Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Peasants and Nobles

It has always been thus. Peasants used to be called serfs which ranged from freeman to slaves. Today we confuse Villeins for the entire class of serfs. These were under contract to work the lords land to produce crops for the lord such as wheat and required permission to break the contract which usually meant buying freeman status. Freeman could serve any lord they chose.  This is why the confusion that the land owned them. Technically Villeins were not property or tied to the land which is a common misconception. Of course, this may be a distinction without a difference since poverty could bring about that same result. They also had their own land, either owned or rented which they worked to provide for their own families. That a lord might also be abusive and presumptive also doesn't change a serfs legal status. Some serfs were quite wealthy, but still peasants.

Thomas doesn't seem to appreciate these nuances.

The contract was for protection by the lord from outlaws that were plentiful at the time.

American exceptionalism could be defined as getting rid of the nobles.

T H E Y ' R E . . . B A C K...

Today we define those nobles by their thinking which is strongly influenced by socialism and marxism.

Taxation today is clearly related to the serfs wheat. Nothing really changes.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

How to chase an aircraft through a canyon

Stay above the canyon. Just sayin'...

I'm watching Clint Eastwood be a pilot in Firefox.

Watch Firefly to see how it works.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

In other news...

Paid my bills today... I now have eight dollars for the next month. I bought two new tires (I've been driving around town without a spare for several months now... glad to have a spare again.) Put money on my phone (13 cents for the last two weeks) ... looking to get an Android that will replace both my current phone and internet USB modem (can we still call them modems?)

I promised myself that each month I would do at least one thing toward my goal of having an online business. This month I bought an upgrade to my PowerBasic compiler.

I'm coding in VB because it's faster for development than PB. BG+M$ have conspired to make ADO code written on a W7 box only work for W7. If you compile on XP it works fine on either but I don't have an XP box anymore. Also the component I wrote in PB for ADO doesn't work on W7 either.

PowerBasic has an ADO product, but I think it's ODBC only. That's fine for SQL Server, but I have a second local DB that I have a direct connect to and don't want to use ODBC for that. They have a Btree product that I might use for local data but I'd prefer SQLite if I can get that to work.

I just spent three days tracking down a bug that would have taken five seconds if my brain still worked. Ah well, onward...

Monday, August 22, 2011

Social Security Plans

I just got a letter from Social Security which got me to thinking about the plan I would propose. The way it is, after ten years you qualify to get a check sometime after 65 of about a thousand a month.

My plan is take the current money (15.3%) and buy an annuities that immediately makes a monthy check that the government can never change.  Example assuming 5% return on money...

First ten years making $24k avg. gives you an immediate monthly check of... $159.89
Second ten years avg. 30k... two checks per month $159.89 and $199.86
Third decade at $40k... add another $266.48 check.
Fourth decade at $50k... another $333.09

So $1000 after age 65+ or...
18 to 28 you wait...
29 to 38 you get $159.89 each month;
39 to 48 you get $359.75 each month;
49 to 58 you get $626.23 each month;
59 to 68 you get $959.32 each month until dead.

At 69 you could get a fifth check (of several hundred dollars depending on your earnings.)

I like my plan a whole lot better and the money is actually in a lockbox trust. Just not the govt. lockbox.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Scientists keeping straight faces...

It's got to be a joke on the innumeracy of [well, you fill in the blank.]

There are hundreds of billions of galaxies. Each has hundreds of billions of stars. Multiply those two numbers together and then multiply that by all the thousands of rocks circling each star...

But aliens are watching what we do to this one planet???

You'd think they'd be happy for us to kill ourselves off so they can take it over and fix it with their superior ecological knowledge.

Update: The paper that started it all. PDF is interesting reading. SF gave us all this years ago.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Time keeps on slippin' slippin' slippin'...

...Into the future. I should post more, but I've started coding which has to be a priority.

I Intended to post about my coding, but that didn't happen. Yet. One day I hope to have something that relieves some of my other stresses... and adds others.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fantasy Continues...

Adding to what I wrote here...

1st year is not just a shakedown of the ships but to help determine the crew to send to mars. Specialties needed for mars will also need to have a frontier settlement spirit and be able to handle the isolation. We need to see how tethering the two ships together for artificial gravity will work. Radiation mitigation will be a priority while not considered a show stopper. Everyone will understand and choose to take the risks.

2nd year getting supplies to go to mars is not an issue. We aren't going to get it right, but we will get enough of it right to go. We will fix things as we learn.

3rd year and 4th year. Getting supplies to mars will also qualify the vehicle for landing humans. Private industries are not the amateurs that the government elites actually are. Private industry will have dozens of tests landing where government thinks it's good to go on the second shot (or sometimes the first... those are the amateurs.)

5th year. We will first land half the researchers (perhaps 3 from each ship.) Not all the supplies on the ship will go to the surface (if much at all, we already have supplies directly sent to the surface.) The six or so on the surface will suggest what supplies from the ship (from as much diversity as we can provide) need to be brought to the surface. It may be the following year expeditions actually bring the rest of the supplies down. Eventually all researchers will be on the surface while the ships stay in orbit for future uses.

