Friday, August 19, 2016

The Star Trek Future and Getting There From Here

Science fiction has regularly depicted a world where the robots were ubiquitous and ... somehow ... society had evolved.  Remember in Star Trek, they somehow were beyond money; in a society that had gone beyond scarcity?  They were officers in a space-going Navy, but never talked about getting paid?  When they wanted something, they told the replicator to make it for them.  But nobody in that universe ever depicted the world between ours and theirs, where the robots were displacing workers and society had to be funded more and more by fewer and fewer people.  Replicators are cool, but unlike warp engines, I'm not even aware of any research leading to them; the mathematics of special relativity that give us the incredibly large amounts of energy when we turn some matter into energy needs to run backwards in a replicator.  It would take the energy of multiple hydrogen bombs to "freeze out" the matter in a few drops of water. 

Consider the Star Wars universe.  It was a universe where robots were everywhere.  Parts to build intelligent robots were so common that a kid on a desert planet could build his own.  What place is there for humans?  In the Force Awakens, we see the heroine, Rey, scavenging parts from derelict ships and wreckage for money from a scrap merchant, giving the impression humans do the jobs that are beneath the ubiquitous androids.  If that scrap were valuable, wouldn't they send robots to strip the wreckage?  In this universe, humans are still needed for work, despite sufficient Artificial Intelligence that 'droids are free to move at will in society.  How is that even possible? 
(Star Wars: The Force Awakens scene, with Rey selling scrap to Unkur - source.)

All of that is to lead into an article I'd like to recommend folks read.  It's not academic or remote from our current situation at all; it examines the stresses in a society where the few who still have the desk make a good living as we transition to a society where the robots do all the work and humans are reduced to a minor side role.  The article is "The Omen of Lost Shirts", and it's on LinkedIn - a place I hardly ever read.  H/T to 90 Miles from Tyranny. The author, a mechanical engineer/ PE, writes:
... I’d like to lead in with the following quote from an on-line political newsletter I stumbled upon:
Destroy people’s hopes for a better life and you make riot, revolution, anarchy, and war inevitable.
Think about that quote in the context of these three articles, Drop in real wages longest for 50 years, says ONS, Shocking data revision by feds: Americans’ wages dropped 4.2% instead of rising in the first quarter, and Working 60 Hours A Week At 3 Part-Time Jobs And Still Living Paycheck To Paycheck among a legion of similar pieces over the last few years.  And then consider this, specifically that “Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency.”  And this quote about the AI/robot jobpocalypse (bolding added):
Harari calls it “the rise of the useless class” and ranks it as one of the most dire threats of the 21st century. In a nutshell, as artificial intelligence gets smarter, more humans are pushed out of the job market. No one knows what to study at college, because no one knows what skills learned at 20 will be relevant at 40. Before you know it, billions of people are useless, not through chance but by definition.
"The Omen of Lost Shirts" refers to an incident that happened in France last October.  Two officials of Air France, one of them an deputy director of HR, were running a meeting about layoffs.  Some 3000 union protestors were present, and some of them rushed the two executives.  One had his jacket and shirt shredded, presumably by grabbing and pulling, while the other had his shirt ripped off from under his jacket.  Both were eventually able to flee under police protection.  

The author spends time talking about H1B visas and the shenanigans going on with them, which I've written about, as well as the incident I also covered in which SEIU protestors went to a bankers house to "make it personal", invading the porch space and physically threatening the child left in the home. 

It's safe to say you and I are not the only ones expecting a bull market in pitchforks, and torches, because this just can't go on and continue to escalate.  Someone is going to catch a load of 00 buckshot in their face and you know the old saying, "it's all fun and games until someone loses an eye everything from the neck up".   

