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Japan's Hometown Tax (kalzumeus.com)
847 points by gwern on Oct 19, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 249 comments

I LOVE this idea! Here in the US, it could really help out rural communities. The best part is that it is 'free' to everyone; you've already paid the taxes.

Small communities could, and do, organize festivals based on local culture: Trout fishing in the summer, Ice festivals in the winter, Duck races in the spring, etc. They get people interested in some aspect of the community, be it a festival, music, the climate, foods, textiles, history, etc. Either way, the community sends stuff out or brings people into itself for 'free' as the taxes have already been paid.

This incentivizes these small communities to plan for the festivals, to clean up the streets, to pay people to make it look nice, get a bunch of bunting ready for the 'homesick' tourists that they sent AirBNB vouchers out to. People come in, spend money at the diners and in the shops, at the mechanic's when a tire goes flat. There are knock-on effects that the community feels.

Or it incentivizes them to get better at food/textile/goods production. Maybe they make a mean steamed-ham. They get better at curing and steaming the hams, they find a niche in the market they didn't know they had, they hire more workers to fill the niche. City-slickers get some steamed-hams, realize that they don't have any rolls to eat them with, and go out and buy some. Again, knock-on effects.

For communities that are very small, they could run mini-lotteries, like one during a Wednesday night bowling league. You sign up, they draw a name out of a hat, you get 10% of everyone's tax money that entered (something less than the 30% that the community would have sent out).

Communities that don't participate still receive taxes as before. Some that choose to spend these taxes are taking a chance, true. But, I feel that this 'priming of the pump' is fantastic idea. It gets people moving about, making things, buying meals and plane tickets.

Did you read the entire article? It's not really 'free to everyone', it's not like it's magic money. It's more like a transfer of tax revenue from Tokyo to rural communities, with a bit of a kickback to the tax payers.

And while your vision sounds nice, the end of the article made it sound more like it's become a race to the bottom with most rural towns offering the maximum amount allowed in gift vouchers which people resell for cash.

So it's mostly just a convoluted tax distribution/credit system in a lot of ways. And as much as it would be nice to have something like what you wrote, it would be near impossible to set out rules such that it didn't become another cynical race to maximize profits by attracting 'donors'. Even if you outlawed gift cards, there's always going to be some good/commodity a community can offer that will hold a liquidable cash value.

I use the system and while yes you can do what you describe it is usually not really worth it. There is a limit on it that is not that high and it is more fun to just grab different fun things. I ended up using it for lots of high grade meat, sake

1.5% of your gross salary isn't worth it?

Difference between maximizing return on it and just getting whatever you want. Effort of reselling vouchers etc

Huge problem in the US is we allowed important parts of the country to deteriorate in various ways.

In the U.S. rural communities get to elect the Senate and President.

That should be enough.

I like the idea as well, but I think the benefits should be dedicated to the cities and areas you actually grew up in, not a region of your choice.

It takes a village to raise a child. Well, if that village turned you into someone who lives a successful life in one of the few metropoles in the country, maybe it's only fair to share that wealth with the hometown(s) that formed your childhood and adolescence.

I see a lot of moaning about inefficiency here, but here's a point of comparison. During the Bubble years in the late eighties, when many rural areas were feeling left out, there was a scheme to give basically every municipality in Japan a large lump sum of money ($10m?), no strings attached, except that it had to be used for building something new.

This, as you might guess, was an incredible waste of money. Many podunk towns built flashy "multi-purpose halls" (多目的ホール) perfect for all those symphony orchestras just dying to perform in the middle of nowhere. More memorably, the town of Utazu, Kagawa purchased a solid gold toilet...!



Couching this in terms of Japanese culture is unhelpful in my opinion. The return gifts probably wouldn't exist in the first place elsewhere, but allowing them is simply a blatant loophole that various local governments have cynically abused to increase their revenue and this is something that would happen in any country.

The biggest problem is that some local governments are apparently giving return gifts that have a value that's higher than the 2000 yen part of the hometown tax that isn't tax deductible, which means that by opting in to donating to these local governments you do slightly better than if you didn't donate money in the first place. These governments are obviously trying to get people with absolutely no local connection to send money purely for the gifts.

One option would be to set a limit on the value of the gifts, but there's absolutely zero reason to allow the return gifts in the first place. The whole reason for the first 2000 yen not being tax deductible is this is something you are only supposed to do if you seriously want your money to go to a local government, and allowing non-taxed return gifts defeats the intention of how the system is set up. Having tax money go back into return gifts is also ridiculously inefficient.

Unfortunately, based on the way the government is set up, rural votes have disproportionate power, and for this reason the LDP has a tendency to pander to rural interests, so they probably have no interest in eliminating the gifts entirely. However, at least they recently announced that they are looking into introducing legislation to limit the value of gifts (and ban the worst abusers from participating entirely) in the next regular session of the Diet.

> but there's absolutely zero reason to allow the return gifts in the first place

There are reasons, but just ones that you don't agree with or haven't thought of. You need to understand that reciprocation is in the culture, and people are not purely rational economic actors. It's entirely possible some towns would outright refuse 'assistance' without being able to reciprocate somehow.

Isn't the person donating to their hometown the tax, giving something to the town (reciprocation) for the education and childhood they had in the hometown in the first place?

Where does the reciprocation ends? You give money to your hometown because you have very found memories and you feel grateful about the education etc., your hometown sends you plums, you send a pie to thank the plums, then they respond back with something else, ad infinitum.

Ha, well, if you take your (pathological) example and apply the 30% reciprocation value rule, then no, it does not go ad infinitum, but there is eventually the floor of $0.

But more practically speaking, from the perspective of say, the mayor of a town in Japan - he has revenue being conciously directed towards him from mostly anonymous citizens of the country. Reciving a real (monetary) gift from someone you hardly know definitely would require a reciprocation. In some ways, sure, you're reciprocating to your hometown for your education/etc, but it's not being seen that way from the town's perspective.

There's also the factor that the redirected tax revenue is a physical thing, where as the 'education and life experience' imbued upon a child growing up is a rather non tangible gift .

I mean there's the stereotype of the "thank you" note for the birthday gifts. You bring a gift to someone hosting a dinner party at their house.

There's of course a cynical tax play here. But it is entirely possible that people also _feel good for helping their hometowns_. Sure, there's the vouchers, but there are also the (not super resellable) plums!

It's maintaining emotional bonds in the community. At least that's the most optimistic way of thinking about it

This is a thing, definitely, but I don't think it's something we can't talk about and criticize. The fact that this cultural tradition has caused a well-intentioned(ish, if you're rural) tax law to become a big loop hole is a bad thing. I'm certain if they thought this was going to be an issue (with small towns refusing the money) some more reasonable solution could be found.

The town I grew up in, Boston, receives a christmas tree every year from Nova Scotia due to the fact that Boston sent a lot of emergency aide to Halifax and the surrounds after a large explosion there in 1917. Something similar could be done with small towns sending local art and culture items to large cities in free exhibitions to demonstrate what the tax money is benefiting or just as a gift or maybe a small japanese town might sponsor a fair in Tokyo where free plums are available using a portion of the tax money they received. This would be a way to express thanks in a common manner for the sum of the donations made by citizens without creating perverse tax loop holes that are exploited to simply lower the amount of money coming out of your pocket.

I agree with you that we should be able to talk about it and criticize it, but I think declaring 'there are no reasons for this' requires more thoughts on the perspectives of the individuals or entities involved.

Certainly it is a (somewhat mitigated) loophole that can be exploited, so in that respect it is not good. But weighed against the positive impact for the rural towns and the connection it makes back to hometowns, you could argue it's worth it.

So kickbacks are ok as long as they’re part of the culture?

> based on the way the government is set up, rural votes have disproportionate power, and for this reason the LDP has a tendency to pander to rural interests

Is there a Western government that isn't set up this way? You could write this same blurb about the United States. I would be very curious to hear about what happens when rural areas have political power consummate with their population instead of with their land area or with the mere fact of their historical existence. (For example, does it look less or more "fair"? Are there unexpected consequences, like maybe further depopulation of rural areas?)

It's actually interesting because in the US it's enshrined in the constitution with the way the senate is set up, so it's not even viewed as a problem.

In Japan the central government isn't supposed to work this way and it is as least viewed as a problem: the disparity in the power of votes is considered unconstitutional, but the supreme court isn't willing to actually invalidate election results (they made up a distinction between being "unconstitutional" and being in an "unconstitutional state" which is not at all supported by precedent (although it's a civil law country so technically there's no binding precedent) or the constitution), so the ruling LDP does the absolute bare minimum to act like they're trying to improve the situation so they can pretend their doing something while actually dragging their feet as much as possible.

Probably the main negative consequence of ensuring that all votes have equal power would be to make it easier for the central government to ignore the wishes of rural areas, but this depends on how the government is structured in other ways.

In Japan, prefectures are relatively weak. For example, Okinawa recently attempted to invalidate approval for filling in of land for the new US military base because residents of Okinawa want the base out, but there's basically zero chance that this will actually end up working because the central government considers the base essentially for national security.

It’s absolutely viewed as a problem in the US. For the most part, those who don’t think it’s a problem are those who benefit from it, and those who do are those who suffer from it.

Just one nitpick: the anti-democratic nature of the Senate (and the Electoral college, while we're at it) is very much seen as a problem by a lot of people living outside the sparsely populated rural states;

For those of us living in urban areas, we're simply vastly underrepresented in federal government, and quite a few of us don't like it.

So you want to reduce the representation from the "fly-over states" so that all elections and all federal government decisions are decided by California and New York?

That's not going to work very well, and would lead to the secession of about 90% of the states, and then you'd find out that your urban paradises depend absolutely on the rest of the country to exist.

The founding fathers set up a pretty good system, and they specifically did not set up a democracy for a whole bunch of relatively obvious reasons. Straight democracy doesn't work.

