteed.

Written by Christopher Burg

December 17th, 2015 at 10:00 am

The United States Isn’t A Wealthy Nation

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Several of the Bernie bots were sharing more economic ignorance spouted by their preferred presidential candidate. This time it was Bernie saying that the United States is the only wealthy country that doesn’t guarantee health insurance. How can he claim a nation that is tens of trillions of dollars in debt is wealthy? It’s the kind of lunacy only made possible through political doublespeak. War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength, and debt is wealth!

The United States is at that point where it has stretched itself so thin for so long that it can no longer even keep up the appearance of wealth. Like the man who used an extensive line of credit to buy his mansion that was just foreclosed and Ferrari that was just repossessed, the United States is no longer able to even maintain what it already purchased. A good illustration of this is the transportation infrastructure:

Imagine you’re driving. Maybe on the Kennedy Expressway in Chicago, or down Interstate 95 through New Haven, or I-94 in Milwaukee. Chances are you’ll encounter a truck-swallowing pothole, or lanes strewn with orange cones, or traffic at a standstill. After all, Illinois, Connecticut, and Wisconsin have the worst roads in the nation. And the Highway Trust Fund — the source for most federal spending on roads, bridges, highways, tunnels, and public transit — is almost out of money. Again.


The fund’s primary source of revenue is the federal fuel tax of 18.4 cents per gallon on gasoline and 24.4 cents per gallon of diesel. That tax hasn’t gone up since 1993, and isn’t pegged to inflation. A dollar in 1993 is worth only 60 cents today. If the gas tax had kept up with inflation, it would be 30 cents a gallon today and pull in nearly twice the amount of revenue. The tax brings in around $34 billion each year, but while that seems like a lot of money, it barely scratches the surface of what’s needed to maintain the nation’s highways in a state of good repair.

The federal government spends roughly $50 billion annually on infrastructure, leaving a $16 billion hole in the Highway Trust Fund. Over the last decade, Congress has signed off on a series of short-term extensions to prevent the fund from completely drying up. The one just approved by the Senate would mark the 36th such funding extension for the fund since 2009.

The article argues that the gas tax needs to be increased to pay for infrastructure maintenance. If this was a new problem that arose in a wealthy nation a simple gas tax increase might be enough of a bandage. But the infrastructure has been in decay for decades so the costs of fixing everything is so astronomically high that it’s not even a feasible project anymore:

So what needs fixing? Almost everything. Today, more than 60,000 bridges in the United States are considered structurally deficient, according to the Department of Transportation, and 32 percent of US major roads are in poor or mediocre condition, according to the American Society of Civil Engineers. In its most recent report, the ASCE gave the nation’s overall infrastructure — everything from airports to wastewater — a D+. The US would need to spend an estimated $3.6 trillion by 2020 to bring its infrastructure into decent shape. That’s more than one-third the nation’s entire gross domestic product.

Emphasis mine. The infrastructure is in such a dilapidated state that the federal government would need to steal one-third of the entire nation’s gross domestic product just to bring it up to date in four years. That, ladies and gentlemen, is point where your income can’t even pay off the interest on your debt. And it’s only one of a practically uncountable number of government programs. No amount of additional plunder will allow the United States to get back on its feet.

People saying the United States is a wealthy nation should be laughed at. When they use that claim to justify creating yet another government program that will add more debt they should be publicly shamed. Their names should become common insults. Instead of saying “You’re an idiot,” the new insult should be, “OK, Bernie Sanders.”

The empire is collapsing. No amount of voting will save it, thankfully.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 27th, 2015 at 10:30 am

Don’t Ask An Astrophysicist About Economics

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Neil deGrasse Tyson has reach almost messiah levels on the Internet and it’s easy to see why. He’s a brilliant man who managed to avoid the social awkwardness many brilliant individuals suffer from. But he’s an astrophysicist, not an economist. He made this very clear during a recent interview:

It seems really easy to delude ourselves about the state of space now, right? We look at a company like Mars One and say, “Oh yeah, totally, that seems possible. A reality show would definitely fund a mission to Mars.” Or even SpaceX, we’ve looked at that company with wide eyes and only now question them after a very public failure.

