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The Ryanair Test

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Peter Bihr writes about The Ryanair Test, suggesting that new technology be looked at through an as-if-operated-by-Ryanair lens:

What would this look like in real life if it was operated by Ryanair? Would it still be cool, or totally suck? Where would all the up-sell happen? How would it be to be blasted with ads while using it?

A similarly helpful test, when we’re formulating public policy, might be to stop to consider how whatever program or service we’re calling for will look like when operated by government.

Not by an idealized utopian government, but by the actual always-partly-broken, powered-by-fallible humans government.

Too often we make the mistake of coming up with plans that assume they’ll be implemented by caring, future-thinking people, skilled in systems thinking, and with the agency to evolve plans as they go. This is almost never the case.

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acdha
20 days ago
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Washington, DC
graydon
20 days ago
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sarcozona
21 days ago
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1 public comment
mareino
20 days ago
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Cosign. All legislation should be written with the assumption that the career civil servants will read it extremely literally, and the political appointees will maliciously misread it half of the time.
Washington, District of Columbia

The Principle Of Elite Consequences

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Sometimes the comments on an article, like my recent post on reforming the justice system, reveal a deep misunderstanding of how the world works.

People with money and power run our societies. The Princeton/Northwestern oligarchy study found that what they want is what matters, and that the opinions of the rest of us don’t matter.

If they are not subject to how a part of society operates, they don’t care if it runs well and it will run badly (or in a way that profits them, generally the same thing.)

The justice system, for the rich and powerful, works well. They have good counsel, because they can afford it. They can afford bail. They generally go to minimum security prison is they happen to be indicted, and most of their crimes they are never charged with, as was the case in widespread fraud leading up to the financial crisis or the robo-signing fraud used to steal people’s houses afterwards. (At most they pay fines, which are less than the value of what they stole.)

The security system at airports is hell. But rich people don’t go thru it, they fly in private jets.

The medical system in the US is bad and overpriced for most people. But it’s very very good if your rich or powerful.

America has been at war for almost 20 years now, but American elites don’t care, because they and their children don’t fight in it.

The US education system is bad, and worse in places which are poorer. US elites don’t care, because they either go to private schools or cluster in rich neighbourhoods where the schools are good, because they are based on property taxes.

Covid-19 is not a problem, because it mostly kills poor people and minorities and it’s making the rich much much richer, getting rid of their competition among small business-owners.

If you want something to work well powerful and rich people must be forced to use it. They must have the same experience as ordinary people.

It takes an especially bad dose of capitalist ideology (or aristocratic or oligarchic ideology) to not get this point. If the powerful aren’t affected by how they run society (except to get richer and more powerful); if they don’t experience how the society runs for ordinary people, then society will be shit, AND if you want society to be good you can’t allow rich and powerful people to opt out of ordinary experiences.

They must have the same health care as everyone else, including the same odds of not receiving care, being bankrupt by it or getting bad care. They must go thru the security lines at airports and be groped. Their kids must have the same odds of having shitty schools. They must have the same odds of dying of Covid-19. They must be given rifles after voting for a war in the Senate and sent to the front lines (or at the least their kids must be,though I see no reason why they shouldn’t be, and if they’re too physically weak to fight, they shouldn’t be allowed to vote on a war they won’t be involved in.)

All of this is the most basic of common sense, a level of reasoning that a 10 year old would be able to follow easily.

If you cannot follow this reasoning you are suffering from a very bad case of ideological poisoning or you identify with the class of the rich and powerful. Perhaps you belong, or perhaps you’ve just lost a sense of your own position.

I can hear many people now, “rich and powerful people deserve to be treated better, and everyone else deserves shit.”

You can have a good society when you are willing to do what it takes, and the most important rule of a good society is that important people don’t get to opt out of the world their class creates for everyone else.

9/3-20: article edited to reflect oligarchy study authors being at Princeton/Northwestern, not Harvard.


