0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby Killjoy » Mon Dec 23, 2019 2:27 pm

David1 wrote:
Killjoy wrote:You're conflating interdependence (which has its own downsides) with literal freeloading.

The economic system and universal welfare system in place in this society mean that most of the people are the latter.


Killjoy wrote:Like I said, I'm not sure anyone in this society can call anyone else a "freeloader" without being a hypocrite.


Now you're moving the lines. Patricia is doing a job, one that's been around in specific academic sense for a few hundred years, and in a general sense since society advanced to the point that organizations needed middle managers. What does it matter how she's getting paid for doing that job?

A lot of jobs are also done for free in our day; artists post stuff, people review works, people analyze politics. I doubt anyone in the Forward society is purely a freeloader; Lee probably has supplied many reviews. A musician or artist or critic is not a freeloader, just because their income is disconnected from their work. Certainly in our society how hard you work is at best minimally connected to how well you get paid.


That's flipping the meaning of "freeloader" -- doing work for free is the opposite of what it means.

What makes them a society of freeloaders is that they're all in the end living off the income that their polity makes off dealing with the little enclave of "evil capitalism", and they all get to partake in it no matter what they actually do -- and the economy is further convoluted to deliberately disconnect their inputs from their outputs via the wacky system of auto-devaluing credits, meaning working harder or smarter or having a better idea or plan doesn't actually get them anywhere.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby strange7person » Wed Dec 25, 2019 3:22 am

Killjoy wrote:
David1 wrote:
Killjoy wrote:You're conflating interdependence (which has its own downsides) with literal freeloading.

The economic system and universal welfare system in place in this society mean that most of the people are the latter.


Killjoy wrote:Like I said, I'm not sure anyone in this society can call anyone else a "freeloader" without being a hypocrite.


Now you're moving the lines. Patricia is doing a job, one that's been around in specific academic sense for a few hundred years, and in a general sense since society advanced to the point that organizations needed middle managers. What does it matter how she's getting paid for doing that job?

A lot of jobs are also done for free in our day; artists post stuff, people review works, people analyze politics. I doubt anyone in the Forward society is purely a freeloader; Lee probably has supplied many reviews. A musician or artist or critic is not a freeloader, just because their income is disconnected from their work. Certainly in our society how hard you work is at best minimally connected to how well you get paid.


That's flipping the meaning of "freeloader" -- doing work for free is the opposite of what it means.

What makes them a society of freeloaders is that they're all in the end living off the income that their polity makes off dealing with the little enclave of "evil capitalism", and they all get to partake in it no matter what they actually do -- and the economy is further convoluted to deliberately disconnect their inputs from their outputs via the wacky system of auto-devaluing credits, meaning working harder or smarter or having a better idea or plan doesn't actually get them anywhere.

That latter part is the real problem. I'd say there are two different axes involved: let's call them peasants vs. nobility and adults vs. children.

For purposes of this discussion, a peasant it somebody with little or no inheritance; if they don't more or less constantly work for a living, they'll starve. A noble is somebody who can mostly let their inheritance generate income for them on it's own, requiring only passive supervision or occasional intervention to resolve a crisis. There's no real convenient break-point, it's a sliding scale with desperate poverty at one end and idle luxury at the other. Good sorting question might be "how much did I earn during my vacation."

On the perpendicular axis, adulthood is about what you're expected to know and take responsibility for. A child is expected to be ignorant - even deliberately isolated from the truth - and not considered fully responsible for their own safety, much less anyone else's. An adult has to know things, make hard decisions, and face the consequences for better or worse.

Children can be peasants - apprentices, assisting a master with menial tasks as they learn a trade. Nobles can be adults - a security guard or firefighter might go weeks at a time with nothing to do but redundant make-work maintenance or strolling around watching paint dry, collecting a steady salary all the while, because it's so important they be fully ready to respond if anything exciting does happen.

