February 18, 2019

Civil-Rights Leaders Argue That Green Policies Saddle the Poor "with Higher Living Costs"



(p. A19) French President Emmanuel Macron stirred popular rage by trying to raise the gasoline tax by about 25 cents a gallon. He argued that higher taxes would reduce fuel use and hence emissions of CO2, helping France meet the lower emissions goals to which it is pledged as a signatory to the United Nations' Paris Agreement to fight climate change.

Mr. Macron has learned the hard way that voters don't see climate change as a threat demanding personal sacrifices. The rebellion is global. Green measures that caused energy prices to soar damaged Chancellor Angela Merkel in Germany's 2017 election. Green energy plans were repudiated by voters in Australia and helped cause a political upheaval in the Canadian province of Ontario.

Voters in Washington state and Arizona rejected November ballot measures aimed at reducing CO2 emissions. The Journal's William McGurn reported last week that 200 prominent civil-rights leaders have filed suit against the California Air Resources Board. Green policies, they argue, are saddling the poor with higher living costs.



For the full commentary, see:

George Melloan. "The Yellow Jackets Are Right About Green Policies; They have distinguished company in questioning the science behind climate-change dogma." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 17, 2018): A19.

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 16, 2018.)







February 17, 2019

"Artificial Barriers to Housing Production"



(p. A3) America's housing shortage is more wide-ranging than cloistered coastal markets, stretching from pricey locales such as California and Massachusetts to more surprising places, such as Arizona and Utah.

Some 22 states and the District of Columbia have built too little housing to keep up with economic growth in the 15 years since 2000, resulting in a total shortage of 7.3 million units, according to research to be released Monday by an advocacy group for loosening building regulations.

California bears half of the blame for the shortage: The state built 3.4 million too few units to keep up with job, population and income growth.


. . .


"The artificial barriers to housing production aren't constrained just to California," said Mike Kingsella, executive director of the Up For Growth National Coalition. "As we dug into the numbers behind this, at a local market level, we're seeing a pronounced affordability challenge in places like even Arizona."

Arizona and Utah are among the states that have built too little housing in the 15-year period, according to the report.



For the full story, see:

Laura Kusisto. "Shortages in Housing Are Widespread." The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, April 17, 2018): A3.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date April 16, 2018, and has the title "Homebuilding Isn't Keeping Up With Growth, Development Group Says.")






February 16, 2019

Worn Down by Growing Regulations, American Entrepreneurs Leave China



(p. A1) SHANGHAI--Fifteen years ago in California, a tall technology geek named Steve Mushero started writing a book that predicted the American dream might soon "be found only in China." Before long, Mr. Mushero moved himself to Shanghai and launched a firm that Amazon.com Inc. and Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. certified as a partner to serve the world's biggest internet market.

These days, the tech pioneer has hit a wall. He's heading back to Silicon Valley where he sees deeper demand for his know-how in cloud computing. "The future's not here," said the 52-year-old.

For years, American entrepreneurs saw a place in which they would start tech businesses, build restaurant chains and manage factories, making potentially vast sums in an exciting, newly dynamic economy. Many mastered Mandarin, hired and trained thousands in China, bought houses, met their spouses and raised bilingual children.

Now disillusion has set in, fed by soaring costs, creeping taxation, tightening political control and capricious regulation that makes it ever tougher to maneuver the market and fend off new domestic competitors. All these signal to expat business owners their best days were in the past.

The Trump administration is making a hard-nosed challenge to China using trade tariffs, in-(p. A12)vestment controls and prosecution of technology thieves, and many in American business are cheering, if silently, having soured on the market after years of trying.


. . .


From Silicon Valley in 2003, Mr. Mushero felt China's rumblings and started writing his book, "Off-Shoring the Middle Class." He saw U.S. companies save money by shifting accounting, X-ray evaluations and other technical jobs overseas. China, he thought, was becoming globalization's "one-stop-shop" for manufacturing, basic tech work and advanced research.

He predicted a broad shift to China of not only factory work, but U.S. white collar jobs, too.


. . .