Everything I write here is free, but rent isn’t, so if you value my writing, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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acdha
22 days ago
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“If you want something to work well powerful and rich people must be forced to use it. They must have the same experience as ordinary people.”
Washington, DC
graydon
22 days ago
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sarcozona
23 days ago
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The Simple Way To Fix Law Enforcement In British Style Systems (Like America)

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As with most problems, the solution is simple.

  1. Everyone has to use a public defender for all cases, civil and criminal.
  2. The public defender is chosen by lot, using simple mechanical dice, which citizens can inspect and which are inspected by the equivalent of the Las Vegas Gaming Commission.
  3. Any case of tampering is an automatic life sentence without parole.
  4. Everyone has the right to a jury trial if they choose and juries are told about jury nullification.
  5. No pleading, all cases get a trial.
  6. End cash bail and all monetary penalties for criminal cases, since they make some crimes not crimes for the rich.

The US system currently gives justice only to the rich because only they can afford proper representation. The United States has the highest incarceration rate in the world, because most crimes are never tried, they are plead out. As a result, US prisons are full of people who are probably innocent, because it’s not worth going to trial and risking far harsher sentences.

A system which requires assembly line trials is putting too many people in prison. Most crimes are victimless, and no one should be in jail for them. If you can’t run the system fairly, with actual trials, the system needs to be changed.

BUT the most important part is simple: it is a specific case of the general rule that no one should be able to use power or money to buy a better version of anything which matters: health care, education, security theater, justice, etc..

The second elites have to use the same lawyers as you do, paid the same and subject to the same rules, and can’t game it, the system starts working.

Elites must never be allowed to avoid any part of the common experience that matters. They can fly first class, but not on their own jets. They must go thru the same security lines as everyone else. They can buy a private room at the hospital, but not jump the queue for care or get better care in any way that matters medically. They cannot send their children to private schools or over-funded local schools (because of local property taxes).

When elites are subject to the same roulette as ordinary people, things become both fair and good by default. When they can opt out, everything they’ve opted out of goes to hell.


Everything I write here is free, but rent isn’t, so if you value my writing, please DONATE or SUBSCRIBE.

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sarcozona
23 days ago
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I’ve been reading Elinor Ostrum and carefully applied lottery systems do seem essential to fair and sustainable systems.
graydon
22 days ago
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LET'S MEET IN THE MIDDLE

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Over nearly 20 years (!!!) I feel like the point that has come up the most here, were I to go back and tally everything up, is that compromises are often really bad. We are conditioned to believe compromise is good. Whether we are talking explicitly about politics or about life in general, compromises usually result in both parties being unhappy and neither set of goals being achieved. You get the worst of both worlds more often than you get the best.

It is taken as given by the wise people of politics that the correct solution to a problem lies between what the opposing parties want. I used a textbook that tactfully referred to this as a setup for "mixed policy outcomes," meaning we spend a great deal of money but don't actually solve the problem. We do a little bit, which is enough to cost a lot but not enough to accomplish the goal. Some problems are binary. Some questions have yes or no answers with no nuance or third way.

We are seeing the real limitations of our bias toward "meeting in the middle" to solve problems right now. Last evening I listened to the North Carolina governor – a Democrat in a state that isn't exactly super liberal, and thus a guy always trying to find solutions that please everyone – explain what K-12 school reopening will look like in the fall. It doesn't make a lot of sense. Something about Plan B but also keeping Plan C on the table. Reopening but like, keeping all these protections in place so that opening won't spread the virus.

This, of course, is the Magic Bullet everyone is looking for right now. The two opposing viewpoints are 1) shut everything down until the virus is under control, and 2) the virus is no big deal, keep everything open and go about life as pre-COVID normal. And everybody is looking for some point in between those two, and I just don't think it exists. We can't be "sort of open, but in a way that will be safe like if everything was closed." Making that work would require assumptions about human behavior that simply do not hold, or a level of enforcement that is probably neither possible nor desirable.

