Saturday, October 18, 2014

The minimum wage and scientific methodology

Scientific understanding is ultimately derived from a combination of ceteris paribus (all other things being equal) statements. Causal necessity can be established, even when it appears that the examined phenomena do not display one ceteris paribus statement or the other.

If employment increases after a raising of the minimum wage, it could never be assumed that the increased minimum wage caused the rise in employment, because (artificially) higher wage costs mean  decreased supply of jobs and lower demand ceteris paribus.

There must be other factors involved to explain the rise in employment, such as the discovery of new natural resources or the popularization of an avenue for jobs (e.g. the internet), the increase in jobs of which it must be assumed have offset the loss of jobs that have become obsolete from it. These additional factors themselves are also essentially ceteris paribus supply/demand/price relations.

To assume that it is the minimum wage itself that increases employment is to defy causation itself. Whatever peculiar instances are involved in one situation provide the explanations, which themselves require causal necessity.


Related article: 

Friday, October 10, 2014

10 different meanings of Facebook likes

Mark Zuckerberg, or whomever he got the idea of the Facebook ‘Like’ from, could not have possibly conceived of the myriad ways the mechanism has been used. That’s the beauty of social phenomena. To paraphrase Hayek, we know so little about what we imagine to be designed.

Here are several types of ‘Likes’ you may have at one time or another clicked.

The ‘Shut up already’ ‘Like’ – You’ve said all you had to say about a certain topic, and you want to cap the conversation with a friend who insists on justifying or elaborating on his earlier comments.

The hesitate ‘Like’ – You haven’t been that in touch with them recently, or don’t want them to think you’re stalking their profile, but figure their post is significant enough to ‘Like’

The ‘I know you were at the party’ ‘Like’ – Rather passive-aggressive, this ‘Like’ is a way of telling your friend that you know about their white lie

The insiders ‘Like’ – You’re a fan of something being referenced in the post, which trumps even your lack of closeness to the FB friend; it can also signify a desire to bridge the distance between you two.

The ‘Because we’re in a relationship’ ‘Like’ – A usually unspoken commitment to ‘Like’ most everything a significant other posts

The ‘Because you tagged me’ ‘Like’ – If they felt you were important enough to be tagged, you want to return the favor with a ‘Like’

The pity ‘Like’ – The post looks so bare, with none of their dozens/hundreds/thousands of friends having thought much of the post. Oh, what the hell.

The quid pro quo ‘Like’ – Either as a preliminary to asking some favor, or for their having liked something you posted

The acknowledgment ‘Like’ – Saying ‘Got it’ without having to think of how to phrase a meaningful reply.

And lastly:

You actually just like the post or comment

***

As to the future of the Facebook ‘Like,’ all we can really do is wait, and speculate. For example, I imagine each ‘Like’ to eventually be made likeable as well. And this will allow people to form a kind of binary code chain of ‘Likes’ being liked and ‘Likes’ not being liked, and this can go on perpetually, almost like cyberknitting, a kind of art.


Oh, and someone did something like this article before. Not that it’s such an original idea.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Is Uber exploiting its drivers? and other stupid questions (well, just that one actually)

From siliconbeat.com
I think I don’t usually bother anymore with writing refutations against anti-market stuff I see on the Web, but this tirade against the Uber app made me venture out of my usual public indifference. I guess what did it was the arrogance of the author. Arrogance apart from myself is rather appalling.

So I wrote a comment to it, that went:

Blaming Uber is like investing your life savings on an eBay store and blaming eBay when your feedback rating goes to crap. I suppose eBay has to provide a minimum wage to its sellers too huh.

But of course we have to ultimately blame the thousands of exploiting consumer-passengers who find Uber so useful.

Is giving people an option to profit where no better one existed so condemnable? Or would it be better to encourage yet more Uber-like companies to compete for drivers?

But as the Bill Moyers website is quite selective in publishing comments, rejecting mine, I thought I’d put it here. That will show ’em.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

The death penalty only begets more violence

Under prohibition, activities deemed criminal do not stop; they only change into a more dangerous form. This includes not just substance prohibition, but also death penalty legislation, which seeks to ‘prohibit’ heinous crimes by graver threats.