The delusion that relates to private spaceflight isn’t really what you’re describing. They’re big dreams, and I don’t have any problems with people dreaming. Mars One, let them dream. That’s not the delusion. The delusion is thinking that SpaceX is going to lead the space frontier. That’s just not going to happen, and it’s not going to happen for three really good reasons: One, it is very expensive. Two, it is very dangerous to do it first. Three, there is essentially no return on that investment that you’ve put in for having done it first. So if you’re going to bring in investors or venture capitalists and say, “Hey, I have an idea, I want to put the first humans on Mars.” They’ll ask, “How much will it cost?” You say, “A lot.” They’ll ask, “Is it dangerous?” You’ll say, “Yes, people will probably die.” They’ll ask, “What’s the return on investment?” and you’ll say “Probably nothing, initially.” It’s a five-minute meeting. Corporations need business models, and they need to satisfy shareholders, public or private.

A government has a much longer horizon over which it can make investments. This is how it’s always been.

SpaceX may not be the company that manages to get privatized space exploration off the ground but not for the reasons he gives. Expense and danger have never been major hinderances to entrepreneurs. Oftentimes the State will cite dangers as its reason to hinder an entrepreneur but our history is riddled with people who took tremendous risk in the name of being the first to develop a new technology. With that said, most entrepreneurs don’t blindly rush into danger but make a best effort attempt to identify and mitigate risks. SpaceX is a great example of this. Recognizing the potential dangers rocketry imposes SpaceX has been investing resources into designing an ejection system for astronauts in case something bad does happen (something, I might add, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) never bothered with).

But Tyson’s biggest mistake was claiming there’s no return on investment. He fell into the common trap of assuming just because he can’t imagine a return on investment one must not exist. Successful entrepreneurs are successful because they realized a return on an investment others did not. Space offers up tremendous returns to the right entrepreneur. Astroid mining, zero gravity manufacturing, tourism, and an environment that allows a lot of research to be more easily performed are just a few returns available to entrepreneurs who get into space. Mining alone could be a huge return simply because moving large amounts of raw materials through vacuum and dropping it down near where it’s needed is easier than transporting the same amount across a planet.

I think his claim that government has a much longer horizon is also in meaningless. The longest horizon in the universe won’t accomplish anything noteworthy without creativity. Governments are terribly uncreative. Unless something may expand a government’s ability to expropriate wealth it tends to have little or no interest in pursuing it. What makes entrepreneurs valuable is their creativity. An entrepreneur by definition is somebody who used their creativity to come up with a new good or service. A successful entrepreneur is somebody who came up with a good or service people wanted. Because there is nothing obviously worth stealing in space it’s unlikely governments will invest any notable resources into exploring it. It may, however, attempt to tax any goods or services an entrepreneur creates in space. And entrepreneurs will try because there is a great deal of potential value in space.

Space exploration is, amongst other things, an economics problem. I wouldn’t doubt Tyson’s input when it came to the physics involved in space exploration but I’ve seen no reason to believe his knowledge about economics comes close to his knowledge about physics.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 25th, 2015 at 10:30 am

The Decentralized Internet

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“Internet provision is a natural monopoly!” How many times have you heard some economic illiterati say that? I’m sure you’ve heard it a few times even though the entire concept of natural monopoly is a myth. To demonstrate this I’m going to provide a couple of examples of decentralized Internet architectures. First we’re going to look at the corporate world where one Internet Service Provider (ISP) has decided centralized infrastructure isn’t fulfilling all of its needs:

Well T-Mobile wants to fix all that… by putting an LTE tower in your house. Yes, the unconventional carrier has announced a 4G LTE CellSpot that it says will offer 3,000 square feet of LTE coverage for your home or business. Plug it into the wall outlet, connect it to the internet, and your LTE connection will get a boost anywhere T-Mobile has spectrum. The CellSpot supports up to 16 calls at a time, and will work with any 3G, 4G, and LTE device on T-Mobile’s network.

