Monday, July 27, 2015

A valuable lesson in how not to govern a state

So... if you weren't paying attention... and most haven't been and have little reason to... the state of Connecticut is in serious trouble. They're effectively not just bankrupt, they're in the hole so deep they can't even see the top.

20 years ago, they were in great shape, and looking to get better...

So, what the hell happened?

Basically, Connecticut has been a textbook case for "how to kill your economy with government".

...This is gonna be a long one, because I'm not kidding, it really is a by the numbers lesson of exactly what not to do...

CT is in trouble explicitly because of its government.

This is one that even the liberals can't deny... and if you've read much from regional media, even they are generally placing the blame, at least close to where it belongs.

This all started about 20 years ago...

After some rough years in the 70s and 80s while their legacy manufacturing and fishing industires dramadically contracted, and 10 years where their core insurance and financial aervices industries had plateaued; Connecticut went through a huge economic boom in  the mid 90s (as with most of the country, but as a percentage more than anywhere other than MA, CA and TX)

This was primarily due to massive expansion in the financial services sector; as well as the overall technology boom and .com bubble, and smaller booms... or at least swells... in biotechnology and pharmaceuticals, certain elements of the communications, defense, aviation, aerospace, and light manufacturing sectors; and a HUGE boom in the high end commercial real estate and development sectors; all of which CT has traditionally been strong in.

In response to this, the state and local governments very rapidly spent...not just their increased revenue... but decades woth of future revenue as well.

They made revenue and growth assumptions, based on continued growth at that explosive boom rate; creating legislation and programs that depended it... and worse, taking on HUGE amounts of debt, with the assumption that it would be easily paid back with future revenue growth.

At the same time, they made regulations that made it much more difficult and expensive to do business in the state... Because, after all, business was booming, and they could afford it, right?

Well, actually, no.

The state and local governments had increased the burdens of doing business so much, that they made it  nearly impossible for those businesses not in a boom.

They made it particularly difficult for small and medium businesses not primarily driven by discretionary consumer spending; which form the long term economic base of a healthy local and regional economy (about 30% of all private sector employment in this country is from businesses of this type).

Local property taxes and assessments shot up precipitously. Insurance rates skyrocketed. Business to business overheads went up without increased productivity. Legal ahllnd compliance costs went way up. Various individual and business taxes and fees on both the local and state level went up far faster than inflation, or income and revenue growth.

Commercial property costs and new commedical property development went way up in "desireable" areas (even though there wasn't a big increase in demand in most areas). Worse, even though occupancy rates remained stagnant or even crashed, costs still increased significantly in most "less desireable" areas as well.

Similarly,  housing costs and new development shot up in "desireable" areas, even though there wasnt very much overall population growth (CT lost population over the decade), and costs in "less desireable" areas still rose even though occupancy rates fell.

A lot of small businesses, struggling business, and less established businesses just failed. Their costs just became too high for marginal operations to remain viable. At the same time, a number of large legacy business that had been barely viable, became non-viable and finally folded (or in a lot of cases were acquired for short money, then operations were relocated to lower cost markets, contributing both to unemployment and population los).

It became difficult even for established and successful businesses outside of the boom to grow, and very difficult for new businesses outside the boom to get established. The barriers to entry and costs to grow, we're just too high.

In fact,  as early as 1998, it had been noted that in some areas, costs were too high, even in comparison to neighboring or nearby Massachusetts, New York, and New Jersey (with few attractions and advantages to offset those burdens).

The government forgot something critical... They forgot that things change, and people and businesses change and move, in response to changing conditions and incentives.

They forgot basic economics.

Businesses need incentives to stay, that are greater than their incentives to leave. They need incentives to start or grow in one place, that are greater than the incentives in another place. Otherwise they're going to go elsewhere. Simple as that.

When your state is more expensive and difficult to do business in than New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and California (every state other than Hawaii in fact)... You're doing something very very wrong.

So, businesses started leaving... or were started elsewhere... or expanded in other states.

The big employers and established big revenue companies were able to leverage their size, power, and government relationships, to get some relief from certain burdens (particularly in the defense, financial, and pharmaceutical industries)... and in general were better able to absorb them... So, for as long as the booms lasted, they were happy to keep doing business. But they weren't actually making sustainable long term business growth and investment in Connecticut.

