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Thanks, Florida!

Florida just bought 300 square miles of cane fields in the everglades to return them to wetlands. They paid $1.75 billion. That buys out US Sugar that was responsible for 10% of the US sugar lobby. In April, in response to one of Rand’s posts, I wrote that we needed to find a way to buy out big sugar. For 6 MT times $0.10 implicit subsidy/lb, that’s $1.2 billion/year. US Sugar’s share of that is $120 million per year. So $1.75B is a pretty good price for their concession.

Sweet deal, Rand! Thanks for taking one for the team as a Floridian to lower sugar prices nationwide.

A Belated Defense of Giuliani’s Tax Policy

My pick for the Presidential race, Giuliani, has bowed out. I like his tax policies. Not that I thought that he could get them adopted, just that I thought that he could achieve what Bush achieved–slightly lower marginal and average taxes for 10 more years. Before you write me off as an elitist who doesn’t like graduated income taxes (which I don’t deny–but bear with me), I agree with Laffer on this point. Taxes are above the monopoly rate. This is expected since there are four (or more) toll takers: Federal income taxes, state income or sales taxes, county sales and/or property taxes, and city sales, income and/or property taxes. When you add up the various employer and employee taxes (federal only) on receiving the last dollar (ignoring the sales and capital gains taxes associated with saving or spending it), they add up in the top bracket to 35% federal + 2.9% Medicare including employer match. That is, if I get $100 in gross in the top tax bracket, I’ll have to pay $36.45 in tax and my employer will have to pay $1.45. If we frame the percentage like sales tax, I am taking home $63.55 and together, my employer and I are paying $37.90. That is a equivalent to a 59.6% sales tax on everything I buy. In other words, to get a dollar, we have to pay 59.6 cents to the government. I assert that this portion of total taxation alone is above the monopoly rate. Tax cutters would have a very easy time getting tax rates cut (and, perhaps counter intuitively, taxes increased) if they could re-frame the tax code to show tax as a percentage of net income at the margin instead of gross.

Do we really despise envy so much that we would rather have the rich indulge in additional leisure than provide the maximum amount to the Treasury?

A Belated Defense of Giuliani’s Tax Policy

My pick for the Presidential race, Giuliani, has bowed out. I like his tax policies. Not that I thought that he could get them adopted, just that I thought that he could achieve what Bush achieved–slightly lower marginal and average taxes for 10 more years. Before you write me off as an elitist who doesn’t like graduated income taxes (which I don’t deny–but bear with me), I agree with Laffer on this point. Taxes are above the monopoly rate. This is expected since there are four (or more) toll takers: Federal income taxes, state income or sales taxes, county sales and/or property taxes, and city sales, income and/or property taxes. When you add up the various employer and employee taxes (federal only) on receiving the last dollar (ignoring the sales and capital gains taxes associated with saving or spending it), they add up in the top bracket to 35% federal + 2.9% Medicare including employer match. That is, if I get $100 in gross in the top tax bracket, I’ll have to pay $36.45 in tax and my employer will have to pay $1.45. If we frame the percentage like sales tax, I am taking home $63.55 and together, my employer and I are paying $37.90. That is a equivalent to a 59.6% sales tax on everything I buy. In other words, to get a dollar, we have to pay 59.6 cents to the government. I assert that this portion of total taxation alone is above the monopoly rate. Tax cutters would have a very easy time getting tax rates cut (and, perhaps counter intuitively, taxes increased) if they could re-frame the tax code to show tax as a percentage of net income at the margin instead of gross.

Do we really despise envy so much that we would rather have the rich indulge in additional leisure than provide the maximum amount to the Treasury?

Richard Garriott: Space’s Next Generation

garriott.jpg
Here’s Richard Garriott on a recent Austin ZEROG flight

Fellow Austinite Richard Garriott talks more in the December issue of PC Gamer about his upcoming trip to space:

I grew up with an astronaut father, and space has been my pinnacle interest since I was young…. the probability of me going [to space] the same way my dad did was zero….

Since earning my earliest profits in the games industry, I have been investing in privatizing space….

Here’s how he enabled Dennis Tito to get into space with his investment in Space Adventures.

