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10 most recent arguments.

If you want to criticize Gould, a man who came up with such influential ideas in evolutionary biology as punctuated equilibrium, you should probably not rely on the word of a racist psychologist.

This should be fun...please elaborate about the evidence for God. Pretend I am someone who has grown up in the jungle and has never heard about God or Christianity or any organized religion for that matter. I have no prior beliefs or superstitions. Why should I believe in God, and why should I believe in your specific version of him?

Wow, it really is fun running into a libertarian who doesn’t understand economics or finance.

So let’s start with economics since that appears to be where the most glaring ignorance is. You claim that government cannot change demand and it merely is what it is, as if it were some universal constant that was unaffected by other factors. This is simply not true. If I gave you $1,000,000 do you think your spending habits would be affected? What if I took away 70% of what you earn (assuming you have a job)? Do you think that this may change your weekly spending? Consumer demand is affected by a number of variables, and one of the most important is income. If there is a town where the government employs a number of people, or where there is a company that relies on government contracts and government funding is cut then the people who rely on it will have less money to spend. This shifts their demand curves downward meaning at every price they will purchase less of any normal good. Therefore, even the guy who owns a business in this town that has no affiliation with the government will be effected by cutting government funds because his customers will have less money to spend therefore decreasing their demand. Get it?

The fact that you think you are in any position to critique Keynsian counter-cyclical policies when you don’t understand the underlying fundamentals on which the theory is based…on which all of economics is based actually, is absurd. If I, for example, burst into the office of an astronomer and started arguing that the earth is flat because people in Australia don’t fall off, I would be laughed at. Trying to say something intelligent about economics without understanding demand is like trying to say something smart about astronomy without understanding gravity.

About your continuing insistence on discussing education: show me proof. Just because the U.S. department of education was founded in 1979 does not prove that it has anything to do with inequality. You have shown that it may be plausible that there is some connection, but plausible is not enough. Plenty of plausible explanations for phenomenon are simply wrong, and therefore we must actually look at the data and see what the cause is. Allow me to give you an example:

Plausible argument: Technology has led to an increase in inequality because it has made certain skills more profitable and others obsolete causing skilled workers who perform complex tasks to be more productive, semi-skilled workers who perform routine tasks to be replaceable and unskilled workers who perform manual tasks to be unaffected. This has led to an erosion of certain middle class jobs, such as bank tellers or typists who, because of technological shifts, are obsolete professionally. This has led to a polarization of earnings and therefore increased inequality.

If I were to stop here and provide no evidence then we would be stuck. You have your argument, I have mine, and neither one of us has evidence to support it, just arguments that may or may not be plausible. Admittedly my argument is neither partisan, nor based on ideological principles like yours is, but let’s assume that the arguments are equally valid. So what would either of us have to do to get out of this stalemate? One way would be if we found a study from a reputable source that supported one argument of the other. For example if I provided an article called Computing Inequality: Have Computers Changed the Labor Market? from The Quarterly Journal of Economics I would have actually provided support for the plausible argument showing that it is more than plausible, but actually fits as a theory with the real world. Please provide evidentiary support for your claims or I will simply ignore/mock them.

Your actual claims about the department of education are mostly unfounded as well. In spite of the existence of a national organization, most decisions regarding schools are made at the national level. Once exception to this is the “No Child Left Behind Act” which does impose federally mandated testing and grants federal funding based on the results. I’m in favor of repealing the act, but once again that is not relevant. You claim that people are arrested for going to schools other than the ones in their district…do you think the federal government is responsible for this? No, it’s determined at a state level. Maine and Vermont both have Voucher based programs that allow parents to choose where to send their kids, and there are other similar programs in a number of other states. Some use tax credits, some use Charter school systems and there are a variety of other approaches. The important thing to note here is that it is not decided at the federal level, so you trying to blame the federal government for this problem is absurd and really just reveals your juvenile partisan attitude against the federal government. I bet you’d find a way to blame them if you wet the bed.

Another reason your department of education argument fails is that inequality began to increase in 1979 and the U.S. department of education was founded in 1979. This may not seem like a problem at first, until you consider the fact that children in schools don’t immediately enter the workforce. Most of the effects should have taken place later, when those people who would have actually been affected by the change made up a significant portion of the labor force. In the decade following the creation of the U.S. department of education, we should have seen only mild increases in inequality with the 1990’s and early 2000’s showing the greatest inequality increase. Is this what the data shows? Turns out no! Look back at the article I posted about wage inequality in the U.S. in my previous argument and you will see that the 80’s actually showed the greatest increase in inequality which would have been too soon for any changes to education made in 1979 to matter. Furthermore a large portion of the increase in inequality is among highly experienced workers who would have been to old to be affected by the changes as they would no longer be in schools. Once again, your argument fails. You can see this by looking at the Autor, Katz and Kearny article (a must read for anyone who is interested in U.S. wage inequality and doesn’t want to be mocked online by a stranger for not knowing what the hell they are talking about).