Problem is, in the story so far, I think Zoa might be the only individual we've seen who's solidly on the "adult" end of the scale. Orb Twofeather acts somewhat like an adult, but seemingly more out of overflowing (and correspondingly erratic) personal virtue than any binding obligation. As for Patricia Hightower... their modifications to campus policy regarding robots could be usefully described as a tantrum, rolled back within literal seconds after the people who make real decisions found out. In any stable organization, impulse control that bad gets you fired long before you're allowed to touch anything genuinely important.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby David1 » Sun Dec 29, 2019 4:57 pm

Killjoy wrote:What makes them a society of freeloaders is that they're all in the end living off the income that their polity makes off dealing with the little enclave of "evil capitalism", and they all get to partake in it no matter what they actually do


Which doesn't make the individuals freeloaders. If Patricia worked for Harvard, she would be living off the income Harvard makes off investment money; if she worked for U. of Alaska, it would be the money Alaska makes off oil.

and the economy is further convoluted to deliberately disconnect their inputs from their outputs via the wacky system of auto-devaluing credits, meaning working harder or smarter or having a better idea or plan doesn't actually get them anywhere.


What system do you have in mind that makes working harder or smarter or having a better idea or plan get people somewhere? Many of the people who work the hardest in our society struggle to keep a roof over their head; 60 hours a week cleaning toilets doesn't get you very far. You can have a great plan and get nowhere if you have no money to put it into place. The best bet, if someone somehow comes out of a poor house and poor neighborhood with a college degree, is to work for someone else, because they don't have money or family with money to fall back on to start a business. 40% of people in the US born into the bottom quintile stay there as adults; likewise, 40% born into the top quintile stay there as adults. Bill Gates is a hard working genius, who only got where he did because he was from a family with millions who could give him computer training before the first home computer (as he wrote BASIC for the first home computer), and could afford to drop out of Harvard and start business, which would have threatened to ruin anyone who didn't come from money.

The whole point of auto-devaluing credits is to making working harder matter; right now, a lot of rich people got where they are because their parents were rich. Investments are worth more than hard work.

Finally, this is a story about a college, a place where geniuses go to work for a pittance. One site points out "First year postdocs make $42,840 while the average garbage collector makes $43,000 a year." What was Einstein's highest salary? The job of a college professor is to change the world, either through brilliant research or through their students; if they were motivated most by money, they wouldn't be working at a college.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby Killjoy » Mon Dec 30, 2019 9:45 am

Love those stats that say "a first year X makes the same as an average Y"... I wonder how much the average first-year garbage collector makes.

The point of the devaluing credits is just to make sure no one can ever get ahead, can never actually benefit in any material way, from any accomplishment.

And yes, it does make them a society of freeloaders, because at the end of the day, the entire society doesn't have to do anything. In our world, people living solely off inherited investments could be considered freeloaders of a sort, I'd not be horribly offended by that characterization, and our tax structure has been distorted to encourage that sort of thing.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby strange7person » Tue Dec 31, 2019 5:28 am

David1 wrote:What system do you have in mind that makes working harder or smarter or having a better idea or plan get people somewhere?

Right to vote at age 14, one year of mandatory public service some time between age 18 and 25. Every citizen gets a thousand bucks every month, cradle to grave (dependent children get $300 cash and $700 deposited in an account that nobody's allowed to touch until they move out of their parents' house), no strings attached beyond the responsibilities inherent in being a citizen. K-16 education and any medical interventions that demonstrably benefit society as a whole more than the cost to provide (vaccines, cancer screening, epi-pens, going to the emergency room with an actual medical emergency, routine checkups, etc.) are available for free, mostly paid for by a heavy tax (at least 80%) on any personal income over $200k per year, moderate property taxes (reassessed at minimum every ten years, same time as the census), and a 0.3% per-transaction tax on all e-commerce to gently discourage cryptocurrencies, high-speed stock trading, and other computer-aided shenanigans.