It's a longish article, but the smartest thing I've read in weeks.  Do go RTWT.  I don't know that any society can navigate the road from our current economics to the shiny, optimistic Star Trek future.  At some point, it seems that 10% of society will be working while paying 90% taxes for that privilege, and I don't think any society can work with those numbers.  The alternative is a dystopian future more like Blade Runner. 
(the dystopian El Lay of Blade Runner)


23 comments:

  1. I think the "Blade Runner" future is far more likely...

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  2. The economic theory used by the cited article makes predictions which are contrary to the actual history of disruptive technological innovation. Mechanizing the weaving of cloth made cloth so cheap it is now affordable by all wealth levels, even starving third world children. Contrarily, the article's theory would predict cloth would only be afforded by rich people who can hire weaving robots built by the highly skilled. The article is wrong.

    You just built a chip tray for a labor-saving device you are manufacturing yourself, for yourself. That implies if you found yourself in the uncompetitive 90%, you would just build robots to make food/medicine/stuff and not be hurt by what the 10% were doing. Everyone can bootstrap a lifestyle using the free sun, rain and dirt to grow food. Unless government bans it, but that's a different problem.

    Whites are angry that liberty has increased and they now have to compete with Browns. I wonder what percentage of the grumpy is racism, having proved the Brown is just as good as the White.

    Nearly half of Americans would have trouble finding $400 to pay for an emergency.

    Yet they pay how much each month for cell phones and cable?

    At some point, it seems that 10% of society will be working while paying 90% taxes for that privilege

    10% of society will be working full time, because it's exciting to colonize space. They will pay no taxes. 90% of society will be working three hours a week selling beanie babies on ebay to the 10%, thereby still earning enough to eat cheap robot-made food. They will collect no taxes.

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    1. I'm sorry but there's just so much I can't agree with here that I don't know where to start. The article doesn't predict "cloth would only be afforded by rich people who can hire weaving robots built by the highly skilled." Cloth is a really bad example, because people have been optimizing weaving machines for centuries, and I doubt they can really be made significantly better. The important part is that the robots won't be built by "highly skilled" human workers, the robots will be built by other robots.

      I have no idea where you get this: "Whites are angry that liberty has increased and they now have to compete with Browns." The racism argument? Seriously? First off, as far as I can tell, it's factually completely wrong. Second off, it doesn't come up in anything I talked about or linked to. Are you referring to the H1B visa fiascos? I don't think that people being angry because they were forced to train lower-skilled and lower-paid people to sit at their desk and do their jobs, while being forced to sign agreements they wouldn't tell anyone it was going on, has anything to do with racism; it has to do with injustice.

      As for your last paragraph, I'll just say I doubt it. I don't think the market for artisanal beanie babies (or other trinkets) is big enough to support the planet. But we can hope.

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    2. The Luddites claimed cottage weavers displaced by automation would be unable to find anything else to do in the marketplace, and therefore would starve. This did not occur. The fast food workers about to be displaced by robots are making the same claim, which I reject because it never came true at any time during the entire industrial revolution. We have 150 years of history to extrapolate from. I predict the outcome of future disruptive technical innovation will match the history of past disruptive technical innovation.

      The Omen piece you linked discusses Disney replacing their (presumably mostly White) IT workers with (presumably mostly Brown) Indian H1B holders, that link is http://www.computerworld.com/article/2915904/it-outsourcing/fury-rises-at-disney-over-use-of-foreign-workers.html

      What's the moral theory of injustice for H1B? Disney is a temporal kingdom as well as a magic one, and owes their serfs a place in the structure of production for life? Did Disney promise jobs for life as long as workers continue to perform? The workers aren't being forced to continue to work, nobody is pointing a gun at them. The jobs don't belong to the workers, they belong to the employers.

      If an H1B amount of iron curtain is a good thing but a Soviet Union amount of iron curtain is a bad thing, then there's a sign change between good to bad. How and why does the sign change? How do you calculate the amount of iron curtain for maximum good? Free trade in labor is good right up until your own job is replaced by a H1B? Why does your group get to decide what jobs the Indian worker is or is not allowed to compete for, in what locations on the planet? Who made your group the ruler?