Just to sum up for you: your argument for the department of education being responsible for the increased inequality in the U.S. not only lacks evidence but isn’t even plausible for myriad reasons. You are now just embarrassing yourself.

Let’s move on to finance, since that seems to be another area that you do not understand. You argue that our current deficit/debt situation is an issue because people are going to stop lending to the Federal government because they believe we will not pay them back. Currently the U.S. has a AAA rating (as determined by independent ratings agencies), which means that according to investors, we are as safe as it gets – there is no rating higher than AAA. If you were right and people really were worried about us not being able to repay them, this rating would be lowered and we would begin to have serious problems because borrowing would become more expensive (interest rates would increase). As it stands, however, lending money to the U.S. government is still the safest possible investment an investor can make. The only people who think otherwise are people like you who do not understand the situation but instead listen to partisan rhetoric and media fear mongering.

We should look for ways for the government to save money, but the extreme cuts proposed by GJ are both unnecessary and potentially detrimental to economic recovery. Once our nation has managed to pull itself out of the current economic situation and unemployment is back to natural rates then we can start making budget cuts. What’s nice, however, is that as the economy improves spending automatically decreases because less people are eligible for entitlement programs such as unemployment benefits, and revenue increases because more people are working. Hence, one should not only not worry about a budget deficit during economic recessions, one should expect it to occur.

While I agree with a lot of what you said, you ignored my main point and about half of the fundamentals of accounting. Let's go back to the guy who has a little extra money and wants to start a small business. Since you brought up a banana stand let's say that's what he wants to open up. He will only open up the banana stand if it will be profitable to do so. Now you bring up a good point that a part of this calculation will involve how much opening up this banana stand will cost. If the government has excessive restrictions on small businesses then clearly this may outweigh any profit that he will earn. The same goes for any other costs associated with starting a business. For this example we will say that government posed restrictions (in the form of a license) has a cost of L and non governmental costs are C.

The part that I was discussing in my argument that you completely ignore in your discussion is his revenue. The amount he will earn selling his bananas is some function of consumer demand, or in other words R(d) where d stands for consumer demand. As demand increases so does the function R(d). Therefore his total profits can be expressed as: P = R(d) - (C+L). From this expression we know that our entrepreneurial friend will only invest when P is positive, which is whenever R(d) is greater than (C+L).

Let's now imagine two situations and determine if there really is money in the banana stand. We shall assume that there is some government building that employs a decent amount of the citizens of the town where the banana stand will be opened up. In the first scenario there are no major budgetary cutbacks to the organization housed in the government building. Because of this demand is relatively high and will be represented as d1. In the other scenario a politician like GJ steps in and makes budgetary cuts that either fore the organization to decrease wages or fire some people. For the sake of this example it doesn't matter if it's just the former, just the latter or a combination of both; the important thing to note is that the average income of the citizens decreases meaning less money to spend on bananas. In this scenario demand is d2 and we should note that d2 < d1. In the first scenario our friend who is owns the banana stand will make a larger profit than the man in the second scenario even though costs have remained constant in both.

Do you see why I have accused you of ignoring the main point of my argument now? I was discussing how demand affects people's incentives and yet you bring up cost. Certainly cost is important but even if the cost of starting a new business is almost zero people will still consider it a bad investment if no one is willing to buy bananas (even if those bananas are dipped in chocolate and covered in nuts). High demand makes all businesses more profitable, and during economic boom times we can do what Clinton did during the dot com boom and balance the budget. During recessions where demand is low, however, cutting spending only helps to reduce demand which in turn leads to less investment, higher unemployment and, ironically enough, less government revenue. The loss in revenue may be outweighed by the costs to the government, but the societal cost will likely be greater thanks to what macro-economists call the "multiplier effect" (which to express briefly, is the idea that when you take $1 out of the economy, you are in effect taking out more than $1 because dollars are spent over and over again).

In your argument you discuss how expensive it is to start a business from excessive regulations and taxes, and yet you fail to provide any evidence to support this proposition. The U.S. is extremely pro-business when compared to other nations of similar wealth. Many European nations have absurd labor laws that hinder growth. In Italy for example it is next to impossible to fire a person, and therefore businesses choose not to hire people, which in turn leads to high unemployment, especially for young people in Italy. Libertarian hyperbole aside, those kind of laws do not actually exist in the U.S. In fact, with current technology, small business costs have never been lower...unfortunately so is demand which, like I said earlier, is the real problem that plagues the economy during times of recession.