This of course made the government keep thinking that everything was good, and they kept running up their tab, and tightening the screws on businesses and citizens.

...and then the boom slowed

New and small business development essentially halted. Larger established businesses did not bring more business into Connecticut or grow their operations in the state, and started contracting and relocating operations elsewhere. Businesses outside the state chose not to bring new operations there...

...Unless of course they could wangle a legislative favor and get some incentives and relief...

Which of course the government were all too happy to continue doing... After all, it gave them more power, and more money, and more secure political positions.

And from the government's point of view, all was still rosy...

But those companies still made preparations to move their operations out of state the second anything changed... and they expanded operations anywhere other than CT.

... and then the boom ended.

It actually ended right around October of 2000 or so... though most didnt notice it until mid to late 2001, when both companies and governments, came to the inescapable conclusion that actual realized revenues as of the end of q1 and q2 (as opposed to booked revenues, which may be commonly booked from 30 to 180 days before they begin to be realized... or longer... or in many cases never) were down well below their estimates for 2000, and were tracking lower for the rest of 2001 and into 2002.

... and then September 11th happened...

At the same time, the fed cut interest rates to effectively nothing (anything lower than inflation is actually effectively lower than nothing... which they've mostly been at since then by the way, minus a couple years at "slightly more than nothing" from the end of 2004 to the beginning of 2008. It's been at an actual 0% since 2008), and the property boom that had started in 1996-7 with the .com bubbles halo "wealth effect", suddenly kicked into ludicrous speed.

Between 9/11 and the property bubble... somehow people didn't notice that we were actually in a recession in every sector not dependent on the "wealth effect" or debt driven consumer spending.

After the .com bust and 9/11, most American and international big businesses (outside of certain elements of the financial, mineral extraction, energy, transportation, housing, consumer goods, luxury goods and retail sectors, all of which were riding the bubble), changed their operational patterns dramatically to cut costs and reduce risk (as had happened in the early 70s and mid to late 80s in response to major changes in the marketplace). 

At the same time, small business growth slowed dramatically across much of the country, in response to shifting geographic patterns of development, increased risks, and higher costs of doing business. Small businesses that were not driven by the "wealth effect", were largely stagnant. The startup market collapsed, and outside of a few momentarily hot sectors and minibubbles, became nearly dormant in comparison to what it had been between 1989 and 2000.

Venture capital went into a strange mode where capital pools were building, and risk aversion and command and control mindset dominated... But at the same time, in an effort to drive market beating returns, crazy amounts of money would be pumped into anything analysts thought would be a market maker or primary sector driver, without regard for underlying value... Chasing issues up high and fast, and then dumping them hard once profit taking hit (essentially a legal form of pump and dump).

Everyone's risk tolerance went WAY down, except for those in active bubbles.

Most big businesses started aggressively reducing their exposures to risk, and slashing their legacy and high cost operations, especially in high cost markets like the northeast. High cost low margin operations and businesses were divested or shut down. Big companies got bigger, seeking to leverage scale and reduce risk by acquiring viable but marginal operstions, and small but growing operstions. New development was directed to lower cost, lower risk markets like Texas, Florida, south Dakota, and to a lesser extent Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia.

Meanwhile,  collectively, Americans were going insane, and running up a massive property and debt bubble,  peaking at the end of 2006 and just kinda floating there til 2009, before popping completely, in the banking bust.

... And during this time, the CT government spent even MORE and took on even more debt, and turned the screws even tighter on businesses and citizens...

...all in expectation that the "prosperity" of the property and consumer spending bubble would result in significantly increased revenues.

It didn't.

In fact, the insurance and other financial services industries that had long been the core of Connecticuts revenue base were damn near destroyed between 2005 and 2009.

Discretionary consumer spending driven businesses had massively over expanded in the bubble, and suddenly began to contract, or fail, wholesale.

Most of the legacy heavy industry of Connecticut manufacturing cities was killed off in the previous 20 years, except those dependent on government contracts.

The fishing business had long been non-viable because of poor catch rates, high costs, and crippling regulation.

And of course, the property development business completely collapsed.

Between 1997-9 or so and 2009, most viable medium and large businesses (outside of a boom industry) that could leave... did.

Well... unless they got a special incentive from the government to stay (Pfizer... you wouldn't even believe....)

Basically, the entire states primary industries and major private sector employers; failed, contracted dramatically, fled the state, or got special considerations which made them revenue neutral (or even net negative due to state spending or subsidy comittments).

