Climate change is an existential threat, but China is a bigger threat

Joe Biden, 2023 (

You know, I’ve seen firsthand what the reports made clear: the devastating toll of climate change and its existential threat to all of us. And it is the ultimate threat to humanity: climate change.

“Biden to Quadruple Tariffs on Chinese EVs” (Wall Street Journal, May 10, 2024):

The Biden administration is preparing to raise tariffs on clean-energy goods from China in the coming days, with the levy on Chinese electric vehicles set to roughly quadruple, according to people familiar with the matter. … signs that China was ramping up exports of clean-energy goods prompted concern in Washington, where officials are trying to protect a nascent American clean-energy industry from China.

Officials are particularly focused on electric vehicles, and they are expected to raise the tariff rate to roughly 100% from 25%, according to the people. An additional 2.5% duty applies to all automobiles imported into the U.S. The existing 25% tariff on Chinese electric vehicles has so far effectively barred those models, often cheaper than Western-made cars, from the U.S. market. Biden administration officials, automakers and some lawmakers worry that wouldn’t be enough given the scale of Chinese manufacturing.

In other words, it is better for all humans to be killed by climate change (the “existential threat” turning out to be real) than it is to drive a Chinese car or use any other “clean-energy good” from China.

One might think that the cognitive dissonance would start to become apparent even to climate change alarmists themselves. Greta Thunberg has switched to pro-Hamas activism (e.g., protesting against the 20-year-old Eden Golan singing in the Eurovision contest; this reminds me to wonder if there will be a sequel to the Will Ferrell movie). Even if we accept that Palestinians are the world’s most noble people, how is the status of their war against the Israelis more important than the impending death of all humans that she previously warned us about? Of course, there are the climate change alarmists who use private jets. And we have the Biden administration, which says that climate change is on track to kill all humans and also keeps the border open so that millions of migrants from low-carbon societies can become high-carbon-output residents of the U.S. (the quickest method of accelerating CO2 emissions imaginable). Finally, we now have these huge tariffs to discourage Americans from adopting what we’ve been informed are planet-saving/humanity-saving technologies.

Separately… the YANGWANG U9 from BYD, with the 1 horsepower that is required for moving at Miami Beach traffic speed and 1,299 hp in reserve.

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Why are we afraid of TikTok?

“China says it ‘firmly opposes’ a potential forced sale of TikTok” (CNN):

China said it would “firmly oppose” any forced sale of TikTok, in its first direct response to demands by the Biden administration that the app’s Chinese owners sell their share of the company or face a ban in its most important market.

The comments came as TikTok CEO Shou Chew testified in front of US lawmakers amid mounting scrutiny over the app’s ties to Beijing.

China’s commerce ministry said Thursday that a forced sale of TikTok would “seriously damage” global investors’ confidence in the United States.

Why is TikTok more of a security concern than apps from other countries, which might or might not be backed by China ultimately? TikTok is, at least, obviously prominent and can be monitored carefully. I would think the worst computer security problems are the unknown unknowns.

Separately, is the deeper problem with social media apps that they are addictive, especially for young people? Instead of forcing a TikTok sale, would it be smarter to require all of the social media apps to set a 30-minute daily limit per user? (of course, some addicts could get around this by creating multiple accounts, but those would seem to be edge cases)

I’m not a TikTok user, but I logged in with my Google credentials and gave the app my birthdate (Jurassic!). The algorithm is purportedly awesome, but I didn’t find any videos that I wanted to watch on the default home screen. A search for COVID doesn’t yield anything as brilliant as Adley’s April 20, 2020 explanation of Faucism. A search for “Robinson R44” does not yield better content than on YouTube:

I’m following one friend on TikTok, but he keeps his likes private (and maybe there is no way to share them just with me?) so I can’t use his favorite videos as a gateway into the service.


  1. What’s great about TikTok?
  2. Should we force a sale due to TikTok’s Chinese connections?
  3. Should we use regulation to protect ourselves from ourselves via a 30-minute limit on each social media platform?
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Is the Chinese balloon in U.S. airspace?