At a Starbucks in mid-2008, he sketched out "a napkin business plan" for a new company called ChinaNetCloud (Shanghai) Co. with Mr. Eron. China was overtaking the U.S. as the biggest internet market, and the partners would trail-blaze into cloud services by managing the online operations of local businesses.


. . .


Tougher regulations and competition deterred foreign players. China's reputation for technology theft kept many out of the market, which reduced the number of Mr. Mushero's potential clients. In 2013, the American Chamber of Commerce said only 10% of its members trusted data security enough to consider cloud services in China.

Walt Disney Co. tapped ChinaNetCloud to manage the computers hosting some interactive games in 2012, including one based on its hit movie "Frozen." Mr. Mushero looked forward to more work with the U.S. entertainment giant, but Disney scrubbed the gaming push in mid-2014. Disney declined to comment. Online gaming in China is dominated by big domestic tech companies; it is derided by regulators as chaotic and harmful and hit regularly with new rules.


. . .


On a recent drizzly afternoon, flanked by framed commendations from Amazon and Microsoft for his firm's achievements in China, Mr. Mushero said that after New Year's he will head back to California, where he sees burgeoning demand for corporate online services, to market the company's cloud-management tools.



For the full story, see:

James T. Areddy. "American Entrepreneurs in China Are Heading Home, Disillusioned." The Wall Street Journal (Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018): A1 & A12.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 7, 2018, and has the title "American Entrepreneurs Who Flocked to China Are Heading Home, Disillusioned.")






February 15, 2019

Early Medical "Leaps of Ingenuity"



(p. A17) Using a panoply of colorful examples, the author artfully illustrates the frustrations, uncertainty, poorly founded confidence and frequent futility of medical practice in the prescientific age. Employing a consistently light and humorous touch, he effortlessly navigates a cornucopia of fascinating, esoteric and obscure patient histories.

The carefully selected vignettes demonstrate the befuddled mindset of the well-intentioned physicians who were forced to contend with the vagaries of damaged and failing human flesh without the benefit of anesthesia, and armed with little more than the fanciful theories of Galen (a second-century Greek who attributed disease to imbalances of the four "humors": blood, phlegm, and yellow and black bile) and an elementary knowledge of human anatomy.

Yet despite their lack of mechanistic understanding, these individuals showed leaps of ingenuity no less startling than those of today's physicians and genome rewriters. To avoid subjecting himself to the dangers of 18th-century surgery to remove a bladder stone, Mr. Morris tells us, the French-born surgeon Claude Martin fashioned an instrument out of a knitting needle and a whalebone handle, which he then inserted through his urethra and used to manually file away the stone.



For the full review, see:

Adrian Woolfson. "BOOKSHELF; Desperate Remedies; Treatments of old for common health ills included tobacco-smoke enemas, arsenic cigarettes--and the "Pigeon's-Rump Cure." The Wall Street Journal (Tuesday, Dec. 13, 2018): A17.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Dec. 12, 2018, and has the title "BOOKSHELF; 'The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth' Review: Desperate Remedies; Treatments of old for common health ills included tobacco-smoke enemas, arsenic cigarettes--and the "Pigeon's-Rump Cure.")


The book under review, is:

Morris, Thomas. The Mystery of the Exploding Teeth: And Other Curiosities from the History of Medicine. New York: Dutton, 2018.






February 14, 2019

Kansas City Government Pours Bleach on Food for the Homeless



(p. A17) KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- They unfurled colorful blankets on a grassy slope, and unloaded steaming trays of corn dogs, baked beans and vegetable beef soup. Every week for the past three years, the volunteers have gone to a park just outside downtown Kansas City with home-cooked meals for the homeless. They call it a picnic with friends.

But on a cloudy afternoon earlier this month, an inspector from the Kansas City Health Department showed up and called it something else: an illegal food establishment.

She ordered most of the food put into black garbage bags, bundled them on the grass and, in a move that stunned the gathered group, doused the pile with bleach.

Allen Andrews, who has been living on the streets for the past year, said he watched silently as the bleach was poured, thinking back to when he had a home. He remembered how he had sometimes poured bleach on trash he put out for collection, to deter rodents from getting into it.