You should extend more generosity to the point GP makes. You can believe in adjusting the system so that representation is more equal without doing away with the protections for small states. For example, you can greatly increase the size of the House. It's the original first amendment! http://www.centerforpolitics.org/crystalball/articles/its-ti...

The house already adequately represents the people, that's how it was designed.

Expanding the house doesn't change representation.

> The house already adequately represents the people

By what standard?

> that's how it was designed.

That may have been the design goal, but it's debatable whether the original design met the goal, and key elements of the original design (the original representation ratio) were not fixed in the Constitution or preserved over time.

> Expanding the house doesn't change representation.

It changes both the equality of representation (reducing quantization artifacts) and the proximity of Representatives to the represented, both of which are key elements of representation.

The house doesn't represent the people in the sense that the party that got a significant majority of the votes has a significant minority of the seats because of gerrymandering.

It's an interesting argument, but the house isn't a monolith that represents the entire US as a bloc - it's a regional thing that represents individual regions, and actually the vast majority of those areas in the US do not belong to the minority party. Overall popular vote is not how we elect the house.

You can argue about gerrymandering all day long, both sides do it and have done it since the beginning.

Actually, according to the original plan, the House of Representatives should have grown so that each member represents a roughly equal number of constituents (excepting very small population states which still get one). At some point it was capped at 435 (I presume for space reasons) and the disparity of representation has increased since. So it seems that more power has been transferred to rural states than the founders had originally envisioned.

The rural states' power in federal government is largely imaginary. In many elections, they have gone overwhelmingly for the losing candidate. If you look at a county by county map of the last election and then realize that the winner of the election actually lost the popular vote even after taking something like 85% of the counties in the US and you can still make the argument that the population centers should have more representation it's really just a naked left wing power grab at that point -- and likely an argument made by someone who has never really lived in rural America and doesn't understand it.

Yes, you have more people in the population centers. They're generally a very homogenous group by political thought, and vote almost as a left wing bloc in most cases. You're simply arguing that the left should be more powerful than it is. Nobody cries about the electoral college until a Republican wins. Nobody cries about representation when the left is in power.

There are things that are wrong in the US political system, but the electoral college and the house representation aren't those things. They're the best of the bad solutions to keeping away from a tyranny.

That’s because out of the five times that the electoral college winner was not the popular winner, four times it was a Republican who won and the fifth time the Republicans didn’t exist yet (but the winner was the more conservative candidate).

And also, the majority of this country votes democrat in every election since 2000, but because of gerrymandering the house retains a Republican majority. If the house matched the breakdown of national popular votes for house reps, it would be significantly Democrat.

The Dems gerrymander just as much as the Rs do.

You're using a tiny fraction of history to discuss this, and even within that tiny fraction your numbers are incorrect as the the dems held the majority from 2007 to 2011 and only lost it in the backlash from the health care debacle.

Also the national popular vote is totally irrelevant to the house membership. It's not set up that way.

When has a Democrat ever won for the electoral college to a problem? It’s always be conservatives/Republicans.

an absurd strawman. To you there's no way to increase representation from more populous states without letting decisions be dominated by CA and NY? Can we argue in good faith here?

Pretty sure the rest of the country depends on states like CA and NY as well. It is hardly a one-way street.

There are many objective criticisms of the system. Like election methods, for instance. I personally think it's ridiculous to suggest that our understanding of governance and political systems hasn't increased enough to substantially improve the US. It's been 300 years.

I would point to the amendment system as evidence that the founding fathers knew they hadn't made a perfect system. I would point to the fact that they explicitly warned against political parties to show that the system is not at all what they intended. And lastly I want to say that this deification of the founding fathers is a big part of the problem.

So get an amendment passed.

Just remember, you have to get 2/3 of the states -- including all your fly-over states.

You need 2/3 of the states for a convention. But you need 3/4 of the states to ratify.

Thing is, though, Constitution is just a piece of paper, if enough people - or states - believe that it is. Small states need to understand that the power that they wield is theirs only because the large states agree to abide by this arrangement. If that power is abused too much, the deal might just be altered - and in any such alteration, the larger and more powerful states will call the shots.

But they won't, and that's the beauty of the way it was set up. Every state still gets two votes in the Senate, and you can't change that without an amendment.

The majority of the small states still have to sign off on "altering the deal" for it to pass.

The Constitution is far more than a piece of paper, it's the foundation of all law in the US.

You miss my point. If the small states keep abusing their power, eventually the large states are going to simply reject the Constitution - and there's no mechanism for the small states to force it on them. In the end, it's a consensus arrangement. It was adopted back in the day in the form that it originally had, because that was the only thing that all then-states could agree on. If it stops being a thing that enough states can agree on now, then it is just a piece of paper. It doesn't have any magical innate powers to enforce itself.

The large states can't "reject the Constitution". There aren't enough of them, and the mechanism to enforce it is the federal courts, who don't care how big a state is.

Access to the courts and their attendant enforcement mechanisms is not something restricted to the large states. Agreements were made, documents written and signed, and at least one bloody war fought to preserve that "just a piece of paper", and the result has been quite clear throughout the history of this nation.

Just as a point of fact, the 100 largest cities in the US only represent about 20% of the total population. So no it wouldn’t just be big cities deciding everything.

I think the math suggests that the rest of the country depends on the 'urban paradises' to fund it, at this point. Sure, less populous states grow food, but if they broke off, it seems likely they'd want to sell that excess food for something like market value, no?

Maybe. Or maybe they'd decide to sell all their food elsewhere and you'd have food riots in your urban paradises.

But the contention is evidently that we need to remove their representation in federal government because people don't understand how the federal government was set up.

> Just one nitpick: the anti-democratic nature of the Senate (and the Electoral college, while we're at it) is very much seen as a problem by a lot of people living outside the sparsely populated rural states;

It really depends on how you conceptualize it: there isn't much of an issue if you think of the Senate as a body that represents states as sovereign political entities not population. IIRC, Senators were originally elected by state legislatures, which made that role clearer.

If the Senate is to be reorganized to be proportional to population, some other "anti-democratic" compromise will need to be implemented to prevent small states from becoming neglected backwaters. The current comprise means neither small nor large states can ram through legislation that neglects the other's interests.

But to be honest, the cleaner solution to the problem is more federalism: increase the power of state governments over their own state, and correspondingly decrease the scope of the federal government over areas that aren't truly national concerns. The sacrifice there is that many groups would have to abandon their dreams of national dominance and satisfy themselves with regional influence.

> It really depends on how you conceptualize it: there isn't much of an issue if you think of the Senate as a body that represents states as sovereign political entities not population.

That doesn't remove the problen, it just clarifies that it is a fundamental design problem and not a problem with an implementation details.

> If the Senate is to be reorganized to be proportional to population

That's a bad solution.

A better solution is just to transfer it's quasi-executive powers to the House, and it's quasi-judicial powers either to the House or the Supreme Court (if the House, then some consideration may need to be done of how charging works for impeachment, but that's not an insurmountable problem), and perhaps reduce it's legislative powers as has been done with the similarly problematic British House of Lords.

Or (and this can be combined with the above) rearrange it so that both seats from a state are in the same class (elected simultaneously), and instead of FPTP mandate a two-seat, preference ballot, proportional method like STV for Senate elections.

Besides, you can't restructure the Senate to make it proportional to population (at least without unanimity among the states), as that is literally the one thing that an Amendment cannot do. (There used to be another, but that was time-limited.)

> The current comprise means neither small nor large states can ram through legislation that neglects the other's interests.

Small states are slightly overrepresented in the House, radically overrepresented in the Senate and in judging electoral votes, and overrepresented at a level between those two in the Electoral College.

There's no real compromise or two-sided balance there.

> Small states are slightly overrepresented in the House, radically overrepresented in the Senate and in judging electoral votes, and overrepresented at a level between those two in the Electoral College.

It's only over-representation if representation must only be proportional to population.

> There's no real compromise or two-sided balance there.

There is a compromise and a two-sided balance: in the House, big states are "radically over-represented" because of their large populations; in the Senate, small-state individuals are "radically over-represented" because they're divided into more states per capita. Big states/urban areas have the power to block in the House, small states have the power to block in the Senate. The balance is that both sides have enough concentrated power that they're forced to compromise and cooperate or nothing can get done.

> It's only over-representation if representation must only be proportional to population.

Right, it's only over-representation if you believe that all men are created equal.

>> It's only over-representation if representation must only be proportional to population.

> Right, it's only over-representation if you believe that all men are created equal.

You're being glib and forgetting important concepts like the tyranny of the majority, etc.

Overrepresentation of select groups doesn't prevent tyranny of the majority, it makes it more likely (and tilts which majority is likely to enjoy it), and even makes tyranny of the minority possible.

Tyranny of the majority can only be prevented by establishing norms that limit what government can do even with support of majorities in representative institutions either as absolute norms or with some things requiring a higher bar than a one-time majority (bicameralism with both houses not being elected fully simultaneously does this, requiring concurrence between branches does this, supermajority requirements for certain actions does this, Constitutional limitations with amendments requiring supermajorities of states even after legislative passage do this.)

Because tyranny of the minority is much better...

> Because tyranny of the minority is much better...

That comment is basically a repetition of your last one with no further explanation or elaboration. It's pretty clear that you have the opinion that political representation should only be proportional to population and that all other systems are bad. We can't have a discussion if you don't want to engage other ideas.

> Besides, you can't restructure the Senate to make it proportional to population (at least without unanimity among the states), as that is literally the one thing that an Amendment cannot do. (There used to be another, but that was time-limited.)

Though, if there was enough support, it could be done with two amendments. The first would be an amendment to Article V, removing the requirement of unanimous changes to the Senate composition. The second would actually change it.

The likelihood of that happening is effectively nil, but it is allowed by the rules set out in the Constitution.

