I’m working on an essay on patents and progress. Does anyone want to give it a read and give me some feedback?
Does anyone have a good essay about federalism—particularly the history of the US and how we have divided power between the federal governments and the states?
“Land value taxes are generally favored by economists as they do not cause economic inefficiency, and reduce inequality. A land value tax is a progressive tax, in that the tax burden falls on land owners, because land ownership is correlated with wealth and income. The land value tax has been referred to as “the perfect tax” and the economic efficiency of a land value tax has been accepted since the eighteenth century. Economists since Adam Smith and David Ricardo have advocated this tax because it does not hurt economic activity, and encourages development without subsidies.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Land_value_tax
Despite this rather glowing summary, and support by economists from Milton Friedman to Paul Krugman, land taxes are rare. The Economist explains:
“The bigger barrier is political. LVTs would impose concentrated costs on landowners [a politically powerful constituency], who face a new tax bill and reduced sale price. The benefit, by contrast, is spread equally over today’s population and future generations. The problem is unlikely to be overcome. Economists will continue to advocate LVTs, and politicians will continue to ignore them.”https://www.economist.com/the-economist-explains/2014/11/10/why-land-value-taxes-are-so-popular-yet-so-rare
Some jurisdictions have managed to implement land value taxes. Denmark and Estonia have a form of the tax, and a handful of municipalities in Pennsylvania (Allentown, Harrisburg, Altoona from 2009-2018ish and Pittsburgh from 1911-2000) have experimented with it or its cousin split-rate taxation. Split-rate taxation taxes both land and structures like a traditional property tax, though it taxes land at a higher rate (often 5:1) than structures.
Thank you so much, this is very helpful!
I’m still researching various income streams for governments and I’m wondering: will income tax be the best way to tax in the future? (I’m thinking about remote work and how we might be taxed in one location but living in another one). Or are there governments who are pulling tax revenue from other unique places? Are there any good books or essays about unique tax structures that have worked well/make sense?
You will hear a lot about Georgism which advocates a tax on the (unimproved) value of land. This might be a starting point: https://www.astralcodexten.com/p/your-book-review-progress-and-poverty
SOME RANDOM LINKS:
Experimental results from getting a 3yo interested in technology:
1. I bought her a little broom, which she liked, and then showed her that our robot vacuum could do the same work automatically, After a year she’s still not totally comfortable with the sound, and gets scared when it’s going towards her. Best decision we made was getting a model that did /not/ have a mobile app, instead using a remote control (I believe it was this model: https://us.eufy.com/products/t2108124?ref=navimenu_2_2_4_1_img). She has learned to walk over to the shelf, find the button which makes it return home, and carefully watch it until it docks. I stress that, even when it feels scary to her, she’s always in control because she can find the remote.
2. Assembled a LEGO-like robot dog after she got excited seeing one on YouTube, but again it was too loud for her, and she gets very skittish when a device is moving towards her.
3. She enjoys asking questions to Bing Chat. I hold up my phone and turn on Siri dication, which she’s learned to recognize. She asks her question and I use the keyboard to clean up the text, then submit. I read her the output. She mostly asks under-specified questions about plot points in her favorite books, but doesn’t mind that the answers are basically a re-hash of a given character’s Wikipedia page. She’s never gotten interested in image generation, contra my expectations, mostly DALL-E can’t do specific characters (I haven’t tried the others).
This book is “for babies” but it’s probably just about right for a 3yo. It is the best “STEM for babies” book I have ever seen, maybe the only one I really like: https://computerengineeringforbabies.com/
Please let me know how to delete my account and all comments and posts related to it. Much appreciated
For anyone who’s interested: I’ll be teaching the next cohorts of The Foundations of New York soon! It’s an accelerated introduction into NYC government/law that also touches on dependencies at the state and federal levels. Class begins in mid-April and goes through May.
Some thoughts on Meaning & Modern Job SatisfactionJason recently shared a thread on the tension between the objective criteria that make work meaningful increasing while the subjective experience of perceived meaning of work seems to be decreasing. As with most things related to progress, much of this likely stems from a combination of rising expectations and the current emotional climate of pessimism. However, with the help of several conversations, I believe that I’ve identified two elements that may help further explain the gap between objective and subjective experiences.
I was talking about this with a friend — Ashley — who is an upper middle manager at Nike. She’s worked at Nike for 10+ years, with numerous promotions and “career success” by most standards, she enjoys her work, loves the people she works with and has a fairly high degree of autonomy. She’s also an athlete, mostly a runner, who engages in the running community and does Nike sponsored events every year.
Based on all of this — the mastery, autonomy, recognition, human connection and the intersection of her work with her personal life — Ashley should experience a high degree of meaning in her work, but she shared that she experiences almost no meaning. That said, she has no plans to leave and her job has lots of emotional upside including being supportive of her family life.