"They treat us like animals," Mr. Andrews, 46, said.



For the full story, see:

John Eligon. "'Where Feeding the Needy Requires Both a Heart and a Permit." The New York Times (Thursday, Nov. 22, 2018): A17.

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Nov. 21, 2018, and has the title "You Want to Feed the Hungry? Lovely. Let's See Your Permit." The online version says that the article appeared on p. A13 of the New York edition. It appeared on p. A17 of the National edition that I subscribe to.)






February 13, 2019

"Not Enough Workers"



(p. B1) MILWAUKEE -- At Western Building Products' banana-shaped factory on the lip of the Menomonee River outside Milwaukee, the company's president, Mark Willey, is wrangling with a stubborn problem: not enough workers.

"If someone is here a year, they never leave," Mr. Willey said. "Our problem today is just finding people who want to work."

It is a headache employers across the country are confronting, as Friday's monthly jobs report from the government illustrated. The unemployment rate in November [2018] held steady at 3.7 percent -- the lowest in nearly half a century. And while the pace of hiring slowed to 155,000 from October's above-average showing, the parade of payroll gains marched on uninterrupted for the 98th month



For the full story, see:

Patricia Cohen. "'Hiring Slows in a Labor Pinch." The New York Times (Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018): B1.

(Note: bracketed year added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 7, 2018, and has the title "As Hiring Slows, Employers Say It's Getting Harder to Find Workers.")






February 12, 2019

A Tale of Two Bookstores: New York City Subsidizes Amazon and Regulates the Strand



(p. A22) Since it opened in 1927, the Strand bookstore has managed to survive by beating back the many challenges -- soaring rents, book superstores, Amazon, e-books -- that have doomed scores of independent bookshops in Manhattan.

With its "18 Miles of Books" slogan, film appearances and celebrity customers, the bibliophile's haven has become a cultural landmark.

Now New York City wants to make it official by declaring the Strand's building, at the corner of Broadway and 12th Street in Greenwich Village, a city landmark.

There's only one problem: The Strand does not want the designation.

Nancy Bass Wyden, who owns the Strand and its building at 826 Broadway, said landmarking could deal a death blow to the business her family has owned for 91 years, one of the largest book stores in the world.

So at a public hearing on Tuesday before the city's Landmarks Preservation Commission, her plea will be simple, she said: "Do not destroy the Strand."

Like many building owners in New York, Ms. Wyden argues that the increased restrictions and regulations required of landmarked buildings can be cumbersome and drive up renovation and maintenance costs.

"By landmarking the Strand, you can also destroy a piece of New York history," she said. "We're operating on very thin margins here, and this would just cost us a lot more, with this landmarking, and be a lot more hassle."


. . .


Another rich twist, Ms. Wyden said, was that the move coincides with the announcement that Amazon -- not exactly beloved by brick-and-mortar booksellers -- plans to open a headquarters in Queens, after city and state leaders offered upwards of $2 billion in incentives to Amazon and its multibillionaire chief executive, Jeff Bezos.

"The richest man in America, who's a direct competitor, has just been handed $3 billion in subsidies. I'm not asking for money or a tax rebate," Ms. Wyden said. "Just leave me alone."


. . .


Owners of buildings with landmark status are in many cases barred from using plans, materials and even paint colors that vary from the original design without the commission's approval.


. . .


Ms. Wyden -- who is married to Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, whom she met at the similarly renowned Powell's book store in Portland -- is a third-generation owner of the Strand, which stocks roughly 2.5 million used, rare and new books and employs 230 people.


. . .


While she would not divulge the bookstore's finances, she said that she could make more money renting out the Strand's five floors, but she loves the family business too much.

She accused city officials of trying to hurry the landmarking process, leaving her little time to prepare a defense, especially during the holiday rush.

"It's our busiest time of year, and we should be focused on customers and Christmas, which is where we make our most money," Ms. Wyden said. "But they have no sympathy for that."