The current compromise was established with a very different number of states, and a very different proportion of small states to large states. It made more sense then than it does now.

Curiously, Federalist papers even have an explicit warning to that effect. Although originally it was written about the structure of the federal government under the Articles of Confederation - where it was one-state-one-vote, and many matters required a supermajority. But you can easily see how it can apply to the Senate and EC:

"To give a minority a negative upon the majority (which is always the case where more than a majority is requisite to a decision), is, in its tendency, to subject the sense of the greater number to that of the lesser. ... The necessity of unanimity in public bodies, or of something approaching towards it, has been founded upon a supposition that it would contribute to security. But its real operation is to embarrass the administration, to destroy the energy of the government, and to substitute the pleasure, caprice, or artifices of an insignificant, turbulent, or corrupt junto, to the regular deliberations and decisions of a respectable majority. In those emergencies of a nation, in which the goodness or badness, the weakness or strength of its government, is of the greatest importance, there is commonly a necessity for action. The public business must, in some way or other, go forward. If a pertinacious minority can control the opinion of a majority, respecting the best mode of conducting it, the majority, in order that something may be done, must conform to the views of the minority; and thus the sense of the smaller number will overrule that of the greater, and give a tone to the national proceedings. Hence, tedious delays; continual negotiation and intrigue; contemptible compromises of the public good. And yet, in such a system, it is even happy when such compromises can take place: for upon some occasions things will not admit of accommodation; and then the measures of government must be injuriously suspended, or fatally defeated. It is often, by the impracticability of obtaining the concurrence of the necessary number of votes, kept in a state of inaction. Its situation must always savor of weakness, sometimes border upon anarchy.

It is not difficult to discover, that a principle of this kind gives greater scope to foreign corruption, as well as to domestic faction, than that which permits the sense of the majority to decide; though the contrary of this has been presumed. The mistake has proceeded from not attending with due care to the mischiefs that may be occasioned by obstructing the progress of government at certain critical seasons. When the concurrence of a large number is required by the Constitution to the doing of any national act, we are apt to rest satisfied that all is safe, because nothing improper will be likely to be done, but we forget how much good may be prevented, and how much ill may be produced, by the power of hindering the doing what may be necessary, and of keeping affairs in the same unfavorable posture in which they may happen to stand at particular periods."

"It may happen that this majority of States is a small minority of the people of America; and two thirds of the people of America could not long be persuaded, upon the credit of artificial distinctions and syllogistic subtleties, to submit their interests to the management and disposal of one third. The larger States would after a while revolt from the idea of receiving the law from the smaller. To acquiesce in such a privation of their due importance in the political scale, would be not merely to be insensible to the love of power, but even to sacrifice the desire of equality. It is neither rational to expect the first, nor just to require the last. The smaller States, considering how peculiarly their safety and welfare depend on union, ought readily to renounce a pretension which, if not relinquished, would prove fatal to its duration."

(Federalist #22)

In fact, the current situation is even worse than the Articles: today, if you take all states, rank them by population, and take the bottom 3/4 of them, that group has less people in it than the top 1/4. This, by the way, means that the Constitution can, in theory, be amended without having even a simple majority on the national level. How long do you think that state of affairs is sustainable, before the large states decide they've had enough?

Interesting point re minorities.

I'm in a bigger state, I think we've basically had enough and if the subversion of democratic votes such is being attempted in Georgia right now happens, that might the thing that starts the bigger states to think about leaving. I know the current pres got elected by a situation that was unlikely, but the power majority the republicans have could keep going for a while. If it wasn't for China and Russia, the us could all go our own way right now, maybe into 3 or 4 countries.

We don't really have a solution for the people without much hope of a decent job, and hateful rhetoric like we see now won't get us anywhere. I don't feel ill will for the true believers, that somehow think dinosaurs walked the earth with people, but I would prefer we can live in separate countries and not hate each other.

I think Australia is mostly set up this way. We call it "One Vote, One Value". Each member of parliament is meant to represent roughly the same number of voters, within a +/- 10% tolerance. When populations change, voting boundaries are redrawn.


Poland is such a country. People from rural area get voting power roughly proportional to their number. I can't say if this or the US/Japanese way is more common.

In the Netherlands every vote is counted equally. I don't know of any problems or complaints from our rural areas, but I don't live in them.

Also every party represents their constituents proportionally. In the last election 10,563,456 votes were cast, so every 704,230 votes (1/150th) gets you a seat. There are basically no thresholds, so it happens regularly that parties with less than 2% of the votes get seats.

If Japanese culture works how the article describes, it seems relevant. The bidding war wouldn't happen without the return gifts, and it could be stopped by eliminating them.

But in order to change a law or rule, there must be the political will to do it. Japanese culture appears to give the return gifts a plausible pretext. If you oppose the return gifts, it could sound like you don't understand tradition.

> . The whole reason for the first 2000 yen not being tax deductible is this is something you are only supposed to do if you seriously want your money to go to a local government, and allowing non-taxed return gifts defeats the intention of how the system is set up

I definitely found it strange Japan is allowing the local governments to gift 50% back.

In the US, legally any portion of a charitable contribution you get back in personal benefit (e.g. an expensive banquet) is not tax deductible.

It would probably be instructive to know how actual charitable donations are handled in Japan.

I have no idea, but in a highly reciprocal culture I could well imagine that effectively punishing reciprocation in that way would be a political non-starter.

I always found this system very interesting, since the citizen can decide how some of their tax money is spent (besides voting).

On the other hand I have always lived in Northern Italy, and around half of my taxes go to the poorer regions of Italy, mostly to be squandered by corruption, clientelism, and organized crime.

> On the other hand I have always lived in Northern Italy, and around half of my taxes go to the poorer regions of Italy, mostly to be squandered by corruption, clientelism, and organized crime.

Heh, funny that richer parts of the EU say this about Italy itself.

(disclaimer: I'm Italian)

Unfortunately that's blatantly false. Italy paid contributions to the EU in vast excess of contributions that were taken by Italians. Didn't find historical figures, but this is the most recent [0], and by memory I know that the same unbalance has been going on for a long time:

- Total EU spending in Italy: € 11.592 billion - Total Italian contribution to the EU budget: € 13.940 billion"

If your goal was instead to make a funny joke, you succeeded at being offensive to me (as an Italian).

In all seriousness, your comment feels to me as equivalent to a guy writing about how women waste money more than they earn (I would be the woman in this case).

[0]: https://europa.eu/european-union/about-eu/countries/member-c...

Italy generally pays ~3-4 billion euros more into the EU budget than it receives from the EU. Ireland is much more of a mooch than Italy


Ireland is, as of 2016, a net contributor to the EU; this year the country is expecting to contribute 2.7bn€

Source: https://www.irishtimes.com/business/economy/ireland-s-contri...

That chart is a very welcome contribution to this discussion... but man is it terribly designed at both the web-design level and the data-presentation level.

Italy is a net contributor to the EU.

As they say, everywhere has its "south".

As someone from Louisiana, :C

That's sorta spooky Peter ;)

The Mer-people in the Gulf are welfare queens

Once you get south enough, it flips. Queensland for example.

That's not really true, at least in terms of GST distribution (which is the most significant/relevant measure of tax distributions to Australian states). Tasmania and South Australia are much more heavily subsidised than Qld, which is now close to parity (probably due to the mining activity there).

Source: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-04-05/gst-redistribution-de...

Not sure what you find funny about it?

And I don't think they do. Some people, sure. Every population has a bunch of people who would say things like that. Because they can, because they enjoy it, it likely makes them feel better, or so they think.

And there are people who enjoy listening to them and repeating what they say.

I think the humor is in the irony, of an northern Italian saying "sheesh, I can't believe my money goes to the south, where it gets wasted!" and then a northern European saying exactly the same thing.

It's not about whether it's true, or accurate, it's just "funny" because irony can be funny.

That's just because their unwashed masses are only familiar with economic migrants from Southern Italy. If you paid any of them a holiday to Turin or Milan they wouldn't know what befell them, they couldn't even identify the country!

Thanks for the subtle racism towards southern italians...

There is no racism in that comment, GP is making an observation that is, to my experience, factually correct. Many (Northern) European countries have a number of economic migrant minorities (eg Turks, Moroccans, etc) and Italians (chiefly Italians whose (grand)parents came from southern Italy) are a relatively big one in some areas.

Just like the "unwashed masses" have a bad impression of eg Turkey based on racism/classism towards their local Turkish-$NATIONALITY minority, they have the idea that Italy has to be a poor backward place based on racism/classism towards the local Italian-$NATIONALY minority.

Are Souther Italians their own race?

Somewhat, since they include ancient Greek and old-time islamic ancestry (as far as I know). According to Wikipedia: "There is a noticeable genetic difference between Sardinians, Northern Italians and Southern Italians. People from the North seem to be close to the French population, while those from the South overlap with Balkan and other southern European populations".


But that's beside the point. I invoked the modern use of the term "racism" that includes different ways of segregating a population and not just genetics. "Southerners are lazy, corrupt" etc. Call it cultural racism if you wish.

> since they include ancient Greek and old-time islamic ancestry (as far as I know)

AFAIK most of the genetic variation in Italy dates back from ancient times. Everyone thinks "of course, it was the Islamic invasions in Sicily and the Germanic invasions in the North", but the genetic impact of those was surprisingly small. The variation was there before.

The Greek colonization of southern Italy is the one historical migration that _did_ have significant impact, according to the article.

It's not modern use of racism. If you think so, all you do is you're praising ignorance.

Actually it's the "racism must involve some tangible race" that's ignorance and a-historical. Etymology and definition doesn't define how words are actually used, one needs historical and empirical research for that.

Race is not about genetics. It's a cultural construct, which is predominantly based on historical and ethnological differences (with the inevitable, but not critical mix of genetics that comes with the latter), and has little to do with actual "races".