This is a collective action problem, and "most people" wearing masks and being smart is not enough. It doesn't work unless everybody does it. And none of this compromise stuff is going to work either. If things are open as "normal" the number of cases will continue to rise; there is political pressure as well as economic incentives to re-open, but that doesn't mean bars and universities can come up with some half-assed "plan" and that resolves things. Either Congress will get its head out of its ass, send every single person $5000 and offer payroll support to employers, and shut everything down for 60 days, or we will continue to do this kind of "we're open but stand six feet apart" routine all but indefinitely. Because it absolutely will not stop what is happening now.

I'm probably prone to overestimating the number of issues that are black-and-white, zero or one. But I have confidence that this is one of them. Either things are shut down and people are staying home, or everything might as well be open. A half-measure isn't going to resolve this.

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jepler
72 days ago
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"It is taken as given by the wise people of politics that the correct solution to a problem lies between what the opposing parties want. I used a textbook that tactfully referred to this as a setup for "mixed policy outcomes," meaning we spend a great deal of money but don't actually solve the problem. We do a little bit, which is enough to cost a lot but not enough to accomplish the goal. Some problems are binary. Some questions have yes or no answers with no nuance or third way."
Earth, Sol system, Western spiral arm
graydon
65 days ago
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sarcozona
71 days ago
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Down with 'frontline services'

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The sentiment: the NHS should prioritize spending on frontline services sounds innocuous, but it's a big factor in all the harm done to the NHS since Blair became PM in the late 90s. Prioritizing frontline services means underfunding, outsourcing, selling assets and quasi-privatization. People opposed to these outcomes often claim, we should prioritize frontline services, as if that were the opposite, but it's not. It's at best a euphemism for destroying publicly funded healthcare, when it isn't an active deception.

Better minds than mine have clearly outlined why we probably shouldn't be using war metaphors for healthcare in the first place. But even in a literal war, if you prioritize the frontline at the expense of logistics, training, intelligence etc you lose the war.

