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Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Fri Jan 11, 2008 at 11:28:28 PM EST) Reading, OBLF, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "The Ionian Mission", "Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism", "A History of Negro Revolt". OBLF. Web.


What I'm Reading
The Ionian Mission by Patrick O'Brian. Another Aubrey/Maturin novel. This one takes a slightly different tack than most. Usually Aubrey is sent off in a small, fast ship for a mission in an exotic part of the world: but this one has him assigned to a slow ship of the line (Worcester, 74) doing dreary blockade duty in the Mediterranean; where barnacles, boredom, naval politics and a diminishing supply of spars are the chief enemy.

Despite this realism, O'Brian manages to keep enough plot elements in play to keep things going. There are a couple of nicely comic scenes. Aubrey buys a job-lot of gunpowder from a bankrupt firework company, illuminating gunnery practice with coloured flames and smoke. Unwilling to break the neutrality of a port by shooting first, Aubrey futilely sails his squadron up and down opposite a French force, only to find that his opposition is equally disciplined: without the excuse of even a single musket shot he is forced to sail away in peaceful humiliation.

Action heats up a bit towards the ending.

What I'm Listening To
Latest TTC course was the Rise and Fall of Soviet Communism. Bit disappointed by it. Spends a lot of time on the Bolshevik Revolution, Stalin's famines and WW2, all of which is pretty familiar to me. Might work better if you're a complete newbie.

It's also one of the older 45 minute ones: dated 1998 so doesn't have any very recent information. 16 lectures.

What I'm Reading 2
A History of Negro Revolt by C.L.R. James. Picked it up on a whim at the library: reprint of an apparently classic 1930s Marxist pamphlet on the subject.

Quite interesting in places, especially his argument that Britain's abolition of the slave trade was essentially an attempt to attack French trade, since they were much more reliant on slave labour. Also has some useful stuff on colonial oppression, and an insightful discussion of the differences between colonies with permanent settlers and those without, which echoes the TTC course I did a while back.

There's a bit of a lack of notes on sources though, which makes it hard to evaluate some of the claims. Also the Marxist analysis seems to be a bit of a Procrustean bed as James struggles to extract sequential revolutions, and to identify bourgeois and proletarian classes, in African and Caribbean situations where they don't really seem to fit.

Overall, seems more of a curiosity than an useful reference.

OBLF
Unsurprisingly, a month without keeping a food diary, the Xmas season, going on holiday and going to see the parents has messed up the regimen. Need to lose about half a stone.

Weight

Not sure yet what the plan is. That's a bit much for Slimfast: would mean a month on it which would get boring. Might be better to just maintain a 500 kcal per day deficit for two months.

Could maybe try something different and try exercise. According to this I could burn 500kcal in a 30minute run (at 8mph). Don't think I've really got the time though. I'm already doing 5BX every day and a bit of weights every three days. Adding in more exercise (and warm-up and showering and changing clothes and all that crap) would take a big chunk out of my reading time.

Web
Unanswered Savage Love questions

YouTube: Captain Disillusion explains sunglasses-catching video.

Why are gender personality differences more extreme in "prosperous, healthy, and egalitarian cultures in which women have more opportunities equal with those of men"?

Should there be a Citizens Basic Income? I think this is one of the downsides of centrist government: both the left and the right seem to think this is a good idea, but the centre hates it.

< Cat King | BBC White season: 'Rivers of Blood' >
Tendence Groucho | 52 comments (52 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
I like the idea of a CBI by hulver (4.00 / 1) #1 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 12:21:22 AM EST
It's a lot simpler than the existing system. A huge problem with the current benefits system is how difficult it is to get off benefits and into work. The amount you have to earn to make it worth while is quite high. A CBI would solve that problem.

Going a bit daily mail, but when do you start giving the CBI? Immigrants specifically. The tax rates would have to change to finance the CBI, changing the bottom rate of tax.

If you don't give working immigrants a CBI, the job they do is going to be worth less than a native worker as they're going to be paying more tax.

Also, children. What age do you start paying the CBI? If you start when the children are young, you're going to have a child production line where some people see their ticket to a good income as just popping out kids.

