Monday, March 20, 2017

A Better Budget Process

If I were to design the budget of a country I would do it completely differently from how any country in the world does it. I would throw out the opinion polls (which can easily be manipulated) and close the doors to lobbyists and interest groups for the drafting process, in order to prevent corrupting the entire system. A group of economists would then be tasked with estimating the multiplier effects of every government program and modeling how the multipliers decline following the law of diminishing marginal utility as you get more of a good, the amount of added benefit declines. This is how we determine whether the government should spend $1 million or $1 trillion on education, whether we should give a universal basic income of $0, $1000, or $5000 per capita to maximize the well being of our country.

The computer model would then list the multipliers of every government program. This is different based on different government programs, food stamps have a multiplier of 179% while the military has a multiplier of around 50%, every type of spending has this metric which is one way we should guide how we design our budgets. We would start off with estimates of how much the multiplier is for every dollar and then claculate the budget increasing spending until the marginal benefit of the last dollar spent is equal to the marginal cost of the different types of taxes and government borrowing to finance the government spending. The computer would keep increasing spending in one program until the multiplier is equal to the expenditure of the next valuable program and keep increasing spending until the marginal benefit of government spending is equal to the marginal cost of taxes and borrowing. This will help money move to more productive uses and grow our economy as much as possible. Every year we would get a better understanding of how different forms of government spending and taxes behave in the real world and adjust spending accordingly. During a recession we would likely continue to practice counter cyclical fiscal policy to make our economy run smoothly.

Another guiding principle to government spending will also be to reduce risk for the economy as whole so that the decisions people make will take in externalities as much as possible. We will almost certainly have a carbon tax with such a plan, as well as a rule of no bailouts under any circumstance with this guiding principle of people seeing the consequences of their actions.

After the model budget is proposed it would then go to a vote in Congress and be available for public comment, but such a budget would be better for the economy as a whole, and if we have a good Congress working for the benefit of the country would hopefully vote for such a budget. Some programs for public safety might be implemented on top of the budget if they are not covered by the number crunching computer, it is hard to tell without building the model. It is likely the media would manipulate public opinion against such a plan, meaning the enacted budget would probably be worse than our optimum budget. At the end of the day however, it is better to start with the best plan possible to get our most optimal final result.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Accurate world maps

I've been into geography longer than I can remember. I have enjoyed reading maps since I was a child and have a large personal map collection. In 5th grade I won my homeschool geography bee and after taking the test was one of the 100 children in Washington State selected for the State Geography Bee. It is rare for me to meet someone as good as me in geography and direction.

Boston Public Schools has chosen to select the Galls-Peter projection as its projection of choice for its school as opposed to Mercator because it is an equal area projection which shows Africa as a massively huge continent relative to others.  They are doing this as a way to emphasize the size of Africa, but there are many better ways to accurately display the size of Africa (over 3 times the size of the US) without stretching the shapes of landmasses to the point of being useless. It is true that the size of Africa is massive, and while Gall-Peters accurately displays the relative sizes it is hard to actually understand the meaning of this the way the map is drawn. While Mercator emphasizes relative shapes while making relative sizes absolutely distorted.


Gall-Peters and Mercator inversely ruin the polar regions and equatorial regions so the only areas which are somewhat accurate are the temperate zones. I do not recommend either projection for this major reason. Mercator is good for drawing distances when you cross the sea, which is why it is so popular, but for someone learning geography neither projection is accurate enough. I would not put either one on the wall of a child's bedroom.

When choosing a world map which is accurate in size and useful, it is important to understand there is no one perfect way to represent the world except as a globe. This however means you can only really see about one third of the world at a time, making it useless for many purposes, so an accurate flat map is necessary.

This is the biggest challenge of cartography. It is physically impossible to accurately represent the world as a flat map. There are a few good examples, and none of them are perfect squares because it is literally impossible to make a decent map of a globe as a rectangle. Any map showing the world as a rectangle will be significantly distorted in one way or another to the point of being a poor representation of the world.

Some projections get size as close as possible, the best way to do this is a sinusodial projection the disadvantage is that the shapes of continents are almost worthless:

I am fond of the Robinson projection which the National Geographic Society uses because it has a nice balance between relative sizes and maintaining the shapes of continents. There is distortion near the poles, but this is easily supplemented by using the corners of the map to show polar regions, which National Geographic has done in many of their maps I have.

