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Forest fires, bank bailouts and resilience

The recent massive Australian bushfires have provoked a lot of controversy, with some people claiming that this is largely driven by Man-made global warming, and others pointing to how other factors (not necessarily to the exclusion of such warming) were to blame, including changes to how forests/habitats are managed. For example, I have seen it stated that bans on “controlled burns” and clearances of woodland in the early growing seasons, are a big factor in causing this disaster.

I sense from watching reports in parts of the mainstream media that commentaries on controls on forest clearance, controlled burns and so on have tended to be few and far between. I suspect that the topic isn’t popular in those places pushing the “Man is destroying Mother Earth with C02” narrative, because it gets in the way. But surely it seems to me that such a viewpoint is counterproductive: the general public understands that firebreaks, clearances and selective thinning of woodland, etc, are part of a solution. (A firebreak is like a bulkhead in a ship.) And let’s not forget that some species of plant only germinate after a fire. Fire, in fact, is a part of agriculture. For centuries, farmers have burned certain waste vegetation, which is often good for the soil in releasing certain nutrients. A few years ago in the UK, farmers burned straw after harvest. This practice was banned in the UK in the early 90s largely because a few idiot farmers did not make wide firebreaks around their fields and in some cases, burned when there was a wind. The ash and the smoke upset people and scared a few. But one of the benefits of stubble burning was that it created a clean seed bed for crops, and farmers did not have to spend so much money and fuel cultivating the soil (which is good for the environment) or on herbicides and other chemicals (ditto).

So, controlled burns are and should be a perfectly normal part of intelligent curation of habitats and farmland, when done in a sensible way. The US-based Property and Environment Research Center, or PERC, has a good overview on this topic.

It is surely better to let things burn in a controlled way, rather than allow a whole coastal region of a continent such as Australia go up in a fireball, destroying hundreds of millions of animals and killing people. But such is the grip of this focus on the mono-causal explanation of the fires (blaming it on climate change) that little will be done, I fear. And in a way one of the things I detest most about the age in which we live is how fashionable opinion fastens itself on a simple, but often unattainable goal – eliminating all fossil fuels and hoping this achieves a result in a few thousand years – rather than taking more practical and verifiable steps to handle a situation, such as managing forests more intelligently. There is this toxic mix of virtue-signalling, State regulation bossiness and pettiness, coupled with hostility towards private sector solutions and property rights (such as allowing owners of land to cut trees and thin out brush). The result is catastrophe.

We saw the same sort of toxic brew around the financial crisis of 2008. Remember the old “too big to fail” problem? The problem of limited liability-owned banks not feeling the risk of going bust by imprudent lending? The moral hazard effects of taxpayer bailouts, deposit insurance and central bankers as lenders of last resort? State support for sub-prime lending?

There is a sort of rough analogy between a policy mix that does not allow forests to be thinned and occasionally burned in limited ways, and a banking system where a bank is never allowed to fail for the assets to be reallocated to more sensible uses. (The book Alchemists of Loss is a good summary of what went wrong inside banks and because of public policy.)

But with nature, so with finance. One needs to have “dead wood”, such as unprofitable lines of lending, to go out of business and for the distressed assets to be bought and restructured, much as an overgrown forest needs to be thinned out and for some areas to be cut back from time to time. This is about resilience or what Nicholas Taleb means by the term “anti-fragile”: without allowing things to die and be cut out and for a certain amount of disorder and turbulence, you end up creating something that will eventually go up in a firebomb, whether it be Australian landscapes or modern economies.

67 comments to Forest fires, bank bailouts and resilience

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    There is a sort of rough analogy between a policy mix that does not allow forests to be thinned and occasionally burned in limited ways, and a banking system where a bank is never allowed to fail for the assets to be reallocated to more sensible uses.

    I had not thought of this parallel, but now that you have made it, it makes very good sense. Another area of life which I think might work like this is crime (or in its earlier stages mere misbehaviour) and punishment. It is misplaced mercy to let people off for minor crimes.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Natalie

    It is misplaced mercy to let people off for minor crimes.

    I have long thought this. Talking to a judge the other day, she said that most judges were loath to sentence people to prison for the first time because all the statistics showed that after two prison terms they were almost certain to keep coming back. I suggested that this was all the more reason to give them a shock the first time. She said that she would think about it.

    I think the (other?) reason why judges are reluctant to sentence people is that a prison sentence almost automatically loses you your job and any chance of getting another, similar one.
    For me, the response is that the default position should be that prison (and other sentences) are wiped from the public record once served (or at least the first one should be). If not, then the sentence is only part (and maybe only a small part) of the punishment.

  • Clovis Sangrail (January 23, 2020 at 5:17 pm), as regards your last paragraph, research by Thomas Sowell and others shows that where US employers were allowed to check the criminal records of black applicants, they employed more blacks. Where they were forbidden access to that information, they employed fewer. Generally, I am for allowing people access to the same information the state has and trusting their ability to assess its relevance will outperform the state’s ability to assess whether it should be relevant.

    As regards your first paragraph, I agree that avoiding something the first-time offender perceives as punishment is unwise. I hope the judge you spoke to will too.

  • bobby b

    “Talking to a judge the other day, she said that most judges were loath to sentence people to prison for the first time because all the statistics showed that after two prison terms they were almost certain to keep coming back.”

    There’s a huge cause-and-effect disconnect contained in this sentence. Anyone who is of the sort to commit a second prison-worthy offense after being caught the first time is certainly likely to come back, but not for the reason implied.

  • Jim

    “There is a sort of rough analogy between a policy mix that does not allow forests to be thinned and occasionally burned in limited ways, and a banking system where a bank is never allowed to fail for the assets to be reallocated to more sensible uses.”

    It also links to my theory that the reason so many young people are suffering from mental health problems is that we have stopped them from experiencing any setback or failures during their childhood, when such things are teachable events, and adults are on hand to pick them up and put them back on the right path, and instead they experiencing them for the first time as young adults, when the childhood support mechanisms have gone, and thus they can’t cope.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Getting back to the forest fires and the banks, another way of looking at the phenomenon is to say that people nowadays say that they are all for “letting nature take its course”, but when it comes down to it they want a version of nature with all the ugly bits edited out – they will not permit occasional forest fires because they burn animals, they will not permit occasional bank failures because they hurt people. But all that means is the dry brushwood builds up.

    There’s also the problem that those whose job is to deal with fires or financial crises don’t get enough practice, and flounder when the big one comes along. To introduce yet another metaphor it’s like pilots of modern jets who never have any practice in dealing with minor problems because the autopilot is too good. (Or like the over-protected children in Jim’s comment above.)

    This post has sparked so many ideas in my head that they are competing with each other.

  • George Atkisson

    What’s with all this evaluation based on facts, logic, and experience??? This is 2020, people, get with the program. You’ll never get an invite from the BBC or the Grauniad at this rate!

    /shakes head and mutters …

  • bobby b

    “This post has sparked so many ideas in my head that they are competing with each other.”

    Credit bubbles, tinder bubbles, emotional-pain bubbles – many things can be explained as bubbles.

    Now let’s watch our overregulation bubble, our racism bubble, our liberal-professoriat bubble . . .

    Interfere with an equilibrium and then release the interference, and watch the resulting oscillations around the baseline.

  • Alsadius

    Re the Aussie fires, see also this link from the always-great Bjorn Lomborg: https://www.facebook.com/bjornlomborg/photos/a.221758208967/10158666710443968/?type=3&theater

    tl;dr, the fires are smaller than usual this year.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Niall
    I take your point. I think I meant that even the state should not be allowed to keep the information. I suppose that’s practically impossible these days.
    My emotional response is still that the post-sentence process becomes the punishment and I don’t like that. Your observation certainly gives some counter-evidence.

    @bobby b

    There’s a huge cause-and-effect disconnect contained in this sentence.

    Damn right! She’s a very, very bright woman but they get swamped by the pc output of the criminologists and legal reasoning is…odd; but then you KNOW that. : 😉

  • Rudolph Hucker

    Has anyone else noticed how little MSM coverage is being given to reports of the arsonists who have been arrested by Australian police? For starting at least *some* of the fires.

    Or the historical perspective:
    Black Friday bushfires

    The event followed a series of extreme heatwaves that were accompanied by strong northerly winds, after a very dry six months.[3] In the days preceding the fires, the state capital, Melbourne, experienced some of its hottest temperatures on record at the time: 43.8 °C (110.8 °F) on 8 January and 44.7 °C (112.5 °F) on 10 January. On 13 January, the day of the fires, temperatures reached 45.6 °C (114.1 °F), which stood as the hottest day officially recorded in Melbourne for the next 70 years.

    The subsequent Royal Commission, under Judge Leonard Edward Bishop Stretton (known as the Stretton Inquiry), attributed blame for the fires to careless burning, campfires, graziers, sawmillers and land clearing.

    Prior to 13 January 1939, many fires were already burning. Some of the fires started as early as December 1938, but most of them started in the first week of January 1939. Some of these fires could not be extinguished. Others were left unattended or, as Judge Stretton wrote, the fires were allowed to burn “under control”, as it was falsely and dangerously called. Stretton declared that most of the fires were lit by the “hand of man”

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Friday_bushfires

    Would that complicate the story too much?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Clovis Sangrail
    I have long thought this. Talking to a judge the other day, she said that most judges were loath to sentence people to prison for the first time because all the statistics showed that after two prison terms they were almost certain to keep coming back. I suggested that this was all the more reason to give them a shock the first time. She said that she would think about it.