Those who engage in crime do not do so out of the lack of fear of punishment. Rather, it is a distorted sense of moral conviction, and/or desperation, that brings one to overlook the risk of social backlash, whether such backlash involves ostracism, imprisonment, or death, or a combination of the three. Upping the punishment thus scares no one into ‘good behavior.’

When punishments become more severe, the organization of crime shifts, empowering the more dangerous and those capable of fighting back against legislation-empowered forces. This means more criminal power is concentrated into the hands of the fewer. Just like how centralizing authority creates dictatorships. Instead of deterring crime, the death penalty creates a situation where society is faced with a growing institution more capable of going to war or colluding with the state.

Violence, or even the threat of it, is never a solution.


Tuesday, August 12, 2014

On sucker-slapping suspected drug pushers

Taken from ipushmoyan.com
Slapping a member of a gang involved in murder is hardly the worst thing an honorable statesman can do.

But you have got to laugh at the way a significant number are cheering our former matinee idol on, as though a publicity stunt in front of cameras and beside the suspect held in his car wasn’t so obvious, as though he was not deliberately trying to project himself as the tough guy envisioned of a major national politician.

More importantly, many neglect the real problem: prohibition, which shifts control of potentially beneficial chemicals to the more violent elements in society, endangering families and shifting focus away from health concerns, not to mention serves as rationale for continued state expansion and a larger incarcerated population. Expanding black markets goes along with an expanded state. Sadly, the US’ prohibition of alcohol in the 1920s is a lesson heeded only half the time.

If our slapper were really serious about wanting positive social reform, he would not put at risk a criminal case against gang members by having called to question the dueness of process. Also neglected is the implicit precedent set to abuse and coerce those not yet proven to be guilty of a crime. 

Bloodlust accomplishes nothing. Do we merely want to vent our vengeful tendencies, or do we want to understand?

The mayor’s act is a gamble that the majority is as base as he hopes they are.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Why the QC half-rice ordinance is bad

Doesn’t it make sense to offer a half-cup serving of rice in restaurants, as Quezon City has recently ordained? I mean, they did point out how much rice is wasted when an entire cup is not consumed. Isn’t this a failure of the market to avoid excesses, for which the government justly steps in?

You would think that a demand for half servings would be enough for restaurants to offer half-rices of their own initiative. This hasn’t been a widespread practice, so I can’t really fault politicians, listening to the consuming public, and being as ignorant and vote-hungry as they are, for stepping in.

And it’s not like people will be deprived of the choice to eat a whole cup of rice, right? So it’s a win-win for consumers, the restaurants who profit from the demanded half-rices, and the numerous poor who’ll have more to eat! Or so we hope.

Beyond the knee jerk

Rice in restaurants is priced the way it is, already factoring in the wastage. It may seem unfortunate that x amount of rice is not eaten, which may lead to the conclusion that x amount could have been eaten by someone else.

But in fact, there wouldn’t be this x amount to be wasted at all were it not for producers meeting the existing demand for whole-cup servings (the non-halving of which to be honest is doubtfully a large part of the supposed P8 billion wasted). In the absence of more half-cup options in the market, legislation artificially creates lesser demand, which, unbeknownst to most, will in the long run reduce the supply produced. z supply becomes z y. To create less supply is actually more wasteful than creating more supply that isn’t all eaten. And less supply also means more expensive.

Import restrictions – The real enemy

If Quezon City Hall were really concerned about food wastage, and missed opportunities to feed the poor, they should oppose existing rice importation limitations that keep rice prices higher than they otherwise would be. This also makes rice less accessible/affordable to the poor.

But really, what is done with food that is uneaten, and why don’t more restaurants recycle this for charity (as far as we know)? Perhaps there are bureaucratic health restrictions. Perhaps restaurants are worried of getting a bad reputation of the food they serve. Whatever the reason, greater public awareness of what is done with uneaten food can spur those in the food industry to make better use of leftovers. For now, the tendency is to leave it to bureaucratic bozos to act enlightened.

