Thursday, January 22, 2015

How to Decrease Inequality

The President's proposal to raise the capital gains tax rate to 28% is a good first step on the road to reversing some inequality-favoring policies. Cutting capital gains was meant to increase business investment, but what it's done instead is to provide convenient tax shelter for extremely wealthy individuals and an incentive to take one's compensation in the form of dividends. Here's a good summary of Danny Yagan's paper on the 2003 cap gains tax cut, Paul Krugman on the same. We should not, as a function of government, care how you make your money, so ideally, you would pay one set of progressive rates on the whole of your income, whether you got it as an hourly or annual wage, interest, dividend, or what have you.

Second, there needs to be an ongoing focus on deconcentrating industries generally and inhibitng large scale mergers & acquisitions among market leaders in particular. Why? Because these mergers have a hollowing out effect on the industry so that only very large scale companies remain. They also inhibit competition and internal investment, making inorganic growth more attractive. Access to public capital markets should be fostered instead, making public offerings simpler and less costly.

Third, intellectual property reform needs to move in the direction of weaker IP protection, with tighter restrictions on the length, breadth, and permissible categories of protection. Business process patents should be eliminated entirely, and safe harbor exceptions should be broad and automatically available. There exists a point at which additional protection actually decreases IP value, and I think it's clear we're well past that point. Some good signs are showing up in the new EU draft proposal in this area, but the current round of proposed trade agreements, starting with TPP, are unfortunately steps in the wrong direction.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Lullian Combinatoric Lamps - Giordano Bruno

Chapter VI
Member III

The width of the scale permits many ways of examination: | first, the extension of the meanings of the terms (of which more is said later), that is to say that goodness not only extends to its physical meaning but also to its ethical one (similarly applicable to greatness and the others); second by duplication of them in their concrete and abstract forms, so to speak, goodness and good, greatness and great; third by distinctions of -ivi, -abilis, and -are, for example, bonificativum [the capacity of goodness or to do good], bonificabile [the capacity to receive goodness or to be improvable], bonificare [to improve, reclaim, restore], where ivum signifies the active principal part, abile the passive principal part, and are the copulative principal part, or ivum the principal effective or communicative part, abile the principal receptive or participatory part, and are the principal connective or actual part; fourth, by distinctions of affirmative and negative, additive and subtractive, thus to the extent that one can be said to be taken affirmatively, the other is take negatively, where one is excessive, the other is deficient; fifth, by distinctions of explicit and implicit, because they are in terms not solely contained in their system, but also everything that can be said and imagined through absolute predicates, as is made clear in the Tract Regarding the Multiplication of the Terms; sixth by distinction of proper and appropriated, insofar as some of these have a natural convenience, some by and from themselves [per se & a se, instrinsically], others extrinsically and from others, some I say are from natural substance, some from infusion, some from acquisition.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Magnetic Memory Podcast

Anthony Metivier was good enough to interview me over at Magnetic Memory Method Podcast. We talked about Giordano Bruno, memory palaces, and how you can improve your techniques for learning and memory.

So, if you've enjoyed seeing me burble on in print, now you can get the definitive audio experience as well. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Best Books of 2014*

The Peripheral William Gibson
Multidimensional shennanigans, in which a possible future outsources work to a possible past, culminating in a series of capers.

Nothing is True, Everything is Possible Peter Pomerantsev Nonfiction that reads like fiction. A postmodern horror story about the changes in Russian society in the 21st century, featuring the PR flacks who run the media and opposition parties for the Kremlin, filmmaking gangsters, architectural historians, entrepreneurs hounded out of their own companies and country, and Vladimir Putin. America is exactly half as crazy as the Russia of this book, in many of the same ways.

Deathless Catherynne M Valente
Fiction that reads like the true history of 20th century Russia. Koschei the Deathless, Tsar of Life, marries Marya Morevna. This is the story of their marriage and their war with the Tsar of Death, set against the rise of communism and two world wars. Luxurious, funny and sad. Any book recommended to me by three people is a must read; this book was recommended by many, many more than three.
Redeployment Phil Klay
Short stories about soldiers in or returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are no protocols or etiquette to govern much of the modern experience of war, resulting in a lot of anxiety, restlessness and improvisation. If these stories are collectively about anything, they're about that.

