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Apple announced this morning a major dividend program that is set to transfer profits to shareholders at a significant rate. From the looks of it starting at roughly $10 Billion per year. Though that is small relative to expected Apple profits, even I would admit that this is a huge initial commitment.

Obviously, I have been accusing Apple executives of hoarding cash in an attempt to protect their own interests and the long run survivability of the company rather than maximizing the return on equity of shareholders.

To add insult to injury, share price was down in the immediate wake of the announcement, which though anticipated by a few analysts cannot be regarded as anything other than a discrete jump in market expectations.

There is just no way at this point I can see a narrative in which my story was correct and Apple and the market responds in this manner together.

I will have an update as information becomes available but right now this looks like nothing less than Epic Defeat for my thesis.

I will debate Bryan Caplan on this topic this coming Wednesday.

Bryan’s says

My strategy, as usual, is to use an uncontroversial moral premise to show that the status quo is absurd.  The premise: You are poor by your own fault if there are reasonable steps you could take – or could have taken – to avoid poverty.

Tyler correctly predicts that no one – not least myself – knows for sure which Karl Smith will show up.

Yet other perspectives must be brought to bear.  There is determinism, at differing levels, ranging from “it’s tough to come from a broken home” to “lead poisoning is bad for you” to “what if the universe is a frozen four-dimensional Einsteinian/Parmenidean block of space-time?”  (Ethics does look different when you are traveling at the speed of light.)

There is the view that desert simply is not very relevant for a lot of our choices.  We still may wish to aid the undeserving.

Though it will be tough I will resist the urge to preemptively concede to Bryan on the grounds that desert is a fiction and morality a farce. The only question of any importance is which more unlovely to us: the manners and habits of the poor or the sight, sound and knowledge of their suffering.

Morality – like causality – is a tale told by an idiot. Or, more precisely the left prefrontal cortex. This mass of neurons is tasked with weaving purpose and meaning out of world which has no such things.

When combined with speech this application of narratives to reality allows human beings to operate as a giant hivemind, responding to events they have no direct access to and coordinating behavior in ways that greatly increases the survival rate of their offspring.

All of that having been said, it is lovely to work through the implications of what we believe.

So my basic case is that Bryan’s distinction between utility functions and budget constraints doesn’t correspond to anything that would be relevant to most folk’s well examined sense of morality.

In some cases this is because the distinction is so easily redefined simply by altering the choice set.

Bryan has famously said that the alcoholic is deserves the consequences of his alcoholism because he could have chosen differently. If you put a gun to his head and said don’t drink, the alcoholic could stop.

Fine.

But, the alcoholic cannot choose the consumption bundle that I chose all the time. That is to not drink and not experience delirium tremors. Putting a gun to his head can’t make him choose that outcome.

I’ll of course go into more detail in the debate but unless you are saying the alcoholic deserves delirium tremors it makes little sense to say that he deserves the poverty that results from his alcoholism. After all poverty is his attempt to better his situation.

I used alcohol because Bryan did but we can keep tracing down the chain to more fundamental properties of people and see that in many cases poverty is an attempt to escape a fate worse than poverty.

Unless you believe that they deserve this worse fate then why do they deserve poverty?

I will be traveling to the Scottsdale, AZ area on Sunday and staying through Friday. If any Modeled Behavior readers are familiar with the area, I welcome suggestions on great food and interesting things to see and do. Also, if any readers live or will be in the area and would like to schedule a meetup, let me know in the comments and I will try and fit it into my schedule!

Thanks in advance!

I’m debating Bob Murphy on Friday at 6pm. This is a web debate and its pay-per-view. Which means, of course, that both Bob and I will be in the Octagon, battling to submission.

This is the econ web cage match of DEATH.

So what’s the backstory?

Well, the Austrians at Mises.org challenged Paul Krugman to a debate. Krugman demurred. Seeing no champion to oppose them the Austrians declared victory and a pall was cast over the land.

Wickedness rose up and all that was just and right was driven into the shadows. Flowers wilted. Virgins cried. Cats couldn’t find a comfortable sleeping position. It was a time of unimaginable peril.

But just as things seemed their darkest, a new hope emerged. A hero came forth who could save what was good and decent about the world. A man who could give the people a reason to believe. I speak, of course, of myself.

Now on Friday that hero – me – will vanquish the great evil and send the demon Austrians back into the hellfire from whence they came.

What I humbly offer you, dear reader, is to be a part of this great event. To be present at the Quickening. To see light triumph over dark. To see good banish evil. To see a final resolution to the Manichean struggle that has gripped mankind since time before time.

Is this not worth but a small fee (that you could probably charge as a business expense, we are using cisco “web-conference” software) to witness a turning point in human history.

Tales of this event shall the good man teach his son. Yearly on the anniversary they will feast this day. Then will he pull forth his credit card receipt and say . . . this charge I made on that day.

Old men forget, yet all should be forgotten but he’ll remember with advantages what arguments we made that day.

Hayekian Triangles, Keynesian Crosses and fiscal multipliers shall be in their cups freshly remembered. And, economics debates shall ne’er go by from this day ‘til the ending of the world, but Bob and I will be remembered.

Will you join us dear reader? Will you be a part of this day?

If so, register now at: http://academy.mises.org/courses/murphy-smith/

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