Category Archives: Education

Why a Consumption Tax May not Make any Sense at All

By Steve Roth – You often hear calls out there — mostly from Right economists but also from some on the Left — for a consumption tax in the U.S. As presented, it’s a super-simple idea: tally your income, subtract your saving, and what’s left is your consumption. You pay taxes on that.

We want to encourage thrifty saving and discourage profligate consumption, so what’s not to like?

Start with a simple pared-down household. The only accounting complication is that they own a house.

How much did this household “save”? Should the interest payments count as consumption? The principal payments almost certainly should not. But what about home maintenance? A new paint job increases your home’s asset value. Should you depreciate that asset value over some years? Or say you buy new appliances for your kitchen: You’re cash out of pocket, but your home is worth more. Are those purchases “consumption”?

This notion of some simple tally of your “saving” starts to look more complicated.

The tuition line raises a particularly vexing question, and brings us back to the second question: what economic effects would we see from a consumption tax, under various accounting and taxation rules? Clearly, if you tax tuition, you discourage education.

And consider more-prosperous families paying for private school. Are those families “consuming” more education than public-school families? Those households would be especially hard hit if tuition counts as taxable consumption — as would those private schools. Is that A Good Thing? more> https://goo.gl/LZSRZd

What Happens When Quantum Physics Meets Cryptography?


By Paulina Gomez – In today’s world of ever-increasing security threats and breaches, encryption is a common technique used to protect critical information from getting into the wrong hands. In cryptography, encryption is the process of encoding a plaintext message in such a way that only authorized parties can access it. The result of this process is encrypted information, also known as ciphertext. But how is this done exactly? The plaintext message is transformed using an algorithm (or cipher) to make it unreadable to anyone except those possessing special knowledge, which is referred to as the key.

Today’s state-of-art secure communications use advanced mathematics to protect in-flight data leveraging highly secure algorithms, such as in Ciena’s WaveLogic Encryption solution. Even though many cryptographic algorithms used today are publicly available, such as the popular Advanced Encryption Standard (AES), they are very difficult to crack in a reasonable amount of time given the computational power of today’s computers. In fact, the keys used in modern cryptography are so large that breaking the AES-256 standard would require “fifty supercomputers that could check a billion billion (1018) AES keys per second [and] would, in theory, require about 3×1051 years.”

The field of Quantum Cryptography is an area of security research and development focused on the introduction of new technologies that will offer more resistance to the computing power of quantum computers. Quantum cryptography draws its strength from the unpredictable nature of photons – the smallest particles in the universe. more> https://goo.gl/FTh77p

Why Is Donald Trump Still So Horribly Witless About the World?

By Robin Wright – “The President has little understanding of the context”—of what’s happening in the world—“and even less interest in hearing the people who want to deliver it,” Michael Hayden, a retired four-star general and former director of both the C.I.A. and the National Security Agency, told me.

“He’s impatient, decision-oriented, and prone to action. It’s all about the present tense. When he asks, ‘What the hell’s going on in Iraq?’ people around him have learned not to say, ‘Well, in 632 . . . ’ ” (That was the year when the Prophet Muhammad died, prompting the beginning of the Sunni-Shiite split.)

Trump’s policy mistakes, large and small, are taking a toll. “American leadership in the world—how do I phrase this, it’s so obvious, but apparently not to him—is critical to our success, and it depends eighty per cent on the credibility of the President’s word,” John McLaughlin, who worked at the C.I.A. under seven Presidents, from Richard Nixon to George W. Bush, and ended up as the intelligence agency’s acting director, told me.

“Trump thinks having a piece of chocolate cake at Mar-a-Lago bought him a relationship with Xi Jinping. He came in as the least prepared President we’ve had on foreign policy,” McLaughlin added. “Our leadership in the world is slipping away. It’s slipping through our hands.” more> https://goo.gl/Nza7eC

Quantum Information: Changing the Rules of the Game

By Carl Miller – In the early 20th century, physicists found things going on at the subatomic level that were very hard to explain. Basic ideas of what it means to be in a “position” and “state” were called into question.