T-Mobile’s biggest limitation is coverage. Improving coverage isn’t easy for a cell carrier because building towers is expensive and the bureaucracy between them and their customers is significant (my hometown kept denying AT&T permission to build a new tower simply because the city council didn’t want travelers to see an “ugly” tower when they passed through town). Being able to install a lot of microcells is a lot easier than building a tower simply because the carrier doesn’t have to buy land and get permission from local bureaucracies.

Two mistakes T-Mobile is making, in my opinion, is only allowing its customers to install these CellSpots and not paying people who choose to install them:

And the price is right too — eligible Simple Choice customers can get the LTE CellSpot for free (with a refundable $25 deposit), and keep it as long as they are customers of T-Mobile.

I bet T-Mobile would quickly find itself enjoying spectacular coverage if it paid anybody willing to install one of these in their home or business a little kickback (these microcells, after all, are consuming electricity and using bandwidth). For the right price (which means enough for me to make a little bit of profit) I’d be willing to install one of these in my home and I’m not even a T-Mobile customer.

Admittedly relying on a centralized ISP, even if they’re utilizing a decentralized architecture, isn’t exactly demonstrating that Internet provision isn’t a natural monopoly. Fear not! T-Mobile isn’t the only game in town:

When you live somewhere with slow and unreliable Internet access, it usually seems like there’s nothing to do but complain. And that’s exactly what residents of Orcas Island, one of the San Juan Islands in Washington state, were doing in late 2013. Faced with CenturyLink service that was slow and outage-prone, residents gathered at a community potluck and lamented their current connectivity.

“Everyone was asking, ‘what can we do?’” resident Chris Brems recalls. “Then [Chris] Sutton stands up and says, ‘Well, we can do it ourselves.’”

When somebody says, “Well, we can do it ourselves,” you know they’re on the right track:

Faced with a local ISP that couldn’t provide modern broadband, Orcas Island residents designed their own network and built it themselves. The nonprofit Doe Bay Internet Users Association (DBIUA), founded by Sutton, Brems, and a few friends, now provide Internet service to a portion of the island. It’s a wireless network with radios installed on trees and houses in the Doe Bay portion of Orcas Island. Those radios get signals from radios on top of a water tower, which in turn receive a signal from a microwave tower across the water in Mount Vernon, Washington.


Back in 2013, CenturyLink service was supposed to provide up to 1.5Mbps downloads speeds, but in reality we “had 700kbps sometimes, and nothing at others,” Brems told Ars. When everyone came home in the evening, “you would get 100kbps down and almost nothing up, and the whole thing would just collapse. It’s totally oversubscribed,” Sutton said.

That 10-day outage in November 2013 wasn’t a fluke. At various times, CenturyLink service would go out for a couple of days until the company sent someone out to fix it, Sutton said. But since equipping the island with DBIUA’s wireless Internet, outages have been less frequent and “there are times we’re doing 30Mbps down and 40Mbps up,” Brems said. “It’s never been below 20 or 25 unless we had a problem.”

A better, more reliable service for less. What more could one ask for? Anybody who lives in a rural area knows the struggle of getting fast, reliable Internet access. Unfortunately many people in rural areas turn their frustrations into political campaigns. By the time they’re done they have higher taxes and promises from the local, state, or federal government that go unfulfilled. Had they taken the money they invested in political shenanigans and instead built a network they would have fast, reliable Internet connectivity. This is why you should listen to the person who says, “Well, we can do it ourselves,” instead of the idiot who tries to start a political campaign.

Internet provision isn’t a natural monopoly. A community can come together and build their own network and attach it to the Internet. This is even easier now that wireless connectivity is no longer slow or outrageously expensive.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 4th, 2015 at 11:00 am

Volkswagen Gives Americans What They Want, Americans Buy Volkswagens, Statists Confused By Markets

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A lot of electrons have been annoyed by people writing about the Volkswagen scandal. In an effort to give customers the performance they want while still passing the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) unrealistic tests Volkswagen wrote some clever software. It’s no surprisingly Volkswagen sales increased in the month of October. Well, it’s no surprise unless you’re a statist who doesn’t understand how markets work:

There is a world in which consumers swiftly punish Volkswagen where it counts — the coffers — for its massive, systematic deception of the Environmental Protection Agency in which it cheated its way around diesel emissions tests for half a decade.