If you don't start paying it until they're older then you're punishing the child for the choices of the parent.
--
Cheese is not a hat. - clock

The same guy by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #2 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 12:31:39 AM EST
Posted a bit on CBI and immigration separately.

I think what the current system provides is "a child production line where some people see their ticket to a good income as just popping out kids". If you look at those massive-benefit families that appear in the tabloids, they have lots of children. The current system is pretty much designed to harass the unemployed, and having kids is a way to get around that. You might want to reduce the CBI based on children's ages though.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
CBI by Herring (4.00 / 1) #3 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 03:45:35 AM EST
It sounds simple, but I foresee a couple of problems:

The cost of living is liable to be CBI plus some. Raising the CBI would raise the cost of living too (I suspect).

What about people who are disabled or have extra mobility/living needs and are unlikely to ever be able to work? Do you still need extra payouts (and the bureaucracy to administer them)?

I agree that something needs to be done. At the moment, it's such hassle for casual workers to sign off/on that either refusing work, or working and claiming is easier. That's silly. (Ironically it's probably all the crap procedures designed to catch benefit fraud that are making it more prevalent.)

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

His calculations by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #4 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 03:56:42 AM EST
Put the CBI at "£100 a week, which is £18 a week more than the basic state pension".

I think for it to work, disabled people would probably have to just get the same as everyone else. Disability seems to be complicated with a top rate of £109.50 for maximum care, minimum mobility. So some of them at least would be a bit worse off. If they get housing benefit on top of that they'd be a lot worse off.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
on this side of the pond by lm (4.00 / 2) #5 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:37:37 AM EST
Health care is also a problem. Presently, there is a large disabled population in the US that could work but if they do so, they lose their government provided health benefits and they are ineligible for most private plans. The only way for these individuals to have health coverage is to either stay on the dole or get a job at a company that provides group coverage. Unless I'm mistaken, that's a minority of jobs (40%) in the US. And it gives the employer a rather large club to hold over the head of the disabled employee.

So if you had CBI + government provided health care, there would be no penalty for a disabled person to go to work. Certainly not all disabled people are able to go to work at all. But there are a fair number that could work part time, or in a white collar job, or do something entrepreneurial that are presently discouraged from pursuing any of this by the way things are set up in the US.

Interestingly, the US has something that begins to approach this idea for people who work. It's called the earned income credit. But like everything else regarding income and government in the US, its a nightmare of paperwork and confusing and many people eligible for it don't take it. And even then, it's not a sufficient amount.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I think some of them by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #7 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:46:30 AM EST
Would benefit from the ability to do part time or occasional work without penalization.

Over here it's also complicated because a succession of governments encouraged doctors to put lots of borderline cases on disability benefit, in order to massage down the unemployment figures.

However, I think the current system is designed somewhat moralistically to reward the "deserving" and punish the "undeserving". Since the disabled are pretty much classed as deserving, I think they'd be likely to be worse off under a more egalitarian system.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
That is ridiculous by Herring (2.00 / 0) #11 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:16:48 AM EST
But not entirely unexpected.

The other thing I've been led to believe is that the self-employed are stuffed by health insurance premiums. Which fits well with the "land of opportunity".

I found this - which has obviously been put together by filthy liberals with their own agenda. It strikes me that the US has to do something about healthcare because it's knackering their economy.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
self employed folks are fine (if they're healthy) by lm (4.00 / 1) #23 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:57:17 AM EST
My employer doesn't offer health insurance. A decent, but not great, private plan for me and my daughters sets me back $350 per month. But that's for a relatively young man in good health and his two daughters who are in good health. (Although my hearing impairment means that I pay 10% more than I would otherwise and there is a rider that the insurance company will categorically not cover anything to do with my hearing regardless of the cause.)

My wife, on the other hand, is uninsurable. If she wasn't covered by Medicare (a federal program), her only option would be to be employed by a group policy at her employer or be married to someone whose employer offered group policies for the families of workers. And the only reason that she's on Medicare is because she's considered to be too disabled to work. Here's the kicker.  If she had a chronic illness like diabetes or heart disease that didn't prevent her from working, she'd not qualify for Medicare and still be uninsurable except through group plans offered by various employers.