People from Italy and the Balkans for example where perceived as "non white" when immigrating to the US, while being caucasian. They just weren't anglosaxon, germanic, or nordic, as the dominant WASP Americans of the time. There are is lots of historical and cultural studies on this [1].

WASP Americans badmouthing Greeks or Italians were racist, even if talking about people the same race.

And it's a similar cases between Northern and Southern Italians (there are cultural, historical and ethnological differences between the two areas). The racism of north vs south comes from that -- and it even fed into actual far right / neo-fascist parties, like the Lega Nord ( https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lega_Nord ).

Whether Southern italians are indeed "less productive" is beside the point too. Blacks in the US are also poorer and less 'productive', more likely to be convicted felons (statistically), etc, but people still consider someone badmouthing blacks to have racist motives.

[1] The immigrants from the southern part of Italy and Sicily were not considered wholly white by Anglo-Saxon standards, a notion which was reinforced by the US Immigration Department classification of northern and southern Italians as two distinct caucasian ethnic groups. In reaction to the large-scale immigration from southern and eastern Europe, Congress passed legislation (Emergency Quota Act of 1921 and Immigration Act of 1924) restricting immigration from those regions, but not from Northern European countries. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Italianism#Anti-Italianis...

I thought that the current consensus was that races don't really exist.

"Modern" racism can be more subtle than that, more about xenophobia or just classism.

> I thought that the current consensus was that races don't really exist.

Races do not exist biologically[0][1], but they do 'exist' as a social construct[2][3][4]. And I second your second sentence :)

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZrKrGkgeww4&index=4&list=PLy...

[1] https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/race-is-a-social-...

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructionism

[3] https://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2013/05/what-we...

[4] https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/without-prejudice/20...

Depends whether you’re talking about the consensus among critical race theorists or population geneticists.

The latter have no problem with dividing different people into groups based on ancestry based on what continent their ancestor came from though the word race is passé.


Well, my comment was an answer to an answer to an answer. Someone complained that previous comment generalized about groups of persons from a certain region and then someone else objected that people from a certain region does not make a race. So I was trying to point that racism is a perfect term to define discrimination based on (perceived or constructed or real) groups you would belong to, including, like in this case, in where you come from.

Not technically but if you had 1000 naked northern and southern Italians in a room you could probably achieve an 85+% success rate in segmenting them into their respective class. Northern Italians generally look much more like Germans or Swiss - on average taller, lighter skin, lighter eye color, whereas southern Italians are much swarthier and slightly shorter, coming from many years of arab, greek, and north african control.

Perhaps this explains why Italian Americans don't really look like the Italians I see on Italian television shows? Seems most of them migrated from southern Italy/Sicily.

>Seems most of them migrated from southern Italy/Sicily.

Yes, since they were the poorest provinces, and thus the ones that produced most immigrants.

A "fun" read: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-Italianism#Anti-Italianis...

Ugh, misplaced pedantry, the worst kind of pedantry.

Not really a race per se. Northern Italy views southern Italy the same way SV views Alabama.

edit: We done fixed some grammar.

Per se

"Them" refers to the "unwashed masses", not the emigrants from Southern Italy. I'm convinced that in Southern Italy everyone is aware of Turin and Milan, but there are places in Germany where everyone thinks all Italy is like Carlo Levi's Gagliano. Thet's because their Italians were all from Gagliano and similar places.

> On the other hand I have always lived in Northern Italy, and around half of my taxes go to the poorer regions of Italy

Everybody says that, Catalonia that it pays more to Spain that it receives back, California and New York to the rest of US...

But it's the only way to have nation states, otherwise we'd have to go back to city states (which some people like Taleb actually advice).

Tax redistribution inside nations or in nation unions (like the EU) is pretty much an investment. It generally generates more money than spent on it.

E.g. Germany is the largest net contributor to the EU, but guess what would happen if Germany decided to stop putting out those few billions a year. Yeah, not so good for the economy (not just of Germany, pretty much everyone). Turns out, those few billions spurred trade much greater than that. It's literally "one stick, alone, weak — many sticks, together, stronk". Just that the bundle is stronger than its constituents.

(I've heard the UK is working earnestly on an experiment confirming this.)

> It's literally "one stick, alone, weak — many sticks, together, stronk".

I can't wait for tax redistribution to be renamed "fascism". :D

For the uninitiated: Italian Fascism was so named as a reference to classical Roman Fasces, which was a bundle of sticks or rods wrapped around an axe that symbolized authority.

It symbolized solidarity, not so much authority. The small sticks work together and act as one.

Fasces very much symbolized authority initially. It is no coincidence that the rods in fasces were birch. And, of course, there's that ax in the middle...

There is nothing wrong with some sticks working together to get better deals on medical supplies or defend from other sticks in time of need.

The issue is that you are forcing the stick to give up its national identity, borders, fishing rights, and laws in order to be part of the bundle.

The different national identities within Europe are not going anywhere. Broken English is already the common language of Europe, but the regional language and culture every part has won't disappear. A little traveling is enough to confirm this for oneself.

As for all the rest, they can't disappear soon enough. None of those things work in favor of the general people. And while we keep cultural and national identities, we could also do away with nationalist politics. They are irrational and nowadays it just feels like Religion Wars 2.0.

The EU is dedicated to preserving national culturalisms (if that's the word), they passed so much legislation related to that, that this is fairly self-evident.

"one stick, alone, weak — many sticks, together, stronk". Just that the bundle is stronger than its constituents.

Isn't there a word for a bundle of sticks bound together?

fasces: (in ancient Rome) a bundle of rods with a projecting ax blade, carried by a lictor as a symbol of a magistrate's power. In the 20th century used as an emblem of authority in Fascist Italy.

> It's literally "one stick, alone, weak — many sticks, together, stronk".

So that's why they say those people are living in the sticks.

California and New York are the size of countries. Why couldn't they function on their own as countries? I think a lot of states would be better served if they operated more autonomously and the federal government managed less of their business. I get that in certain cases that's not the optimal situation for resource allocation but freedom has a price.

They are the size of countries like Italy. Read above, they too are annoyed at the freeloaders they have to support. Why should the Bay Area have to subsidize Bakersfield?? Make them city-states and Manhattan will resent the Bronx (not that they don't now).

They could function as independent countries, for better or worse. But it generally looks like states don't want more autonomy: over 240 years the US federal government has taken on more and more power at the expense of the states, facing minimal resistance apart from a single bloody civil war where the heroes are universally agreed to be the side fighting for more powers for the federal government.

> civil war where the heroes are universally agreed to be the side fighting for more powers for the federal government.

The Union wasn't fighting for more powers for the federal government, just for the integrity of the existing federal government and it's powers.

The war resulted in some expansion of federal power, but that wasn't what motivated the Union.

Sure, that's a reasonable way to look at it, and the only way consistent with having the victors write the history books. In the same way that the Commerce Clause always allowed the federal government to regulate growing wheat for personal consumption, the Constitution already allowed the federal government to forbid slavery - it just took a civil war or a supreme court hearing to make sure everyone agreed on that. Under that view, the 13th Amendment was legally redundant, but was passed just to leave absolutely no room for doubt.

> the Constitution already allowed the federal government to forbid slavery

The Union wasn't (particularly the slave states in the Union weren't) fighting to abolish slavery, the Union wasn't fighting to preserve the Union, a goal to which the popular (in most of the North) cause of abolition had been deliberately subordinated in the elections prior to the war.

OTOH, by seceding, the rebel states also lost their leverage on preserving slavery within the Union, so the whole rebellion backfired. Abolition probably would have happened eventually without the war, but it wouldn't have been right away.

That's the point of Federalism - local autonomy where it makes sense, coordinated direction from above where it makes sense.

Small countries don't have much leverage on their own on the world stage. CA and NY are almost certainly better off as part of the greater whole.

I don’t think this would necessarily result in more freedom. Remember that when the question of states versus the federal government was definitively answered a century and a half ago, the side in favor of more autonomy for individual states was pushing for that so that they could continue to own people as property.

At the risk of opening the world's largest pressurized can of worms... sort of. There is an argument to be made that The South cared about state's rights only in the instrumental sense that it allowed them to protect slavery. They were also in favor of stronger federal government when it protected slavery, e.g. fugitive slave laws.

My point is that states’ rights and freedom aren’t really related. Often the federal government forces freedom on the states against their will. Slavery is a really obvious example.

> Often the federal government forces freedom on the states against their will.

Often it's the other way around - for example, in the pre-Civil War era, a big point of contention (that was specifically cited later by those states that tried to secede) was that the federal government enacted the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850, which forced the free states to, basically, participate in enforcement of slavery on behalf of the slave states.

Few states would institute slavery or really anything else remotely so monstrous if they were released from the Union tomorrow.

Of course, but there’s plenty of milder acts that many of them would enact. How many would bring back poll tests (presumably with some suitable grandfather clause), reinstitute segregation, recriminalize homosexuality, recriminalize interracial marriage, etc.?

I think you're over-estimating how much the federal government actively does to protect people's rights.

The federal government doesn't seem concerned that the state I live in requires you to pay about $200 and get the local chief of police to sign off before you can exercise a particular right in any capacity whatsoever.

Civil asset forfeiture is still a thing in many states.

Some state could adopt an obviously unconstitutional hate speech law tomorrow and it would take years before it's struck down and even then there'd be no recourse for those already punished under it. If the state continued to enforce the law then what would happen? After another year or three of hearings and court whatnot they'd get cut off from some funding or something.

The best you can hope for when your state is violating your rights is a supreme court ruling that makes your state go "aw shucks boys, guess we can't do that anymore" and that your state actually does stop doing it. I don't see a weaker federal government changing that status quo.

The danger of putting all your eggs in the federal basket is that when something dumb happens on that level it affects us all (e.g. the net neutrality debacle). At least with the states the stupidity has to happen on it's own in each state.

