We should be able to fire politicians.

By Confusion on zaterdag 4 april 2009 12:32 - Comments (13)
Category: Politics, Views: 4.175

Freakonomics reports on a proposal by an Oregan representative to tax bike ownership:
bikes have used the roads in this state forever and have never contributed a penny
As dozens of readers at Freakonomics point out:
  • Cycling hardly cause any wearing of roads
  • Driving a bicycle instead of a car greatly reduces the costs of the transportation to society. If anything, cyclists should be subsidized
  • Everyone already contributes to bicycle infrastructure, in the same way they contribute to infrastructure for pedestrians: are they going to tax people for owning shoes as well?
  • In fact, to add insult to injury, cyclists already do not 'use up' their share of expenses, by paying for the -- much more expensive -- infrastructure for motorized transportation via al kinds of general taxes.
In short, this proposal is just stupid. A lawmaker that proposes it is either too dumb to think of these reasons for himself or simply doesn't care and just seeks some way to impose an additional tax on the people. Either way, he's not fit to do his job and it would be good if we were able to force replacement of such people.

More dangerous than a decline in prosperity.

By Confusion on maandag 2 februari 2009 20:48 - Comments (4)
Category: Politics, Views: 3.665

We've been hearing about the financial crisis for over a year now, but I don't think many people have tried to imagine what we may be in for. The expected decline in prosperity may be the least of our concerns, when articles like these get published and linked on Slashdot.

In the article, indignation is expressed over the fact that over 21800 requests for immigration permits were issued by 'the same banks that are now receiving rescue packages totaling over $150 billion, even as the system was melting down'.

Factually, the article is ludicrous. Firstly the number '21800' is the total over the past six years, which certainly doesn't match up with 'even as the system was melting down'. Secondly, that number is pointless without an estimate of the number of people working for the corporations that issued the requests. When you have that estimate, you will note that the 3700 requests a year is actually quite small when compared to the total number of jobs in the sector and when comparing it with other Western countries, it turns out to be a pretty average number. Thirdly, the article goes on to complain about the average salary these immigrants receive, comparing it to the average salary of an american household, while completely ignoring the fact that we are talking about people in banking here. I could go on, but I think I made my point.

As this article obviously isn't intended to be informative, what is its intention? I can see only one. Mix the anger people feel towards the banking sector with their latent xenophobia and their natural suspicion of the government and you've got an article that pushes people towards nationalism. This is the kind of inflammatory 'journalism' that may well be a signpost of things to come: in the coming crisis every country is on its own and as nationalistic tendencies awaken, we may well be in for xenophobia and war.

Media coverage of the financial crisis

By Confusion on donderdag 25 september 2008 08:51 - Comments (6)
Category: Politics, Views: 3.833

Today my newspaper headlined with a phrase best translated as "Withdraw cash from ATM machines while you can!". This is bad for three reasons:
  1. The phrasing scares people
  2. It is bound to deepen the problem, by encouraging people to withdraw money and worsen the liquidity of the banks.
  3. It is quite pointless to withdraw (large amounts of) money. If our banks go bankrupt (and if one goes, they'll all go), the value of money becomes questionable. After a few days, it probably will not be worth anything anymore. If you are worried, start hoarding food and water. You can't eat euros.
But then, I wouldn't worry anyway. I'd almost hope everything goes down, just to see how it plays out, in economic as well as in social terms.

The Italian 'democracy'

By Confusion on dinsdag 1 juli 2008 19:34 - Comments (13)
Category: Politics, Views: 6.530

Last June, the Italian senate passed a new law that postpones all legal proceedings concerning crimes that were committed before June 30th, 2002 and that are punishable by less than 10 years in prison. This law served only one purpose: to keep the Italian prime minister Berlusconi out of prison for another year. The fact that the law was proposed is ridiculous in itself. The fact that is was passed makes the Italian democracy the laughing stock of the EU.

However, things get even worse. The Italian parliament has now proposed a new law granting full immunity to certain ranks of government officials during their period of service. People criticize the US for the way their democracy operates, but this is far, far worse. Montesquieu anyone?

People wonder why the Irish voted against the European Union. With countries like Italy, Poland and Bulgaria, I think we should wonder who would vote for allowing these countries to have any say in our business.