Monday, 22 February 2021

Tax automation: better or worse?

 If you feel like our tax system is more or less unchanged and right from even before medieval times, I think few people would argue with you. During our current time of high technology, increasing automation - and cryptocurrency, the idea of a simplified and perhaps even automated tax, does sound appealing.

What could possibly go wrong? Well, I think many if not most regimes' biggest problem when it comes to taxes, beyond collections - and perhaps greatly to blame for any collections problems, is that of accountability of expenditure. Simply put, many tax payers do not understand- nor feel represented in their tax spending - even if they do agree with their political regime, which many don't.

What current accountability measures are most effective? How would a single, automated, practically invisible tax, affect accountability - and these measures? Simply put: do we currently have a practical choice, other than our votes - and our economic activity? 

The world is complex with many surprising feedback loops and unintended consequences - would a perfect regime for one industry or region look the same in another? For example, a single tax, say the whole tax burden was move to VAT. Authorities would still be able to prioritize certain industries over others by making those VAT exempt - but it would be harder to prioritize. Collections would go through fewer departments, giving more control to some and less to others. Discrimination on payer would be harder. On first glance it looks like a regime like this would entrench some, and marginalize others.

Contemplating this, the train of thought that there is at least some federation and distribution in my current tax-ecosystem, does help me feel better about paying my taxes, and sleep better - at least, until I can understand governance and tax better.

Thursday, 10 November 2016

Sometimes you first notice evil only in that which opposes it.

Why do people "shoot the messenger"?

People don't like being the bearer of bad news, for good reason: Not only are we beings who cling to first impressions, we're terribly short-sighted and reactive, and notoriously bad at introspection.

Haven't most us, at some point, gotten so frustrated at a friend or partner who kept accusing us of the very thing they keep doing wrong?

As you grow older, you realize how this works. You grow up with a certain world view, and with certain norms. Everyone is more or less like you in certain regards, and in those regards, because you're all the same, it is impossible to know in just how many regards you really are the same.

Until you first come in contact with people who subscribe to other norms. When this happens, you are utterly surprised. It's like you just assumed everyone was "human" just like you, and when you realize that they're not you're greeted with a kind of surprised shock that soon turns into blame. "They're different". I'm right. They're wrong! You're not different! No!

But in that difference, so are you, to them. It's like a mirror - difference to you, is difference to them. In them, although you don't necessarily see it that way, you see your own difference.

It's similar to one partner in a relationship deceiving the other, and in so doing, becoming riddled with feelings of guilt and becoming increasingly suspicious of their partner - because they are attuned to suspicion.

Its similar to when being afraid of something bad happening, and actually preparing for it, then when you have prepared, it feels like you have nothing to lose... so given the opportunity, you trigger that bad thing happening. You're ready. I can almost hear your subconscious say: "Let's test this."

In the interests of saving space, I'll bring this right back to politics. Politics is about perception management... it's about what is plausible, however ungrounded in reality - if it is plausible a lot of it sticks. And so, power mongers, even if they can't find any dirt, will use the media to see what dirt they can fabricate that will stick on their opponents.

What if the dirt they dig up is more of a reflection of their own world view, than it is of that opponent? What if the opponent becomes the messenger, and a mirror for this evil they oppose? And in our naive belief of the media, we pin it all on the wrong candidate?

How do we overcome this cognitive dissonance? How do we overcome the media fueled bias of a nation, if few are even aware of it? It's like the devil pointing to his most successful subjects, and saying, look! Evil! And while we're distracted tackling that small evil, we are tackled by the biggest evil yet.

This is power mongering 101. Sun Tzu said: "All warfare is based on deception." Perhaps this is why. This is also why we can't ignore evil, nor can we focus on it too much. If we focus on it too much, it consumes us. If we ignore it, we don't see it coming. We just need to have a keen awareness of its true source and how that reflects in those that highlight it to us.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

What are you doing?

Drive down the road, you're in a rush! As best you try to avoid this, sometimes things just get out of hand. And you're late!

What's the hold-up? It's an old person who can barely walk, crossing the road.

You cope by taking a moment to reflect... to step back a few steps, mentally, and imagine yourself, at that age. 

That old person is you.

In the car, someone, clearly impatient, is waiting for you to cross.

While you're crossing the street, walking, you're not even thinking. It's only your subconscious barely reflecting back on your life. But for a moment, in a flash of clarity, you see the car... and the impatient person inside... you think of the person in the car, waiting for you... and you see your younger self, also once so impatient... in that car... so impatient...

And for another brief flash you reflect on your own life.

The person in that car is probably not much different from you, 50 years ago; similar plans, dreams, aspirations, hopes, commitments and problems...  in another economy, one that your generation left behind, one that you formed part of and tried to help shape...  yet, all things considered, one that even the greatest, most influential figures of your time barely managed to affect, despite their greatest efforts. 

Yes, you think... "we might have built statues and roads..." - But was it worth it? Is it really better now? Or did we only make ourselves feel good about ourselves? In all our accomplishments, did we really accomplish anything? Wasn't the world supposed to be better by now?

Yet... that person in that car sure doesn't look pleased. In fact... I'm sure my memory is not that foggy. I'm sure I was a little less antsy when I was that age...

- - -

If you had to disappear tomorrow, the world will carry on. 

What will you be remembered for, by people just like you. What do you remember other people for?

How many friends or loved ones have you lost and what do you remember of them? 

What have they left behind for you? Not exactly what you wanted? Not everyone wants the same things as you, and we seldom know ourselves well enough in order to be able to tell others what we want or need, so asking is often pointless.

One thing is certain, if you don't know what those who matter most to you really want, you had better start paying attention - and often what they do for you, is what they want.