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    3. You miss the point with the H1B issue. America is a country of citizens. We elect leaders to work for and to protect the citizens. Somewhere along the way these leaders began taking money under the table to pass laws contrary to that goal (working for and protecting citizens). H1B is a great example of this. Companies do not hire H1B workers because they can't find citizens to do the work they do it because it is a form of slave labor. Most H1B workers will eagerly work 80 hours a week for a 40 hour wage AND that 40 hour wage is less than the company had to pay for a citizen working that 40 hours. Is this a good thing? Maybe for the company but certainly not for the citizens. What the citizens need is to connect the dots and recognize that companies, unions, activists groups, special interests, illegal alien organizations and others are buying special treatment at the expense of the tax paying citizen. We need to more carefully watch our elected and unelected leaders and hold them to account when they do this. The H1B program should never have been passed, period! It is theft and graft two words that today are synonymous with politics (look at the Clintons, our DOJ, Obama, the EPA and many other government organizations. We are being fleeced and marginalized. Our government is selling and even giving away citizenships (to people they know will vote for them). There is/will be a tipping point where you can't get your government back. IMHO I fully expect that day will come and when it does there will be blood. I hope and pray it is politicians blood but I suspect they are too smart for that and will be no where to be found.
      My soultion to the H1B program is simple: If an H1B worker is necessary than let the company pay the external costs of that foreign worker. I would set that at about $60k a year per worker to start with and increase that by 10% a year until the companies eliminate all H1B workers in favor of citizens.

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    4. Anon 1606 - I certainly hope the market can deliver its usual "magic" in terms of getting us through what certainly appears as to be a rough time coming. I assume you don't read here regularly, so just so you know, I'm absolutely not calling for, and never would call for, central planning of any kind. There needs to be a free market, though, and the free market has just about been killed off in the US. If not dead, it's so over-regulated it can barely move. Perhaps we'll be led to the future by a country with an economy more free than ours.

      As for H1B, sorry, not gonna play. I'm a retired engineer: I've been hearing those discussions for 35 years, and I'm just too bored with it. If I'd bothered to write them down, I'd have every argument ever made for or against. My experience as an engineer with H1B visa holders is basically, "you get what you pay for". YMMV. Anon 1747 has a good summary, I think.

      My question for you is what do you think the point of this was? Why do you think I linked to Hunt? Because by the things you've talked about, you seem to have missed the point entirely.

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    5. Not 1606 here. I worked in software for a large company in California. We had a lot of Indian H1B programmers and quite a few American programmers. I very much enjoyed the Indian workers, good friends and knew some of the best places to go for lunch. Good workers, most of them. A few were slow with the design and coding and some were pretty good. They seemed to have a hierarchy where one of the older guys would make sure any of the slower programmers got support from one of the faster peers. Always thought that was interesting. I didn't get the impression they knew each other before they came to the states but created their own camaraderie on the job. I was probably the oldest guy and as DBA in a somewhat unique position to know everyone and work with everyone. We had no real geniuses (which was different because everywhere I have worked there was always one or two brilliant programmers) but some solid coders and some hard workers. But in general the H1b's were not that good. I have worked with H1Bs that were damned good and most made up for mediocrity with massive keyboard time. Some of the Korean and Chinese H1Bs were good but would often need help/hand holding with any human interface of the systems and often a simple language barrier would put them at a disadvantage (just as it would for me if I were in their country trying to do the same job).

      Regarding racism; Indian people are consistently the nicest and friendliest people you will meet. IMHO most of what is loosely labeled racism has little to nothing to do with melenin (ie 'brown') and everything to do with attitude and personality. That is if you believe everyone is racist towards you and act that way around everyone then indeed people will be stand offish and uncomfortable around you. You create your own self fullfilling prophecy.

