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It's used for both, and as a consequence, European freight prefers to go on trucks.

Part of this is also the different geography: Europe has more useful rivers and seas, so very bulk cargo can go by barge or ship.

The Mississipi, Ohio, and Columbia Rivers enter the room, sit down at a table where the Great Lakes are already drinking.

"the United States is the world's largest consumer market for a reason: its rivers. Transporting goods by water is 12 times cheaper than by land (which is why civilizations have always flourished around rivers). And the United States, Zeihan calculates, has more navigable waterways — 17,600 miles' worth — than the rest of the world. By comparison, he notes, China and Germany each have about 2,000 miles. And all of the Arab world has 120 miles."

-- https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/fareed-zakaria-ameri...


Green fertiliser can be produced at ~3x the cost of petroleum-based fertilizers.

Nobody does it because it's uneconomical as long as oil is cheap.

Climate change will ruin food production, not global fertilizer shortages.


What objective metric would you recommend they use, instead?

Without opining on the validity of the overall patent count as a measure of creativity, here's a cool paper I saw describing how to determine 'creative patents' - https://raw.githubusercontent.com/aakashkalyani/WebsiteUploa...

Productivity improvement in a physical application - it now takes fewer people less time to build a house

It takes less resources to remedy a failed over bridge. You’d have to have a basket of measurement like how we measure CPI - current approach is lazy.


What if an innovation makes things better, instead of faster?

The house takes just as long to build, but it's sturdier, longer lasting, better insulated, etc?


Well those are all measurable quantities, and you can measure them in proportion to their economic importance - like house insulation is a big change if you live in cold climate, etc.

I am not saying it’s easy, but economics is full of complex measurements, financial derivatives, and god knows what. Maybe they should spend some effort measuring the real world.


Force charter schools to take the worst students that the public system is stuck with, and you'll very quickly find that they will perform just as poorly as the public system.

Let the public system expel anyone it doesn't like (preferably into the charter system), and miraculously, all metrics will improve.

As a bonus, you'll also find that the political support for vouchers will evaporate overnight.


You can do almost the same thing by only allowing charter schools to accept vouchers if the vouchers cover the entirety of the education costs. The first thing that happens when you introduce vouchers at the cost of a charter schools' tuition is that they raise the price of education so that there is a nominal financial barrier to overcome that poor parents can't afford.

> and you'll very quickly find that they will perform just as poorly as the public system

Has there even been enough time and experimentation to generate evidence for this? Do you have any sources you’re willing to share?

> As a bonus, you'll also find that the political support for vouchers will evaporate overnight

I find this to be really cynical, as if a better or more efficient alternative source of education cannot exist. Do you really think that a single public school system with no competition, the negatives of teachers unions, and a dismal track record has zero room to improve? To me these blanket attacks against private options are basically saying that no one can do better, which is not a view we would hold about most other things in our society. Choice and competition are inherently good.


We have competition. Families move to regions where they see better school outcomes.

And regionally, parents are wildly wrong about what to teach. Evolution, religion and its role in government, carbon dioxide, fundamentals of medicine, basic civics, recent history, how to navigate a world where gay people exist...

That's an interesting assertation to make out of hand, but I don't think the data backs it up.[1][2]

[1]https://www.act.org/content/dam/act/unsecured/documents/Info... [2]https://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1005657.pdf


That data doesn't actually counter-indicate what I'm saying, for a myriad reasons.

I'll name one obvious one: Homeschool parents are, at minimum, present in their child's education. Compare their numbers to public school parents who are also present in theirs.

Here's another obvious one: Most parents who are wildly deluded about those subjects don't homeschool, they just complain (and regionally, vote in representatives who will apply those delusions to the curriculum).


I'm sure you buy all sorts of products that are built using conflict minerals, slave labour, etc.

Is your ignorance a defense? Should we hold you accountable for the entire supply chain that goes into what you consume?

Or can we just say that you should put in a reasonable amount of effort towards avoiding this (with reasonable being defined by the legislature and the judiciary)?


That's not the thrust of the argument. It's just the opener.

The thrust of the argument is that gambling is addictive, destructive, and we don't need to encourage more of it.

Here's a radical idea: Ban all gambling advertisement.

All of it.

If people desperately want to gamble, they can find a bookkeeper. The optimal amount of legalized gambling in society is probably not zero, but the optimal amount of gambling advertisement probably is.