In the NHS, 'prioritizing frontline services' started out with not bothering to maintain the fabric of the buildings. Making sure the buildings can be maintained a comfortable temperature and are weatherproof and not full of hazardous, outdated electricals and are easy to clean and hard to burn down isn't directly curing patients with life-threatening acute illnesses, so obviously those sorts of things should be low priority. Hey, we could even make a quick buck by selling some of the publicly owned land and buildings to developers, or using them as collateral in PFI loans. Then we would have more money for frontline services, and if the population grows and ages and healthcare needs expand over the coming decade but hospitals no longer have physical space to expand, well, that's someone else's problem. Prioritizing frontline services meant setting targets for waiting times. Not waiting more than 4 hours in A&E, definitely a high priority, definitely the most frontline of frontline services, this is people with every minute counts emergencies who are highly likely to die if they have to wait. But suddenly there's a whole layer of hospital bureaucracy tied up with measuring A&E waiting times, otherwise competent healthcare workers getting disciplined for not constantly improving the four hour waiting time target, funding just evaporating on improving headline numbers at any cost. Resources are being taken from other parts of the hospital to increase the proportion of patients seen within four hours of arriving at A&E. Worse, when the clock ticks over to 4 hours one minute, the patient might as well wait forever, because treating them won't help the target. And once this system has been embedded for a few years, you end up with far more referrals to A&E because anything that doesn't fall under the magic four-hour target, anything that isn't a frontline service, is so slow that A&E is the only way to get timely treatment at all. And then it becomes impossible to maintain the waiting time target. Prioritizing frontline services meant outsourcing the cleaning to the lowest bidder. There's a pretty good correlation between rates of outsourced cleaning and rates of hospital acquired infections. Not to mention that the cleaners, who aren't directly employed by the hospital, often have terrible labour conditions, poor pay, poor incentives and training to actually keep the hospital clean enough for the frontline services to happen in a safe environment.Prioritizing frontline services means completely separating hospital care from 'social care'. Providing support for frail and convalescent and disabled people to live as independently as possible for as long as possible, now that's in a completely separate budget. And it's a budget that can be cut almost endlessly, because social care isn't a frontline service. Not only does this cause untold suffering outside the hospital, but it leads to degradation of frontline services. People can't be safely discharged from hospital because there is nobody to provide the basic care they need to go home, so their needs have to be met by highly paid, overqualified medical professionals. They become 'bed blockers', hospitals are over-full because the only way to keep people safe is to define them as part of frontline services and frontline services only happen in hospitals. Mental health is also not a frontline service unless people are actively suicidal right now. So there is no support for anyone not in crisis. Prioritizing frontline services means mental healthcare is pretty much in the same low priority bucket as social care. The number of life-threatening crises rises because waiting lists to get the kind of help many people need to avoid reaching the point of completely being unable to cope are infinitely long. All this was already a problem under the previous government. Once the Tories take over, they start prioritizing frontline services by: removing the previous NHS Direct helpline staffed by people with medical training, and replacing it with NHS 111 which is basically just a call-centre where people read from a script. NHS 111 is completely terrible at keeping people out of hospital who don't need to be there, because an automatic script can't tell the difference between a pulled chest muscle and a heart attack, both tick the 'chest pain' box. And there are lots of far worse examples.Defunding public health, sexual health, any kind of prevention. Those are not 'frontline services'. Of course, the net result is less resources compared to the level of need for frontline services, as more people will have health emergencies if there's no prevention. Removing any sort of supportive facilities for medical staff, since those are not frontline services. No mess room, no break room, no dedicated staff toilets even. Healthcare professionals can get their food in the public cafe or from vending machines. They can't get any support from their colleagues because they have to take their breaks in public areas where talking about work would breach confidentiality. They might have to walk miles across the hospital to reach these public facilities, which are themselves further downgraded since a hospital cafeteria isn't a frontline service, and eventually there's a Costa and a Burger King and that's about it. Shift patterns stop taking breaks into account, because taking a break isn't providing a frontline service, or at best they assume that one can get food, drink and rest in 20 minutes because in the old system you had a breakroom available near every ward.And maybe it's ok for these doctors providing frontline services to be tired and stressed and hungry and bursting for the loo. But patient food is also not a frontline service. The budget allocated to food gets less and less, to the point where even with advantages of scale it's impossible to make meals anyone would want to eat. There's certainly no slack for anyone with any kind of dietary needs, because who'd have thought that patients undergoing hospital treatment might have medical conditions which mean they can't eat certain foods? The time allocated to serving meals is cut to almost nothing because food isn't a frontline service, so anyone who needs any kind of extra help with eating, or even just eats a bit more slowly than the fastest possible, pretty much doesn't eat. People recover slower, or even don't recover at all, or get sicker, if they can't get adequate nutrition in hospital. "Minor" operations are also pitted against frontline services. Conditions that cause pain and misery, like varicose veins, carpal tunnel syndrome, cataracts can be pushed off onto private providers, because they're not frontline services, they're not life-threatening. In theory the NHS isn't allowed to have a blanket ban on commissioning a particular treatment; in practice they're basically not. Trans healthcare, fertility treatment, I'm sure lots of you can name plenty of examples, have infinite waiting lists or cost money.The way things really got worse in the last 10 years was because of the Tory war on "paperwork", again seen as opposed to frontline services. You can't run a large complex institution without admin (and that goes for lefties who hate bureaucracy too, looking at you Graeber). They dropped waiting time targets because they saw the proliferation of paperwork and managerialism resulting from focusing too much on particular numbers. But without someone keeping track you can't even tell whether people are being treated in a timely fashion for emergency conditions, let alone improve your speed at responding to emergencies.