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    6. Anon NOT 1606 - What a lot of people don't talk about is that hiring engineers from other countries is often something those countries do to "create jobs" for their people. A certain major west coast airline manufacturer (ha!) did a major new aircraft development in the '03 to '10 time frame. The state run airlines in several countries said "we won't buy your planes unless you provide jobs to our people". As a consequence, we (and other contractors) had to outsource work, just like they did.

      Maybe I'm a bit too "once bitten, twice shy" about the H1B contractors. I just spent too much of the company's money, and my time and aggravation, cleaning up after them and fixing years worth of stuff they did wrong.

      I'd say the worthwhile ones are <10% of the pool. I think I read that in your response, too.

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    7. My question for you is what do you think the point of this was? Why do you think I linked to Hunt?

      I think you believe Hunt's prediction, and have posted it here as a warning. I'm saying Hunt's prediction is wrong, it's not how history has gone after disruptive innovations. The Blade Runner scenario is imaginary, it's not going to happen.

      Here is what I think will happen: Personnel rearrangements using free movement of labor to increase production efficiency will continue to occur. Former-labor unrest against executives like ripped shirts and mobs at houses will occur, for a while. Executives will structure how they announce layoffs to reduce the creation of mobs. The mobs will be anticipated and held off by force. After all, these mobs were people who couldn't plan ahead to realize they were expensive compared to their competition worldwide, and they ought to prepare for a possible layoff and have more than $400 cash on hand. If the mobs are expected to be so threatening that the optics of protecting the executives will look bad, the plant will be closed rather than re-staffed. Workers will not get a France-style pretending that technology is static and nothing ever changes. Nor will they get some big envy-driven wealth transfer. What they will get is a hyperinflation and bankruptcy of the US dollar, which they've been voting for over decades.

      Any mob members who stop chanting and carrying signs for a week will notice the price reductions from labor-saving devices benefit them too, and yes there is something they can do for a living. That's why there's no Blade Runner result, the situation is fiction.

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    8. Very close, and I'll take the blame for not being clear enough.

      I write it as a warning, true, but the important part is that it doesn't matter a whole lot what you and I think, there's demonstrably a lot of resentment building in the country and we are getting close to the point where a spark can ignite things. It's the perception of being screwed that motivates people; there doesn't have to be real injustice going on.

      You're taking the 40,000 foot or 100 year view. There may be short term disturbances, but it'll be alright in the long run. I'm taking the ground level, 20 year view. If a few thousand or a few hundred get killed off in riots, that's no big deal to the long view. It's a big deal if you or your loved ones are one of the few thousand. There are extremely well-funded groups who have demonstrated they want to create chaos in our country to bring it down; they're actively pushing for this to happen.

      As for the idea of a possible future where 10% will be working and supporting the other 90% on their taxes, that's absolutely mainstream. You'll find that idea many places because it's simply linear extrapolation from our current (approximately) 55% are working and supporting the other 45% with taxes. And I say as clearly as I can that I don't think such a society can work.

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  3. Something to think about, but I'll not RTWT, due to the author's opening quote: "Destroy people’s hopes for a better life and you make riot, revolution, anarchy, and war inevitable."

    That's a-historical, to say the least; as William Nordhaus documented in a 1998 paper, in virtually all the history of the world, with the incredibly dramatic exception of the last 200 years, no one had "a hope for a better life", at least in economic terms. Here's Nordhaus's paper:

    http://www.nber.org/chapters/c6064.pdf

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    1. I think you misunderstand the author. He's not advocating for destroying people's hopes, he's warning that it's coming.

      It's the same message you get from Matt Bracken, usually on Western Rifle Shooters, or from John Robb on Global Guerillas.