If what they do for you is really not what they want, then chances are they're the smart ones and it's safe to ask them directly what they want - in which case all you have to do is to listen - listen carefully - and remember! Make notes if you have to. 

Remember it, when things get hecktic - in the thick of things!

Because that's when things get hecktic - when you forget, and that is when you need to remember it most!

You have to consider that - maybe the future is now. Maybe the human condition will never change, no matter what you do, new challenges will come up and and while the means and circumstances may change, the challenges of people and their reactions may not, unless we managed to overcome our innate belief that life is about us.

Life is about us paying attention, and listening... and not jumping to conclusions or solving problems that don't need solving... or that might have been solved ages ago, but because we think we know better, we still haven't gotten the memo.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

On good men who do something

History is littered with many good men, who stood tall in the face of evil.
Men who were ultimately overrun by that evil.

Yet, there are those rare few who not only stood tall, but managed to change the course of history, even if only for a relatively brief span of time...

What separates the former from the latter?

I will tell you what: Nothing.

The difference: the good men who stood behind them.

All good men are the same. All good men are one. All good deeds are equal.

Although we are easily tricked into believing it, greatness is not determined by the size of the evil it opposes.

But what if my evil is your good? Perhaps all the world needs is a concise, precise consensus and definition of evil. It struck me that the best research published in history all seem to start with concise definitions.

...And it is not something that I have seen academically well defined; only in religious writings, where it's wrapped in symbolism and code. There's nowhere where you can read a concise, peer-reviewed, well-known paper on the definition of evil.

Or is there?...
The first hit is

Well, isn't that just a shifting of the goal posts? "Evil isn't what we thought it was, it's something different." And again, just like religious writings, acedemic writings are wrapped in tradition and definition that are meaningless to the man on the street.

Is it really a moving target, along with "good". An ephemeral concept, that once you think you have it, it changes... does it change in the same ways for different people, as they experience more of the world? And is there a definition that most people will eventually settle on, that is not in contradiction with those of another, or that if that is so, that definition could easily be swopped for the agreed-upon right one?

I dare say there is. But what if that is indeed our conundrum, and that the state of the world can be explained by how easily good can be mistaken for evil?

Let's track back to where I started:,1500001,15700023,15700186,15700190,15700256,15700259

Read that, translate that, colour the sketch you have in your mind of history a bit, and then re-read this post...

Do you see the outlines of an archetype forming in your mind... the same one that powers the good times that you don't appreciate with the same vivacity if you haven't lived through the bad. Or can you? Can you learn from the mistakes of others and do the substance in their story carry the same weight as what they paid for with their life, even if you don't?

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

How do you lead a free market?

 My question is: How do you lead an industry with the necessary vision to keep everything as lean and everyone as efficient and productive as possible?

How do you incentivise:
  • manufacturers to innovate, in order to not have to rely on marketing and engineered obsolescence to sell more product than is needed
  • infrastructure builders to share resources, in order to save costs which can get passed on to the public,
  • service providers and workers to specialize, and not spread themselves too thin, in order to avoid the "jack-of-all-trades" trap and rather to do one thing, and do it well and proper, 
  • and everyone to charge the fair price that will give them the majority of the market share right away, without having to wait for competition and market forces to force them to charge less. (As a bonus, less competition will in turn reduce market fragmentation and overly redundant standards and infrastructure.)

  • how do you get the banks and governments to buy into and play their part in this big picture of efficiency, and
  • the public, to understand how it all fits together and to understand the voting power of the money in their wallet
Money which represents value and abundance, which they will ultimately have more of, to spend on more useful things that will have been invented in the absence of companies just churning out more versions of the same made-to-break items...

In a nutshell, how do you institutionalize a distinction between necessary and unnecessary work? Does unnecessary work have a place in our society?

I have a lot more to learn, share, ask, and debate on this...

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Carrot vs Stick

I have a long list of customers who owed me money for work done, for a long time, but eventually paid.

Why? Because I was always courteous, and never threateneing, and never gave them half a chance to demonise me or justify to themselves not paying. Fact of the matter is that people stops paying you when they can not afford to or they really don't know how - or because they're angry at you and feel like you really didn't treat them fairly.

Even so, they have a list of priorities... and will pay according to their list, so all you need to do is to stay on top of ther list by being non-annoying, courteous and friendly. Assuming they know full well what you did for them, of course.

*NB* This does not include people whom I forgot to invoice, or whom I invoiced late. That's a whole different matter, that is just as bad, if not worse. If you do not invoice people on time, you mess with their cash flow. It is your responsibility to make sure they know what they owe you.

So I repeat: It is very important to invoice people on time! Some companies have a clause in their contract that if they do not receive an invoice within 3 months, you agree that they are disclaimed from having to pay. Make sure your invoicing system works!

Thursday, 26 February 2015

Klout, Right and Wrong, and "legal physics"

...In the end, the law demands a lot of respect - because it's always on the side of the person that knows it best.

Even if that is a bad entity with bad intentions - you being on the "right" side with the "right intentions" counts for nothing. The law isn't about right and wrong, it's about who respects- and plays by the rules.

It seems that there is a law of legal physics: for every law there is an equal and opposite loophole. And a second law of legal physics: the number of loopholes at your disposal increase proportionally to the amount of money you spend.

I used to have a fundamental, moral problem with this. But I've come to realize that money is the ultimate klout. There's no better, more universally accepted way to prove that you can do what you say you can, than by having the money to show for it.

Yes, sadly people can make money by stealing, and exploiting the law, too... but if you can take the bad with the good, it's easy to be an optimist. If someone has come up with a better way to measure true klout, than wealth, I'd love to hear about it.