As far as balancing the budget: we are not nearing critical deficit levels and "raising the debt ceiling" is not some emergency catastrophic event: it has occurred 17 times since other words almost once a year! I would really appreciate it if in the future you would base your claims on fact and not assertion. I cannot blame you for having the impression that raising the debt ceiling is a big deal, this is in large part the fault of the media, but I can blame you for not checking your facts before putting them into the argument. Furthermore, my original point still stands that while our deficit may be a problem it is not pertinent to the issue we are discussing which is economic recovery.

The phenomenon you cite. Starting in 1979 the inequality in this country has been rising steadily, as you said. The reason for this is mostly the creation of the Federal Department of Education by Jimmy Carter. Just think about it.

As much as I would like to believe that we can explain wage inequality just by thinking about it, in economics we actually have to have evidence to back up claims. If we want to discuss wage inequality in the U.S. I think the best place to start is by looking at Trends in U.S. Wage Inequality by Autor, Katz and Kearny. If you are unfamiliar with it, then I will summarize some of the main points. The high-school college premium has contributed to a significant portion of the increasing inequality since 1979, but cannot account for all of it. This "residual inequality" as they call it, is signficant not only because it cannot be accounted for by either education nor the demographic composition of the labor force but also because, like the college-highschool premium, it has been increasing. You're explanation fails to account for any of these facts, and frankly is a simplistic partisan explanation for a very complex phenomenon. I do not mean to say that the public schooling our nation is not a serious issue and that it doesn't need to be addressed; it is a serious issue and does need to be dealt with. I'm not even disagreeing with the ways in which GJ wants to go about fixing education; vouchers seem like a promising solution. The issue though is that the problem of inequality cannot be fully explained by education, and by talking about it here you are changing the subject away from what we are actually talking about: economic recovery.

I don't know why you brought up the drug war. I mentioned it nowhere in my argument (although I would list it under the social policies that make me want to like him).

Some of the policy you're talking about it seems like you're not on the right web site. When Gary was the governor of New Mexico, he reduced the size of state government by over a thousand jobs without firing anyone.

Even if you are right and his spending cuts not costing a significant amount of government jobs (which seems doubtful), it is almost certainly the case that he will be cutting money from government contracts which will force private businesses to lay off employees. The main point of this, of course, is that it will continue to depress consumer demand which in turn will lead to less investment slowing economic recovery.

Feel free to rant about libertarian ideology, but I will not respond. I prefer to stick to the facts. When you decide that you want to stop changing the subject and actually stick to discussing economic recovery then we can have a real discussion.

You also appear to fundamentally misunderstand what is meant by Keynsian economics (and economics in general). People don't argue that it is impossible to pay less and get more, they say that if you want to stimulate economic recovery in a recession you need to increase demand. One way in which this can be accomplished is through government spending: the quality of service you get out of this spending is actually irrelevant to the Keynsian argument (although clearly relevant for other reasons not having to do with this debate).

While I generally agree that spending needs to be cut, and I support doing this by ending the wars in we are currently involved in in the Middle East, I have to disagree about a couple of his positions regarding what will and what will not help the economy.

First off, contrary to popular opinion, our deficit is not the main cause of our economic troubles, nor will balancing the budget be a cure all for fixing the economy. Certainly I agree that we should almost certainly reduce the current deficit, but doing so as quickly and drastically as Gary Johnson plans to do, while well intentioned, will almost certainly cause more harm than good. Allow me to explain:

Small business owners have not been suffering from burdensome taxes or government regulations. They've suffered because unemployment is high, which means that demand is down, and when demand is down people are less likely to spend money on shit (by definition). Now we could argue about what initially caused the economic recession that led to the decrease in demand, you'd say it had something to do with excessive government regulations, and I would say it had to do in part with the fact that the Glass-Steagal Act (that was intended to separate commercial and investment banks)became more and more impotent proceding its passage up until its eventual repeal in 1999; or to put it more simply, a lack of government regulation. This argument would likely get us nowhere and what's the point of arguing about who is to blame for sinking the Titanic when we're still on the boat. My point is, we need to look at what will improve the current low demand situation and the best chance of doing this is to decrease unemployment (people without jobs buy less shit).

So what will decrease unemployment? Ironically enough, it's increasing demand! If people are more willing to buy shit then people will be able to sell more shit so they will need to higher more workers to make and sell the shit (and also services: for the sake of this argument assume shit is an amalgamation of goods and services). So we need to decrease unemployment to increase demand, and increase demand to decrease unemployment. Well this sucks. What can we do?