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  4. I think we are on the verge of a massive wealth redistribution. I think a big part of that will and MUST fall upon the American middle class. You are being eyed as the best source of wealth to redistribute. One of the ways that this is going to happen has been telegraphed to us for years and we seem uninterested/unaware of it. And that is massive immigration of essentially poor and uneducated people. If you come to the U.S. as an imporvished immigrant with 5 kids you will literally get tens of thousands in cash and benefits every year. You will not have to work and in fact if you do work your gravy train will be reduced. For the last 20 years or so the U.S. has had about 3-5 million legal and illegal immigrants a year but that is about to skyrocket. Today anyone on any of the many islands off our South East coast can come to America and stay here without fear of being deported. Ditto for Central and South America. Then there is China and most of Africa and various parts of Asia. If you can get here you will most likely get to stay here and once here the courts will make sure you get a nice income stream and free stuff. We are on the verge of becoming a third world country. We are already getting most of the third world diseases. You are about to give up your hard earned wealth to people who are invading your country and your elected leaders are happy to make you do it.

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  5. Over at Bayou Renaissance Man awhile back ("The future of work?" 9/23/15) there was a discussion about a very similar (I presume, I don't do javascript just to read text, especially at a spambait site like LinkedIn) piece, to which one commenter responded: "The fallacy - or at least, the weakness - in this viewpoint is that it excludes self-employment." to which I responded:

    Yes and no. Yes, in that there certainly is too much bias towards "the only useful employment and way of earning a living is a 'job'." No, in that automation displacing "jobs" faster than people can adapt to different kinds of "jobs" (including self-employment) is not the problem, it is only a symptom of the problem. The problem is that the State, in order to facilitate its economic parasitism, has been the primary driver of the bias towards the "job" as the only way of earning a living, and that parasitism is making providing a "job" so costly that automation is being adopted at a rate which is socially disruptive. At the same time, as previously noted, the State has been making it more and more difficult both to be "self-employed" and to subsist outside of the (State fiat) money economy.

    While I don't endorse the entire "left-libertarian" agenda, there are some things they get very much right. "The Homebrew Industrial Revolution: A Low-Overhead Manifesto by Kevin A. Carson" contains a great deal of the insight and few of the fallacies in an extensive discussion of the above issues. It can easily be found by searching on the title.

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  6. First, thank you for referencing my essay. In particular, I am flattered that you thought it "... the smartest thing I've read in weeks." At the risk of shameless self-promotion, let me give the link to the entirety of My Originals :
    https://davidhuntpe.wordpress.com/my-originals/
    (And if you’re into short fiction, I have two stories here: https://davidhuntpe.wordpress.com/original-fiction/)
    I'd like to answer a few points by one of the anonymous commenters, specifically about disruptive innovation. Let me be clear (citing Imperious Barackus Rex*): In general, disruptive innovation is a good thing. My own field, if I could find work in it (!), is designing things in plastics, a relatively new material to the human stable of materials. One of the things I delight in doing is designing plastic replacements for metals.
    As I mentioned in another essay which, actually, Mike was kind enough to reblog as well (http://ninetymilesfromtyranny.blogspot.com/2014/12/future-shock.html), it's NOT the disruptive innovation per se that is the issue. It is both the speed and scope that are the problem. Unlike the cited weavers being replaced by automation, a technological advance that displaced relatively few people on both an absolute-numbers and percentage-of-population basis, between AI and robots alone we're looking at 20-30%, possibly more, of the population knocked from their jobs within the next decade or so.
    Disruptive innovation, and it's cousin creative destruction, have as a fundamental assumption that somewhere in the economy there is enough capacity to "soak up" these people so they don't become permanently out of work.
    Even the shift from purely-manual agriculture to the industrial revolution that enabled farm workers to transition to manufacturing work took place over the better part of a century.
    THIS is where the alarm bells ring. As Harari pointed out, people will literally not know what to study to become relevant again because things are changing so fast.
    I WILL agree, however, that we are headed for hyperinflation and the eventual collapse on the dollar, and I will further agree that it will be our fault. We've had, to quote Bill Whittle, the VOTE PUMP of entitlements that need to be paid for, and they've addicted so many people to the crack of free stuff that nobody's willing to touch that third rail. And anyone that does gets excoriated for RAAAACIST, or not having confidence in the "full faith and credit of the US" (I get that one a lot).
    As to immigrants. My mother was an immigrant. My wife is a non-Caucasian immigrant. I am the father to two bi-racial children whose genetic mix is so unusual that the OBGYN recommended cord blood storage. I have ZERO truck with racists who complain about immigration on racial standpoints.