Yeah, it's messed up. I think there are two good approaches to solved the  problem. One method is some sort of single payer system at the federal level. Another method would be for legislation that made insurance into true commodity by forbidding riders so that specific conditions aren't met, that all buyers into the system pay the same price, that individuals can't be rejected due to age, occupation or pre-existing conditions.


There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
I think it was Mencken who said by Herring (4.00 / 1) #8 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:51:41 AM EST
something about for every complex problem, there being a solution that is simple, obvious and wrong.

The benefit system is too complex -> CBI
The taxation system is too complex -> Poll Tax
Waterfall development doesn't work -> XP

It's an attractive idea - that people should be better off working than they are on benefits. The only 3 ideas that I have seen on this are: cut benefits (Tabloid newspapers), raise the minimum wage (the left) or subsidize low pay as CBI or tax credits (the other CBI). I'm not keen on the first option - cutting benefits to families punishes the children (think of the children!) as well.

I'm not sure what the answer is (I'll just poke holes in other people's solutions rather than bein gconstructive). I think I read somewhere that, in the UK, there are 172,000 people classed as long-term unemployed. That's not a huge number in the grand scheme of things.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Well by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #9 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 05:07:42 AM EST
I don't think the disability thing is a big enough issue to derail the idea completely. They'll either just have to live on £9.50 a week less, or we'll have to raise taxes a bit.

I think the big problem is how you transition to it. By the time your national economy has grown to the level it can afford a CBI, you're stuck with a massively complicated benefits system. That means some people are going to be worse off and are going to scream bloody murder if the system is changed.

I think you'd have to do it gradually. Start by creating one payments system for child benefit, income support, state pension, disability: then gradually converge the amounts and move other benefits into the system. The problem with that is that there's no short-term reduction in administration costs. So a government doing that would have to be thinking and operating in the long term.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I still think by Herring (4.00 / 1) #12 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:22:24 AM EST
Going back to my original post, that whatever the CBI is, the cost of housing + food + utilities is going to be higher than that - whatever the level of CBI is. So some people are going to be stuffed.

If you had CBI plus a small, simple set of extras, then it could work but keeping it simple is a challenge.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
But it isn't by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #13 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:28:30 AM EST
From his calculations the CBI is higher than the state pension. It's possible (just) to survive on the state pension, so it's possible to survive on the CBI.

It's not supposed to provide luxury or even comfort, but it does cover basic housing + food + utilities.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
It is now by Herring (4.00 / 1) #14 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 07:55:49 AM EST
But I think my point is that the price of housing + food + utilities would always rise to something above CBI - because most people will be able to afford that. Most, but not all.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
Um, why? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #15 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:18:10 AM EST
I really don't see why "the price of housing + food + utilities would always rise to something above CBI".

What would make them rise?

Also, the price of these things isn't uniform. Up to a point, housing space can be subdivided or built higher until the space available is affordable (though not necessarily comfortable). If one foodstuff becomes expensive, people can switch to other foodstuffs. What is going to make the price of all foods rise until you can't afford to eat on the CBI?
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Market forces? by Herring (4.00 / 3) #16 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:36:27 AM EST
If you were a private landlord, would you rent out your property at a rate that 100% of people could afford - and make a tiny profit, or at a rent that 98% of people could afford and make a bigger profit? You probably don't want that 2% of people as tennats. Nobody does.

I reckon that if everyone could afford the basics, the price of the basics would go up.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Um, wha? by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #17 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:57:20 AM EST
OK, firstly one point of the CBI is precisely that it's more egalitarian. With everyone on the same income, it's much less likely to end up with a situation where 2% of the people can't afford to live. The CBI is better for that, not worse.

Secondly, in a market, suppliers try to fill all the niches. If there are 2% of people who can't afford housing, that means there's a gap in the market that suppliers are going to try to fill. Market forces work to fill gaps in the market, not to create them.

Now it may be that it somehow becomes simply impossible for landlords to provide accommodation at an affordable price due to their own costs; however small the rooms, tall the buildings, crappy the pest-control. But that could happen with equal likelyhood under the current system.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
"Market forces work to fill gaps" by Herring (4.00 / 2) #19 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:08:00 AM EST
Really? Who says?

