I hope he gets 6000 years

By Phil Plait | July 20, 2006 11:48 pm

Schadenfreude?

Yup.

Creationist Ken Hovind has been nailed on tax evasion. I find it ironic, actually, since apparently he didn’t render unto Caesar what was Caesar’s. I guess he didn’t have all his ducks in a row… or two by two, I suppose.

Here’s a jaw-dropping followup as well.

Comments (68)

  1. Christian Burnham

    It feels a little like Christmas.

  2. SilverAssassin

    You have to laugh at this comment:

    “Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog.”

    Obviously, as we all know, evolution works on a timescale of tens of years, not tens of millions. Not.

  3. SilverAssassin

    You have to laugh at this comment:

    “Nobody has ever seen a dog produce a non-dog.”

    Obviously, as we all know, evolution works on a timescale of tens of years, not tens of millions, doesn’t it?

    What a cretin.

  4. SilverAssassin

    Whoops, double-post. Now triple-post. Sorry.

  5. Fraser

    I see dogs produce non-dogs all the time, sometimes right outside my apartment door. It’s icky, which I suppose is why people don’t talk about it much.

  6. It is always frustrating when people who are supposed to be in your camp go of the rails.

    Some years ago I did what could only be described, by me at least, internal affairs investigation. It is one of the most depressing things you do in the church. People like this guy really harm your side and we are better off without them.

    The dog bit is the old argument about how much change must their be before it is a new species and how much further change before it is a new Genus. We were taught, that if two annimals could mate and produce live young that were fertile, then they were members of the same species.

    Does this definition hold whether you hold to be true about origins?

  7. eddy

    “No one has ever observed a dog produce a non-dog,” Hovind once wrote in reply to a New York Times article.

    We have observed a donkey producing a mule. Won’t that be proof? Or is this too close to Hovind’s real nature to be able to see the difference?

  8. MaDeR

    “We were taught, that if two annimals could mate and produce live young that were fertile, then they were members of the same species.”
    POPULATIONS, not single animals, changes and evolve. for example, certain population can live, mate and produce next members of this population just fine for 10 milion years. But if you time-travel one of them back then, you will found that this distant descendant can’t give offsprings with his equally distant ancestors.

    You even don’t need time machnie, only patience. Divide population in two and relase them into different places. After 10 mln years, try to mate single animals from these two populations. In most cases, they can’t.

  9. Mark Martin

    I’m no fan of Hovind. He’s stupid. But I do have to take issue with the following charges being leveled against him:

    “The indictment also says the Hovinds’ made cash withdrawals from AmSouth Bank in a manner that evaded federal requirements for reporting cash transactions.

    The withdrawals were for $9,500 or $9,600, just below the $10,000 starting point for reporting cash transactions.

    Most of the withdrawals were days apart. For example, the indictment shows three withdrawals of $9,500 each on July 20, July 23 and July 26 in 2001.”

    To me this should be [legally] irrelevant. The whole idea of having a cutoff point for withdrawals is to have a well defined critical limit at which an amount is required to be reported. Does the law say that it also must be reported if the withdrawal is “close” to $10,000? If so, then how does the law define “close”? Where does this sort of thing end?

  10. Michelle Rochon

    …Why, everything I own is owned by God too! He’s my boss too, since he is the LORD of US ALL! Isn’t the WHOLE EARTH owned by the big G man? So, let’s not pay taxes! All of you!

  11. Kent got upset when his passport was taken away because he says “thousands and thousands” of South Africans are waiting to see him. Speaking as one, I’m now a little torn between wanting to see him go to jail, and wanting to see him come to SA so that I can organize to have him pelted with overripe fruit. Or stones… isn’t that how they do it in the bible?

  12. writerdd

    BTW, I don’t know if anyone’s noticed, but his so-called “theme park” is just a bunch of junk in his back yard.

  13. writerdd

    “The dog bit is the old argument about how much change must their be before it is a new species and how much further change before it is a new Genus. We were taught, that if two annimals could mate and produce live young that were fertile, then they were members of the same species. Does this definition hold whether you hold to be true about origins?”

    I don’t know if that is the best definition of species, but assuming it is valid:

    Species can change because of isolation over space and/or time.

    If two groups of dogs become isolated in space, after many generations the individuals within each group will still be interbreeding, but individuals from the two groups may not be able to interbreed any more. The groups have diverged into separate species, divided by geography.

    The same thing can happen over time, without creating two separate species that exist in different places but at the same time. If the animals change slowly over time, eventually a current living animal may be incapable of interbreeding with its own ancestors. Of course this couldn’t happen anyway, because the ancestors are dead. But if the two animals were to be brought together, they may not be able to interbreed any more. The groups have diverged into separate species, divided by time.

    But, in both cases, there probably has not been one animal who gave birth to another who could not interbreed with the parent.

  14. Berlie

    Check out the bottom of the second link BA provides. There’s a discussion going on that boggles the mind. Something about half-angels and the flood.

    Oh and concerning the

  15. Berlie

    *Sorry, I goofed before I could finish my last entry.*

    There’s several articles about finch’s on the Galapagos Islands that actually showed recent evolutionary changes. Just Google the words finch and galapagos and you’ll find them. It’s an interesting read. Of course, it could just be a “miracle”. (It doesn’t show well in typing, but there was a great deal of sarcasm in the last sentence.)

  16. TheBlackCat

    Mark Martin says:

    “To me this should be [legally] irrelevant. The whole idea of having a cutoff point for withdrawals is to have a well defined critical limit at which an amount is required to be reported. Does the law say that it also must be reported if the withdrawal is “close” to $10,000? If so, then how does the law define “close”? Where does this sort of thing end?”

    Intentionally trying to secretly bypass government financial requirements is generally illegal. In this case it is called “smurfing”, or more technically “structuring”, and is a crime in and of itself.

    http://www.fincen.gov/fincenruling2005-6.pdf

    From the Deparment of the Treasury:

    “Structuring is the breaking up of transactions for the purpose of evading the Bank Secrecy Act reporting and recordkeeping requirements and, if appropriate thresholds are met, should be reported as a suspicious transaction under 31 C.F.R. § 103.18. Structuring can take two basic forms. First, a customer might deposit currency on multiple days in amounts under $10,000 (e.g., $9,900.00) for the intended purpose of circumventing a financial institution’s obligation to report any cash deposit over $10,000 on a currency transaction report as described in 31 C.F.R. § 103.22. Although such deposits do not require aggregation for currency transaction reporting, since they occur on different business days, they nonetheless meet the definition of structuring under the Bank Secrecy Act, implementing regulations, and relevant case law.”

    I personally find the parallels to Al Capone here most fitting. Al Capone was also taken down using tax evasion when nothing else would work.

  17. aiabx

    It’s only schadenfreude if it’s shameful.
    As far as I’m concerned, it’s just plain old joy.

  18. Steve

    I’m just finishing reading Dawkins’s “The Blind Watchmaker”. I’m sure most folks here are familiar with it and his other works. Anyway, it does a great job explaining the mechanisms of evolution in a very convincing way, as I, a former creationist, can attest. I’ve met very few creationists who have even a basic understanding of evolutionary theory, which is of course why it’s so easy for them to be against it.

  19. Mark Martin

    BlackCat,

    Yes, I know that structuring *is* illegal. What I said is that I think it ought not be illegal given how the law is written. The original code simply says that any bank transaction of at least $10,000 must be reported. Fine. It doesn’t say that any amount which someone may consider arbitrarily close to 10K must be reported.

    Ok, so someone further down the road realised that people may exploit this well defined cutoff point to evade the intent of the law, and yet another law was written to make evasion via structuring itself illegal. Well- that law, as you’ve quoted it, makes no provision for objectively, strategically, discriminating between a genuine crimal act and someone who may merely be filthy rich and prefers to pay for everything with cash. The law is conceived & written in a naive way, and as far as I’m concerned Hovind did nothing which (in this respect) should be considered a crminal act. If lawmakers want this sort of thing to be well legislated, then let them hire a skilled mathematician to rigorously define a reliable model of structuring behavior as a trend. This they haven’t done, at least not outside of relying on some bank employee to just have a hunch.