In my everyday life, I can put my car key on the kitchen counter, or I can leave it in my pocket, but I can’t do both. I may forget where I put it afterward, but unless one of my cats got to it, it’s still in one place or the other.

At the subatomic scale, things are … different. A key that behaved according to quantum rules could be both in my pocket and on the counter at the same time. And when I check to see where it is, it would randomly end up in one location or the other. This is the idea of quantum superposition, and it was eventually decided that, as strange as it seems, this concept provides the right way to explain the results of certain experiments.

Going further, two particles can be linked, or “entangled,” in a superposed state, which means that observations of the two will always agree, no matter how far apart they happen to be. more> https://goo.gl/CJp8Za

The limits of tolerance

BOOK REVIEW

The Limits of Free Will, Author: Paul Russell.

By Paul Russell – Race, gender and, more recently, sexual orientation are forms of identity that have been especially prominent in politics during the past century. What is striking about these forms of identity is not only that they are generally unchosen, but that they are not based on any ideological or value-laden set of commitments of a political or ethical nature.

Of course, the significance and interpretation of non-ideological identities, the ways in which they can be viewed as threatened or disrespected, is itself an ideological matter; but the identities themselves are not constituted by any ideological content (systems of belief, value, practices, etc), and the groups concerned could vary greatly in the particular ideologies that they endorse or reject.

It would, for example, be absurd to praise or blame Martin Luther King Jr for being black, or Margaret Thatcher for being a woman. There is no ideological content to their identity to assess or debate – the relevant identity is an inappropriate target for praise or blame, since there are no relevant assessable beliefs, values, practices or institutions to serve as the grounds of such responses. The identity of the group turns on natural qualities and features that cannot be discarded in light of critical scrutiny or reflection of any kind.

With ideological or value-laden identities the situation is different. The most obvious of these identities are political, constituted by doctrines, beliefs and values that have implications for our social and ethical practices and institutions.

The crucial question for tolerance, is: where does religion stand in relation to this divide? more> https://goo.gl/H6df7Z

Updates from GE

Three Reasons Why You Should Invest In Smart Cities Now
By Gary Shapiro – Smart cities are the urban landscapes of the future. Powered by the ubiquitous connectivity of the Internet of Things (IoT), smart cities collect data on a variety of factors – from pollution to traffic – and employ that data to make cities safer and more sustainable.

By 2050, the majority of the world will be living in cities – now is the time to lay the groundwork for smart building and infrastructure.

City rules shape how energy is used and how buildings are designed. As digital infrastructure evolves, the rules that govern it will become only more complex.

It’s no secret that drawing the best and brightest to a company isn’t just a matter of compensation. The workers who will add the most value over the longer term want to live and work in places that offer them affordable, sustainable housing, timely and safe transportation and a clean and pleasant atmosphere. more> https://goo.gl/AkbCZE

The Battle for the Judiciary

By Joseph P. Williams – Besides depriving the president Obama of an opportunity to shape the lower courts, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell‘s gambit denied Obama his right to create, among other things, a left-leaning feeder system for future Supreme Court nominees. The blockade seemed to pay big dividends: When President Donald Trump won the White House, he inherited more than 100 judicial vacancies McConnell forced Obama to leave behind.

The GOP’s well-laid plans to move the federal courts to the right, however, has been ambushed by the Democrats’ counterattack.

Using the political equivalent of guerrilla warfare – insisting on following arcane legislative rules, withholding approval of home-state nominees and generally throwing sand in the Senate machinery – the minority party has ground Republicans’ judicial agenda to a halt.

Those tactics have kept Trump and his Senate allies from addressing a judicial system with so many vacancies that legal experts on both sides have called it a crisis.

Nan Aron says she believes the debate over healthcare – and the fact that some Republican senators allied with Democrats to fight off the GOP’s attempts to repeal a popular government program – could become a watershed moment in the fight over Trump’s nominees.

