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Thursday, December 29, 2005


Marginal Revolution: A simple public choice model of currency crises

Some speculation on what motivates governments to avoid/allow currency crises. Frankly, it's over my head, but may be of interest to someone interested in reform of the monetary system.

Marginal Revolution: A simple public choice model of currency crises


NPR : Bolivian Leader's Stance on Coca Raises U.S. Concerns

NPR : Bolivian Leader's Stance on Coca Raises U.S. Concerns

Interesting on a few levels:
1) The continuing US intervention in Latin American politics, particularly focused on the "drug war"
2) The international drug war as cultural imperialism
3) The distortion of information as it passes up a heirarchy, so that the decision makers at the top are living in a fantasy world.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Corporate Crime Reporter: crime without conviction report

Via NPR (Day to Day, Marketplace)

The Corporate Crime Repoter has a new report detailing how federal prosecuters strike deals to avoid charging corporations with crimes. Basically, they do everything they can to focus on individuals within the corporation, leaving the corporation as a whole untouched. There are also reports of inappropriate behavior on the part of prosecutors, such as forcing the corporations to give money to particular schools in exchange for getting off the hook.

Crime Without Conviction: Report Details 34 Special Deals with Major Corporations
20 Corporate Crime Reporter 1(1), December 28, 2005


Marginal Revolution: Why people don't like Wikipedia (and blogs)

A brief analysis of our emerging, decentralized communication system. How do we trust information that doesn't come from a central authority? The crux is this:

"And a little slop at the microscale is the price of such efficiency at the macroscale."

Marginal Revolution: Why people don't like Wikipedia (and blogs):


Threw the Book at 'Em: BLOG: SciAm Observations (Religion in public schools)

Scientific American has some commentary on the Dover "Evolution vs. Intelligent Design" court case. Basically, I see this as a significant defeat for those who would have the state sponsor religion, but I still sympathize with the Fundamentalists out there, as this situation illustrates how it is practically impossible to separate "education" from the rest of life, including religion.

Threw the Book at 'Em: BLOG: SciAm Observations

Friday, December 16, 2005


Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

Bush Authorized Domestic Spying

You'd think that the title says it all, but it doesn't. There's also this:

The Times said it held off on publishing its story about the NSA program for a year after administration officials said its disclosure would harm national security.

This news comes while the Senate is arguing over the PATRIOT act.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


Marginal Revolution: Handbook for Cyber-Dissidents

Marginal Revolution: Handbook for Cyber-Dissidents

The entirity of the post is copied below:

Reporters without Borders has put together a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber-Dissidents explaining such things as how to blog anonymously. Contributors to the book include Arash Sigarchi, an Iranian blogger who was sentenced to 14 years in prison for criticizing the Iranian regime.

Thanks to Carl Close for the pointer.

Saturday, December 10, 2005


Chinese police tighten control on rebellious town / Villagers say at least 14 killed in protest over land seizure

Chinese police tighten control on rebellious town / Villagers say at least 14 killed in protest over land seizure: "By the government's own tally, there were 74,000 riots or other significant public disturbances in 2004 alone, a big jump from previous years."

China has a lot of problems. News like this raises the prospect that another revolution may be brewing in China. The implications for the rest of the world would be immense. Specifically, I think about all of the foreign investment in China, and wonder how the USA and other capitalist governments would respond to a popular revolution that expropriates foreign assets in China. Is China so big that foreign governments would just have to sit back and let it run it's own course, or would they intervene as they did during the Russian and Cuban revolutions? Will they villianize a revolutionary government, and long for the days that the "progressive" Communist Party ruled China?

Thursday, December 08, 2005


The American auto industry--[Mackinac Center for Public Policy]Making Promises That Can be Kept�

A couple of conservative friends of mine have declared that "the unions are responsible for the problems of the auto-makers." I haven't heard much about this issue, so I assume that some sort of fuss is being made in the right-wing media. A more moderate friend pointed out that the auto-makers had (of course) agreed to the contracts that are strangling them, so they are as much to blame as anyone.

I decided to do a little research on this and discovered that GM continues to give out respectable dividends even as they shut down factories, so it's not like they have NO money. As I said, I'm not sure exactly what these conservatives were complaining about, but I came across this nice piece of vulgar libertarianism:
Making Promises That Can be Kept�[Mackinac Center for Public Policy]:

To really help Michigan manufacturers and their employees move from pensions to something more secure, the federal government must make unionism voluntary. The concept that only 50.1 percent of workers in an industry can force union representation upon every other worker is untenable.

Notice how subtly he twists the meaning of the term "force" so that union shops "force" workers to join the union, but employers don't "force" workers to come to work. Also, he's not calling for the end of government regulation of labor relations, just for these regulations to be changed in favor of business.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005


calendarlive.com: Discs are the new soapbox

Via Marginal Revolution.

A report on the use of DVDs for political education and evangelism.

calendarlive.com: Discs are the new soapbox

Tuesday, December 06, 2005


Health care alternatives... (Marketplace: Faith-based insurance)

I've come across a couple of health-care related stories recently.