    The problem is, though, that prison is a pretty terrible way to punish people. I don’t mean “poor criminal, how can we be so mean” but rather “poor society imprisoning criminals doesn’t help you much.” Some people who are a real danger need to be locked up to keep them away from the rest of us. Criminal punishment is really there to serve about a half dozen different ends all mixed together, and certainly keeping the truly dangerous from us all is a reason for prison. But for the rest, sending them to prison seems to me to be MORE likely to cause them to re-offend. Basically you are locking them up in Crime University, and putting them in a society where cruelty and lack of compassion for others is the very watchword.

    Ultimately we are trying to cause them pain to deter them for reoffending and give the victims some sense of justice. Surely there are better ways to do that without leaving them in a human garbage can to marinade in cruelty. give them a criminal education, crushing them with opportunity cost and giving them a criminal record that makes it impossible to integrate back into society. It seems to me that instead of rehabilitating them we are making it impossible for them to rehabilitate themselves.

    I’m certainly not “soft on crime”. In fact I think the best solution for many criminals is to take them out back and put a bullet in their head. So, I don’t know I have the answer, but I do know that mass incarceration is not the answer.

  • Jim

    “Ultimately we are trying to cause them pain to deter them for reoffending and give the victims some sense of justice. Surely there are better ways to do that without leaving them in a human garbage can to marinade in cruelty.”

    Name them then. Anything that allows a criminal to live in their own home, with all its creature comforts, and freely walk the same streets that their victims do is hardly a punishment is it?

  • jmc

    The story from California is pretty straightforward. The landscape was shaped by man-made fires for thousands of years. Just like in Australia. Then in the 1990’s in California the Air Resources Board and CalEPA made controlled burns virtually impossible. Add to that many generations of land management on state and federally controlled land was reversed and now completely controlled by the radical Greens. Thereby creating a huge reservoir of fuel for wildfires. All recent major fires turned from normal widlfires to catastrophic ones with breakout burn areas on federal and state controlled land. Counties which took back control of state land have had less of a problem. Or those that used major wildfires to catch up on more than 20 years of state mandated deferred burns.

    As for judges and sentencing practices. After more than 30 years of very light sentences for criminal in California there was a voters revolt and discretion was taken away from judges. And Three Strikes was passed. In early 1990’s California had the highest or second highest per capita crime rate in all categories. A few years after Three Strikes was passed the crime rate collapsed. The state had a below average crime rate in all categories. Turns out most petty crime is caused by petty criminals. As is most serious crime. Lock up petty criminal for long periods of time and guess what, the crime rate collapses.

    And when you start releasing petty criminals again, thanks to Prop 47 and 57, and the petty crime rate soon returns to pre Three Strikes levels. Having lived in high crime California and low crime California my attitude to the criminals is lock them up as long as possible. I only care about keeping the number of crime victims as low as possible. I dont give a damn about criminals. They’ll stop of there own accord, most of them, eventually. Nothing to do with rehab.

    Warehousing criminals works.

  • Kirk

    Vis-a-vis the criminal stuff…

    There is a distinct problem with the judicial system, in that the people who are attracted into those jobs are rarely the people who should be doing them.

    It’s long been an observation of mine that most people do not like being the “bad guy”, and telling someone else “Hey–You f**ked up. Pay the price.”. This does not comport with most of the BS psychology stuff you hear, but it’s a ground truth. You see it everywhere from employee evaluations to the judicial system–The person who is willing to hold others personally accountable and call them on their BS is a rare bird, indeed.

    But, the converse of this is that the average person is more than willing to hold the “abstract other” accountable, by writing draconian laws to enact punishments on people they will never meet, or have to face.

    It’s a bizarre dichotomy, and a seriously damaging one–In the military, I’ve watched it play out, multiple times. Some young idiot does something stupid, he’s written up, his leadership recommends the commander take action, the commander agrees… And, then, in the moment, the commander backs down from what is previously agreed-upon with the senior NCO leadership, and the young idiot is let off the hook. Ask the commander why he changed his mind, he says “I just couldn’t look him in the eye and do it…”. Followed, generally, by escalating bad behavior because the malefactor thinks he’ll get away with it again, and eventually having to spank the baby with an axe.

    You need to have a certain distance and near-sociopathy to be a successful disciplinarian. Most people lack this quality, and as such, they should not be in leadership roles calling for that ability, nor should they be engaged as judges in the judicial system. You have to be a hard-ass, and if you can’t bring yourself to do it, you don’t belong in these roles.

    Parenting isn’t much different. You can identify kids raised by those who can’t say “No”, and make it stick. They’re usually the ones running around like feral little monkeys, breaking everything they come in contact with.

    The whole phenomenon is part of a very wide spectrum of societal issues that build into the increasing dysfunction of Western society. Part of the enabling process has been the shift from Calvinistic accountability towards the “tolerant” do-your-own-thing ethos that’s come to permeate it all. It’s another classic example of Chesterton’s Fence, and someone should have made all the parties agitating for more “understanding” to clearly lay out the side-effects for everyone.

    Of course, this is just going to be more energy for the pendulum, when the backswing comes. Today, California has decriminalized many offenses; when sufficient animus has built up against the criminal transgressors, expect to see those same offenses earn the person committing them a death penalty or the equivalent; wouldn’t surprise me to see involuntary organ donation become part of the legal system, at some point.

    Push that pendulum far enough off center, and it’s going to come back the other direction a lot harder and faster than most would credit. I keep hearing everyone on the left saying that they’ve “won”, and things will never go back, but… I suspect it’s not going to work out the way they think. Instead of “never going back”, it’s going to go back way, way further than these idiots could ever believe. People are getting tired of the homeless defecating in the streets, and drug addicts littering their parks with needles. What they do about it all, should the situation keep following the trend lines, ain’t going to be at all pretty.

  • Fraser Orr (January 24, 2020 at 3:46 pm), my “something the first-time offender perceives as punishment” was phrased to allow alternatives to prison – but they have to meet my criterion because, as jmc (January 24, 2020 at 7:22 pm) says, diminish to anything less than prison and “the petty crime rate soon returns to pre Three Strikes levels.” So, as Jim (January 24, 2020 at 5:59 pm) says of your “Surely there are better ways…” remark. “Name them then“. Hanging, flogging, the stocks and serving the whole sentence in solitary confinement are all precedented – as is your “bullet in the back of the head” suggestion – and all avoid the tendency of prison to be your “Crime University”, but, like prison, they have potential downsides. It is not in the nature of anything that the one experiencing it “perceives as punishment” to be without undesirable side-effects even (especially) from the PoV of the one mandating it – as libertarians we can all see that. So it will always be “hold your nose and vote” time when choosing kinds of punishment – which of course helps us to desire that there be fewer laws for which we must do so.

  • Clovis Sangrail

    @Niall, Fraser, Kirk and Jim
    Am I allowed to agree with all of you? The joy of some conversations here is the level of engagement and thought.

    Now more detail: Jim, I agree prison is a good way of keeping them off the streets. However, as I think Peter Hitchens pointed out, in the UK (YMMV) prison sentences were shorter around 1900, but also much harsher. Hard labour, very basic diet, almost no fraternisation. Crime rates were very low.

    Conversely, I have always felt that imprisonment is the gold standard for “cruel and unusual punishment”. Flogging, the stocks (when passers by are not allowed to turn it into a death penalty, as sometimes happened) and other physical penalties seem much less cruel to me.

    @Kirk, my friend, for she is a friend, is not soft, indeed she can be scarily hard. She’s just looking for what works and is (I think) misinformed.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Ultimately we are trying to cause them pain to deter them for reoffending and give the victims some sense of justice. Surely there are better ways to do that without leaving them in a human garbage can to marinade in cruelty. give them a criminal education, crushing them with opportunity cost and giving them a criminal record that makes it impossible to integrate back into society. It seems to me that instead of rehabilitating them we are making it impossible for them to rehabilitate themselves.”

    That’s what happens when you ask the state to provide a big-government coercive solution to a problem. You pile all the smouldering fuel up together in one big heap, isolate it from any civilising influences, and then after waiting a while so the flames of criminality have had time to spread, parcel it back out into society.

    The US prison system (for example) costs the taxpayer an average of $36,000 per year per inmate, a total cost of $39bn. It’s £37,000 in the UK. Is that the best use of that money? Oh, but nobody ever lost an election by promising to spend *less* money on a problem the public want solving, the less effective the solution proves to be the more money they want spending on it, and big government does what big government always does: gets bigger.

    When is the power of the state to threaten and coerce its citizens the best method to get people to behave as you want them to? Does anyone want to make the case that some sort of market-led motivation is generally a better approach than enforcement by the state? No?

  • Paul Marks

    Good post.

  • Kirk

    The root of the whole problem lies in the modern attitudes towards accountability and responsibility. Nobody wants to be “that guy” who calls someone they know personally on misconduct or misbehavior–It’s all too easy to look the other way, and mutter darkly, while effectively allowing it all to go on.

    You can see it in the Epstein and Wienstein fiascoes; you can observe it in the schools. People are conditioned to be non-confrontational when they see something going on that’s clearly against the interests of social order. And, the fact is that the system is set up, from top to bottom, to silence the voices of criticism.

    So, don’t be too surprised when that syndrome works its way through the system and expresses itself in social license and criminality. That kid who was never censured by their parents, society, or their peers is often the one who turns into a Shkreli or a Manson. You get down to it, society often has nobody to blame but itself.

    You don’t apply the rod, don’t be surprised when the majority fail to magically figure out the rules of social conduct. If nobody says anything when you leave the carts out in the parking lot, why be surprised when few bother to return them to their proper place? Living in society has a price; one of those prices is to be responsible for applying the proper corrective when other members fail to follow the rules that are set up to make things more livable for all of us.

