Print Story No good deed goes unpunished
Diary
By TheophileEscargot (Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 02:08:33 PM EST) Reading, Watching, MLP (all tags)
Reading: "Heartbreak". Watching: "Mr Deeds Goes to Town". Prebudget. Web.


What I'm Reading
Heartbreak by Andrea Dworkin is a memoir of her youth and early career as a feminist. It's not sequential: dashes hither and thither through her life, without giving a full account of it.

In some ways I get the feeling she was the Richard Stallman of feminism. There's no denying her commitment or her significance; but her personal appearance, refusal to compromise and occasional divisiveness caused some embarrassment.

The book seems to have been written as a defence against her critics, but without having read the criticism that across as a bit self-aggrandising. Perhaps not wanting to seem a victim, Dworkin doesn't discuss the circumstances of her own prostitution or abuse much, apart from the odd detail.

Decently written, and gives an interesting insight into the mind of an intensely committed campaigner. .

What I'm Watching
Saw the 1936 Frank Capra movie Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, which somehow I've never seen before. Fun (if sentimental) comedy about a rural eccentric who comes to New York after inheriting a fortune. Well worth watching, fast and with enough funny lines that it's still enjoyable to watch.

Pre-Budget Report thoughts
Hopefully they'll abolish these after the election. One budget a year is quite bad enough. Having another just gives another excuse for daft populist measures. And the media frenzy is annoying too, especially the way all the news sites make a big deal out of LIVE REALTIME REPORTING, when no-one can really make sense of it till they've gone away and done the sums and thought through the implications.

At least this one doesn't seem to have amounted to much: just a minor tweaking of existing plans. Looks like Darling's mostly resisted any calls from Brown for huge spending giveaways. See David Smith; Stephanomics 1, 2, 3.

Bankers bonus windfall tax. I think that's morally justified and a reasonable thing to aim at. First there's the moral hazard of the bailout: if they do too well they have an incentive to recreate the crisis. Second there's the massive taxpayer bailout that's benefited the entire industry: not unreasonable to try to claim some of it back.

Whether it's actually workable: probably not, I expect they'll just loophole their way out of it. But as government policies go, it doesn't seem to be particularly harmful. If we're lucky they may even raise slightly more money than it costs to implement it.

One thing I don't like is the public sector pay cap. It seems like it'll be popular with many voters, but it's the kind of top-down micromanagement that's likely to be damaging.

First, managers should be able to set pay at a level that's attracts sufficient competent staff. To pick an example, suppose there's a shortage of, say, neonatal nurses. You should be able to then raise their pay and attract more of them. But with a pay cap you can't. You advertise, the vacancies aren't filled, there's a staff shortage, and premature babies die unnecessarily. Meanwhile there might be surplus of other kinds of nurses.

Second, if you want to cut wage costs, it might actually be better to fire the worst performing staff, and pay the remainder enough to attract good people. But that's not an option.

This is particularly important since as the supposed aim is to improve public sector efficiency, which should be possible. It's going to be pretty hard to improve efficiency when you can't reward good people, aren't given an incentive to fire bad people, and can't set wages at the right level.

However, it's likely to be a popular measure, except amongst public sector workers themselves. To the left it looks like you're cutting costs without mass firings, to the right it looks like you're punishing people they regard as lazy parasites.

Demo
Not sure whether to go to the Harrow mosque demo on Sunday. I think after last time's disturbances the police will have everybody kettled up, so there's not much to do except stand around desperately wanting to pee.

Web
Video. Manhattan Bridge time-lapse wobbles. Tube tunnel repair. We got that B-roll. Zoey in the tub. Robots learn to use the Force.

Sci/tech. Swine flu less deadly than expected "The rate in the 1918-19 H1N1 pandemic was 2%-3%. Rates in the subsequent pandemics (1957-58 and 1967-68) were in the order of 0.2%. The case fatality rate in the current pandemic is 0.026%."

Pics. Slideshow of Athens ancient erotic art exhibition (NSFW). Norman Rockwell reference photos. NYC steam power plant.

Random. Help. Bukkake paperwork.

Economics. Confederacy as Big Government as Union.

Articles. Academic Jihadology needed. Conservative Orthodox blogger Second Terrace on Obamacare.