Between this and the collapse of consumer spending, small business failures and contraction, high unemployment, and all of the other ripple effects; Connecticuts economy has contracted by between 11% and 15% overall from its peak in 2006-2008 (depending on how you calculate it and  whose numbers you believe).

That's the worst in the country by a large margin by the way.

The picture is much worse when you look exclusively at the private sector economy, which has contracted over 20% (it may be more than 25% or even more depending on whose estimates you believe)

Excluding those companies in the financial sector and other large businesses whose revenues are primarily realized out of state, and those with negotiated tax breaks... Who knows...

The states taxable revenue base has certainly fallen dramatically, by any measure.

... but the government kept spending as if the state were growing, while massively increasing state debt year over year. In fact, state employment and state expenditures INCREASED EVERY YEAR since 2006.

After 2009, any sane government would have slashed the burden and expense of doing business in their state in order to promote growth and attract new business. That's exactly what most of the states I noted above did (all but Virginia, which made it harder, but boomed on increased government spending).

After 2009, any sane government would have looked at their situation and said "hey, those big expensive projects and new spending that we'd planned on? Yeah, we have to put that on hold".

Again, that's what most states did, outside of the "stimulus money".

Not Connecticut.

From 2008-2010, Connecticut lost 120,000 jobs... about 8% of total jobs in the state. During those same two years, government sector employment (outside of indian gaming industry employment, which is counted as government employment) ACTUALLY INCREASED BY 9%

In the face of total collapses in private sector employment and revenues, and an already overwhelming debt burden, Connecticut actually INCREASED spending, and acquired MORE debt... Counting on state and federal government spending to "stimulate the economy" and Kickstart growth.

It didnt.

Then... and this is my favorite bit....

....when some folks both at the city and state levels, finally woke up and tried to restore some rationality and sanity to the situation... cut spending, layoff non essential staff, cancel new programs, reduce scheduled spending increases, put pending projects on hold etc...


That's not a joke... look it up... and it's not just once either... the absurdity of it would be hilarious, if it weren't tragic.

Now they have the worst debt to revenue ratio in the country... and it's not getting better anytime soon.

Regardless of what Connecticuts government officially says (they concluded they had 0.6% net economic growth in 2014), they are facing what everyone honestly examining the situation knows to be net annual outflow of private sector jobs, income, economic output, and population; with resulting decreasing revenue, and increasing debt load. They're in a coffin corner.

In the next two years, large job losses at GE, Pfizer, General Dynamics, and Sikorsky, are going to stagger the states economy even further

... and rather than stop the bleeding and make it attractive to stay in or come to CT, they have doubled down and continued making it worse.

Rather than cut their regulatory and tax burden, making an overall lower cost to do business for ALL businesses, they are desperately trying to o woo specific large employers to come to the state, with tax and regulatory breaks.

The employers weren't biting, because CT did that before and then screwed those companies 4 to 12 years later.... And besides, there's really no advantage to doing so.

Even if they offer a company 100% corporate income tax free operations, and free land to build their facilities (I did mentione Pfizer earlier didnt I?); CT can't give employers the advantages they get in Texas or Florida:

A government they know actually is pro business, and a generally low cost of doing business; lower total tax burden, lower regulatory burden, lower property costs, lower development cost, lower insurance and benefit costs, lower legal costs and risks; and most significantly, a much easier time (and therefore much lower cost) attracting and retaining quality staff at substantially lower cost per employee (because in addition to lower overheadsm these states have a much lower cost of living, much better weather, and much less constrained lifestyles, providing a considerably higher effective standard of living for a given salary).

Of course,  Connecticuts government somehow never got the lesson, that if you took the same breaks from the ridiculous tax and regulatory burden you were going to give to a company promising to bring 5000 jobs into the state.... and you gave them  to EVERY company in the state already... you wouldn't have to beg big companies to come in, and then have to pander to fhem for decades... Small and medium businesses would flourish again, while costs to everyone for everything in the state would go down, and the economy would not just recover, but soar.

... because they just don't think that way...

It's not command and control, it's not collective, it's not a single big thing they can take credit for, it's not one guy they can cut a deal with, or one guy they can control...

... it doesn't fit the narrative...

But... It actually works...

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I am annoyingly expensive to keep alive...