I am also involved in Zero G, which has given me a taste of what I might experience in space. Zero G uses a modified Boeing 727 to take people on parabolic flights into microgravity. Anyone can book these flights and I tell you, it will change your life. People get giddy on these flights; they experience true happiness and living in the moment. I enjoy these flights so much that I recently chartered four of them to help promote the release of my space epic MMPORG Tabula Rasa. And my experience on them solidified my desire to get private citizens into space as well–even those without bazillions of dollars.

… I am lucky enough to be able to go into space myself through our work with the Russian Government! Earlier this month, we announced that I will be going into space as the seventh private space explorer, and the first second-generation astronaut, next year. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. But I’m still my father’s son[;] I will be part of a team conducting experiments and bringing back new knowledge and data concentrating in four areas: commercial, educational, environmental, and artistic. This isn’t just a joy ride for me; it’s something I need to do.

Amen on the ZEROG flights.

There’s a little more in his trip-to-space blog.

Richard Garriott: Space’s Next Generation

garriott.jpg
Here’s Richard Garriott on a recent Austin ZEROG flight

Fellow Austinite Richard Garriott talks more in the December issue of PC Gamer about his upcoming trip to space:

I grew up with an astronaut father, and space has been my pinnacle interest since I was young…. the probability of me going [to space] the same way my dad did was zero….

Since earning my earliest profits in the games industry, I have been investing in privatizing space….

Here’s how he enabled Dennis Tito to get into space with his investment in Space Adventures.

I am also involved in Zero G, which has given me a taste of what I might experience in space. Zero G uses a modified Boeing 727 to take people on parabolic flights into microgravity. Anyone can book these flights and I tell you, it will change your life. People get giddy on these flights; they experience true happiness and living in the moment. I enjoy these flights so much that I recently chartered four of them to help promote the release of my space epic MMPORG Tabula Rasa. And my experience on them solidified my desire to get private citizens into space as well–even those without bazillions of dollars.

… I am lucky enough to be able to go into space myself through our work with the Russian Government! Earlier this month, we announced that I will be going into space as the seventh private space explorer, and the first second-generation astronaut, next year. I can’t tell you how excited I am about this. But I’m still my father’s son[;] I will be part of a team conducting experiments and bringing back new knowledge and data concentrating in four areas: commercial, educational, environmental, and artistic. This isn’t just a joy ride for me; it’s something I need to do.

Amen on the ZEROG flights.

There’s a little more in his trip-to-space blog.

Who’s Ahead?

On Intrade, here’s the standings for the 2008 election (security pays 100 if individual is elected):

  1. 32.7 Clinton
  2. 17.4 Obama
  3. 16.0 Thompson
  4. 13.2 Giuliani
  5. 9.5 Romney
  6. 7.6 Gore
  7. 4.7 McCain
  8. 3.1 Edwards
  9. 1.2 Bloomberg

Adds up to 105. Could some partisans be trying to raise their favorite’s numbers?

Who’s Ahead?

On Intrade, here’s the standings for the 2008 election (security pays 100 if individual is elected):

  1. 32.7 Clinton
  2. 17.4 Obama
  3. 16.0 Thompson
  4. 13.2 Giuliani
  5. 9.5 Romney
  6. 7.6 Gore
  7. 4.7 McCain
  8. 3.1 Edwards
  9. 1.2 Bloomberg

Adds up to 105. Could some partisans be trying to raise their favorite’s numbers?

Dyson’s New Sphere
of influence

The most interesting addition to the Space Access crowd was Esther Dyson. Far from the outsider she was pilloried as when she set up Flight School last year, she has a healthy vision for how to take space travel, micro sat’s, space burial and the rest of “New Space” and shape it into a growing large industry.

She mentioned on a panel that she would like to see companies sharing their lists of investors. The purpose is to allow those investors to diversify. She is
“talking her own book” here as she has already invested in XCOR, Space Adventures, Zero G Corporation and Space Services, Inc. I hope that her comment that she liked the Rocketplane presentation translates into some money for them too.

Someone knowledgable about the inner workings of the New Space firms (whom I agree with) assures me that it will take a major cultural shift for these firms to share investor lists. But Dyson by telling everyone at Space Access her goal may encourage other investors to advertise their own interest in space investment diversification.

Dyson got into space because of her family. Her father, Freeman Dyson, designed the Orion spacecraft. Her brother is the historian at Blue Origin.

