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Austin Convention Center and the environment

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Cool video. Too bad it stops just when it was getting interesting.

That is just the youtube limits. Search youtube for "The Trap" to see the rest (the original was one hour and that was 1 of 6 on youtube).

I don't quite understand your comment though. Game theory is just a way to predict behavior of beings who behave according to their own self interest. It doesn't cause people to act in their own self interest.

(And to clarify, by "self interest" I mean whatever gives a person the most utility, satisfaction, etc., not what is in best long term interests.)

In addition to the video being a part of a longer one . It, itself, was one of three, hour long, programs.The first one (of which you have seen a bit), examines the theories of John Nash and Laing as people being suspicious, self interested beings and the adoption of his theories and models by economists. The others discuss what our Chicago friends did with it, how we reacted to it and (IMO) much of the reason why the world is the way it is today.

The three parts (if you are interested) are:

F*ck You Buddy

The Lonely Robot

We will force you to be free.

Edited by ShaunR
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I suspect most people--including me--would agree with you. I just don't think it's a realistic goal. How do you propose we do that? The economy is perhaps one of the most complex systems we deal with. It has so many inputs and interactions it is impossible to fully understand. We don't have the ability to manage it, much less control it. Heck, we don't even know how measure it adequately.

I agree that total control of it is impossible. What I am pointing out is the current state of the economy is an under damped system, prone to wild fluctuations. This was not always the case. Between the FDR and Reagan eras we had an over damped economy. This was due to laws and regulations put in place after the great depression to limit what risks banks could take on. Reagan started to erode this, Clinton continued the erosion and Bush2 finished the job. These changes led directly to the economic collapse in 2008. If you want to understand this, there are several good sources. Read ‘All the Devils Are Here’ or watch the documentary film ‘The Inside Job’. Also, there was a recent edition of Frontline on PBS that you might still be able to TIVO when they replay it.

What I am proposing is a return to the over damped economy, where we return to slow steady growth and limit the ‘financial innovations’ that the banks are currently doing.

If you disagree with that, then study up on what the purpose of a bank is. It is not supposed to be a profit center. A good analogy is the power grid. The bank is not the generator and it is not the consumer. It is the transmission line. Its job is to facilitate the flow of electricity (money). Due to resistance (interest) it is not a lossless conductor but is was never intended to function as a source of power (creating money from nothing).

When we let the banks start playing their gambling games with CDOs, derivatives, etc, we invited disaster. This is because companies are now always focused on the short term gain and not on long term stability. The stock market is rigged to enforce this perverse inventive by how they reward or punish companies based on their last quarter’s numbers.

Currently, the banks are fighting against the return of these regulations. And we are still very much at risk for systemic failure. Maybe even more so now that the banks are even bigger than before. If you need an immediate real world example of this, just read the recent news from JP Morgan.

It's not ignorance of scientific facts. It's distrust of scientists who have become political advocates. It's recognition that science is not, and never has been, the arbiter of truth. Beating people over the head with "facts" and "scientific consensus" is useless because it entirely misses the point. (Not that you have been doing that, but it seems to be the tactic most frequently employed by those espousing stronger environmental policy.)

I’m sorry but that is a load of BS. The scientists are not becoming political advocates. They are just laying out the facts. The environmentalists are the ones taking the political advocacy. Don't confuse one with the other.

I don't know what 'point' it is that you think is being missed, but the scientific method is the only process we have for understanding our reality. Science is the pursuit of facts and the creation of hypotheses that fit those facts to allow us to understand reality. As more facts are discovered, those hypotheses are adjusted to fit the new data. I have never heard a scientist lay claim to something called truth. Just the nature of reality. I don’t know what you think ‘TRUTH’ is but I have heard so many interpretations of that word that it really has no meaning to reality. You can believe what you want but don’t mistake those beliefs for what really exists in the world around you.

If you want some simple facts, here are a few:

The planet is getting warmer.