Earlier, my wife posted on Facebook about our monthly prescription drug costs... It got me thinking about our total medical expenditures, and what it takes to keep me alive and functional over and above the "normal" persons needs.

I came to the conclusion that I am rather expensive to keep alive...

At this point I take 7 different daily or weekly prescription medications.

I normally take 15 prescription pills total per day, plus one injection per week (which is way down from the 23 pills a day I was taking at one point).

As of right now, we pay about $350 a month for just my scrips (down from about $600 18 months ago), out of pocket, using several different pharmacies and several different prescription discount plans (it would be three times that price if we didn't).

I think the retail on them combined, used to be around $1500 for generic, but over the past two years, it's gone down to about $900-$1000... Which is still ridiculous. Thankfully, the discount plans really help a LOT.

Name brand, DISCOUNT (never mind retail) cost on my scrips would be several thousand dollars; as name brand retail on just one of those scrips is something like $900, and a couple of the others are $300 to $700.

Oh and that doesn't include the Provigil (modafinil generic), which I have been prescribed, but don't take, because it's INCREDIBLY EXPENSIVE. It used to be $750 with the discount, and it's still $400 with the discount ($1018 retail) for a 30 day supply. And of course, that's generic... name brand is $1350 AFTER DISCOUNT!

Even when we had insurance, Provigil is only covered for narcolepsy and other sudden sleep disorders, not for what I need to take it for (sudden overwhelming fatigue and loss of mental acuity and alertness, with occasional daytime somnolence; due to endocrine dysfunction); so at best, I can get it at the discounted price.

Since I can't afford the medication that actually works.. pretty much I just gut it out. When I have the sudden fatigue etc... I take another adderall and another cytomel, and try to do things that don't require much brain function... or nothing if I can, or if I'm at home try to lay down or nap... until my endocrine system and other meds catch up and my brain works again (it can last for anywhere from 20 minutes, to 2 hours).

And of course, that's just the daily and weekly prescriptions; not the periodic or as needed scrips, or the other OTC meds and supplements that I REQUIRE... Require as in NOT OPTIONAL... necessary for life.

It doesn't include the incidental OTC medications that I need (if I were a low deductible insurance patient I'd get scrips for them, but as a cash patient OTC is cheaper). Mostly prilosec, nasocort, and zyrtec. Those run something like $100 a month for both Mel and I together, so $50 a month for me alone.

It doesn't include the appx. $200 a month in OTC vitamin and mineral supplements I have to take because my body doesn't absorb, retain, or use the amounts I get in my diet properly (megadoses of calcium, potassium, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vitamins A, b1, b2, b5, b6, b12, C, D, and E; and creatine).

Again, these are NOT optional, or I become severely vitamin and mineral deficient, and the medications that keep me alive don't work.

It doesn't include the as needed scrips for allergy and sinus medications (about $50 a month when I need them, several times a year).

Finally, it doesn't include the medicated shampoo, steroid foam, medicated oil/cream, and periodic antifungals and antibiotics; that I need to suppress or relieve certain unpleasant side effects of the cancer and endocrine issues*** (see below). Those run about $300 for a 3 month supply, so $100-ish a month... but I can live without them for a few months at a time.

Basically... I am extremely expensive to keep alive, to the tune of about $650 a month extra just to survive, another $150 on top of that to not be miserable... and $400 on top of that to be awake, alert, and functional full time.

...$1200... a month...

As I always say folks... Cancer sucks, I strongly recommend not getting it. 

*** Because I am immuno-suppressed, have endocrine dysfunction, and because my body doesn't absorb or use vitamins and minerals properly; there are a number of other unpleasant but not life threatening... mostly cosmetic and minor irritation... medical issues I have to deal with.

I suffer from moderate to severe hyperkeratosis and seborrheic dermatitis, and mild angiokeratoma and angioectasia; on my scalp, sometimes my face, and in some other "senstive skin" areas.

At times, as a complication of these, I also develop folliculitis, sebaceous cysts,and cellulitis in those areas.

It's unpleasant, but usually I can deal with it without medication, unless the infections get severe. It does mean I have to shave my head frequently, and severely scrub my scalp, among other things. Also, I've added some more gnarly scarring to the collection that had already graced my skull. 

