And also quite a reform for juries to hold people responsible for having a little common sense. How can you step onto a moving sidewalk without knowing you will eventually need to step off?

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Demolishing those houses is the right decision.

I'd agree that the bank never should have foreclosed on these houses. They'd have been much better off signing those houses over and changing the debt to an unsecured loan. The debt (or some portion of it) would remain valid but the owners would continue to have a place to live, the property would be maintained, and the bank wouldn't have to assume the liability of the house.

Unfortunately, once a bank owns a house, the bank is responsible for the house.

Banks are not trying to create a housing shortage. They are trying to deal with a surplus that includes properties that they believe have no chance of becoming profitable. This does include giving houses away, which is preferable to spending money to demolish them. Banks are for-profit entities, and destroying these houses is an example of the free market dealing with a surplus by destroying items with a negative value, not an example of manipulating the market to create a shortage.

Even if the houses aren't demolished, they can't let anyone live there. That would be a lawsuit just waiting to happen.

(I have no comment or opinion on your monopoly power statements. I suspect that subject is deeper than can be explained in one of these posts. Feel free to provide a link where I can read a more fully developed analysis supporting that claim).

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It would take quite a reform of tort litigation to make legal liability less costly than a recorded message.

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Mark, I am not talking inequalities, I am talking about irrational, inhumane and perverse behaviors.

Right now there are serious proposals to destroy homes that are foreclosed on so as to reduce the housing stock to drive up the value of existing homes via creating a scarcity of housing.


Who has made the perverse and irrational decision that it is better to destroy something (at a cost) than to give it away to someone who needs it? All destroying something that already exists does is create an artificial scarcity. The only value behind an artificial scarcity accrues to those with monopoly power. If there was no monopoly power, then an artificial scarcity would rapidly be filled by a free market. If an artificial scarcity can make “business sense”, that demonstrates that the market is not “free”.

When the market is not “free”, then there is not and cannot be “equality of opportunity”. The entity with the monopoly power has monopoly control and uses that monopoly power to maintain its monopoly power.

The acquisition of monopoly power, and the use of that monopoly power to maintain and extend that monopoly power is the problem the economy is facing today. The monopoly power is held by the 1% that the OWS is protesting against.

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You've listed some inequities in the system, but these aren't due to our inability to produce enough medical care, homes, schools, food, etc. We, as a society, have decided these things must be earned rather than given.

We'd like everyone to have the opportunity to earn their way, which means keeping them employed. Wasteful regulation is a thinly veiled disguise for redistribution of wealth, which keeps some people employed.

My post mentions that we are nowhere near the Orwellian level of efficiency - meaning we don't need the government to dispose of excess production. The real point of the post is our government is not managing consumption of resources in a meaningful way. They increase consumption (and regulation) during boom cycles, and continue that level during bust cycles. This allows, and probably aggravates, the boom-bust cycle.

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When I get on a moving walkway without at least 5 confused people staggering on and exiting in a panic I'll start complaining. Move to the right if you are just standing in one place! If you walk at the same pace you WERE walking you will be moving twice as fast...

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What basis do you have for saying that the economy is “producing more than we need”? Are there people without medical care? Are there people without homes? Are their people without enough food to eat? Are their people without schools to be educated in? Are there people without cars? Are there research scientists without research funding?

There is plenty of “need” out there for everything that the economy can produce. There is no need to “waste” anything, unless you consider letting an unemployed homeless person live in a foreclosed house rent-free instead of bulldozing it a “waste”. Or consider idle health care workers treating people without health insurance a “waste”.

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We can't get rid of waste. Our economy is driven by waste. How many jobs would be lost if we stopped wasteful spending?

Big Brother in George Orwell's 1984 was a consequence of advances in technology and production. The book isn't known (at least to the general public) for its economic forecast, but that is the background that drives the story. In short, the world was so good at producing things that we had way too much stuff and needed a way to dispose of it in order to have a reason to keep producing more. This keeps unemployment low. Constant war was the biggest way to do it, but regulation and oversight was a part of it as well.