    * I am NOT a fan of that POS traitor in the WH, nor of Killary...

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  7. One other thing: I am, overall, a fan of and advocate for the free market, and international trade. (I buy WAY too much from the Judaica Web Store http://www.judaicawebstore.com/#a_aid=51f6e5f969714, for example.) But a globally-averaged wage does not bode well for the average American, especially not in the near term of the next few decades - assuming, of course, there are no "discontinuities" in the social structure and geopolitical mix. And, of course, I will observe that so long as there are nation-states, and I LIKE the American nation-state, there are significant risks to offshoring vis a vis national security (again, please indulge my shameless self-promotion https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fly-free-trade-ointment-david-hunt-pe)

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  8. Thanks for dropping by, David! Good to hear from you.

    FWIW, your comments are pretty much dead on the way I see things. I fully expect a collapse of the dollar because it's the corner the Fed.gov and Federal Reserve have painted us into. Whether it will be a deflationary collapse or hyperinflationary collapse, I can't say. I've read arguments both ways and find neither completely convincing. The basic problems of a fiat currency have been predicted for many years, see Von Mises, and even acknowledged by Keynes himself saying (in response to critics that his system couldn't work in the long run), "in the long run, we're all dead". That worked out for him. Sucks to be around when it collapses, though.

    What drive me nuts about it, though, is how the vast majority of big government advocates can't see that big government and their central banks are exactly what got the world into this mess. They blame the problems on "the rich", not the system big government rigged to give them the money. They complain about the results and then want more of it - bigger government.

    Re: the average American wage being so much higher than the rest of the world, we have always made up for that with productivity. I'm sure you know of the "re-shoring" or "on-shoring" going on in manufacturing as companies learn going to cheaper labor offshore doesn't result in overall costs being as low as they anticipate. Part of the cost of American labor is the costs of everything in the US being so high, pumped again by central banks and other non-free market forces. Andy Stern, of SEIU fame, has talked of union organizing the rest of the world to raise their labor rates, too.

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  9. davidhuntpe: Disruptive innovation, and it's cousin creative destruction, have as a fundamental assumption that somewhere in the economy there is enough capacity to "soak up" these people so they don't become permanently out of work.

    That is not an assumption, that is an economic principle called The Ricardian Law of Comparative Advantage, which nobody can make go away.

    https://mises.org/library/ricardian-law-comparative-advantage

    Suppose the "tech gods" produce everything cheaper than the "hamburger-flippers" can. Suppose the hamburger-flippers aren't smart enough to compete with the tech gods. The tech gods will still be better at producing some items than others. The Ricardian Law of Comparative Advantage says the tech gods will specialize on their most productive work, and buy the items they are less efficient at making from the hamburger-flippers.

    When hamburger-flippers get laid off they can become farmers, and earn a living using free sun and rain, cheap seeds, chickens, and rabbits, and their own labor to produce food which they directly eat. They don't have to trade with anyone to eat. Then they can retrain to produce something the tech gods or their neighbors want.

    SiGb: It's the perception of being screwed that motivates people; there doesn't have to be real injustice going on.

    Another major cause is dashed expectations. The Berlin wall falling was caused by dashed expectations: Government made a communication mistake which resulted in the widespread announcement of new freedom. Then government realized their communication mistake and made an opposite announcement, pulling the freedom away. People then acted based on their disappointment, and made the freedom real without permission of government. Just wait until wage and price controls attempt to squish the maker movement, there's your dashed expectations. Hello alternative e-commerce schemes, like the ones attempting to replace Uber in cities where Uber has been stopped by regulation.

