Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Should we vote to end civilization in 2100?

This post is a philosophical exploration of solutions to climate change, government debt explosion, and selective entitlements (for current retirees but excluding future retirees).  "Ending civilization" in this context refers to scheduling catastrophic warming/melting events, and scheduling government collapse by renouncing all future obligations after the scheduled point.  The year 2100 is chosen because no one alive today has an expectation to be alive then, and only a handful of voting aged people today would naturally reach continued life in 2100.

The referendum question of "would you prefer additional benefits in your lifetime at the cost of post-apocalyptic conditions in 2100" would not be proudly voted for, but if that is the wrong moral choice, and still a probable outcome, then democracy, even in its idealist form (truth is a force that will cause voters to improve and progress society), is a broken and amoral mechanism.

(click to enlarge)

The philosophy of trolleys
A well known philosophical/ethical proposition is the trolley problem.  A train is quickly bearing towards a fork in the tracks and you are standing by a switch that can change its path.  If you don't pull the switch, 5 people will die (they are tied to tracks) by being run over, and if you pull the switch, the train will change path and kill a fat man also tied to those other tracks.  You can justify either killing the fat man due to the total individual and social costs being lower, or can justify doing nothing because you have no responsibility to bear responsibility for your decision.

The actually interesting knowledge from the proposition, is one I have not seen explained before.  If the switch is already set to kill the fat man, there is no moral justification for setting it to kill the other 5, and if there are multiple people standing by the switch, there is no moral justification to prevent any one of them from deciding to kill the fat man.  So, in a democratic procedure for setting the switch position, the only morally justifiable voting options are to either kill the fat man or abstain.

Real world application of the democratic trolley problem
In the real world, the fat man has a gun, bribery funds, and a megaphone to deny railroad physics.  Your vote will no longer be influenced by overall social costs.  The train is an allegory for impending environmental and fiscal collapses.  The masses may have smaller guns, but there are more of them and so capable of exerting influence as well, and complicating any decision further.

Voting for a 2035 apocalypse?
The US social security "trust fund" is able to pay expected retirement obligations until 2033.  For those over 55, voting to keep all benefits for those over 55 and eliminate all benefits for those under 55 while continuing to tax those under 55 for benefits they will never see personally is rational self interest.  Similarly, a $10T debt increase over the last 12 years is worth the minimal economic benefits it provided as long as your age means that you will not be involved in repaying that debt.  Funding for schools and jobs becomes less important as you age, while funding for strong security and prisons would seem a priority to control the sub-class generations.

Romney/Ryan Apocalypse 2035
The above is pretty much exactly the republican political campaign platform, but without the distasteful explicitness of inter-genrational slavery.  GOP spokesmen proudly exclaim that "social security and medicare will not be lowered for those over 55", and "20 year olds today already expect that they will not receive any retirement benefits".  The last point is especially offensive because even if 20 year olds expect their government to draft them into war with Iran, indefinitely detain them, and cut all of their social benefits while raising their taxes to pay for past spending, doesn't make it fair.

The social contract
While some people object to the social contract on grounds that they never signed their name to it, and they shouldn't be compelled into funding social mandates, a much stronger objection is if the government cancels or reduce their obligations under the contract.  The core of the social contract is that we each get about 12 years of social funded education and 12-20 years of expected social funded retirement/health benefits, and pay for it all through taxes in between.  If we are somehow not entitled to retirement benefits at birth, we are certainly entitled to them once we enter tax paying age.

This year marked the first time that people have paid more in payroll taxes than they can expect to receive in benefits.  Further cutting benefits for the young is more explicit slavery than not cutting those benefits while taking in their taxes.  A $13k -$33k benefit cut is the same as the equivalent tax increase

The pyramid scheme of deferred benefits
If we are entitled to 15-20 years (based on expected life span) of benefits, the problem with them being due 45 years after we start working is that Governments can decide that those benefits are a lower priority than spending on wars, prison occupancy, or drug benefits to current generation of retirees designed to prevent cheaper mail order and with conditions that forbid program price negotiations.