Following her around was a post-modern experience. She had many suiters and always seemed to have three conversations going at once. It took almost as long to talk to her as it did to talk to Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit. To talk to Glenn I had to fly to Atlanta and drive to Knoxville.

Talking to her was also thoroughly post modern. Conversations with Dyson jumped from electricity to food, to luxury goods reporting. She immediately grasped the concept of the Space-Shot.com game noting the single elimination tournament is a “binary tree”. She pressed me about my electricity auction history asking the single most thoughtful question on that topic I have ever been asked, “if you auction the electricity in advance, how do you assure the spot price is the right price?”

Spot prices in New Jersey are determined by a spot market and many of the large customers have to pay the spot price. In those cases, the forward auction merely determines the cost of the capacity. This piece is critical to why New Jersey and Illinois are different from California’s ill-fated experience with CalPX. Dyson got to live through the California electricity crisis. I bid to run the CalPX and lost. I could have averted that crisis.

Hopefully space in ten years will do as well as the Internet is doing now under her thoughtful guidance or electricity under mine.

Dyson’s New Sphere
of influence

The most interesting addition to the Space Access crowd was Esther Dyson. Far from the outsider she was pilloried as when she set up Flight School last year, she has a healthy vision for how to take space travel, micro sat’s, space burial and the rest of “New Space” and shape it into a growing large industry.

She mentioned on a panel that she would like to see companies sharing their lists of investors. The purpose is to allow those investors to diversify. She is
“talking her own book” here as she has already invested in XCOR, Space Adventures, Zero G Corporation and Space Services, Inc. I hope that her comment that she liked the Rocketplane presentation translates into some money for them too.

Someone knowledgable about the inner workings of the New Space firms (whom I agree with) assures me that it will take a major cultural shift for these firms to share investor lists. But Dyson by telling everyone at Space Access her goal may encourage other investors to advertise their own interest in space investment diversification.

Dyson got into space because of her family. Her father, Freeman Dyson, designed the Orion spacecraft. Her brother is the historian at Blue Origin.

Following her around was a post-modern experience. She had many suiters and always seemed to have three conversations going at once. It took almost as long to talk to her as it did to talk to Glenn Reynolds, Instapundit. To talk to Glenn I had to fly to Atlanta and drive to Knoxville.

Talking to her was also thoroughly post modern. Conversations with Dyson jumped from electricity to food, to luxury goods reporting. She immediately grasped the concept of the Space-Shot.com game noting the single elimination tournament is a “binary tree”. She pressed me about my electricity auction history asking the single most thoughtful question on that topic I have ever been asked, “if you auction the electricity in advance, how do you assure the spot price is the right price?”

Spot prices in New Jersey are determined by a spot market and many of the large customers have to pay the spot price. In those cases, the forward auction merely determines the cost of the capacity. This piece is critical to why New Jersey and Illinois are different from California’s ill-fated experience with CalPX. Dyson got to live through the California electricity crisis. I bid to run the CalPX and lost. I could have averted that crisis.

Hopefully space in ten years will do as well as the Internet is doing now under her thoughtful guidance or electricity under mine.

Let’s Hear it for Trolls!

Nathan Myhrvold, CEO of Intellectual Ventures, former CTO of Microsoft, is calling for the Supreme Court to hang firm on patent property rights in “Inventors Have Rights, Too!” in the Wall Street Journal.

Goliath is crying “Unfair! Take David’s sling away!” Without full rights there is no way for a small inventor to get a big infringer to the table to settle. Instead, they’ll stall and drown the little guy with legal fees. The courts would be put in the middle and have to decide all future licensing revenue. Is that the way we want to run an innovative economy?

If we prevented people who owned houses and cars from removing people who were infringing their rights there, it would be pretty clear that the rights would be worth a lot less.

But how should we grant these patents? Is it sufficient to stick a virtual flag in meme space like a 16th century explorer? Should there be a time window when many can make a filing after the initial filing and the patent right auctioned to the highest bidder with all of the filers getting a portion of the royalties?

—–Update 2006-03-30 09:21—–

The Economist weighs in too. They say save injunctions for “irreparable harm” which strikes me as a rotten standard. Either money is good enough and royalties can be decided in the courts or it isn’t and patent holders need a stick.