(Ignoring current troubles for the minute) How come Bovis et al aren't flocking to build low cost housing then? There's certainly a demand for it. Why are they all building "executive housing"? There is a lot of building going on around here, and I don't see anyone putting up 1 or 2 bedroom flats.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
Do you live in a low-income area? by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #21 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:26:51 AM EST
Today I walked past several blocks advertising one- and two-bedroom flats, built in the last couple of years.

There are some who blame the lack of new housing in the UK on excessive regulation. But that's not really relevant to the CBI: the problem has to be faced whether you've got CBI or the current system.

Who says market forces work to fill gaps? I suppose Adam Smith originally, though possibly it was someone earlier. But it's pretty obvious. If there's a gap in the market, then there's money to be made if someone can fill it. Someone who wants to make money will therefore want to try.

One thing that history of the Soviet Union pointed out was that they had severe housing problems. From the course guide, at one point the average urban living space had 4.5 to 5 square meters per resident. So, it's not just capitalism that has housing shortages.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
I don't think it's obvious at all by Herring (4.00 / 2) #22 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:53:24 AM EST
There's a market for a malaria vaccine, but pharmacutical companies can make more money treating the obesity, ulcers and impotence of the rich. There is more profit in the rich than in the poor.

Regulation is certainly an issue with housing, however, I see the new estates going up near here (where they have freed up a lot of land for development) and its all expensive housing. Yes, this is a fairly prosperous area, but even prosperous areas need teachers, nurses, building labourers etc. Nobody is building housing for them because it's more profitable to build 4 bed executive houses.

Actually I think that's the core of my position: yes, the "free market" does a lot of things very well and without it, you're probably fucked. But it isn't omniscient and it isn't democratic. It certainly isn't infallible (dot-com boom anyone?). Yes, you need capitalism but it isn't everything, it should be subject to the wishes of society. An example of unregulated capitalism would be mugging.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
A mugging wouldn't be capitalism by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #25 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:15:34 AM EST
The point of capitalism is that the transactions are voluntary. If you give me an apple and I give you a pound under capitalism, it's because we both think we're better off: I think I'm better off with a pound less and an apple, you think you're better off with a pound more and one fewer apple.

I don't really see your vaccine analogy as it stands. A drug company wants to make as much money as possible: it wants to sell impotence treatments and ulcer drugs and malaria all at the same time, if it can make a profit doing so.

I think you might mean that a company with a patented vaccine can make more money if it charges a higher price that some people can't afford. But that's because the company has been granted a monopoly. There isn't an efficient market for that vaccine since there's only one seller.

That doesn't apply to housing because no one company has a monopoly on providing housing. If it did, you'd hope the monopolies and mergers commission would step in.

But even if there was, that would be a completely separate issue to CBI. This Housing Inc monopoly could carry out its overpricing under either the CBI or the current system.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
No. by Herring (4.00 / 2) #27 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:33:58 AM EST
Under the current system, what the state will pay in housing benefit is capped.

Mugging is a bad example. Drug dealing is a better one. What stops a company from importing Heroin from Afghanistan and selling it for a profit? Laws. And are these laws a property of the market? Clearly not - they are set by the government who (allegedly) are elected by the people. A truly unregulated market would allow drug dealing, kiddie porn and unrestricted weapons sales.

Back to the other point: what you said was that the market will fill any gap where it can make a profit. Ignoring the patent issue, I am saying that this just isn't true. It might be true if the market were truly "frictionless" - no barriers to entry etc. but it isn't and never will be.

I know, from speaking to people, that there is a market for low-cost housing around here. But there is no supply.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky

[ Parent ]
I'm getting confused now by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #36 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 11:37:43 PM EST
Under the current system, what the state will pay in housing benefit is capped.
How is that relevant? Housing benefit is limited by the cap, CBI is limited because it's a constant amount.

