Frederick the Great writes: It occurred to me in rapid succession, that Psych 100 taught me (lo these many years ago) that (WEIRD) populations are 4-8% non-cis, but the data are so shitty no-one really knows; that the intervening years have been sufficiently eventful that self-report factors may, at least in the United States, have changed sufficiently to yield significantly different results in at least younger and bluer cohorts; that such results might be sufficiently numerous to generate new and improved estimates for at least the entire American population; and, finally, that there was no reason whatsoever to investigate when I have on tap so many clever people so much more interested in the question than I.
Heebie's take: good question! I have no idea.
NickS writes: I recently saw this proposal by Paul Romer.
It's intriguing. It is most likely politically impossible, and possibly a bad precedent to target a specific revenue model in this way. But it seems like a much better approach than many of the proposals for regulating social media companies.
I first learned about Facebook's penetration into political dynamics outside the US at a dinner in Chile. During the discussion, senior members from one of its major political parties attributed their recent electoral success to their use of Facebook's targeted political ads. I asked if they were concerned that a foreign corporation controlled by a single person could have so much influence on their elections. My question did not even seem to register. They seemed to think of Facebook as an arms dealer to which they had preferential access. They were comfortable because they were far ahead of the opposition in understanding how to use the new political tools that Facebook had developed. They did not seem to appreciate that Facebook does not sell these weapons; it is a digital mercenary that is always the one with its finger on the trigger.
I [argue] for a flanking attack on the political power of the ad-tech giants that the legislative branch of government could launch. It could enact a progressive tax on revenue from digital advertising.
All three parts of this strategy are critical to its success. Progressivity is the automatic way to offset the increasing returns on investments in code that give bigger firms an advantage over their smaller rivals. Revenue is a better base than income for any new tax. Income is the difference between revenue and cost, which can be incurred in different places, so there is a fundamental ambiguity about where corporate income. This opens up the possibility of avoiding any tax on income by shifting income from high-tax to low-tax jurisdictions. There is no such ambiguity about sources of revenue. Taxing only the revenue from digital advertising is the best way to encourage firms to switch to less dangerous ways to be compensated for the services they provide.
This tax is clearly not a broad attack on all types of monopoly power. It focuses our energies first on the monopolies with the potential to influence all of our policy decisions.
Heebie's take: It's a good conversation topic, but I'm not sure I buy it. Here the author says explicitly:
The only goal of this tax is to push the firms that control digital advertising down the two paths that will reduce their political power -- the path toward subscriptions and the path toward competition between a large number of smaller firms.
He also says that we have a culture of learned helplessness with regards to antitrust policy, and clearly the Supreme Court has signaled that they are not going to intervene against a tech giant, and therefore we are forced to go in this direction.
All I can think is that the author is limiting himself to things which can pass under reconciliation, and therefore if the courts won't hold up existing laws, you're forced to make it about revenue and spending (although he doesn't say this himself). Otherwise, why not just have politicians write legislation regulating the content of online ads?
Mossy Character sends in South and Southeast Asia's Last Coal Plants. Seems like a good thing.
This is intended to be our system for checking in on imaginary friends, so that we know whether or not to be concerned if you go offline for a while. There is no way it could function as that sentence implies, but it's still nice to have a thread.
Four recently divorced people talk about how Covid impacted their marriages. Found it interesting.