This isn’t that world.

Volkswagen of America just reported its October sales, the first full month of reporting since the scandal broke, and guess what? Sales are up 0.24 percent year over year, likely thanks in part to enormous discounts being offered to prop up volume. Now, perhaps they would’ve been up more in the absence of the scandal. But if consumers haven’t outright rewarded VW for deceiving them, they certainly haven’t done much to punish the automaker, either.

I don’t really know what to do with this. Governments and law firms around the world are rearing to shake VW’s piggy bank, but it’s a little confusing to me that car buyers wouldn’t be looking elsewhere while this all plays out (and it is very much still playing out). Are these buyers just not following the news? Are they not concerned, because America is generally less excited about diesel engines than Europeans? (Note that Volkswagen has suspended sales of its 2016 diesels, pending approvals, so Americans have made up the sales difference versus October 2014 with additional gasoline and hybrid purchases.)

Consumers only punish manufacturers when they feel they’ve been wronged. Why should I, as a consumer, be angry if I know an automobile manufacturer can’t sell its product in the United States without passing random government tests that demonstrates nothing of value (more on this in a second) and find out the manufacturer cheated the test to give me a better product? On the other hand I, as a consumer, have ever right to be angry when the government attempts to interfere with my acquisition of a desired product. The EPA tests, as I mentioned above, aren’t even testing real-world conditions so there’s no reason for consumers, even those who are dyed in the wool environmentalists, to give two shits about them.

And don’t make the mistake of construing this increase in sales with consumers not caring about environmentalism. Most consumers care greatly about environmentalism, which is why fuel mileage is advertised to heavily these days. Generally consumers want a balance between performance and fuel efficiency (of course the EPA’s fuel efficiency tests, like its emissions tests, aren’t accurate but that’s a different can of worms). If a vehicle’s fuel efficiency is too low consumers face undesirable increases in their fuel bills. But market forces are something statists don’t understand so they become confused by situations like Volkswagen’s sales increase and come to the faulty conclusion that it means consumers don’t care about environmentalism (and use that conclusion to argue the necessity of the EPA).

What we’ve learned from this Volkswagen scandal is that producers, when faced with idiotic regulatory tests, will find creative ways to give consumers what they want and be rightly rewarded. If you want to be angry with somebody be angry with the EPA. It’s been feeding the public bad data for decades and using that data to restrict availability of goods, which has forced manufacturers to cheat in order to fulfill the wants of their customers.

Written by Christopher Burg

November 4th, 2015 at 10:00 am

Libertarianism: Simultaneously Impotent And The Most Dangerous Force On Earth

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The best thing about being a libertarian is that you’re simultaneously accused of being completely impotent and the most dangerous force on Earth. Making the situation even better is the fact libertarianism is often blamed for things it has absolutely no part in. Take this recent article by statist economic stooge Will Hutton:

Yet there is a parallel collapse in the economic order that is less conspicuous: the hundreds of billions of dollars fleeing emerging economies, from Brazil to China, don’t come with images of women and children on capsizing boats. Nor do banks that have lent trillions that will never be repaid post gruesome videos. However, this collapse threatens our liberal universe as much as certain responses to the refugees. Capital flight and bank fragility are profound dysfunctions in the way the global economy is now organised that will surface as real-world economic dislocation.

The IMF is profoundly concerned, warning at last week’s annual meeting in Peru of $3tn (£1.95tn) of excess credit globally and weakening global economic growth. But while it knows there needs to be an international co-ordinated response, no progress is likely. The grip of libertarian, anti-state philosophies on the dominant Anglo-Saxon political right in the US and UK makes such intervention as probable as a Middle East settlement. Order is crumbling all around and the forces that might save it are politically weak and intellectually ineffective.