    What we can observe across society, these days, is the end-state effect of this mentality. You look at the FBI malfeasance surrounding the Flynn case–The agents going after Flynn actually committed the same crime they claimed he did, but they’re not the ones in the dock now, are they? If an average citizen did to anyone what the FBI and federal prosecutors did to Senator Stevens, back in the day, they’d have gone to prison. Instead, there wasn’t even a slight amount of censure applied, and many of those same prosecutors went on to work for Mueller. And, you wonder why the system appears to be breaking down? LOL… Chickens will come home to roost, and the people creating this situation are going to be shocked, shocked, I tell you, when they find that they can’t get a conviction out of any jury in the country when an FBI agent testifies.

    Meanwhile, all the enablers for this sort of things will stand by, on the sidelines, aghast at the spectacle–Never realizing that they and their antecedents are who brought us to this sorry state.

  • Itellyounothing

    Fun fact. Prison costs around £50000 a year.

    Most criminals are responsible for around £167,000 a year in losses caused and damages done.

    Is prison such bad value?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Is prison such bad value?”

    You need to compare the cost of prison to the *reduction* in the cost of crime resulting from each prisoner incarcerated, relative to the reduction from using alternatives to prison.

    If spending £50,000 extra on prison reduces the cost of crime per criminal from £170,000 with a much cheaper alternative to £167,000, then that wouldn’t necessarily be good value. If it turns out prison actually increases the level of crime, due to turning one-off cases into habitual criminals, then spending £50,000 to increase the cost of crime to £167,000 definitely isn’t good value!

    And do the numbers include other costs like the opportunity cost to society of making ex-cons unemployable? It seems to me that it’s a more complicated question.

  • Jim

    Maybe technology is the answer. What if a convicted criminal had to wear some sort of GPS/recording device 24/7 while serving his ‘sentence’, which would otherwise just be living his normal life? Which could be monitored by some sort of AI on a constant basis? Thus all behaviour would be known and recorded, and if the ‘prisoner’ breached any set guidelines could be arrested, hauled before a court and then sent to jail? Technology could well allow us to create a mini-Big Brother system for individuals – is that a better punishment than jail? A prison without walls?

    It would certainly allow more targeted control of behaviour – a drug dealer (for example) could be prevented from going to certain places, seeing certain people, as well as having his every move monitored so further criminal behaviour is out too. And as the rest of a persons life is not interrupted with, sentences could be longer as well. Lets say you’re convicted of GBH while drunk – maximum sentence is 5 years, most would be a lot less. So would 5 years on monitor be fair? After all if you behave nicely thereafter you actually get no punishment at all……..which suddenly makes me think that it could be an incentive for some people to commit crimes…………

    I have to say that if I thought the only thing that would happen to me is I get tagged for X years and I have to behave myself (which I do anyway) I might think that was a ‘freebie’ to deal out some punishment to someone I considered deserved it, or rob a a bank, whatever. It gives all the otherwise law abiding people one free crime, which can’t be a good thing.

    As said above, all the options have downsides…….

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Maybe technology is the answer. What if a convicted criminal had to wear some sort of GPS/recording device 24/7 while serving his ‘sentence’, which would otherwise just be living his normal life? Which could be monitored by some sort of AI on a constant basis?”

    Or how about you set up a separate ‘town’ where prisoners can live and work as if on the outside, but where everyone is continually monitored 24 hours a day by ‘Big Brother’ technology? (Of course, ‘Big Brother’ was predicated on exactly this sort of crime prevention – it’s just that the government in Nineteen Eighty Four had other sorts of crime in mind…) The point of this sort of regime would be to teach people how to live law-abiding lives.

    But it depends what the individual’s problem is. Many (most?) criminals are severely mentally ill, addicted to drugs, damaged by abuse, or illiterate/innumerate/uneducated. Monitoring won’t fix that. Imprisonment won’t fix it either. It probably needs a hospital, although they’re pretty ineffective at treating mental illnesses, too. I don’t know.

    And for others, where it’s the economics or the lack of education that causes crime, then education and training to give people legal routes to prosperity seem more likely to work.

    But it’s a difficult problem. I’ve seen lots of criminology that says prisons don’t work, but causes and correlations are muddled and murky, and studies shot through with bias and incompetence.

    Nevertheless, I think we may take it as a general observation that, whatever the problem, the application of the State’s coercive power is usually not the most efficient or effective solution. That’s not to say that we should do nothing, but we should probably try to think of something a little more intelligent.

    And as always when discussing any measure for social control, we should always think about what happens when the bad guys take control of society and apply those measures to *us*. Imagine we were having the above conversation in the context of suppressing hate speech, for example? (It’s a crime, too!) It’s true that “a bullet in their head” is a much cheaper alternative to prison for the politically incorrect, but do we really want our favourite penal policy applied to ourselves? Because inevitably one day it will be.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Nullius,

    Your last para just above, at 12:34 am, in spades!

    .

    And in any case, “one size fits all” does not work as a social arrangement. We can all observe this simple fact in the (possibly few) others whom we know intimately, and in ourselves if we’re honest.

    .

    I would thoroughly advise everyone to play Neighborhood Narc, or, if you can’t bring yourself to it, then at least confront the unfortunate miscreant who left his/her/its shopping cart in the supermarket lot. You will be adored by all, once they realize that you are a thoroughgoing busybody at best, even though you’re merely exercising your duty to Look Out for the Folks. Others, less patient, will no doubt continue to adore you as well as labelling you an A’hole.

    Of course, there are times when it really is important to speak up (but not necessarily to the Authorities). At one point, when I was driving around the country on vacation, I stopped to get gas, and by the time I was done another car had pulled up to a pump a couple of ranks away and the nitwit was standing there filling his tank, holding the hose in his hands, and smoking. Good Grief!

    I told him he shouldn’t be doing that, in as gentle and non-confrontational a manner as I could, and that I was speaking as a fellow-smoker. He didn’t like it much, but he put the ciggie out.

    .

    No one (not even a single child) will develop a conscience unless stern measures are taken. “Spare the rod and spoil the child,” don’tcha know.

    (Never mind the many cases where “sparing the rod,” whether a real or metaphorical one, has resulted in an adult who has developed his own conscience under his own parents’ very light rein.)

    Note that this last remark does not advise getting your child off the hook for some truly out-of-bounds wrongdoing by greasing the skids with the authorities for him. But circumstances do alter cases, as my Dad used to say, and as I have mentioned before on this august forum.

    I once knew a child of 12 or 13 who walked into the local dime-store (yes, Virginia, once there really were stores where the merchandise rarely went much past, say, a dollar for the highest-priced items), which was run by a Mom & Pop whom everybody knew. She wandered around a bit, being in the mood to buy something (for a dime), but saw nothing she really wanted. She did, however, see a little horse made on a wire armature and strung with medium-sized beads. So, essentially a stick-figure horse. Now, this young person collected little (inexpensive) animal figurines, and this was one such, albeit as boring as sin. Sin! She wondered what it would be like to lift it. So she tried it.

    Two questions. Could she do it? (Yes.) How would it feel? (Awful.)

    Now, she SHOULD have been sent to Juvie for that Mistake. Stealing, after all, is stealing, and Jews, Christians, and libertarians know that stealing is a crime against God and Man, or at least against the rightful owner. However, I happen to know beyond a doubt that although at the time she hadn’t the stones to take the thing back and confess, nor even to smuggle it back (repair & retribution), in the subsequent 63-64 years she has never felt the slightest temptation to steal anything, nor ever done so.

    (I knew her parents well, by the way. Had they found out about it, there would have been Words of Chastisement and for extra punishment, pleasures such as going to the skating rink or swimming pool would have been forbidden for awhile. And there would have been Shame as well as guilt. And she certainly would have had to confess her crime to the merchants and give them back the dam horse, which subsequently she could scarcely bear to look at.)

    I would not be too sure that even overall the “best” thing for Sassiety (but what is the Best Thing?) is to try and to sentence everyone by the same harsh standard.

    Now we can discuss Dinesh D’Souza. In a way, another example of one who, going by the Book, deserved some sort of punishment. On the other hand, given what has been said of the punishment of others who by the grace of the Proggies or personal connections — namely, that there was none in some of these cases — going by the Book should have been done. On the other hand, had they been punished to the appropriate level, I think that Mr. D’Souza’s punishment would not have been so widely denounced.

    Merely some thoughts, observations, and musings; YMMV. But I’ll end where I started: Nullius’s last para is one of the major practical reasons for why libertarians are not very friendly to ideas of “social control.”

  • Kirk

    “I would thoroughly advise everyone to play Neighborhood Narc, or, if you can’t bring yourself to it, then at least confront the unfortunate miscreant who left his/her/its shopping cart in the supermarket lot. You will be adored by all, once they realize that you are a thoroughgoing busybody at best, even though you’re merely exercising your duty to Look Out for the Folks. Others, less patient, will no doubt continue to adore you as well as labelling you an A’hole.

    Of course, there are times when it really is important to speak up (but not necessarily to the Authorities). At one point, when I was driving around the country on vacation, I stopped to get gas, and by the time I was done another car had pulled up to a pump a couple of ranks away and the nitwit was standing there filling his tank, holding the hose in his hands, and smoking. Good Grief!

    I told him he shouldn’t be doing that, in as gentle and non-confrontational a manner as I could, and that I was speaking as a fellow-smoker. He didn’t like it much, but he put the ciggie out.”

    That’s the essential problem, I’m afraid: You and people like you want to be liked. Never mind the consequences, it’s far more important that people like you and don’t think you’re an “A’hole”. Perish the thought that you might hurt someone’s feelings, when they do something that risks everyone’s well-being and safety…

    Funny thing about that, though… What you are actually doing is enabling the dysfunction around you, telling everyone through your inaction, that you actually approve of their transgressions–Because, that’s what the not-quite-sociopathic take it as: Approval.