I think you’re underestimating just how useful those weak protections still are. The increase in freedoms over the past ~50 years has been gigantic, and a huge part of that came from federal intervention. The state I live in would almost certainly still have segregation and still outlaw my marriage, for example. Consider all the crazy shit that certain states have started doing since the Supreme Court struck down the preapproval provisions of the Voting Rights Act.

It’s far from perfect. States still try to violate civil rights and it still takes a long time to fix that, if ever. The feds sometimes push more restrictions against the wishes of states that want more freedom, like with marijuana. But overall, based on history, I think that giving the states more freedom would be a huge step backwards.

I'm not saying we need to dissolve the federal government, I'm saying that if a lot of the stuff currently done by the executive branch (the alphabet soup of federal agencies) was done by the states there's really wouldn't be much of a difference from the individual liberty point of view.

I agree in a way. Changing laws doesn't make people free. Changing culture does. Sometimes (often?) changing laws has an impact on culture for sure, but how much? It is indirect.

I strongly disagree. In some states that would be the case. In others, there would be enormous regression.

So why not let those states use their freedom to sink their own ship. If they do really have it wrong and you do really have it right then that will show and they'll come around in the long term.

Because human rights are important and oppression is bad. States aren’t monolithic entities. This isn’t a case where people suffer the consequences of their own choices. It’s a case where some people suffer the consequences of other people’s choices. You’re proposing to allow millions to suffer indefinitely, hoping that those who rule them will eventually change their mind.

This is been tried already, and it didn’t work. What changed things was force, first military, then legal.

I mean, newsflash that we're still stomping on rights in a lot of places in the US.

There's a huge culture problem in the US.

Absolutely. It’s still way better than Jim Crow.

Not arguing that it isn't better. I'm arguing laws don't always change things, and it probably isn't as good as you think it is (unless you live in a south deep-red place and know first hand, I'll take your word for it over what I've read). Actually, I'd argue that they rarely have the impact we'd like. I'd argue a lot of Jim Crow still exists, even though it is illegal.


Schools are still segregated. We're still enslaving people in prisons.

Sure. There aren't LAWS that say segregation MUST exist. That's a step in the right direction, I suppose...

Things are far from perfect today, but the current situation is a huge improvement. Informal segregation persists but it’s a lot better than the formal kind. Slavery persists in prisons but the vast majority of slave descendants are free. I haven’t seen any “colored” sections on the train lately, or “colored” bathrooms or water fountains.

Yeah, and I agree. My comment was more of a tangent that struck a nerve :)

Economic inequalities exist on every level. In a sovereign city state, the wealthier neighborhoods would subsidize the less wealthy neighborhoods.

It's inevitable given the political structure. Since votes are distributed by area and population rather than by wealth, wealthier political divisions will necessarily bribe poorer ones into political compromises that are closer to the wealthier divisions' preferences than they would have been without bribery. The only way to prevent that would be for the overall polity to have much lower taxes and thus much less money to divert to interdivisional bribery. (In many polities, this would be very much against the preferences of the wealthier divisions, so this "solution" is never seriously contemplated.)

Of course, TFA describes a different way to come to substantially the same result. Tokyo still makes the important decisions.

"Bribe" is way too loaded, you could also call it social justice and redistribution, a way to give poorer areas better chances to improve their life. Saying that redistribution is bribery is about the same level of discourse as saying that taxes are theft and prison kidnapping.

Those who pay attention to our "justice" system might go along with part of that... Besides lots of these transfers have nothing to do with "social justice"; they're military spending or Drug War stupidity or similar. The point is, if Kansas were run the way that actual Kansans would democratically choose to run it, it would be even more awful than it already is. (It would also be better, in some ways, but we don't need to argue about that.) Those sweet federal dollars convince them to make different political decisions than they would have made otherwise.

> Saying that redistribution is bribery is about the same level of discourse as saying that taxes are theft and prison kidnapping

I have friends who say literally that (taxes are theft). How does one argue against that? I have a hard time finding a way that it's technically wrong. I mean, taxation is literally the state taking your money (whether you want it or not, voted against it or not, etc).

I can't help but feel that there's some difference, but I can't find what it is. Do you have suggestions on readings that would inform me better on the issue?

Thieves usually don't give you something in return. It's more like "a deal you can't refuse". You get something back, but it's probably not just what you wanted. But it's something.

Taxation is much more like "protection money" than theft.

Wait - are you claiming that New Jersey is somehow bribing New Mexico for policy concessions?


Seems plausible. 1000mi of mostly rural interstate highways (how NJ gets its goods from points west), plus nuclear weapons development, testing, and disposal are popular enough with the NM locals, as are anti-poverty programs, but yank the federal funding, and the locals would be far less friendly to NJ telling NM to supply or pay for these things on its own.

New Mexico may be a bit of an outlier since they aren't deep red like some other western states? I would certainly say that New Jersey is bribing e.g. Montana, North Dakota, etc. If the residents of those states had their way, the Department of Interior would be run differently, entitlements would be lower, Israel wouldn't get so much support, etc.

> entitlements would be lower

That's just the political rhetoric. Red-staters love their entitlements just so long as they go to the "right" people.

The red states are not a monolith. You might get a majority of support for some entitlements in Georgia or West Virginia. You won't get that in Wyoming or the Dakotas. Maybe those aren't the entitlements you're talking about, though. This "right people" entitlement: which one is that? Which entitlement goes to white males but not minority females? If you mean some boondoggle for rich people, I already mentioned the military and Drug War spending upthread. Besmirching all entitlements by association with that crap would be dishonest.

...around half of my taxes go to the poorer regions...

And then the cause of the problem is presented as if it were the solution.

For US income taxes the only amount of your taxes that you can direct is $3 for the presidential election fund. Why not expand this and let you pick from a dozen or so categories?

So people educated with public funds but without kids will allocate 0$ to education, then complain that youths these days just hang in the street doing no good, and allocate more of their tax towards policing?

We could set minimum amounts to go to schools so that even if every single person in the country allocated $0 of their discretionary fund to public education, the public education system would still have the funds needed.

And the default, if someone doesn't choose any categories, would go to some proportion that Congress would decide. However, allowing even a "small" portion - which could still be billions of dollars - to be allocated directly by taxpayers would gather some very interesting data.

It would be very interesting to see which agencies would attract the most money, and what strategies they'd use to attract people to give their discretionary tax dollars to them.

Would people give more to the CDC, NIH, NASA, the Dept of Housing, Dept of Transportation, Dept of Homeland Security, ... ? We could start to get a direct temperature of what is ailing people the most and what they want their money to fund.

Government agencies could even "advertise," or at least try to get positive news articles that really highlight what they're accomplishing, to spread the word about the good they're doing. It could engage people more in exactly how their money is being spent, and care further about government, because they have at least a small hand in directly funding different departments.

Quakers have been trying to implement a form of this on religious grounds.

At a used bookstore, I found a book(1) about Marian Franz that illuminated the history behind their attempts.

Weirdly enough, there was a personal dedication in the front by David Gross(2), one her colleagues and someone who wrote extensively about the 'War Tax Resistance'.

I'm not religious, so it kinda made me sad, but that book sent me down a rabbit hole. Could you live on 20k a year to avoid income tax and contributing to a war effort? Its impressive.

(1) https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/6553714-a-persistent-voi...

(2) https://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/11/can-qui...

I found the Atlantic story really interesting. Thanks for sharing

We could set minimum amounts to go to schools

I lived for quite a while in Kansas, where the state constitution makes adequate funding of schools mandatory. The result is a never-ending series of lawsuits in which the legislature claims to have provided adequate funding, and a court finds that they haven't and orders them to increase or redistribute the funding (sometimes it's found that they under-funded the schools overall, sometimes it's found that they distributed the funding in ways which result in some districts not having adequate support).

This and a few other back-and-forth fights led to the former governor and his party-aligned state legislature attempting to change the selection process for judges, and attaching a rider to that law which would completely defund the state court system if the courts ruled they didn't have the authority to change the selection process, and hinted that if they still ruled against him he'd attempt to recall the entire state supreme court and replace them with partisans who'd support him.

Looking into this it looks like the Koch brothers just... installed this guy with millions in PAC money? Sounds like a campaign finance reform issue?

I thought that public schools and policing were funded in the US by local and state taxes not by the Federal government (which is what the Presidential election fund refers to).

I'm not in the U.S. so didn't realised this, but my point was that I'm afraid that most people will want to allocate tax to their pet issue without considering the greater good.

In my mind part of the job of elected politicians is to ensure that tax money is spent where their platform said it would.

Then people would be gravely offended by who was and wasn't on the list of choices.

Well they're already greatly offended by taxes and the idea that civilization requires money to run...

I think outside of being offended, you'd just have a hard to getting any agreements on what would qualify.

I'd love to see a large scale survey where people allocate their taxes, and see what the allocation actually comes to!

The HN crowd might over-allocate $1000s per person to NSF, NIH and NASA and short Social Security while 100+M people contribute $0 to science, but depend on SS to survive. We might end up with the same budget but people feeling more in control.

We'd also see large scale advertising which is actually a good thing: ads are pretty cheap/efficient, make people feel better about their government and society, and employ an army of creative people. I imagine you wouldn't see branches of government running negative ads against each other - it would be more like the feel-good military recruiting ads today.

Sorry if this sounds utopian, I've had a rough week (in addition to everybody's rough week) and need something to feel good about.

That would end up in a popularity contest between agencies, which I doubt is desirable, especially considering some of those disliked agencies [1] are actually useful (like the FDA and the department of education).

And hang in there, the weekend is almost there. :-)

[1] https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.washingtonexaminer.com/whic...

I agree, I'm afraid we'd end up with the government spending equivalent of a poorly planned college potluck. Everyone brings chips and paper plates and there is no actual food.