    And I consider it innaccurate to compare Hovind with Al Capone. Capone was a murderer. Hovind is just stupid. There is no good reason in my mind to wish for him to be “taken down”. The thing that free intellectuals do in response to Hovind, et al, is to publicly demonstrate that we aren’t suckered by their nonsense, and give the reasons why. We neither need nor should we hunger for them to be removed from society. All I want is to assure that we live in a free society. The practice of imprisoning people is itself an act of depriving people of their freedom, and should be resorted to only for individuals who are a demonstrated hazard to everyone else’s life & limb. Murderers come to my mind, not tax evaders. (I mean really- have we not learned from experience that the threat of prison isn’t exactly keeping people from committing crimes? The jails continue to get more full.)

    To me the satisfying element of this story isn’t that Hovind might go to jail. It’s the humor in the irony of the “paying Caesar” angle.

  20. Kaptain K

    Can a toy poodle mate with a Saint Bernard?
    I see two ways this could go:
    One would be extremely humorous to watch (can you say “step ladder” ;) ).
    The other would probably be fatal to the poodle (either during or afterwards).

  21. sumiard

    I saw this on the Onion and thought of Bad Astronomy Blog. They posted the front page of one of their “old” issues covering the Scopes trial.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/50828

    Ah satire.

  22. Jstn

    Mark, I don’t think you see the obvious point here. The simple fact that the transactions were made so close together is evidence that he was doing it with the intent to avoid the bank reporting requirements.

    For example:
    If you have four bills to pay, each $25 a piece, and you want to pay them in cash, would you go to the bank and withdraw $25 four times? Or, would you (like every one else) just withdraw $100 in one shot?

    It is plainly obvious what he is trying to do.

    In addition, how do you expect this country to continue to exist without generating revenue from taxes? Everyone pays (well, almost everyone) for the collective good of the country’s citizens. Everyone pays and everyone benefits. If tax evasion was not illegal no one would pay and the country would fall.

  23. Mark Martin

    Hi Steve,

    About three years ago I dated briefly a lady who holds both a nursing degree and a Masters in Divinity. She was very pleasant, very intelligent, very knowledgable about many things. But she & I politely debated Darwinian principles, and as generally smart and mentally agile as she was, the one thing she simply could not wrap her mind around was evolutionary theory. I laid it out as elementally as I could manage, and carefully related it to each & every objection she had. But it was the one thing, as a theist, which she could not bring herself to understand, even given her superb knowledge of biology. Her paradigm rested on an inertial platform.

    What I find truly interesting is that the principle of selection is at work not only in populations of sophisticated organisms, but also in more primitive kinds of dynamical systems (such as the path taken by an electron between two points). A lot of people would have no objection to the principle of selection in primitive physical systems. But when it comes to so-called living things, they cannot see it.

  24. samiard

    I saw this on the Onion today and thought of the Bad Astronomy Blog.

    http://www.theonion.com/content/node/50828

    It’s the front page of an “old” issue covering the Scopes trail. Ah satire.

    (Hopefully this isn’t a double post, I got fed an error on the first submit)

  25. Mark Martin

    Hi Jstn,

    Sorry, but I don’t think anyone has rigorously defined structuring behavior. Not to my satisfaction. It may be plainly obvious to you that he was attempting to circumvent the law. I tend to agree that this is the case. But the fact that I intuitively think he was smurfing doesn’t cut it with me. I often think I know intuitively what the truth of some matter is, only to be proven dead wrong. Scientific progress over the centuries teaches me to take care with my intuitions. What people consider to be an irreducible fact of the world often enough is demonstrated to be not much more than a lack of range in our knowledge. People are particularly capable of complex and eccentric behavior near the extreme ends of our spectrum of behavior. I’m not willing to call someone a crook simply ’cause they withdraw what to me and my wallet would seemingly be large amounts of cash. Surely there must be perfectly honest people with the finances to do so, and yet are up to nothing more than a little lite shopping. Such an honest person might even withdraw sums just a little below $10k for the purpose of, not evading the reporting law, but rather to avoid the hassle of that law. So whose business is that? Aren’t they entitled to their privacy?

    I reapeat: If you want something like this to be illegal, then hire a mathematician. I’m quite confident that true structuring behavior *can* be legitimately modeled, given some real data. But the fact remains that legislators haven’t done so.

    And regarding the need for tax revenues, I *don’t* expect the federal government to continue as it is without revenue. I never said I thought there should be no *consequences* laid upon tax evaders. I just said I don’t think prison is proving to be an effective deterrent. People should be entitled to what they bargain & pay for. If people don’t want to pay taxes, then they’ll just have to live with the results. What people as a population really, truly want will come out in the wash. That’s a process of selection.

  26. Evolving Squid

    For example:
    If you have four bills to pay, each $25 a piece, and you want to pay them in cash, would you go to the bank and withdraw $25 four times? Or, would you (like every one else) just withdraw $100 in one shot?

    That would depend greatly on when the bills arrived. If I am like my wife – punctual to a fault – I would pay each bill as it came in, and if that meant going to the bank 4 times because the bills arrived on 4 different days, then I would go to the bank 4 times.

    The law with the problem isn’t the structuring law. The problem is financial transaction reporting law. By setting a hard reporting limit, it automatically creates suspicion in transactions near the limit. Personally, I don’t think any bank transaction should be reportable unless it’s the payment of interest by the bank, or similar income-related issues that have direct and tangible tax implications.

    The $10k cash transaction thing (we have something similar in Canada) won’t catch any drug dealers or tax evaders. It’s just a big-brothery thing that most people (who can’t and probably never will be able to make a $10001 + withdrawal) feel all warm and fuzzy that the government is taking serious action to stamp out crime.

    In Canada, it gets one better… if you make a DEPOSIT that is more than some small limit, and that deposit is all in coin, the transaction is reported. Nominally, this law was brought in to stem the wave of vending machine and parking meter thefts that was causing the very fabric of Canadian society to crumble like so much maple sugar.

  27. Nick Theodorakis

    I guess that “render to Caesar” thing might have been good enough for Jesus and his disciples, but Hovind must be above that.

    Nick

  28. Omega Supreme

    http://www.livescience.com/animalworld/060713_darwin_finch.html

    Here you go. Observed proof of natural selection and evolution. I should send him the article and ask for the $250,000.

  29. tjm220

    @Omega

    Assuming he lived up to his end of the deal it would be in a series of deposits each of which is just under $10,000.

  30. Freedo

    I am always amused by people who claim or insinuate that the “worlds oldest profession” is prostitution. There is red ochre burial and cave art evidence that shamanism is far older. Paleolithic women having sex for seashells would be the exception, not the rule.

    Now when people didn’t really know any better, as they clearly didn’t when all the world’s great religions were postualed, there is nothing systemically wrong in taking your best guess. But this guy is evidence that when you do know better, or could if your mind was open, then you’re just bilking the closed minded.

    That in itself is supposed to be illegal.

  31. The whole “what makes a species” thing is fuzzy.

    “We were taught, that if two annimals could mate and produce live young that were fertile, then they were members of the same species.”

    But wolves, dogs, and coyotes, which happily interbreed fertilely among each other, are considered three separate species.

    Ring species are even more baffling… the neighbors breed with each other but noth with the ends (A with B and C, C with B and D, D with C and E – but not D with A, for instance).

    Geography can mean more than the possibility of interbreeding, too. Things competing stop breeding together.

    It’s all, well, fuzzy.

  32. Iguanadon

    “Kent Hovind replied, ‘I live in the church of Jesus Christ, which is located all over the world. I have no residence.’ He called his home on Cummings Road, which backs Dinosaur Adventure Land, a ‘church parish.’”

    Then it won’t be too hard on him to live in a prison cell. After all, it is just part of the church.

    I don’t get all the discussion about the structuring bit. If it is all god’s money then there is no mathematical formula for figuring out what god is using it for. Also, how can you put god in jail anyway? He will just break down the walls and drive off in a stolen cop car (I’m joking about the last part. Obviously the cop cars belong to god so it isn’t stealing)

    And note to BA, can you put the google adsense on the side or make it smaller. I know it is all because baby needs a new pair of shoes but it looks a bit tacky.