The U.S. government is talking about shooting down a Chinese balloon that is reportedly high above the mainland U.S… “Suspected Chinese spy balloon drifting over U.S. has surveillance part as big as multiple school buses” (CBS):

The balloon was flying at an altitude of about 66,000 feet, according to a U.S. official. It can be maneuvered but it is also subject to the jet stream, which could eventually push it out of U.S. airspace, the official said.

The balloon is not going to run out of fuel, since it has solar panels. The official also said that the balloon steers by rudder and is corkscrewing around to slow its progress over land, but the jet stream continues to move it on a trajectory across the U.S. The Pentagon is still considering ways to “dispose” of it but has “grave concerns” about the damage it would cause if it fell to Earth.

It’s laterally above the U.S. so it is in our airspace so we can shoot it down if we want to? Let’s check “The Vertical Limit of State Sovereignty” (Journal of Air Law and Commerce, 2007):

Because there is no agreed delineation between a state’s territory and free outer space, the vertical limit of state sovereignty is unsettled and each state is left to define the limits of its vertical sovereignty. However, no state has explicitly done this.

U.S. Secretary of State John Foster Dulles said “the question of the ownership of upper air is a disputable question…. What the legal position is, I wouldn’t feel in a position to answer because I do not believe that the legal position has even been codified ….”, Later in the same news conference, Secretary Dulles answered a question by saying, “Yes, I think that we feel [that the United States has the right to send balloons at a certain height anywhere around the globe], although .. .there is no clear international law on the subject.””


There is no international agreement on the vertical limit of state sovereignty.

State sovereignty should be limited to a low altitude–I recommend 12 nm [73,000′]

In other words, at 66,000′ it is an open question whether this balloon is in U.S. airspace. The limit of controlled airspace, in which it is possible to get a clearance from U.S. Air Traffic Control, is 60,000′ (the Davos crowd may be found at 51,000′ in their various late-model Gulfstreams).

From Twitter:

And from a Facebook aviation group:

FOR SALE: 2023 China Aviation Industry Corporation II non rigid ballistic helium ballon, like new and low time with only 380 hours TTAF, no damage history. Equipment includes GPS, NAV/COM, extra large gas storage, and weather equipment similar to XM. Military designed but only for civilian use, honestly. Has complete logs. The aircraft is still in use so flight times will change. No special type rating or endorsement needed. Fly wherever you want, whenever you want. Be advised that interest in this unique ballon is at an all time high, so act fast as this one won’t last!

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Report from Shanghai

An American friend lives in locked-down Shanghai and I recently checked in with her. Below are some of her text messages.

We were locked in apartment for somewhere between two and three weeks (forgot exact dates) and now we are allowed to roam inside the compound courtyard area (which is actually quite nice, and now, with this lockdown, rather social outdoors).

The Western press we read about the Shanghai lockdown seems completely wrong. The lockdown (and management of it) are in some ways rather better than it says, and in some ways worse. But that’s not really the axis…the whole tone of the US and Euro press we see just seems like it is talking about some completely different planet that has nothing to do with the good and bad things we hear/see/think as lived experience here.

[in response to my question about whether you can just get food delivered] At first, no regular delivery services. Those are just starting to be allowed back in very limited ways. The first few days just some government rations (cabbage), but [husband] and I had some food around and also, it’s really not that bad to eat less for a while…the main thing is a lot of people got justifiably worried because the private businesses in the supply and delivery chain weren’t allowed to really do enough, the transport blocks made the supply chain somewhat concerning, and the government rations were completely random and quite unequal in different districts.