Like all pyramid schemes, social retirement entitlements where designed with the false presumption that a steady stream of new participants would be available to pay for current entitlees.  Declining birth rates and longer life spans is the direct pressure on the sustainability of the retirement entitlement pyramid scheme.

Al Gore's lockboxes vs. Nordquist's starve the beast
Apocalypse 2035 was cemented in the US 2000 elections when extending the funding sustainability of the entitlements pyramid was explicitly rejected (no matter how narrowly).  "Starve the beast" is the intentional bankrupting of the government so that it can become small enough to drown in a bathtub.  Karl Rove's "deficits don't matter" was a specific admission that apocalypse 2035 doesn't matter to the GOP voting base.

Apocalypse 2035 is designed such there is an "oops we have no more money left so everyone younger than x gets a reduction or elimination of benefits" moment.  All of the benefits prior to that moment will have been paid.  In a ponzi scheme, no money is destroyed.  Every dollar lost is a dollar gained by someone else.  The only basis for discouraging ponzi schemes is that there is fraud and disappointment committed against the less sophisticated participants.  In every ponzi scheme, the longer you can maintain the lie (extend the oops moment), the better for those at the top of the pyramid, because the longer the lie is maintained the more new people keep paying into the scheme.

The moral justification of Apocalypse 2100
As a democratic process that has no negative consequences for anyone of voting age, and almost everyone alive, there is no possible evil committed against anyone in the group if we decide today that government and social debt is eliminated (renounced) in the year 2100.  The decision to procreate birth slaves is a voluntary one, and can be avoided if you would despair over their fate.

The promise of eliminating government in 2100 is a generous gift to the birth-slaves, and will maintain hope for humanity for deliverance on the promise date.  We can kid ourselves that technology, and drunken-sailor-spending, will improve the state of the world on the hand-off date,

The diabolical evil or "even better justification" for apocalypse 2100
  • The social birth slaves could also be made to be liable for their master generation parents and grand parents personal debts.  So there would be personal incentives to create social birth slaves, if personal use of the slaves is an added bonus.
  • The social birth slaves could have substantial surtaxes to further help pay for our lifestyles
  • Military drone technology can be developed to condition proper respect of birth slaves for their generational masters.
  • Environmental issues would only matter within the context of damage/depletion prior to the 2100 deadline.
  • We could scrub history to make believe that this arrangement has always occurred every 100 years.  The purpose would be to make the arrangement appear fair and normal.  "Transition 2100" or "Empowerment 2100"  are more marketing friendly names that apocalypse 2100
The moral bankruptcy of apocalypse 2035
The same generational masters and birth slave separation is being currently made, but the birth slaves are already born and approximately younger than 55.  It is not morally justifiable if birth slaves are created through a hidden and corrupt political process that deceives the birth slaves, and even convincing them that slavery (reduced entitlements) is their correct position

The basis for the moral justification of apocalypse 2100 is removed when lying and deception is necessary to inflict damages on the generational subclass.

An interesting phenomenon in US elections over the last 12 years has been that exit polls (person asking people exiting voting place how they voted) have consistently shown that fewer people admit to voting republican than the official vote counts.  While an obvious and rational explanation for the discrepancy is corrupt election rigging, the other possible explanation is that people are shamed from publicly admitting to voting for republicans.   You can understand full well that war and senior prescription drug debt will be borne by some people's grandchildren, but see that as much more preferable than you having to bear any cost.

Just as we might all publicly renounce the apocalypse 2100 proposal, within the secret ballot process, many of us would consider the personal advantages of having slaves and being on the right side of the generational superclass divide.  It is much easier to vote yourself as the superclass when that assignment is hidden and not publicly discussed, as it has been in recent elections.  Slaves are controlled more effectively and cost efficiently through the illusion of freedom  than through armed security.