Mugging is a bad example. Drug dealing is a better one. What stops a company from importing Heroin from Afghanistan and selling it for a profit? Laws. And are these laws a property of the market? Clearly not - they are set by the government who (allegedly) are elected by the people. A truly unregulated market would allow drug dealing, kiddie porn and unrestricted weapons sales.
The government doesn't regulate heroin to provide more of it, but to provide less of it. If heroin equals houses, then government intervention would make housing less available.
Back to the other point: what you said was that the market will fill any gap where it can make a profit. Ignoring the patent issue, I am saying that this just isn't true. It might be true if the market were truly "frictionless" - no barriers to entry etc. but it isn't and never will be.
"Friction" as in a barrier to entry, means that the market cannot make a profit. That just states the same caveat twice, making it unnecessarily redundant and repetitious.
I know, from speaking to people, that there is a market for low-cost housing around here. But there is no supply.
The factors limiting supply are going to be the same whether you have the current system or CBI. CBI isn't going to make more housing available if space/regulation/building cartels are preventing that. But it isn't going to make less housing available either.

I think CBI could improve the distribution of housing though.

Over recent decades, Britain has had population movements from poor areas (mostly in the North) to rich areas (mostly in the South).

This means that while the richer areas have housing shortages and high rents, the poorer areas have low rents, and sometimes housing surpluses.

Because housing benefit pays more in a high-rent area than a low-rent area, it incentivizes this. There's no incentive to move from Surrey to Newcastle for cheaper housing if housing benefit is paying for it anyway.

So CBI could distribute the existing stock of housing more efficiently, instead of distorting the market so they're demolishing rows of council houses in Newcastle while there's a housing shortage in Surrey.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
OK , to summarise: by Herring (4.00 / 1) #40 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 06:14:39 AM EST
Me: I think there's a danger that the CBI could cause inflation - particularly in the essentials like housing.
You: No it wont because the market is super and magic and fixes everything
Me: [Cites instances where it doesn't]
etc.

christ, we're all old now - StackyMcRacky
[ Parent ]
OK, that's a specific argument by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #41 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 06:39:34 AM EST
Which is what I was after.

Now inflation happens when you have too much money chasing too few goods and services.

But the CBI as it's proposed is revenue-neutral. It's not about putting any more money into the system. It's about distributing the current money differently.

So, it's not going to cause inflation.

Now even if you did increase income tax to increase the CBI, that would not itself cause inflation. Again, every extra CBI pound would be a pound taken out of people's pay, so there's no new money being pumped into the system.

Now if anything does happen to housing prices after the CBI, it would probably be a decrease. Now the government isn't picking up the tab, low-income people have more incentive to look for somewhere cheaper to live, and spend the money they've saved on something else. It would also be easier for them to do that without the delays and bureaucracy involved in moving house while on housing benefit.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Only if there are no higher margin possibilities by lm (4.00 / 2) #24 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:08:24 AM EST
If the profit margin on upscale homes is larger, companies will tend to serve that market first and serve the downscale homes only if they still have money to invest in production after they've exhausted every possibility with a higher ROI. I can't speak to the UK, but in the US, most new low-income housing is subsidized by either local or state governments. The inner-city development that is entirely private tends to be upscale condos and the like.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
[ Parent ]
That would be a market imperfection by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #26 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:21:05 AM EST
Caused by having not enough companies building housing for some to go after the low-income niche. But again, that doesn't have anything to do with the CBI really: it would happen equally under the current system.

Also, most low-income housing in the UK is rented, and uses existing buildings rather than new ones. I doubt that that would have much effect on the supply of housing to someone looking for a cheap place to stay in the UK.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
XP is neither simple nor obvious. by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #31 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:02:26 PM EST


The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
Replace the running in place from 5x ... by lm (4.00 / 1) #6 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:41:46 AM EST
... with a mile run. It'll add a few minutes to it but it won't be an additional 30 minutes.

There is no more degenerate kind of state than that in which the richest are supposed to be the best.
Cicero, The Republic
Or combine running with reading somehow? by Dr H0ffm4n (4.00 / 1) #52 Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 06:54:34 AM EST
Thus not losing reading time.

