Oh, John Carmack, no

Ok, this doesn’t really qualify for a new thread, but whatevs.
John Carmack decides, after 20 years of not voting, to lay down some truth on the matter of politics:

My core thesis is that the federal government delivers very poor value for the resources it consumes, and that society as a whole would be better off with a government that was less ambitious. This is not to say that it doesn’t provide many valuable and even critical services, but that the cost of having the government provide them is much higher than you would tolerate from a company or individual you chose to do business with. For almost every task, it is a poor tool.

So much of the government just grinds up money, like shoveling cash into a wood chipper. It is ghastly to watch. Billions and billions of dollars. Imagine every stupid dot-com company that you ever heard of that suckered in millions of dollars of investor money before leaving a smoking crater in the ground with nothing to show for it. Add up all that waste, all that stupidity. All together, it is a rounding error versus the analogous program results in the government. Private enterprises can’t go on squandering resources like that for long, but it is standard operating procedure for the government.

Well, can’t we make the government more efficient, so they can accomplish its tasks for less, or do more good work? Sure, there is room for improvement everywhere, but there are important fundamental limits. It is entertaining to imagine a corporate turnaround expert being told to get the federal house in shape, but it can’t happen. The modern civil service employment arrangement is probably superior to the historic jobs-as-political-spoils approach, but it insulates the workforce from the forces that improve commercial enterprises, and the voting influence of each worker is completely uncorrelated with their value. Without the goal and scorecard of profit, it is hard to even make value judgments between people and programs, so there are few checks against mounting inefficiency and abject failure, let alone evolution towards improvement.
However, a lot is done in the name of misplaced idealism. It isn’t hard to look around the world and find something that you feel needs fixing. The world gets to be a better place by people taking action to improve things, but it is easy for the thought to occur that if the government can be made to address your issue, it could give results far greater than what you would be able to accomplish with direct action. Even if you knew that it wasn’t going to be managed especially well, it would make up for it in volume. This has an obvious appeal.

Every idealistic cry for the government to “Do Something” means raising revenue, which means taking money from people to spend in the name of the new cause instead of letting it be used for whatever purpose the earner would have preferred.
Helping people directly can be a noble thing. Forcing other people to do it with great inefficiency? Not so much. There isn’t a single thing that I would petition the federal government to add to its task list, and I would ask that it stop doing the majority of the things that it is currently doing. My vote is going to the candidates that at least vector in that direction.


Maybe he can develop some kind of formal political philosophy to go with those innovative views. I dunno, call it libertism or something like that, maybe? Naah, too close to “liberal”, that would never fly.

It’s weird he thinks profit is only worthwhile metric. I wonder what this “Great Recession” would have looked like without unemployment insurance. Surely, programs can be judged by metrics other than profit. At the individual level (not politician, but individual civil servant) you can even do budget to services offered comparisons that allow you to measure efficiency outside of the profit scorecard.

Heck, you can’t even make the statement that the “government just grinds up money” unless you have accurate and worthwhile metrics.

Edit: For example, the last time I did jury duty, the person running our county’s jury services department was new and from another district and talked to us about a change in services that allowed us to set our own jury dates she developed. In her previous district, it significantly increased participation and reduced overall costs since totally random dates with random name selections wasted a lot of people’s time.

My vote is going to the candidates that at least vector in that direction.

Reflecting on this entire statement for a moment; were could his vote go in the real world?

Semi-autistic engineering geek with few to no social skills, treats people as numbers.

News at 11.

Programmer who’s made a boatload of cash with his own skills and runs a company that does private rocket launches is a libertarian?


Seriously guys. This should come as no surprise to anyone.

This is like entertainers jabbering about politics: shut your mouth and get back to making me videogames and personal rocket cars.

No one at the federal level, unless he’s in RONPAUL’s district in Texas. I don’t know about his local candidates. His use of the word vector is amusing: the mainstream state/federal “small government” candidates are still going in the same direction, but with a slightly smaller length in the vector.

I guess if that thrills you enough to get out of bed and vote, then knock yourself out.