The disadvantages of creating a youth subclass
Beyond the collective shame for being anti-humanist pieces of shit by enslaving our, or our peers', children, the birth slaves will morally justify extreme violent resistance and the overthrowing of generational rulers.  The chief utilitarian cost of birth slaves is the resources used by, and failures of, militarized control of the birth slaves.  Some of us will die, and all of us will feel less safe, as a result of the justified hatred and resentment of the birth slaves.  Not only will we have monumental security expenses to control the birth slaves, but the security will still fail sometimes.

Even if we aim for apocalypse 2100, by 2050-2070, there will be relatively few of "us" and our will to maintain the social order may be weaker than the collective energy of the birth slaves to oppose us.  The full 88 year reign may not be a reasonable expectation, and so we condemn some of our younger privileged generation members to either a violent death, or a forced compromise of forfeiting their benefits.

SOLUTIONS

Now testify
Paul Ryan said his favorite band is Rage against the Machine.  This shocked the band members who asked what his favorite song possibly could be, since the band's philosophy is antithetical to everything Ryan believes.  If I may answer for Ryan, it is Testify.  





Musically, its one of their best songs, but more importantly from the linked video, it carries a voter suppression message that democrats are the same as republicans.  While not the strongest possible endorsement, I can definitely state that democrats are a lesser evil than republicans.  That should be sufficient to earn your dedicated commitment to vote for democrats this November.  The importance is exterminating republicans from political influence and relevant discourse.

Better political alternatives to democrats can surface afterwards.  If you don't vote, you admit to having zero relevance in social issues.  You should prefer your political opponents, no matter how wrong or useless, to be human beings rather than demons.

Turning deferred entitlements into immediate entitlements
The simplest way to avoid generational master and sub classes is to use the Social security fund to start paying stipends (based on Canadian OAS model) to everyone over the next 15 or 20 years.  The moral justification is that at least the benefits would run out for everyone at the same time.  I name this solution Social Security Liquidation

A problem with this approach is that this still creates a significant economic event in 2027 or 2032 when the payments run out.  Also, even if the common widely broadcasted advice that people should invest and save the payments in preparing for their end is well understood, issues of personal responsibility and bad luck with investments would create substantial personal hardships.

Basic income and social dividends - The better solution
Basic income is providing every citizen with a stipend in the amount of approximately $7k to $10k per year.  Permanently.  You could consider the previous solution of a 15-20 year temporary "retirement (Social security liquidation) stipend" to be a test run for basic income.  At any time in the next 15-20 years, the people can vote to extend the social security liquidation program into a permanent annual entitlement.

Basic income provides far more advantages than just eliminating the generational subjugation problem we are facing.  Basic income is not welfare.  There is no created disincentive to work.  It replaces welfare, eliminates catastrophic poverty and desperation, eliminates need for minimum wages or excessive employment regulations by equalizing the negotiation power between employers and employees.  It also provides substantial economic activity boost since the poor spend everything, and the middle class and rich also get a safety net that allows them to save less.

Social dividends is the concept that every citizen deserves an equal share of social tax revenue.  It is a justification for basic income, but it is different in that it provides a variable entitlement rather than a fixed entitlement.  I recommend both a fixed basic income portion as well as this variable social dividend component.  The variable nature of social dividends provides an automatic adjustment to the economy.  When the economy does poorly, lower stipends will pressure more to look for work, and when it does spectacularly, there will likely be more encouraging work opportunities, or more content leisure opportunities.

The core benefit and purpose of social dividends is that every government program has the natural alternative of paying its cost as an equal cash stipend to citizens, and so every program must provide value efficiently in order to be tolerated.  A social dividend structure means that even though people may be taxed differently, the actual cost of any program is paid for equally by everyone.