[ Parent ]
It seems to me by herbert (4.00 / 3) #10 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 06:05:10 AM EST
that somewhere on the scale between hunter-gathering and having our every physical need supplied by robots and benevolent Minds, there must be a point where it makes no sense any more to expect everyone to have a job.  At that point you really have to just start giving everyone enough money to live on.

And really, looking at the number of silly jobs that exist, you'd have to think that we (i.e. rich countries) might be getting there.  Everyone seems to think creating work is a good thing though.

I'm going to start an Idle Party.  Well, actually I'm not, because I'm too lazy.  Maybe there is a pro-work bias in politics because only ambitious workaholics become politicians.


In 1994 by TurboThy (4.00 / 1) #39 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 03:07:20 AM EST
Jacob Haugaard was elected to the Danish parliament as a representative for The Coalition of Consciously Work-Shy Elements. Under the paroles "if work is healthy, give it to the infirm" and "8 hours rest, 8 hours relaxation and 8 hours sleep," his election promises included increased tailwind on bike paths, free beer and hotdogs for his voters (23,000 beers and hotdogs were served by him after the election, paid with his election payout), more sex for schoolteachers and bigger Christmas presents for all.

There, now you have an idol ;-)
__
Sommerhus til salg, første række til Kattegat.

[ Parent ]
Systems thinking and weight loss by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #18 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 08:59:22 AM EST
Weight is supposed to regulate itself. You are more active, which makes you hungry (work up an appetite) so you eat more. You are less active, so get less hungry and don't eat so much.

Notice what happens when you have a daily calorie allowance, set on the low side with the aim of slimming.

You are not allowed more when activity has made you hungry. So you have set up a system to punish activity. Expect this to chip away at your enthusiasm for exercise, exacerbating the problem of having sedentary work.

More subtly you have set things up to create an entitlement mentality. One day you might not actually be all that hungry. That is your chance to eat a little less and slim painlessly. But you have it set up so that tomorrow, when you get really hungry, you bump into your calorie limit. You fear being painfully hungry. Once you commit to a calorie limit, you are going to end up eating the full amount, even if day to day variations meant you could have eaten less.

I think you would do far better to tune in to what your body is telling you. Notice how hungry you feel. If you want to lose weight, try to live with feeling a little more hungry. Treat it as hedonism. Enjoy how the hunger makes food taste extra nice.

Not really by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #20 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 09:11:06 AM EST
Weight is supposed to regulate itself.
Possibly, possibly not. Humans seem to have evolved as gatherers and persistence hunters who jog after antelopes until they keel over from exhaustion and can be eaten. We're not evolved for a situation where all we have to do is chase a Snickers bar till it stops moving.

What your body is telling you is: eat every damn calorie you can get your hands on because you don't know when the next famine's coming.

Also, it's better to eat up to the calorie limit if you can. If you eat too few calories your metabolism starts to slow down. Eating too little is nearly as bad for a weight-loss plan as eating too much.
--
It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Cybernetics ahoy by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #28 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 10:46:40 AM EST
My comment, that weight is supposed to regulate itself, was intended to preface my substantial point by orienting the reader towards thinking about feedback.

In the presence of feedback, common sense can only get you into trouble. For example, you need to know if changing the parameters of a feedback system will lead to oscillation. The control theory way of looking at things asks if the poles are straying into the right-hand half of the complex plane. This manifests in terms of human behaviour as cycles of boom and bust or yo-yo dieting.

Years ago I had a lodger finishing up a PhD on stomach ulcers. He gave his rats acidic food expecting that the acid would cause the mucus layer lining their stomachs to become thinner. I had the opposite expectation. I thought that mucus production would be regulated in response to sensors on the stomach lining, behind the protection of the mucus barrier. Add acid and production of mucus would be up-regulated to thicken the mucus, reducing the rise in acidity at the sensor. I expected the mucus to get thicker.

In fact the mucus layer became scraggy, making its thickness hard to measure, but the general point remains, don't expect to predict a feedback system with common sense.

> Eating too little is nearly as bad for a weight-loss plan as eating too much.

Yes, but not for the reason you think. Try too hard and you destablise yourself and end up binging and fasting.

> If you eat too few calories your metabolism starts to slow down.

Here I can only shrug. You are not taking yourself seriously so you are doomed to fail.