  33. Mark Martin

    “It’s all, well, fuzzy.”

    It’s ok that the “definition” of a species isn’t always clear. In evolutionary theory what’s critical isn’t so much where taxonomists agree to draw the line where species part company as much as the general principle that speciation-genetic differentiation-occurs at all. All that really matters is that there can be incremental genomic differences between an organism & its offspring. Many generations can mean many increments. After a while the current generation might bear no obvious resemblance to its great, great, great, great,… great forebearers.

  34. has

    Omega Supreme: “Observed proof of natural selection and evolution. I should send him the article and ask for the $250,000.”

    How fast can you run? Hovind’s goalposts are motorized.

  35. Carl R. Sams

    I know this might not be the best time to weigh in on this, but a few of these legal “jumping through hoops” where a god is concerned has had me thinking about something.

    Pat Robetson (or substitute in the religious leader of your choice) claims to be the earthly representitive of a particular divinity.(In this case the Judeo-Christian god)

    Pat Robertson, acting as represenative of said divinity claims that all money given to him is in safekeeping for this divinity, i.e. the money belongs to god.

    Pat Robertson also acting as represenative of said divinity, says that Hurricane Katrina was sent with malice and forethought against the citizens of New Orleans due to their “sinful” nature.

    Therefore, this diety, through representation, has confessed to willful destruction of property and manslaughter.

    So my point is, can god be sued for this? He isn’t likely to show up in response to a summons, and he can hardly be arrested and forced to attend, but his represenative can be. If the jury finds that this is a valid confession, then the subjects property,(remember, it’s god’s money) can be seized to provide for damages and restitution. The only possible defenses are 1) There is no god, 2) Pat Robertson is NOT his represenative, or 3) The money is Pat’s, not god’s. Anyone think we have a case?:)

  36. Bad Albert

    Carl R. Sams,
    You have an excellent case. The problem is finding some government agency with the balls to prosecute. Good luck with that. They’re all so spineless.

  37. TheBlackCat

    Mark Martin says:
    “There is no good reason in my mind to wish for him to be “taken down”. The thing that free intellectuals do in response to Hovind, et al, is to publicly demonstrate that we aren’t suckered by their nonsense, and give the reasons why. We neither need nor should we hunger for them to be removed from society. All I want is to assure that we live in a free society.”

    I do not want people locked up for their ideas. I want criminals who flagrantly break the law locked up. That is what Hovind is. He also lied in the terms of his $250,000 reward, a crime but much harder to prosecute. He is someone who doesn’t think the rules apply to him, and thus ignores them. In other words, a criminal. That sort of person deserves to go to jail.

    “People should be entitled to what they bargain & pay for. If people don’t want to pay taxes, then they’ll just have to live with the results.”

    Taxes are taxes because there is no way to bargain and pay for the things taxes pay for. There is no way to stop people who don’t pay taxes from walking on the sidewalk, no way to let litter be around them but not around the people walking next to them, no way to let enemies hurt their interests while protecting everyone elses’, no way to let a river go dirty around them but be clean for someone swimming next to them. Taxes are taxes because there is no way to isolate individuals and prevent them from gaining benefits from what the taxes do. If 99 people pay taxes and one doesn’t, that one person is simply mooching off the other 99. There is no way to give them the benefits from the taxes while denying them to the last person. So in the end you have the most honest people financing the most dishonest. Once the honest people realize this, they would refuse to pay so others don’t have to and the system would collapse. So in order to prevent people from taking advantage of others when paying for things for the common good, everyone is forced to pay. And the only way to force people to pay is to set punishments for not paying. The punishments scale with the extent of the crime. Jail is the most extreme punishment, reserved for people with very extreme acts. Hovind’s flouting of the law is about as extreme as you can get in regards to taxes, thus he gets (hopefully) a proportionally extreme punishment. Really the only alternatives are seizing property, which has been done but didn’t make him stop, or fines, which he could not be forced to pay without threatening jail time and thus we are back where we started. There is really no other effective punishment besides jail time in cases this extreme.

    “I just said I don’t think prison is proving to be an effective deterrent. ”

    That vast majority of people in the country pay their taxes. I say that is proof that it is an extremely effective detterent. If it wasn’t an effective deterrent, people wouldn’t be deterred and thus wouldn’t pay taxes. The fact that so many people do everything they can to legally minimize their taxes shows that they want to pay as little as possible. The fact that these people pay their taxes at all when they don’t want to shows that the punishments convinced them to. (if they did it out of a sense of civic duty they wouldn’t go out of their way to pay as little as possible)

  38. Jstn

    Mark,

    Point well received. I also agree that prison is not the answer to all crimes though it is levied as the de facto punishment.

    Evolving Squid, I understand I and I am the way you describe. However, what I meant by my example was if this all occured one day one after the other.

    Jstn

  39. Mark Martin

    “That vast majority of people in the country pay their taxes. I say that is proof that it is an extremely effective detterent. If it wasn’t an effective deterrent, people wouldn’t be deterred and thus wouldn’t pay taxes. The fact that so many people do everything they can to legally minimize their taxes shows that they want to pay as little as possible. The fact that these people pay their taxes at all when they don’t want to shows that the punishments convinced them to. (if they did it out of a sense of civic duty they wouldn’t go out of their way to pay as little as possible)”

    This sounds suspiciously like the argument “Atheists don’t believe in the word of God, therefore they feel at liberty to lie, steal, rape, etc.”

    People might pay their taxes because they fear legal retribution. Or maybe they pay them because they feel it’s their civic duty, and they enjoy the benefits returned. Or maybe it’s even because it’s the order of things, and so they don’t even contemplate not paying, i.e., they are comfortable with it. Or maybe there’s a whole spectrum of reasons why various people willingly pay their taxes. Do you know which is the case? Have you done a definitive experiment to measure the distribution of motivations? Do you have a control group of people who are statistically identical to the population at large with the single exception that they are exempt from taxes? Is it possible that, when people go to the effort of legally minimising their taxation, it’s because, whatever their personal reasons for complying, they certainly aren’t motivated to simply throw away money which they aren’t really compelled to pay by tax law?

    And contrary to popular myth, it is possible to provide services only to those who pay up. The private sector does it all the time. It’s called commerce. The only question is if we, as a community, are willing to allow the poorest among us to live below a certain level of comfort & safety. Well- it’s clear that we do allow this all the time.

  40. Gregory

    hi people, this is my first comment, and my rite of passage from lurker to commenter. Yay.

    Omega Supreme: “Observed proof of natural selection and evolution. I should send him the article and ask for the $250,000.”

    I’m not sure you’ve read Hovind’s offer, in his offer, he states, “When I use the word evolution, I am not referring to the minor variations found in all of the various life forms (microevolution). I am referring to the general theory of evolution which believes these five major events took place without God:
    1. Time, space, and matter came into existence by themselves.
    2. Planets and stars formed from space dust.
    3. Matter created life by itself.
    4. Early life-forms learned to reproduce themselves.
    5. Major changes occurred between these diverse life forms (i.e., fish changed to amphibians, amphibians changed to reptiles, and reptiles changed to birds or mammals). ”

    Although BA might be able to show #2, and many others could prove #2-5, #1 will be difficult. It might even be impossible to prove #1 “beyond resonable doubt”, without making another big bang. Thus, Hovind’s offer is unclaimable. I personally don’t know whether to laugh at Hovind’s tax habits, or cry because his particular brand of stupidity was one that would make you laugh no matter what he said, and that would be gone. Oh well.

  41. TheBlackCat

    Mark Martin said:
    “This sounds suspiciously like the argument “Atheists don’t believe in the word of God, therefore they feel at liberty to lie, steal, rape, etc.” ”

    Except they don’t, at least not with any more frequency than people who do believe in divine punishment. However, if you look at anarchy situations those sorts of things are rampant.

    “People might pay their taxes because they fear legal retribution. Or maybe they pay them because they feel it’s their civic duty, and they enjoy the benefits returned. Or maybe it’s even because it’s the order of things, and so they don’t even contemplate not paying, i.e., they are comfortable with it. Or maybe there’s a whole spectrum of reasons why various people willingly pay their taxes.”