One day, while driving though rural Indiana, I heard a Pentecostal call-in show in which a listener called to ask for an exorcist, because demons were attacking her house right that minute. The hosts of the show promised to send someone over shortly. Apparently, this sort of thing went on a lot around there. Demon Camp describes that same sort of high-intensity, near hallucinatory religious experience among a group of people for whom PTSD, alcohol or sex addiction are caused by demons and healed by ritual.
Afghan Post Adrian Bonenberger
Bonenburger joined the military after graduating from Yale. This memoir in epistolary form describes an education before, during and after his wars. Like Jarhead in the previous generation of war memoirs, it's a search for meaning in experience, and for the meaning of one's experiences that drives the book.

The Goldfinch Donna Tartt
This was on everyone's Best List when it came out at the end of last year, and deservedly so. Starts with an art heist and kicks into high gear when Boris shows up. One perfect Tartt novel a decade is about right, but I don't know how she can hold herself back from writing faster.

The Bone Clocks David Mitchell
There's always one of the linked novellas in any Mitchell book that make me want to throw the book across the room. Here, its the fourth section, which focuses on the intrigues of a writer who unknowingly writes books about the supernatural conspiracy underlying the other sections of the book. Holly Sykes and Marinus, however, the two main characters throughout, are full people, and worth the read. It's rare to find characters who change over the course of their life as believably as Holly does, or across their multiple lives, as Marinus does. Also on a lot of Best lists this year.

Excellent advice on thinking big and building things that matter. Occasionally slips into Randian sermons, but otherwise one of the better books on entrepreneurship that's out there.

Capital in the Twenty-First Century Thomas Piketty
The most important book on economics in the past year, even if you don't agree with it. The concentration of wealth in the OECD economies will present a huge challenge over the coming decades, and understanding the history of the issue is a good first step to working our way out.

Derek Jarman's Sketchbooks Derek Jarman
Gay punk filmmaker Derek Jarman made movies of astonishing beauty and invention on a microscopic budget, and in the process turned his entire life into art. Here's what the inside of his head looked like.

What Makes This Book So Great Jo Walton
Literary criticism at its best. This book will remind you why you liked all of those science fiction and fantasy books you read as a kid, and how those informed your life & writing. At least, it did this for me.

The Magician's Land Lev Grossman
Brilliant conclusion to the trilogy. Quentin Coldwater grows up at last, and all of the women wronged in the course of the books end up getting justice. Worlds end, worlds are born, and we find out who's the greatest magician alive today, this side of the Neitherlands.

*Read, not necessarily published, in 2014. This post was originally sent out to my mailing list. To subscribe, enter your email in the form located to the right of this page.

Sunday, November 02, 2014

Links for Later 11-2-14

  1. Judex: "There has been a bird."
  2. "What David Fincher doesn't do"
  3. The evolution of Robert Bork's Constitutional and jurisprudential theory. 
  4. What is the male equivalent of "distaff"?
  5. Underdressed for flying in a Speedo and inflatable ducky.
  6. Tim Geithner's uncharitable opinions of everyone else during the crash.
  7. Vladimir Putin gives a speech. Club Orlov applauds. Everyone else shrugs.
  8. Jeff Hawkins: Why neural networks are not the road to strong AI.
  9. Josh Seiden: “When you are writing, you are not a samurai. You are a waterfall or some shit”
  10. Keynes was right.
  11. Syllabus for an Archives, Libraries & Databases class by Shannon Mattern
  12. Alchemical processes represented by birds.
  13. Sharp waves organize memory/recall & possibly decision-making as well.
  14. Would like to know more about this: "cells from [presumably olfactory bulb] used to regrow man's spinal cord."
  15. Better headline: "You have chemoreceptors in every cell of your body. Some of these are also part of your sense of smell."