    You do it in the parking lot of your local supermarket, and you’ll do it in the jury room, making excuses all the while for the “naughty boys”. Then, you’ll be shocked, shocked, I tell you, when you later find that the social fabric around you has dissolved into a state of anarchic chaos. All so you can retain your internal fantasy that you’re a “nice” individual.

    The reality is that your desire to be “liked” by strangers is actually essentially suicidal behavior, especially when it comes to observed behavior by those strangers in the commons. Naughty little boys who play with knives in the inflatable life raft of civilization need their toys to be taken from them, and for those smart enough to comprehend the consequences to provide corrective censure. Don’t do that, because you don’t want to be a meanie? Well, I hope you paid attention in your swim classes, because that is precisely the set of skills you’re going to need to survive what comes after little Timmy slices and dices the fabric.

    It starts small, and it ends big. The minor little things like putting a cart back down at the supermarket are conditioning events, and if you see a community that is lax in that regard, you will almost certainly find that there are a lot of other things it is lax about–Like safety and security in general. Criminality is usually associated with it, as well. Every time I’ve traveled, I’ve found this to be true: If the carts aren’t put back, or put away in their little corrals, then the local crime rate generally matches the rate of carts abandoned all willy-nilly. Worst ones of all are those areas where the stores don’t have carts at all, because they’re all stolen.

    Tragedy of the commons, and all that. In functional communities, when George the farmer puts more sheep than the land can bear into the common grazing area, his neighbors have a little chat with him. If that fails to work, other pressures are applied, and he ceases his selfish and destructive ways. Or, perhaps, George winds up having a little accident…

    You can easily ignore a lot of bad behavior, in a modern civilization. What you can’t ignore are the inevitable repercussions of what happens when you fail to act in service of putting a stop to that behavior. May not be you, may not be your generation, even–But, a visit from the Gods of the Copybook Headings will come, as sure as Nemesis follows Hubris. Rotherham resulted from a lack of will, when it comes to these things. Nobody wants to be the “A’hole”, but the sad fact is, without people willing to play that role, things go to shiite.

  • bobby b

    Kirk
    January 24, 2020 at 8:02 pm

    “It’s long been an observation of mine that most people do not like being the “bad guy”, and telling someone else “Hey–You f**ked up.”

    Oh, man, could I introduce you to a bunch of judges you’d love. True hard-a**es all.

    Problem is, in our system, crim defendants (usually) get one shot at peremptorily disqualifying a judge who is randomly assigned to their case, and everyone learns who the hard-core judges are, and immediately strike them from their case. Over time, the court administrators get tired of having to reassign cases, and simply stop putting the hard-core judges onto the criminal-calendar rotation. So, all of the easy-on-humanity judges end up on crim rotation, and the hard-core ones get permanently assigned to civil court.

    And, for everyone decrying loose punishments – let’s maybe cut our federal and state criminal statute books and admin rule books down from the current eight trillion volumes to something manageable and understandable before we start throwing everyone in the hoosegow for violations. As has been pointed out, it’s almost impossible to pass a few days without being in violation of SOME law somewhere. I don’t want to put ultimate societal power in our enforcers’ hands just yet.

  • bobby b

    Julie near Chicago
    January 25, 2020 at 2:10 am

    “And there would have been Shame as well as guilt.”

    But I doubt you can have that kind of social Shame in a non-homogeneous society. So maybe Shame is a thing of past eras.

    (You can have Shame within a smaller homogeneous group within a larger society, but if you can easily transition out of your own group and into another and thus avoid the Shame, Shame loses its power.)

  • Julie near Chicago

    Kirk,

    Gosh, you’re a better “distance-psychiatrist” even than Charles Krauthammer! Thank the Great Frog you’ve been able to diagnose what’s wrong with me before it was too late!

    You want me to be not-“nice” but instead confrontational? OK. You, sir, in that delightfully forthright statement of What’s What, have shown yourself to be an A’hole of the first water. I think you didn’t read carefully, or let what you read register before you let fly.

    I don’t think that proving yourself a complete jerk is going to help either you or the cause of liberty.

    If you think you want to live in a land where everybody spies on and “corrects” everybody else for even the most minor inconsiderate behaviour (leaving a shopping cart in the parking lot!) and nobody cares about being liked, then I will tell you that the desire to be accepted and, yes, even liked by some folks is basic human nature. Yes, you can shame vulnerable people into being even more ashamed of themselves than they probably already are. Are you really that antisocial? If so, the place for you is not in any established colony of actual humans.

    And if so, then there is a well-known place for non-human You, where among other things nobody cares about being liked or even accepted by anybody; everybody is a sociopath and nobody can stand anybody else. Its common name, sir, is Hell. Perhaps you’d be happier there.

    . . .

    bobby,

    1) Agreed on your first comment.

    2) On Shame: One of our number has asked for a discussion about it. Suffice it to say: For me, the feeling of “guilt” has to do with having hurt someone unnecessarily and possibly unjustly (whether physically, emotionally, or at-a-distance through theft or deception), whereas shame is a feeling of having dishonored yourself and need have nothing at all to do with some interaction with another person. And Shame leaves an indelible stain on the soul.

    That is the way I use the two words.

    Some people use the two words in those two ways, whereas others exchange them, so that “shame” has to do with perceived social wrongdoing major or minor, whereas “guilt” may be the feeling of having dishonored oneself.

    Either way, of course, a person can have both of these feelings at the same time and as a result of a single social failure or malfeasance of some sort.

    So far from being absent in today’s culture, Shame — shaming another person — is one of the most manipulative methods in use today by– wait for it –those who wish for Control. Yes, I’m looking at you, Proggies, SJWs, most (not all) lefties. And I’m looking at you, emotionally abusive parents.

    When you feel Shame, you feel literally unworthy of living. Now if you’re reasonably rational, you can put your mind on something else, or otherwise tamp down the feeling somehow; but it is always there, the feeling of having soiled yourself, the feeling of being unacceptable as a human being.

    When you feel that way about yourself, you are easily controllable. If somebody can get you to feel that way, you become his puppet.

    And if you can’t stand being someone’s puppet and you can’t destroy your shame — your sense of being (at least partly) unworthy of life itself — then you are likely to go on an Internet board and hurl angry insults at people who disagree with you. Or go home and kick the cat, beat up the wife and kids, take an ax to your mother-in-law or your co-worker (the jackass!), or hit the bottle or the drugs and stay there.

    It is probably impossible for a good parent to avoid causing at least a small deal of shame in his child, but the ideal to strive for is to find ways to persuade him to change his behaviour, or even his thoughts and emotions, in some way that doesn’t make him feel that he is despicable.

    .

    Now all this is not an abstract matter. Yes, you can try to run away from your despicable self, but you can’t hide. Unfortunately, you almost always take yourself with you, and if you’re not utterly lost to yourself, then after awhile you’re not so comfortable in the new place (social circle) either. Even in the gangs … so I hear.

  • bobby b

    Julie:

    “Some people use the two words in those two ways, whereas others exchange them, so that “shame” has to do with perceived social wrongdoing major or minor, whereas “guilt” may be the feeling of having dishonored oneself.”

    I’m one of the second group. To me, “guilt” is what I feel inside, about myself, for having violated one of my own moral rules (or a social-group rule which I accept as my own.) (I differentiate this context from the legal meaning of “guilt”.) “Shame” comes only in a social context – it comes from having violated a group moral rule, and it is the feeling that the group may disapprove of me or shun me.

    In a homogeneous society, we are members of the group surrounding us, we know our groups’ rules, and we care what the group thinks of us, because we are they. To lose our own group’s good wishes and positive reputation is what causes feelings of “shame.” “Shame” is familial; you feel shame because someone about whom you care thinks badly of you. “Shame” can’t arise from what a moral stranger thinks of you. In a homogeneous society, “shame” is bad because you cannot escape your own social set, and so you cannot escape shame.

    In a non-homogeneous society, in which we are surrounded not by our “own” group but by other discrete groups with differing moral structures, we will not feel that group pressure to be “good” simply because we will be confronted by varying and sometimes contradictory versions of “good.” If I treat a woman disrespectfully because she’s a woman, I will be shamed in my own group, but my Somali friends will think of me as more virile and strong – so, if I wish to escape the shame inherent in my own group of having treated a woman disrespectfully, I simply move my social circle to the Somali’s.

    I watch my friends in the relatively closed communities of the Mennonite and other Anabaptist colonies in the Dakotas. Their emphasis is not on “legality”, but on “morality”, and they have a very strong and rigid view of right and wrong. (As a side note, this rigid view is centered less on Old Testament rules and regs than on Golden Rule principles.) Individuals cannot pass freely out of the community and back in, and so they must live within the moral strictures of their group, and the avoidance of social “shame” is the prime motivator of their behavior. Anyone who wishes to transgress and not feel shame must leave. Some do. Most don’t.

    An urban gang member isn’t going to feel shame for robbing and raping because these behaviors are well within moral acceptability in his own social group. Again, “shame” is familial, and the gang member’s family accepts things you and I don’t.

    It strikes me that I’m not so much debating “shame” as I am merely telling you how I define the word.

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby,

    Yes indeed, I got that, and I deeply appreciate it. It’s a good clear explanation of your views, and I thank you for it. :>)

    (If I had some mead and a Lamborghini, I would take them to you! *g*)

    If we discuss guilt and shame further or in future, I will try to remember that your use is the reverse of mine. :>))

    .

    The other pertinent case of The Two Groups is that of the words “ethics” and “morality.” To me, morality encompasses all that you do, including acting privately in pursuit of your own physical or emotional or intellectual health. To take care of your teeth is thus a moral act, and so is treating your friends decently. Whereas ethics is a subset of morality in the social sphere: behaving honorably, taking care not to take advantage in business or friendships, for instance.

