Octavo Dia

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The heavens and all that is in them.

I don't recall if I've discussed this before, but I've been asked why God created such an enormous universe for the few people on this tiny speck called earth. There are the usual answers, that it was no harder for God to create a seemingly endless universe than for him to create a tiny spec, or the words of Genesis 1:14, that God created them to mark the signs and the seasons, or that he created them, as Isaiah says, "to his glory," but I think there's another reason.

Early man was tremendously intelligent. Adam was the perfect man. The feats of memory, reasoning, and logic that show up in some individuals today are endlessly copied corruptions of Adam's intelligence. By biblical chronology, it took only seven generations to go from what was effectively the stone age to the iron age. When you consider that technology is cumulative and self-reinforcing--it's a lot easier to design an injection molder when you don't have to design a socket-head cap screw and alan wrenches first--that technological leap is absolutely astounding.

No imagine a world without sin, and thus most obviously, without the Flood. Without the Flood, human history would be 1600 years more advanced. Without sin, and the retarding effects of war, disease, and Malthus, or the splitting of the peoples at Babel, by this date the first moon landings would be ancient history. Humans would live and move through the solar system, and probably have journeyed to the nearer stars. God created an entire universe for humans, and the earth was just our cradle. It is sin that keeps us here, and makes us wonder about the purpose of the vast creation.

Thursday, March 20, 2008


On page 69 of How to Spend $50 Billion to Make the World a Better Place, it states, "Schools are not machines for teachings facts: they are the mechanism whereby societies replicate themselves."

If that is the case, then one would expect that, as a society grows more insular (or develops more sub-grouping), a greater level of education would be necessary to achieve the same goal of societal replication.

This seems to be the case. As societies are growing more insular and more clannish, and the amount of education is increasing globally--by the educational results--the learning of facts, has stayed relatively constant. In the 1920's, a grade school education was all you needed. In the 1950's, high school. In the 1980's college. Today, graduate school. The addition of 10 extra years of schooling, more if you count preschool, has achieved relatively little, and surely not double the results.

All this education is doing something, and it's not learning. It's making more Americans in a world that's pulling them apart.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

How to make a strong I.D.

The most secure forms of I.D. are the ones that have point systems, like New York's, in which all sorts of documents are given a number of points, and you need to accumulate a certain number of points (through various documents) to qualify for an I.D.

You could make the point system a lot stronger, however, by allowing your agents a measure of discretion. New York's DMV requires six points. If the agents could require an additional point based on their judgment, it would make fraud a lot harder.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

How to deflate a bubble

Bernanke isn't dumb. He isn't trying to stimulate the economy either. He's deflating a housing bubble and no one realizes it.

The trouble with housing bubbles is that people won't sell unless they get at least what they pay for it, and this is key, what they paid for it in NOMINAL terms. Until inflationary expectations take hold, a person who bought a house for $150,000, and sells it five years later for $155,000 will think he made $5,000 on the deal, even though he lost money. If Bernanke can control a short-term spike in inflation, he'll drop house prices back towards sustainable levels with no one the wiser.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

How to make a progressive income tax

The current method of making an income tax progressive--having everyone record their income, deduct a variety of things, and then figure their tax from a table--is terribly inefficient. To create an efficient income tax, you can simply borrow an idea from the Fair Tax proposal. Every source of income is taxed up front. It's taken off the top and sent in. Every citizen then gets the same, standard refund of the tax up to a certain level. If the income level was set at $20,000, with a tax rate of 15%, the tax would be $3,000, and the standard refund would be $3,000. Thus a person earning $20,000 would have a tax rate of zero. Earning $40,000 would create taxes of $6,000 and a refund of $3,000, for a tax rate of 7.5%. And so on. No one would have to file a return, or save their receipts, or go through all that hassle. Simplicity is good.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Destroying the village to save it.

Ethnic cleansing is, legally, a form of genocide. The recent attack by an Israel Arab offers a compelling counterexample. If this attack is followed by others, Israel will be forced to institute repressive measures against its Arab population, leading to an Apartheid situation at best. I wonder, however, if episodes of ethnic cleansing on the part of intractable enemies may prevent true genocide from occurring. It is argued that much of the peace in Iraq was a result of the Shi'ite militias' effectiveness in reducing points of contact between hostile populations. Might we have to overlook ethnic cleansing in the name of peace and the prevention of genocide?

How to run a commuter train

When I run out of book on my commute, I am forced to think about random things, which today meant commuter trains. So much time and energy is wasted on commuter trains slowing the entire train down, unloading and loading passengers, and speeding the entire train up. My commute is 47 minutes. Without all the stops it would be 20. Something is clearly wrong.

If you stop thinking of trains as trains, and start thinking of them as a row of buses, the solution becomes obvious--you pick up cars from the rear and shed them from the front. With overhead power, train cars could move independently. With the technology used in UAV's, train cars could be driven remotely. Thus as a train approached a station, the front car would be released from the train and diverted onto a separate track by the platform. It would unload the passengers and wait for the next train to come along. Meanwhile, as the train went by the station, the car that was left off by the previous train (which the passengers had already boarded), would accelerate and catch up with the train and hook onto the end.

The passengers in the rear car would then walk forward to the car that would let them off at their station, or contrariwise, stay in the rear car and walk back as new cars are added. The end result is a train that never stops to pick up passengers, never stops to let them off, and never slows down, all while accelerating and decelerating only one car at a time.