So I read the whole thing, but the Walter Anderson line is epheumistic to say the least, Carmack says:

I know a man (Walt Anderson), who has been in jail for a decade because the IRS disagreed with how his foundations were set up, so it isn’t an academic statement.

About Walt Anderson:

Anderson was arrested on February 26, 2005 at Dulles International Airport as he was returning from London.[2][3] He was accused of hiding his wealth in off-shore companies in Panama and the British Virgin Islands in an attempt to avoid taxation on his income. The companies reportedly earned nearly $500 million in revenue during a five-year period.[2]

On September 8, 2006, Anderson pleaded guilty to two felony counts of evading taxes and one felony count of defrauding the District of Columbia government in plea agreement. He was sentenced to nine years in prison, and agreed to turn over $200 million in restitution within ten days of sentencing.[3]
As part of the plea agreement, Anderson admitted to hiding $365 million of income by using aliases, shell companies, offshore tax havens, and secret accounts. Anderson also admitted to having earned more than $126 million in 1998, a year that he claimed an income of $67,939 on his federal tax return for which he only paid $495 in taxes.[3]

Yes, a mere disagreement there. A technicality in filling his legal forms setting up his foundations.

Your unquestioning faith has been noticed by Party officials, comrade!

I don’t know the details of this case, but you might want to learn about federal investigations and the guilty plea racket. It’s to the point where the higher the profile, the less likely any real crime was comitted.

Be that as it may, it is certainly true that the State enforces taxing by force. The real problem of writing it is that it’s utterly banal.

It’s not an interesting opinion piece, I’m a little confused as to why he bothered to write it up. All of those sentiments are extremely common and well expressed a million times over every day.

No, the real problem is Rage still hasn’t been released. Get back to work!


If Wesley Snipes could get his day in court, I’m not sure why a multimillionaire entrepreneur felt the need to plead guilty rather than go to trial. And if the government really did torture him into pleading guilty (as this website claims) he may be able to get damages from the court when he is exonerated.

My point still stands, the IRS considers this more than a mere disagreement. If he’s innocent of these charges, it’s not like he’s suffering from under representation. I have a hard time believing he couldn’t have worked out something with the IRS as far as penalties if it was an honest mistake in the structure of his charities with regard to tax law.

This is old news. If I recall Kushner’s Masters of Doom correctly, Carmack met his wife through their mutual admiration of Ayn Rand, or something silly like that.

Honestly, it’s hard to deny the appeal of Libertarianism to a self-made multi-millionaire who dropped out of school early on and who has to deal with the software patent system. Although given Carmack’s love of thinking problems through, I would have hoped he could have put a little bit more effort into his social “analysis” than he did.

The man made $125M+ in a single year. You really think he couldn’t afford an army of lawyers to fight for him if he thought he had the slightest chance of being found not guilty?

…what was this thread about, again? Oh right - Carmack! shrug He can trot out the usual conservative / libertarian tropes about how hideously wasteful the federal gov’t is and blah blah blah, but without (A) some credible data on just what we’re wasting our money on and (B) reasonable alternatives, it’s just the usual smoke-blowing by a self-satisfied successful fellow who underestimates the value of his own government (IMHO of course).

This is the guilty plea racket I told you to investigate, Mordrak. The slightest chance of being found not guilty is balanced by the slightest chance you’ll be found guilty and spend even longer in federal prison. Maybe Anderson looked his family in the eye and took the devil he knew.

Sorry for the sidebar. I edited to reduce the chance of it continuing.

I might respect his opinions more if he’d made anything decent in the last 10 years.

No, I’m aware of it. It just doesn’t affect high profile cases, nor do I see it necessarily proportional the way you do (the higher the profile, the more likely to be innocent). Some of my family members are intimately aware of it. My brother is serving 4 years right now for a burglary he claims he didn’t commit, but he’s already at two strikes in California and took a deal rather than go to trial.

I’m aware people make those decisions. However, my brother, unlike Mr. Anderson, doesn’t have millions of dollars to throw at lawyers and is stuck with a public defender and a pre-existing criminal record.

Carmacks views on government interest me almost as much as Whoopi Goldbergs views on government.