Acronyms, and Zebras, and Quarter Billions

Hah.. remember how I've mentioned that my cancer was not only incredibly rare in and of itself, but that I had an incredibly rare form of it (which is one reason why it took years to get a diagnosis)?

Well, today I was looking up some of the long term side effects of the cancer in question, and I actually found a paper about the specific incredibly rare presentation that I had... Which was really cool, because it even has an acronym.

In particular, I had atypical Multi-Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN... tentatively classified as an atypical MEN2 presentation), presenting with primary thyroid carcenoma, and non-metastatic undifferentiated micro-lesions (meaning they were only a few cells each, and couldn't be biopsied or typed accurately) of the pituitary, adrenals, and other endocrine tissue.

These microlesions, and possibly the specific type of primary cancer, also caused associated paraneoplastic syndrome, Basically, they makes your endocrine system go out of control, and make your body act like it has other diseases that it doesn't have.

Most prominent in my case, I developed many of the gross symptoms of Cushings disease; so much so that they attempted to treat me for Cushings at one point. However, the treatment actually made me worse, and the next series of tests showed that I absolutely did NOT have Cushings (but at that point, they still had no idea what I actually had. It was another 2 years before they found the cancer).

Notably, while I had microlesions of the parathyroid (along with all my other endocrine tissues), and reduced parathyroid function (I still do in fact, but I have enough that I can metabolize enough calcium as long as I drink a lot of milk or orange juice, or have a few calcium tablets a day) I had no significant parathyroid masses, and no pheocrtomocytoma (I had microlesions, but not large tumors).

These are atypical for MEN2... and for MEN in general. In addition to the currently formally classified MEN1, and MEN2a, MEN2b, and MEN2-FMTC (which is still controversial and not universally accepted),  they are considering making classifications for MEN3 and MEN4 variants which include such presentations.

MEN2 is in itself incredibly rare... Something like 1 in 500,000 people have the genetic anomalies for it, and most with the anomalies don't ever present with the symptoms necessary for diagnoses. Most doctors... even most oncologists and endocrinologists, will never see a case of MEN2 in their practice. Then further, MEN2-FMTC may be as few as 1 in 20 million.

...But that wasn't the new info.. I already knew about MEN2 from way back. The FMTC part IS new, because that has only provisionally come into use in the last few years, and as it happens I had what appears to be a further sub-variant of FMTC, based on the type of primary thyroid tumor I had.

Because what made my presentation atypical (and difficult to classify properly) and even more rare, was the type of primary thyroid cancer I had developed.

The most common types of thyroid cancer are papillary (about 70-75%), and follicular (about 20-25%), with all other types representing less than 5% combined. Of those, medullary is the most common (about 3%), with anaplastic cancers conventionally considered the rarest (less than 1%).

There are a few more rare presentations however, particularly "mixed" or "complex" presentations, where two or more different types of cancerous cells (mixed), or two or more different types of anomalous cancer cell structures or structural abnormalities (complex) occur, within the same tumor. When these happen together, it's a "Mixed complex" presentation.

My tumor exhibited complex mixed papillary, follicular, and parafollicular (medullary) structure, poorly differentiated, with grossly enlarged and malformed nuclei.

As it turns out, it's possibly the rarest form of thyroid cancer... So rare that they are not sure if it should have its own classification, or not... But they made an acronym for it anyway: MMFC (Mixed Medullary and Follicular structure with C-cell presentation... Which may also include papillary and non-epithelial structures as well. These are WEIRD tumors).

How rare is it? As of 2000, only 40 cases of my primary type of tumor had been confirmed and documented world wide... and of those, only 2 were in males, both of whom had MEN2 (as did about 1/3 of the women).

40... total... ever.... (or at least since 1908 when the first was recorded)

According to the best estimates I can find, approximately 10 billion people have lived on earth between 1900 and today. 40 in 10 billion (well... 41 including me, but we'll round off)...

That's 1 in 250,000,000

 Basically, 1 case in America alive today... me... and another 25 or 30 all around the whole world.

...Though to be fair, it's likely there were more, they just weren't documented; either because they died quickly and their COD was just listed as "natural causes" or "thyroid cancer"; or because the disease was treated before it progressed to the point where MMFC could be diagnosed.

...Or they just didn't notice that it was MMFC, because the presentation is so rare, that histologists and pathologists don't look for it, and assume it's a bad test when they see it (it can look like a bad sample, or one that's been contaminated with cleaning solution or something similar).

