Archive for the ‘Posts that shouldn’t have been written’ Category

Suppose you’ve imposed a (non-trivial) burden upon someone else without their consent. What is the right course for society to take in response? One option is to force you to fully compensate your victim. Requiring sufficient compensation would completely transfer the cost you’ve imposed upon the rest of society back to you. Knowing this ex ante, your individual cost-benefit calculation becomes identical to society’s cost-benefit calculation, for you expect not only to enjoy every social benefit, but also to suffer every social cost, flowing from your decision.

What ought to happen, then, if you do not have the funds to fully compensate your victim? The government may well seize your physical assets, selling what they can to make up for the shortfall. If even that is not enough to repay your debt to society, the government may have to take ownership of a more intimate asset: you. As with a bankrupt firm, the government may lend you the money you require to fully compensate your victim in a timely manner, but must take temporary ownership of you while you repay your debt in exchange. You would, in effect, be offering to collateralize such a risky loan with the only valuable you have left: your future stream of income.

Here’s my proposal: when a crime is committed (ignoring so-called victimless crimes for the time being), the government produces a transparent, predictable estimate of the crime’s social cost. If the criminal is able to fully pay the price, possibly by liquidating her portfolio, she may do so. If she is not able to pay the price, she goes to prison. Instead of serving a prison term, however, her mandate is to pay down her debt to society in full. In prison, she can produce whatever goods and services it is feasible for her to produce in that setting, which the government will sell to the general public, collecting most of the proceeds. With her small share of the proceeds, she may purchase a better standard of living in prison, or she may contribute extra funds towards paying down her debt, thereby shortening her stay in prison.

The signal such a policy would send is clear: if you commit a crime, be prepared to pay the price. If you’re not so prepared, you will be partially enslaved by the government (i.e., the government will have a controlling equity stake in you) until you have paid the price. Moreover, the higher the quantity and quality of the goods and services you produce for the general public’s consumption, the better your standard of living in prison, the sooner you exit prison, or perhaps both. Your incentive before you commit the crime is to carry out society’s cost-benefit calculation for yourself, and even if you go through with it, your incentive is to be as productive as possible for the benefit of your society, much as it would be outside of prison. Fewer people would be in prison, most would have shorter and less miserable stays, and much less human capital would be wasting away behind bars. All while reducing crime rates. What’s not to love (besides the optics of slavery 2.0…)?


Well, I blew it

Posted: February 8, 2012 by alephnaughty in Important, Posts that shouldn't have been written, Very important
Tags: , ,

Colorado and Minnesota, what gives? Hate you guys. New prediction: This ice cream I am about to consume will be delicious. Yep, it is. The streak is back!

Growing up you learn to appreciate history, if only in an effort to not repeat the mistakes others have made through out history. Things like the horrors of slavery, treatment of native Americans or the brutality of the Civil War. It’s sort of funny looking at how history is written, some sort of fixation on the bad which has occurred rather than focusing on the lighter sides of things. Think that Tiger Woods will ever be remembered as a family man? How bout that OJ Simpson was actually a half decent football player?

Race is always a difficult subject to talk about – say something controversial and you’ll have swarms of lawyers at your door step looking to pad their pockets with oodles of cash – but I have to ask…how did we get here? Why is it such a bad thing to call into question the merits of things? Why can’t we talk about touchy subjects and not worry about things. February is a great time to discuss affirmative action and the merits for both the work force and educational settings while at the same time remembering the history of how we got to this state of society.

What is racism? It’s the preferential treatment of one group of people versus another based on some physical or genetic aspect. What is affirmative action? Basically it’s the legal foundation for reverse racism, that is to say, that in a given situation, preferential treatment of a protected person is legal. It was originally implemented to promote diversity in educational settings and later extended to the work place. The theory here being that by offering a move diverse learning experience, students will be better prepared for the work place and will increase the competitive advantage which American institutions bring to the world market place.

Inherent to affirmative action are multiple layers of racism. That, without some sort of legal protection, minorities or another protected group would never be privy to the same  higher education or employment opportunities as their non-protected counter parts who take these things for granted. I read this as meaning that there is a general understanding that the skills and education performance for a protected individual is below that of an unprotected group of people. In addition to this general understanding, that the better equipped non-protected group should for some reason be discriminated against due to the fact that they arbitrarily fit into that non-protected class of peoples.

To me, this comes off as nothing but racist. Why should equally qualified students jockying for the same spot at a university be subject to differential treatment. Isn’t the purpose of higher education to produce a highly qualified individual which contributes to society? If the university is no longer accepting the best student for a given position, isn’t that somehow defeating the purpose of higher education at the cost of the other student’s education?

I want to attempt a bit of a social experiment here, encouraging people to share their results. Think about high school or college – was there ever really a cross pollination of ideas across races or was there a stigma that like should hang out with like. I attended a well-to-do private high school with one of the most diverse campuses in the country. The one thing which always stuck out in my mind was the formation of cliques – Asians were always with Asians, Blacks were always hanging out with Blacks, Latinos with Latinos and so on. It makes sense, people want to be around people which similar experiences with them – it’s a comfort factor that we all inadvertently became imbued with. Even in the classrooms for group projects I found groups were almost always homogenous.Even in groups where diversity was forced, I feel that the overall outcome was unchanged, meaning regardless of the experiences of the group we would have gotten the same grade on the project.