6th year. We have to wait for launch windows for the following researchers but can and should still send over supplies that don't have the same launch window restrictions.

7th year. We will now have a better idea of what kind of specialists are needed to figure out how to live on mars. We send lots of them. Landers may already be waiting in mars orbit sent there on lower cost trajectories. Mars is going to need labor. We need to make it possible for people besides the rich to go (there aren't enough rich to do the job.)

It's also important to get the right start. People that understand why ownership and the unenumerated rights our constitution talks about are important. Martians on the frontier should bring back that quaint idea that a persons word is their bond. Theft by 'consent' should be completely understood for the fallacy it is.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Getting the Onion rolling

With ... no indication of local zoning laws or taxes, conditions on Gliese 581g are almost textbook≠perfect for the industrial sector.

How many blogs could a blogger blog if a blogger could blog blogs.

I'm questioning whether I should keep this a one issue blog. I think not. So I will also post on any other subject that interest me. Hopefully some of them will interest you as well (talking to myself does provide a stimulating conversation but somehow less satisfying than having others add their thoughts.)

Do me a favor. Post any silly thing ya like in comments here so I know you came by. Doesn't matter when you do.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


I used to blindly accept the intrinsic value concept until my blind eyes were healed over at Rand's Blog. Value only exists because people assign it. Nothing has an value apart from people. Putting two words together (intrinsic + value) that independently do have a reasonable meaning is an example of the intellectual idiocy that happens when juvenile thinking is allowed to flourish.

Intrinsic just means that things have attributes. Value is an attribute. The problem is that 'intrinsic value' is a formulation that includes a contradiction. Value doesn't exist without a person to assign it. It can never be objective as the definition of intrinsic implies. Different people assign different value to things based on personal preference and situations. It's easy to come up with some formulation of value to assign to a thing, but even if useful, that is not it's intrinsic value. There is no such thing. So what does that have to do with the focus of this blog?

Martian real estate has no intrinsic value. It does have value. How do we determine what that is? For many it's simple: zero. For those of space settlement that value is $100 an acre. I say it could be both zero and millions of dollars a hectare (time to stop using mile and acre in space.) I will explain.

Suppose enough people agree to the terms of a charter that a reasonable claim is just one square kilometer per person, they get exactly one and only one claim per rock, and only by stepping on the surface of a world can they take legal possession of it. How much is that land worth to that claimer? To the bank? To a potential buyer? What factors help determine that?

It is reasonable to assume the claimer would assign a value near the cost of getting that land which would include travel, supply and loan costs. The banks assignment of value is simple... whatever the market will bare plus their profit. Now we come to the heart of it. There is only one objective determination of value. That is only determined when a thing is freely traded. So what is the value to the buyer?

Well the buyer paid expenses to acquire their 'free' sq. km. To acquire more, since they are legally bound by a charter they agreed to, would mean buying from others that would value their land at a similar cost. They might buy land from others that are not members of the charter, diluting its overall value, but going beyond that charter means they've lost a lot of potential buyers. Expect it to happen but not change things all that much. It just muddies the waters. By violating the charter they lose title to the one sq. km. claim which could then be claimed by someone else that did follow the groups rules and they have a cloud on the title to other land making it more difficult to trade and potential of being lost in legal battles. Legal battles for charter land is defended by all members of the charter (all now rich enough, even if they started with nothing, to hire some really good law firms. Think army of a vast legion of lawyers.)

Suppose they divide that claim up into 100 hectare plots for development and resale. The value of those should then be about 1% of the whole, plus development costs. We can assume those development costs will be about the same regardless of whether the buyer or seller pays them. The difference is that the seller can pay them before the buyer arrives making the best use of time. Also, the buyer is not likely to buy a developed piece of property unless it has had an independent inspection. Lives are involved.

So lets see... we're going to reuse the assumption of $40m as travel cost (we'll have a post on that later with some of the companies and costs likely to be involved) and assume the bank agrees to one million per hectare for the first fifty sold giving them a 25% profit (over some period of time where shorter is generally better for both the bank and claimer/seller.) Assume with all costs and a small profit included that hectare ready for occupancy could be sold for $2m (make it more if you like) would the buyer pay it. Meaning would they accept that value to them for it? What are the alternative choices?

1) No. They pay $40m to travel to mars and claim one undeveloped sq. km. They must buy or rent a place to live immediately upon arrival. This will cost them more than the package deal that includes title to a new home. A loan will be much harder to get because the bank will want a large down payment to compensate for the one million dollar down payment they would have gotten from the seller of the developed hectare if this chooser had made the next choice...

2) Yes. They pay nothing to travel to mars and claim one undeveloped sq. km. The bank that has a lien on their claim will find buyers for the plots they develop for resale.

I don't know. It seems like a tough choice. Go ahead, give me 3) et. al.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Real Estate

Space is unclaimed. Nobody owns it and nobody has jurisdiction over it.

Ownership always starts with a claim by possession. From then on it's sold or granted to new owners. Title is used to resolve various implications. Resources can be taken from unclaimed land. Once owned, others must come to term with the owner for his/her resources.