There is a game if you want to try it for yourself. I agree I would be curious to aggregate https://www.federalbudgetchallenge.org/

awesome! I took it, did pretty well: $2.61T spending decreases $3.94T increased revenue $2.85T deficit (i.e. tackle via economic growth aka increased revenue due to increased GDP)

interesting to see how impactful a public health plan is ($158B) and raising the limit on social security income ($633B) and 2% VAT ($885B).

Yeah, adding a public option (a.k.a. Medicare for all) actually decreases the budget deficit. So why aren't we doing this?

If Social Security is an entitlement program like any other, why is there any max income? Why is it only on "earned" income?

Because that would essentially kill a lot of private healthcare jobs and industries. No administration* or congress wants to be the one to axe, say, Kaiser. It'd be a PR disaster.

* Theoretical Sanders administration aside.

Because powerful lobby groups dictate government policy.

Plus the Better-Dead-Than-Red strain of US Libertarianism. We may be poor, unhealthy, and beholden to wealthy political donors... but at least we ain't no Commie!

I think because, at the federal level, taxes don't dictate how much one part of the pie gets vs the other. Budgets determine that. The federal government doesn't use taxes to pay for different parts of that pie. Taxes are a way to control inflation and influence behavior, that's it.

You an direct a massive amount of your taxes to any charity you want, so long as you are not hit by AMT: donations are tax-deductible.

That just means you don't have to pay tax on the amount you donate, it's not a 1:1 reduction in taxes.

On a side note, is there any system that exists where citizen can decide to a greater autonomy how there tax money is spent?

Libertarianism. I hear they are testing it out in Oregon.


Replace "Oregon" by "New Hampshire", and you can say the words with pride instead of sarcasm.

Still going to be sarcasm, sorry. How many of those who pledged to move have actually moved?

Sorry, I don't have those numbers on-hand.

What I do have on-hand is that NH has a higher median income than any other nation in the world (incl Luxembourg), despite being a net-payer of federal taxes.

(Source: https://mises.org/wire/if-sweden-and-germany-became-us-state...)

It's true that NH has traditionally been in the top-tier of states when it comes to median household income. In the 2016 ACS, it appears to have reached the top:


But its lead is not an overwhelming one. Connecticut's 2016 median hh income was just ~$350 less. According to the the previous ACS in 2015, NH was number 8. And 6 of the top 7 were traditionally blue states.


- 1. Maryland

- 2. DC

- 3. Hawaii

- 4. Alaska

- 5. New Jersey

- 6. Connecticut

- 7. Massachusetts

I seriously doubt it has anything to do with the FSP.

Of course, the median income metric is not the end-all be-all, either. For example, it ignores all the state-provided benefits that those high taxes pay for.


This post breaks the HN guidelines. Personal attacks, as well as political and national (or whatever this) flamewar, will get you banned here. Please review https://news.ycombinator.com/newsguidelines.html and don't post like this to HN.

What a fascinating concept. I would love to donate to my hometown and just get some raisins back as a gift once in a while. But I could really see the idea struggling through city council meetings because of the “well you could just donate to the city and then just buy some raisins on the side?”.

And that’s a testament to how ideas can evolve overtime and be accepted which otherwise would never be considered.

I think the "but some raisins in the side" thing wouldn't happen, since it's a opt-in system and it's in the interest of the town to keep the relationship up and stay on your mind.

That was a fascinating read! I love when things like this happen and some new emergent behaviour appears that was unexpected.

This did end up much better than most perverse incentive situations. In fact, I'm not even sure I'd call this a perverse incentive but maybe I'm musinderstanding the definition.

I consider it perverse because it incurs overhead in making the payments (eg if you send a town $100, get back a gift card for $100, and cash it for $97, that's $3 burned for nothing whatsoever than if they could've just transferred $100 into your bank account or not taxed it in the first place), deadweight loss in gifts (you don't value those hometown meibutsu at their market value to other people), overhead from the incentivized marketing competition (ad campaigns aren't free), and of course, the existence of a competition at all means that the hometown which incurred the expenses of rearing/educating you in the first place probably isn't going to get your tax revenue because they don't offer anime pineapple rewards or whatever is hip at the moment. None of that was intended nor is it useful. Interesting & amusing, but not useful.

(And anyway, I had to title it something. 'Japan's Hometown Tax' makes it sound unutterably boring & technical, when the second-order effects are what's interesting.)

It seems like the overhead of the system is paid for out of the tax savings you get by participating in the program. As I understand it:

1. Earn $2000 in Tokyo.

2. Owe $200 to Tokyo.

3. Donate $80 to Gifu.

4. Receive $40 from Gifu.

5. Liquidate gifts for $38.80

You just saved almost 20% on your income taxes. This presumably lowers the deadweight loss associated with them. Does it lower it by more or less than the 3% loss you take converting gift cards to cash or more appropriate gift cards?

Don't double-count the 3% "overhead" of liquidating a gift card and "deadweight loss in gifts"; those are the same thing:

> You really do get plums from childhood in your mail from your hometown (if you don’t optimize for cash equivalents).


> and of course, the existence of a competition at all means that the hometown which incurred the expenses of rearing/educating you in the first place probably isn't going to get your tax revenue because they don't offer anime pineapple rewards

With a legal cap on return gifts at 50% of donated value, this shouldn't be the case. You can donate anywhere and you'll get exactly the same return; why wouldn't you donate to somewhere you liked?

> You just saved almost 20% on your income taxes. This presumably lowers the deadweight loss associated with them. Does it lower it by more or less than the 3% loss you take converting gift cards to cash or more appropriate gift cards?

If any tax dodge which feeds money to third-parties to exploit a loophole while doing nothing productive on its own is efficient, the problem is with the tax rates in the first place. To say that an elaborate charade involving indirectly buying plums or gift cards through tax rebates is 'efficient' and 'the overhead of the system is paid for' is quite a claim and not obvious, let us say.

> Don't double-count the 3% "overhead" of liquidating a gift card and "deadweight loss in gifts"; those are the same thing:

I was referring to the non-monetary gifts like the products or grave visits. As far as the gifts go, the gift cards are probably the least harmful as they 'only' have a 3% overhead involved in turning them (back) into cash (plus whatever else goes into redeeming them, I suppose, in terms of time/effort/hassle/delay), which is probably a lot less than most of the others.

> With a legal cap on return gifts at 50% of donated value, this shouldn't be the case. You can donate anywhere and you'll get exactly the same return; why wouldn't you donate to somewhere you liked?

Because what are the odds that the place which incurred the expenses of educating you, out of the hundreds of competing muncipalities, large and small, near and far, naive and sophisticated, meibutsu vs trips vs gift cards, high or low, will give you exactly the right thing and win the competition, and this will happen in almost every case and produce the same net flows as simply sending the rebates to, say, people's registered birthplaces?

> Because what are the odds that the place which incurred the expenses of educating you, out of the hundreds of competing muncipalities, large and small, near and far, naive and sophisticated, meibutsu vs trips vs gift cards, high or low, will give you exactly the right thing and win the competition, and this will happen in almost every case and produce the same net flows as simply sending the rebates to, say, people's registered birthplaces?

I would estimate those odds as near 100%. I assume you can choose what services you'd like to receive, simply because not everyone needs a grave maintenance service -- and if you do need one, there is no way to get it without specifying the particular grave you want serviced.

The OP explicitly states as much:

> A number of cities in Japan, including my adoptive home town of Ogaki, have made this offer: for a no-cost-to-you donation of $100 or more, the city will send someone out to any grave in the city limits. That person will clean the grave, make an appropriate offering, and send you a photo. This is a beautiful thing.

> Most of the gifts are more prosaic. Locally produced food is very popular. If you miss the taste of home, they’ve got you covered.

> Cities partnered with local firms to handle the e-commerce aspect, and eventually with platforms to bundle many different items into a single donation; think of it as a shopping cart you could fill with donated money.

This isn't a system where you have to buy a poorly-optimized bundle from the town that happens to offer something close to what you want. You send a donation and you can choose the return gifts you'd like to get back from among the services that town offers. And in the steady state, all towns will offer cash equivalents for people who want them, as well as more hometown-specific services (which have a higher profit margin!) for people who want them.

When you can just lower tax revenue by 40$ and keep 40$, a system that lowers tax revenue by 40$ and only gives you 38.80$ is less efficient. Why does someone else not you get that 1.20$ from your income?

Remember, long term the government ends up raising the taxes to cover that 40$ and your just out 1.20$ for zero gain.

On top of that even if you kept the full 40$, the dead weight loss of extra paperwork is pure economic waste.

So the effects of the program are:

1. Lower Tokyo's income tax by 20%

2. Transfer 25% of Tokyo's (reduced) income tax out to rural areas chosen for sentimental reasons.

3. Incur overhead costs of 3% of the value transferred. This seems comparable to what you'd pay to directly transfer through Square.

It strikes me as a little excessive to look at this list of effects and condemn the system as "perverse".

It's only perverse and pointlessly burning money if you exclusively look at it from an economics perspective, but most countries have some sort of highly politicized redistribution mechanism, so it's also a sociological and political question.

I.e. you can look at it like an accountant and consider it a 3¢ loss for every $1, or you could consider that perhaps a system like this increases societal goodwill towards redistributing money to poorer parts of Japan.

If it wasn't for that goodwill would you have $1 to work with in the first place? Or would political opposition to the redistribution already have cut that down to 90¢?

I struggle to see what beneficial social effects there are from most people cynically ticking a box on a website to get half back as a gift card they immediately sell for 97% face value. The original intent of the tax program in compensating rural areas, yes; what it has morphed into, no.