First, this NPR audio story describes MediCare -- a "Christian bill-sharing cooperative".

Marketplace: Faith-based insurance

Also, at Marginal Revolution, Tyler Cowen is floating the idea of Medical Care Vouchers, complete with open comments. I've never seen a Mutualist analysis of vouchers.


Slashdot | A Look at the US Patent System

L.A. Times editorializes on patent reform, and Slashdot follows up with links to commentary, and their own discussion (of course)

Slashdot | A Look at the US Patent System

Monday, December 05, 2005


Marketplace: NOLA mortgages

When New Orleans is reborn, who will own it? Part of the answer depends on how many home mortgages are foreclosed

Marketplace: NOLA mortgages (audio)

Text from the Seattle Times: FHA offering mortgage relief for hurricane victims

Gulf coast homeowners with mortgages received three-month forebearances on their loans, but now many banks are starting to demand payments. The Federal Housing Administration will step in to provide interest-free loans covering one year's mortgage payments to the 20,000 homeowners with Federally insured loans, as long as those homes will be habitable within that time period.


The St. Petersburg Times - NGO Law Defended By Kremlin

The Russian state continues its march back towards totalitarianism. Currently, it is appealing to Russian nationalism in an attempt to weaken counter-institutions and eliminate international cooperation among non-governmental organizations--The St. Petersburg Times - Top Stories - NGO Law Defended By Kremlin

This comes on the heels of other acts that concentrated power in Moscow. The events of 2004 are summarized in this BBC article--Russia's year of shrinking liberties.


InformationWeek >IBM Jumps On Open Document Bandwagon

The Microsoft monopoly is under attack from multiple fronts.

InformationWeek > IBM, Open Document Format > IBM Jumps On Open Document Bandwagon > December 4, 2005

I've long been a fan of open document formats, believing that use of Microsoft's formats produces "vendor lock-in", thereby limiting competition. Kevin's "Studies in Mutualist Political Economy" discussed the role of monopoly in capitalist economics, and put things into perspective for me (and also made me think that I had been wasting my time advocating open document formats).

Basically, as I understood the argument, we should expect the capitalist powers-that-be (corporations and governments) to oppose any monopoly that affects an input to production, as "office productivity software" clearly does. Capitalists will also make a point of preventing any one of them from acquiring much more wealth than the others, hence Microsoft is a prime target for them.

Saturday, December 03, 2005


Slashdot | John Seigenthaler Sr. Criticizes Wikipedia (dealing with slander and libel)

Slashdot | John Seigenthaler Sr. Criticizes Wikipedia

Wikipedia has come under fire from an old politico because his (obscure) biography insinuated that he was involved in the assassinations of the Kennedys. He uses his experience as an opportunity to argue for laws that would effective centralize publication on the Internet in order to combat libel and slander. I think this is relevant to Kevin Carson's recent post about "P2P: New Economic Paradigm?"

I'm not familiar with any mutualist theory on slander and libel, but I have two thoughts on the issue:
  1. Violence is not necessary to combat slander/libel. A thinking population and an effective correction system should be enough, but some sort of ostracism may also be in order.
  2. This obsession with slander and libel seems to reflect the world view of the powerful and the centralizers. They want to develop a global reputation, and have the ability to forcefully protect that reputation even among people who they have never met and are far outside of their social circle.
Anyway, there are some good comments on Slashdot, especially this one from "penguin-collective"
Do you make a habit out of believing accusations against people without evidence? How naive can you be?

The problem isn't with the Wikipedia. The Wikipedia is completely honest about what it is.

The problem is that people like Seigenthaler...need to grow up...and stop nurturing the illusion that publication is some kind of quality control. Start using your head and start asking for evidence, for whatever claims you hear.

As for Mr. Seigenthaler and his little problem: the Wikipedia provides the means for him to correct those issues he feels inaccurate. If the original author is still around, they can hash it out on the discussion page. Maybe one side or the other will provide some evidence to support the accusation or the defense. That's all there's to it. But, as he told us, he isn't interested in correcting the information, he is interested in dragging the original author in front of a court, and I'm sorry, that kind of powerplay just doesn't work anymore in the 21st century.


Environmental Economics: Dam Lies, Fish and Politics (and more)

Here are a couple of links to the Environmental Economics blog, reporting on distortion of environmental information by the government in order to support favored special interest groups.

This is just another instance that demonstrates the fundamental corruption of government and its inability/unwillingness to fairly consider costs and benefits in its policy decisions.

Environmental Economics: Dam Lies, Fish and Politics

Biased Analysis of Clean Air Proposals by the EPA?


Marginal Revolution: Nick Szabo's blog (traits of successful institutions)

Marginal Revolution: Nick Szabo's blog

A pointer to Nick Szabo's work, which focuses on the traits of successful institutions. The above link includes a brief description of the topics Szabo has worked on, along with links to his large collection of works.

Perhaps this would be helpful to anyone interested in developing a theory of mutualist organizational structure.


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