Paying for basic income
Despite lies to the contrary, very high corporate tax rates directly create jobs, and low corporate tax rates destroy jobs.  The simple reason, is that the easiest way to avoid taxes is to hire people, do R&D, and buy equipment.  The higher the tax rate, the larger the tax deduction for any spending.  All that spending directly leads to economic activity and taxes from wages and other companies' profits.  Low or no taxes does the exact opposite:  A company focuses on cutting as many costs as possible, and it must bear the full cost and risk of any hiring or investment, because there is a lower tax deduction from spending.

On the personal side, higher top marginal tax brackets can also create more employment.  If say, some doctors and lawyers, reduce their work hours because they are making too much money, then there is more room for more doctors and lawyers.  Society is healthier with 400k doctors working 10 hours per week for $100k/year, than it is with 100k doctors working 40 hours per week at $400k/year.  At the very high income end, income is earned primarily from wealth and investment.  No tax rate causes anyone to keep money in their mattress instead of putting it in a safe investment, and high tax rates combined with high tax rebates for losses encourages risky investments due to the subsidy received if the investment fails.

The right tax policy is high tax rates with ample strategic "loopholes" designed to channel productive economic behaviour.  The right strategic tax deductions are those that when one entity successfully avoids tax, other entities receive income and tax obligations.  So high tax rates naturally cause distribution of income.

Basic income is affordable without tax increases
There are 20M US government employees.  The average Federal employee receives $120k in salary and benefits.  Elimating all government employees would allow providing $8000/year to 300M Americans from the cost savings.  I'm not advocating eliminating all government employees, but when you can give $8000 to 15 people instead of the 1 employee, then you need to look at whether the luck or politics involved in choosing the right recipient for that "nice job" is fair, and whether that job could be filled at a lower salary.

Total 2012 US government spending is $6.3T.  Eliminating all government spending would free enough money to give $21k/year to 300M Americans.  At that site, you can drill down for details, and pick the $2.4T you would prefer cutting in order to afford $8k/year for 300M citizens.

Social dividends allow a democratic process to determine what programs to cut.  Its unlikely that the whole government would be eliminated.  It is reasonable to expect that the military would receive significant cuts, and that drugs would be turned from a huge social and personal misery (from persecution) cost into a source of social revenues.

Improvements to democracy
Society and democracy must deal with people who view democracy and society's only purpose to make their lifetimes as comfortable as possible at any social cost.  When that perspective is so extreme as to be shameful, then the anonymity of voting contributes to that shameful act, just as anonymity contributes to every other shameful act.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom and the US Constitution include provisions to prevent laws that discriminate among groups.  But generational warfare is not currently covered.  Politicians could easily be shamed into officially adding a human right protecting against generational slavery.  But perhaps the courts could even extend the protection by assuming that it was an obvious intention all along.

Shame is the only peaceful weapon available to combat anti-humanist extreme selfishness.  Pretending evil is not occurring or contemplated facilitates evil.  Laws against evil maybe helpful too.

4 comments:

  1. To close the loop on the trolley problem:

    There is a big pile of money comming down the tracks, and all the citizens are lined up on the side of the track with the oldest first. 80 years ago, everyone could see that the train would eventually reach them, and there was no reason to complain about the queue order.

    The issue is: does the pile of money only belong to those at the head of the line? If not, then some other arrangement is necessary to distribute that money.

    The same analogy applies to natural resources and livable climate conditions.

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  2. Cute, but deeply flawed because you don't understand how corporate taxes work. Corporations are taxed on GROSS, not NET income: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/26/61

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    1. Thank you for reading, but I assure you that corporate income taxes everywhere are based on Net Income.

      The reason it will always be based on net and not gross income is to allow thin margin industries with middle-men like grocery retail to not be forced to charge double or triple current prices.

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    2. How can you say GROSS, when corporations are taxed on what's left after all the deductions, including depreciating of virtual things like good will, depreciation and amortization, and other capitalized expenses? I work for a Fortune 500, by the way, in finance.

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