    Except that they don’t pay the government out of a sense of civic duty, or to enjoy the benefits returned. If that was the case you would expect them to pay as much as they possibly can in order to better serve their country or to get further benefits. They don’t. They go out of their way to spend as little on taxes as the law will allow. That is a large part of what accountants do is try to reduce taxes paid as much as possible within the law. If people paid taxes because they wanted to, you would expect them to try to gain more of whatever they are getting out of it by paying more than they are required to. But people hire companies, literally pay people, to reduce the amount of taxes they pay. That does not sound like the behavior of someone doing something voluntarily. I don’t often hear people saying “Hey, I really like this. Therefore, I will pay people a lot of money to help me do it as little as possible.” That line of reasoning does not make a whole lot of sense.

    “And contrary to popular myth, it is possible to provide services only to those who pay up. The private sector does it all the time. It’s called commerce. The only question is if we, as a community, are willing to allow the poorest among us to live below a certain level of comfort & safety. Well- it’s clear that we do allow this all the time.”

    That’s the whole point! The private sector exists only for those things that can be limited only to those who pay for them. If you buy a car it is obvious you, or someone you choose, will get the benefit from it. Similarly, if you buy a hamburger it is easy to see you or someone you select will get the beneift from it. But how do you limit military protection to only those who pay for it? How do you limit litter control to only those who pay for it? How do you limit environmental protection to only those who pay for it? How do you limit the benefits of scientific research to only those who pay for it? The answer is “you can’t.” That is why the EPA isn’t a private company, nor is the military, nor is the NSF or NIH. Without the power of law forcing people to pay they would not be able to collect. The private sector only works when there is a direct transfer of goods or services to discrete individuals or groups. It only exists for goods and services that can be limited to specific individuals who pay for that good or service. Things that benefit a large number of people as a group and cannot be divided or even measured on an individual basis cannot be dealt with except by taxes because people lose nothing by not paying (assuming everyone else paid). If you cannot tell who is benefiting from something, then you need to collect taxes force people to pay for it.

    That is actually the strongest evidence that punishment for not paying taxes is necessary. If you look at industries in the private sector every single one is a good or service where it is easy to restrict its benefit to those who paid for it. I would like you to name a single private sector business where those who are paying for it cannot be easily identified and use of it denied to those who have not paid. Taxes, for the most part, only apply to goods and services that cannot be restricted in that way. If people would pay for such things without being legally forced to, then such goods or services would be able to flourish in the private sector. The very fact that they do not shows that it is not economically feasible to do so. If it is feasible to do it for the government when backed by laws, but not feasible to do it for the private sector which is far more efficient and effective in just about every regard but not backed by laws, then that seems to be extremely strong evidence that the laws (the only advantage the government has over the private sector) are what makes the system work.

  42. Mark Martin

    BlackCat,

    I have to ask again: Where is your control group? What experimental method have you employed to arrive at data to support your claim? How have you empirically excluded all hypotheticals which contradict what you propose?

  43. TheBlackCat

    @ Mark Martin

    You are trying to shift the burden of proof. It will not work. You are claiming that the fundamental method by which these sorts of services are funded, and have been funded for all of recorded history, is flawed. It is your responsibility to support that claim, not my responsibility to refute it. I have fundamental economics principles and thousands of years of economic practice on my side. What you are suggesting goes against all of microeconomics. If you wish to overturn an entire field of study like that you must supply the evidence.

    It is a very easy experiment. Go out and build a road with your own money. It must be well-built and safe, and be in an area where it will be heavily travelled. Then ask people to voluntarily reinburse you for it. Then keep the road clean, safe, and in good repair for decades operating only on donations. Allow everyone to use it as much as they want. Fund police to stop recless drivers and speeders and to handle accidents. Fund emergency personal to deal with injuries and chemical spill. See how well you do. It is an easy enough, albiet expensive, test. If you truly think that sort of thing could work then put your money where your mouth is and prove it. I, for one, go with the consensus among economists on this issue. As such I have nothing to prove. It is up to the challenger to prove his or her case, not those supporting the conesensus to refute it. So go ahead, prove your case. Show that the consensus is wrong. It will be very expensive for you, I promise you that.

  44. Mark Martin

    BlackCat,

    You say it’s not your job to refute it, yet that’s exactly what you are doing. It’s irrelevant that you say the burden of proof is entirely on me. It’s all on me only if you don’t care what I have to say. But the fact that you keep returning with more demonstrates that you do care; you do wish to convince me. But to convince me (or anyone), you necessarily must use an argument which convinces me, not yourself.

    Having fundamental economic theory and thousands of years of practice is also possible to call into question. Various cultures have had such things on their side for ages. Things such as economic theory are often thought to work flawlessly only becuase of consensus among their adoptors. As it turns out, economists know less about economic dynamics than meteorologists know about the weather, yet how often have weather forecasts been dead wrong just a day after being issued? The economy is a highly complex system, which includes human neurotic behavior. It also includes the fact that there is no free market, based entirely upon value being traded for equal value. The modern market is driven heavily by the motive to sell for significantly more value than the buyer will get out of the merchandise. Buyers are routinely lied to in order to persuade them to make a purchase. There is no free market. The modern market is not realistically modelled by economists, who have been known to be entirely mystified by anomalous events in the market. They are, marginally, practitioners of voodoo.

    Modern economics works because the population predominantly buys into it. There is consensus in practice. The Classical Chinese civilization worked for similar reasons. As long as only a negligible portion of society failed to comply, the Emperor was able to live in the Forbidden City. As long as most of the people who visit Las Vegas gamble in the casinos, the hotels can afford to offer low cost steak & lobster. When economic systems work, it only means that the bulk of their users buy into it. When that changes, the whole system collapses. Classical China disappeared, the Soviet Union disintegrated, etc.

    As for your thought experiment with public roads and other such services, that is beside my point. I’ve no delusion that such things would be provided without a massive tax base levied by a non-profit government. I’ve never said that the things we take for granted from our government are likely to be solvent without a universal source of revenue. What you’ve done is to presume that, since we do now have and enjoy such amenities as traffic police, toxic cleanup crews, and so on, that we must necessarily have them. This is just you making up the rules. If the funding were not in place for such things, then of course they wouldn’t be had. There are places all over the world where such things cannot be paid for, even by the local governments, and so the people don’t have them. Even here in the United States we do, in fact, have a finite tax base, and so the services provided by that base are also finite. There must be all sorts of things we could have in this country, if only the tax base could be orders of magnitude larger. But it’s not, and we have only what can be afforded. Were there no tax base whatsoever, with all services being provided by the private sector on a cash basis, then we’d still have only what could be afforded. That’s how it’s always been, finite.

  45. Mark Martin

    …and incidentally, you haven’t provided a control group.

  46. gethen

    Scariest part? Hovind says the confiscated guns “belonged to the church.” Why does a church need guns?
    And I may not have seen dogs produce non-dogs, but in 12 years of working in a veterinary clinic, I’ve seen some pretty undoglike creatures produced by dogs. I wonder where the line between dog and non-dogs is.

  47. Mark Martin

    Hovind needs those guns. That’s what he’s been using to shoot his mouth off willy-nilly.

  48. TheBlackCat

    Mark Martin says:

    “You say it’s not your job to refute it, yet that’s exactly what you are doing. It’s irrelevant that you say the burden of proof is entirely on me. It’s all on me only if you don’t care what I have to say. But the fact that you keep returning with more demonstrates that you do care; you do wish to convince me. But to convince me (or anyone), you necessarily must use an argument which convinces me, not yourself.”

    I gave you the current consensus and the framework behind it. I gave you the arguments that are convincing to the economic community (although there may be more I am not aware of). I gave you reasonable arguments that professionals in the field seem to agree with. It is my responsibility to make you understand the current conensus in the field, reosonable arguments that reasonable professionals in the field find convincing. That is all I have done. But that is as far as my responsibility goes. If you continue to deny it after that it becomes your responsibilty to give eveidence to support your case.