This is happening at a much faster rate than it has ever happened in the history of the planet.

This added energy into our climate system is causing more extremes in our weather.

Over the next several decades, there will be significant impacts to where humans can live and grow food on our planet.

There are steps we can take to mitigate the rate of this change and perhaps avoid the most extreme effects.

So, you can ‘believe’ what you what but the climate doesn’t care what you believe. I, for one, would like to leave my children and grandchildren with something resembling a decent planet to live on. But, I don’t have the ‘faith’ in humanity to fix this. It’s the ‘old frog in the pot of water’ fable.

Disagree. The laws are--for the most part--adequate. Laws didn't prevent Enron or Bernie Madoff from happening.

More laws and more regulations isn't the answer. It doesn't work. Throughout history people have shown remarkable ingenuity in finding loopholes in the laws (or ignoring them altogether) to advance their own self-interest. The idea that we can create a legal system to force people to behave morally is a fallacy.

Most of those loopholes were put there by lobbyists. I don’t think we need a larger amount of laws. Just better laws with less loopholes. And stronger enforcement of those laws. A good example of this is the current regulations that the financial industry is fighting against. They have been lobbying the GOP leadership to simply not fund the regulatory agencies so they cannot enforce the laws on the books.

Strongly disagree. How do you propose to accomplish this? A corporation is simply a group of people united in a common interest. You cannot legally limit a corporation's ability to influence government without also limiting the individual's ability to influence government. Public participation in government via voting, contacting their representative, political discussion, etc. is what democracy is all about. Corporate influence over legislation is not inherently bad. Can it be misused? Yes. Is it sometimes abused? You bet. Is that sufficient reason to trample all over the first amendment? Nope, not in my opinion.

(By the way, corporations already are more limited than citizens in their ability to affect the political process.)

Corporations are not people. People have first amendment rights. People have the right to speak their opinions freely. As I have been trying to point out, the ‘people’ running a corporation use it as a mask to deflect criticism for their actions. If you or I were to act as a corporation is supposed to (doing everything in our power to improve our financial position) then we would not have many friends and would be rejected by society.

The entity we call a corporation is not alive. It does not have a conscious. It does not have empathy, sympathy or understanding. It is not human. Therefore it is not entitled to human rights. So, if the people who make up the corporation (or whatever collective entity they belong to) want to speak freely, they should be allowed to as individuals. And we should be able to see who they are when we listen to their points of view so we can consider what they are saying within that context.

I personally think the current law that SCOTUS decided on actually hurts the first amendment much more than it supports it. This is because it allows the speech of the individual to be completely drowned out by big money.

Money is not speech. Speech is speech.

Several objections:

1. Corporations *do* pay for things like pollution and they directly affect their profit/loss calculations. They have to purchase, implement, and maintain pollution control system. They pay hazardous waste disposal fees. They are subject to penalties when systems fail or illegal emissions are discovered. They may not pay enough to induce them to behave how you think they should behave, but they do pay.

2. Before you can implement a "change so corporations make better choices," you have to define what a "better choice" is. That's far too vague to be actionable. "Better" is entirely subjective, so you'll have to be specific. You may think it is better to impose stricter environmental controls on industry, but the 400 people down at the paper plant might disagree when the plant closes because it cannot afford the costs associated with compliance.

Really? You seriously think corporations pay for all the environmental impacts of their actions? Have you ever heard of superfund? How about that plant up in Canada that has been polluting the Columbia river. (http://www.uswaterne.../3epabat12.html) Do you really think BP has paid or ever will pay the full cost of the impacts of the gulf oil spill?

Now, granted, many products would cost a lot more if all environmental impacts were factored into the price. So, we instead spread the cost out across the taxpayers. But the problem with that is it hides the price signal. Consumers cannot make a choice on products that have more or less impact on their environment because the true cost is hidden to them. And the result is companies do not choose the methods that have the least environmental impacts because their profit is not effected. Can we ever fix this entirely? Probably not. But should we try to do better? I think so.