I'm not sure if that's what you meant by "find a bookkeeper", but gambling should not be zero-friction. Gambling with a single click is pernicious and dangerous.

Perhaps you don't have to ban online gambling, but there has to be significant friction like a cooling off period or something.


Then replace insider dealing by day traders. Same point. You can even argue that of most food.

Financial markets for their participants are at worst, a zero-sum game, and at best, a positive sum game. (Blah, blah, efficient allocation of capital, blah, blah, hedging, blah, blah, futures, blah, blah, interest rate swaps, and so on and so forth - they all serve a useful purpose. [1])

Gambling is a negative-sum game.

We don't need more negative-sum games.

---

[1] You can argue over whether those industries are too big, have too much fraud in them, etc, but it's completely disingenuous to say that the stock market's the same thing as betting on whether the quarterback of the Maple Leafs is going to stop three goals this week.


> Gambling is a negative-sum game

Depends on what kind of gambling we are talking about. Sports betting is pretty much zero sum.


What do you think 'can't pass an audit' means in the context of the DoD?

At best, incompetence. At worst, corruption.

If so, you don't seem to understand why the DoD is failing to pass one, but are very well versed in the outrage you're supposed to feel when it does.

Care to enlighten me?

It's an enormous organization (one of the largest in the world) that is largely getting audited on physical objects that either spend 99% of their life sitting in stockpiles, or getting actively used and discarded.

Passing an audit isn't having its checkbook balanced. Passing an audit is like your employer delivering a full and accurate account of how many chairs it owns, as well as providing all the necessary paper trail for how all of them were acquired, moved, and discarded.

Doable in a 5-person company, or a 50-person company, next to impossible in a 5,000-person company, actually impossible in a 500,000 person company.

And the DoD has hundreds of thousands of different types of such items to keep track of, all of which were tracked by disparate physical-fingers-counting-stuff accounting systems, that were historically not up to the expected standards. Updating them and reconciling all of them is a long process, which the DoD is working through.

I hate war departments as much as the next liberal, but I also recognize that this is an incredibly difficult ask.

And that the failures are generally not caused by Lt. Billy Bob filching Stinger missiles to sell to some warlord in East Oblastan.

The grift in the DoD comes from contracts for buying more crap that it doesn't need, or for paying good money for contract work that doesn't get done (Iraq, Afghanistan), not from having stuff that was bought 'fall off the back of the truck'. The organization "has* an audit problem, but it's main issue is one of procurement.


Wow, thank you for the detailed write-up. Your points make a lot of sense and I do think the general hate for the military industrial complex makes people look at these failed audits as malicious, probably prematurely.

Do you think the Pentagon will be able to pass that audit anytime soon (within the decade)?


If you're lying awake at 4am in the morning, I sure as hell hope it is over mistakes you've made in your personal life, not your professional one.

In your obituary, when your life is tallied, nobody who matters is likely to give two figs about your work projects.


Maybe if I was in a more important profession with higher stakes I’d stay up at 4 AM thinking about those sorts of regrets, but I’m a software developer making B2B apps, not a trauma surgeon.

People building their own homes are outliers.

Most homes are built by cookie-cutter block developments, and they make the most money by:

1. Minimizing the size of their lots.

2. Maximizing the size of the homes on the lots.

They subdivide as much as they are allowed to, and build as big as they are allowed to. If the houses in your city are too big, it's because the smallest allowed lot size is.

If we ever caught up with the housing shortage, and there was a glut of housing on the market, maybe developers would start to build smaller, but we aren't there, and we won't be there for the next ~30 years.


Again: I know builders.

The size of the home is not a structural rule of the building industry, and is not universal or permanent. Just like any business, it's something builders decide based on who their market is and what they think they'll buy.

The described strategy might be what you're seeing in your area and might be the only thing that makes sense to your own tastes, but there are plenty of cities and counties where the pressing demand from buyers is for other things. In trend-leading communities, demand has been growing for years for denser housing with immediate access to retail and commerce; for efficient homes with low utility costs or green considerations; for small houses, condos, and townhouses that are well-appointed but accessibly priced and low-maintenance, etc and this is what builders have been building when they've been able to get cleared to build at all.


On a national level, the trends are that home size is increasing and lot size is decreasing. Sure there will be some local variances, and it is driven by what the market will support, but it's still the general trend.