After a few days this huge phenomenon called “group buying” came whooshing in, and a lot of people were able to distribute the food through that and the large majority of people supplement the government food with that. Now some individual buying is happening as more business owners get permission…

We were very lucky because our compound is actually more commercial buildings than residential. The analogy in US terms seems to be “commercially zoned”. This makes it vastly more complicated and ambiguous for the building management to figure out how to manage us as residences (lockdown rules, level of lockdown, placement of the testing lines, etc.) but it did allow them to give permission for the proprietor of the office building’s cafeteria to live in the cafeteria with a few employees, and within a few days they got some supply chain and started up a meal service. They made an agreement with the management that the health volunteers (the ones who are allowed to wear hazmat suits and get tested twice a day instead of once and walk around to deliver rations and essentials), that those volunteers were allowed to drop off a hot cooked lunch or dinner outside the apartment doors. At first, the cafeteria didn’t know how much it could source and supply, so it was word of mouth but I heard of it when it was producing for about 70-ish meals and ordered one meal some of the days. They successfully ramped up and since they expose their spreadsheet every day, they now supply meals to about 400 or 500 a day which is as much as 30% of the apartments here. So that’s been really luxurious when we don’t feel like cooking the too-much rice and cabbage supplied by the gummint.

[In response to my question about censorship and suppression of dissent] The culture of China is to have vastly more local protesting than I had understood. So there is a ton of that. It helps keep local officials accountable.

Many interesting and rapid local developments happen here to try and deal with this situation. Once we were allowed to roam (courtyard and the three building lobbies, also I think people in one building can visit each other. Not visit apartments in the other buildings, although I have no interest in visiting anyone inside a building at all. I meet people outside. Government gave out some flour, and I traded a lemon (outdoors) to a colleague for a little packet of yeast she had.

[She also described an apartment building lobby swap table where people put out food that they don’t want, including government-supplied canned fish, oranges, etc.]

My gastronomic experience in Shanghai, November 2019, was a little different. Here are some examples:

Top left: a restaurant for locals, about 14 floors up in an office building. Bottom: the breakfast buffet at the Four Seasons.

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Boeing 737 crash in China

Friends have been asking about China Eastern Airlines Flight 5735, the Boeing 737 (non-MAX) that departed Kunming and crashed nose-down near Wuzhou yesterday.

Without the flight data recorder it will be tough to determine what happened, but what I’ve been telling friends is that there are a variety of ways that an airplane can end up in an uncontrollable nose-down attitude.

In a conventional airplane, the wings lift up from just behind the center of gravity (CG) and the tail pushes down. If the horizontal stabilizer, which looks like a small wing near the tail, were to break off in flight, for example, thus resulting in a “no tail” situation, the airplane would nose-dive because the wings are lifting from behind the CG. See the following force diagram (source):

There is a substantial amount of overdesign in an aircraft and thus extreme maneuvers may result in a component getting stressed or cracked, but it is almost impossible for the horizontal stabilizer to come off. In the comments section below, a reader highlighted Japan Air Lines Flight 123, a Boeing 747 whose tail, and, more seriously, hydraulic systems, were damaged by the failure of a 7-year-old patch to the pressure vessel.

Is it possible to lose the downforce from the tail without parts of the tail becoming detached? Yes. This can happen due to ice accumulation (see NASA videos below). It seems unlikely that the accident Boeing got into severe icing at 29,000′ (where the steep descent began), however, because the air at that altitude is extremely cold and simply cannot hold much moisture. For the tail to stall while the wings were still lifting powerfully would likely require an unusual failure of the pneumatics, which take hot compressed air from the engines to melt ice off the wing and tail surfaces leading edges.

The horizontal stabilizer’s angle relative to the fuselage can be adjusted via the airplane’s trim mechanism. The runaway-trim-by-design is what brought down the Boeing 737 Max airplanes, but runaway trim can also occur in the non-Max 737, as in other planes. There are a variety of safeguards intended to prevent runaway trim (except in the Max where the computer actually held its finger on the “trim down” button in response to absurd data from a failed sensor), but if those safeguards fail somehow and the airplane is trimmed full nose down it might not be possible to recover.