    SiGb: As for the idea of a possible future where 10% will be working and supporting the other 90% on their taxes, that's absolutely mainstream. You'll find that idea many places because it's simply linear extrapolation from our current (approximately) 55% are working and supporting the other 45% with taxes.

    I agree that's a conservative extrapolation from the last 30 years' data. Here is why I think events will move from that curve to a different curve. Today, workers see income tax + medicare + social security = 50% income tax, plus 10%/year inflation tax, total 60% income tax. Imagine most productives are semi-preppers and have 1-2 years' savings put away, while nonproductives have 1-2 months' savings. Nearly all government workers are nonproductives who are enforcing this arrangement using logistics voluntarily paid by productive victims. The new administration announces an increase to a 70%, 80%, 90%, 100% income tax rate, on top of wage and price controls like in the last great depression. Would you comply? Don't answer in writing, just smile.

    Then 10 million productives decide to stop paying taxes for a few months and coast. Maybe they keep working, maybe they don't. Riots start with the usual demographics. Rioters go home from the riot and stop by the convenience store for dinner, and their EBT card dispenses hyperinflating dollars because much of the tax base is on strike. Now they're really in trouble. The TV talks about its new fix-it plan, which is more taxes and more wage and price controls; TV news becomes the new comedy show. In a month of hungry, nonworkers will attempt to negotiate peace terms. They can't make war because they only have two weeks of logistics saved.

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  10. I fear this quote applies. Claire Wolfe: "We're at that awkward stage when it's too late to fix things from within the system but it's too early to shoot the bastards."

    SiGraybeard

    My personal bet is that we will see hyperinflation, especially if Killary gets in. She will raise taxes (or try to), which will crash the economy.

    There literally is not enough wealth in the country to pay for all the entitlements and especially the unfunded mandates; further, as countries like China have their own issues, they'll be less likely to lend - in particular once they grasp that we're NEVER going to pay them back. IMHO the whole world is an inter-woven nest of debt, and WHEN the whole thing unravels it will be found to have nothing solid at its core.

    Then, the only way to pay the bills and keep the entitlements going will be to run the presses. (My standard joke: I asked my financial advisor what he's buying: he replied "Guns, canned goods, and ammo.")

    As an engineer whose Master's research was in Design for Manufacturing and Assembly, I am fully sure that American workers CAN COMPETE given a chance. The problem is that the siren song of cheap labor overseas is so tempting. It takes WORK to design a product well; any schlub can design one poorly. It takes WORK to design the product and process simultaneously, and to engage good and motivated people and LEAD THEM. Far easier to just ship it overseas to, e.g., China, and let someone else have the headache. (There was a job I wanted not five miles away. The Hiring Manager ended up sending it to China. He said I wasn't "hungry enough". What's that mean, get on my knees, swallow lovingly, and smile afterward?)

    Anonymous:

    There are multiple problems with Ricardo's Theory; e.g., software vs. T-shirts. The theory says that Country A would hire their own software coders while buying T-shirts from country B. The fact is that country B's coders are also less expensive; thus, country A gets BOTH done from country B. Ricardo, IMHO, only truly applies to products where the ENVIRONMENT, e.g., geography and climate, come into play. Intellectual jobs that can be done anywhere, and production that can be located anywhere, will automatically race to the bottom seeking the lowest hourly wage, regardless of quality, etc. (For a great book on the topic, see "The Race To The Bottom: Why A Worldwide Worker Surplus And Uncontrolled Free Trade Are Sinking American Living Standards" http://amzn.to/2bq0ywE)

    As I wrote, it's basic human nature: you cannot take away and expect people to like it.

