One of the great things in Illinois is the libraries are structured as taxing districts. With voter permission they can levy a property tax, and then receive the funds from that tax. So there’s no danger that the city, township, or county will decide that it needs the money more. Or, as in this case, that the library is doing something wrong, and therefore shouldn’t get any money until they toe the line.
Speaking as someone who has advocated for a return to local solar time (now that everyone has a supercomputer with GPS in their pocket to handle the necessary conversions), I was intrigued to read this article about just how bad things were before we started using timezones.
It’s peripheral to the main article, but I was kind of intrigued by this bit:
When he arrived in Ann Arbor in 1852, Tappan gave a speech outlining his vision for a new type of university. Drawing on the German model of education, he sought to transform the University of Michigan into an institution where knowledge was not just taught, but created.
There’s a lot of talk these days about the risks of AI, with many suggestions that it should be “regulated,” but with little specificity of what regulations would be appropriate. As usual, anybody who has an AI loves the idea of some sort of regulation, which would serve as a barrier to entry for competitors.
I have a suggestion that avoids that trap, minimizes the harm of regulation, and yet sharply constrains the opportunities for AIs to do bad stuff. It’s also easy to implement, because it requires little or no new legislation.
It’s very easy: enforce copyright laws.
Any firm that uses or makes available a large language model AI should be required to identify every copyrighted text used in training the model, and then share with all the copyright holders any revenues that the use or availability of the AI brings in.
This burdens existing AIs whose creators thought they were getting all their content for free by scraping the web for it, while giving a big leg up to any AIs that are simply trained on a corpus of text that the AI owner has the rights to. (I read about a physician who had been answering patient questions by email for twenty years training an AI on his numerous messages. He’d be fine.) That seems all to the good.
As to how much to pay the copyright holders, I think the publishing model of the past couple hundred years provides a good guide. Roughly speaking, book publishing contracts proved half the profits to the writer—but because it’s too easy to game the expenses side of the business to make the profits disappear, the contracts are written to provide something more like 10% to 15% of the gross revenues. That would probably be a reasonable place to start.
The huge cost of actually identifying each copyrighted text used, and finding the copyright owner is very much part of the desired outcome here: We don’t want people pointing at that difficulty and then saying, “Well obviously we should be able to just steal their work because it’s too much trouble to figure out who they are and divvy up the relatively small amount of money they’re due.” Making firms go through the process would provide a salutary lesson for others tempted to steal copyrighted material.
Simulating a free college education by lending students money to pay to institutions, and then forgiving (part of) that debt is second-best compared to just providing a free college education. But it is much better than trapping another generation in debt peonage.
I’m generally unimpressed with Krysten Sinema, whose failure to support Democratic initiatives has generally been harmful. However, I kinda like the tax changes she’s forced into the climate package.
Fundamentally, I like dividends and I hate stock buybacks. So a tax on stock buybacks—even a small one—makes things better.
Now, most economists would have you believe that the two are equivalent. This is false.
Economists can gin up a model that suggests that owning a slightly larger share of a slightly smaller company is “equivalent” to getting paid a share of the company’s profits. Or that getting cashed out completely (by taking the buyback), and then finding a place to invest almost all of that cash in some new company is somehow equivalent. I don’t think either of those things is true even in an economic sense, but I think both are clearly false in a larger societal sense.
The way things used to work was that a company earned a profit, reinvested an appropriate amount of that profit in growing the business, and then paid out the balance to shareholders to do with as they pleased. (They could reinvest the money by buying more stock, they could spend it on luxuries—or necessities, they could invest it in some other company, they could donate it to charity—the possibilities are literally endless.)
This situation produces a sort of virtuous circle. A company that earns a reliable profit—and shares it with its stockholders—becomes more valuable, because people will pay more for a company that pays a reliable dividend. It’s good for the owners (their stock is worth more), it’s good for the employees (both line workers and managers), it’s good for the community (a profitable company pays taxes, their employees have money to spend, their shareholders have money to spend, etc.).
The non-dividend situation lacks all these dynamics. Instead of wanting to produce a profit, the company has all sorts of weird incentives—to maximize “growth” or “revenue” or “earnings” according to whatever weird metric appeals to Wall Street that week. Owners don’t get cash that they can spend. Instead they get the option to cash out at random intervals. The weird incentive structure encourages companies to make weird decisions regarding investing in growth (or dumping cash into buybacks). Shareholders who would otherwise be living on dividends are constantly having to make difficult decisions about selling small amounts of shares in this or that company for money to live on.
Maybe there’s some technical economic sense in which buybacks and dividends are equivalent, but they are very much not equivalent in a societal sense, producing very different results for ordinary investors and their communities.
The only reason any ordinary person would think a stock buyback was even close to equivalent is because capital gains have been tax-advantaged over dividends. So, something that reduces that tax advantage is all to the good.
A long tedious pdf from those Davos guys. Only of interest because the topic is near to my heart. I may yet manage to plow through the whole thing, looking for the good bits. Via @bruces.
“The report also sets out how public and private urban leaders can utilise nature to both reduce the impact of their cities on biodiversity, increase their climate resilience, and secure significant economic benefits.”
Some decades back I read a pretty good book that advocated for a “guaranteed job” for anyone who wanted one as a better solution to poverty than a “citizen wage” (or any sort of welfare assistance). I don’t remember all the details in the book, but the advantages primarily had to do with preserving the existing social structures around employment.
One question I always struggled with had to do with the strength of the guarantee. Suppose a few percent of the people with such jobs have (as I do) seasonal depression such that they cannot be productive during the winter months. Would the job guarantee permit them to simply show up and get paid, even though they can’t get any work done until spring?
This particular for-instance matters to me, as one who suffers from SAD, but it’s a broader problem—lots of people have some sort of condition, medical or otherwise, that makes them unproductive for long stretches of time. Do they get to keep their guaranteed job? How can you tell them from malingerers? Does it matter? How do you deal with workplace tensions when many perceive their coworkers as not doing their fair share of the work?
These sorts of issues are why I’ve always come down on the side of a universal basic income as a better way to reduce both poverty and the abuses that come along with having a few rich people and a vast class of precarious workers. But I’m willing to give alternatives serious consideration, as long as they work for people like me.
Bemused by people surprised re Afghanistan. This outcome widely forecast; anybody with two clues to rub together saw it coming 20 years ago. Last chance for anything different: when Cheney and Rumsfeld invaded Iraq rather than spend money and attention in Afghanistan.