An easy-to-understand cause of a nosedive is movement of the standard flight control surfaces, in particular, the elevator (just behind the horizontal stabilizer). This can be seen at airshows, e.g., in this video of Mike Goulian at Sun ‘n Fun (I’ll be there this year on Saturday and Sunday if you want to meet). Of course, Goulian pulls out of the dive by pulling back on the stick as he gets closer to the ground. If the elevator was stuck in the “stick forward” position does that mean that the pilots of the accident Boeing had the stick full forward? (i.e., the pilot suicide theory) No. Unlike in a lightweight family airplane, the flight control surfaces of a heavy jet are not directly connected to the pilots’ yokes/control columns. No human is strong enough to overcome the air loads of the wind rushing over the control surfaces. What drives the flight controls is 3,000 psi of hydraulic pressure generated by engine-driven and electric pumps (source):

(See also this thorough video explanation.)

How do the pilots of a heavy jet (or “pilot” if one is in the restroom) move a flight control surface then? Ignoring the modern fly-by-wire systems of the Airbuses, the standard technique is a cable that goes from the control column to a power control unit (PCU) next to the aileron, elevator, or rudder. The PCU uses the position of the cable to modulate the application of hydraulic pressure and it is the hydraulic pump that actually moves the surface. (more) Like everything else in aviation, these PCUs are almost perfectly reliable, but if one were to fail/stick it could lead to an impossible-to-control airplane. Here’s an NTSB report regarding an elevator PCU that got stuck in 2009:

On June 14, 2009, a Boeing 737-400, registration number TC-TLA, operated as Tailwind Airlines flight OHY036, experienced an uncommanded pitch-up event at 20 feet above the ground during approach to Diyarbakir Airport (DIY), Turkey. The flight crew performed a go-around maneuver and controlled the airplane’s pitch with significant column force, full nose-down stabilizer trim, and thrust. During the second approach, the flight crew controlled the airplane and landed by inputting very forceful control column inputs to maintain pitch control. Both crewmembers sustained injuries during the go-around maneuver; none of the 159 passengers or cabin crewmembers reported injuries. The airplane was undamaged during the scheduled commercial passenger flight.

An investigation found that the incident was caused by an uncommanded elevator deflection as a result of a left elevator power control unit (PCU) jam due to foreign object debris (FOD). The FOD was a metal roller element (about 0.2 inches long and 0.14 inches in diameter) from an elevator bearing. During its investigation of this incident, the NTSB identified safety issues relating to the protection of the elevator PCU input arm assembly, design of the 737 elevator control system, guidance and training for 737 flight crews on a jammed elevator control system, and upset recovery training.

See also this Wikipedia page on problems with B737 rudder and B747 elevator control due to PCU malfunctions.

So that’s everything that I know, which is to say… almost nothing relevant or helpful, unfortunately, just like everyone else on Planet Earth until and unless the flight data recorder and, perhaps, cockpit voice recorder, are recovered.

More on tailplane icing can be found in these NASA videos…

an older version…


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Unmasked Vladimir Putin braves a stadium packed with the infected

There is a high demand for pageantry in our household, but we don’t have a TV, so I signed up for the “ad-free” “Peacock Premium Plus” streaming service and used an iPad to show the Olympics opening ceremony (which arrived… with ads, disrespectfully side-by-side with athletes from countries that NBC deems unimportant; the Chinese refused to insert commercial breaks, apparently, so the righteous American boycotters (see below) added commercials to the event itself).

Science tells us that only N95 masks stand any chance of blocking Omicron, yet the athletes paraded out using various forms of non-N95 masks. Other than some performers, Vladimir Putin seemed to be the only person at the event who wasn’t wearing a mask.

Given that nearly everyone in the stadium is vaccinated, was in quarantine before and after international flights, and has been tested multiple times for COVID-19, what’s the chance that SARS-CoV-2 got through to the stadium? The official stats page shows that 308 people involved in the Olympics have thus far tested positive:

See also “A COVID-Free Pacific Nation Opened Its Border a Crack. The Virus Came Rushing In” (TIME):

On Jan. 14, the first passenger plane for 10 months landed in the country, which is located about 2,500 miles southwest of Hawaii. It may also be the last for the foreseeable future. The plane brought the first cases of COVID-19 to the country; more than two-thirds of the passengers tested positive. The flight subsequently set off a wave of COVID-19 cases in the archipelagos, where 120,000 people live across 33 islands with land area smaller than Rhode Island.

