Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Preparing for life in the twenty-first century. Uh, and a half.

Consumption vs. Income vs. Sales—Wednesday, January 11th, 2017
Greedy planet

People who know more than I do keep calling for replacing the income tax with a “consumption” tax.

As if they’re expecting the consumer to calculate it and send it in at the end of the year… if it could be done that way, it would alleviate a lot of my concerns about the use of sales taxes instead of income taxes.

In Is it better to tax incomes or purchases? I wrote that “Sales taxes are not sales taxes, they are purchase taxes” because they are paid for by the purchaser, not the seller. So I really don’t have a problem calling them “consumption” taxes despite the joke. And I am generally well-disposed toward replacing the income tax with a consumption tax, because I am generally better-disposed to discourage consumption than to discourage income. What is taxed is discouraged, and if something has to be discouraged better consuming than creating. But the more I think about the long-term effects of purchase taxes vs. income taxes, the less well-disposed I am to making the change.

It is reasonably possible for the average person1 to know what their income is, and so, under a simple income tax, calculate what their income tax is. That makes it reasonably possible to not force employers to become an enforcement arm of the federal government, calculating, collecting, and remitting taxes. Getting third-parties out of paying taxes would also make it harder to hide some taxes, such as half of the social security tax that employers take out of their employees’ pay and pretend it never existed.

It doesn’t seem reasonably possible for the average person to know what their consumption is, and so to calculate their own consumption taxes. This means that sellers will always have to be forced by the federal government to calculate, collect, and remit such taxes. Consumption taxes will always conceptually be sales taxes.2 Politicians will easily be able to hide some taxes that they would rather remain hidden. And so consumption taxes will always be a damper on new business creation—and new job creation.

Pryor Oklahoma: The Book Exchange on Highway 69—Tuesday, January 10th, 2017

When I’m traveling, I often check multiple map applications to find the best route (which undoubtedly confuses Navigon, the navigation app I actually use en route). For traveling northeast from Round Rock to St. Louis or Michigan, this meant discovering the quicker Highway 69 instead of the bigger Highway 44 that my navigation app wants me to use to get across Oklahoma from Texas. Highway 69 is not only faster, but it’s also more interesting.

Book-wise, hidden a quick one block off of 69 in Pryor is The Book Exchange. Pryor is about ten miles north of Chouteau, where I often stop for food at either the Dutch Pantry or the Amish Cheese Shop. The former is a nice meat-and-potatoes place and the latter a nice sandwich shop and they’re both about halfway to St. Louis.

But while there are a lot of food options available on Highway 69—including in Pryor, and I’ll have to try some of them now that I’m stopping there all the time for books—there are very few bookstores, at least as far as I can tell. There’s a Hastings in Muskogee, but it didn’t have much in the way of books when I went there a few years ago.1 The Book Exchange is a real oasis on this route. It’s only real drawback is that it’s a haggling-style store: most books don’t have prices, so you’ll need to ask for an offer and then decide if it’s worthwhile to buy at that price, make a counter-offer, or just put the book back. But so far the prices (as you can see) have been quite reasonable.

They have a nice selection of fiction, including thrillers/mysteries and science fiction/fantasy, and much more. As you can see from the list of books I’ve picked up here over my last two trips, I’ve found some nice older science fiction paperbacks. I’d been meaning to read Clifford D. Simak’s City for quite a while and bit because of the neat old dog-man-robot cover painting. And earlier, I picked up my first Clark Ashton Smith book here, which was disappointing only in the sense that I hadn’t read it decades earlier!

They also have a table set aside for local-interest books and a very good selection of spiritual and religious, especially Christian, books.

Is job loss to automation inevitable?—Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Trump has made a lot of promises. One of the easiest to deliver on is more good jobs in the United States.

But Trump’s policies are at odds with his promises. A tax on companies who leave the United States reduces the benefit of creating a company in the United States. Reducing the benefit of creating companies in the United States will reduce the number of jobs created in the United States, not increase them. New companies that would once have chosen to start up inside the United States will instead choose to start up outside the United States, in order to preserve their future options.

And if his threat to increase tariffs is more than just a bargaining tool, it will also reduce jobs: increasing the price that companies pay to buy materials in the United States increases the cost of doing business in the United States, especially compared to the rest of the world. Tariffs on imported supplies make United States companies less competitive and more likely to go out of business.