    In this terminology, legality is not an automatic guarantee of ethicality. So an act might be legal but not, strictly speaking, ethical: “sharp practice.” I believe that that is the correct position. So if I’m offended because the goniff down the block knew good & well he was selling my 9-year-old kid a Rosary when she was trying to find a beautiful, but affordable, necklace fo her Protestant Mom’s birthday, she’s being a goniff and no mistake (yes, Virginia, women can be goniffs too).

    (Full disclosure: The goniff was Myrtle Ekberg, who was also the Methodist Church’s organist. The kid was I, and the Mom, a Congregationalist. At the time the town was ~ pop. 2000, and everybody knew everybody. The Mom went into the jewellery store with fire in her eye, and told Mrs. Ekberg exactly what she thought of taking advantage of a little kid that way.* Heh heh heh ….)

    *Anecdote dressed up a little for the sake of dramatic interest. Nevertheless, Mother certainly did make it clear that Mrs. E. was way out of line, albeit civilly,

    No, making such behavior illegal wouldn’t help anything; in fact it would make things worse (IMO). But it is sharp practice and deserves to be called out if anyone notices and cares. Of course, people do occasionally slip a cog (a.k.a. the notorious “brain f**t”) or commit blunders through inattention; so unless a storekeeper (say) does that sort of thing more than a few times over a course of years, I would privately give him the benefit of the doubt in my own head, rather than condemn him as a goniff right off the bat. But that’s no reason to avoid telling him civilly that he seems to have made a mistake.

    Whereas you, naturally, reverse the usage. (?) 😉

  • bobby b

    “Shame — shaming another person — is one of the most manipulative methods in use today by– wait for it –those who wish for Control. Yes, I’m looking at you, Proggies, SJWs, most (not all) lefties.”

    This line makes me wonder if you’re not using the term “shame” the same way I use it in some instances.

    The SJW shaming tactic doesn’t work on their fellow SJWs’ sense of morality, but on their group membership – more specifically, their fear that they may lose that group membership. It’s not an internal moral code that the public shaming implicates – it’s the fear of shunning, of losing the group love.

    That’s why it’s so fearsome and unpredictable. You cannot just rely on your own internal sense of right and wrong to avoid its wrath. (That would invoke your guilt, in my definition.) You can be surprised at a public SJW attack because the idea that you’re violating a group rule doesn’t occur to you – because you didn’t violate your own internal rule.

    “To take care of your teeth is thus a moral act . . . “

    If someone didn’t suspect you of rampant Randism before, they do now!

  • Julie near Chicago

    why bobby, how can you accuse me of such a thing! 😈

    .

    You certainly make a good point in your comment.

    As for my use of “shame” in your quote, I put it that way because it is so often put that way. This is actually my plea of Guilty to the charge of betraying my own intended meaning. It’s obvious why you would take it that way, and probably just about everybody would so take it — even I.

    But by “shaming someone,” I didn’t mean denunciation or any attempted related diminution of the person’s standing in the social group.

    What I meant was, trying to induce shame in the person. Trying to cause the person to feel shame, to feel ashamed of himself. Although goodness knows, denunciation of the person and his diminished standing in the group are already enough to frighten the would-be bien-pensant back into RightThink.

    To take control of a person, all you have to do is teach him not to trust himself. Lenin knew this, Eric Blair knew this, Miss R knew this, many people down through the ages knew this. Just get him to admit he’s lower than a snake’s belly and that nothing can rectify that, no matter how nobly he conducts himself in future … he can’t change that, it’s the fundamental truth about who he is.

    That’s the reason why one should never induce shame in his child. (Of course, this is the Real World we’ve got here, and the real Murphy’s Law is much simpler: “Something will go wrong.” Full stop. Period. End of sentence. Sooner or later you will say or do something that makes your child feel shame. And something that will embarrass him and make him un-proud of you, which will terrify him because what if his friends or the community think badly of you!)

    So your shame reinforces my shame and, of course, vice-versa.

    None of which is to dispute your point. Unacceptability by the group exploits any weakness in a person’s sense of self-worth, which weakens his ability to stand up for himself or his fellows or his principles.

    I suppose you’ve never heard the name “Nathaniel Branden” or the term “social metaphysics.” *g*

    Still, Objectivism only ploughed the ground. I think the spores or seeds or whatever were planted long before I lost my philosophical virginity to The Fountainhead at the age, IIRC, of 20.

  • Problem is, in our system, crim defendants (usually) get one shot at peremptorily disqualifying a judge who is randomly assigned to their case, and everyone learns who the hard-core judges are, and immediately strike them from their case. (bobby b, January 25, 2020 at 3:24 am)

    First, a question. I’ve always understood that mandatory minimum sentences became common(er) in the US as part of the rebellion against low sentences and high crime rates. Was this effect part of that story, e.g. by making ‘liberal’ judges even more common in judging the crimes than in their percentage on the bench?

    Second, an observation. Not allowing the crim to choose the judge would seem an obvious and desirable reform. Reducing the crims’s strike to a reviewed for-cause request, not a freebie, would seem a step in the right direction – as would reviewing judges that crims do not strike. (I am also unimpressed with your court administrators who got “tired of having to reassign cases” instead of always reassigning a harder-core judge to whoever struck a hard-core judge.)

    Thirdly, long ago in the UK, when it was possible to sentence burglary for long periods and have the crim actually serve them, I heard of a judge whose schedule of sittings was studied in the Birmingham criminal fraternity. They could not then strike the judge but they could plan their burglaries to be at times when, if caught, they’d be before another judge. His ‘seasonal’ effect on the rates of certain crimes was known. Kirk would have liked him (I too, perhaps).

  • Johnathan Pearce (London)

    Interesting that the vast majority of the comments here have nothing to do with the fires or the financial crisis. Law of unintended consequences strikes again!

  • Fraser Orr

    @Jim
    Name them then. Anything that allows a criminal to live in their own home, with all its creature comforts, and freely walk the same streets that their victims do is hardly a punishment is it?

    You think so? We apply lots of other types of punishment that doesn’t involve custodial sentencing and they certainly cause pain. I think perhaps you are stuck in the present systemic way of thinking about things. For me, were I the victim of a crime I’d personally be horrified that my tax money was being used to give a comfortable bed and warm meals to the person who hurt me.

    But again, I think the problem is that criminal justice and punishment serves several different, often contradictory, purposes and they get all mixed up together. Some of the core purposes would be:
    * Restoration — trying to restore the loss the victim had, or trying to restore the injury “society” had
    * Protection — keeping people who will inevitably re-offend in egregious ways locked away from their potential victims
    * Revenge — causing a person pain as a pay back for the pain they caused others, eye for an eye style
    * Containing revenge — which is to say providing a state actor to enforce revenge in a managed way so as to prevent vigilante revenge and its associated chaos
    * Re-education — trying to convert criminals from their criminal ways so that they can be functioning members of society
    * Reassimilation — helping criminals to adjust to align with the mores and moral codes that would allow them to be functionaling members of society
    * Deterrence — making the cost of crime high enough that it is less of an attractive option (though in my view the sureity and certainty of punishment is far more important for this than the manner of punishment.)

    Every person measures criminal response with a different weighing of these (and perhaps other) aspects, and in fact the type of crime also affects the weighing of these things. But prison is good at some of them, bad at others, and negative at others. For restoration it has the opposite effect — it costs money. For revenge and containing revenge I guess it works, often in an ugly way (for example, the implicit threat that the criminal will be sexually abused in prison) for re-education it has a negative effect — prisons are crime universities, for reassimilation they are absolutely terrible, instead marinading them if a society of cruelty and danger that makes them more and more of a liability when reintroduced into society. And deterrence — this works for some and not for others. For the already criminal they are received into a happy criminal family, for the decent people who made a mistake they are destroyed.

    So, if you are thinking I’m proposing a murderer should be given a slap on the wrist and sent home, you are wrong. I’m in favor of capital punishment for many types of murderers. But if you think I am proposing that sending someone to prison for a million years for lying to the FBI or tax evasion, or trading on insider information, you are darned right I am.

    However, I also agree with bobby b (and others’) comment that part of the problem is that there are a zillion laws and some of the punishments are ridiculously harsh for trivial or insignificant activities.

    BTW, the crimes I called out above, lying to the FBI, tax evasion and insider trading are interesting in their specific application of the criteria I listed above. These are crimes that are based on a violation of trust, a trust that is hard to enforce, and so the deterrence aspect of this is hugely important, far more than the others. When people “cheat” on their taxes there isn’t really a victim, but the tax system is mainly based on trust, so there has to be (in the eyes of the IRS anyway) a very high penalty for “cheating” so that the risk of cheating (probability of being caught multiplied by cost of being caught) is high.

  • Fraser Orr

    BTW, the discussion of shopping carts (or trolleys for you Brits) and returning them to the corral is interesting for a few reasons.

    I had a friend whose daughter worked at a grocery store whose job was to herd the carts into the corrals. She was always complaining about how inconsiderate people were. But then I pointed out that if everyone returned their carts to the corral then she would be out of a job.

    Second, here in the US, in my favorite grocery store Aldi, you have to insert a quarter into the cart to release it from the corral, and you get your quarter back after you return it. They never have problems with carts all over the parking lot (“they never have problems with trolleys all over the car park ” for you Brits.)

    I’m not saying that there are no social rules that should be enforced with shame and guilt rather than employees and payments, but employees and payments are generally much more effective. And the shame and guilt mechanism disadvantages the decent folk over the ones that are shameless and guiltless.