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No good deed goes unpunished | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback
Epidemics by ucblockhead (2.00 / 0) #1 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 02:35:30 PM EST
The trouble is that it is nearly impossible to actually predict how deadly a disease will be until you see it in the wild for a while.
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[ucblockhead is] useless and subhuman
google confirms by sasquatchan (2.00 / 0) #2 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 02:39:18 PM EST
the stallman comparison.. (and wiki backs up with "woman's island defended with guns")

Andrea Dworkin by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #3 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 03:42:33 PM EST
I find her interesting so might read a memoir, but find her work too unscientific and opinionated generally. Could do with suggestions on a good feminist to read actually...

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It's political correctness gone mad!

Re: good feminist by dmg (2.00 / 0) #5 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 03:57:05 PM EST
I recommend Esther VilarCamille Paglia and Anna Span.


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dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
I sooo wasn't expecting a serious answer then /nt by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #6 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 04:04:58 PM EST

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Not sure which way to take that. by dmg (4.00 / 1) #11 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 04:58:14 PM EST
It is not clear even to me if I was trolling there. Some subjects are almost impossible to discuss without both sides descending into trollage.
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dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
i don't think you got one by Dr H0ffm4n (4.00 / 1) #16 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 05:07:12 AM EST
have you ever tried to read Paglia?

[ Parent ]
Ah by nebbish (2.00 / 0) #19 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 09:16:57 AM EST
No, I haven't read any of them

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It's political correctness gone mad!

[ Parent ]
Me either by dmg (2.00 / 0) #21 Mon Dec 14, 2009 at 09:38:18 PM EST
Well, I have read Villar, as part of my investigations into the world of evolutionary psychology, as recommended by master PUAs

I have to say, she confirmed many things I had always suspected based on my own empirical evidence. Whether she can be classified as "feminist" is open to question, but speaking personally, as a male feminist, I think she is very much on the right track. Essentially, men and women are biologically and psychologically different, we need to acknowledge that fact. The Capitalist system has an agenda of profit maximisation, based on debt slavery. More people in the workforce (regardless of gender) equals more debt equals more profit.

We are in an unfortunate situation. If basic biology were allowed to prevail, the man would go to work, bring home the bacon, and the feminine wife would raise the kids. Everyone wins (well, at least 90% of the population would be happy). Under the current system, the woman feels obligated to go to work, to leave the care of her children to strangers, and for what purpose? to serve an NWO agenda.

In short, women want to have babies and look after them, men want to do stuff with tools, build roads, explore, conquer other tribes etc. (broad generalisation).

So what we need is tax breaks for the partner that stays at home looking after the kids. There's absolutely no reason why society should expect both partners in a child-rearing scenario to go to work. It's inhuman madness plain and simple.




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dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
Bonuses did not cause the crisis by dmg (4.00 / 1) #4 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 03:52:20 PM EST
Taxing the bonuses will not prevent it happening again. 

The bailout itself without the change in regulatory regime is an incentive to recreate the crisis. What message does a bailout with no meaningful regulatory change signal?
The tax will make the less informed believe that 'something has been done about those bankers who caused the crisis'.
The more well informed will be wondering - are they going to change the regulations to remove the systemic risk?
Perhaps some kind of law separating investment banking from retail banking? A ban on short selling? Some sort of maximum ratio on leveraged lending? 

Also, bearing in mind that the private sector can afford to hire the best legal minds, one has to wonder about the whole heap of unintended consequences that this legislation will undoubtedly provoke.



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dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
As Nassim Nicholas Taleb points out by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #7 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 04:17:22 PM EST
Financial market traders don't actually make money in the long run. They just adopt risk strategies that balance (relatively) small gains most years with occasional gigantic losses, like this one.

The bonus structure certainly assists this strategy. The occasionaly gigantic losses are not proportionately represented in their bonus remunerations.

As I said in the diary, the bonus tax is probably not workable. But the aim of it is laudable. Everyone working in the financial markets is indirectly being paid by the government via the bailouts of these occasional gigantic losses. As such they are essentially dole scroungers, and in principle the government is entitled to claim some of the money back.
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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 ]
Electorate should be punished NOT just bankers. by dmg (2.00 / 0) #8 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 04:37:32 PM EST
The aim of the tax may or may not be laudable. But remember the financial markets are not a Somalia-style unregulated capitalist free for all, rather they are a highly regulated and controlled industry.
The issue I have is not with the tax - that is simple market economics. People will either go and live in Switzerland, or won't be subject to it due to non-dom status.
My issue is with the politicians who peddle the idea that those nebulous 'bankers' are in some way to blame for the credit crunch, when it was actually caused by a deliberate or reckless lack of regulation.
It goes something like this:

The electorate are the politician's bosses They choose them based on their policies.
The politicians appoint the regulators to implement the financial policies that the voters requested.
The regulators then apply these regulations to the bankers, who must comply with them, under threat of jail time.