We’re seeing signs of the very economic turmoil libertarians have been warning about for decades. This turmoil is the result of unsound monetary practices, namely the reliance on debt instead of wealth for economic activity between nations. No matter how much evidence libertarians point to or how loudly libertarians scream the statists seem entirely unwilling to adjust their monetary policies. Instead they continue trying the same thing — only harder.

So who’s to blame for the current turmoil? Libertarians, of course!

There’s so much to laugh at in this article but the insinuation that libertarian, anti-state philosophies have any kind of old on the political right of the United States (US) or United Kingdoms (UK) is a real gut buster. The political right and left can best be defined as anti-libertarianism. Libertarianism is about individual empowerment at the expense of state power. Strong centralized militaries, militarized domestic police forces, national surveillance apparatuses, fortress-like borders, fiat currency, and other such nonsense the political right has a raging hard-on for are anti-libertarian in nature. Likewise the redistribution of wealth, heavy-handed market controls, widespread censorship, restrictions on voluntary association, almost zealous opposition to self-defense, and other politically left ideas are equally anti-libertarian in nature.

The economic philosophies, which Mr. Hutton claims to be libertarian, of both the US and UK are entirely statist in nature. Libertarians advocate for wealth-based currencies, usually in the form of gold or silver backed warehouse receipts, whereas the US and UK both use fiat currencies that are backed by little more than each nation’s respective capacity for violence against anybody who doesn’t recognize their full faith and credit. Debt, the US and UK’s preferred excuse for printing more worthless paper, is the antithesis of libertarianism’s advocacy of spending within one’s means.

The current economic turmoil is the result of authoritarian, pro-state philosophies. If libertarianism actually had a grip on these nations we almost certainly wouldn’t be facing this economic crisis.

But, of course, libertarianism is the boogeyman of statists everywhere so it must be blamed for all things, whether or not those accusations make sense.

If You’re Good At Something Never Do It For Free

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I know the Joker is supposed to be the bad guy in The Dark Night and probably serves as some sort of metaphor for the evils of capitalism but he had some goddamn sage advice:


As I’ve mentioned previously I hate the “giving culture.” Unfortunately most of us have been inflicted with this giving nonsense since our impressionable youths. Teachers harp on students to “share” (usually a euphemism for give away) their toys, pencils, and other earthly possession to any student who asks. In college students are suckered into working for free, often under the guise of an internship, because it will “help them build a resume.” Then when you get into the professional world you might be asked to work longer hours for no additional pay and be accused of not “loving your work” if you decline. Fuck. All. Of. That.

Let’s consider how you get good at something. Although there are a handful of anomalies that seem naturally gifted at whatever they pursue most of us only become good through seemingly endless practice. Successful authors? Almost all of them have written a lot. Skilled programmer? Almost all of them have years of programming under their belts. Bad ass martial artists? Almost all of them have been practicing their art(s) for years. There’s a reason the phrase “Practice makes perfect,” is so popular.

Why should you invest years of your life into developing a skill set and not expect some benefits? And why should you tolerate people belittling your investment by demanding you to give your skills away? The idea of investing is to see a return. That’s why, if you’re good at something, you should never do it for free. You put in the effort where others did not. Likewise, when you want somebody to do something for you then you should recognize their years of effort and not demean them by demanding they do it for free.

Exchange isn’t an evil plot for the haves to steal wealth from the have nots. It’s a mutual respect and acknowledgement of accomplishments. For example, I respect and acknowledge that a automotive engineer has invested years of their life in developing a skill I haven’t so I pay them to build me a vehicle. Likewise, many people seem to respect and acknowledge that I’ve invested years of my life in developing computer science skills and pay me to utilize them.