According to Gary Johnson it's cut spending by cutting wages of government employees and benefits to citizens, stop inflation and to cut corporate taxes (which he claims are the real job killer on his website). Now giving people lower wages is not easy. If you don't believe me, imagine you've been working a job for a while and someone tells you that even though you will be doing the same amount of work as you always have, you will have to accept less pay for that work. People usually don't respond well. In economics this concept is known as "sticky wages" and can create a bunch of issues when markets try and correct themselves. Now there are two ways employers can get around this problem: a) change human nature b) rather than lower wages by x% just fire x% of your workers and have the remaining workers just pick up the slack. Which do you think most choose? This also means that since they are firing workers they are obviously not hiring new ones which is not a good thing for unemployment. Here's an interesting fact though: let's say you need to reduce the cost of labor by 3%, and so you have the choice of either firing 3% of your workforce or cutting salaries by 3%. For the reasons given above you will choose the former option because the latter will be unacceptable to your workers, and impractical because of their contracts.

Now up until this point we have sort of implicitly assumed no inflation, and if humans are completely rational then really inflation shouldn't play a part. Cutting someone's salary by 3% with 0% inflation should be the same as giving them a 2% raise when inflation is 5%. However, study after study has shown that people don't think rationally like this. It is much more acceptable for employers to offer wage increases at 3 percentage points less than inflation, rather than cutting their pay by 3% with no inflation. Therefore if there exists a relatively low, steady (a.k.a. predictable level of inflation) then the employer actually has a choice now and can in fact decrease there real wages because their nominal wages haven't gone down. Given GJ's position on inflation, we would be stuck with sticky wages meaning that employers would have to result to firing employees and not hiring new ones keeping unemployment at levels that depress economic development and keep demand too low for businesses (small or otherwise) from thriving.

Hopefully you now see why major cuts on government spending would exacerbate the current problem as opposed to solve it. Furthermore, pushing inflation down to zero would also lead to increased unemployment further harming our current recovery.

The real way to solve the current economic situation is to deal with the inequality in the country that has been increasing since 1979. There are a number of factors that have contributed to it (many of which are still unknown by economists), but cutting corporate taxes as well as benefits for the less well off is almost certainly not the right approach since that will lead to the opposite effect, further eroding the purchasing power of America's middle class which is the main driver of our economy.

I actually really want to like GJ a lot, partly because of his stance on social issues, but more so because he is willing to stand up for unpopular positions when popular candidates like Romney and Obama seem too afraid to act contrary to popular opinion. As much as I would like to agree with him, however, I can't fail to see the huge blemish that is his economic approach which would cause more harm to the American economy than any good it would do.

It seems like you are falling into the naturalistic fallacy. Just because something is true about nature does not imply that there is some special meaning. Furthermore reproduction is neither unique to living things, nor is it the case that reproduction is the only common feature of all living things.

If you say that the meaning of life is reproduction, at least provide an argument supporting your claim.

There is a difference between a cause and a necessary condition. The art school that rejected Hitler didn't cause the holocaust, but it was a necessary condition for the holocaust to have happened (probably). It seems like in your theory you argue that all necessary conditions should be considered causes. The line between these two concepts is not always clear, however and this is a much debated subject of philosophy (specifically action theory).

Now in the law this idea is important because it deals with responsibility and duty. According to Emmanuel Kant we have perfect duties and imperfect duties. A perfect duty is one that you must perform all the time, and can be blamed for not performing that duty. For example, let us say (as most people would) that we have a perfect duty to not kill innocent people. This would imply that it is wrong for us to ever kill innocent people. Even if 99% of the time you are not killing innocent people, you can still be held responsible for the remaining 1% of the time you are not performing your duty. Imperfect duties on the other hand, according to Kant, are duties in which we are praised if we do them, but cannot be blamed if we do not. The easiest to think of here is if you think that people have some duty to give to charity then you would almost certainly consider this duty an imperfect one. We praise those people who do give to charity but we do not expect people to give to charity 100% of the time. In fact if someone gives just half of what they have to charity we would say that this person is exceptionally charitable.

Your view also deals with positive and negative responsibility. To a strict consequentialist (such as an act utilitarian) there is morally no difference between acting and not acting. Allowing someone to drown if you can save them is just as bad as causing someone to drown (this example over simplifies the issue, but I'm sure you understand the general point). However, if someone has a libertarian view of ethics, they would argue that the only duties that we have involve positive actions and we can never be blamed for something we didn't do. The exceptions to this previous statement of course are if we have already made a promise to do something for someone as in the case of a contract.

Hopefully this gives you some idea of the general philosophical issues you may be interested in researching.

Recommended reading:

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Article on Action

Wikipedia entry on Kant's ethical theory

Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Article on Positive and Negative Liberty

Thanks, that was an interesting read. I did notice that a lot of the quotes they used were from the early 20th century, so it makes me wonder if maybe his views changed later in life.

Certainly surprising though that someone who seemed so committed to peace could hold views like that.

Do you have anything about the child molestation you mentioned?

If you don't mind me asking, could you site a source for the whole Ghandi thing? It's just that I've studied India before and never heard either of those accusations. Thanks.

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