We're nowhere near that level of efficiency, and of course the consequences that Orwell puts out there are pure fiction, but I can see similarities in the economic model. What happens when we produce more than we need? We just don't need as many people working.

As a nation we're pretty good at spending more when we have more. We're not so good at spending less when we have less. At a national level, our overall rate of consumption is not being managed or regulated in a way that matches production. I'm not saying it necessarily should be managed in this way, but I think we're going to continue a boom-bust cycle without it. Of course, there has to be something to trigger the boom. Many believe there will be a green energy boom. I hope so. But once the market is saturated, many years later, there will be a corresponding bust. Then we'll be looking for the next boom again.

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Or that people are easier to exploit when no one who understands that exploitation is happening is watching, or when the exploiters are given free reign to lie about what the risks are.

It is easy to blame victims for being stupid. How about those idiots who bought the Collateralized Debt Obligations that were rated AAA by S&P because there was no nanny government warning them not to?

Oh wait, a whole bunch of them did get bailed out by taxpayers, so how stupid were they? Who are the real victims? Why did tax payers have to bail out all those wealthy people, who were working so hard generating real value that they didn't notice that they were being scammed by the other wealthy people working so hard generating real value?

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Lord, you are right IMHO.

Will says " the assumption is that we are all infants or imbeciles in need of constant, kindly supervision and nudging."

How immature do you have to be to think that everything in a public setting is aimed at "we.. all?" Does Will thinks signs in Spanish or French or German or Korean or any of a hundred other languages are also aimed at all of us? Is Will annoyed by signs pointing to restrooms when he doesn't have to piddle and to food courts when he isn't hungry? If Will has a kindle is he pissed at the bookstore signs trying to grab everybody's attention?

The signs on the highlway pointing to the airport must really annoy WIll once he has been to that airport a few times.

Add to this the possibility that sometimes the airport is more crowded than others, on a moving sidewalk you cannot easily detect the end of the moving walkway as the experienced people pick up walking at the same pace in the same direction at the end.

I generally love Will's points even when I don't agree with them, but this is not his best work.

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I'm relatively low-status but I find most warnings ridiculous. If we grow to expect warnings, we'll never naturally take heed. Why is the question not, is it economical to centralise the act of taking care, such that only a few people think about things like accident and risk avoidance, who everyone else just listens to?I think Robin was affiliating with the idea that people gain the ability to take care of themselves when they know there's no-one else to.

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Thanks; fixed.

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Did you even finish the article? Robin's point was that the U.S. wastes a lot of money not only on trivial matters like airport warnings, but also on big things like overpriced med and the War on Terror.

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I'm not so confident that U.S schools are actually better than average for the first-world rather than just about average. I'd have to see what numbers are available, but at least in the link I gave it was mostly saying that if you look at the above-average schools they look similar or better. They mention the OECD average, but that isn't actually restricting the sample to whites and some of the countries like Mexico or Turkey still have lots of rural poverty.

I'd agree that the scale of the problem is no so big. At worst, families can just go to private schools. Education has been soaking up more and more money like healthcare and finance, but a lot of that acceleration is in higher education which is a somewhat different issue. There has been ridiculous administrative bloat over the decades in k-12 education though.

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My sense is that people smarter than their teachers/school environment become deeply empathetic to the notion that schools are run badly and that it's an Important Problem, at least as important as less emotionally impactful deficiencies to their formative years like how the US healthcare, financial, defense, or financial sectors are managed. I'm sure I've felt that way most my life too. But if the data is that the US education system is producing better results per ethnicity than most of the world, it becomes wasteful to devote such a high proportion of attention to educational reform in the US.

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I concluded that the avenue for improvement was to have schools be less unpleasant places to force kids to spend seven hours a day (I came to that conclusion when I was still in school). More recently Adam Ozimek has argued that equivalent performance in charter vs regular schools is still an argument for charters because their per-pupil expenditure is lower. I believe that had long been the case for Catholic schools.

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