For the full story, see:

Corey Kilgannon. "'Declaring Strand Bookstore a Landmark Would Kill It, Says Strand." The New York Times (Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018): A22.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 3, 2018, and has the title "Declare the Strand Bookstore a City Landmark? No Thanks, the Strand Says." The online version says that the New York print edition appeared on p. A20 and had the title: "A Bid to Preserve Strand Bookstore Would Destroy It, Owner Says." The page and title in the citation I give further above, is from the National print edition that I receive.)






February 11, 2019

George Bittlingmayer Offers Advance Praise for Openness to Creative Destruction



For tens of thousands of years, before the Age of Innovation, human beings merely survived by hunting, gathering or tilling, and lived in caves or dirty, squalid huts. In marked contrast, the average person alive today enjoys a standard of living and access to entertainment, medical services, travel, and communications technology that our ancestors would have regarded as miraculous. Art Diamond skillfully shows how we got the many wonders we take for granted - everything from indoor plumbing to SUVs to iPhones - by telling the stories of the determined tinkerers, iconoclasts and visionaries who wouldn't take "no" for an answer. They succeeded because they were willing to wage the good fight and because they could draw on flawed but ultimately supportive legal, cultural and economic institutions. Diamond also addresses the question of whether the Age of Innovation has run its course, and he provides a timely warning about the dangers that current political and intellectual forces pose to the many potential innovations yet to come. The Age Innovation may end, but whether it does is largely in our hands.


George Bittlingmayer, Economist, Angel Investor, and Professor Emeritus, University of Kansas.



Bittlingmayer's advance praise is for:

Diamond, Arthur M., Jr. Openness to Creative Destruction: Sustaining Innovative Dynamism. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming June 2019.






February 10, 2019

Patent Troll Is Bankrupt After Victims Fight Back



(p. B5) Shipping & Transit LLC sued more than 100 mostly small companies in 2016, making it the largest filer of patent lawsuits that year. But when the Florida company recently declared bankruptcy, it valued its U.S. patents at just $1.

Its demise followed three cases where companies fought back and were awarded legal fees after Shipping & Transit decided not to pursue the patent claims against them. Judges in the cases awarded a total of more than $245,000 in attorneys' fees and costs to businesses in 2017.

Shipping & Transit doesn't sell tracking systems or anything else. Instead, it claims to own patents "for providing status messages for cargo, shipments and people," according to court filings. The company typically demanded licensing fees of $25,000 to $45,000 from companies it said were infringing on its patents. Most agree to pay small amounts to avoid costly litigation.


. . .


In one ruling, a U.S. district judge in Santa Ana, Calif., called Shipping & Transit's patent claims "objectively unreasonable" in light of a 2014 Supreme Court decision that held that certain kinds of abstract ideas weren't patentable.


. . .


Patent assertions by companies that don't make products and are primarily focused on making money off of patents have declined since the Supreme Court decision, but still "remain extremely high," said Shawn Ambwani, chief operating officer of Unified Patents, which specializes in challenging these types of assertions.

In another of the cases from 2017, a federal magistrate judge in West Palm Beach, Fla., said Shipping & Transit's actions suggest that the company's "strategy is predatory and aimed at reaping financial advantage from defendants who are unwilling or unable to engage in the expense of patent litigation.".



For the full commentary, see:

Ruth Simon. "Company That Filed Patent Suits Derails." The Wall Street Journal (Monday, Dec. 17, 2018): B5.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Dec. 16, 2018, and has the title "Pushback Derails Company That Thrived on Patent Lawsuits.")






February 9, 2019

"Profit Feeds Impact at Scale"



(p. 1) Eric Reynolds will tell you that he is on the verge of freeing much of humanity from the deadly scourge of the cooking fire. He can halt the toxic smoke wafting through African homes, protect what is left of the continent's forest cover and help rescue the planet from the wrath of climate change.

He is happy to explain, at considerable length, how he will systematically achieve all this while constructing a business that can amass billions in profit from an unlikely group of customers: the poorest people on earth.

He will confess that some people doubt his hold on reality.

"A lot of people think it's too good to be true," says Mr. Reynolds, a California-born entrepreneur living in Rwanda. "Most people think I am pretty out there."

