"15 Ways to Fix the World"?

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Save Point
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"15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Save Point » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:20 am UTC

The Atlantic has come out with fifteen suggestions by various authors on how to "fix" the world. The suggestions are very brief, though I obviously won't be quoting them all here :P Anyway, they reach across a broad swath of topics, from immigration to tax policy to privatizing the seas. I haven't read them all yet myself, but I'm on my way! What're your opinions? Any of them seem particularly worth considering, or just flat out BS? Do you have suggestions of your own, or to build on the ones in the article?

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby The Reaper » Mon Jun 22, 2009 7:30 am UTC

Well, the pay the artists one seems like a pile of fetid dingos kidneys, but that's just me. They don't seem to understand the whole "investing in infrastructure" concept.
Most of these look very meh.

Teach Drinking seems like a good idea, since quite a few people fail at it, but teaching self control would be a better idea.
Also a better idea than teaching drinking, legalizing weed. It's like booze, only less shitty.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Gears » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:09 am UTC

I like the Afghanistan plan.
General_Norris wrote:I notice a lack of counter-arguments and a lot of fisting.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby tetromino » Thu Jun 25, 2009 6:56 am UTC

The Dogs of Peace proposal seems to ignore what UN missions are about.

The UN troops do not fight rebel armies. They do not protect civilians. They are for the most part simply diplomats, medics and observers with guns and body armor. And they cannot use those guns except in the most dire circumstances. Would any private military company be interested in a mission where their employees are sent to some jungle hellhole to observe a war, but do not have the right to fight back if they are attacked?

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Sharlos » Thu Jun 25, 2009 7:14 am UTC

The sea permit one seems like an interesting idea, have the UN or something setup a body that gives each fishing region X amount of fishing permits and give every country who fishes there a portion of the permits which they can give/auction to their citizens or if they want trade them to other countries.

Would have a lot of details to sort out and I'm not sure on the best method to distribute them but I like the idea. Would perhaps be more sucessful if it was developed on a nation by nation basis.


Abolishing the VP of America seemed like aomething worth considering, they seem to just be extra baggage when your trying to get elected as president.

I also agree with changing the department of homeland security. Sounds too impirialistic to me.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Thrillho » Thu Jun 25, 2009 2:47 pm UTC

I've worked my way through most of the ideas, and to be honest, so far I'm not too impressed.

First, "15 Ways to Fix the World" could be corrected to read "15 Ways to Fix America", as many the ideas have next to no benefits abroad. Ex: Eliminate the vice-presidency.

Second, I was expecting some serious ideas, such as "Systematic elimination of corruption in third-world nations," or "Implementation of a two-tier healthcare system." Rather, one of the writers chose to change the currency to something more aesthetically pleasing. Reason? It'll look nicer and people will think we're better people because of it. I fail to see how this will fix the world.

Some of the ideas were interesting, such as "buying to last" or "privatize the seas", but I feel most of the solutions were too ineffective to make real change. I'd love to see this article written again, except by people who know the material in-depth that they're writing about (or at least more so), and ideas that will have a positive impact around the world, one that makes us and the world better off.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby General_Norris » Thu Jun 25, 2009 5:34 pm UTC

I'm quite unimpressed, they do not seem to really know their topic and they present ideas with more far-reaching effects than they pressume. They also have some poorly-built topics, for example, in "Train Detroit" they compare the fastest line of Spain with the average speed of Amtrak which is a pretty poor argument.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby vslayer » Thu Jun 25, 2009 8:55 pm UTC

i like the idea of renting your foreclosed house from the bank. a steady rent until such time as you can buy back the house benefits both parties as well as fostering a sense of housing security which will help boost the economy.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby athelas » Sat Jun 27, 2009 12:49 am UTC

Some duds, but Privatize the Seas, Tell the Truth About Colleges, and End the Corporate Income Tax are all pretty solid ideas. Mind you these are submitted by individual authors, not an editorial board, so there will be inconsistencies and varying quality.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby psyck0 » Sat Jun 27, 2009 7:09 am UTC

Because eliminating taxes on corporations works SO WELL.

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Bubbles McCoy
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sat Jun 27, 2009 7:21 am UTC

Um.

Is there some Hitleresque example that makes that statement require absolutely no support?

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SCSI Port
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby SCSI Port » Sat Jun 27, 2009 7:23 am UTC

In regards to point three.

The last time we just upped and left Afghanistan was in 1989 after the Russian-Afghani War. From that a force of angry, armed, former freedom-fighters turned anti-American terrorists was created. The way this article suggests getting out of this war is the reason we are in it!

The US intervened in the form of weapons, money, and other provision through Operation Cyclone. If we continued sending supplies and even possible some Army Corps Engineers over to rebuild the devastated infrastructure, there is a good chance that they would be a strong nation today.