If a residential property goes ten years without the nominal owner sleeping there for at least a week, and personally doing at least twenty hours of construction, repair, or maintenance work on it during that week, the new owner is whoever answers the door when the next census-taker arrives. If it's completely abandoned, or seized due to unpaid property taxes, the new owner is whoever was first in line at the nearest homeless shelter.

Other necessary goods and services that benefit from economies of scale are, as much as possible, scaled all the way up to the point of diminishing returns and then regulated as public utilities, priced according to intrinsic difficulty and environmental damage associated with production. Everyone pays the same rate, because any given aluminum can full of carbonic acid, corn syrup, and caffeine costs the same amount to produce no matter who drinks it (and part of the responsibility of a good citizen is internalizing externalities) or which logo is printed on the outside. Mass transit, software, everything.

One consistent inflation-adjusted minimum wage, with time-and-a-half for more than 8 hours in a day, 40 in a week, or any shift at all with the schedule set less than two weeks in advance, applies to every single hourly position: medical, teaching, babysitting, migrant farm labor, foodservice (before tips) office intern, doesn't matter. Of course that's just the minimum. Any given worker always has the option of telling their boss to shove it and going home to subsist on UBI until they find something better to do, so tasks that benefit from talent or loyalty will have to pay more to attract the right kind of people.

No more per-acre farm subsidies. Government's agricultural policy goal is to minimize the volatility of staple food prices, not forcing any specific price point. Warehousing anything edible with a decent shelf life, buying low and selling high, could be run as a boring, heavily-regulated corporation, like the post office. Higher food prices aren't a problem if UBI means everyone can still afford to eat, and developing countries would no longer be competitively excluded from building up their own local agriculture.

Copyright is life of the artist, full stop; enforcement focuses on attribution, and in particular, making sure it's as easy as possible for fans of a given work to express their gratitude for the work's existence by throwing money at the people most directly responsible without middlemen taking too much of a cut. The "Disney vault" and other massive corporate libraries get reamed out and dumped into the public domain. Same for patent trolls.

So, no more desperate poverty, no more wage slaves, no more artificial scarcity, no more trillion-dollar megacorps gobbling up or swatting down any tiny startup that might one day threaten their strategic interests. All you need to do to get ahead is provide something that people want to pay for, but which is not already being mass produced.

Cloth is currently harder for robots to work with than metal or plastic, but if a $20 per hour minimum wage were enforced all the way down the supply chain for textiles I suspect at least a few major labor-saving and/or safety-improving innovations would rapidly emerge. After all, loom automation is where modern computer science started, seems only fair to bring it full circle.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby David1 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:20 pm

Killjoy wrote:Love those stats that say "a first year X makes the same as an average Y"... I wonder how much the average first-year garbage collector makes.


But not enough to actually look it up. Not that it would be the relevant comparison, since a postdoc with eight years training isn't the same thing as a first-year garbage collector. If they went into garbage collection right after high school, they'd be a ninth year garbage collector.

You dodge the point; people don't work at a college because they want to maximize their income. They do so for non-material rewards.

The point of the devaluing credits is just to make sure no one can ever get ahead, can never actually benefit in any material way, from any accomplishment.


"Get ahead." "Benefit in any material way." No, those ideas were not how the people who thought of devaluing credits thought of as their goal. The point of the devaluing credits is to prevent a never-ending cycle of the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, to prevent people from piling up money indefinitely, to reduce freeloading on the upper end.

In our world, people living solely off inherited investments could be considered freeloaders of a sort, I'd not be horribly offended by that characterization,


Wow. People who do nothing and live off money they didn't earn are "freeloaders of a sort". You'd "not be horribly offended by that characterization"? You're the one taking offense at freeloaders, but the literal definition of that term within a capitalist society begrudgingly earns the term from you.

And yes, it does make them a society of freeloaders, because at the end of the day, the entire society doesn't have to do anything.


That a group has property X does not mean that the elements of that group have property X. Basic logic error.