“It’s important to note that the political winds are shifting,” Caroline Fredrickson says. “That, with Trump’s poll numbers continuing to decline, greater numbers of individuals will want the courts to stand as a check on his excesses. The more people come to understand what courts and judges do, we believe, the more they will begin to weigh in on judgeships” and pressure Republicans. more> https://goo.gl/JTRoqY

Related>

The Scaramucci effect: what White House havoc means for the world

The Trump administration is now a beacon of dysfunction. Allies, and enemies, are taking note.
By Leslie Vinjamuri – What does this mean for US leadership?

For some, Trump’s heavy-handed, even aggressive unilateralism is a symptom, not a cause, of the country’s relative decline.

According to this view, the country’s investment in liberal internationalism is an outdated strategy predicated on the historical need to counter the Soviet threat. It was designed for a different time, when the US’s military and economic power far surpassed that of any of its European counterparts, even when combined. The country’s retreat from the global stage is long overdue, so the argument goes.

In the absence of a clear national security imperative, foreign interventionism is both bad strategy and bad for the US. Trump’s style may be repugnant – but his America First instincts are not wrong.

But this is shortsighted.

Soft power is crucial to US leadership, more so now than ever before. In an era in which power is diffuse, and problems do not respect national borders, the capacity of any nation to influence others depends on the goodwill of a large number of state and non-state interests. more> https://goo.gl/qhPfM8

Bribery, Cooperation, and the Evolution of Prosocial Institutions

By Michael Muthukrishna – There is nothing natural about democracy. There is nothing natural about living in communities with complete strangers. There is nothing natural about large-scale anonymous cooperation.

There is something very natural about prioritizing your family over other people. There is something very natural about helping your friends and others in your social circle. And there is something very natural about returning favors given to you.

The trouble is that these smaller scales of cooperation can undermine the larger-scale cooperation of modern states. One scale of cooperation, typically the one that’s smaller and easier to sustain, undermines another.

When a leader gives his daughter a government contract, it’s nepotism. But it’s also cooperation at the level of the family, well explained by inclusive fitness, undermining cooperation at the level of the state. When a manager gives her friend a job, it’s cronyism. But it’s also cooperation at the level of friends, well explained by reciprocal altruism , undermining the meritocracy.

Bribery is a cooperative act between two people, and so on. It’s no surprise that family-oriented cultures like India and China are also high on corruption, particularly nepotism.

Even in the Western world, it’s no surprise that Australia, a country of mates, might be susceptible to cronyism.

Part of the problem is that these smaller scales of cooperation are easier to sustain and explain than the kind of large-scale anonymous cooperation that we in the Western world have grown accustomed to.

So how is it that some states prevent these smaller scales of cooperation from undermining large-scale anonymous cooperation? more> https://goo.gl/gZg5mY

Updates from GE

CEO Transition: How Jeff Immelt Reinvented GE
By Dorothy Pomerantz & Matthew Van Dusen – It started with a simple conversation in 2009. GE Chairman and CEO Jeff Immelt was at the company’s Global Research headquarters in Niskayuna, New York, chatting with scientists about embedding sensors in jet engines. When jet engines run, they don’t only power planes — they generate trillions of bytes of data that can provide an enormously valuable window into their inner workings. The insights could allow GE to optimize the machines’ operations and even lead to better engines in the future. But what was the company doing with that data?

Soon after that fateful conversation, Immelt set GE on a path to becoming a new kind of enterprise: a digital industrial company that could unlock productivity from connected machines.

The company Immelt is handing over to his successor, John Flannery, is greatly changed from the one he inherited. Immelt transformed the company by spinning off its real estate, financial services and media divisions, including its stake in NBCUniversal, for tens of billions of dollars.

The moves stabilized GE after the 2008 financial crisis. Immelt then strengthened the core of GE by focusing on power infrastructure, buying the energy assets of the leading power company Alstom in 2015 and merging GE Oil & Gas with Baker Hughes in 2016 to create the world’s largest energy services business. “His enduring legacy is the portfolio transformation,” John Rice says.

Under Immelt, GE also took stands on issues that were important to customers. The company’s Ecomagination initiative helped moved the environment to the top of the corporate agenda. more> https://goo.gl/kdzfHM