Tuesday, December 14, 2004

More Software

I've been aware of DOSbox for a while, but I hadn't really tested it out before. However, recently I've loaded several of my old DOS games into it. The more visually intense ones(like full throttle), are a little jumpy, but the older stuff is flawless(star trek 25th anniversary edition, Civilization I, Pool of Radiance, etc.) . The FAQ page explains how well the software works, and cautions that more intense games(especially Duke Nukem 3D) will work poorly. Still, I've got a lot of the old games, and it's nice to be able to use them without a dual-boot. Also, it's nice not to have to run to DOS mode(in win98). There is a supported games page to see if any of your old games will work.

Another cool aspect of this software is that it has been ported to Windows, Linux, and Mac OS X, so if you want to keep you virtual DOS system but move to a new OS, it's a simple copy.

I'll be testing some other games soon.

Thursday, December 09, 2004


Paul Krugman is supposed to be a good economist, but his desire to be a polemicist seems to get in the way. His recent diatribe against Social Security privatization(link via Scott) is a case in point.

Here is the meat of if(I've lifted this directly from this post)

...the politics of privatization depend crucially on convincing the public that the system is in imminent danger of collapse, that we must destroy Social Security in order to save it. I'll have a lot to say about all this when I return to my regular schedule in January. But right now it seems important to take a break from my break, and debunk the hype about a Social Security crisis. -- New York Times - Op Ed - December 7 2004
However, just a few years ago this was Paul's tune:
Social Security ... does not look like a redistributionist scheme. In practice it has turned out to be strongly redistributionist, but only because of its Ponzi game aspect, in which each generation takes more out than it put in.

Well, the Ponzi game will soon be over, thanks to changing demographics, so that the typical recipient henceforth will get only about as much as he or she put in (and today's young may well get less than they put in). -- The Boston Review, December/January, 1996-7

And this:
But aren't Social Security and Medicare basically pension funds, in which workers' contributions are invested to provide for their retirement? Hardly. A private pension fund that planned to pay the benefits these programs promise would be accumulating huge reserves. In fact, the so-called "trustfunds" are making barely any provisions for the future. .... the Federal Government... is in fact living utterly beyond its means. While the present generation of retirees is doing very nicely, the promises that are being made to those now working cannot be honored. ....to avert the crisis ahead.....slow the growth in benefit levels, gradually raise the retirement age, impose limits on expensive terminal medical care that prolongs life for only weeks or days and -- last but not least -- raise taxes moderately now, rather than massively later. ....Something is bound to give -- but what? Will retired boomers -- who will have even more political clout than today's smallish population of retired voters -- be willing to accept a sharply reduced standard of living? That is hard to imagine. Will younger voters be willing to accept huge increases in tax rates to support the boomers in the style they have been promised? That is equally hard to imagine. Or will the Government try to square the circle by simply printing the money it needs, creating runaway inflation? Surely that is inconceivable. Yet one or more of these unthinkable things will happen, because something must. New York Times book review (Oct. 20, 96)

Then there is this rhetorical gem from the Times article:

My favorite example of their three-card-monte logic goes like this: first, they insist that the Social Security system's current surplus and the trust fund it has been accumulating with that surplus are meaningless. Social Security, they say, isn't really an independent entity - it's just part of the federal government.

If the trust fund is meaningless, by the way, that Greenspan-sponsored tax increase in the 1980's was nothing but an exercise in class warfare: taxes on working-class Americans went up, taxes on the affluent went down, and the workers have nothing to show for their sacrifice.

But never mind: the same people who claim that Social Security isn't an independent entity when it runs surpluses also insist that late next decade, when the benefit payments start to exceed the payroll tax receipts, this will represent a crisis - you see, Social Security has its own dedicated financing, and therefore must stand on its own.

Ummm.... Paul. When benefit payments exceed payroll tax receipts where the hell do you think the money is going to come from. Assuming some reform isn't passed(I'm not talking about private accounts here. I'm talking about John's own solutions above, benefit cuts, higher payroll taxes, etc.) then the money will have to come from the general fund. Meaning that just as we've been using the SS surplus all these years to finance the rest of the government, from that tipping point on the reverse will be true. Meaning that for all practical purposes the payroll tax and income tax are both used to fund the entire government, and that their supposed separation is a fiction. As far as keeping Social Security separate, I've never read that from anyone but him. I personally endorse the idea of rolling it into the general fund now. Do you think Paul would support that?

This isn't to say that the recent article isn't right on a few points. Social Security is in much less trouble that Medicare, which is poised to explode exponentially in a few years. I have no idea whether private accounts are a good idea or not, and his point about the payroll tax weighing mostly on the poor and middle class is spot on(though I will also add that the income tax pretty much sits on the shoulders of the rich). Krugman is not wrong in all cases(at least not completely wrong), but in his editorials the opinions of other side are always wrong. They're wrong even if they coincide with something he's said earlier. This is not a way to solve problems or find the right public policy, it's just a way to prove you're a hack.