I really like a recent projection from Japan called Authagraph because it accurately shows relative shapes of continents in a way which is particularly useful for mapping the movement of people around the world. The advantage to this map is that it keeps both shapes and sizes very accurate. The areas which are distorted are now areas of the ocean which for most mapping purposes are not useful (unless you are an oceanographer, in which case it would be a terrible choice). I particularly like how every continent is shown in full, helping people understand why Antarctica is a continent and Greenland is an island (another good way to illustrate this point is a Robinson projection which focuses on elevation and ocean depths, which makes it clear where plate boundaries are).

For most purposes the AuthaGraph or Robinson projections are two excellent ways to accurately describe the world preserving both size and shape as accurately as possible. Authagraph has the advantage that it can literally be folded into a globe it is so accurate, which you cannot even do with Robinson. If I were designing the walls of a 3 or 4 year old I would likely put an Authagraph projection on the wall, and have a Robinson projection somewhere else in the house.

Thursday, March 16, 2017

CBO has too narrow a focus on health care

On the CBO's front page and all the headlines are about reducing the deficit. The talk about the health care law is only focused on how it will reduce the federal deficit, not how it will effect the actual amount Americans spend on health care. Here is the thing, like most reasonable people, if someone said that I can either see the cost of my health care go up by $1000 in my private spending or see my taxes go up by $500 I would rather see my taxes go up by $500 because I am better off. This perception people have which overemphasizes small increases in government spending while ignoring massive costs at the rest of our pocket books is going to ruin our nation, and I am not exaggerating, this has been the result of many well designed studies. We need to see a dollar as a dollar no matter where it enters or leaves our pocket books, to do otherwise is folly.

The CBO leaves out the big issue in this report which is overall health care spending for the country. Read it here: even though they leave out the most important part of any health care legislation in this country.

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Women in Washington State Politics

Ok, so I am doing some research right now on the 2016 legislative election in Washington. It's been my research forcus for two days now. There were 302 candidates for all legislative races in 2016, 99 (32%) of which were women, 203 (67%) of which were men. Of these candidates 85 women continued to the general election, or 85.9% of all candidates while only 67.5% of men continued. In the general election female candidates won 51% of all their races and men won 59% of all races (due to there being f-f and m-m races). This further points out that being female does not hurt your chances of winning, in fact with a 20% lead on men in the primaries it might actually improve your chances, with a 6% gain in the percentage of women in the general election versus the primary. The problem lies in the field of candidates and getting women to file to run for public office. I have as many ideas in how to fix that problem as I do in how to get more women studying economics, finance, computer science, and other male dominated professions, none. Merely implementing a quota won't get individuals to file their candidacy.

Primary data

Gender Candidate Candidate Continue Continue Percent continue
Female 99 32.8% 84 38.0% 84.8%
Male 203 67.2% 137 62.0% 67.5%

General Election data:

Gender Candidates Candidates Positions Positions Percent won
Female 84 38% 44 35% 52%
Male 137 62% 80 65% 58%

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Almost Done with The Nation

The Nation is claiming that Hamilton's views were more like Pence, oh, like diversifying the ownership of wealth from the state (classic mercantilism) to an economy where anyone can move forward, or opening up finance to the average person which allowed inventions which created the industrial revolution, maybe they are referring to his record as an abolitionist, or his writing in favor of women's rights (compared to the rest of his 18th century male colleagues with the exceptions of Ben Franklin and John Adams). Or, maybe the Nation is yet another right-wing rag masquerading to confuse and convince progressives to look up to slave owning rapists like Jefferson and Washington who share none of our most important values. They have become yet another venue for "alternative facts" turning themselves into a magazine more like the Breitbart of the left where facts don't matter. I am going to stick with the Economist and NPR which don't make such damning lies.

They also claim that Hamilton was opposed to the constitution, when in fact he was its main proponent writing most of the Federalist Papers which were written for the very purpose of convincing states to sign on to America's current constitution which has survived for over 200 years.

Their claim that Hamilton was in favor of slavery, when the opposite is true.

This is particularly frustrating because I have read great muckracking articles they have published regarding voter discrimination, which means I need it to stay up to date on imporant, and easily verifiable, news which does not get as much press coverage as it deserves. I find it frustrating.

If I see more unresearched tripe in the magazine I will unsubscribe for them as I have with the Russian propaganda sheet Harper's, but I will give them a few more weeks before I tell them to take a hike to Pyongyang.