My first biopsy in fact, while it showed this unusual presentation, was also annotated by the lab as "inconsistent and unreliable", and they considered it "inconclusive". The pathology wasn't confirmed until the post-excision analysis.

Of all the documented cases, those that progressed far enough, ALL had the same tumor progression. They began as relatively slow growing mild malignancies through stage II. Then after reaching between 10 and 15cm, they exhibited rapid anaplastic transformation, reaching stage IV in a matter of weeks or months. At that point they became extremely aggressive and invasive undifferentiated anaplastic malignancies, with lymphovascular infiltration, and invasion of nearby tissues.

... Which is exactly what mine did.

My cancer had aggressive vascular infiltration by the time they excised the primary mass (the doc said it had built its own blood supply with a couple large blood vessels, and dozens of small malformed blood vessels in and out of the capsule) but thankfully hadn't gone aggressively lymphocytic, because the tumor had remained encapsulated. There were a few small clusters of small speckles of cancerous tissue throughout my body, and LOTS of tiny speckles all over (I lit up like a Christmas tree on the body scan), but there were no large distant masses, or large or dense clusters of cancerous tissue.

When they did my post surgery followup, and got the pathology report, they told me that it was the strangest (with the mixed complex structure) and most aggressive anaplastic thyroid cancer they had seen. They said if I hadn't caught it right then, I would have died in as little as a few weeks to at most 3-6 months, depending on how long it took for the capsule to burst, and for the cancer to completely metastasize through the lymphatic system.

That was when they decided I had to have the most aggressive radiotherapy option... which I'm still suffering side effects from almost 3 years later. Because with that type of cancer, you either nuke it hard, or it kills you more than 90% of the time.

Anaplastic thyroid cancers are generally considered effectively untreatable once they invade other tissue, or if they exhibit lymphocytic metastases.

They have a very very poor survival rate... 4-7% survive five years after SUCCESSFUL treatment, because the cancer aggressively returns, even with surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy...

....Unless the tumors are encapsulated...

Thank God mine stayed encapsulated.

By God I am so lucky, and so blessed, to be alive...

... But anyway...

I now have the right acronym for my MEN subtype:


Wednesday, July 22, 2015


Chris has been offered, and accepted, a job in Quincy, MA that is totally within his wheelhouse and actually pays enough. His stated start date is August 3rd.

Problem is, we're in Lakeland, FL. And we don't have enough cash to get him there and ride out the month until he gets paid on August 30th.

That's a problem. We need to pay a very pressing bill, get him to MA, make sure everyone has meds refilled, and make sure we have food and transportation for him in MA, and food and gas money for the toddler and me in FL (we'll be moving once we have a place in MA, and our rent in FL is already paid).

It's a lot smaller gap than it was, but it's still a gap.

So if anyone can help us in any way at all, anything would help.

Last time I went without telling everyone I ended up raked across the coals, so this time I'm just going to come out and say it: we're very very close, and just need to make it just a bit longer, and any help would be greatly appreciated.

If you're uncomfortable with using PayPal (and I know a lot of you are) you can also drop me a line at Melody DOT Byrne AT gmail DOT com


Update: Got the plane ticket, but things like food, ground transport in MA, gas money and travel incidentals are not as of yet.

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Moving Towards Post Scarcity

If you want a world where no-one is poor, or hungry, or suffers... It's impossible.

However, a world where poverty and hunger are rare is entirely possible. In fact, we could do it right now, today.

... Though not through the means that most of those who loudly claim it as their goal, would think... or approve of.

The way to get there is by moving towards a post scarcity economy. Not to redistribute material wealth, but to make everyone so materially wealthy, that there would be no point.

And that IS possible.

We already live in a world where we can produce enough food, cheaply enough, for no-one to ever be hungry again.

... but most of it is wasted (seriously, most... between 60% and 80% of all food grown in advanced economies is wasted), because of government corruption, stupidity, or outright tyranny (most famines are not the result of nature, but of government).

That wasted food isn't given away for free, because high energy costs make transportation too expensive, and because government makes laws and regulations against doing so,mor that make doing so too risky and expensive.

What about other goods?

The three biggest components of the cost of most material goods, are labor, energy, and legal and regulatory costs (including taxes).

Material costs for most goods are a small fraction in comparison, rarely exceeding 20% of the total cost of an item, and often comprising less than 5%.