Builders build bespoke one off things for crazy people. Developers build bulk housing to try and make a profit, and they maximize FAR.

The options are not limited to {"bespoke custom house", "one size for all"}.

These ones from this builder vary from 80-320 square metres (~10 square feet per square meter): https://www.heinzvonheiden.de/hausfinder

It would be hilarious if the famously choice-filled capitalist USA has a building industry limited to Cold War DDR "commie block" identikit construction.


In the US, price per square foot is an important metric for appraisal. If the appraiser puts too low a price on the house, the buyer can't get a loan. Therefore if you are building in the US to sell the house, then you will maximize the square feet to maximize the appraised value.

In addition, it is relatively rare in the US for an individual owner to commission a custom house to be built. Particularly in the more populated areas, it is more overhead to build one house vs several houses, so people buying new houses are typically buying a new house in a development with mostly cosmetic differences as their only choices.


> In the US, price per square foot is an important metric for appraisal. If the appraiser puts too low a price on the house, the buyer can't get a loan. Therefore if you are building in the US to sell the house, then you will maximize the square feet to maximize the appraised value.

Something in that paragraph doesn't add up. 500 sqft/$500k property is $1k/sqft, a 750 sqft property needs to be valued at at least $750k to be the same price per unit area; bigger is not sufficient for more per unit area — my expectation would be that cost is sublinear with area for most residential units due to various fixed costs such as (an assumption on my part) utility connection fees and architecture fees.

Mid scale development, entire districts at a time, I'd expect that to be linear with regard to area (so the derivative, cost per square foot, is constant); Very large scale, an entire city at once, that I'd expect the derivative of cost with respect to area to increase as size increases, due to the expectation that infrastructure becomes a dominant cost.


The number of buyers able to obtain a loan increases if the home’s price is lower.

Increasing a home’s price reduces the number of potential buyers.

The reason to build a more expensive home is to be able to sell for a higher price. But if the population of buyers in a location cannot afford to pay more, then a builder would be stupid to build the most expensive home they can, because insufficient people will be able to afford it. Hence smaller (cheaper) homes get built in some places, and bigger homes in other places.


Exactly, and there is plenty of unmet demand from people who can afford high prices. It makes sense to build the most profitable thing you can sell.

In my view, it's also the aspect ratio of the lots. Most suburban lots are fairly close to square. That leaves wide side yards that are just wasted space. Who ever really does anything in their side yard?

Lots should be narrower. You could get more houses on a block, and they'd could all still have a usable front and back yard. In fact I'd allow them to be built closer to the street, because nobody really uses their front yard either. A nice backyard is something most people would use and enjoy.


Wide side yards are moats to keep you away from your neighbors. This is widely seen as a feature, not a bug.

"Not meeting your neighbors" works even better in a high rise, and that is tightly packed. :)

Not really, when you can hear every breath they take through the walls.

For noise reasons and to prevent spread of fire

Replying to you from a typical suburban home (3k sf 4 bed, 3 bath with an office and a bonus room).

It’s about 10 feet from the sidewalk at its closest point. It’s about 8 feet from each of the property’s sides.

The back yard is very nice (about 6k sf, with nice outdoor living spaces, room for kids and dogs to run around, and good views).

This seems fairly common for newer construction in the Seattle suburbs.


Front gardens are a benefit to everyone in the neighbourhood, maintained at cost to the owner. They are an anti-SUV, in a way.

I could even support tax benefits for maintaining green space in the public view. The alternative (I saw this the UK) is that people turn their front garden into parking or expand their building towards the street.


Grassy front yards are a complete waste of space and water. Kids don't play on them. The person who uses a front yard to grow food is pretty rare.

At the end of the day, too, we have a housing crisis, not a front-yard crisis.


Lawns are bad but greenery is good.

We can recognize the need to not recreate Kowloon in the context of a housing shortage.


It's more likely that a man will jump to the moon than a North American municipality is to recreate a Kowloon.

That’s basically what you do with town homes. You need to obey minimum setbacks for fire reasons, but otherwise no yards.

If there was a glut of housing developers would quickly exist the business or go bankrupt. It’s either feast or famine for them, and the 2008 crash is why it took so long to ramp back up a decade later (talent pipeline for people who build homes stalled big time).

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