Tuesday, August 31, 2004
Wednesday, August 25, 2004
Hi mister straw man, sing a song for me.
I can't really see how one can contend number 4, "Seemingly harmless things can lead to terrible outcomes". Unless you suppose that the government is omniscient of course. As for the "argument":
Take seatbelt laws, for instance. Most states have laws on the books forcing people to wear seatbelts. Well, if the government learns that it can restrain us physically, who knows what might happen! They might restrain us further and further, until we live in tiny cages while the government dangles tiny pieces of fruit in front of us, just out of reach! You wouldn't want to live in a world like that, would you? If not, then you should oppose seatbelt laws.
Have anyone actually said that? A libertarian would probably not argue against seatbelt laws on the grounds of a slippery slope. Instead, he or should would argue that the government hasn't got the right to decide if I should ware a seatbelt or not while driving. I'm not infringing on anyone's rights if I don't, I only harm myself. I think it was David Friedman who said that "part of freedom is the right of each of us to go to hell in his own fashion."
One might wonder why I take the article serious at all. There's only one reason, because Wikipedia links to it as a critical essay.
Tuesday, August 24, 2004
Glad I don't have to care about it
"I'm really, really tired of electoral politics."
"* Some people who were in the same war as John Kerry 30 years ago don't like him much
* George Bush did not fight in a war 30 years ago
* George Bush has too much money
* Ralph Nader is desperate
* John Kerry has changed his mind over the last 40 years or so
* Theresa Heintz Kerry is annoying
* Bush's people are saying mean things about Kerry
* People think the federal government should do something about gay marriage. but neither candidate will"
Monday, August 23, 2004
More stupidity from the IOC
"The International Olympic Committee is barring competitors, as well as coaches, support personnel and other officials, from writing firsthand accounts for news and other Web sites.
An exception is if an athlete has a personal Web site that they did not set up specifically for the Games.
The IOC's rationale for the restrictions is that athletes and their coaches should not serve as journalists — and that the interests of broadcast rightsholders and accredited media come first."
Saturday, August 21, 2004
New blog and old blog
Going for gold...
"A Bulgarian archaeologist has unearthed an ancient gold mask and a ring featuring an "Olympic" rower in what he called an unrivalled find in the study of classical antiquity.
Georgi Kitov told Reuters on Friday the artifacts likely belonged to a fifth century B.C. leader of the Thracians, the dispersed tribes who once lived in parts of what is now modern-day Bulgaria, Romania, Macedonia, Turkey, and Greece."
"He said the portrait, found on Thursday, may be a more significant find than the so-called Mask of Agamemnon, one of the most famous images of Greek antiquity and centerpiece of the National Archeological Museum in Athens.
'It is sensational and has no comparison in the world,' he said. 'The Mask of Agamemnon was made of gold foil and weighs only 60 grammes (2.1 oz), while this mask weighs 690 grammes (24.3 oz) and is of solid gold.'"
(Link via Archaeology Magazine)
A small note on wet dreams
"It was a very ambitious goal and many consider it too ambitious"
"Too ambitious" might be the understatement of the year. EU wants to be "the world's most dynamic and competitive economy", this by the end of 2010. I don't know what they were thinking (or smoking) when they came up with the idea of the Lisbon Strategy, perhaps they've read too much Keynes:
"I should guess that a properly run community equipped with modern technical resources, of which the population is not increasing rapidly, ought to be able to bring down the marginal efficiency of capital in equilibrium approximately to zero within a single generation; so that we should attain the conditions of a quasi-stationary community where change and progress would result only from changes in technique, taste, population and institutions, with the products of capital selling at a price proportioned to the labour, etc., embodied in them on just the same principles as govern the prices of consumption-goods into which capital-charges enter in an insignificant degree."