I have a model to present, but it's not the only possible model. I think it has many advantages over other models. The first is that it fully finances colonization allowing average individuals (even us poor) to take part at current costs (yes, even for the poor) beginning now (well, that's for another post.) With a good credit rating and a bank mortgage it could cost nothing down and be profitable for the bank so start packing! Well there are a few minor things that have to happen first and we'll get to them. Not everybody has to agree to this plan for it to work. They can follow there own plans which should have no impact on this one.

It starts with a group of people all agreeing to a settlement charter. All members of that charter agree that individuals can each make only one claim of one square kilometer of land per person by possession (they have to live on the rock but not permanently... no slavery!) If you or a corporation wants more land it has to be bought from owners through free trade. Eminent domain will not exist because that violates the absolute ownership of the charter.

Why one square kilometer? Because it is not only reasonable but it is enough to fully finance the trip and provides a lifetime of income. We don't need a welfare state. How?

Everyone that agrees to the charter may have a claim registered and enforced by all other members. They divide their property up into plots for resale (Planet Plots? Yes, you got it.) Mars for example would allow the first 144 million colonists to each claim their own one sq. km. plot.

Typically about 81% of a km^2 claim could provide plots (multiples of a quarter hectare) with all plots having at least 50 m. of frontage and/or perimeter road access. That's up to 200 plots for resale from a single claim. A single developed hectare plot could support a dozen colonists (three Zubrin 50m^2 hobby farms and a 50m^2 multilevel habitat with power, water, food, air, sewage, etc.) Assume it takes a year of labor to develop each plot... that's a lifetime of income by itself. So now we consider the bank mortgage for the trip.

Pick a number to pay for a total package that includes transportation to the surface and fully developed home when you get there. Let's say $40m per person as a reasonable example (this number DOES NOT MATTER.) To fully recover this cost (break even is 1.24% above cost per hectare) we agree to pay the bank one million dollars per hectare we sell for the first half of our claim within 30 years (a typical mortgage period in my youth.) So the bank gets a 25% return over that period (but normally in less time than the mortgage period as the seller has an incentive to sell property ASAP to get to the point of not giving up a million dollars in profit on each sale.)  If you default the bank get the unsold remainder of your km^2 claim. They don't have to charge you a single penny down for this deal since they will receive one million dollars from the previous colonist that sells you a plot as part of this travel package. They could require some down payment to qualify buyers but it's not actually needed (I would think traveling to another planet would be enough proof of commitment.) This seems like a good deal for the bank. Is it a good deal for the colonist (both seller and buyer?)

The buyer is going to need a habitat to live. Assume it takes a year to build that habitat. It's better to have that happen before the buyer arrives (actually, before they leave... you don't want that kind of surprise.) The cost of materials are going to be the same either way so that's a wash. You might save 2% on your ticket, but then the bank would have less incentive to loan you the money if they don't get that immediate mortgage payment from the seller. Seems like a win for the buyer.

The seller is the big winner. Suppose a couple gets an $80m mortgage package (they are $100m in debt) to go to mars and they claim their two sq. km. They get two habitat plots, one to live in and one ready for immediate sale which they sell for $1.5m (the bank doesn't get any of this, it's not part of the land claim mortgage.)

Cost to develop a half hectare plot? They hire two laborers to work with and finish a half hectare (one habitat and one farm) plot in six months: Sale price ($1m) - bank  ($500k) - labor ($100k) - material ($200k) = profit ($200k) - labor opportunity cost ($100k) = net profit ($100k)

As they accumulate wealth they can develop property at a faster rate than two per year and pay off their mortgage in 15 years (the bank likes that!) They've made a comfortable living and now have about $70m worth of unencumbered property to do with as they will. All for perhaps $100k down.

It's very likely they will also have started up a company or two to produce needed mars ISRU items and may even help finance new colonists to provide labor for their own ventures on mars.

Planet Plots

Choices have implications. A generation ago nations based their moves into space on a military structure. The result has been a false start and stagnation (going in circles for more than fifty years at far too much cost.) That is the government model.

That is changing because people with vision and resources and freedom to act are making it happen. They have been struggling for decades to figure out viable business plans. They are having some success with lots of failures. This is the corporate model.

Expanding the economic sphere into the solar system successfully will require a humble acceptance of economic reality. The most viable option that leads to the greatest success will be the individual liberty model. Planet plots is about how:

Ownership is the foundation that FULLY AND ABUNDANTLY finances space settlement.

Expanding the economic sphere into the solar system will add enormous wealth to our society. No magic bullets required. Costs are low enough today and will get better in the future.

The crazy idea I put forth is that ownership is the foundation of economic expansion. Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are all based on the right of property ownership. Your body with its life is your property. Your thoughts are your property. Those things people have difficulty stealing from you. But thieves have become masters at stealing real property and possessions from you and making you believe that's the natural order of things. It does not have to be so.

I intend to focus on real numbers, real companies, real people, and real economic truth. So let's get started with my next post...

Update: Keeping track of where I spout off on this topic...