The company he is building across Rwanda, Inyenyeri, aims to replace Africa's overwhelming dependence on charcoal and firewood with clean-burning stoves powered by wood pellets. The business has just a tad more than 5,000 customers and needs perhaps 100,000 to break even. Even its chief operating officer, Claude Mansell, a veteran of the global consulting company Capgemini, wonders how the story will end.

"Do we know that it's going to work?" he asks. "I don't know. It's never been done before."

Inyenyeri presents a real-world test of an idea gaining traction among those focused on economic development -- that profit-making businesses may be best positioned to deliver critically needed services to the world's poorest communities.

Governments in impoverished countries lack the finance to attack threats to public health, and many are riddled with corruption (though, by reputation, not Rwanda's). Philanthropists and international aid organizations play key roles in areas such as immunizing children. But turning plans for basic services into mass-market realities may require the potent incentives of capitalism. It is a notion that has provoked the creation of many businesses, most of them failures.

"Profit feeds impact at scale," says Mr. Reynolds, now in the midst of a global tour (p. 8) as he courts investment on top of the roughly $12 million he has already raised. "Unless somebody gets rich, it can't grow."

More than four decades have passed since Mr. Reynolds embarked on what he portrays as an accidental life as an entrepreneur, an outgrowth of his fascination with mountaineering. He dropped out of college to start Marmot, the outdoor gear company named for the burrowing rodent. There, he profited by protecting Volvo-driving, chardonnay-sipping weekend warriors against the menacing elements of Aspen. Now, he is trying to build a business centered on customers for whom turning on a light switch is a radical act of upward mobility.


. . .


To succeed, a stove had to be so convenient and clean burning that women preferred it over their existing cooking method.

Mr. Reynolds began testing stoves made in Italy, India, the United States and China. He tried making his own.

He came to realize that the magic was in the combination of stove and fuel. He experimented with making charcoal out of corncobs. ("A stupid idea," he says.) He tried burning banana leaves. Then he discovered wood pellets, which involve compressing wood and eliminating water, the element that produces much of the smoke.

He settled on a Dutch-made stove that reduces wood down to clean-burning gases. Using pellets reduced the need for wood by 90 percent compared with charcoal. But those stoves cost more than $75.

Then came the epiphany: Inyenyeri could supply the stoves for free while collecting revenue from subscriptions for pellets. Rwanda was urbanizing rapidly, and city dwellers rely on charcoal. They would be eager to switch to pellets, which were 30 to 50 percent cheaper.


. . .


(p. 9) The business model would get more attractive as the cost of charcoal climbed, and as innovation inevitably made stoves more efficient. Inyenyeri would also stand to collect revenue from an arrangement it later entered into with the World Bank to sell credits for reducing emissions.

In 2010, Mr. Reynolds sold his house in Boulder and went all in on Inyenyeri. He unloaded his wine cellar, liquidated his retirement accounts and moved to Rwanda with no plan to leave.


. . .


"This business model will happen," he says. "If it's not Inyenyeri that's the first mover, then it will be someone else who learns from our mistakes and does it better. It's too big of an opportunity."



For the full story, see:

Peter S. Goodman. "'A Low-Cost Fix for Africa's Silent Killer." The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sunday, Dec. 6, 2018): 1 & 8-9.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Dec. 5, 2018, and has the title "Toxic Smoke Is Africa's Quiet Killer. An Entrepreneur Says His Fix Can Make a Fortune.")









Eight Most Recent Comments:



PaulS said:

The "Machines Are Not Capable of Creativity" argument and the no-human-obsolescence argument seem to talk directly past each other. After all, the present-day world is stuffed to the brim (and well beyond) with government and other regulations expressly designed to suppress "creativity" at all cost, in the name of "safety". That is, in a context of irrationally radical risk aversion - the quest for absolutely zero risk - the societal "we" often seek to rid ourselves of "creativity".