  • neonsnake

    Does anyone want to make the case that some sort of market-led motivation is generally a better approach than enforcement by the state? No?

    LOL!

    It’s interesting. In funding services, if we’re discussing ambulances, healthcare, fire-engines and so on, we scratch our heads and earnestly ponder whether there is “a better way than taxpayer’s money to help people…”, and when it’s police (and general law enforcement), the default position is “TAKE MY MONEY! TAKE MORE OF IT! MORE PUNISHMENTS!!”

    She was always complaining about how inconsiderate people were. But then I pointed out that if everyone returned their carts to the corral then she would be out of a job.

    In a just world, people would return their shopping carts, she’d be redeployed within the store to do a more productive job, and everyone would work slightly reduced hours for the same money, since the employer has obviously already factored her wage into the P&L and found it acceptable.

    In the real world, of course, she’s out of a job, and the savings from her wage hit the overall P&L.

    😉

    you have to insert a quarter into the cart to release it from the corral

    Lots of places do it here, too, although it’s a pound coin.

    So now, instead of it being a matter of civility, politeness or consideration, we train people that it’s a simple economic calculation – “is it worth a quid to return my trolley?”. In the case of trolleys, the answer seems to be “yes”, as you rarely see a trolley in the far corner of Sainsburys car park with a pound still in it.

    Did you ever read that study about the child-care center that had problems with late pick-ups? They introduced a fine, a small-ish amount. I think it was from Freakonomics.

    Late pick-ups went up, not down, as the parents were freed from the “guilt” aspect of turning up late and making the staff have to work late, and just factored the fine into their calculations and found it acceptable. The alternative appeared to be “raise the fine” to a really painful amount (say $50) – which then really annoyed the people who are on time 99% of the time, but get caught behind an accident one time and are late for unavoidable reasons.

    The difference between a day-care center and Sainsburys is obvious – in one, most people know each other, and you might care if a fellow parent views you as being inconsiderate for constantly picking up your child late.

    In Sainsburys, well – who cares if you leave your trolley in the far corner? Sure, someone might have a go at you, but they’d be considered a busy-body of the same type who shakes their fists at the kids tearing round town on their bikes.

    bobby’s point about homogeneous groups then becomes relevant – although I’d re-state it to “groups with shared values” to avoid any bad-faith arguments over what “homogeneous” means (bobby, I said something along the lines of “as long as the people are similar enough, it works”, and got called out a few weeks ago by someone questioning whether I meant “ie. white people like me”. I believe it was a bad-faith argument, given the person, although maybe it was genuinely asking me to be clearer *shrugs*. A good lesson, none-the-less).

    But those groups of like-minded people have to be small-enough, or close-knit enough, for shame/guilt to have an impact – at least, that’s my belief. I’m unsure how scale-able it is.

    However, I also agree with bobby b (and others’) comment that part of the problem is that there are a zillion laws and some of the punishments are ridiculously harsh for trivial or insignificant activities.

    Thoroughly agreed. Someone posted a while ago a piece which detailed how many laws you break in an average day (I’m 99% sure it was Julie). Do we want to shame those people? Or punish them harshly for minor infractions? I would think not. I mean, is tax evasions always immoral?

    If it’s someone moving their money to Panama to avoid paying their taxes for services that are currently provided by our taxes? (yes)

    Or if it’s someone who is about to tip over the line whereupon their benefits get taken away, leaving them worse off for attempting to do the right thing by working? (no)

    My view on shame and pride is that they’re useful in some contexts, and are a better basis for a just society than a myriad of rules and fines; but as a society, we shame the wrong people, led by the MSM at their owner’s bidding, which leads to a breakdown of trust, and then a breakdown of civility from which it’s going to be a long hard journey back.

    That’s my tuppence-worth, anyway.

  • It’s interesting. In funding services, if we’re discussing ambulances, healthcare, fire-engines and so on, we scratch our heads and earnestly ponder whether there is “a better way than taxpayer’s money to help people…”, and when it’s police (and general law enforcement), the default position is “TAKE MY MONEY! TAKE MORE OF IT! MORE PUNISHMENTS!!” (neonsnake, January 26, 2020 at 8:41 am)

    Punitive alternatives to prison can be cheaper, financially speaking. Making prison harsher might also make it cheaper (mediaeval dungeons, anyone?). Any hang-em-and-flog-em commenter could easily claim to be pursuing austerity as well, were that thought important. 🙂

    The point I was making with my “hold your nose and vote” remark at the end of Niall Kilmartin (January 24, 2020 at 8:23 pm) is another explanation of any alleged discrepancy. Win-win cooperation is better, but a ‘malum in se’ criminal exhibits commitment to a win-lose strategy. It is natural that a politics focussed more on incentives and less on the magical power of unaided intentions would factor that into its response.

  • Nullius in Verba

    “The alternative appeared to be “raise the fine” to a really painful amount (say $50) – which then really annoyed the people who are on time 99% of the time, but get caught behind an accident one time and are late for unavoidable reasons.”

    The proper alternative would be to raise the fine to the actual cost of the overtime wages, rent, insurance, etc. for the staff stopping late. Or even better, not to call it a fine at all, but simply charge per hour on a sliding scale. If you explain to parents that in total it costs £100/hr (say) to staff the facility, and that’s divided by the number of children present, so when all 20 kids are there it costs them £5/hr each, but if their kid is the only one left the price is naturally going to go up, it is perhaps a little less annoying, and when they understand how much more than mere time it’s costing somebody they’ll feel more guilty about stealing it, and take more care to be on time.

    A lot of the problems are due to prices being treated as a ‘black box’: greedy businessmen demanding money with no apparent rhyme or reason. People don’t see the links between their own actions and the prices that result, which is why they constantly complain about ‘fairness’. If the childcare puts the price up to £100/hr when you’re late with no explanation, they’re just being nasty. If parents understand how the prices are calculated, they can see it as fair. And they’re a lot less likely to demand price caps from the government. I think a lot could be done with a little economic education.

  • neonsnake

    Win-win cooperation is better, but a ‘malum in se’ criminal exhibits commitment to a win-lose strategy

    Agreed, certainly in direction. I suspect we’re also directionally in alignment in terms of getting rid of ridiculous victim-less crimes and wasting resources on petty infractions; after all, every investigation carried out has a cost in terms of the labour of the policemen (or women!) involved.

    The proper alternative would be to raise the fine to the actual cost of the overtime wages, rent, insurance, etc. for the staff stopping late.

    You’d make the value of the fine the amount of the labour exerted to cover the service involved? I like the theory of making cost the limit of price.

    And they’re a lot less likely to demand price caps from the government.

    I suspect, or hope, that the effects would be a lot more far-reaching than that. I’d love to know how much of the cost of some products are actually the genuine BoM and legitimate overheads, and how much goes to cover punitive regulations, rent, licensing etc.

    My hypothesis is people wouldn’t need to ask for price caps, if a lot of that stuff fell by the wayside – the prices of goods would tumble.

  • … malum in se criminal …

    we’re … in alignment in terms of getting rid of ridiculous victim-less crimes and wasting resources on petty infractions (neonsnake, January 26, 2020 at 11:45 am)

    My remark in my earlier comment, about the “hold your nose and vote” situation also motivating us to desire fewer laws, speaks to that but (just merely as a clarifying FYI) I specified “malum in se” in my later comment for the very specific logical reason that the breaker of a malum prohibitum law does not thereby demonstrate “commitment to a win-lose strategy” (so, for example, if anyone who, for whatever reason, was committed to some particular prohibitum accepted that, they might still be persuadable that there could be a better alternative than state law.)

  • Jim

    “And as always when discussing any measure for social control, we should always think about what happens when the bad guys take control of society and apply those measures to *us*. Imagine we were having the above conversation in the context of suppressing hate speech, for example? (It’s a crime, too!) It’s true that “a bullet in their head” is a much cheaper alternative to prison for the politically incorrect, but do we really want our favourite penal policy applied to ourselves? Because inevitably one day it will be.”

    Any system of criminal punishment can be turned on other sections of society – you can be imprisoned for ‘hate speech’ today. So your point is moot. If the bad guys take over they can (and will) do what they want to do anyway. I mean what dictator has ever taken over and said ‘Oh dear the laws passed by my predecessors say all criminals must be treated with respect and not imprisoned or harshly punished, so I better not do any of that then!’?

  • Fraser Orr

    @neonsnake
    If it’s someone moving their money to Panama to avoid paying their taxes for services that are currently provided by our taxes? (yes [it is immoral])

    What is “moral” or “immoral” is largely a matter of what yardstick you are using. The argument that you are “paying taxes in exchange for government services” is really a fake justification used by politicians to give a patina of legitimacy to what they do. For example if person A pays $100,000 in taxes and person B pays $10 in taxes how can you say they are both paying for services, the same services, except that person B most likely uses MORE government services that person A. In fact in many jurisdictions person C can actually pay NEGATIVE taxes.

    The idea that taxes are a payment for services was tried by Margaret Thatcher in the late 80s with the “poll tax” or whatever it was she called it. It nearly caused a civil war in Britain and did cause her downfall.

    Taxes are not a payment for services they are a obligation created by politicians under threat of violence and justified by a made up theory of social contract and exchange for services that doesn’t sustain even the slightest examination, like a jenga tower before the last move.

    After all, the Mafia, when they demand their protection money might legitimately point out that it is not free keeping all their thugs feed and clothed, and buying those bullets for gang wars doesn’t come for free. So that protection money is, by some views, a moral duty too. Of course it is also an extremely high trust thing and so the consequences of failing to pay are quite brutal, much as it is in our tax system.