    To your scenario: In practice, in the face of riots by unproductive but still-voting tapeworms, government declares martial law, posts a reward for ratting out "hoarders" along with jail time for NOT ratting them out, goes house to house searching for stores. Bank accounts will be seized, property forfeited, those with the foresight to prep will be imprisoned (and that's the pleasant scenario). Shooting starts, the government gets ugly, and the country dissolves. Globally, other forces take advantage of that collapse of the centralizing force of America to act. Nukes fly.

    There is a fundamental need to believe that the path curves upwards for people to remain peaceful and content in their situation. When people are losing jobs left-right-and-center, that path will not be visible.

    Don't get me wrong: overall I am an advocate of free market capitalism. But there needs to be consideration of the human element. When potentially 50% or even higher cannot find work because it's all been automated / offshored, we're looking at a societal shift that is unprecedented in human history. To assume that "things will just work out" and the curve continue upward is hubris. Nemesis follows hubris, always.

    There also needs to be consideration of national defense. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/fly-free-trade-ointment-david-hunt-pe

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  11. [the hiring manager] said I wasn't "hungry enough"

    I would say that means you weren't willing to work cheap enough to carry the overhead of the hiring manager in addition to the product you were trying to build. Sounds to me like you were competing for his middle manager job. As an alternative you could read a Joel Salatin book, duplicate his designs for manufacturing and assembly, and start producing your own food using free sunlight as the energy input. You don't have to sell this food, you can eat it yourself. The problem of pleasing a hiring manager is eliminated, you produce wealth without trade.

    race to the bottom seeking the lowest hourly wage, regardless of quality, etc.

    Will you buy products regardless of low quality? No? Then perhaps there are others who prefer higher quality that you can make products for. Now is the time of the long tail. Be your own hiring manager, sell to these customers directly.

    The Race to the Bottom: a global worker surplus

    This is the boogieman of "overproduction". Government needs to destroy the new labor-saving devices to maintain the rat race status quo, otherwise everyone will get rich and realize they don't need government to organize their work lives. This idea is poison.

    government declares martial law, posts a reward for ratting out "hoarders" along with jail time for NOT ratting them out, goes house to house searching for stores.

    Tell me how this works from the perspective of design for manufacturing and assembly. The government is no longer collecting taxes, so the soldiers going house-to-house are being paid salary from what? Government does not get its logistics from magic spells the legislators cast, it gets them from taxpayers who contribute them voluntarily.

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    1. Rendering unto CaesarAugust 24, 2016 at 9:49 PM

      "Taxpayers who contribute them voluntarily.."

      Ha..ha...gasp..oh.. that's funny......

      By definition, taxes are NOT voluntary. If they were, they'd be called "donations."

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    2. For any mildly coordinated group of 20% of citizens, taxes are voluntary. Rulers only have the ability to force a result onto 10% groups or smaller.

      For any population groups from the same military technological background, it takes a 3X numerical superiority for one group to reliably force a result onto another group. If the being-forced group is being genocided on their home territory, it takes a 9X numerical superiority.

      For six million German Jews, Gypsies, and homosexuals, getting on the boxcars, concentrating into ghettos, turning in their guns, and registering their guns, was all voluntary. There were not 6*9=54 million soldiers and policemen in existence who could have forced them to do it.

      In every time and age, women having inferior civil rights is voluntary. Weaker women don't have to physically best stronger men in combat, they can just bash their husband in the head with a rock while he sleeps. This applies everywhere, from the first world to the Middle East.

      Churches and schools install a computer virus in human brains, which tells the individual that society or the king or god or gaia is more important than the individual, and the individual they must obey the leader. This is how politics actually works.

      In Connecticut in 2014, 90% of 250,000 presumed gun owners rejected the brain computer virus, and simply ignored the order to further register their guns. Nothing happened, because there was no way government could have won that fight.

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  12. One thing about Star Trek, you don't see a lot of robots.

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