88 – UBI and Other Forms of (Evil?) Taxes


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The Conspiracy sits down with David Spearman, a long time listener and commenter who told us why we were all wrong about UBI and we figured he should tell you too.

Here’s the homework problem David spoke about. The answer is at the bottom.

Suppose a firm has to workers: Bob and Omega. It makes two goods: Ultraspace Drives, worth $1000 each (like I said, cost of living has gone way down) and gizmos worth $10 each. Bob can make an Ultraspace Drive in 1000 years and a gizmo in 1 year. Omega can make an Ultraspace Drive in a year and 10 gizmos in a year. What is the maximally productive allocation of these workers?

David also sent us a couple of links for further research if you’re inclined.

  • Jason Brennan’s When All Else Fails: The Ethics of Resistance to State Injustice
  • Glen Weyl and Eric Posner’s Common Ownership Self Assessed Tax and book link
  • [From David:] The “a UBI will be spent which will stimulate economic growth” argument is basically a rehash of John Maynard Keynes’ argument from the General Theory of Employment, Interets, and Money. You can read the General Theory here
  • There are really good summaries of Keynes’ theory as well as really good criticisms of it scattered around the internet, but the most accessible is the Keynes vs. Hayek rap battle videos (part 1 and part 2)

Samuel Hammond article “Universal Basic Income” Is Just a Negative Income Tax With a Leaky Bucket

SMBC Steven mentioned about not emotionally connecting with the end of the world

Denver’s Tiny Home Village

Eneasz couldn’t find the super compelling link on air pollution correlating to increased Alzheimer’s risk, but here are two others (One) and (Two)

Richard Dawkins “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones”

If anyone is interested in Crionics but finds the paperwork daunting, contact Rudi Hoffman!

Slate Star Codex review of The Machinery of Freedom

You can buy Eneasz’s novel! He’d be super-pleased with that state of affairs. 🙂 You can buy it in physical or ebook versions at Amazon, or ebook-only at any ebook seller.

Rationality: From AI to Zombies, The Podcast… and the other podcast

LessWrong posts Discussed in this Episode:

Beware the Unsurprised

The Third Alternative

Third Alternatives for Afterlife-ism

Next Episode’s Sequence Posts:

Scope Insensitivity

One Life Against The World

Big thanks to David for our intro music! Check out his music and VFX here!

We’d like to thank creators of our new outro music from the Sumerki Project! Check out their stuff here!

Homework Solution:

If Bob makes Ultraspace drives, he makes the company $1/year. If he makes gizmos, he makes the company $10/year. If Omega makes Ultraspace Drives, it makes $1000/year. If it makes widgets, it makes $100/year. Observe that Omega is more productive regardless of what job he takes. However, if he makes Ultraspace Drives, and Bob makes gizmos, the total revenue is $1010/year. Any other allocation of labor will result in lower revenue. If they reverse jobs, revenue is $101/year; if they both split their time evenly, revenue is $555.5/year; if both build Ultraspace Drives, revenue is $1001/year; etc.

As long as Bob and Omega aren’t identically productive, Bob can still be gainfully employed. Even if Omega can be infinitely copied for free, additional copies should be put to work on Ultraspace Drives (this does break down if you relax the “production doesn’t affect the price” assumption, but only if you also make the assumption that the cost of producing an Ultraspace Drive is the same as producing a gizmo). This is why “Chuck Norris has a comparative advantage in everything” jokes are hilarious.

98 episodes