    Which is to say in my judgement failing to pay your taxes is never “immoral”. It is more a matter of the risk of the extreme consequences of getting caught. Many other people have come to the same conclusion which is why penalties for tax fraud are so extremely high and why tax collectors get more and more intrusive every day. Including having your employer, your bank and probably soon your grocery store spy on you. Remember FACTA, a law that forces FOREIGN banks to spy on American citizens under threat of what, US military invasion probably.

    As for me, I pay my taxes according to the law, but I consider it almost my moral duty to make that number as small as possible, within the law, so that I feed the beast as little as possible.

  • TomJ

    To step back to the original post:

    When hearing about the fires in Aus and Cal I was reminded of the episode of the excellent “50 Things That Made the Modern Economy” on fire which illustrated why the idea of preventing all fires in forests is a Bad Thing.

    Further, on looking for a monocause in Climate Change, I am also reminded of the various floods being blamed on (hardly inprecedented) high levels of rainfall and ignoring the fact that canal and river dredging has all but stopped due, in part, to EU regulations.

  • neonsnake

    except that person B most likely uses MORE government services that person A.

    Sort of, in percentage terms.

    Do you think that’s by choice, or because that’s the choices forced upon them?

    I’m all up for poor people paying less taxes, given that they get less out of them.

    Rich people? In today’s actual reality, they’re taking advantage of taxes that everyone pays, and not paying in.

    That’s immoral. And they know it.

    We need a big shake up before I condone tax evasion for the rich before tax evasion for the poor. I’m all for tax evasion for the poor.

  • Fraser Orr

    @neonsnake
    Sort of, in percentage terms.

    No, in absolute terms. Rich people send their kids to private schools, have private health insurance, don’t use public transportation, don’t use Pell grants or section 8 housing or federal student aid, don’t generally use Medicare and never use Medicaid, usually don’t use social security. I mean the majority of funds in state and local budgets go to schools and the majority of funds in federal budget go to Medicare and Social security. So I think my claim is indisputable true.

    Now, if you are referring to the fact that many rich people got rich by exploiting massive, overpriced, corrupt government contracts then you would have a very good point.

    I’m all up for poor people paying less taxes, given that they get less out of them.

    But as I just demonstrated, the opposite is true, they pay less and get more.

    Rich people? In today’s actual reality, they’re taking advantage of taxes that everyone pays, and not paying in.

    If you are referring to the cronyism I just mentioned you are right, but the solution to that is getting rid of cronyism (by reducing the amount of money the government has to spend). But the large majority of tax payers are not making their money off cronyism.

    We need a big shake up before I condone tax evasion for the rich before tax evasion for the poor. I’m all for tax evasion for the poor.

    I think everyone should try hard to pay as little tax as possible, like I say, feeding the insatiable beast is arguably immoral itself. But let me be clear, as I was in my previous comment, I am not at all advocating tax evasion for the rich, even though I think there is no case to be made that such a thing is immoral. I am advocating tax avoidance for everyone, rich and poor. The two things are completely different. Tax evasion is breaking the law, and may end you in jail, tax avoidance is using the rules and loopholes in the present tax code the minimize the amount you have to pay them before they will leave you the hell alone. Or as my accountant would say “minimizing your tax liability by arranging your affairs such that you may fully utilizing all the provisions of the tax code and its associated tax court judgements.”

  • neonsnake

    Now, if you are referring to the fact that many rich people got rich by exploiting massive, overpriced, corrupt government contracts then you would have a very good point.

    That’s exactly my point.

    We might be arguing past each other.

    If you are referring to the cronyism I just mentioned you are right

    Very much referring to cronyism, with a little bit of “the order in which we do things is important”. Let’s not kick the ladder out from under the poor until we’ve stopped the cronyists from breaking their legs.

    I think we’re on the same page, just using different words, in all honesty.

    (Having read previous messages from you, I’m almost certain that’s the case)

  • Fraser Orr

    @neonsnake
    We might be arguing past each other.

    I don’t think we are. You are just ignoring the middle. People like me who work 80 hour weeks producing extreme value for our customers, people who deal with the extreme hassle of employees and all the regulatory bullshit that goes with employing people. People who don’t get fat off government contracts (you can refer to the contract I worked on with the State of Illinois in previous comments if you want to know more about that) and who end up paying a marginal tax rate not far off 50%. I’m not rich by any means, and I don’t engage in any cronyism and I use far fewer government services than the average person. But I get totally screwed on taxes and if I didn’t aggressively engage in legal tax avoidance my tax burden would be so high that I just would stop working as hard, lay off some of the people who work for me and provide less value for my customers.

    The kind of cronyism you refer to does happen at the very rich end (though many very rich people do not engage in it at all), and frankly there are LOTS of government employees on the lower end of the pay scale who do not work very hard at all for the inflated salaries they get paid, which is just a different form of cronyism. But it is people like me, small business owners who are the main source of growth in the economy that get totally screwed in the tax system.

    And then to hear politicians tell me that I need to “pay my fair share” makes my head want to explode. If I were to pay my “fair share” by any reasonable definition of “fair” you’d have to cut my taxes by 75%.

    Sorry, you hit a nerve. It is tax time.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    January 26, 2020 at 9:34 pm

    “I’m not rich by any means . . . “

    It’s funny how relativity works. You’re probably in the top 5% of the world population in terms of income and/or wealth. 🙂

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    January 26, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    “No, in absolute terms.”

    You’re forgetting the ultimate, abstract argument.

    Everything you own is yours only so long as I don’t take it from you at the end of a gun. Your income is dependent upon social rules and laws. You make contracts, perform your part of them, and receive payment because our society enforces contract laws. Squatters can’t take over your basement because of the enforcement of property law.

    So, in that respect, the well-off truly do benefit the most from the structure that government enforces on us all. He who has the most to lose gains the most from order.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    It’s funny how relativity works. You’re probably in the top 5% of the world population in terms of income and/or wealth.

    Yup, you are probably right, and in the top 0.1% of all the humans who have ever lived. But so are we all, including the so called poor in America. After all, nearly every American lives better than the medieval Kings and Queens by many, many measures. One need only remember that the primary threat to the poor in America is not starvation, as has been the case for most of human history, but obesity and its many and varied consequences.

    Though on the flip side, if you factor in the debt the government has run up for us, both you and I may well be among the poorest people who have ever lived. the average family of four are currently in the hole for quarter of a million bucks. Include unfunded liabilities and triple that. And If Elizabeth Warren gets her way that, with unfunded liabilities, will be be up to three million before you can say “Medicare for all by soaking the rich”.

    Not that anybody seems to care about the national debt any more.

  • Fraser Orr

    bobby b
    So, in that respect, the well-off truly do benefit the most from the structure that government enforces on us all. He who has the most to lose gains the most from order.

    But you are forgetting the second order consequences. If people who run businesses cannot protect their property and contracts, they will no longer be able to provide jobs, products and services for everyone else. So failure to protect that guy’s property is massively detrimental to everyone else. When the government guns protect the local factory they are protecting the income of the people who work there by some measure much more than that of the factory. (After all, the average factory’s profits are smaller that the total income of the people who work there. Take it from me, certainly in my business, labor costs dominate the cost structure of the type of service business I run.)

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    January 26, 2020 at 10:33 pm

    “But you are forgetting the second order consequences.”

    Not really. I understand that we can all fall to baseline and live in caves again, truly equally. What I meant was, if society fails and we all fall to baseline existence, those of us who live a truly well-off existence fall the furthest. We have the most toys, the most personal security, the most entertaining life possibilities. A cave-dwelling baseline existence wouldn’t be that much of a change for some people I know up on the reservations in South Dakota. For you and I, it would be a staggering loss.

    So, I think that that protection – protection that is designed to help you and I more so than the truly poor – provides more of an umbrella for us than for others, and so we ought to pay somewhat more for it than they do. Government security – police, prisons, courts – are protecting us “haves” more than the “have nots”, who aren’t quite so targeted by the thieves. (“Because that’s where the money is”, said Willy Sutton about why he robbed banks.)

    The poor may get more welfare – but I think that’s a small sum compared to how much you and I benefit from what government does provide.

  • bobby b (January 26, 2020 at 10:22 pm), the idea that the well-off benefit most from law and order is a fallacy. The rich can buy their own law and order. The better off can afford locks and bolts. Those with the cash can move somewhere more distant from the crime hotspots.

    The poor depend far more on the state (and the culture) for basic law and order. Crime is incredibly anti-economic (that computer you are reading this on becomes worth a lot less if stolen and fenced) so if there is a lot of it where the poor live, then the poor stay poor. Historically, relatively high-trust, high-law-and-order cultures are the ones where the poor escape poverty and vice versa. Where the poor get less law and order, they have a harder time escaping poverty.

    Thomas Sowell is well worth reading on this kind of thing. I think Charles Murray also covers it. And I’ve read many an article on how some ‘anti-racist’ politician pulled back policing in some poor neighbourhood and got not just more of the ethnic group being murdered but harm to the local economy.

    There are economic studies of why “the poor pay more” than better neighbourhoods for basic necessities because the cost of crime has to be covered by the local shops.

  • bobby b

    Niall Kilmartin
    January 27, 2020 at 3:49 pm

    ” . . . the idea that the well-off benefit most from law and order is a fallacy. The rich can buy their own law and order.”

    And they – we? – do. We establish and fund the police and the courts and the prisons. Certainly we CAN fund our own private protection – but at the present, we mostly don’t. We rely on government. To argue that we could do without it if we directed our money differently doesn’t defeat the argument that we currently benefit greatly from tax-funded social order.

  • neonsnake

    Sorry, you hit a nerve. It is tax time.

    Apologies. I was unaware.

  • neonsnake

    Bobby, in the UK, the bottom decile pays 43% of their income in taxes. The average is 34%. All other deciles pay between 30% and 36%.