Former President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, said in January this year:
"Member states do not seem to realise that 2010 is around the corner. Four years after Lisbon it is clear that we are going to miss our mid-term targets. This should be a strong enough message to serve as a wake-up call to governments. At European level we have advanced steadily in setting the right priorities but Member States have not demonstrated enough "ownership". For 2004 we set three priorities: more investment in networks and knowledge, the reinforcement of industrial competitiveness and more measures to increase labour market participation. We ask governments to react on all three fronts swiftly. We have to take advantage of the economic recovery in order to make up lost ground. Europe deserves to do better."
Yes, Europe deserves to do better. But Europe also deserves politicians who understand that growth doesn't occur just because the same politicians want it to occur. Wishing won't make it so. Maybe the protestant ethics developed capitalism, but that ethic have since then been replaced by a social democratic ethic, suppressing growth. It will take more than ten years to change that.
Thursday, August 19, 2004
Probably not splitters...
Are you the Judean People's Front?
Judean People's Front. We're the People's Front of Judea! Judean People's Front. Cawk.
Can I... join your group?
No. Piss off.
I didn't want to sell this stuff. It's only a job. I hate the Romans as much as anybody.
PEOPLE'S FRONT OF JUDEA:
Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh.
Are you sure?
Oh, dead sure. I hate the Romans already.
Listen. If you really wanted to join the P.F.J., you'd have to really hate the Romans.
Oh, yeah? How much?
Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the fucking Judean People's Front.
And the Judean Popular People's Front.
Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
And the People's Front of Judea.
Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...
The People's Front of Judea. Splitters.
We're the People's Front of Judea!
Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
People's Front! C-huh.
Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
He's over there.
The Technology Liberation Front.
These guys deserves to be mocked
"For your protection and ours we have established a procedure for parties wishing to introduce a link to the ATHENS 2004 website on their site. By introducing a link to the ATHENS 2004 official Website on your site you are agreeing to comply with the ATHENS 2004 Website General Terms and Conditions. In order to place a link embedded in copy interested parties should:
a) Use the term ATHENS 2004 only, and no other term as the text referent
b) Not associate the link with any image, esp. the ATHENS 2004 Emblem (see paragraph below)
c) Send a request letter to the Internet Department stating:
Short description of site
Reason for linking
Unique URL containing the link (if no unique URL than just the main URL)
Contact point (e-mail address)"
Thanks to Rick E. Bruner for the pointer (via Media Culpa).
Wednesday, August 18, 2004
Monday, August 16, 2004
"Nicholas Hinds, 12, who attends Otepopo School in the small town of Herbert, south of Oamaru has penned a program called Punching Plagiarism, which uses the internet search engine Google to detect if the contents of any assignment has been nicked from the Internet."
"Unfortunately the program works so well that it netted one plagiarism suspect – step forward 12 year-old computer Whiz kid Nicholas Hinds. His teacher Frank Lewthwaite found Nicholas had apparently borrowed material from an internet site."
define("IRONY", "I must install code that makes my own plagiarism undetectable");
(Link via Geekpress)
Sunday, August 15, 2004
Saturday, August 14, 2004
The road to hell is paved with Swedish intentions
Friday, August 13, 2004
A matter of property rights?
“Strict regulations published by Athens 2004 last week dictate that spectators may be refused admission to events if they are carrying food or drinks made by companies that did not see fit to sponsor the games.”
“Sweltering sports fans who seek refuge from the soaring temperatures with a soft drink other than one made by Coca-Cola will be told to leave the banned refreshment at the gates or be shut out. High on the list of blacklisted beverages is Pepsi, but even the wrong bottle of water could land spectators in trouble.“
“Staff will also be on the lookout for T-shirts, hats and bags displaying the unwelcome logos of non-sponsors. Stewards have been trained to detect people who may be wearing merchandise from the sponsors' rivals in the hope of catching the eyes of television audiences. Those arousing suspicion will be required to wear their T-shirts inside out.”
I find this puzzling, because the Olympic stadiums and other Olympic venues are publicly funded. That would naturally mean that the same stadiums and venues are also owned by the public and Greek law applies to them. To me it looks like banning “T-shirts, hats and bags” violates freedom of speech. Even though the Greek law probably have made restrictions already when it comes to freedom of speech, I would be much surprised if IOC’s ruling in this case not denies too much.