[ Parent ]
What? by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #30 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:01:48 PM EST
You are not taking yourself seriously so you are doomed to fail.

Dude, he's graphed his planned, gradual reduction in weight, followed by a stable plateau over a two year period, in the diary above. I think you're overgeneralising an argument made against women's magazine binge dieters.

The effect he mentions of slowing metabolism is also a genuine effect, it's one of the reasons that eating more but exercising works more than diet alone.

The Political Science Department of the University of Woolloomooloo

[ Parent ]
Via Encyclopaedia Britannica by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #35 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 11:13:24 PM EST
Endocrine system, human:
Adaptive responses to more prolonged stresses also occur. For example, in states of starvation or malnutrition, there is reduced production of thyroid hormone, leading to a lower metabolic rate. A low metabolic rate reduces the rate of the consumption of the body's fuel and thus reduces the rate of consumption of the remaining energy stores. This change has obvious survival value since death from starvation is deferred.
You seem to think I'm joking when I state pretty basic facts like eating too little slowing youe metabolism. That's not giving me an awful lot of confidence in your advice.

It's a shame I'm doomed to failure. But since even my current BMI is 24.2, within the healthy range, and my weight is at the 35th percentile for my age and sex, I can live with that level of failure.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Sorry, twitchy from having been trolled too often by Alan Crowe (4.00 / 1) #38 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 02:56:15 AM EST
If you eat too few calories your metabolism starts to slow down.

This is a propositional formulation of an inherently quantitative claim. It could be claiming that if you go 500 calories short your metabolism slows down enough to economise by 500 calories. It could be claiming that if you go 500 calories short your metabolism slows down enough to economise by 100 calories. As I unpack it you also notice an implied time scale, which is unclear but which might be weeks.

Coming up with a propositional formulation that straddles two importantly different quantitative accounts is a very effective way of de-railing a dialogue. Here is how it works.

I have to interpret your comment. If you go 500 calories short and your metabolism slows to the extent of economising 100 calories then the weight loss program is only 80% effective. But that is plenty good enough. So that interpretation doesn't make sense in context because it doesn't refute my suggestion that not feeling hungry is an opportunity to go under the calorie count and lose weight faster. It merely points out that it will be less than 100% effective.

I have to go for the other interpretation, a calorie for calorie match between restriction and metabolic economy. That is the argument that responds to my suggestion of going under the count when you are not feeling hungry. It is a poor argument: if it were true it would apply to calorie restriction diets in general and prove that they could not work. So I have to call you on this bad argument.

Now the context has changed. Earlier "starvation => lower metabolic rate" was in the context of "don't eat when you are not hungry". Now it is in the context of an abstract debate of the truth of the proposition "If you eat too few calories your metabolism starts to slow down.". I'm going to lose that debate because the propositional formulation is ambiguous enough to include quantitative versions that are true.

So there you have half the story of why I'm inclined to shrug, make a snarky comment (sorry) and walk away from the keyboard.

What is the other half? I've picked up the impression that exercise is a vital part of any weight loss plan, vital in two ways. First, it stimulates the production of hormones, preventing a general reduction in metabolic rate. Second, the point of the weight loss plan was to feel better and live longer. Exercise seems to directly help with these goals. If you take exercise you will probably feel better and live longer even if you fail to lose weight.

My offering to you was the intriguing observation that the usual idea of strict calorie counting sets up a dynamic that punishes exercise. You go out on your bicycle for your scheduled exercise. It is a sunny day, your mood soars, you race up hills, swoop down the other side, and generally burn more calories than the plan calls for. Come dinner time you don't allow yourself any extra. You are already hungry because you are on a diet. The extra exercise tips this over into painfully hungry, and you start to sour yourself on doing exercise. Next time you will just go through the motions and be careful not to burn too many calories.

Now I maybe took this too far by being a completest. If you need to respond to being more hungry than usual, maybe you also need to respond to being less hungry than usual. Maybe not.

The point that is worth discussing is how to do calorie restriction without training yourself to hate exercise.



