Fuck credit scores

The Equifax leak (which still happened and is still a problem for, well, an absurd amount of people, though it’s fallen off the news radar) should really have us question why this sort of thing is allowed to even be.

If credit scores/reports were just for credit cards, I could see a case for their existence, maybe. But that’s not what they’re just for. Rather, they’re used for credit cards, loans, bank accounts, renting, and hiring. Basically, your options are just be incredibly wealthy or have three private companies with almost zero oversight have an absurd amount of power in your life. Given the former isn’t an option for almost anyone, three companies are essentially acting as a pseudo-government. Except instead of at having to pretend to care about people, they can be as misanthropic as they want.

There’s already plenty of used reason to break them up. Monopolies, especially unregulated private monopolies, cause problems. That’s why there’s laws in place to break them up. Sometimes those laws are even enforced. There’s also laws about price fixing that are occasionally enforced. Now, whether those by the letter include non-monetary prices is not something I know, but if they don’t, there’s no good reason not to expand them to do so. Because selling your personal information to these companies is absolutely a price. It’s just also a price charged by nearly every bank, landlord, etc.

(Now, whether these reports could even function if people had options that enabled them to avoid them entirely is another question. Seeing them fail entirely seems quite alright.)

Going perhaps a bit further, though, why do a few numbers enable someone to create so many problems for someone else? Like, I understand which existing mechanisms are the source of the problem. Why not fix them? As the video below points out, the problem is you cannot change your SSN or date of birth. I really can’t see any reason why not to take the obvious solution: Allow people to change their SSN and date of birth.

(SSNs also were not originally intended for identification. Really the idea of any sort of permanent identification rubs me the wrong way. Especially the kind anyone can look up. (Or demand your consent to look up. I could see perhaps having a permanent medical record. I can’t justify, say, potential employers having any sort of (de facto) right to access your history.)

 

Even if we hold that we will have some ID, SSN is a terrible authentication method. Given how many forms and databases they’re in, in an unencrypted format at that, they are incredibly insecure. If we are going to have fixed identifiers, SSN seems like a good enough ID inasmuch as it’s non-ambiguous. Indeed, terrible for authentication for the reasons you listed. If someone really wanted to create havoc (and possibly make out with a ton of money in the end) they could rob a bank of all of the papers with people’s SSNs, DOBs, names, etc. and abuse those. (Or go to a rental leasing office. Or, hell, put up a Craigslist ad for a job that doesn’t really exist and have that information on the bogus application. Sure, phishing scams are bound to happen with any system (Well, TFA could be tricky to phish.) but also given people fall for them so frequently, a system wherein people’s most sensitive data can be easily and permanently stolen is ridiculous.

According to the video (I haven’t dug deeper) you can freeze your credit and then unfreeze it with a PIN you set. Of course, that also costs a bit every time because of course it does.

My favorite form (or factor) of authentication is still social, though how to make it work online or in very highly populated areas can be tricky. It’s nearly impossible to fake, though, and is more directly what we’re really doing when we identify people. We (people) are generally pretty good at identifying others. If I see someone I know I don’t need to see an ID card to figure out who they are. If someone else tries to claim to be someone I know, I can tell they’re lying regardless of any ID cards. Identifying people as themselves seems thus ideal. (The two biggest problems I’d foresee in expanding it to the current age and urban areas are the obvious just not knowing millions of people to just get a credit card or buy something online or whatever, and also presumably it’d worsen economic stratification as knowing the right people could become even more important if not handled with proper care.))

The entire problem of credit scores seems to be relatively simple: having an informational advantage over someone gives you an advantage. Of course anyone doing business with you would prefer to know everything about you. And of course you’re better off if you can keep your hand hidden. The people on the employer/loaner/insurer/banker side of the table will collude if they’re allowed. Anything done from the other side presumably has to be done via the legal system since those are very hard things to avoid.

(I suppose filling the information with noise would also do the trick. Either by plenty of omissions via options to do things while avoiding the credit reporting agencies or else by somehow filling the databases with garbage information. Similar things to the former have happened. Some people tried to do something similar to the latter with web ads (via a program to hide all ads from view while also spamming them with bogus clicks) but clearly it didn’t go so far.

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Another duplicitous argument from the political sphere (regarding endangered species)

Some of the people in office in the US on the right are pushing to decimate the protections on endangered species. Harnett-White gave away the real reason pretty straightforwardly: The administration and friends consider the Endangered Species Act to be “economically harmful” and a “formidable obstacle to development.” This is a rather transparent way of saying the people with a lot of money that they’re serving are more interested in accumulating more money (why?) and not very interested in biodiversity or the preservation of likely irreplaceable varieties of creatures.

That’s at least an honest reason. (The reason is awful, and their use of it is good reason for us to dispose of them, but that someone has come right out and said it is convenient.)

The usual duplicitous argument given goes something like this:

  1. Almost all species classified as endangered have taken a substantial amount of time (say, over ten years) to be restored or have yet to be restored or die off anyway.
  2. If 1, then protections for endangered species are ineffectual.
  3. The protections have a significant cost.
  4. If something is ineffectual and has a significant cost, it should be eliminated.
  5. So, the protections should be eliminated.

While one may question whether the costs rise to the level of significance, the clear dishonesty is in 2. To illustrate, we can look to the NHS. For awhile, it was considered one of the best healthcare systems in the world. Then ring wing politicians started killing its funding. Without adequate resources to do everything it’s supposed to, it has faltered. The same people that starved it of resources then point to it in its starving state and say it’s fundamentally broken. The same basic move is in play here. The actions that have been put proposed to preserve various species have generally not been adequately funded. Additionally, much of the damage that has been done (mostly by humans) has in some cases taken many decades or centuries. To expect a turnaround time of under ten years is absurd. To make this argument is as dishonest as showing you can beat Bobby Fischer in a chess match by punching him out and letting his clock run down.

The bald eagle took thirty years to come off the endangered list. That’s a fair bit longer than ten years, but more appropriate to the nature of the problem. Its coming off also is a nice demonstration of efficacy.

Rather conveniently, with 2 and everything tied to it axed, we can see the real line of reasoning:

  1. The protections have a(n opportunity) cost (to a certain population).
  2. If 1, then get rid of the protections.
  3. Get rid of the protections.

If one were to qualify 1 quite a bit, then we would have something. If for example, the options were protect some owls or feed some people, we could have the case for feeding some people. That’s not the case, though. We instead have to balance biodiversity with the ability of a few to make the numbers in their accounts higher.

Be honest; people like getting tips

I have noticed most people working for reduced MW plus tips are in favor of the current system, despite the rhetoric about how servers are underpaid. It usually comes up when the “if there were no tips, prices would increase” argument comes up.

The counterargument goes:
1. As it stands, if someone is making less than full MW after tips, the employer has to make up the difference. So we can infer at least the average server is making, after tips, more than MW.
2. If servers were paid without tips, most would make MW.
3. Therefore the total cost of servers would go down without tips.
So, obviously, prices would not be forced higher than the real price now.

The honest people arguing for the current system will then say 3 is bad, and the problem is 2. Tips enable people who would otherwise make MW to make more than MW.

(I think that’s a good thing. I guess it’s not as flashy rhetoric though.)