Thus, "creativity" has become largely restricted to a minuscule minority (further shrunken by metastasizing copyright and patent regulations that concentrate funds ever more narrowly), and/or, sometimes, to tasks that matter little, such as entertainment. Most "jobs" or "gigs" are left as tightly controlled drone work. "True" artificial intelligence is thus utterly unnecessary to obsolete most of the humans performing them. "Big Data" and "Big Software" will completely suffice. (The last thing you want in a self-driving taxi, or even in a political-correctness-driven professorship, is "true" AI: at least for now, it would be a lawsuit magnet, far too unpredictable.)

With the definition of "safety" steadily metastasizing to include even the most utterly trivial discomforts (viz. the campus 'snowflakes'), the only excuse left for most jobs to exist might be a desire for "the human touch". Indeed, the lack of said touch is one complaint about kiosks that replace restaurant counter clerks or waiters.

But once the primary justification for jobs to exist is to enable the most affluent to go on receiving "the human touch" - i.e. to enable them to pull rank - the process will not end well. People hate to be on the receiving end of rank-pulling. We will become stuck with either a guaranteed-income approach, or else a widespread, intensely Luddite reaction.

This is all destined to become "interesting" - but likely, alas, mainly in the accursed sense.



PaulS said:

Probably this should be unsurprising for a number of reasons, even going beyond the article.

Today's zeitgeist, of course, tells us that everyone should become a Web designer living four to a tiny dorm room in a skyscraper in grossly overpopulated urban California. As if most tech products haven't been fully mature for years or even decades, with updates mainly confined to befuddling customers with never-ending capricious changes to the functions of device or software controls (e.g. quick, how exactly do you summon up the "home screen" this week? Or is said screen now a wholly inscrutable tri-level icon-menu?)

So, what use are more techies? But even if there are better things to do, many such things "don't get no respect" amidst the STEM panic.

Then there's the seasonal aspect. The great majority of construction - homes and otherwise - seems to be done, these days, in the torrid (and ever-rising, especially in paved-over urban areas) heat of high summer. This is not completely new, but, well, air-conditioning has been widespread for decades now. There's no longer much need or desire to go outside to escape the even worse heat inside buildings and houses. Even poor-ish countries like China are rapidly acquiring A/C.

Now, once central heat became widespread, people stayed inside to escape the freezing, dark depths of winter. That is a trope, for example, with Christie's Hercule Poirot, derided as a "dandy" by his presumably more manly fictional contemporaries, for disliking cold, chilly old English houses lacking proper heat. And indeed, rather little outdoor construction goes on in the north in January.

Given that, why wouldn't sensible people now also want to stay inside during the blistering heat of high summer? Certainly, there are many ways to earn a living without torturing oneself in a furnace. (And, ignore all the caterwauling, why wouldn't sensible kids want to play video games in a nice comfortable living room instead of parboiling miserably outside?)

At the end of the day, construction - i.e. working under awful conditions few humans wish to tolerate any longer - seems like a great opportunity for robotics. Alas, what is hyped as "artificial intelligence" (AI) is usually nothing of the kind, or else is so ultra-narrowly specialized (think chess or go) as to be of little or no broad use. Nonetheless, a great deal of robotics can be built already without true AI, and such AI will eventually arrive too.

So why isn't more robotics used? Why isn't more outdoor construction shifted away from high summer, as it is from the worst of winter, i.e. to spring and fall? Why isn't there tremendously more factory prefabrication? Why do so many construction sites - buildings and highways - still look, despite the use of diesel engines and such, so very nineteenth-century?



PaulS said:

Wonderful. Let's go for strict temporal gating as well as spatial gating. Exile everyone not made of money to the anti-social hours of the clock as well as the monster commutes of the far reaches of Queens and Staten Island. How about fixing the subways, and abolishing the nonsense that makes it take 90 years to build one small 2nd Ave line? How about dispersing the overconcentration of people a bit? It's a huge country and modern communication exists. How about paying for same by taxing the living daylights out of the billionaire rentier class who create the problem by forcing ever more people to cram into highly dysfunctional megacities as the price of having any income at all? You gotta love the nexus between airheaded liberals who want to pile everyone on Earth with a sob story into a few US-ian megacities (rather than fix their own governments and problems), and economics types who then want to punish the very same folks by blocking off absolutely everything with an extortionate toll gate. Not.