Just because something sounds good (e.g. less rice wastage, less cracked heads due to motorcycle helmet laws, more housing through easy loans, etc.), it does not follow that legislation is the way to get it done. Prudence is something demanded and thus reflected in market prices, for which manipulation via the state does not make for a more prudent population, or greater resources.

Addendum

The boring, but ultimately more compelling reason to oppose ‘anti-wastage’ legislation is this.

The varying price for a cup of rice in restaurants is the basis for all other prices of goods used to make the rice. When businesses are forced to provide something where considerations are not factored in via direct consumer decisions (i.e. not through lobbying for legislation), there will be a change of prices, of the consumer good and of the capital goods that made it, in a way that is less coordinated with what people actually want.

When the price mechanism, which is really an information system, is tampered with, you also make market participants less knowledgable, for which we can expect misallocations of resources, leading to reduced supply and higher prices. What a waste.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Why dictatorships (and other threats of force) are never the answer to achieve social reform

Increasing accountability is a matter not of shifting behaviors per se, but shifting mentalities. It’s only with a critical mass of people who understand private property in some aspect that social reform happens. Legislative prohibition, or the use of fear to promote or discourage certain actions, merely changes the manner in which mentalities manifest (e.g. prohibiting alcohol empowers mobs, prohibiting certain types of speech empowers those who benefit from a na├»ve society, etc.).

But there is the argument that people won't change for the better unless it gets written and passed into quote-unquote law for them to do so, through certain actions and restrictions. And to think people would just change of their free will is plain stupid.

But history is an attestation of human beings becoming freer and better off materially and spiritually, thanks to continuously accumulating material and mental capital, and this is most often in spite of the state and whoever happens to be running it at the time. 

What’s more likely, for people to change their concept of private property and freedom, or for the majority of people to live in fear sustainably? No empire in history has lasted. People somehow wise up long enough to get free of even the most brutal dictators. The lack of a stateless society doesn’t point to unlikelihood of its future, it only tells of what is past. And over time, the trend has been towards an increase of freedoms, a decrease in privilege by force.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

NBA vs. Gilas fail: Beyond the booing

Why do NBA superstars, in this day and age, seem to have so little power, that they couldn’t even play an exhibition game in the so-called third world?

It reminds me of pre-WWII Hollywood, where the bosses of MGM and Warner Brothers had a tight hold on stars like Clark Gable and Bette Davis, who had to sign contracts that limited their ability to choose their films. It was only slowly that the talents obtained independence so that today, actors are not limited to doing films for one studio or another (nor do they have to sleep with some big executive such as Jack Woltz in ‘The godfather’).

Monopoly

The NBA today, even more than the golden era of Hollywood, is a monopoly, partly to meet popular demand for the best to compete against the best, but also because of the subsidies it is granted by the cities with NBA teams. We’re talking about hundreds of millions of dollars paid by people, many of who couldn’t give a crap about basketball. Nor of baseball. Nor of football. The leagues of which are also financed similarly.

Excuses

It is no wonder then that they have such control over even the most renegade of players. Sure, the league will have its reasons for their use of powers of sanction. They don’t want to dilute the players’ images with non-NBA performances. They don’t want the risk of injury (as if players could not assess the risks themselves). Perhaps pickup games in a player’s neighborhood would be banned if this were possible.

They can want all they want, but this shouldn’t mean having authoritarian control. Which is a natural consequence of nonmarket protections via the state.

It’s not just a PLDT problem

So yeah, it was foolish of the PLDT people (who incidentally are part of an anti-SME crony empire as well, in case you were wondering why your internet connection blows) to make promises they couldn’t keep. They’re paying the price for such dishonesty bigtime, and not just from refunds. 

But outrage shouldn’t be so one-sided; it should not be taken for granted that a sports league could say yes or no to every professional decision made by their laborers.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Sports is trivialized tribalism (World Cup 2014)

Look at the anguish on their faces.
Similar to Brazilians watching
Germany (for lack of a better name for a team)
beat the shit out of Brazil (ditto).
Sports is tribalism, trivialized.

When humans’ acquisition of resources was uncertain, and chances for survival were improved by violent domination of others, such actions could be said to have been ‘socially’ acceptable.

