Another Blog

My esteemed friend, Mark, has a new blog. (XML feed) It promises to be very insightful.


Neuroeconomics Again

Will Wilkinson (good alliterative name) of the CATO Institute writes a poignant article on the topic of Neuroeconomics. It suggests that a Paternalistic System would correct irrational behaviour of individuals at little cost to rational actors, and therefore significantly increase social welfare. He cogently argues that despite the scientific evidence, a laissez-faire approach is still preferable given the technology and political structures which exist. I believe Wilkinson is correct, but I am open to the possibility that continued improvement of technology will enable changes in human organisational structure and physiological monitoring such that laissez-faire will no longer be a social optimum.

This came to me via Tyler Cowen's reaction to Hare's work on psychopathy upon which I have commented. This controversial post is also relevant.


Holding Government to Account

Very often, there is a vacuum of accountability at the upper echelons of Political and Fiscal power. This WSJ Opinion piece correctly argues for the SEC to hold San Diego city council members criminally responsible for their actions in defrauding and underfunding the city pension fund. Government fiscal irresponsibility should be considered tantamount to corporate accounting fraud.


This article in wired argues that psychopathy deserves more respect and sympathy as is currently granted other mental disorders such as schizophrenia. I have known a few psychopaths in my day, and have witnessed how quickly the rest of society will shun them once the word gets out about their condition. Indeed, we all know how "psycho" is used in common parlance as a derogatory term.

However, let us not forget that psychopathy, which implies a lack of empathy for other people, can make a person potentially dangerous. Unfortunately, many such people also tend to rise quickly in corporate or political situations and so their destructive potential can be multiplied. Organisations should put significant effort into preventing people with such untreated conditions from gaining positions of authority over others.


Blog Recommendation: Cyberpanopticon

My friend Timothy has a blog that seems is shaping up quite well. I think it will focus primarily on International Relations, History, Science, and Law.


Sic Semper Tyrannis

The only way for the US to regain any sort of credibility in the World as a force for freedom, progress, and development rather than as a tyrannical empire and gross violator of human rights would be to hold those with power responsible for their actions and inactions and to compensate to the extent possible those who have been adversely affected by the illegal policies of the past five years.

To that end, the US congress should begin by exercising their responsibilities under their constitution with regards to removing a failed executive.


Mineral Slime

It is pitiful that despite all humanity has accomplished, burning dead plants is still the dominant energy source for developed economic activity. Advancing technology it seems has been lowering the costs of discovering and mining new sources of fossil fuel more than it has been developing alternative sources absent of negative externalities.

The latest oil discovery in the Gulf exemplifies this phenomenon. I was able this weekend to purchase petroleum at about 0.50 USD per litre. While on paper, the financial markets and economy are given a boost by this phenomenon, this masks the real destruction that finds like this have on a properly quantified economy which incorporates environmental and welfare statistics. The true cost of that petrol to society was something more like 1.50 USD per litre. In reality, new oil discoveries are like a methamphetamine addict getting their hands on a new bag of meth. While they may consider themselves much better off at the time, the long run consequences are dire and their behaviour in consuming it is irrational.

Nearly every sensible economist agrees that heavy carbon taxation is desperately needed worldwide to counter the negative externalities created from burning hydrocarbons. For a while, even good economists where questioning the true existence of a global warming phenomenon. Those days are past. The scientific evidence is irrefutable. The necessity is clear, but the political action has yet to be taken.

Congratulations Sverige

My friend Diana is very happy about the situation in Sweden. The conservative coalition has toppled the Socialists after years of old, overgrown domination and unsustainable economic policy. Of course for any Americans reading this, Swedish conservatives are sort of like left-leaning Democrats. Republicans do not exist there except maybe in the mental hospitals where they belong. But I digress...

From this Economist article, it seems regulations and taxation will be loosened up slightly, but no radical changes to the Swedish system will occur. Still, for all of my Swedish friends, may the new policies bring you enhanced opportunities, health, and wealth.

In related news, the Piratpartiet scored less than one percent of the vote. For a one-issue party in such a critical election, we should not be surprised, but I am nonetheless disappointed at such a poor showing. Copyright protections are desperately in need of reform worldwide, and Sweden is a great place for the movement to begin.


Basing Laws on Science

This article in the FT considers research at the University College London which explores neurological development and the neurological basis for behaviour.
The study has implications for the use of anti- social behaviour orders for juveniles and in determining at what age we should be criminally responsible.
In a broader sense, this type of research should have implications into the stage at which a person should be considered self-sufficient and independent. To have an age arbitrarily set at 16,18, or 21 above which one's parents are no longer responsible nor legally authoritative is potentially dangerous. For example, the age of sexual consent in Canada is 14. Rights and privileges ought to be based on some sort of merit, neurological or otherwise.

Perhaps the argument works both ways. Above the age of 18, it is well known that mental acuity starts to decline. This may explain why older voters are more likely to vote for war criminals like Cheney and Bush. Perhaps such people should lose their voting rights.

The Economic blogsphere is currently enamoured with this New Yorker article about neurology and risk behaviour.


Fascinating Science

It appears some sheep depend on a retrovirus to reproduce.


Software Recommendation: Desktop Manager

Since now I have a MacBook Pro, I now can run all the great OS X software I have dreamed about. Desktop Manager brings the multiple desktop feature of KDE or GNOME to OS X with some very nice transition eye candy. Switching between desktops happens as easily as scrolling the mouse to the edge of the screen. Increase productivity while being entertained. Now I am joining the ranks of all those annoying people telling you how great their Mac software is that you have no chance to run.


Labour Mobility

Diana makes a great point about the need for loose restrictions on human migration. In general, resistance I have seen to immigration in the United States and Europe comes partially from irrational fears or ignorance of basic economic principals. However, the primary motivation I have observed stems from blind racial, sectarian, and nationalistic passions. Such idiocy should have been abandoned in the 19th century. Nation-states themselves are merely artifacts of the Congress of Vienna and need to be completely rethought in the 21st century. They only serve to deepen the imbalances and poverty that already exist.

Japanese Language and People

I know you all enjoyed the Russian Language and People Series. I was thrilled to find Japanese Language and People has been released on UKNova. If you do not have a membership to UKNova, you will have to contact someone who is.

The Decline and Fall of the Microsoft Empire

I have previously adulated Bill Gates on this blog. Now, I am going to slam his ailing behemoth. Last night I tried to sign into my hotmail account which I have had for over 7 years. To my surprise, I had not signed in for over 30 days and so my account along with the massive 10 MB or so of junk mail that was straining Microsoft's servers were summarily deleted. I can reactivate the account, but why? I already lost everything I would have wanted to keep. There may be some accounts I signed up for whose passwords I cannot remember, but until it becomes an issue I would rather have nothing to do with such a worthless organisation which currently only stifles human progress.


Another Blog to Read

Having moved from Sverige to Nagasaki, my friend Diana has a new blog (site feed). I cannot say enough good things about her.


Robo Basho

I know the creators of a new robot arcade game, Robo Basho, by the company Robotic Amusements. It is a brilliant creation which demonstrates the amazing talents of these two individuals from conceptual design to mechanical, electrical and software engineering. Robo Basho is fun for all ages.

Here is the YouTube video featuring the inventors.


California's Political Progress

With the recent move to limit greenhouse gas emission, California will serve as a positive example of responsible governance to the rest of the United States and to the rest of the world.

Economist Article, Le Figaro Article