Thirty-six out of 54 passengers on the flight to Kiribati tested positive on arrival. Six others tested positive in quarantine. That’s despite the travelers spending two weeks in pre-departure quarantine, and only being allowed on the flight after testing negative for COVID-19.

The border closures also bought Kiribati and others time to roll out vaccinations. Over 93% of Kiribati’s eligible population has received one COVID-19 vaccine shot, but just over 50% are fully vaccinated.

A few times NBC’s commentators (sports experts?) mentioned “human rights abuses” in China, but their own coverage of the event contradicted their statements. The NBC reporters sounded relaxed. The people in the stadium looked happy and relaxed, including Chinese ethnic minorities such as the Uyghurs who are purportedly victims of “genocide” (we throw this word around and then show up en masse with $1 billion in TV rights cash?). See this statement from the Chinese embassy for another perspective:

The so-called allegations of “forced labor” and “genocide” in Xinjiang are nothing but vicious lies concocted by anti-China forces. Xinjiang’s economic development and social stability is recognized by the whole world. The fact that residents of all ethnic groups there enjoy happy and fulfilling lives is witnessed by all. The US side keeps using Xinjiang-related issues to create rumors and make trouble. Essentially it is engaging in political manipulation and economic coercion, and seeking to undermine Xinjiang’s prosperity and stability and contain China’s development under the pretext of human rights.

It is preposterous for the US, a country with a deplorable track record of human rights issues, to accuse and smear China. The US has serious problems of human trafficking and forced labor. Up to 100,000 people were trafficked into the US for forced labor annually over the past five years. Crimes against humanity against Native Americans in the past constitute de facto genocide. The US should save the labels of “forced labor” and “genocide” for itself.

Xinjiang-related issues are not human rights issues at all, but in essence about countering violent terrorism and separatism.

Who else watched the opening ceremony? What did you notice?


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The 6-year-old hater

Rousseau thought that children were innately innocent, but maybe that is because he never reared any.

On the way to the Stuart Boat Show, we stopped at a favorite local restaurant for breakfast. I finished my Egg McMuffin before our 6-year-old had consumed his Big Breakfast with Hotcakes and decided to share with him some news of the world. I stumbled upon “China Bans Flights From U.S. as Covid-19 Measures Intensify” (WSJ):

The 6-year-old’s comment? “But they started Covid.”

Freed from the supervision of Senior Management, the young hater enjoyed his first caramel apple later that day. After sampling this new delicacy, he said, “You know what would be better? A caramel apple with no apple. The same size and shape, but all caramel.”

(Why don’t the Chinese postpone the 2022 Olympics until they’re willing to allow spectators? If the Japanese could kick the Olympics a year down the road, what would be wrong with a postponement to December 2022 or February 2023, for example? If we believe Science, COVID-19 won’t be a problem then. See “Fauci: US can get Covid under control by next year with more jabs” (Guardian, November 16, 2021), for example.)


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We are standing up to China by sending $1 billion for broadcast rights to the Beijing Olympics?

“U.S. Will Not Send Government Officials to Beijing Olympics” (New York Times, today):

American athletes will still be able to compete in the Winter Games, but the diplomatic boycott is a slap at China for human rights abuses in Xinjiang.

Pressure has been building for months from members of Congress in both parties to hold China accountable for abuses of Uyghur Muslims in the Xinjiang region and crackdowns on pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong. Those calls only intensified after the disappearance from public life of the tennis star Peng Shuai after she accused a top Communist Party leader of sexual assault.