> Widespread gaming or no, the system pretty much works according to the internal aims. Cities get a list of their internal diaspora, and do make considerably more effort to stay in touch with them than they did previously. (This includes lovely holiday cards and sometimes even I-can’t-believe-they’re-not-alumni-magazines.) You really do get plums from childhood in your mail from your hometown (if you don’t optimize for cash equivalents). Cities with declining local tax bases really do get enough money to do material projects with. Tokyo takes a hit to revenue but can afford it.

The claim isn't that it doesn't work, but that the overhead is substantial, and those same goals could be reached with far less. I think it's self-evident from the description of the scheme - you could come up with a much more straightforward tax-and-redistribute scheme with less overhead.

But the overhead, as noted in the OP, is about 3% of the money transfer. That's low.

You could say that hometown marketing and alumni magazines are "overhead", but you can't say that at the same time you're listing them as a beneficial effect of the program.

That's the overhead of cashing the gift cards only.

And those other things are not overhead if and only if the person actually derives value from "hometown services". If all they do is send money there to get a gift card back and cash it, then all the bureaucracy in that town that handles gift cards is also overhead.

The perverse bit is the tax-kickback. Everything else is interesting!

Very interesting. A scenario came to mind - a city sends back a local delicacy. Then it notices that the number of donators is increasing. Looks further into it and finds that the delicacy is very popular. Now it has identified a product that it can independently promote and the city can earn more revenue. So many possibilities :)

Local food delicacies are a major industry in Japan due to the formalized culture of travel souvenirs, and it's pretty much guaranteed that anything that could conceivably be promoted as one, already is.

On my first visit to Japan I went up to Takayama. I had never heard of Hida beef before that visit, but now I've eaten enough for a lifetime.

Interesting how in some contexts kickback is illegal fraud/corruption, while here the government of a developed democratic country openly engages it.


It's also interesting in the context of how strict Japan's rules for election campaigns are.

For example, a few years ago Justice Minister Midori Matsushima got in trouble for distributing essentially worthless paper fans since they were considered gifts, whereas paper pamphlets would have been okay, and she had to resign as minister.


It is about reach, a leaflet would reach one person. That person might talk to a person or two about the information in the leaflet. One person with a fan could be seen by many thousands of people on their daily commute.

That might be a reasonable basis for a rule in theory, but it's not the issue in this case under Japanese election law. Something that has any value and counts as a gift and therefore isn't allowed, even if the value is extremely small.

There are other various other rules about campaign activity though (where/when it can be performed).

Anybody else figure out the endgame when they saw the beginning?

"Oh crap, the hometowns just kick back a percentage to the taxpayer and suddenly Tokyo is bankrupt - as the hometowns outbid each other in a race to the bottom, eventually they lose too and it ends just being an expensive and complicated tax cut".

Reality turned out even worse, with brokers skimming off a percentage.

I suppose it's fair. In Japan, registering yourself in Delaware for bullcrap reasons isn't just for corporations anymore!

Can you explain a bit more more about why you believe Delaware is the proffered place to register a corporation?

This sounds like a good way to redistribute funds, but at the cost of lowering total revenue. If taxes are raised to make up for the often hometown-branded but often highly liquid gifts, it will be fine, but 1) I imagine raising taxes is going to be highly sticky, and 2) it's a flat, regressive tax, making it either forced gift-buying for people who probably shouldn't be buying themselves gifts or a government subsidy for the voucher-brokers.

If you're a Japanese politician, you should probably invest heavily in voucher-brokers, then lobby for a rise in the tax.

I'd expect that the end-state would be that tax rates go up to maintain desired revenue levels, the localities all bid up to the max amount of refund, and the whole system works not quite as well as the day before the system was invented -- except that a bunch of works gets expended on the useless competition for funds, and the money distribution gets unfairly balanced based on whichever locality has more clever marketing.

This is exactly counter to the concept government -- a system that should be run as a monopoly ends up being full of waste due to competition with no net improvement.

> the money distribution gets unfairly balanced based on whichever locality has more clever marketing.

You might be able to mostly solve this by automatically registering people to a default hometown, and making it very annoying to change your registration.

That latter part might be doable by simply allowing the municipalities to administrate their own hometown lists, so you'd have to contact your current hometown to transfer your registration to a your new hometown. They'd be economically motivated to make it as difficult as canceling a gym membership.

Liquid gifts you say? Well it just so happens my 'hometown' is Loretto, Kentucky.


Classic case of "Tax Systems are Really Hard to Design" in action.

This is absolutely fascinating, and (while Japanese culture has a number of key differences to the US that make it work) something that we can learn a lot from.

Do you think some kind of bidding or voting on the maximum donation amounts involved would make sense?

Ie, cities each vote on what they think a "proper" maximum reward would be, then set it at the average.

Relatedly, I'm not sure why a supermajority of cities agreeing to limit gifts would be generally in their best interests:

1. Lower status ("less popular") cities gain more donations via rewards

2. I would guess status/popularity probably follows a power curve

3. Therefore the long tail cities are able to flatten the distribution curve by bidding their way up

4. If they went back to a level playing field, they would drop back down the curve, likely losing the (smaller but nonzero) overall financial boost gained after bidding

Basically: if I am a small city with few "natural" benefactors, I can bid my way up the curve (admittedly depending on the elasticity of "demand") such that I gain more from more donations than I lose in larger rewards.

...unless the market today just drives everyone to offer the maximum reward?

Super interesting though, thank you for sharing this!

Taxes automatically withheld by employers at the correct rate.

Yes please, this is how it should work for most of the population without special issues.

I really like the basic idea of being able to choose a town or region where an alloted part of one's taxes will go. I live outside my hometown for business reasons, so I'm paying taxes on the most well-funded region in my country. Even if the government redistributes tax money, I'd love to have a small say in where my money goes.

Won't this degenerate to a pure bidding war, with people sending their money to the town that gives them the largest fraction of cash equivalent returns, transforming into only a tax reduction ? like, cities will bid to something like ninety-something% cash equivalent, to the very limit of their margin because it's winner takes all.

If you got to the end of the article you'd know that's exactly what happened. The central gov stepped in and limited the quid pro quo gifts to 50% of the donation amount. so now that's become the defacto standard for the return "gift".

Super interesting policy!

I was thinking about why Tokyo doesn't do the same and reciprocate, thereby competing with the smaller towns.

I do realize that Tokyo/(any other big city) wouldn't want to do this till the number of people opting in hits a threshold within their city but maybe that is the equilibrium point. Does anyone have any insight into that?

There's an equivalent issue with city with large suburbs: companies in the city core pay a lot of local taxes that stays within the city, but living in the city is too expensive for 80% of the employees who live in the suburbs, which cannot benefit from local taxes paid by the big companies.

The problem usually is that homeowners in the suburbs vote to keep their own property taxes extremely low, and then blame corporations when there isn't enough money to run things.

Poland has something similar on regional (not city) level, it's called Janosikowe (from Janosik - a Polish Robin Hood), and it's much less flavorful than the Japanese thing, it's just a percentage of local taxes paid by the richest regions to the poorest regions.

> it’s like running an e-commerce business with the special wrinkle that your customers are entirely price insensitive.

It's obviously very economically inefficient. The larger this thing grows, the more it will distort and hurt the economy.

The mechanism used in Japan to compensate for the brain-drain should be used worldwide.

The American system (& Japanese?) where schools are mostly funded by local taxes is a root cause of inequality, poverty and unfairness in the USA.

Schools in Europe and Australia are funded by centralized government more evenly so doesn't have this problem and dont need this donate to a region system the article talks about. I think its much fairer.

This is not correct. Half of all K-12 funding comes from state and federal sources, which are disproportionately directed to schools in lower income districts. There was a WaPo article a few years ago showing that, if all funding sources are accounted for, most states show little difference between funding for rich and poor districts, and many show poor districts are better funded.

Equalizing the funding doesn't help much if you're still stuck going to school based on where you live. If all the rich kids go to one school and all the poor kids go to another, it's entirely predictable that you'll have vastly different outcomes.

I once conversed with a friend in college who had grown up upper-middle class and attended very nice public schooling. She told me that poor schools would be better if the parents just got more involved with PTA, etc. I thought, what an ignorant and privileged position to think that, yes, a single mother working two jobs to make ends-meet has the time and energy to go to PTA meetings! Locking kids into the school they are closest too only means that they've got basically the same support structures as the local community. And if the people of that community aren't in a position to help improve things, then improvement doesn't come.

> I thought, what an ignorant and privileged position to think that, yes, a single mother working two jobs to make ends-meet has the time and energy to go to PTA meetings!

What a smug and condescending attitude!

Poor schools are a very hard problem. Your friend's point certainly only capture's one aspect of a many-faceted problem. However, her point is borne out, to some extent, by performance of inner city parochial schools:


"...a growing number of researchers who have found that poor, minority children do particularly well in Catholic schools compared with their public school peers.


Public school defenders insist that the comparisons are unfair because only the most motivated parents and children, however poor, choose Catholic schools..."

Rather than calling out your friend's privilege, how about assuming good faith on her part. If you assume she would like poor schools to improve as much as you would, how would your response have been different? Maybe you both could learn something.

That's the reason why sending more money to schools at some point doesn't do anything to improve outcomes. It's much better to spend on safety nets like single payer healthcare, unemployement support etc... so that parents can actually get more involved with their kids' education.

But in Mad Max America only the strong survives so none of that will ever happen. I hope the "winners" like the world they are creating because I find it fucking horrifying.

An unfortunate facet of the human condition is the idea of throwing enough money at a problem will solve it. And that involves paying 10x as much for a pound of cure compared to an ounce of prevention.

It is a darn shame.

This is why I'm still a proponent of busing, but doing it based on general socioeconomic diversity rather than just race. I know there are a lot of inefficiencies with bussing and in some communities (Boston) the backlash was awful, but the long-term effects in many communities did show it actually worked in many ways (Charlotte NC - see this article showing how much worse it got after bussing stopped: http://prospect.org/article/battle-royal-over-segregation-qu...)