If we want to increase jobs in the United States, we must make it more beneficial to create jobs in the United States. We must reduce the cost of doing business in the United States by simplifying the regulatory mess, and by not adding artificial costs to the costs of doing business in the United States.

If you listen to establishment figures on both sides of the aisle, it sounds like we’re going to have to be content with more unemployment and stagnant growth forever. But this is wrong. We only have to be content with that if we keep the government’s thumb on the scale holding back new businesses and new growth.

The notion that we’re going to lose jobs because of automation and cheaper labor overseas is bullshit. That’s all it is. Just bullshit. It’s always going to be easier to hire and manage employees locally than to hire and manage them on other continents.

Unless government regulations make it more difficult.

That’s our problem right now. The federal government, and many states, have made it so expensive to hire new people, and so difficult to innovate quickly enough to stay in business, that companies find it easier to manage overseas employees in overseas factories that can be retooled quickly enough to stay in business. The idea that company executives want to have to deal with time zones and 24-hour plane rides and managing people through interpreters, and that job loss to overseas is therefore somehow inevitable, is insane. Job loss like this is only happening because federal and state regulations have become insane.

Bay Leaf Books in Newaygo is closing—Friday, December 30th, 2016
Final haul from Bay Leaf Books

Latest haul from Bay Leaf Books.

I stopped into Bay Leaf Books over the holidays when I was traveling in Michigan, and discovered that they’ll be closing in “late January or February” 2017, due to health issues. If you’ve been meaning to visit, now is the time.

As you can see from the list of books I bought in December on the original review they still have a great selection—and I didn’t take their only copy of some of those books.

They’ve been a very nice place to visit when I wander up that way; it’ll be sad to see them go, as there aren’t many, if any, good bookstores in the area. Even the Newaygo Public Library’s book sale has closed, although perhaps only temporarily. Like most of the “bookstores less traveled” it was basically run by one person, and that person died. (If you live in the area and you want to see it re-open, consider volunteering.)

At the time I went, Bay Leaf was discounting their books 40%, or 20% for special display items. I don’t know if that’s going to change, as their web site says they’ll continue to sell online and at special events.

And don’t pass up the opportunity to visit any of the bookstores I highlight on The bookstores less traveled. As sad as it is to see a bookstore go, most, if not all, of them are run by one or two people. They will close down sooner or later. Give them your business now to increase the chances that it will be later.

Why is the country so divided?—Wednesday, December 28th, 2016
County-by-County results, 2016

Title this map “Why an over-powerful central government causes divisiveness.”

The country is divided because the federal government has so much power. Disagreements are necessarily national disagreements, because the federal government’s decision in one town by default applies to every town in the country. Get the federal government back down to size and people won't have to be so divided. There is no alternative. As long as the federal government controls so much of individual life, politics will continue to be divisive.

Presidential elections are divisive because the president has so much more power. Executive decisions reach down to individual businesses and jobs, down to local communities and families. Put that power back into the hands of congress and local representatives, and people won't have to care so much about who is and is not president. That’s what divisiveness means. It means people care deeply about the decisions being made. There is no alternative. As long as the White House has so much power over individual lives, the presidency will continue to be a divisive position.

People will always care, deeply, about who has control over their lives.

Donald Trump is no more divisive than Barack “I won. Deal with it.” Obama. What you’re really complaining about is that Trump doesn’t back your pet causes but rather backs someone else’s. That’s the point. As long as Obama or Trump or any other single person has such power, they will occupy a divisive position.

Passing a law that took every private health insurance plan away, with no attempt at compromise with the other side—in fact, using parliamentary tricks to avoid legislative compromise—that was divisive. You just agreed with the outcome. Announcing that local high schools would have to let men into girls’ bathrooms, without any national discussion or local experimentation, that was divisive. You just agreed with the outcome.

Reducing the divisiveness in the United States is easy, but you have to be willing to do it: you have to be willing to put legislation under control of congress, where each locality’s and state’s representatives can vote on it, rather than under the executive, where only one person controls everything.

To further reduce divisiveness, move decisions back to local decision-makers. Get the federal government back to dealing with national issues, and let local governments deal with local issues.

If your problem is divisiveness and not just that someone else won the election.

The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking—Tuesday, December 27th, 2016
The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking

Yes, this book has seen a lot of use.

