Bread and Circuses | Elaine’s Idle Mind

I never really understood the appeal of Universal Basic Income, but after reading the European parliament’s proposal for Robotic Civil Rights I think I finally get it.

By the time the Republic turned into an Empire, slaves made up 40% of Italy’s population and held all the farming and service jobs. …
The nobilis preferred to keep wealth out of the plebs’ control, and provide them with guaranteed grain rations instead.

Source: Bread and Circuses | Elaine’s Idle Mind


I think that UBI has quite a few advantages, most of which rely on the ‘universal’ part.

  • UBI, being universal, can be an attempt to increase the civic value of citizen’s collective communal ownership of and investment in the state. This perspective sees UBI as a continuation of village commons, state parks, and national infrastructure. (see: Alaska’s PFD)
  • UBI, being universal, can be a way to compensate those citizens who do real work but are not traditionally financially compensated for that work (parents, family caretakers, community volunteers, the unemployed seeking a job, etc.), and support those who cannot do real work. And UBI accomplishes this without threatening loss of benefits for limited engagement in remunerative work. This perspective sees UBI as an improvement of communal support and the social safety net. (see: negative income tax as UBI)
  • UBI, being universally received but necessarily paid for by progressive tax rates, would effectively be a rich-to-poor income transfer which would broaden (and likely increase) consumer spending and economic demand which should grow the economy. This perspective treats UBI as little more than another pro-growth policy tool.
  • Politically, things provided broadly are easier to get and maintain support for. (see: mortgage interest deduction, F-35 production)

Ultimately, it seems to me that support or opposition to UBI turns on how someone feels about their fellow citizens. Are they adult peers who can and should be allowed to make their own intelligent decisions about how to spend their fair share of our society’s collective productivity? Or are they children whose every choice must be limited to the “good” options lest they misbehave and harm themselves or others? Or are they strangers, best avoided and left unaided and unsupported in favor of a more local tribe?

Bernie Sanders’s Religious Test for Russell Vought – The Atlantic

During a contentious confirmation hearing, the Vermont senator questioned the faith of the nominee for deputy director of the Office of Management and Budget.

Source: Bernie Sanders’s Religious Test for Russell Vought – The Atlantic


There are many religious sects which hold strongly that their specific and particular beliefs are the one and only true collection of such belief/knowledge and that all other people are damned for failing to learn, understand, and follow such information and practices as they have.

If any country is to include these people as citizens and strongly support “freedom of religion” and “freedom of speech” for all, including government officials and public representatives, then those people must be allowed to accurately state their beliefs, especially/particularly outside the context of acting *as* the government.

The important question is not “What does Vought think defines a good/true/proper Christian?”, nor is it “Does Vought think everyone other than proper Christians is condemned?”. The important question is whether or not Vought can act in the public interest to the benefit and respect of all citizens. Bernie Sander’s narrow line of questioning did not explore this, nor was his conclusion appropriate by this reasoning.

Basically any core religious argument could be seen as fantastically disrespectful to people of all other beliefs. If an atheist writes “Religion is outmoded, magical thinking which ought to be avoided.”, is that respectful to those with deeply held religious beliefs? Is it respectful to Christians when a Muslim argues that Christians are condemned for not following the prophet Mohammed?

And yet I would say that both of the above *and* Vought’s writing can be seen as respectful of other citizens insofar as they are communicating, explaining, clarifying, etc. their own religious beliefs (and potentially the actions and positions of religious institutions).


Every country *totally* has religious litmus tests — limitations on both the speech and actions of public officials and of private citizens. No country on earth permits it citizens to murder each other and claim “My religion demands I do it.” as a legal defense. Religious freedom ends where the collective ethics and values of the body politic begin. Less extreme examples include the restrictions on drugs taken for religious reasons/purposes, restrictions on sacrificing animals, and policies against awarding custody to a parent guilty of child abuse.

Section 8 Vouchers Help The Poor — But Only If Housing Is Available : NPR


In Dallas and other tight rental markets, Section 8 voucher holders can’t find the homes they need, while developers face resistance from wealthier neighborhoods when trying to build new housing.

Source: Section 8 Vouchers Help The Poor — But Only If Housing Is Available : NPR


Question paraphrased from comments:

What would be the libertarian answer to people in neighborhoods that actively attempt to block development of lower cost housing within their neighborhoods? When resident groups and local officials actively participate in efforts to keep low income housing out, and when developers are uninterested in building low-profit units (as is frequent in other cases), how should markets address the issue of affordable housing? How does the free market get past these barriers, given the barriers are not just economic, but sociological as well?

Continue reading Section 8 Vouchers Help The Poor — But Only If Housing Is Available : NPR

What makes gambling wrong but insurance right? – BBC News

Gamblers and insurers both place bets on the future, so how do they compare?

Legally and culturally, there is a clear distinction between gambling and insurance. Economically the difference is less visible. Both gambler and insurer agree that money will change hands depending on what transpires in some unknowable future.

Risk-sharing mutual aid societies are now among the largest and best-funded organisations on the planet – we call them “governments”.

Source: What makes gambling wrong but insurance right? – BBC News

The position of the risk takers and the potential outcomes of the bet are what matter and differentiate the two. Insurance serves to share reduced risk whereas gambling serves to increase it.

The reason this matters is because there is a discontinuity in outcomes when the loser loses so much that they are unable to pay their debts (financial, contractual, societal, etc.) and these losses spill over to other people and the rest of society. If someone gets so sick or wounded that they cannot pay their medical bills (the cost of their physical rehabilitation), then not only is the person bankrupt but the hospital’s ability to provide services to others is impacted negatively.

When a gambler bets at a casino, the gambler is increasing their ceiling of possible outcomes while lowering the floor and the average (because the odds are in favor of the house or else they’d go broke). When someone buys insurance, the insured individual is raising their floor of possible outcomes while lowering the ceiling and the average (because the odds are in favor of the underwriter or else they’d go broke).

People with higher floors of possible outcomes can tolerate more risk. Society historically has benefited substantially when this risk is well managed (e.g. due to trading ships possibly getting lost at sea or an experiment failing).

Insurance can also be seen as the abstraction of shared risk (as the article points out). Two merchants could each swap half their goods with the other’s ship to hedge their risk against a single ship sinking. Or one merchant could financially back the other by paying for half the cost, taking half the losses, and receiving half the profit from a single ship. Or an underwriter could issue insurance based on the statistical likelihood of the single ship sinking. It is more abstract, but the desired outcome is the same — someone else is sharing in your life or endeavour, helping you weather setbacks and worse.

Insurance is about protecting your floor of outcomes and those of the people who depend upon you; it’s about avoiding the worst.

News Sources

Which news sources should we believe, when there are so many to choose from, and each one is telling you not to believe another one?

by Vanessa Otero

You have to evaluate media based on something other than the fact that one source told you not to listen to another source.

Remember that journalism is a professional and academic field with a set of agreed-upon standards. People get degrees in it and people who are really good at it get jobs in it at good organizations.

Source: Vanessa Otero


We all have to get our information from somewhere. Remember that everyone at least unconsciously has a diagram like this in their mind which they use to evaluate new information based on their past experience with various sources of information. This diagram is not mine. This diagram is probably not yours. But everyone that can see an article’s source and has past experience with that source will have preconceptions about the credibility of the article’s content.