But what could be considered of ‘society’ back then? Society, least of all on a global scale, was basically non-existent, so talk of what is right, morals, rights, etc. was pointless really.

With the rise of trade/civilization, a return to such savagery meant thwarting the mechanisms by which society came to be. It was now the market, and no longer threats and harm, that allowed people to satisfy their wants, however base or spiritual such wants may be judged by so-called improvers of mankind.

People’s value judgments evolved along with, and are tied to, humanity’s quest for power. As this quest goes on through the generations, the ‘irrational,’ primitive impulses of kinship and tribalism that kept our ancestors alive are being more and more relegated to games, and humor too. A sense of belonging or connection with other perceivers of worlds is now a matter of ideas, not blood.

When I watch the 2014 World Cup, there’s much that is appalling, such as the presence of state officials and ambassadors, or FIFA’s cronyism, as well as the uptight rabidity of fans on the basis of culture or political boundaries. But there is also a recognition, somewhere, of it being ‘just a game,’ by which people like you and I cheer for the team of our known-to-be-biased preference.

Friday, July 11, 2014

What subjectivity has meant to me

Subjectivity is not only an economic concept to explain an exchange of products. Recognizing the subjectivity of our minds allows us to be emotionally independent. You recognize your perspective as valid owing to your intuiting makeup, which itself is not of physical origin, just the conveyor of such physical forms.

All we have are physically-oriented metaphors to understand, but they are metaphors no less.

In the face of habitual mechanisms for dealing with one’s environment, one has the element of control, a sense of power in not being a slave to the apparent, the materialistically reduced.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Top 10 best albums ever

Here are 10 albums that I believe will be highly regarded in future, more civilized, ages.

1.       Images & words (Dream Theater) – Untouchably the greatest album of the 1990s. Start to finish a masterpiece. This one is a pleasure to discover.
2.       V: The new mythology suite (Symphony X) – With an album title as pretentious as that, you have to deliver! One of the most fantastically visual musical works. The only real competition of ‘Images & words’ for greatest album ever.
3.       Worldwide (Everything But The Girl) – The songwriting and performing chemistry of Ben Watt and Tracey Thorn is a miracle in this ‘adult’ subgenre of pop. They have at least two more truly great albums, and the five-year period of 1988 to 1992 has given us some of the best cover songs and originals. This 1991 album has at least six classic tracks, including my personal favorite since 2008, ‘Boxing and pop music,’ which pretty much concludes this album.
4.       Surfing with the alien (Joe Satriani) – This started it all for me, guitar-oriented-music-wise. My appreciation of it now is much deeper than back in the wondrous summer of 1990, when I learned the joy of vinyl. Some of the greatest solos by Satch are found here, including ‘Crushing day’ and ‘Echo.’ And ‘Midnight’ is so nostalgic to me, I can almost smell the film of the old cassette tape my dad first bought.
5.       Blaze of glory (Jon Bon Jovi) – What a consistently brilliant album. What can I say but it’s just great Springsteen-inspired rock n’ roll with JEFF BECK on guitar. Better than any Bon Jovi album fo sho.
6.       Slave to the grind (Skid Row) – ‘Wasted time’ stands out as one of the most complex-harmonied rock radio hits of the 1990s. Love the lyrics throughout the album. Nothing else from Rachel Bolan and co. matched this 1991 effort.
7.       Scenes (Marty Friedman) – Some of the most beautiful guitar passages you will ever hear in life. When it comes to eliciting a sense of the beautiful absurd, no one beats Marty Friedman. He applies this style for Oriental-sounding tunes, primarily using clean tones.
8.       Youthanasia (Megadeth) – If you like guitar crunch, this album has the best sounding crunch ever. Currently the last Megadeth-Max Norman collaboration. Immortal mid-tempo tunes from the most inspired era of the band.
9.       LOVEppears (Ayumi Hamasaki) – Many Japanese musicians, apparently, like making English lyrics and titles without knowing quite how to use the words. Apart from that, this Ayumi Hamasaki album has some of the best techno-oriented pop ever. The production is perfect, the songwriting is otherworldly, and it’s wonderful how the producers must have had such a wide choice of songs so as to pick only the best. Off the top of my head, I count eight unbelievably brilliant songs from this album.
10.   The stranger (Billy Joel) – Billy Joel is the songwriter with just about the greatest versatility. He outdid Elton John being a ‘piano man,’ and certainly had more voice types to use than Stevie Wonder ever did. The greatest moment of this album must be the saxophone solo in the Brenda and Eddie segment of ‘Scenes from an Italian restaurant.’ The best song in my opinion is ‘Get it right the first time.’ The worst song of the album, ‘She’s only a woman to me,’ is one of the biggest songs of that decade.

