Income inequality is a bad thing. It’s a suboptimal scenario. This isn’t something that is debatable. It follows from a few fairly fundamental principles:
- Wealth demonstrates diminishing marginal returns. This is evidenced through risk aversity and other empirical studies
- Happiness does generally increase with wealth, but at a decreasing rate.
- There’s plenty of evidence that living in an area where others have more money than you makes you unhappy, even if you’d be happy with the exact same amount of money in a neighbourhood where you earned more than average.
In other words, taking money away from the wealthy to give to the poor makes the wealthy less unhappy than it makes the poor happy. More equal incomes will improve over happiness. Although I suspect the action of “taking away from the wealthy” has a certain inherent bias to unhappiness itself.
Ok, it’s not exactly the Prisoner’s Dilemma, but it tastes the same. Members of prediction market Intrade, have to decide whether to cooperate or be selfish.
The exchange is insolvent. It seems like the operator didn’t separate member money from its own money and then spent it. This basically makes it a ponzi scheme. It can keep operating as long as it keeps operating. There are sufficient member balances that it still has positive cash. As soon as it accounts for these liabilities to members, it is insolvent.
So, members are offered the chance to agree to a voluntary reduction in their claim and/or conversion to long-term investment. If nobody agrees, the exchange will be liquidated and everyone loses out and any inherent value in the exchange disappears. If enough agree, then those who don’t agree get to withdraw their full funds.
Under this argument, the incentive is for each member to be selfish. Let’s see why.
There are two scenarios – enough accept the terms, too few accept the terms.
If too few accept the terms, the payout is the same whether you agreed to accept the terms or not. So that won’t affect the decision. If there are enough who accept the terms, those who declined will get paid out in full. The only way it makes sense or an individual to accept the terms is if the value of accepting the terms is greater than 100% of their account balance. This might be the case if they were converted to an equity value in the business and believed in its ongoing sustainability, but seems pretty unlikely.
The equity value has been massively damaged by the damage to brand value of the exchange. Outside parties or existing members wishing to take an equity stake need to consider carefully the extent of brand damage already and the $700,000 shortfall needed to restore solvency let alone any capital for future operations and investment.
Bye bye inTrade.
From a number of sources (CNN, USAToday, FT)
No Eurozone country, since the creation of the Euro, has ever instituted capital controls. It’s not really allowed, except in exceptional circumstances. Which goes to show the value of rules with exceptions for “exceptional circumstances”. Which is to say, not much.
The cost to large depositors
Deposits above 100,000 euros have been frozen at both banks. They could be wiped out entirely at Popular. At Bank of Cyprus, about 40% will be converted into equity.
So that is an absolute bank failure, no two ways about it.
The capital controls
depositors would be able to withdraw no more than €300 in cash each day, said people familiar with the move. Transfers over €5,000 would require permission of the central bank.
Overseas credit card transactions would be limited to €5,000 per month, but unrestricted in Cyprus. And there would be a ban on people taking more than €3,000 of bank notes out of the country per trip.
These rules will expire in 7 days. Oh, unless they’re renewed. Prediction – they will be renewed.
Unfortunate technical catastrophe, but still irrelevant. (I’m referring to Bitcoins. Are you new here?)
Vavi has disappointed me with his call for a R4,500 minimum wage.
There is no question that higher pay is better, all else being equal. I expect the overwhelming majority of eyes that have ever glanced at this blog belong to beings that earn more than R4,500 a month.
There is no question that lower income inequality would be more desirable. There is no question that we would be a happier society with fewer people living off very little income.
There is also no question that a higher minimum wage would, all else being equal, lead to an increase in unemployment and therefore quite likely an increase in income inequality and a decrease in the productive capacity of our country, a likely increased tax burden on tax payers and greater social ills.
Let’s look at this a little more clearly. This took me all of a couple of minutes to draw, so I can’t believe Vavi hasn’t seen the same drawing somewhere. (If he disagrees with it, fine, but then he should address the problem head-on and not just ignore the problem.)
Increasing the minimum wage had a doubly negative impact on employment
I’m not a fan of Nutella, but it seems students at Columbia University are.
The story is a little bizarre and, frankly, a little bizarrely written, but the message is interesting. Nutella is provided at Columbia University Dining Halls. Students can eat as much Nutella as they can (or at least, as much as there is) without paying any marginal cost.
As it turns out, the problem is slightly worse than that given it’s alledged that students are
spiriting away stealing jars of Nutella from the dining hall to eat later. The actual theft or whatever they’re calling it here only compounds the problem.
The problem is the age-old Tragedy of the
Nutella Commons. A good that has no marginal cost to any individual will be over-used to the detriment of all. If everyone can let their cattle graze on the village common, pretty soon everyone will put their cattle on the common rather than on their own land, overgrazing the common and destroying the ability of the lucerne or grass to regrow and be self-replenishing.
As it is with our roads. The full cost of using the roads (road maintenance, new roads) isn’t borne through fuel levies of vehicle licences (particularly heavy vehicles) therefore additional funds are needed from the general income tax revenues and at the same time the roads condition deteriorates rapidly.
As a thought-provoking aside, if the villages held a lottery and gave permanent use of the village common to one villager, even though inequality will have been massively increased, average and total utility will be greater than if the villagers were to destroy the common through overgrazing.
Everyone has totally lost the plot.
The proportion of people who speak sense has declined to the lowest level recorded since ever.
“If Eskom puts up its prices too high we’ll have higher inflation. Inflation is bad therefore Eskom shouldn’t put up electricity prices so much.”
Oh really? What happens to the cost of producing electricity when Eskom puts up its prices by 16% rather than 8%? Nothing. Well actually the cost goes down, but then I’m being sneaky – raising the price will reduce consumption, which in turn will decrease the total amount of electricity produced, thus reducing the aggregate cost of electricity production. Yes, it’s sneaky because we all knew I meant the “cost per unit” of electricity.
But wait, if we consume less electricity, Eskom presumably would have to use less gas-turbine powered emergency and oh-so-very-expensive sources of electricity to fill in at peak times. So just maybe the cost per unit of electricity would go down if Eskom were allowed to raise it’s prices by 16% and not 8%.
Another good way to lower inflation would be for government to add a 1% subsidy on everything this year. Everything will be 1% cheaper because you mail (fax?) your receipts to Pravin and Government will mail you a postal order for 1% of the value back in. Instantly effective prices are 1% lower and inflation is more under control.
Hell, why stop at 1%? Let’s have a 2% reduction. And a further 2% next year and so on.