...And even then, much of the costs of the raw materials are themselves, labor, energy, and legal and regulatory costs (including taxes).

It's not greedy evil profit that makes and keeps things expensive... It's the cost of energy, the cost of labor, and the costs imposed by government and the legal system.

Right now, today, we could dramatically reduce the wasteful overheads imposed by government and the legal system, without hurting safety a single bit.

We could dramatically reduce taxes, and regulations, keeping only those that demonstrably improve safety to a reasonable degree for the costs they impose.

We could make industries far more competitive, by reducing barriers to entry created by governments.

We could dramatically increase employment at the same time, and wages, as businesses competed for workers, who had more money to pay those businesses.

We know all of these things work, because they always have, and always do. When we get out of the way.

But the single biggest thing we could do, to dramatically increase the material wealth of the world, and to dramatically improve the human condition...

Cheap energy.

If we could deliver energy so cheap that we didn't have to bother metering it, then we could achieve a near post scarcity economy, almost immediately.

With enough energy, cheap enough, we can achieve matter synthesis for many substances relatively easily.

With enough energy, cheap enough, aluminum, copper, gold, silver, silicon, and many other currently expensive materials, become dirt cheap.

With enough energy, cheap enough, plastics and anything derived from petrochemicals or other hyrdocarbons, become so cheap as to be effectively zero cost.

With enough energy, cheap enough, we have effectively unlimited clean fresh water, and can easily clean the air.

With enough energy, cheap enough, we can synthesize whatever fuels we want... Or mostly not bother, because the only thing we'd need chemical fuels for anymore was highly efficient long distance bulk cargo transportation, and air travel.

If you're really worried about carbon output from the human race... How about eliminating more than 80% of it, permanently?

With enough energy, cheap enough, we don't have to worry about efficiency of transport and storage technologies... though we will still develop them so that we can replace chemical fuels in air travel and bulk cargo transport, and to improve range and grid independence.

With enough energy, cheap enough, the cost of manufactured goods falls anywhere from 20% to more than 80%... and employment booms, and economies boom, and everyone gets much wealthier... rich and poor alike.

With enough energy, cheap enough, about 90% of the world's troublespots, stop being troublespots, and most of them we wouldn't have to care about.

If you want to "end war" it's impossible, but if you want to make it much rarer, smaller scale, and less destructive... cheap energy is the best way to do that.

Guess what?

We could do most of this, in less than 20 years, simply by deploying a widely distributed localized grid, of thorium reactors (technically, encapsulated pebble bed, low temperature and pressure gas coolant, thorium reactors... and/or natural convection, low pressure thorium salt reactors).

They have functionally negligible waste, their fuel cost per gigawatt is negligible, and they are many times safer than current coal and natural gas power. They are incredibly cheap to build and operate, they can't be weaponized, they can't have a meltdown or other destructive catastrophic failure... if you don't believe me, don't believe the propaganda, go an do the research yourself.

If we decided to get out of the way and get behind this entirely, we would have power at a cost of pennies per megawatt hour... a tiny fraction of a percent of the cost today (in the U.S. average is something like $0.13 kwh right now with taxes and fees adding about 20% on top of that. Some states run several times that, and much of Europe several times that again).

This isn't some pie in the sky dream, it doesn't require 50 years of engineering work or basic science. There are no breakthroughs required... Unlike EVERY OTHER FORM OF POWER that could possibly be an alternative to today's power infrastructure. Solar, wind, geothermal, none of them could ever be more than a fraction of our needs at ridiculously high cost. Fusion requires both basic science breakthroughs and much more engineering work to be viable (if it ever is). It's all decades away at best, if ever.

We could do this today.

Not 50 years from now... TODAY.

The 20 years isn't for more development, it's just how long it would take to complete the world wide economic transition to a cheap energy economy and infrastructure.

So, if what you really want, is to make a world where no-one goes hungry, and no-one is homeless... Then work for cheap and safe energy, and a huge reduction in government induced overhead. And it will happen.

Otherwise, what you really want, is a world where everyone is poorer, but where "evil profit" is eliminated, and "the rich" are punished, and everyone is economically "equal"; where the "right people are in charge", and will arrange the world the way you think is right, and punish the people you think are wrong.

Because that's all you're ever going to get, with more expensive energy, higher taxes, more government, and more redistribution.