The problem with having "good" and "bad" school districts within a metro area is that you aren't just creating inequal and un-diverse educational facilities, you're contributing to the stratification of the neighborhoods themselves. It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy that people who can't afford to live in a nice school district will end up moving to a poorer one with fewer high-quality education options.

This is admittedly 27 years old, but at the time Savage Inequalities was written, the range was anywhere from $3k-15k/student: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savage_Inequalities. I don't remember much of the book, but I remember the description of East St. Louis: raw sewage repeatedly backing up into the schools.

Today, Camden spends $30k/student, more than many wealthy NJ counties: https://www.nj.com/education/2017/05/the_50_school_districts.... Almost all of it is state money. Great Neck is about $34k, but the range for expensive NY suburbs is $25-35k. https://www.empirecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/sbs1...

Which is comically high all around. Montgomery County, an expensive DC suburb where housing is more than most of Westchester or Long Island, spends about $16k. Baltimore spends the same, with lower local funding being offset by much higher state and federal funding: https://www.empirecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/sbs1.... Fairfax County, VA, routinely the highest or second highest income county in the country, spends $14k.

Cherry-picking a few NJ schools doesn't show much. It would be nice to see an aggregate comparison. This article does that at the state level, and is somewhat conciliatory to your POV. https://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/13/arne-duncan-school.... That said, another commenter pointed out that aggregating by state is doesn't really capture what we're interested in.

I highlighted Camden and Great Neck specifically because they were specifically named in the book cited by OP, and show how the funding gap has closed since 1991.

As to the idea that aggregating by state doesn't capture what we're interested in: the second image in your link shows that, accounting for federal funding, poor school districts get more money in almost every state, including most of the most populous ones: California, Texas, Illinois, New Jersey, etc. The only populous states where poor districts receive less than rich ones are New York and Pennsylvania, and in both states the delta is less than 10%.

Now, if you're talking about comparing between states, that would be very misleading. All it does is set up specious comparisons: e.g., Baltimore, MD gets half as much as Scarsdale, NY, conveniently ignoring the fact that the rich MD suburbs around Baltimore also get half as much as Scarsdale.

It's not misleading. If each state is internally equal, but richer states have much higher funding, that's still a case where richer districts get more funding, just not one that's visible within any one state.

Something related has happened in recent elections: higher income is correlated with voting Republican in every state, but richer states are typically bluer. So if you aggregate by state, it looks like there's no relationship, but if you aggregate by people, there is one.

Returning to school funding, the complicating factor is that so far as costs of construction and labor are higher, New Jersey arguably would spend more per student than Mississippi in a completely equitable world. Because of that, I said that the map was somewhat conducive to your point of view, but there's still a lot of work to determine the net effect.

> If each state is internally equal, but richer states have much higher funding, that's still a case where richer districts get more funding, just not one that's visible within any one state.

The U.S. isn't like the EU, where there are "rich" states and "poor" ones. Adjusted for purchasing power, the states are fairly closely clustered in terms of income: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/-vwpy8_glsgc/Vi5llZ9ZILI/AAAAAAAAIv.... New Jersey and Mississippi differ by about 25%, whereas Camden and its rich neighbors differ by 600-700%.

That means that if school funding within states is even, there is a pretty low upper bound on how big the disparity can be between "rich states" and "poor states."

I see what looks like $26k vs. $38%, so that's more like a ratio of 2:3, isn't it? That said, it puts an upper bound on how large the discrepancies could be.

This may be the story you're talking about: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/local/wp/2015/03/12/in-2...

May be true but you certainly can't tell by observing the buildings, programs, staff, or other resources in the poor districts.

"half" means half funded by local, which furthers the original point.

It would seem to be a mistake to generalize across the entire nation, and basing your analysis on a denominator of school districts will be weirdly biased; better would be on a student-weighted basis.

Locally, i can tell you that despite the bulk of funding coming via the state California district spending per pupil varies widely. The quite adjacent districts of Fremont, Oakland, and Piedmont spend $10k, $14k, and $20k per student, respectively.

The funding levels are per capita obviously. And the point is not that funding levels don’t vary, but there is no systematic bias toward richer districts. Around here, for example, Baltimore and DC spend far more per student than the rich suburbs surrounding them.

You analysis was stated as "most states show ..." when the fact is you can add up the population of "most states" and not get anywhere near most of the people. So it's a mistake to think that way.

Right, and the other half of funding? The problem is the school in poor areas are still underfunded as a result, or if you prefer wealthy areas can afford to fund their schools a lot better. Either way the system isn't all equal for everyone is the points.

And even if you want to break it down further, some states are rather poorer than others, so that state funding for education is bound to be lean too relative to some wealthier states.

And what he's saying in some other countries schools are funded more evenly by the central government, not that U.S. schools receive no funding from our central government whatsoever.

When my son started at an LAUSD school (Los Angeles Unified School District), I was surprised of how much fund-raising is going on - for a school of 500 pupils (or roughly), the local (parent) association raises roughly $500,000. Now I live in relatively good area, where lots of people own houses, have good jobs, or their own businesses. But I can also imagine that just few miles to the east that won't be the case - hence school there might get more money, as they need to.

I certainly can't say which works best, but I'm appalled by the ass-licking during fund-raising events. It's beyond gross... Call me a socialist, but I'd rather spent my taxes on fixing this, without getting me involved community-wise, though every year we pay our "voluntary" debt, or you feel guilty about it (and not get invited to the yearly party or so... lol).

Sounds nice, but unfortunately not that simple - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oregon_Ballot_Measure_5_(1990)

Oregon cut property tax (used largely to fund schools) and mostly centralized (at a state-level) educational funding. The result - budget cuts and service decreases, lasting through to today.

The sad fact is people care far more about their schools (or more likely their stadiums/football teams but that's another matter), and will vote for tax increases (or at least not vote for tax decreases) if they know the money is supporting that. A naturally global perspective doesn't come easy to Homo sapiens.

Looks at current affairs more generally...

> Schools in Europe and Australia are funded by centralized government

This has the other problem that in Europe, governments write all the education program to the letter and this leads to complete brainwashing of the kids or silly educational policies (like completely changing how kids learn how to read, which led to about half a generation of kids with very poor reading/orthographic skills in France just to name one disaster), so pick your own poison.

> leads to complete brainwashing of the kids

Says the one (I presume) from the country that recites the pledge of allegiance in school.

I find that saying the pledge of allegiance (when I visit my kids' schools for things) is an interesting affair. It's an opportunity to reflect on both the ideal of the Republic, and the ways / extent that the state of the Union has changed over time.

I find it poignant that I am pledging allegiance to the Flag and the Republic, rather than to the political party in charge, or to the federal government, etc. Are the differences meaningful? Why? What can I be doing better as a citizen? These are all questions that can run through my mind when saying the pledge with mindfulness.

You're right, there's probably an element of brainwashing there. However, one can also use it as an opportunity to meditate on civic duty. :)

This is HN not facebook. People here are used to reading metrics, so you can elaborate. Show numbers instead of saying "very poor". Link to graphs.

They're probably referring to alternative teaching methods like "reading by writing". AFAIK, that method was developed to encourage students to practice more by putting more emphasis on writing and to prevent demotivating feedback by not correcting mistakes.

There has been a bit of a splash in Germany recently when a study found very strong negative effects compared to the traditional method and several regional governments decided to ban schools from using those methods. (So it's not about centralized education forcing silly policies onto schools but the other way around.)

I'm having trouble finding quality sources in English, but the German conference poster [1] has graphs and you asked for graphs. The line plot shows a longitudinal study and the box plot is of a cross-section with higher sample size, where the horizontal axis represents time in steps of half a school year. The vertical axis shows a measure of writing ability normalized to units of standard deviations from the mean.

red = traditional method using a primer

green = reading by writing

blue = "reading workshop", another method were kids are supposed to decide for themselves what to learn next

The longitudinal study (line plot) also controlled for pre-existing knowledge at the beginning of the study. Students enrolled in schools using the "reading by writing" method had significantly better initial conditions, but students using the traditional method showed much greater improvements. In the cross-section, the traditional method had consistently both higher means and lower variances.

Conclusion: the two alternative methods "cannot be recommended unconditionally".

[1] https://www.psychologie.uni-bonn.de/de/abteilungen/entwicklu...


No matter where you are, sometimes we want to try something new, sometimes things have to change, and sometimes it doesn't work or there are growing pains.

The other side of the coin is that states and local governments aren't that much better equipped to set education standards. That's how you get things like trying to teach bronze age mythologies as science and a bunch of feel good proclamations about how "we know how best to teach our kids and that's why we should be running the show".

No system is perfect, but having some centralized standards gives you something to shoot for and gives people from other regions the ability to have some expectations about what students (should) have learned.

this is really deeply fascinating!

> A few rounds of vigorous capitalism later

I love this line

It's a wonderful idea in principle. I love the fact that regions respond with simple, relevant gifts.

I wonder if would be more appropriate if:

a) you could only give to 'where you went to school' and

b) regions could only respond with a nominal, non-cash gift, like a fruit, flower, or some culturally relevant thing.

It would close the loophole, provide for meaningful tax redistribution and encourage legitimate cultural contact between regions and the mega-centre.

Of course trying to get big business out of Tokyo might be an opportunity as well, though that's a hard thing. Creating industrial clusters is hard, and regions fight over it.

Considering the ups and downs of the Japanese economy this can also be seen as a subsidy to boost consumption and economic activity.

The system described sounds awesome. As someone in the US I would love to pay a portion of my taxes to a state/town that isn't ruled by corrupt and inept busybodies who's politics I disagree with. Getting a some % back or having my corrupt dump of a state match the donation would just be icing on the cake.

10% losses due to middle men doesn't sound that bad when it gets you the freedom to choose where your tax dollars are spent.

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