[FoRK] Chart of the Day...

Stephen Williams sdw at lig.net
Thu Jun 10 11:08:45 PDT 2010

On 6/10/10 4:25 AM, Jeff Bone wrote:
> On Jun 10, 2010, at 4:32, Stephen Williams <sdw at lig.net> wrote:
>> For some purposes, we already have that: Sun, nuclear, wind, etc.  
>> Boring, next problem. ;-)
> We have limitless nuclear fuel here on earth?  The planet and solar 
> system willl last forever?
> Think long-term.  ;-)

"In the long term, we're all dead."  Don't borrow problems you can't 
have.  For some value of "forever", yes.

>> I disagree.  We're already in a post-scarcity world in a lot of ways.
> We are in a post-scarcity world by yesterday's standards.  My point is 
> that the bar is raised constantly.  For example, we now perceive the 
> conditions our granparents were born into to be below certain measures 
> of poverty.
> Coupled with finite resources, this guarantees that what we think of 
> as post-scarcity today will not meet commonplace expectations about 

What resources are really finite, given unlimited time and energy?  I'm 
sure that at some point, space seemed finite in Manhattan.  And then 
people started building up and down and more compactly.  Technically 
still finite, but for practical purposes pretty infinite compared to the 
grassy meadows that it started out.  We're energy limited right now, but 
we have a few ideas of how we could change that.  Everything else is 
just details.  With enough time and energy, we can get, make or go 
retrieve anything else we need.

> standards of living tomorrow, regardless of any technological 
> advances.  "Have-not" is relative, and will be with us indefinitely.  
> (e.g.:  how long before "unlimited" continuous network connectivity, 
> unbounded access to life-perpetuating medical care, etc. are 
> considered mandatory entitlements for all persons?)

True, people will always create scarcity in their minds.  However, it's 
pretty clear what a baseline should consist of on the low end and 
reasonably clear we should strive for (certain levels of education, 
comfort, medical care).

> My point in this is straightforward: focus on equalizing outcomes is a 
> losing proposition, and always will be. Any notion of "social justice" 
> built on that assumption is pollyanna and flawed.

Who said anything about "equalizing outcomes" or "social justice"??  Not 
me.  I was suggesting that what might be referred to as a "reasonable 
baseline existence" could be optimized significantly.  Perhaps a little 
social justice-y in the sense of providing a better floor of quality of 
life, but definitely not in any hold-back-the-stars sense.  More like 
providing a baseline that is not all-consuming for anyone so that 
everyone has at least some significant bandwidth for self-improvement 
and pursuit of something interesting.  On the other end of the spectrum, 
based on an article I just read (May 13, 2010 Volume LVII, Number 8, 
page 46) in "The New York Review of Books" (some issues are blah, some 
are amazingly interesting), there are some obviously devastating 
problems in third world countries around something as banal as having 
bathrooms.  As in, over 50% in some areas go to the bathroom outdoors.  
And girls and women A) often don't go to school for lack of private 
bathrooms or bathrooms at all and B) girls and women often end up with 
severe medical issues due to social pressures that dictate when and 
where.  There's no excuse for that, really anywhere.  Where's Gatesian 
money on that kind of issue?  I'd start a project if I had the 
resources.  (Oddly enough, I recently invented a bathroom solution for 
women runners in races...)

The whole point of the exercise was to think about what it would take to 
free up a larger percentage of "income" (i.e., the payback for working 
and contributing) from taxation / cost of living.  In a strong sense, 
what people really care about is their net personal profit: income - 
(taxes + basic living expenses).  High taxation is OK if living expenses 
are proportionally lower.  Low taxes are great, unless you have to spend 
a fortune to live there.  Both high taxation and living expenses are OK 
if you have a correspondingly high income (i.e. a good tech worker / 
entrepreneur in California, DC, etc.).  Areas that are expensive to live 
in may also tend to be expensive to provide government services for 
(land, rent, and employees cost a lot more).  A community that is 
designed to be efficient and low cost while high-functioning and 
aesthetically pleasing may tend to have low costs for both.  Can't get 
away from Federal taxes (unless you do all of this on a Reservation!  
Hey, that's an idea.), however you can lower the other percentages.  
And, note, if you want to pay less taxes, making it possible to live on 
a lot less means you can make a lot less and still have a good amount 
left over while paying much less in taxes.  In that sense, people who 
live in expensive areas are being overtaxed in a progressive tax system 
for an equivalent "level of living". Assuming that it is just more 
expensive with proportionately better salary, often it may be much 
better than that.

> $0.02,
> jb


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