On the latter point, previously in the NYT: “She said she met Zhang earlier in her career and had a consensual relationship with him. She said he sexually assaulted her shortly after he stepped down as one of China’s top leaders in 2017.” Her story is that she enjoyed having sex with this elderly married guy right up to the day that he no longer had the power to do stuff for her? (He’s 75 now; Peng Shuai is 35)

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said administration officials did not believe it was appropriate to send a delegation of U.S. officials to the Games in February after “genocide and crimes against humanity” in Xinjiang.

“Genocide” is so bad that the word doesn’t appear in the story until after we learn about the young tennis player who was having sex with an old married guy?

But previous attempts to pull athletes out of the Games have fallen flat. The last time the United States pursued a full boycott of the Olympics was in 1980, when President Jimmy Carter rallied against allowing athletes to participate in the Summer Games in Moscow, to protest the Soviet Union’s military presence in Afghanistan.

The New York Times doesn’t mention that, in addition to boycotting the sports event, we poured cash and weapons into the hands of the Mujahideen (“those engaged in jihad”). How did that work out for us? (see also “How Jimmy Carter Started America’s Afghanistan Folly” (Washington Monthly))

So… we won’t send any U.S. politicians or bureaucrats to China, but we will send $1 billion in cash for the host city’s share of the American broadcast rights? How does our family sign up to be boycotted?


Excitement building in London, May 2012:

“London’s Summer Games in 2012 generated $5.2 billion compared with $18 billion in costs. What’s more, much of the revenue doesn’t go to the host—the IOC keeps more than half of all television revenue, typically the single largest chunk of money generated by the games.” (CFR)

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The decline of China, explained by population boom

The Fall and Rise of China, a course by Richard Baum (late professor at UCLA), asks how it was possible for an empire that had been so successful for 1,000 years to fall apart in about 100 years. The decline of China relative to Europe was anything but predictable, in his view, and the real question is why China didn’t continue to lead the world economy.

The professor’s thesis is that population growth doomed China. The Manchus improved the control of floodwater from China’s major rivers, thus enabling more stability in agriculture. Instead of an improved standard of living, however, this lead to a huge increase in what had been a stable population size, from about 125 million to 450 million over 200 years (1700 to 1900). Agricultural productivity per acre did not improve significantly and the cultivated land per person fell, thus reducing both the standard of living for the typical citizen and tax revenues for the government (people at a Malthusian level of subsistence can’t pay tax).

(The doom was accelerated to some extent, according to Professor Baum, by the corrupt and incompetent Empress Dowager Cixi, who ruled China for 47 years and obstructed efforts to modernize the military (partly by stealing money that had been appropriated for that purpose). Without her, China might have had a chance to go more in the Japanese direction.)

I’m not sure that the “overpopulation” answer is correct, but the question seems like the right one to ask. How did a country that was so far ahead of the rest of the world suddenly (when viewed through the lens of history) collapse?

Venezuela certainly didn’t thrive once its oil wealth was divided by a larger population. Chart from the World Bank:

Venezuela was producing roughly 2.5 million barrels of oil per day in 2010 at about $80 per barrel. That would have been $36,000/year in walking-around revenue for a family of 4 if total revenue were divided by the 1960 population of 8 million. Divided by 28 million, though, and revenue per family was down to $10,000 (and don’t forget that Venezuelans had to take care of the Big Guy and his family before oil revenue could be distributed more widely).

Are there lessons for the U.S.? As the U.S. population has grown (10 million in 1820, 180 million in 1960, 333 million today), Americans have gotten fatter, not thinner. We’re not running out of food like the Chinese did. On the other hand, folks who show up in the U.S. expect an endowment of land/housing. The standard of living to which Americans believe themselves entitled is now, absent taxpayer-funded subsidies, out of reach of roughly half of the people who live in the U.S. and the situation gets worse every day (see “Hundreds of Haitians arrive in Massachusetts from southern border lacking housing, health care” (Boston Globe, 10/10/2021), for example: “Advocates scramble to find homes and help for the new arrivals.” (if every Massachusetts homeowner with an “immigrants welcome” lawn sign and a spare room would host just one Haitian, a substantial fraction of the 1.1 million Haitians in the U.S. could be accommodated in just this one righteous state!).)