    “Having fundamental economic theory and thousands of years of practice is also possible to call into question. Various cultures have had such things on their side for ages. Things such as economic theory are often thought to work flawlessly only becuase of consensus among their adoptors. As it turns out, economists know less about economic dynamics than meteorologists know about the weather, yet how often have weather forecasts been dead wrong just a day after being issued?”

    Yet meteorologists can make meaningfull predictions. Low pressure systems will attract weather. High pressure systems will drive it away. Humidy over the dew point will cause precipitation. Clouds lower the temperature. These are all things that meteorologists can be fairly confident about. Economics is similar. They cannot predict the behavior of the whole system. Any economist will tell you that is absurd. But there are nevertheless a great many things of which economists can be reasonably, or in some cases extremely, confident. Things which have been shown over and over. Things that deal with invariant rules governing human behavior or even the mathematics of systems. You must remember there are two branches of economics, micro and macro. We are dealing with microeconomics here, which by far does a much better job, in fact an extremely good job, of explaining and predicting human behavior. It is used with great success constantly by a great many people. But it tends to deal with simpler systems, particularly interactions involving only a single product or a few competing products. It doesn’t attempt to determine the behavior of the entire system, only answer specific questions. And it does this extremely well. This would be akin to meteorologists looking at the affect of cloud cover on temperature (increase or decrease), or the effect water concentration in the air and the temperature on the presence or absence of preciptation. Macroeconomics asks far larger and more complicated questions involving a massive number of components, often over long periods of time. These questions are much harder to answer and the answers much more tentative, much more akin to weather forecasts. You can’t make complaints about the issues with macroeconomics and somehow then use that as evidence against microeconomics. They are practically different fields, in fact up until rather recently they were considered different fields. That is just a strawman.

    “The economy is a highly complex system, which includes human neurotic behavior. It also includes the fact that there is no free market, based entirely upon value being traded for equal value. The modern market is driven heavily by the motive to sell for significantly more value than the buyer will get out of the merchandise. Buyers are routinely lied to in order to persuade them to make a purchase. There is no free market.”
    This is not in contradiction to microeconomics theory nor is it the absence of free market. This is very much a free market, and very much a prediction of microenomic theory in a free market. Microeconomic theory predicts, and we see, that businesses attempt to drive up the quantity demanded at a given price by driving up demand, thus increasing their revenue. This is exactly what microeconomics predicts. In microeconomics there is no such thing as an inherent “value” to a product. Microeconomics holds this to be a myth. Nothing has inherent value. Products only have the value that people place on them. If business can increase the percieved value of a product they will do so. This is precisely trading things of equal value, only it is trading them at the value people put on them not some imaginary “real” value. And technically “value” isn’t even the right term, it would be “demand”. What you seem to be calling value is based partly on price and the availability of something. Lower availability will increase the percieved value of something to consumers but reduce the percieved value of something to businesses.

    “The modern market is not realistically modelled by economists, who have been known to be entirely mystified by anomalous events in the market. They are, marginally, practitioners of voodoo.”

    That is macroeconomics. We are not talking about macroeconomics, thus it has no bearing on the discussion. Microeconomics does not attempt to predict the behavior of markets.

    “Modern economics works because the population predominantly buys into it. There is consensus in practice. ”

    No, as you just demonstrated most people don’t have a clue about economics. I have talked to a great many people in a great many places and few understand economics, only those people who have been formally trained in it. Like you, many people think they do to. But thinking they understand something and actually understanding it are two entirely different things. Economics is followed because it works, business who listen to its predictions are successful and those that don’t are not. It is as simple as that. Misconceptions regarding economics are rampant. Also, the study of economics is only a few hundred years old. But looking back it applies equally well to times long before its study had even been developed and its key principles outlined. So obviously it is not dependent on people knowing it because it applies even to system where nobody is even aware of its existence.

    “As for your thought experiment with public roads and other such services, that is beside my point. I’ve no delusion that such things would be provided without a massive tax base levied by a non-profit government. I’ve never said that the things we take for granted from our government are likely to be solvent without a universal source of revenue.”

    No, that is not what you claime earlier. You said:

    “People should be entitled to what they bargain & pay for. If people don’t want to pay taxes, then they’ll just have to live with the results. What people as a population really, truly want will come out in the wash. That’s a process of selection.”

    You are claiming that what societies want can truly be gained without taxes. I, and economics and history, say this is incorrect. You say it is correct, yet seem to have no evidence to back up this claim.

    “What you’ve done is to presume that, since we do now have and enjoy such amenities as traffic police, toxic cleanup crews, and so on, that we must necessarily have them. This is just you making up the rules.”

    No, it is not. You can look around the world and see these sorts of things. Countries in a state of anarchy, countries whose governments cannot support basic necessities of their people. You want control groups? Look around you. These sorts of experiments happen all the time. And the results are obvious. It does not work.

    “If the funding were not in place for such things, then of course they wouldn’t be had. There are places all over the world where such things cannot be paid for, even by the local governments, and so the people don’t have them.”

    Yes, and such countries are invariantly unsuccessful.

    “Even here in the United States we do, in fact, have a finite tax base, and so the services provided by that base are also finite. There must be all sorts of things we could have in this country, if only the tax base could be orders of magnitude larger. But it’s not, and we have only what can be afforded. Were there no tax base whatsoever, with all services being provided by the private sector on a cash basis, then we’d still have only what could be afforded. That’s how it’s always been, finite.”"

    Of course it is finite. But finite and zero are two entirely different things. Certainly we have to pick and choose what we want. But you are suggesting we do nothing, we have tax revenue of zero. How many countries with no tax revenue or unenforcable taxes are successful? How many are not? How many have a high standard of living? How many have a low one?

    “…and incidentally, you haven’t provided a control group.”

    and incidentally, neither have you. In fact, you haven’t supplied any evidence whatseover supporting your position. Control groups are not always possible, even in “hard” sciences. You seem to demand extremely stringent requirements from economics but demand absolutely nothing, no evidence whatsoever, from your own pet hypothesis. You don’t even have a logical argument showing why this should work. You are not going to convince the economics community, or me, that you are right simply by pocking holes in current economics, especially when you use strawman arguments such as attacking completely unrelated branches of economics. You must supply positive evidence and arguments supporting your conclusion.

  49. Incidentally, IIRC the species definition about interbreeding was also to combat racism, showing that all the races are human with no subspecies as some far right groups would like to believe.

    As for the finches

    We are told it takes either eons of time for a change to occur, not 20 years unless you are a bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.

    Could this case be more akin to the Kettewell Moth, when all that changed were the ratios of black moths to white moths?

  50. Irishman

    TheBlackCat, actually roads are a poor example. At least highways. Tollroads prove an alternate method, toll the people as they drive it. Yes, you have to have collection booths and personnel, but you are only getting the users to pay, and pay based upon use. Streets in towns might be more problematic, not the least of which is the number of access points. Highways have relatively controlled access, so toll booths can be limited and spaced. Streets all crisscross and intersect a bajillion times. Try putting a toll booth at every corner, or even implement a computer tracking system in cars to monitor every turn and path to assess the proper fee per driving.

  51. TheBlackCat

    Stick says:

    “We are told it takes either eons of time for a change to occur, not 20 years unless you are a bacteria developing antibiotic resistance.

    Could this case be more akin to the Kettewell Moth, when all that changed were the ratios of black moths to white moths? ”

    Who says that? Darwin, maybe, 150 years ago, although I am not sure even he said that. And even then not eons, maybe thousands or tens of thousands of years. But the idea that evolution must always occur slowly has been abandoned for many decades now, I would be shocked if any reputable evolutionary biologist didn’t strongly disagree with such a claim. Evolution can happen very quickly, and there are many instances of it doing so. In terms of evolution the finch example is easier for evolution to accomplish than antibiotic resistance and should happen faster (in terms of generations) since it does not require new or modified genes.

  52. Irishman

    Sticks, that’s evolution. Gene frequency changes are evolution.