Record-keeping is 'just paperwork'. A computer can do it. But then, giving staff access to up-to-date computers and user-friendly software isn't a frontline service, so they have to make do with antiquated Win95 machines and terrible databases. Healthcare professionals have to keep their own records on these terrible systems because there's no money to pay for 'admin'. Very little institutional knowledge of computer security - several large hospitals in England were offline for about three days a few years back because of some crappy ransomware which thankfully turned out to be able to be bypassed in a few hours by an amateur. But hey, security isn't frontline services. Likewise, people with real expertise in storing patient data securely and confidentially aren't paid enough to work in the NHS, because making sure medical information doesn't get into the wrong hands isn't a frontline service.

Almost anyone who's interacted with the NHS in the past few years has noticed that there's a huge hole in coordinative communication. You can't get an appointment, or your appointment gets rescheduled 6 times, or you get the letter informing you of a cancellation the day after you've already attended fruitlessly. Referrals get lost, or get sent to the wrong department. You have to personally chase up your own test results. All of these things, although they are mostly carried out by 'administrators' and are not frontline services, are causing real, measurable patient harm.

And of course, if you have no 'paperwork' you have no real governance. No oversight to stop the NHS being sold piecemeal, nobody who has enough information and influence to step in and prevent wholesale transfer of huge amounts of patient data to profit-making tech companies like Google. Having some slack in the system to cope with increased demand isn't a frontline service, and it requires serious resource going into admin and management and measurement and coordination. That's why we've had a winter crisis every year for the past decade - having spare beds, additional staff etc available during summer is taking resource available from frontline services, so it isn't allowed. Having a stockpile of equipment not currently used on a just-in-time basis is inefficient, it takes up storage space and cashflow that could be used for frontline services. Pandemic preparedness was completely removed a couple of years ago because, guess what, planning for a once-a-century event isn't a frontline service. This was partly sparked by a dispute on Twitter about parking charges, which have been contentious forever. I generally think that it's vital for society to move away from massive subsidies on driving and storing fossil-fuel driven private cars. But travel to hospital (for staff or patients) isn't the place to start. There should be 24-hour affordable safe convenient public transport to hospitals, but right now there isn't, and if you make nurses pay for their own parking you're essentially transferring the cost of running the service onto individuals. And the reason parking charges ever happened was because the NHS owning their own land was seen as not a frontline service, so all the land surrounding hospitals is rented or mortgaged and the money has to be clawed back by outsourcing carparking to largely predatory businesses.

In isolation, would I rather spend money on a ventilator or a carpark? Of course I'll pick a ventilator. But that's not actually the calculation that's happening. Calling an ongoing programme of cuts and privatization 'prioritizing frontline services' is a lie exactly designed to divert people, including passioniate believers in government funded public services, to looking at the wrong tradeoffs. The system is a system, there's no 'frontline versus back office'.

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graydon
72 days ago
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liv | Down with 'frontline services'
sarcozona
71 days ago
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whimslcott: whimslcott: whimslcott: next time someone talks about welfare fraud, remember that if...

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whimslcott:

whimslcott:

whimslcott:

next time someone talks about welfare fraud, remember that if you’re homeless you’re not supposed to have food stamps and if you lose your home and don’t report it to DSHS so they can take away your food stamps that’s welfare fraud

when i was on ABD (aged, blind, and disabled benefits – the only cash aid available to disabled people while we’re applying for SSI, a monthly $197) literally all money you get can be deducted from these benefits. this means that if someone sees you digging through the trash for food and gives you $20 the government will only pay you $177 that month. if you don’t report that $20 it’s welfare fraud

astute readers might realise that there’s no way anyone in the country can be expected to live off of $197 a month, and that that would have to be supplemented by another source of income. and if that money is going to disappear as soon as that other source of income hits $197, it might as well not exist. you’re right!

when i was on ABD i had a patreon running that brought in a steady $13 a month. the person in charge of my case rounded up the amount of money i was getting to $15. i was penalised by $15 for making $13.

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graydon
81 days ago
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sarcozona
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