Wouldn't it be nice to leave a place in better condition than it was in before?

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Vaniver » Sat Jun 27, 2009 3:48 pm UTC

Unleash the Dogs of Peace is good. Privatize the Seas is good. Tell the Truth About Colleges is good. Welcome Guest Workers is good. End All Taxes Except One is good. Civilize Homeland Security is mediocre. End The Corporate Income Tax is alright, but worse than End All Taxes Except One. End the Vice Presidency is moderate. Teach Drinking is moderate.

Rent Your Own Home is mediocre or bad. Give Up On Democracy in Afghanistan is mediocre. Pay the Artists is meh or bad. Redesign the Dollar is bad. Buy To Last is bad. Train Detroit is moderate or bad.


One of the most interesting things about replacing all taxes with property taxes is that it encourages high-density living. The problem with that, of course, is that you have a lot of idealized low-density living (we don't want to price seniors out of their homes, we don't want to increase the cost of farming, people want the house in the suburbs with a yard, etc.).
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby psyck0 » Sat Jun 27, 2009 4:26 pm UTC

The problems with ending taxes have been discussed so often that I'm not going to bother doing it again. I'm just pointing out its stupidity. I'm tired of people screaming "well it works in Europe but it won't work in the US!!!!1"

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Sat Jun 27, 2009 5:02 pm UTC

The point of ending corporate taxes isn't to lower taxes, it's to make things easier on American business. The way corporate taxes are administered there are fairly large costs on the corporate end just for administering them, and high encouragement to attempt to dodge them (including the exportation of jobs). I believe it amounts to something like $300 billion in annual revenue, I (among others) think we'd be better off just getting another 3% of America's ten trillion in personal income.

for Vaniver-

Aren't property taxes based on the value of the home opposed to the acreage? While this will make for more somewhat higher density living, having such high importance placed on the value of your property would create fairly radical motive to live in a low-value area, which in turn would cause a fair bit of devaluing of city properties further encouraging foreclosure. More importantly though is that the scramble for low-value property would create a rather bizarre dynamic where people and businesses try to flee cities into repeatedly lower value areas, which no one (business or individual) really wants but will be forced to turn to to keep costs down. The necessary rate would be a little absurd too, total taxes (well, expenses at least) amount to over $5 trillion and >35% of GDP, considering that individual expenses on shelter generally float around 30% the requisite taxes would be astronomical, especially after being adjusted for the initial mass property devaluation of the tax being administered. This isn't to mention the rather regressive nature of the tax either, it's not terribly hard for the wealthy to settle for a middle class house but spend large sums on personal goods or abroad. I'd agree that having states more reliant on property taxes may be a good thing, but on a national level I don't think we can plausibly be rid of the income tax.

I'm not sure what's so bad about buy to last - at least from a moderate environmentalist perspective, raising the individual value of our goods while buying less overall is a pretty decent way to reduce environmental impact.

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Vaniver
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Vaniver » Sat Jun 27, 2009 6:10 pm UTC

Bubbles McCoy wrote:Aren't property taxes based on the value of the home opposed to the acreage?
Henry George called for a tax on the "unimproved" value of the land. That is, an acre in Manhattan will be taxed more than an acre in the Rockies- but whether or not a building is on that acre won't alter the property tax. Normal property taxes are done on the value of the land and improvements.

Bubbles McCoy wrote:The necessary rate would be a little absurd too, total taxes (well, expenses at least) amount to over $5 trillion and >35% of GDP, considering that individual expenses on shelter generally float around 30% the requisite taxes would be astronomical, especially after being adjusted for the initial mass property devaluation of the tax being administered.
The result would be that the money people are spending on income taxes would shift and become money that people are spending on rent/property taxes.

Bubbles McCoy wrote:This isn't to mention the rather regressive nature of the tax either, it's not terribly hard for the wealthy to settle for a middle class house but spend large sums on personal goods or abroad.
This would be the actual shift of the tax. Notice the difference between the two ways of looking at it, though- "what do income taxes incentivize, and what do property taxes incentivize?" or "who will end up paying more of the tax?"

The economy will be better off if land use is disincentivized than if income generation is disincentivized. High-income people will be better off- high-wealth people, especially if that wealth is concentrated in land, will be worse off, and people whose land use is high relative to their income (or didn't pay tax under the current system) will be worse off.