    What Creationists want to see is a massive amount of change, something akin to major body plan alterations. They want a dog to become a rat, or an elephant to grow wings. They won’t accept two types of finches that have different sized beaks and don’t interbreed, either because of physical differences, or courtship rituals, or whatever. The large scale changes do require centuries. Breeding splits can happen in a few decades. The subtle differences are not necessarily obvious, and fit within the “definition” of “microevolution”.

  53. TheBlackCat

    Irishman says:

    “TheBlackCat, actually roads are a poor example. At least highways. Tollroads prove an alternate method, toll the people as they drive it. Yes, you have to have collection booths and personnel, but you are only getting the users to pay, and pay based upon use. Streets in towns might be more problematic, not the least of which is the number of access points. Highways have relatively controlled access, so toll booths can be limited and spaced. Streets all crisscross and intersect a bajillion times. Try putting a toll booth at every corner, or even implement a computer tracking system in cars to monitor every turn and path to assess the proper fee per driving.”

    I stated that tolls are not allowed. Tolls are used in some cases, but are dreadfully inefficent. They require people waiting in long lines and those lines exact a huge economic cost without any benefit. That is why they are rarely used in relation to the total amount of highway in countries. Thus the requirement that everyone would be allowed to use it, which reflects how the vast majority of roads are set up and would avoid this massive cost. Remember, he is competing with government-funded toll-free roads. Do you think people would use a road where they have to wait in long lines and pay a large fee when there are tax-based alternatives that are cheaper and don’t involve lines?

    Besides, how would you make people pay the tolls? What would happen if someone drove right through? How would you punish them if you cannot send them to jail? The tracking system would be even worse because there would be no way to force people to pay. In the end it would still be voluntary.

  54. Irishman

    Hmm, I was thinking you were making an unfair demand that tolls aren’t allowed. The free market Mark Martin describes requires people pay for what they get – commerce. The only problem is as you said, enforcement. How do you make someone pay to drive on your road? Sure, you have limited on/off ramps, toll gates on all ramps or periodically along the road, etc. But what makes people obey those ramps and not drive through or around gates? Huge fences along the whole highway? No, police enforcement. Legal action. Without taxes, there’s no enforcement. So I guess your assumption is fair.

  55. icemith

    Irishman, and TheBlackCat, there is a very definite method of getting remuneration for the use of roads in your example. It’s called a tax on the fuel used. Everyone who fills up their tank, pays it to enable them to drive on the road, and it is a personal matter, as to how efficiently they do so. Whether the system allows certain sectors to not be obliged to pay that tax, such as primary producers, (farmers, as here in Australia), or how authorities deal with the motorist who fills up at the pump and drives off without paying, (thieves, everywhere), is the concern of the Law of the Land.

    I’ve always considered toll booths, as almost as expensive to have as a collection point for tax, as the amount levied for the actual use of the facility, be it an expressway, tunnel or whatever. It can mean a never-ending fund raiser for governments, and they know it. That there are now electronic ways to collect, is usually hidden in other ‘conveniences” such as not having to stop and pay. Try arguing months later when a fine appears in the mail, stating your beeper device did not react on a long forgotten trip on a day that cannot be reconciled.

    So the examples as quoted, both mine and those previously, are really side issues. The original issue is to do with the recalcitrance of the so-called “Reverend Gentleman”, and his claim not to pay his way as other citizens are obliged to do. The Law is about to deal with him as other law abiding citizens would wish; the pity is they, or we, all have to pay that little extra to make that happen. That causes friction in the system, in both senses of the word – inefficiency and at least annoyance if he gets away with it.

    Ivan.

  56. TheBlackCat

    icemith says:

    “Irishman, and TheBlackCat, there is a very definite method of getting remuneration for the use of roads in your example. It’s called a tax on the fuel used. Everyone who fills up their tank, pays it to enable them to drive on the road, and it is a personal matter, as to how efficiently they do so. Whether the system allows certain sectors to not be obliged to pay that tax, such as primary producers, (farmers, as here in Australia), or how authorities deal with the motorist who fills up at the pump and drives off without paying, (thieves, everywhere), is the concern of the Law of the Land.”

    You are missing the key factor: the gas stations. You must legally force the gas stations to charge the tax. Otherwise those gas stations that refuse to collect the tax have an major price advantage and will get the majority of the business. So it is ultimately no different, only those being legally forced to pay is different. Ultimately somone will get punished by the legal system if the taxes are not recieved by the government.

  57. HidariMak

    “The ministry includes Dinosaur Adventure Land, a museum and a science center.” And I thought that my grasp of the English language included the correct definitions of the words “museum” and “science”. I’d better pull up dictionary.com to audit my knowledge here…

    mu-se-um — A building, place, or institution devoted to the acquisition, conservation, study, exhibition, and educational interpretation of objects having scientific, historical, or artistic value.

    So apparently, I’m correct on that count, presuming that religious studies don’t count strictly towards artistic merit.. Pressing on with science now.

    2. Methodological activity, discipline, or study: I’ve got packing a suitcase down to a science.
    5. Christian Science.

    Ah yes, I forgot about those definitions. Wait a sec, dinosaurs aren’t mentioned anywhere in the bible, last I’d heard.

  58. Troy

    I wouldn’t feel much safer if he is locked in prison. Unfortunately he isn’t the cause of creationism in the U.S., rather he is a symptom of its popularity. It is tempting to want annoying people to meet bad fortune though.

  59. Mark Martin

    BlackCat,

    First, I’ve not one single time advocated doing nothing. I’ve not one time advocated a tax base of zero as being personally preferable to the system which we now have. I’m not at all opposed to paying my taxes. I very much enjoy the benefits I get in return. I love my modern lifestyle a great deal. What I did say is that people are bound to get what they’re willing to pay for. What is a government in a civilized society, but a very large company? The citizenry are investors. They pay for their shares and expect benefits. If they don’t get what they paid for, they hold elections to replace the management. You may say that there are key differences, such as perhaps the federal government reserving the power to mint currency. Such things are beside the point. It’s still a matter of investment & return.

    Second, any competent thermodynamicist knows at least as much about economics as do economists, because that’s what an economic system is, a thermodynamic system. Any claim to the contrary is tantamount to claiming to have discovered a whole new scheme of physical reality. This is not categorically out of the question. But I tend to think that you probably have not made any such experimentally supported discovery. Your talk of the difference between micro & macro-economics is largely irrelevant; micro-economics amounts to localised fluctuations in the market behavior. It doesn’t matter. A box filled with hot gas has local, temporary fluctuations in temperature. Nevertheless, the gas as a whole will tend toward gross equilibrium. It’ll do no one any good to claim that an economic system has something a thermal system hasn’t: complex human behavior. That’s merely an appeal to Maxwell’s Demon. But Maxwell’s Demon is just as anchored to the laws of thermodynamics as is the gas-filled box with the little door in the dividing wall. Separating the gas molecules into regions of high vs low temperature itself requires an investment of energy. People are the same way; they are thermodynamic. A so-called economic system has NOTHING which a thermal system hasn’t. They are the same. So I don’t want to hear any more about how economic non-specialists are grossly naive or ignorant about how economics works. Economists have no monopoly on a grasp of how the world works. I defy anyone to show otherwise.

    Third, I haven’t provided a control group, and that is exactly what I’m getting at in this aspect. Without it I question your whole ability to scientifically demonstrate what you claim about taxpayer behavior. Pointing out that, for all practical purposes, you *can’t* produce such a control group is not equal to being excused from the need for one to make your demonstration. Whereas you assert to actually *know* the answer, my point is that this is an unanswered question, at best. Can you at least produce a documented correspondence between predictions by economists with the actual outcomes of history? Are economists on any better par than the community of astrologers? Are they ever called to task on failed forecasts? What is their track record? Do you even have a well designed poll of taxpayers regarding their motives for compliance? If you don’t, then all you have is speculation and myth.

  60. TheBlackCat

    Mark Martin says:
    “First, I’ve not one single time advocated doing nothing. I’ve not one time advocated a tax base of zero as being personally preferable to the system which we now have.”

    You advocated making taxes voluntary. That is the same thing as advocating no taxes.

    “What I did say is that people are bound to get what they’re willing to pay for.”

    No, if people can get something for free they will do so.