The same kind of argument can be made against banning certain refreshments. The law might ban (I don’t know if this is the case in Greece) the use of certain kinds of beverages in public, alcohol for instance. But I can’t imagine that a ban on Pepsi complies with the law. And certainly not while allowing Coca-Cola at the same time.
Perhaps one can argue that since the Greek government endorsed Athens application to host the Olympic Games (and also have paid for the OG) that they also agree on the Olympic Charter (the topic of this post is rule 61). But that seems to be a too easy a way to overrule the human rights, another road to serfdom that is.
Thursday, August 12, 2004
In the news today
Another issue is that EU's "President-designate of the European Commission", José Manuel Barroso, unveiled his team. One of five Vice-Presidents is Sweden's Margot Wallström. Do I have to mention that Wallström is a social democrat? Well, most of the politicians in Europe is social democrats, more or less, but at least Wallström is a card carrying social democrat. So, all quiet on the Bruxelles front.
The Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten reports that Jon Lech Johansen, a man who a couple of years ago cracked the DVD-code, was acquitted two days ago.
In Finland they have just realized that the Premier Minister Matti Vanhanen is the son of the political scientist Tatu Vanhanen. The father's research is not very politcally correct (I hate that description, but I use it here anyway), one of the books he has co-authored is IQ and the Wealth of Nations. You might guess what his theory is yourself. According to Helsingin Sanomat, Tatu Vanhanen said that "[w]hereas the average IQ of Finns is 97, in Africa it is between 60 and 70. Differences in intelligence are the most significant factor in explaining poverty." I don't agree.
Monday, August 09, 2004
We had joy, we had fun, we had seasons in the sun
Simulating the New Economy
by Gunnar Eliasson, Dan Johansson and Erol Taymaz.
Abstract: The IT, the Internet, or the Computing & Communications (C&C) technology revolution has been central to the economic discussion for several decades. Before the mid-1990s the catchword was the “productivity paradox” coined by Robert Solow, who stated in 1987 that “computers are everywhere visible, except in the productivity statistics”. Then the New Economy and fast productivity growth fueled by C&C technology suddenly became the catchword of the very late 1990s. Its luster however, faded almost as fast as it arrived with the dot.com deaths of the first years of the new millennium. With this paper we demonstrate that the two paradoxes above are perfectly compatible within a consistent micro (firm) based macro theoretical framework of endogenous growth. Within the same model framework also a third paradox can be resolved, namely the fact that the previous major New Industry creation, the Industrial Revolution, only involved a handful of Western nations that had got their institutions in order. If the New Economy is a potential reality, one cannot take for granted that all industrial economies will participate successfully in its introduction. It all depends on the local receiver competence to build industry on the new technology. We, hence, also demonstrate within the same model the existence of the risk of failing altogether to capture the opportunities of a New Economy.
Liberty, Markets and Environmental Values: A Hayekian Defence of Free Market Environmentalism
by Mark Pennington
Abstract: Communitarian conceptions of the 'situated self' lie at the core of 'green' critiques of market approaches to environmental problems. According to this perspective resource management issues should be dealt with in the 'public sphere' of democratic politics rather than the 'private sphere' of market drien consumer choice. This paper suggests that such arguments rest on a series of non-sequiturs. Drawing on Hayek's non-rationalist liberalism it shows that a 'situated' view of the self offers a radical endorsement of the case for privatisating environmental assets, wherever it is possible to do so.