PaulS said:

"when the alternative is to have $10 and go thirsty"

In the real world, the politics will get "interesting" with respect to folks who *don't* have $10 to pay for what normally costs $1 or $0.10, and will therefore go thirsty, or be stranded, or worse. Then, also be aware of simple resentment. Then, aggravate the anger with runaway inequality so extreme that the elites running the show will not be inconvenienced in the slightest by any likely level of 'gouging'. Then brace for a social explosion.

All told, it seems fatuous to expect very many people to be happy about being charged, say, an entire car payment just to get home across town from the holiday party. (It seems even more fatuous to expect happiness when the 'gouging' comes as an ongoing life-upending surprise, as with I-66 in Virginia.)

It helps to instead ground oneself in reality. After doing so, it's ridiculously easy to imagine the relevant government and/or employer simply declaring, for example: "If you wish to be allowed to drive a taxi at all, then you will make yourself available, to some specified extent, even at times that may be inconvenient for you."

Indeed, such rules and regulations are utterly banal and commonplace. Nary a soul would weep for Uber if it and its drivers were regulated - even rather harshly - in such a manner. Of course, some souls would become exercised over the minor economic inefficiency of such regulation, but they would number far too few to matter.



PaulS said:

"Dr. Gray was skeptical about the causes of climate change, prompting vitriolic exchanges with other scientists. Judith A. Curry, who was chairwoman of the School of Earth and Atmospheric Sciences at the Georgia Institute of Technology, accused him of 'brain fossilization.'"

I had no idea. These days, after all, Curry is very much in the doghouse as a "climate denier". Wow. What, then, can we deduce about the typical (or merely politically-correct?) level of hysteria in the "climate community"? Of course, many in said "community" would force most of us back into the Stone Age while they themselves continue to jet across the world at whim to attend "conventions" in order to signal virtue by delivering half-hour diatribes on saving the "planet" from impending doom.

Maybe, then, The Donald is right (???!) that it is fairly safe to behave just as the doomers do, and ignore the threat - and their own diatribes - as a practical matter? Wouldn't that be weird?



PaulS said:

Another case in point: between them, Google, Tesla, and others have spent countless billions on mapping the USA, enough for at least $1000/mile including every last obscure Forest Service track. That should be more than enough to catalog everything down to the embossing style on every manhole cover. And yet a person can find their way to Grandma's new house with vague turn-by-turn directions or a vague line-sketch that shows no details whatsoever about the road surface or the sidewalks or the crosswalks. And a person will manage the task without needing, in advance, a finely detailed map of the current construction projects, including lane changes etc. But that severe incompleteness won't stop morally-posturing politicians from forcing autonomous cars onto the populace years or even decades before they are actually ready for unsupervised consumer use. That is the essentially only kind of use they will get in the real world. After all, politicians love to posture, they love to toady up to rent-seeking billionaires, and they love photo-ops of themselves gawking at shiny new tech gadgets. Note that when signals were first installed on the Chicago El, the accident rate went up for a time, as trained motormen became careless about watching where they were going. Not-so-trained consumers will be far too busy fiddling with their phones to be ready to take over on a split-second's notice.



PaulS said:

And there will be unicorns. So we'll have some remote working, but we'll be jailing ever more techies in a few obscenely overcrowded, otherworldly-expensive megacities. Just as Microsofties once told us wasting two days on the now-infamously godawful airlines just to physically attend an hour meeting was going away, but both the meetings and the airlines only got worse and worse.

So not really a big deal, just another stylistic business fad. Those come and go like mayflies - while being crammed, confined, and nailed down, remains eternally.



rjs said:

there's a lot GDP doesnt capture, but i'm not sure where Feldstein is coming from about statins...the consumption of drugs is included in the non-durable goods component of PCE, consumption of health care services by themselves account for 12% of GDP, and R & D would be included in investment in intellectual property products.. the problem is that everyone is trying to make GDP into something it's not...it's a measure of goods and services produced by the economy, full stop. it's not intended to measure increases in life expectancy or well being, or any other intangibles..





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