In digging into why, it largely came down to two things (that she did not enunciate exactly, but I summarize as):
Feeling 100% replaceable — Ashley explained how many people she’s seen come & go over the years and how professionally, its meant very little to Nike. They may be missed personally and there may be some short term pain from a transition, but that, in her words, ‘the whole point of the corporation is so that no individual matters. We are all replaceable — and that’s a feature.’ I can imagine a past where, even a low meaning job by today’s standard, would not have felt so replaceable. Growing up in a (very) small town, I can tell you with confidence that when the pizza place closed, no one starved, but it was MISSED in a way that even the most popular pizza place in a city never could be.
Genuine uncertainty of causing harm vs benefit — While Ashley can repeat the marketing premises (and, yes, Nike has an entire team whose sole purpose is to market internally, to employees), she is genuinely uncertain of whether Nike produces a net benefit on the world. She conceptually embraces the ideals of Nike, but does not trust that Nike acts in a manner that expresses those ideals consistently nor that it is even possible for Nike, within a capitalistic system, to act as a net-positive for society.Anecdotally, I had a very different conversation with a friend who works at OpenAI that lead to a similar conclusion (s/he wishes to remain anonymous) . While he does not feel replaceable, he is very concerned about how his job has shifted to become significantly less meaningful and more challenging to be fully engaged with as his ethical concerns about the company and general concern about the future have increased in the last 8 months. To beat a horse dead with anecdotes, my father, who mines garnet, finds enduring and genuine meaning from unlocking resources from their raw state into one that is usable. He feels little uncertainty about the net benefit of his work. Meanwhile many people that I meet in my day-to-day (highly educated / not ever going to be miners) are honestly appalled by the idea of mining, let alone that the mine is within the boundaries of a protected wilderness and generally view his work as detrimental, rather than beneficial (and thus not meaningful).
While both of these are highly subjective criteria, so is an individual’s assessment of meaning. Framing matters. I think that people, and especially younger generations, are weighed down by their genuinely uncertain about how to positively impact the world — and a huge chunk of that is what progress studies is looking to address! It’s also why, in my opinion, the clarity and confidence of the EA worldview was able to spread so rapidly.
Here’s some research that dances around supporting the ideas, although I wasn’t able to find anything that nailed it in a cursory search:
You’re probably well aware of studies that indicate decreasing trust, which in turn leads to a dearth of confidence in the actions that will lead to their desired result. EG: the well supported idea that there is declining trust in institutions, scientists, and how greenwashing has / is significantly diminishing trust in corporate ethics (as well as scandals like ENRON, near disasters like the 2008 banking crisis, etc)
Here is an HBR thought piece about potential relationships between talent & corporations that is relevant Plus a Quora thread on “Are employees really replaceable?” that I think highlights normal people’s thoughts on it (clue — YES!)
As one further, bonus anecdote, Ryan Holiday just wrote a piece about completely changing his marketing strategy to align with building a more meaningful life.
This hackernews thread about working at the DoE national labs gives a positive impression of them although with some caveats
“A pound of orange conserve costs 3 shillings, as much as a skilled labourer earns in nine days. Can you imagine working for nine days for one pound of orange marmalade” “Small wonder that the poor skip breakfast.” — Time Traveller’s Guide to Medieval England, Ian Mortimer Source: shorturl.at/iknX9
Currently, with the median 2022 Australian employee earnings of $1,250/week, you could buy 208kg, 458 pounds, of Cottee’s Breakfast Marmalade from Amazon, with free shipping, for nine days equivalent pre-tax dollars; an increase of roughly 45,700%. 🍊
Really interesting twitter thread on the thermodynamics of thermal energy sources(like coal and nuclear). The tldr is that at reasonably large scales (like 10x current energy) thermal energy sources would lead to ~0.3 deg C warming, which implies potential thermodynamic limits to energy growth (and the importance of renewable energy which is non-thermal e.g. solar, wind)
Interesting thread, but I draw a somewhat different conclusion: in the long run, we need a heat-management system for the Earth (and eventually, other planets). Managing CO2 is good but insufficient.
There are also some replies contesting the original claims, e.g.: https://twitter.com/EnergyJvd/status/1608898973313699840
In many discussions about economic progress, concerns around safety and sustainability were raised.
I really liked how Tyler Cowen used the phrase “sustainable economic growth” in Stubborn Attachments to encompass concerns around safety and sustainability. My view is that progress which inevitably leads us off a cliff isn’t real progress because over some time interval it approaches zero.
I find that framing progress in terms of resource efficiency to be useful. A lot of people equate economic progress with an image of factories spewing smoke into the atmosphere. However, progress to me is about using our scarce resources more efficiently, and is thus inherently about sustainability.
Throughout the history of economic progress, we have become increasingly capable of creating more economic value using less scarce resources. E.g. today’s cars, stoves, computers, lightbulbs, generators, motors, etc. are more efficient than their predecessors. In my view, our goal here is to extend this trend into the future, e.g. by creating fusion reactors that produce one kilowatt hour for 5% the price it costs today, and by creating computer algorithms that increase the efficiency of our scarce labour force and so on.
Is it too parochial to equate economic progress with resource efficiency? Or does it make some sense?