Competence in Health Care - An Industrial Systems Analysis Using Competence Bloc Theory to Compare European and US Health Care
by Gunnar Eliasson and Åsa Eliasson
Abstract: While European health care systems are mostly public and similar the contrast is large to the US health industry based to a large extent in the market. Using competence bloc theory the industrial potential of Swedish and European health care is assessed and compared with US health industry. To get the the analysis properly framed health industry is defined to include health insurance, health care and the supporting biotech, pharmaceutical and medical instrument industries. A gradually aging industrialized world makes wealthy customers demand the sophisticated life quality enhancing medical support new technology offers. The overwhelming influence of substitute customership in Europe, through politicians, social insurance, doctors etc., however, holds back development through suppressing the preferences of the true customer (the patient), discouraging innovative product competition and entrepreneurship. The larger part of cost escalation in US health care can be attributed to quality improvements, and luxury health care has stimulated innovative product development. While Swedish health care so far has been a technological winner, commercial competence to become internationally competitive is lacking. It appears politically difficult to recognize that private for profit health care may be both more efficient and profitable than publicly run services. However, once competition for profit has been introduced public providers have to improve performance and the differences will disappear.
WHAT IS WRONG WITH NEOCLASSICAL ECONOMICS (And What is Still Wrong With Austrian Economics)
by Peter Boettke
HACER: Cuba economy hinges on Chávez vote
by Richard Brand
Timothy Sandefur's Libertarian Bookworm: The Calculus of Consent
by James M. Buchanan and Gordon Tullock
Cato Institute: The Myths of Individualism
by Tom G. Palmer
Reason: Origin of the Specious - Why do neoconservatives doubt Darwin?
by Ronald Bailey
Wednesday, August 04, 2004
Yet another reason perhaps
"Prisons in Sweden seem to be more comfortable than in other places.
Besides, Sweden has historically been a neutral country."
Well, he could have added that the Swedish prisons seem to have revolving doors, you're free to pass in and (mostly I guess) out whenever you want by the look of it. Last wednesday, four dangerous criminals escaped from the prison Hall, south of Stockholm. One of them, Tony Olsson, and two others killed two policemen five years ago after running away from a bank rob. One of the other escapees, Daniel Mairona, escaped from another prison, Kumla, last winter and from Hall two years ago.
Luckily, the police force made a good job and all four of them got caught pretty soon. What followed naturally was a debate on the security of the prisons in Sweden. But that debate obviously didn't lead to anything.
Because just about an hour ago, four other criminals escaped from the prison in Norrtälje, north of Stockholm. All these prisons, Kumla, Hall and Norrtälje, are supposed to be high security prisons. After the escape last week, the opposition called for the minister of justice to resign. Will he do it now?
Update: I was wrong, it was three inmates who escaped from Norrtälje today, not four.
An interesting feature though is that one of the escapees, Peter Bottany, is the chairman of the National Trust Council who works for the sake of the inmates. Another interesting feature is that Bottany and three others wrote an article in one of the biggest Swedish newspaper, Dagens Nyheter, last friday. The headline to the article is "The isolated gets desperate"(Isolerade blir desperata).
Yes, I agree. But I'm puzzled since the one who wrote this escaped himself five days later. Does that mean that Bottany (who studies psychology while imprisoned) was desperate when he and the others wrote the article? Not unlikely. The escape as such sounds well planned. They were helped by three masked and armed men from the outside. Also, the getaway car is registered on an inmate at Norrtälje so they got some help from people on the inside as well. The plans must have been made before last friday.
The aim [of the correction system] must reasonably be to create a
change among the convicted, not to break them down mentally so that they act
Update 2 (9th August): One of them got caught yesterday afternoon and the two others early this morning.
Tuesday, August 03, 2004
Tragedy of the Malecon
I traveled to Cuba recently, and got to form my own impressions. I went on an educational exchange program, exempting me from U.S. travel restrictions. With some other American academics, I gave a series of lectures at the Center for the Study of the United States, at the University of Havana. Our hosts were particularly impressed with my color overheads. Being well paid to make the trip, I paid for the overheads myself rather than bill them to Duke—they had cost me about $1.50 per page to produce. Our hosts were professors and were also well paid, earning in some cases more than $20 per month. The idea that someone would pay nearly $30 to make 18 overheads, on his own, amazed them. I later found out that many of the professors also drove taxis on nights and weekends, since they could make a month’s salary in tips in a couple of days.