I am slightly jaded in the sense that I know of a few students with lower SAT scores and academic records being accepted into programs which I also applied to only to personally receive rejection letters. I’m pretty jealous of them, I’ll admit it… but my argument still stands true – diversity would exist without affirmative action and the use of affirmative action is racist. Why can’t we learn from the mistake that racism in any form (even reverse racism) does not benefit society?

I’d like to pull particular attention to two of my favorite Black inventors: Lonnie Johnston (inventor of the Super Soaker) and George Washington Carver (invented peanut butter)

…that we nailed Nevada, Groundhog Day, and the Super Bowl winner. So…word to ya motha.

Onto Colorado and Minnesota we go:

1st: Rom Mittney

2nd: Sant Rickorum

3rd: Ging Newtrich

4th: Pan Roul

Same for bof states. Be amazed, y’all.

Food stamps, there’s a problem

Posted: January 31, 2012 by nullpointerexceptional in Economics, Important, Posts that shouldn't have been written

One brisk Saturday evening you find yourself at your local gas station/convenience store combo. Nothing seems out of place. Yup there are your teenagers working the register. The tweens scoping out the candy isle. The old woman stealing sugar packets from the coffee island. Everything checks out. You grab your warm coffee, after all you have a long night of partying ahead of you. Eventually you mosey on up to the checkout line, only to find everyone in the county came to the store at the same time. Great, just great. Looking for something to do, you start to snoop on that person ahead of you in line – well the 10 cans of Red Bull surely caught your eye, quickly interrupted by the small child screaming that the top of their lungs that they want candy and lots of it.

Yup, nothing out of the ordinary…well until that person in front of you plops the 10 cans of Red Bull and various candy bars on the table. But that’s not what caught your eye. It’s the swipe of an EBT (food stamps) card and the transaction reading APPROVED across the cheap LED screen. That can’t be right, can it? Are you telling me that person just bought $30 worth of junk using food stamps? I know that about only 1 cent of that probably came from my contribution to society but the concept still boggles the mind.

You’re still trying to wrap you head around this idea when you notice the newspaper headline “Food stamps to be accepted at McDonalds.” You’re freaking kidding me right? This has to be the twilight zone where a $7 Big Mac meal with their large soda is being financed by the greater public. You pass out from the frustration, hitting your head on the ‘Slippery when wet sign’ (well no shit Sherlock) only to awake in a hospital bed hours later. What do you mean you only take Medicaid? Concussion from the fall? Kick me out on the street because my company has a good insurance company? Maybe this is the twilight zone…oh right, this is America.

What’s that you say? You just bought a 70” HDTV? Jeez, you must make a lot of money – I can see the 20″ rims on your ever-so-fuel-efficient SUV. Thank the government? What, why? Food stamps? What the hell. Oh right, your $500 a month in food stamps let’s you spend the $500 you would have normally spent on food on sneakers instead – don’t think the government thought of that one.

So much for only being used for necessities. Food stamps, the next American dream.


I’m gonna have to get on welfare so I can hit up the local strip club:

There are two kinds of Americans. The first are autistic. The second are drunk, drugged up, and manically depressed. Why? Don’t ask me. But, here’s a theory: the economy hates the second group, just like you hate your drunk, drugged up, and manically depressed cousin (and yes, the Oxford comma is absolutely essential) who just eats all your food and complains about life being unfair.

Now, Mr. Scientist (you might say), what use is this theory? Just seems like you’re hating on people who already hate themselves. Well, I am doing just that. But, I’m also doing science. If my theory is right, here’s a prediction it makes: the second group has shitty economic fortunes compared with the first. Ta da…

From personality to neuropsychiatric disorders, individual differences in brain function are known to have a strong heritable component. Here we report that between close relatives, a variety of neuropsychiatric disorders covary strongly with intellectual interests. We surveyed an entire class of high-functioning young adults at an elite university for prospective major, familial incidence of neuropsychiatric disorders, and demographic and attitudinal questions. Students aspiring to technical majors (science/mathematics/engineering) were more likely than other students to report a sibling with an autism spectrum disorder (p = 0.037). Conversely, students interested in the humanities were more likely to report a family member with major depressive disorder (p = 8.8×10−4), bipolar disorder (p = 0.027), or substance abuse problems (p = 1.9×10−6). A combined PREdisposition for Subject MattEr (PRESUME) score based on these disorders was strongly predictive of subject matter interests (p = 9.6×10−8). Our results suggest that shared genetic (and perhaps environmental) factors may both predispose for heritable neuropsychiatric disorders and influence the development of intellectual interests.

You know whose economic fortunes are better than humanities majors? Science majors. Just look at those p-values. Hot damn. I didn’t pay much attention in AP statistics (I just remember gems like “power is desirable”, and “we want small Ps”), but this looks pretty sciency to me. And the authors are from Princeton!

OK, so, my theory sucks. Granted. But how about them p-values? And for the record, I belong to the first group, have shitty economic fortunes, and I spend my days eating other people’s food and complaining about the unfairness of life. I am the two Americas.