[ Parent ]
I don't believe in the hunger theory by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #44 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 07:05:57 AM EST
Here's why:

Fatmouse

Fatcat

Fatdog

They're not counting calories. They're not watching McDonalds commercials. They're not being guilt-tripped by their mothers-in-law. They're eating when they're hungry and there's food available.

In the environment they evolved, it just seems that too-many-calories-available-for-too-long was just something that happened too rarely for a selection pressure to evolve against it.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
Metabolism by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #29 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 01:35:44 PM EST
Exercise increases your general metabolism, which is why calorie restriction plus exercise does much better than either alone.

I'm fairly convinced that human metabolism was designed to deliberately gain weight during the fall to deal with the winter calorie shortfall. It's not well designed for there being no yearly shortfall. I know I see this in myself. If I eat exactly what I'm hungry for, without restriction, I gain 10-20 lbs a year.

Another reason eating too little can be bad is it can easily trigger physical/biological mechanisms that cause you to binge. The best way to diet is to eat little enough that you are a bit hungry, but never let yourself get starving.

Also, the other thing we did not evolve for is the high fat, high sugar things that are in our modern environment. The highest concentration of sugar our ancestors could normally find would be an apple, and they did not have deep fryers.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
Not sure about winters by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #37 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 01:27:57 AM EST
I think the African savannahs are pretty tropical. IIRC they don't have much seasonal variation in temperature, though they do have a dry season and a wet season.

Agree on the high fat and sugar thing though.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
perhaps by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #42 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 06:53:35 AM EST
But remember, evolution didn't stop when most of us left the savanna. For instance, the Inuit show signs of having adapted to a diet of mostly animal fat.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
[ Parent ]
But by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #43 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 06:56:26 AM EST
People of African origin get fat too, so getting fat can't be something that evolved after the African exodus.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
Personally by ucblockhead (4.00 / 1) #45 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 07:06:32 AM EST
I believe that there's been genetic mixing over the whole surface of the planet all along.

But it is all "pull it out of my ass" intuition.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman

[ Parent ]
I see it as more to do with ecosystems by R Mutt (4.00 / 1) #50 Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 02:54:08 AM EST
Pretty much everything living is part of an ecosystem. If there's a food surplus of say rabbits, then either they'll out-eat their own food supply and die off, or else the predator population will increase to balance them out.

I suspect that ecosystems militate against long-term food surpluses. So, they're too rare for there to be much selection pressure to cope with them.

[ Parent ]
Get with the times. by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #32 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:23:14 PM EST
The US has CBI.

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[citation needed] by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #34 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 11:10:33 PM EST

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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?
[ Parent ]
sure by dev trash (4.00 / 1) #46 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 09:44:38 AM EST
That's not the same thing by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #47 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 10:33:15 AM EST
The CBI is a universal grant paid to all adults, working or not working, for life.

What you've linked to is a tax credit which is only available to a subset of working people.

In America you might be more familiar with the concept as part of Milton Friedman's Negative Income Tax. However the CBI doesn't necessarily include the flat-rate tax part of the that proposal.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
semantics by dev trash (2.00 / 0) #48 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 01:38:42 PM EST


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[ Parent ]
IHBT by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #49 Sun Jan 13, 2008 at 09:26:36 PM EST
CBI: A universal grant available to all adults working and non-working throughout their lives and large enough to pay for food, shelter and housing, replacing all existing benefits.

EITC: A non-universal tax credit available to some working adults, not large enough to survive on, not replacing all existing benefits.
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It is unlikely that the good of a snail should reside in its shell: so is it likely that the good of a man should?

[ Parent ]
re: bourgeois and proletarian classes by ammoniacal (4.00 / 1) #33 Sat Jan 12, 2008 at 04:43:40 PM EST
Haiti had that in spades (and still does today, to a degree), as quadroons and octaroons were part of a thriving bourgeois class. I suspect the pattern applied to other islands, to varying degrees.

"To this day that was the most bullshit caesar salad I have every experienced..." - triggerfinger

Weight by nebbish (4.00 / 1) #51 Mon Jan 14, 2008 at 05:32:09 AM EST
Maybe just accept that it's going to take longer. Don't punish yourself - I reckon it leads to binging.

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It's political correctness gone mad!

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