While you need a visa to get into Cuba, you may as well leave your Mastercard on your dresser at home. Cubans take plastic, but they cannot accept cards issued by U.S. banks (because of the U.S. law). So Americans have to use currency. This is less of a problem than you’d think, because the currency everyone uses is American dollars. In fact, Cuba is one of the most dollarized economies in the world, and has been for more than a decade. If you try to change dollars for pesos, people look at you like you’re crazy, or American. About the only thing pesos will buy, from the “state” stores, is dead flies and old soap powder solidified into bricks.
Subjectivism or objectivism?
Classical liberalism stresses the desirability of free markets, limited government and the rule of law. As such, it builds on some moral judgments. According to ethical objectivism, such judgments (in themselves always personal and subjective) can be true or false since objective moral facts exist against which the judgments can be assessed. Ethical subjectivism denies the existence of objective moral facts. This paper asks: Does it matter whether people believe that objective moral facts exist – in general and for a defense of classical liberalism? It is argued that the answer is in the negative. The implication for classical liberal strategy is that attempts to argue that a certain metaethical foundation is needed should be abandoned.
Econ Journal Watch
Philanthropy? I think not.
I guess that the Swedish estimate comes from an economist at the Stockholm School of Economics, Filip Wijkström. I know that he is doing research on the nonprofit sector and that he has published a book, The nonprofit sector in Sweden, in the Johns Hopkins Nonprofit Sector Series. The estimate as such, 4% of GDP, is more or less the same reported by Wijkström(Swedish only).
I don't doubt that estimate as such, it is probably accurate. What I want to do is to draw a picture of the Swedish nonprofit sector. The text that describes graph 2 says private philanthropy, but I’m not entirely sure that such a description is accurate in the Swedish context.
There are two main types of nonprofit organizations in Sweden, associations and foundations. The associations can be divided into five different types:
1) Recreational and service associations
2) Associations with social or ideological objectives
3) Economic or cooperative associations
4) Business associations
5) Labor-market associations
The most common kind of associations within the first group is sports-related. But there are also other kinds, such as minority organizations, associations furthering the arts, science, outdoor activities (scouting, tourism, etc.) and hobbies.
Groups that protect and preserve the environment belong to the second group. One will also find associations representing handicapped and disabled as well as political parties, various human right associations, associations that provide relief and development assistance and religious congregations.
The third group contains different kinds of cooperatives. Not just consumer and producer cooperatives but also associations who own and take care of common ground or roads. These roads are mostly small and situated on the countryside. The fourth group also contains cooperatives, but these business associations are not nonprofit.
Both trade unions and employer associations belong to the fifth group, labor-market associations.
Lundström and Wijkström (1995) exclude the fourth group from the nonprofit sector. They also exclude some of the associations in the third group, those with profit distribution. So called neo-cooperatives on the other hand belongs the nonprofit sector. One kind of neo-cooperatives is child care centers, established and run by parents.
They also include some of the labor-market associations, at least the labor movement and their educational associations, and private foundations that provide public service. Lundström and Wijkström want to exclude some parts of the Swedish Church with the argument that it is a state church. That was the case in 1995 but church and state was separated in the year 2000.
In Sweden, 90 percent of the population aged between 16 and 84 is a member of one association or more. The most common association is trade unions, 80 percent of the population is member in the union. Pensioner organisations are second with 42 percent and sports-related associations are third with 31 percent (note that those under 16 isn’t accounted for and the membership rate is probably higher. According to the Swedish Sports Confederation, more than 3 million is a member of a sports association).
It is here, I think; that the problem with the graph arises. As I said above, the graph says “private philanthropy”. The question is if one should regard the kind of associations that is most common as philanthropic associations. I have to say no to that question. The trade unions act on the behalf of their members. So does the pensioner organisations. The action of the sports clubs is the sport itself. The fourth largest kinds of association, the consumer-cooperatives, also act on the behalf of their members.
