Funding government – tax, borrowing, or printing.

If you’ve been following along you’ll know that I’ve justified (for myself) the intervention by the government into the affairs of the economy. Any such intervention will have a cost. The question for today is: how will these costs be funded? The options seem to be a tax levied on actors or actions in the economy, borrowing from actors within the economy, or simply creating money (e.g. printing new notes, though that is an archaic way of thinking about money in the modern age).

I believe that all three of these may have their place, and the goal is to explain in what circumstances and in what manner each should be used.

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edlib ideas from elsewhere

There have been a couple of articles on lwn.net (https://lwn.net/Articles/819452/ and https://lwn.net/Articles/832311/) about emacs and how it could be better, which have generated lots of discussion (a really valuable aspect of lwn.net). For some reason this encouraged me to explore more of vim – I’ve never really got passed the basics that I learned in in the late 80’s) and I also stumbled across https://ecc-comp.blogspot.com/2015/05/a-brief-glance-at-how-5-text-editors.html (largely because edlib was mentioned in the hacker-news discussion https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=11244103). All of this has encouraged me to take a step back and look for a different perspective on some editor issues.

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Managing an economy

I wrote in a previous post that any functioning democracy must run the economy with a blend of the two extremes of socialism and capitalism – that ownership of property must, in some way, be shared between the individual citizen and the whole society. The social part-ownership would manifest as some form of intervention by the government, with a combination of exercising partial control, and collection of partial profits. Even with the stated goal of maximizing productivity, minimizing hardship, and providing long-term stability, this provides little guidance on what a government in actually expected to do. In this post I hope to being to map out how government intervention could be structured, by presenting it as Facilitating Markets.

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Socialism or Capitalism

Once you assume a nation with a democratic form of government, the broadest brush used for describing the style of economic management seems to be a choice between Socialism and Capitalism. This is a false choice. Socialism and Capitalism are not alternates, they are extremes. Any functioning democracy will have an economic system which is both socialistic and capitalistic, in different circumstances or to different degrees. The question is which of these to choose, but how much of each to include into the mix.

The issue which these two “isms” address is the ownership of the means of production. Socialism suggests that society as a whole should own it, while Capitalism suggests that individuals, or individual corporations, may own it. In a working democracy, ownership is shared, and the degree of sharing has a substantial effect on economic outcomes. To being to think about the sharing, we need to be sure that we understand two things: What the “mean of production” are, and what it means to “own” something.

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Designing plugins for edlib

As edlib (my Emacs-replacement editor) matures I’m being more adventurous in the functionality I’m adding: spell checker, calculator, difference highlighter. This often involves importing functionality from an external source and making it available within edlib. This has raised the question of how to map an ad hoc interface from some library into the more constrained interfaces supported within edlib. Experience so far suggests that it is always possible, but there are sometimes multiple options and it is worth making the effort to choose carefully.

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The goals for the economy

If I’m to explore ideas concerning macro economics, I need to have a clear understanding of the goal – what is the economic system trying to achieve? Any such goal must be subjective – it can only be “my” goal. I might hope that others will agree with it, but I cannot see any basis for arguing that a particular goal must be the goal. The best I can really hope for is a goal, or set of goals, that is simple, achievable – at least in principle – and that seems consistent with what most people seem to want. To that end I nominate, and will go on to embellish, three goals: maximum productivity, minimum hardship, and long term stability.

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Performance improvements for wiggle.

My “wiggle” program which applies a patch to a different version of the file needs to compute the shortest edit path between two texts, which is the smallest set of additions and deletions that must be made to one file so as to produce the other. From this edit path it is easy to produce a list of sections that are the same or are different, and wiggle uses this to work out what changes need to be made, and where to make them.

When the two files being compared are large – on the order of tens of thousands of words – this process can start taking a long time. I recently started experiencing such a case fairly often, so it was clearly time to optimize the code. I managed to find two optimizations that don’t change the result at all, and two others that degraded the result on large files in exchange for substantial speed improvements.

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Modal Dialogs in edlib

One of the behaviours of emacs that I want to avoid as I build edlib (my answer to emacs) is modal dialogs. I recently saw mention of Oberon and this link in particular: https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/d48b/ecdaf5c3d962e2778f804e8c64d292de408b.pdf. It also mentions an aversion of modal dialogues. I don’t find myself completely convinced by the example given, but I do support the idea. This is as good an excuse as any to clarify my thoughts on the topic.

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The Value of Money

I have a new topics to write about – macro-economics. My interest is partly due to the enormous economic upheaval caused by COVID-19, but is more specifically due to reading Stephanie Kelton’s “The Deficit Myth” which outlines MMT – Modern Monetary Theory. I find this theory to be interesting and valuable but not entirely convincing (sometimes because I don’t agree, sometimes because there are gaps in the presentation). As this is my first post in a long time I’ve decided to start small and explore one simple topic: the value of money.

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LR parsing with line-breaks – yet again

It has been some years since I last wrote about about parsing with indents and line-breaks. Some of that time I’ve been distracted by other things, some of it has involved working on other areas of language design, but some of it has seen me struggling with line breaks again.

In my last note I had made significant progress over my original design, and there is much in that note that is still valuable. But some of it I got wrong too.

Most particularly, the idea that NEWLINES should be separators rather than terminators was mostly wrong. I now believe they must be mostly thought of as terminators, though there is one area where we must blur our definitions a little.

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