If people find it politically impossible to get rid of progressive taxation, though, there's no reason the property tax can't be graduated, just like the income tax- except now, instead of doing it by income per person (plus a fraction of dependents), it could be value per square foot or some other metric (so the apartment building that houses two thousand people pays the same as two apartment buildings that house a thousand people each).
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Marquee Moon » Sun Jun 28, 2009 2:39 am UTC

psyck0 wrote:The problems with ending taxes have been discussed so often that I'm not going to bother doing it again. I'm just pointing out its stupidity. I'm tired of people screaming "well it works in Europe but it won't work in the US!!!!1"


Did you read the article? It suggests ending the corporate tax and raising taxes on capital gains and dividends which "could collect at least as much revenue in a more progressive and less distorting manner". And I don't know why you've brought up Europe as a comparison. The US has higher corporate tax rates than most other developed countries. (which you'd know if you read the second sentence of the article...) Here's a very pretty graph showing that. It's a bit out of date (it uses 2005 numbers) as the US's top corporate tax rate has moved down from 40 to 35%. But you can still see that most European countries have rates lower than US's. Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland all have rates below 30%.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby athelas » Sun Jun 28, 2009 3:26 pm UTC

Nahh, corporations are bad, and we should tax bad things! :P

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Vaniver
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Vaniver » Mon Jun 29, 2009 3:17 am UTC

Some numbers for the previous discussion: In 2004, Goldman Sachs estimated the total value of US real estate at $25T, of which ~22% is held by the government- so if they're exempt from taxation (which they shouldn't be, but oh well), we're looking at around $20T of privately held real estate. Total American wealth was estimated to be $50T in that year[1]; total reported American individual income was $6.8T [2], GDP was $11.7T, federal (total) government revenues were $1.9T ($3.6T), and government expenditures were $2.3T (no data for state/local expenditures) [3].

So, for the federal government to get $1.9T with an income tax, it would have to have a weighted average of 28%. Getting that amount with a property tax would require a weighted average of 9.5%.

A real estate tax of 9.5%, though, is massive. Generally home appreciation is in the 2-4% range in real terms- this means that they'll become giant money holes, rather than a individuals' and families' largest asset. The value of real estate will also drop quite a bit, necessitating higher tax rates.

But, if the government was cheap enough and there weren't switching costs involved, it would definitely have better incentives associated with it.
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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Bubbles McCoy » Tue Jun 30, 2009 7:33 pm UTC

And that estimate is still probably quite light - I suspect that if you only counted the acreage and not the building value, the tax could easily be upwards of 16% (higher if you're using the tax for state taxes and for actually balancing the budget) of the land value, which hits suburban home owners and farmers quite hard. The whole idea seems pretty outdated, it hinges upon the government being smaller than it has for almost a century and the idea that land alone somehow constitutes base wealth and resources; things have become much more complicated.

I don't see income taxes as a particularly negative tax in terms of incentives (other than the obvious detrimental economic effects of any tax) due to the sheer size of what's being taxed (ten trillion in 20051 out of a $12T GDP) and the lack of import/export asymmetries as with business taxes. It is an easy and obvious front through which almost all money passes through, it doesn't really "disincentivize" income earning as there's really no alternative for personal gain except for appreciation of unsold assets. I suppose that property taxes are simpler and more reliable (well, most of the time anyway), but due to the scope of what's needed I don't see them doing much other than supporting local and state governments.

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Re: "15 Ways to Fix the World"?

Postby Vaniver » Wed Jul 01, 2009 1:10 am UTC

The whole idea seems pretty outdated, it hinges upon the government being smaller than it has for almost a century and the idea that land alone somehow constitutes base wealth and resources; things have become much more complicated.
Are you familiar with the term "rent" in an economic sense, and another related term called "rent-seeking"?

The idea isn't that land is the source of all value- most of the people behind the land tax are of the opinion that the single most important source of value is human thought and time. The idea is that land is one of the few sources of value that we don't make. Income is made, sales are made, etc.- and so by taxing them, you disincentivize them, and thus reduce the amount of them that happens. If you tax land use, though, you just disincentivize land use- there's still the same amount of land out there!

Rent, in an economic sense, is unearned income. It's different from the rent that people pay for use of property in a few subtle ways (because that can be economic rent). Imagine that, for whatever reason, we decide that one person owns the sun, and so anyone who goes outside, has windows, uses solar panels, or grows crops need to pay him money. It's great for that person- but looking at it from the outside, that policy doesn't benefit the economy at all, and actually imposes costs on it (people will try to avoid having to pay the light tax by choosing otherwise suboptimal things). Similarly, giving all of the land in a region to the king, rather than to people that work on it and improve it, makes little sense, and imposes costs on the economy. Rent-seeking is trying to get a political privilege that gives you unearned income- imposing a licensing requirement, so people can't compete with you, for example.

With physical, manufactured capital, human capital, and expenditure of time, it's clear that there's no rent involved. With real estate, it's less clear- and so it makes more sense to tax that than the other things.

(Short explanation is short; things are uncovered and incomplete. But I hope it makes at least some sense!)
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