The cover of The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking has radishes, sugar-covered filled donuts, what look like cinnamon rolls, green beans with, I think, ham, and some sort of a corn stew.

The author’s photo on the back has Edna Eby Heller wearing very familiar glasses: I remember them from the high school photos on the walls of my mom’s high school, from the year my mom graduated.

This looks, in other words, to be a very good old-school Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook. Lots of good thick vegetable soups, cream of vegetable soups, pea soup, and so on. And recipes with amazing names like hog maw, scrapple, hex waffles, and snavely sticks. And also recipes with names like schmierkase, boova shenkel, kasha kucha, and gschmelzte nudle.

Probably my favorite recipe in here is the cinnamon drop, which is very easy to make. It’s basically a very simple cake sprinkled with brown sugar and butter so that, when cooked, the middle “drops”, making a sweet, chewy, semi-crunchy cake.

I’d like to try the rhubarb upside-down cake. It sounds like it’s going to be caramelized rhubarb with cake on top, like a pineapple upside-down cake but better! Unfortunately I can’t find rhubarb around here. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen it in stores; growing up in Michigan, it was always traded by housewives, who grew it around the house.

I’m still looking forward to potato soup, peas and dumplings onion pie… and Montgomery pie, which is “a lemon-flavored molasses custard with a cake-like top”.

I can’t say whether the recipes are authentic or not, but they are certainly good. If you’re looking to add a Pennsylvania Dutch cookbook, I’d take a look at The Art of Pennsylvania Dutch Cooking.

Election lessons: be careful what you wish for—Wednesday, December 21st, 2016
Officer Barbrady

“Okay, people, move along! Nothing to see here, you lookie loos!”

I expect that one of big reasons Trump’s victory galls the media and the rest of the Democrats is that the media did their best to make sure Trump was the Republican nominee, and the Democrats did their best to make sure the media knew they wanted Trump as their opponent in the general. I’m not saying that this is the only reason Trump won the primaries, but it is clear from the leaked emails that Democrats wished for him to win the primary, because they knew he’d be easy to beat, and that key media figures were listening.

It was a guaranteed win for Hillary Clinton. But someone forgot to tell Donald Trump.

Now I see the same thing among conservatives and Republicans: wishing for something because you know it’ll be easy to beat. That’s a dangerous game to play when you’re not making the rules.

I see, for example, a lot of pundits hoping that Barack Obama becomes the de facto spokesperson for Democratic Party policies, because of the way he talks down to middle America. Or hoping for Keith Ellison to become the Democratic National Committee Chair because of the incendiary things he often says.

What they’re forgetting is that once President Obama is not President, the press can easily just not air him when he’s talking nonsense, and only show him when he sounds like an elder statesman. Few people outside the conservative movement see President Carter as anything other than a nice old man who helps build houses for the poor.1 They don’t see him working to help those who want to wipe Israel off the map, and to embolden Palestinian terrorists. They don’t see him undermining democratic elections in other countries, and whitewashing totalitarian fraud.

Keith Ellison is already treated as national news when the media finds him presentable, and as regional news when he’s supporting serious anti-semites, when he’s supporting those who deny Israel’s right to exist, or when he’s denying Israel’s right to defend itself from attacks.

How the left transformed vulgarity into courage and elected Donald Trump—Wednesday, December 14th, 2016

Voters chose Trump because they thought Clinton cared more about bathrooms than jobs?

An acquaintance of mine wrote, just before the election:

It is interesting to me that the same people who professed terror1 that transgender bathroom use would subject their wives and daughters to molesting and sexual assault2, have no problem with Donald Trump’s professed actions.

This is a common enough line of thought within the media and the establishment in general, and I’m pretty sure it is partly because of statements like this that Trump is now president. If he had said stuff like the female equivalent of “grab ’em by the balls” absent such overreactions from the press and the establishment in general, voters would have heard a vulgar person who does not have the qualities necessary to be President. But by arguing stridently that vulgar words are the equivalent of “molesting and sexual assault” and that those words are the same thing as professed actions and, therefore, you should then shut the hell up or we will continue to try to destroy you, the media and the left have transformed what would have been perceived as vulgarity into something reasonably perceived as courage. It takes courage to say words that powerful media will try to destroy you with.3

Courage is a quality necessary in a President.

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