If you’re good at something you shouldn’t feel ashamed or awkward commanding a price for it. And you should feel free to tell anybody who tells you otherwise to go pound sand because there’s no reason for you to put up with that kind of insulting bullshit.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 16th, 2015 at 10:30 am

You Keep Using That Word: Monopoly Edition

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Monopoly is one of those words that gets thrown around too loosely. The word monopoly means, “exclusive control by one group of the means of producing or selling a commodity or service.” So monopoly actually defines a condition that only exists under government interventionism. But the word, like so many other words, has been twisted by the State. Today monopoly implies any company that has become extremely large. Case in point, Google:

BRUSSELS — European Union lawmakers have overwhelmingly backed a motion urging antitrust regulators to break up Google. The non-binding resolution approved Thursday by the European Parliament is the strongest public signal yet of Europe’s concern with the growing power of U.S. tech giants. The resolution is a largely symbolic protest vote without immediate impact. But it was approved with a large majority — 384 votes to 174, with 56 abstentions — showing widespread political backing. Andreas Schwab, German conservative lawmaker and co-sponsor of the bill, said it was a political signal to the European Commission, which is tasked with ensuring a level playing field for business across the 28-country bloc. “Monopolies in whatever market have never been useful, neither for consumers nor for the companies,” he said. Google declined to comment.

Google isn’t a monopoly. In fact it’s not even close to being one. Every single product and service it provides is also provided by others. I’m proof of this since I use very few Google products or services. Most of my searching is done using DuckDuckGo. My e-mail is handled by my server sitting in my dwelling. My phone is manufactured by Apple and runs iOS. None of my laptops are Chromebooks.

The only Google services I really utilize are Google Maps and YouTube. I use Google Maps because I find the alternatives provided by Microsoft and Apple lackluster and choose YouTube because it has more content I’m looking for than Vimeo. But in both cases you’ll notice I mentioned competitors that exist.

If you want an actual example of a monopoly look up Ma Systems. Ma Bell was a company that enjoyed a government granted monopoly over telecommunications. But outside of government intervention in the marketplace you’re going to be hard pressed to find an actual monopoly so you may want to stop throwing that word around so willy nilly.

Written by Christopher Burg

September 2nd, 2015 at 10:30 am

Work Is Replaceable

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Technology has created more jobs than it has destroyed yet I’m still subjected daily to the whining of people worried about the jobs. What will happen to people working checkout aisles at convenience stores if everybody uses kiosks? How will employees at McDonald’s afford housing if they’re replaced by kiosks? Where will people working in manufacturing go if 3D printers make their jobs unnecessary? Then you have the people, usually old folks, bitching about the current generation not working as hard. You would think any 20-something working less than 80 hours a week was some kind of lazy bums. And don’t even get me started on the people worried that there won’t be as much work available in the future because of automation.

You’re reading this so I infer that you both have access to a computer and aren’t currently working (even if you’re at work). Two things about these inferences should amaze you. First, you have access to an incredibly complex piece of machinery that has went from non-existent to pervasive throughout society in roughly half of a century. Second, you don’t have to perform hard labor every minute of the day just to survive.

It’s true, automation has replaced a lot of jobs. It’s also true that automation has allowed us to work less than the previous generation and still enjoy a better standard of living. That’s the beauty of automation. Not only does it replace hard labor with easier jobs but it also allows us to generate the same wealth in less time.

I, like you, am not spending every moment of daylight hunting animals or gathering berries. Usually I put in around eight hours five days a week. For those 40 hours a week most of it is spent sitting on my ass in front of a computer. The most strenuous effort I have to put forth most working periods is moving my fingers thousands of times to different keyboard positions so I can properly enter in the correct sequence of characters to convince a computer to do what I would rather not do myself. Programming is much easier than automotive repair, which is what my father does. I also work fewer hours than he does.

In most cases when a job is replaced with automation it reduces the amount of physical effort needed overall. You know the socialist dream of abolishing work? It becomes a little more feasible everyday as we make better use of advancing technology. Human history is actually a lengthy demonstration of this point. This generation is lazier than the previous, the previous generation is lazier than its predecessors, and so on.

This is why I scoff at neophobes and why I roll my eyes when some union leader is bitching about the machines replacing jobs. I don’t want to struggle every waking hour to obtain enough food to eek out a substance living. Fuck everything about that! What I want to do is go home after doing what little work I need and enjoy myself. Machines can create more wealth than I can so let them do it. I’ll enjoy the product of their labor.

Written by Christopher Burg

August 26th, 2015 at 11:00 am