The NYT, 8/10/2021 says the situation is dire, but Biden’s central planners have a plan to fix this and we just need “a once-in-a-generation effort”. Harvard agrees that Biden, whose name occurs 6 times in this report, will make all of our housing dreams come true. The NYT article cites Japan favorably. Rents in Tokyo are no higher than they were 20 years ago (it looks as though the indices are adjusted for inflation because San Francisco rent is up only 150 percent and New York up only 100 percent). Not mentioned is that Japan’s population, over the last 20 years, is essentially flat (127 million down to 126 million). You shouldn’t need the world’s finest central planners to manage housing for a constant-sized population.

The Chinese, according to the professor, also suffered from insularity. They mostly stopped traveling to foreign countries (compare to our border-crossing restrictions since February 2020). They didn’t keep up with the Industrial Revolution (compare to our current dependence on Asia to fabricate semiconductors). Due to Internet, container ships, and air freight, however, it is tough to imagine the U.S. ever being truly disconnected from innovation centers around the world.

So history may not repeat itself nor even rhyme, but it is still an interesting question to ponder. Why were Michelle Faraday and Katherine Clerk Maxwell the pioneers in electromagnetism rather than physicists in Beijing? Why was it Mileva Marić who explained the photoelectric effect and figured out that gravity distorts spacetime, rather than someone in Shanghai? Why was it Louise-Hélène de Lesseps who created the Suez Canal rather than the Chinese, who had more than 2000 years of canal experience.

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Biden and the Democrats try a Great Leap Forward?

The Fall and Rise of China, a course by Richard Baum (late professor at UCLA), has an interesting section on the Great Leap Forward (1958-1962). Essentially the Chinese economy didn’t produce enough to give the government the resources that was required to meet the leaders’ objectives. Without any analysis or claims that the measures they were taking represented a likely optimum, the government introduced one policy after another in hopes of increasing the amount of money flowing into the capital. The Chinese Great Leap Forward had a big emphasis on infrastructure, albeit not subsidized child care as “infrastructure”, but dams and other massive civil engineering works (these ultimately proved to have been poor investments).

The parallels aren’t perfect. Mao was trying to create a society in which every able-bodied person worked; the U.S. is a work-optional society in which ever-more people can get paid for not working (child support plaintiff, means-tested housing/health care/SNAP/Obamaphone beneficiary, alimony plaintiff, stay-at-home parent, SSI or TANF recipient, 1.5-year unemployment check recipient, etc.). Americans these days get upset when they hear about powerful people having sex with the less powerful; according to the professor, Mao, then in his 60s, partied with teenage girls every night (bedroom with oversized bed (since multiple teenage girls would occupy simultaneously) next to a dance hall).

The high-level picture seems similar. The proposed corporate tax rates are not being set based on the idea that they will lead to a optimum balance of economic growth, competitive positioning with respect to Europe, and revenue for the government without discouraging effort and investment. The new rates are justified with “we need the money”. We’ll assess capital gains tax against people with $1.0001 billion in assets, but not those with $0.99999 billion (it would be a lot simpler just to eliminate the charitable contribution deduction so that the super rich couldn’t avoid taxation by stuffing money into foundations).

Readers: Do you think there is a parallel here?

(Also, if the federal unrealized capital gains tax on billionaires goes through, why can’t the billionaires simply move to Puerto Rico for 183 days per year and pay 4% income tax instead? Could it be that this is the way the Democrats pull Puerto Rico in as the 51st state? If all of the billionaires move there to escape the new 20 percent haircut (and why won’t California add 13 percent on top?), isn’t the most obvious solution to make P.R. a standard part of the U.S. and therefore subject to conventional federal taxation? Or maybe the Feds will say that the tax still applies even for those who flee to Puerto Rico because the gains happened while the targets of the tax were still living within the 50 states.)

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