I'd say your final statement is wrong; with the exception of one character, all the characters we've seen anything about in this story are filling needed roles in their society. The fact that their society doesn't give money an oversized role as carrot and stick doesn't stop people in this society from doing things, nor keep those things from being needed. We don't have a whole lot of detail on their economy, but certainly that university wouldn't keep running if there weren't a lot of hard working people in their society to keep it running.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby David1 » Thu Jan 02, 2020 3:38 pm

strange7person wrote:Copyright is life of the artist, full stop


I know this is one small line, but it's a line of great interest to me. That's a bad idea; a number of works have been written purely to support the artist's children after their death. Asimov is one example, though the latter Foundation works so written aren't necessarily great example of the social value of such a thing. Ulysses S. Grant writing his autobiography on his deathbed is a good example, IMO, of the social value of works created for post-death copyright. I certainly would hate to see a publisher sitting on a work for a year so they don't have to pay money to the dying author or his heirs.

I generally think copyright lasting for x years from publication is a better idea. It allows reproducing the zeitgeist of the time; works from the early 1920s are entering the public domain in the US, allowing for the period to be looked at as a whole, whereas the EU still has some works from the 19th century under copyright. It's also punishing to minor authors whose death date may be hard to find, and would be republishers of such works. To grab one example, the April 1923 issue of Weird Tales, now in the US public domain, has 23 contributors, nine of which have no death dates easily found (with seven having no known birth dates or other traceable data), three of which have death dates after life+50. Moving the duration would change some details, but even life+0 would have left people hanging on the legal right to republish this 95 year old work until quite recently. (Last known living author died in 1981, but some of the unknown authors could have been centenarians.)
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby strange7person » Sun Jan 05, 2020 6:10 pm

David1 wrote:
strange7person wrote:Copyright is life of the artist, full stop


I know this is one small line, but it's a line of great interest to me. That's a bad idea; a number of works have been written purely to support the artist's children after their death. Asimov is one example, though the latter Foundation works so written aren't necessarily great example of the social value of such a thing. Ulysses S. Grant writing his autobiography on his deathbed is a good example, IMO, of the social value of works created for post-death copyright. I certainly would hate to see a publisher sitting on a work for a year so they don't have to pay money to the dying author or his heirs.

I generally think copyright lasting for x years from publication is a better idea. It allows reproducing the zeitgeist of the time; works from the early 1920s are entering the public domain in the US, allowing for the period to be looked at as a whole, whereas the EU still has some works from the 19th century under copyright. It's also punishing to minor authors whose death date may be hard to find, and would be republishers of such works. To grab one example, the April 1923 issue of Weird Tales, now in the US public domain, has 23 contributors, nine of which have no death dates easily found (with seven having no known birth dates or other traceable data), three of which have death dates after life+50. Moving the duration would change some details, but even life+0 would have left people hanging on the legal right to republish this 95 year old work until quite recently. (Last known living author died in 1981, but some of the unknown authors could have been centenarians.)

Fair enough. I'm not terribly sympathetic to the support-children-after-artist's-death argument, since the whole idea of basic income and universal health coverage is that such support would already be mostly taken care of, but a fixed span from first publication would certainly be less of a bookkeeping hassle. How about twenty years? Long enough for most amortization schedules, but not for an effectively permanent nostalgia-based cash cow.

Could make "twenty=year clock, starting from first public sale" a more general rule for intellectual property. Might be a substantial improvement over the current system of drug development: since it can take so long to formally establish safety and efficacy, the original patent is often nearly expired before a drug is approved for widespread prescription, requiring absurd abuses in order to swiftly recoup costs.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby dr pepper » Sun Jan 05, 2020 7:32 pm

My idea is 25 years from publication: full rights. Original publishing and translation into other media may be renewed for another 25, but not the right to control derivative works. After that, it's public domain.
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Re: 0112 - In the future they still maintain the Masquerade

Postby Killjoy » Mon Jan 06, 2020 10:02 am

It's amazing how I start out skeptical of or unhappy about elements of capitalism... and then almost every anti-capitalist argument someone spews at me... makes me less negative about capitalism.
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