    “What is a government in a civilized society, but a very large company? The citizenry are investors. They pay for their shares and expect benefits. If they don’t get what they paid for, they hold elections to replace the management. You may say that there are key differences, such as perhaps the federal government reserving the power to mint currency. Such things are beside the point. It’s still a matter of investment & return.”

    This is utterely irrelevant to the disucssion at hand. This whole thing arose when you said that you don’t think tax offendors should be punished. What does any of this have to do with that statement? This is so far off-topic I don’t even know what is being discussed anymore.

    “Second, any competent thermodynamicist knows at least as much about economics as do economists, because that’s what an economic system is, a thermodynamic system. Any claim to the contrary is tantamount to claiming to have discovered a whole new scheme of physical reality.”

    This is, quite frankly, silly. Sure you can break anything down to thermodynamics problem if you look at it at a molecular level. But how many people base building designs entirely on thermodynamics principles? How many people build computers using only thermodynamics equations? Sure they may use it in places, but nobody uses only thermodynamics. This is like saying “I am a chemist. Everything is made of chemicals. Therefore I should be just as competent to build a manned spacecraft as an aerospace engineer.” The claim is simply absurd. You take that proposal to NASA, or Boeing, and you will be laughed out of the building. Sure ultimately thermodynamics governs the system, but the thermodynamics is at such a tiny, nanoscopic level that it would be as absurd to try to predict economics based on thermodynamics as it would be to predict next year’s world series scores based on thermodynamics. The system is just far too complicated to make those sorts of predictions. I could say ultimately human behavior is based on electrical activity in the brain, but there is no way I am going to use the Hodgkin and Huxley model of action potentials to try to predict who the next American Idol is. The system is just too complicated, no matter how much detail I might have there is simply no way to model using that approach. So a gross approach would be needed, with the system simplified enough to make analysis possible.

    “Your talk of the difference between micro & macro-economics is largely irrelevant; micro-economics amounts to localised fluctuations in the market behavior. It doesn’t matter.”

    This just shows how little you know about economics. The fact is that microeconomics does not deal with “localized fluctuations”, it deals with decisions. These decisions are not fluctuations at all, intead they tend towards equilibrium states dictated by overall fluctuations in society at large. That is why microeconomics is so much better at predictions than macroeconomics, it is far more deterministic and thus far more predictable. It is the local systems that are stable, and gross fluctuations in society that upset that stability. Microeconomics amounts to a method to determine what decisions humans will make in specific situations and how to make your own decisions in order to guarantee that the decisions of others benefit you as much as possible. Far from “not mattering”, it ultimately tells consumers and businesses the best way to allocate their resources, and allows people to predict how businessea and consumers will behave given a certain situation. This is essential to minimize costs and maximize profits.

    “A box filled with hot gas has local, temporary fluctuations in temperature. Nevertheless, the gas as a whole will tend toward gross equilibrium.”

    This “analogy” has absolutely no similarity to economics whatsoever. It is exactly the opposite of economics, where the local systems (which are not markets, or even parts of a market, but specific decisions) tend towards equilibrium while the gross fluctuations happen to the overall system. You have it entirely backwards.

    “It’ll do no one any good to claim that an economic system has something a thermal system hasn’t: complex human behavior. That’s merely an appeal to Maxwell’s Demon. But Maxwell’s Demon is just as anchored to the laws of thermodynamics as is the gas-filled box with the little door in the dividing wall. Separating the gas molecules into regions of high vs low temperature itself requires an investment of energy. People are the same way; they are thermodynamic. A so-called economic system has NOTHING which a thermal system hasn’t. They are the same. So I don’t want to hear any more about how economic non-specialists are grossly naive or ignorant about how economics works.”

    You have to differentiate between thermal systems in general and thermal systems that are simple enough to be analyzed. Sure everything is a thermal system, but frankly few situations are amenable to thermodynamics analysis because they simply have too many components for a thermodynamics analysis to be feasible. The same is true for chemistry, or particle physics. Ultimately all matter is made of chemicals, all matter is made of subatomics particles. But I challenge anyone to predict human behavior using only chemistry or physics principles.

    How many businesses hire thermodynamicists to analyze their business plans? What are the great discoveries made in the study of human financial transactions using thermodynamics? You claim that thermodynamics tells you all you need to know about economics. So where are the economics discoveries being made by thermodynamacists? And why have you made so many patently false statements regarding economics if you understand it so well?

  61. Mark Martin

    BlackCat,

    Nope. I never said anything about people getting anything for free. I never said that people who don’t pay taxes ought to be receiving public benefits. I said exactly the opposite; I said that they should be saddled with the consequences of their decisions to either pay or not. This also touches on your statement that I don’t advocate punishment for tax evaders. There’s a big difference between saying that prison isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind and advocating no consequences whatsoever . I am not proposing free anything.

    And thermodynamics DOES govern the gross character of economic systems. You may have models of micro-economic behavior, but this will be, at best, a specialised subset of the more general fate of a closed system due to thermodynamical constraints. In the long run, your economic models won’t matter. It also doesn’t matter if calculating human behavior directly from thermodynamic principles is intractible in practice. Do you seriously contend that human behavior will supersede the global availability of usable energy? Do you think everything boils down to what people *decide*? This is just Maxwell’s Demon again. That’s the beauty of thermodynamics; it doesn’t matter if you have a theory of human decision making within the system. They are constrained too. A human marooned on an island without food may decide to eat, but it’ll still starve to death. (There’s an interesting anecdote by Feynman. He did an ordnance calculation at Los Alamos that was coughing up queer looking numbers. After an analysis he discovered that he’d neglected to factor in the heat of the reaction explicitly. Turns out the strange numbers were the heat being manifested nevertheless. Ignore it or not, it’s still there.)

    Furthermore, aren’t you aware that trading companies have been hiring physics grads for at least the last couple of decades to apply thermodynamics directly to futures (most notably by modelling the market in terms of diffusion)? I personally have known one such gentleman, and I have been aware of the practice in general for years.

    Where’re all those economists’ predictive track records I asked for?

  62. TheBlackCat

    Mark Martin says:
    “I said exactly the opposite; I said that they should be saddled with the consequences of their decisions to either pay or not.”

    And I am saying that is not possible! Things are paid for by taxes specifically because those things cannot be isolated to specific people. That is the whole point of taxes in the first place! I don’t know how many other ways to say this.

    “There’s a big difference between saying that prison isn’t the first thing that comes to my mind and advocating no consequences whatsoever.”

    Prison is the only punishment left. If someone refuses to pay taxes, refuses to pay fines, and doesn’t care if you sieze his property, then short of shooting him prison is the only other punishment left.

    “I am not proposing free anything.”

    Yes, you are. The system you are advocating has no other possible outcome. That may not be your intention, but in the real world just because you don’t want something to happen a certain way does not mean it won’t. Whatever your intention may be the end result is the same.

    “And thermodynamics DOES govern the gross character of economic systems.”

    So you say, but you have yet to provide any evidence, or say how this could actually be done in practice, and the few predictions you have made based on thermodynamics are all wrong, in fact completely opposite of reality, so I tend to doubt this.

    “You may have models of micro-economic behavior, but this will be, at best, a specialised subset of the more general fate of a closed system due to thermodynamical constraints.”

    Obviously, and that sort of knowledge is absolutely essential for businesses. Similarly, looking at the whole system is a specialized subset, or at least it is now (as I said before it used to be considered a completely seperate field). People specialize, that is how the world works. People have their area of expertise, and they usually stick with that because they recognize their knowledge is limited in areas outside of their area of expertise.

    “In the long run, your economic models won’t matter.”

    Depends on your definition of long run and what questions you are asking. If you ask the right questions you can often get very useful predictions of long-term behavior. You have to understand the limitations, however. Besides, in many cases the long-run is not what people are interested in, they are interested in the short-run. But to address your claim directly, in the long run many economic models are very successful.

    “It also doesn’t matter if calculating human behavior directly from thermodynamic principles is intractible in practice.”

    Of course it does. If thermodynamics cannot actually be used to predict human behavior, then your statements that it is as good at predicting human behavior as economics is incorrect. It is absolutely central to the issue at hand.