Efficiency is a dimension of progress, but it is only one dimension. Sometimes we make progress by improving the power, speed, or throughput of our machines or processes. Not all improvements are efficiency improvements. But over time, higher efficiency is one of the big trends of industrial progress.
I agree that anything that leads us off a cliff, that is, leads us to some disaster for humanity, is not progress.
But the problem with the concept of “sustainability” is: what are you trying to sustain? Our goal should be sustained progress, sustained economic growth, sustained improvements in human well-being—not sustaining indefinitely the use of some particular technology, which is in fact stagnation, the opposite of progress.
We have sustainable progress not by using “sustainable” resources, but by switching to new, much more abundant resources when old ones are running out—as we switched from whale oil to petroleum, or from ivory to plastic, or from manure to synthetic fertilizer. More here: Unsustainable
See also: A dialogue on growth, progress, and “sustainability”; Reframing “sustainability”
Thank you Jason. That’s a very thoughtful response. I will check out those recommendations.
NYC Housing policy is at a turning point:
The American political system is far more functional than most people would guess, particularly when you zoom in to various states and cities. New York City and State are seemingly on the cusp of a housing policy revolution, and there’s no better time to get into politics here if you value housing abundance.
An NYC with lifted growth controls would be transformational, and I think most people are sleeping on it. I wrote the case for New York housing optimism here. The past month has been truly remarkable, and more people need to know about it.
Cross-post that essay here as a linkpost!
From Allison Duettmann:
July 10 & 11 in SF: interested in driving progress on molecular machines using software tooling? Apply to join Foresight Institute Designing Molecular Machines Workshop, chaired by William Shih, Ben Reinhardt, and Adam Marblestone: https://foresight.org/molecular-workshop/
Potentially interesting paper: How predictable is technological progress?
Recently it has become clear that many technologies follow a generalized version of Moore’s law, i.e. costs tend to drop exponentially, at different rates that depend on the technology. Here we formulate Moore’s law as a correlated geometric random walk with drift, and apply it to historical data on 53 technologies. We derive a closed form expression approximating the distribution of forecast errors as a function of time. Based on hind-casting experiments we show that this works well, making it possible to collapse the forecast errors for many different technologies at different time horizons onto the same universal distribution. This is valuable because it allows us to make forecasts for any given technology with a clear understanding of the quality of the forecasts. As a practical demonstration we make distributional forecasts at different time horizons for solar photovoltaic modules, and show how our method can be used to estimate the probability that a given technology will outperform another technology at a given point in the future.
A new study out today finds that keeping Diablo Canyon open would:
help avoid blackouts
significantly reduce electric power costs
significantly reduce emissions and natural gas use
accelerate progress toward the state’s clean energy goals
Full report from the Brattle Group (PDF)
Twitter thread from me with highlights
Misha Chellam on YIMBYism broadly construed:
At its core, YIMBY is about what de Tocqueville called “self interest, rightly understood.” It is about folks who have access to a resource deciding not to protect it and make it scarce, but instead opening it up to a broader community. It is about battling selfishness in our public policy, and believing in a positive-sum, abundant view of the future.
Thread by me on the history of wheels and steering: https://twitter.com/jasoncrawford/status/1530698408566005760
I’ve heard good things about this book that came out recently (maybe today?)
How the World Became Rich: The Historical Origins of Economic Growth, by Mark Koyama and Jared Rubin
Most humans are significantly richer than their ancestors. Humanity gained nearly all of its wealth in the last two centuries. How did this come to pass? How did the world become rich?Mark Koyama and Jared Rubin dive into the many theories of why modern economic growth happened when and where it did. They discuss recently advanced theories rooted in geography, politics, culture, demography, and colonialism. Pieces of each of these theories help explain key events on the path to modern riches. Why did the Industrial Revolution begin in 18th-century Britain? Why did some European countries, the US, and Japan catch up in the 19th century? Why did it take until the late 20th and 21st centuries for other countries? Why have some still not caught up?Koyama and Rubin show that the past can provide a guide for how countries can escape poverty. There are certain prerequisites that all successful economies seem to have. But there is also no panacea. A society’s past and its institutions and culture play a key role in shaping how it may – or may not – develop.
Most humans are significantly richer than their ancestors. Humanity gained nearly all of its wealth in the last two centuries. How did this come to pass? How did the world become rich?
Mark Koyama and Jared Rubin dive into the many theories of why modern economic growth happened when and where it did. They discuss recently advanced theories rooted in geography, politics, culture, demography, and colonialism. Pieces of each of these theories help explain key events on the path to modern riches. Why did the Industrial Revolution begin in 18th-century Britain? Why did some European countries, the US, and Japan catch up in the 19th century? Why did it take until the late 20th and 21st centuries for other countries? Why have some still not caught up?
Koyama and Rubin show that the past can provide a guide for how countries can escape poverty. There are certain prerequisites that all successful economies seem to have. But there is also no panacea. A society’s past and its institutions and culture play a key role in shaping how it may – or may not – develop.