    Make of that what you will.

    If we consider taxes to be “fines” (which is my approach), then it seems rather unfair that the lowest income are being fined more than anyone else, no?

  • Julie near Chicago

    bobby January 27, 2020 at 6:55 pm, but not Neon (see below):

    And who pays the taxes that are spent on this “tax-funded social order”?

    Not the lower half, or at least the lower quintile (whichever the Statistics are showing today), that’s for sure. At least here in the Provinces, even including N’Yawk, to the west of the Sceptred Isle.

    Because they pay $ -0- (income) taxes.

    Thus, it’s true that they don’t “get what they pay for” tax-wise: cause they don’t pay no taxes (income) for nuttin’. (I don’t know whether legitimate food-stamp purchases are taxable or not.)

    Just sayin’. :>)

    . . .

    Niall,

    “Historically, relatively high-trust, high-law-and-order cultures are the ones where the poor escape poverty and vice versa. Where the poor get less law and order, they have a harder time escaping poverty.”

    2nd sentence: Surely. But a question about either your meaning or the logic in the first sentence:

    It seems to me that in a genuinely high-trust culture the importance of law-and-order, at least as a matter of governmental statutes and public police enforcement*,, would be much less than it is currently. And in today’s small towns and even historically, the small towns where trust among the townsmen was high generally, the bad guys were not much in evidence because they stuck out like sore thumbs. — I think. OTOH, there are counter-examples like the small towns (allegedly in Appalachia, for example, where the sheriff or the Mayor (“Boss Hogg”) or the County Board were in on some types of crime yeyset were trusted by the townspeople to do their official job as long as it didn’t interfere with their private business. As in the movie about “Athens, Tenn.,” which apparently was based on a true story of some town in Texas.

    Although, again in the real world, I have no idea how long such conditions would last. Of course in the big cities that are today’s 3rd-world spots in America, the Daleys pere et fils and going in both directions back & forth were m-o-l trusted in some quarters in their cities … indeed the Dems in general nowadays in those cities: You don’t have to be Irish or Italian. (No that is not an ethnic slur, to any SJW’s who might have arrived here by mistake.)

    *OTOH, if you include the members of the cultural acting as individuals, they would presumably have a personal code that required law and order of them — but OTOH, if you include the members of the cultural acting as individuals, they would presumably have a personal code that required law and order of them

    Now that doesn’t mean NO crime in small towns. Of course some were notorious for it. (Even Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about some B-&-B inn where the mom & pop were in fact serious serial murderers who used to off the customers, I guess mostly for the heck of it).

    I’m talking about small towns where trust was granted as the default position.

    Or so I understand… ?

    . . .

    It is said that where you got really good private policing was in relatively small neighborhoods where the Mob bosses lived — and in particular, the Mafia, the Cosa Nostra. (I haven’t read about Irish and other gangs). Because the gangs knew they’d better respect each other’s turf, and the odd independent operator who raped & pillaged there would find himself no longer in a position to do so.

    If this be true (as everybody claims), you could argue that whatever those Wise Guys paid in taxes went in part to the PD, and some of what they s/have paid but didn’t went to individuals in the law-enforcement and legal communities … including the legislatures.

    So the neighborhoods in question were, in a way and to an extent, high-trust communities. Now, in such an area, suppose one of the shopkeepers or his employee(s) was/were skinning the public, as it was said that in the Chicago area, the largish regional grocery chain Dominick’s was wont to weigh its thumb with the ham when the butcher cut it for the customer.

    I wonder how Mr. Capone (or Mr. Lansky or Mr. Siegel) would have taken that … speaking of trust. Would they just tell their wives not to shop there, or would they stop by the President’s house and “suggest” a partnership?

    I think in the next life I will be a gangster’s moll and find out first-hand how all this worked.

    . . .

    On a last, possibly trivial observation: There is certainly at least one group of the very wealthy (by my standards, anyway) people who are absolutely notorious for (a) broken marriages and (b) a lot of, um, strange kids, and that would be those involved with the silver screen. You know. Who has Liz Taylor divorced lately? [Back number, but I quit even pretending to keep up after Jennifer & Brad. Although I guess now it’s (it was) Angelina & Brad….]

    And as for the kids of the rich, to hear the gossip via the MSM and elsewhere they are not uniformly righteous, upstanding, and highly productive people (cue young Mr Ayers for instance), though certainly some are. (I dunno about Mr Z.’s or Mr B.’s (though the latter’s marriage has fallen apart I gather) or the other Mr. B’s kids — or even if they have any. I do hear that Soros the younger is a chip off the old block, but I’m ignorant as to the Soros love-life.)

    .

    Just musing….

    This is getting longer than War & Peace. ‘Scuse, I gots to go stew some prunes. 😀

  • Julie near Chicago

    Oh. Well, the Daleys etc. haven’t been running “their” cities — that part’s specific to Chicago. :>(

  • neonsnake

    Heh

    It just occurred to me that whoever first put the words “law&order” together should burn in hell.

    More law means does not mean more order. It means more crime (whether deliberate or accidental), more minor infractions, and more crafty or sharp practices to circumvent the laws.

    (Niall, I’m aware that’s not what you meant. Julie’s comment prompted the thought)

  • Julie near Chicago (January 27, 2020 at 9:56 pm), you are right of course that in a high-trust culture crime is rarer and easier to solve (for the ‘sore thumb’ reason you gave) so overt policing is typically less in evidence.

    However culture and government – on law and order, as on other things – is typically responsive to fashions among the non-poor in ways the poor can little resist. For example, in the 1950s, Harlem blacks thought nothing of sleeping outside on fire escapes on hot nights. By the 1970s, they no longer dared to. The immediate cause of the change was a marked change in the behaviour of other Harlem blacks, but changes to the ability of law and order to function, and culture to back it, had a lot to do with that – changes mandated by wealthier white intellectuals, who verbally were very concerned for their black mascots but actually were more concerned for their agenda, so never hesitated over whose needs to ignore whenever the two collided.

    The effect repeats today in specific locales, and can be the more easily studied for lack of other 50s-to-70s issues complicating the analysis. New York’s bail law reform may provide the latest worked example of cause leading to effect.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Agreed, Niall. And I didn’t mean my comment to be arguing with you, in any case. You just got me to thinking … musing.

    Furthermore, I don’t begin to have a good background in even American social history, despite having a great many Westerns under my belt by the time I was 15 or so. :>))

    But yes, I know that the residents of Harlem used to sleep outdoors on the fire escapes in the hot weather, just as my mother made us do on the farm. Except that we had grass and ants under the blanket we slept on, instead of fire-escape boards and other creepy-crawlies.

  • bobby b (January 27, 2020 at 6:55 pm), we may be disagreeing over “maths versus widow’s mite”.

    If a poor person’s house and a rich person’s house are both burgled, who loses more? Measured by value, the rich guy lost more. Measured by ability to deal with it, the poor guy lost more.

    Similarly, an identically-savage beating-up may be more serious for the guy with no health insurance than for the guy with tons of it. (Whether a traumatising experience of crime is less serious for the guy who can hire a psychiatrist than for the guy who must hope for a sympathetic friend’s shoulder to cry on, I leave to readers’ opinions.)

    BTW neonsnake is right that direct withholding taxes on income in the UK have some strangenesses. Lloyd George set up the start-of-1900s national insurance pyramid (ponzi) scheme in ways that hide from the working class voters he was wooing how much themselves were paying for it. Like other poor-harming lefty schemes, this has persisted.

    Fun fact (for any reader who did not already know): it was lefty supporters of this who invented an unplayable early version of monopoly circa 1910 to advocate for it. It (barely) survived and evolved till the 1930s where, on a US university campus, it got seen, evolved and commercialised. That is why monopoly incarnates marxist economics – the game ends with one immensely rich player and all others bankrupt. That people want to play and win was a great disappointment to its early devisors, who genuinely imagined it would teach a quite different lesson. 🙂

  • neonsnake

    BTW neonsnake is right that direct withholding taxes on income in the UK have some strangenesses

    In percentage terms vs overall income (including any benefits received), the biggest tax for the lowest decile appears to be VAT, at 12% of their income (vs 6% if averaged across the whole population, and 5% for the highest decile).

    Direct taxes from income are 8%, and 6% including rebate for Council tax, so 14% in total for direct taxes.

    So avoiding VAT (via grey and black markets) appears at a glance to be the simplest way to withhold tax for the poorer end of the spectrum.

    Monopoly (the game) has amused me for some time. I understand that it’s meant to show how evil monopolies are (and I agree, with a particular focus on state-supported monopolies on my part); I never understood the Marxist-Leninists conviction that replacing a number of oppressive monopolies with one single monopoly would solve everything.

    It’s similar to the “The Flat Earth Society has members all over the globe” in terms of pwning yourself with your own words.

  • neonsnake

    It seems to me that in a genuinely high-trust culture the importance of law-and-order, at least as a matter of governmental statutes and public police enforcement*,, would be much less than it is currently. And in today’s small towns and even historically, the small towns where trust among the townsmen was high generally, the bad guys were not much in evidence because they stuck out like sore thumbs. — I think.

    And that is exactly my hypothesis, and that of my ancient forerunners…with the addition that governmental statutes are not just unnecessary, but actively harmful.

    Whether my hypothesis is true or not, well…

  • Alex DeWynter

    Late to this party, but it seems to me that any civilization that can be brought to ruin by misplaced shopping carts cannot fairly be described as resilient.

    A solution, perhaps, is not expending finite moral authority capital, to say nothing of even-more-finite law enforcement/judicial/penal resources, on attempting to stamp out behavior that disjoints only metaphorical noses.

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