Granted, some of (and when it comes to trade unions, most of) this associations I have just mentioned do perform activities that should be regarded as philanthropic. But those activities are not the main objective of the different associations.
Also, the associations, and membership in them, might lead to good consequences for the society as a whole. Robert Putnam’s theory of social capital is one example on how it might work. But those consequences are unintended consequences and should not be confused with the intended.
So where can one find the philanthropic associations on the list? Well perhaps one can see culture organisations as philanthropic. 11 percent of the population is a member of such associations. But they are not necessarily philanthropic; some of them also act on the behalf of their member.
Next on the list with 8 percent is humanitarian organisation, and it is probably the largest group of the true philanthropic associations. Second on that list are environmental organisations with 4 percent.
Now, as I mentioned above, some of the non-philanthropic organisations do perform philanthropic activities so one can’t say that such activities are limited to the humanitarian, environmental and other organisations in the same “branch”. It’s hard to decide to which extent the associations in the nonprofit sector perform philanthropic activities. If one looks at how the sector use its money (about 60 billion SEK, 4 percent of GDP), one will find that somewhere between 7 and 35 percent* is used on “leisure and culture”, “social care” and “others”** and it is a very rough estimate. Some of these areas are only partly related to philanthropy, which means that the estimate as such is quite poor.
One interesting fact though is that only 30 percent of the money comes from the government, which is more or less the same as in the United States. The difference is that Sweden has a higher share of self-generated (for example, member fees and lotteries) where the US nonprofit sector relies more on gifts.
Another problem here is that the graph in the Economist is based on voluntary work and not how the money is spent. A study conducted by Filip Wijkström ten years ago might help us on that issue. Wijkström asked 5200 different organisations and one result that the survey gave us was that the nonprofit sector provides 480 million hours of voluntary work during one year. That is equivalent to 300 000 full-time jobs.
Wijkström’s study gives information on how that time is being used as well. The result is that the areas health care, social care, education, aid and peace and environment sum up to 13 percent of all the voluntary work provided by the nonprofit sector. One concern is that membership in associations which deal primarily with such activities has changed during the last ten years. For instance, membership in environmental organisations has decreased by 3-4 percentage points while the membership in humanitarian organisations has increased by 4-5 percentage points. But one might expect, and it is also confirmed by a study conducted by Statistics Sweden (SCB), that those leaving are the “passive” members and not the “active”.
The point of all this is that while the nonprofit sector in Sweden is quite large, emphasize is not on providing services as it might be in other countries. Lundström and Wijkström (1995, p. 1) write:
“There is substantial empirical evidence that the Scandinavian nonprofit sector has had a considerable impact on society during the 20th century, and that it evolved consistently with the welfare state, rather than in opposition to or instead of it. In contrast to other countries, however, the Swedish nonprofit sector developed less in the fields of health and social services, and more in the areas of culture, leisure, and advocacy.”
One can perhaps argue that while the welfare state hasn’t crowded out the nonprofit sector as such, it has crowded out health and social services from that particular sector. Whether or not that is the case, it looks like that the nonprofit sector is a poor proxy for private philanthropy in Sweden.
* Unfortunately, all these numbers are quite old, from 1992.
** “Others” contains “international activities”, “religion”, “health care”, “philanthropy”, “environmental” and yet another post “others”. What philanthropy in this context means is not specified, but I think it’s fair to say that some of the other areas I mention here should be regarded as philanthropy as well.
Lundström, Tommy and Filip Wijkström. "Defining the Nonprofit Sector: Sweden." Working Papers of the Johns Hopkins Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project, no. 16. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, 1995.
Riksidrottförbundet. Idrotten i den ideella sektorn: en kunskapsöversikt. FoU-rapport 2004:6.
SCB + Politiska resurser och aktiviteter 1992–2001
Wijkström, Filip. Den ideella sektorns roll.