I don't personally know anyone who thinks that, though I can understand how the ideas can be interpreted that way. Corporations will act in their own self interest; that is patently obvious. But you know what? Everyone acts in their own self-interest. The only difference is a corporation's self-interest is measured in dollars and an individual's self-interest can't be measured.

If only voters would act in their economic self-interest...

It may be they currently have too much control over the regulations, but that doesn't mean they shouldn't be allowed input into the process. Does a judge lose objectivity because he listens to a defendant's argument? The only way a judge can act fairly is to hear arguments from both sides. Why should regulatory agencies be any different when making decisions on regulations? Regulatory agencies are in a position of power, and any form of power is subject to abuse by those who hold it. We can put checks in place to try and prevent abuse, but they are all imperfect and corrupt people find ways around them. Taking away a corporation's voice isn't the answer to corruption.

They can have a voice, but the current process is to let them write the legislation themselves. Why are we even paying the lawmakers anymore? All they do is solicit money and cast the occasional vote.


Read the article--unimpressed. Listened to the podcast--still unimpressed. Downloaded the study and read it. Now it makes more sense but I'm still unimpressed by it, and even less by the NPR article because it appears to willingly overlook the realities of the situation. (And I usually enjoy NPR.)

The article's tone strongly suggests that corporate lobbying is used to exert unethical control over legislation, broadly painting corporations, lobbiests, and congress as immoral for participating in the activity. In reality, congress' real choice was to either pass the bill allowing them to bring in the money at a 5% tax rate or not pass the bill and let the money sit offshore. The study even points out evidence that businesses often leave their offshore earnings in foreign accounts rather than pay the 35% tax rate to bring them back to the US. NPR doesn't mention that at all. Furthermore, the intent of the bill was to allow the businesses to repatriate the funds for the purposes of creating jobs. (It did not achieve that goal for a variety of reasons outlined in the study.)

The NPR article is a classic example of a false dilemma. It presents the businesses as having the option between 'being selfish' and lobbying congress for the 5% tax rate at the expense of Joe Q Public or 'being good corporate citizens' and paying the full 35% tax rate. That is inaccurate, misleading, and irresponsible. It also feeds the public perception that corporations have undue influence over the legislature, when the study doesn't claim or support that idea in any way. Who is the real immoral entity in this scenario?

Well, I disagree. Why shouldn’t they have to pay the 35% to bring the money back in. In reality, with all the loopholes in the tax law, US companies pay a much lower rate than that. (http://thinkprogress...-low/?mobile=nc)

Now, if you think the rate is too high, then that is a discussion we could talk about. I would be in favor of a lower rate and less loopholes. That would even the playing field between companies who can afford the best tax lawyers and those who can’t. But this crazy 5% rate with little more than a promise to use the fund for job growth is ridiculous. If you want to do that, then force them to spend it on expansion. But that again is stupid. Taxes have little if any impact on job creation. We have had massive job growth when taxes were high. And we currently have the lowest rates in decades but slow growth. Growth is based on one thing: demand. If a company can make more money by hiring and producing more, then they will. The line about how an entrepreneur with a great idea will only create a company if his taxes are low is BS. If I have a million dollar idea and the tax rate is 40% instead of 30%, I’m still going to do it because 60% of a million dollars is still more than 0% if I don’t even try!

Oh, and if the so-called small business owner reinvested their profits in the company instead of extracting them as personal income, then they would not have to pay taxes on that money in the first place. But again, there needs to be demand for there to be growth. So, the 1% are not job creators and never will be. The consumer is the job creator and always will be.

Oh, and remember the bank bailouts? Remember Paulson saying we gave them the money and they promised to use it to lend? How well did that work? Guess there wasn’t any profit in supporting main street (the taxpayers).

While this thread has been interesting, it is taking up a lot of my time. Don’t you have work to do too Dave?

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