    “Do you seriously contend that human behavior will supersede the global availability of usable energy? Do you think everything boils down to what people *decide*? This is just Maxwell’s Demon again.”

    Strawman again. I never said that. Humans are governed by thermodynamics, I know that. What I am saying thermodynamics is fundamentally inferior at predicting human behavior and explaining human behavior in practice compared to economics because the system is far too complicated for thermodynamics approaches to apply in the vast majority of cases. You said, and I quote, “Second, any competent thermodynamicist knows at least as much about economics as do economists”. If thermodynacis cannot be used in practice to make all the predictions and all the explanations economics does then your statement is incorrect and you do not have the ability to address economic issues based solely on thermodynamics principles.

    “That’s the beauty of thermodynamics; it doesn’t matter if you have a theory of human decision making within the system. They are constrained too. A human marooned on an island without food may decide to eat, but it’ll still starve to death.”

    Now say there are two people on the island. Can thermodynamics alone be used to predict how they will share food, how they will divide up work, or anything like that?

    “Furthermore, aren’t you aware that trading companies have been hiring physics grads for at least the last couple of decades to apply thermodynamics directly to futures (most notably by modelling the market in terms of diffusion)? I personally have known one such gentleman, and I have been aware of the practice in general for years.”

    Interesting. So there is one very specialized example where they use fluid dynamics (not thermodynamics) to predict a very specific thing. That still does not support your statement that thermodynamicists are as good at economics as economists.

    “Where’re all those economists’ predictive track records I asked for?”

    Predictive track records? They have been very good at predicting recessions in a general sense (not necessarily a specific date, but even that is possible). They can also tell you the best behavior after a recession has begun, or what to do during one. How many recessions has thermodynamics correctly predicted? How good is it at telling you how to handle them. It can predict relative prices of goods depending on local market conditions, such as competitors. How good is thermodynamics at predicting prices of goods? It can be used to determine relative prices different people will pay for the same good or service. How good is thermodynamics at predicting that? It can be used to isolate desired individuals from a given population, such as the most dedicated fans at a sports game. Can thermodynamics do that? It can be used to predict the time course of market penetration of a product and relate it to local factors. How often is thermodynamics used to predict this?

    Except for the recession bit these are all things I can predict myself with my intermediate-level economics knowledge. The recession bit I have seen predicted myself by others. Unfortunately I gave my textbooks and notes to my sister, so I do not currently have access to more detailed information. But pick up any intermediate-level university economics textbook at your local library if you want examples.

  63. Ruth

    I hope they nail him to the wall .. not literaly of course, a nice prison term would do.

    As for the whole taxes debate. Good grief, forget all this complex economic theory, it’s human nature. People are people. Have you never seen anyone illegally and selfishly parked? dog s**t left on sidewalk? Illegal but there are always people who don’t care about anyone else and figure they can get away with it. You need laws to make such people pay their taxes and you need those laws to have teeth.

    Check this out for some interesting work on honesty.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9424-big-brother-eyes-make-us-act-more-honestly.html

  64. Nicholas Bostaph

    TheBlackCat Says:
    “And I am saying that is not possible! Things are paid for by taxes specifically because those things cannot be isolated to specific people. That is the whole point of taxes in the first place! I don’t know how many other ways to say this.”

    I take issue with this statement, and I think that may be the missing component in your analysis of why people don’t pay taxes. If the government did only this, taxes would be a small fraction of what they are now, and I would pay them happily. Many people are unhappy with, and in disagreement with, the bloat which causes them to attempt to pay as little as possible.

    Granted, there are a few things that cannot be isolated and must be paid for by taxes, law enforcement and national defense come immediately to mind, but are you seriously suggesting that everything our taxes pay for could not be privatized?! How do you respond to these few examples:

    Sidewalks – My parents’ community has sidewalks and common areas constructed and maintained by homeowner association funds. Only community members pay for them, and only they use them. I have seen several groups of non-residents chased off because they were on the common areas illegally.

    Roads – As above, community roads are paid for by the community. By insuring the community road is a dead end, and cannot be used as a thru-way, they minimize traffic. If you use taxes to only pay for roads not part of a community, you could break off a sizable chunk of DOT upkeep.

    Highways – We already have privatized road systems called turnpikes.

    Welfare – If someone does not pay into welfare, then they have no right to collect if something goes wrong and they need it. While this may be morally objectionable to some, the point remains that it can be isolated.

    Offensive Military – While you cannot isolate those who gain from national defense, you can control offense. If a citizen feels strongly enough about an issue that they would go to war over it, let them foot the bill. If not enough will donate their own money for a cause, how can you say there is enough popular support to condone a government doing it?

    Medical Coverage – Much like welfare above, isolating this could be morally objectionable, but it can easily be isolated. If someone does not pay in, they cannot use it if they eventually need it. Allow the market to set prices for the consumer and let them decide if they will pay into a government insurance program, or use the one provided by their employer?

    Parks – Have a fee collected at the entry point. Yes, some could still sneak into the park by parking somewhere nearby, but the vast majority will pay the nominal fee to park on-site and avoid acting illegally. In this way, those who use parks once a year are not funding those who use them daily.

    Schools – You would have to switch them all at once, as no one would pay to send their kid to school when public schools are free and available and…oh, wait…

  65. Gary Ansorge

    Black cat: as far as successful countries without a significant tax structure goes, check out Saudi Arabia. No income tax, no social security tax, no sales tax, no gas tax, import duties, in fact, as far as I know they have no tax structure at all, yet the society works and its people seem to like it enough to keep it intact.

    Gary 7

  66. TheBlackCat

    “Sidewalks”

    Easy enough in private communities. What about in public areas? What about in cities? No one would be able to get anywhere in a city if the store owners only let customers use sidewalks.

    “Roads”

    Easy enough in isolated suburban environments. But how would people get between their communities if the only roads are within the communities? Once again, what about cities? There is no way to divide an urban environment into small, private enclaves. What about rural areas? Would they hire someone to police hundreds of miles of dirt road? Isolated, private communities are not a good model for the country as a whole. They are both isolated and private, neither of which applies in cities or rural environments and neither of which applies to getting between isolated communities.

    “Highways”

    The vast majority of highways in the country do not have tolls. Tolls cause a massive hit on productivity by greatly slowing down traffic.

    “Welfare”

    I can’t debate this one.

    “Offensive Military”

    Ultimately you still have the issue of people mooching of others. People may support it, but be unwilling to foot the bill because they think others would simply take the benefit without contributing anything.

    “Medical Coverage ”

    The US has no state-sponsored medical coverage, so this doesn’t even apply.

    “Parks”

    Not all parks can be isolated in that way. And it could likely significantly increase the cost.

    “Schools”

    An educated public is essential the functioning of a republican government. You could eliminate this, but it would do a great deal of harm to the country. If you have been at BA long you have seen all the damage that is done by a lack of education causes. Some people would certainly think education is worth it for their children, but even today there are many that don’t. Children are forced to go to school for a reason.

    Gary Ansorge Says:

    “Black cat: as far as successful countries without a significant tax structure goes, check out Saudi Arabia. No income tax, no social security tax, no sales tax, no gas tax, import duties, in fact, as far as I know they have no tax structure at all, yet the society works and its people seem to like it enough to keep it intact.”

    That is because they get a fortune from oil. Not only do they have enough money from oil to cover their expenses, but everyone in the country gets a stipend from the oil revenue. Few, if any, other countries have that luxury.

  67. SFwriter

    gethen Says:
    July 22nd, 2006 at 7:36 am

    Scariest part? Hovind says the confiscated guns “belonged to the church.” Why does a church need guns?
    ————————————–

    Reminds me of a line by Captain Kirk: “Uh, excuse me, but what does God need with a starship?” :mrgreen:

  68. JustinK

    Regarding the species stuff, Hovind makes a big deal about how the issue is not “species” but “kinds” (since that’s the term that the Bible uses). So, he would say (and in just about every lecture on Youtube and Google I’ve listened to, does say) that a wolf and a coyote and a dog are the same “kind” or animal, and therefore are merely a “variation within kind” (ie. micro evolution).

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