So there can be no doubt. The unpalatable truth is that the real blame for the credit crunch lies with the electorate. (In more ways than one, if you start thinking about the ridiculous levels of personal debt people in the UK tend to take on).









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dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
The electorate are being punished by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #9 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 04:46:27 PM EST
For the average household, to the tune of £2,400 a year for eight years.

But there are too many levels of principal/agent problems for that to be a good way of restraining risky behaviour in the financial markets. A voter votes for an MP, who votes for a Prime Minister, who appoints ministers, who appoint financial regulators, who try to restrain actors in the financial markets. Each level of indirection makes it harder to exert control.
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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 ]
I agree by dmg (2.00 / 0) #10 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 04:55:19 PM EST
democracy is an evil and useless system. That is in fact the real issue here. Innocent people are being punished financially for the bad choices of others.





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dmg - HuSi's most dimwitted overprivileged user.
[ Parent ]
I disagree by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 2) #12 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 05:05:11 PM EST
Democracy has several benefits. The most important is that when one faction becomes more powerful than another, you no longer have to have a war of succession or civil war when it takes over.
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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 ]
Wouldn't it be better by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #13 Thu Dec 10, 2009 at 08:36:03 PM EST
Rather than imposing a punitive tax on bonuses, which encourages to move them elsewhere, to require the overwhelming proportion to be paid in long term vested stock? Not options, issued stock which has to be held for ten years before selling.

Interestingly both Lehmans and Goldmans gave / give a lot of their compensation this way - Goldman most of all.

Will sig for food

[ Parent ]
That's a good idea too by TheophileEscargot (4.00 / 1) #14 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 01:50:50 AM EST
I think the government, the BoE and the FSA were surprised at how quickly the City returned to profitability. They thought they had more time to think up the best way to change regulations without the risk of disturbing a fragile recovery.
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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 ]
Probably right by Scrymarch (4.00 / 1) #15 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 02:15:28 AM EST
Though plenty of ideas have been floated, not much has actually been implemented. Addressing the cycle-reinforcing nature of current capital adequacy requirements would hopefully be high up the list.

Will sig for food

[ Parent ]
Also, on moving elsewhere by TheophileEscargot (2.00 / 0) #18 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 06:25:30 AM EST
As Chris Dillow points out, I think there's an element of the fallacy of composition there. Just because it's easy for an individual banker to move to Zurich or New York or Dubai doesn't mean it's easy for all of them to do so.

The Swiss have had to bail out UBS and guarantee its troubled assets at an unknown cost. Are even the Swiss really keen to vastly expand their investment banking sector?
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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 an element by Scrymarch (2.00 / 0) #20 Sun Dec 13, 2009 at 07:04:17 PM EST
And certainly the City of London would not disappear overnight. People on both sides of the argument like to talk up the speed of change in these arguments.

However banking is already a pretty mobile profession, at least at the top end. Plus once you move the top earners, their is pressure to move their highly paid managers as well. etc.

I would guess that even New York is too far west for most of the business in Europe. However Frankfurt, Amsterdam, Luxembourg, Monaco etc aren't. If the timezone is less important than I'm thinking, then HK, Singapore, etc, which are already financial centres.

I dislike the industry specific nature of the tax too. Yes, the bailouts certainly were industry specific too, but if there are perverse incentives for banking bonuses are there not for all executive pay? Plus it gives systemic pressure for a company to pretend not to be a bank.

Will sig for food

[ Parent ]
The Confedracy by the end by jump the ladder (4.00 / 1) #17 Fri Dec 11, 2009 at 05:48:12 AM EST
Was forming black regiments of freed slaves, had industrialised itself, weaned itself off cotton that it could no longer export and had a much more centralised govt than the US. It had to turn itself into very thing that it left USA for in order to fight the war effectively.

No good deed goes unpunished | 21 comments (21 topical, 0 hidden) | Trackback