Monday, July 7, 2014

10 best overplayed songs

I also really like Air Supply’s ‘Goodbye.’
You know, those songs that sicken you from being on the radio and in the mall all the time, or sung by your younger-generation relatives.

(Oh don’t worry. ‘Let it go’ doesn’t make it to this list.)

Here are my 10 most underappreciated overplayed songs:

1.       Sweet child o’mine – Great solo/s, and even ignoring the notoriously hilarious opening lead guitar by a Slash in his mid-twenties, it has a great verse that works really well with the chorus. And the ending takes it somewhere unexpected, and it is uncommon for popular radio songs to have such arrangements.
2.       Creep – I remember it was 20 years ago that then-RPN-9’s noontime show, which launched the careers of Michelle Aldana and Arnel Ignacio, and brought back Hajji Alejandro and Rico J. Puno from their graves (and this was score years ago! One fourth of the time between the great Declaration of Independence and the not-that-great Abraham Lincoln), damn this is a long run-on sentence, I’ll end it now. So ‘Chibugan na’ had this battle of the bands where the bands played a rendition of Radiohead’s ‘Creep.’ That was the low point of this otherwise brilliantly simple song. If you just listen to it without remembering its past, it’s a decent groove.
3.       Call me maybe – I’m surprised myself by this choice of mine, made a minute ago. I always hated this song, since first hearing it in 2012 in Megamall. Then I heard one of those typical acoustic Pinoy groups covering it. The singer was great, I forget her name at the moment. It’s surprisingly likeable. [This just in: Stephanie Dan]
4.       What a wonderful world – Whether it’s with ironic footage in a film, or heard with Kenny G. dubbing himself into the mix, or its plain version in an old CD, this song is still heard around. I myself didn’t come to love it till this past year. It’s so happy with everything, even death!
5.       The way you look tonight – Everybody has covered this song, usually not very well. But idea-wise it’s just perfect as it is, really.
6.       Beethoven’s fifth symphony – The ears of this generation, and at least two or three before it, find the opening of the symphony ironic, spoiling any chances for passionate appreciation. It’s just been played to death. But apart from this one passage in this one movement, are many other great passages in the other movements.
7.       Also sprach Zarathustra – I used to resent Kubrick for using it in his holy ‘2001: A space odyssey,’ but really, the first half of Richard Strauss’ masterpiece is comparable to the best of Wagner and Mahler. There is this one movement which makes its way to the Harold & Kumar and Smoochie movies. A minute long. But the next seven minutes of it are just several levels higher in inspiration. The key changes are so sweet, and somewhat tug at you.
8.       Macarena – Just checking to see if you’re still paying attention.
8. All this time – This Tiffany song is the one you’re most likely to hear when you switch to 96.3 WROCK. It is the ultimate ‘That was the 1980s!’ song. Ton of melody. Excellent solo. Good memories.
9. Cross my heart – People by now are numb to this song. You hear it, but once it passes, you don’t know what it was. It’s that ubiquitous. Luckily I didn’t care for it, or Everything But the Girl, until about six years ago. And it was my blessed luck to find out they had way better stuff never once on the radio or any compilation. EBTG’s album ‘Worldwide’ is one of my 10 favorite albums of all time. Its second half is the most amazingly (randomly?) arranged half-tracklist (TAFKA Side B) in the history of recorded music. The songs are THAT good, even though it may take some time to comprehend. I’m telling you, find it somewhere!!!
10. Imagine – I wasn’t sure if I could include this, because it’s so rightfully considered as one of John Lennon’s best. But if you’re like me, you’ve only been half-listening to it in the past decade or so. This is genius at its simplest.