Starting Your Own Business

For anyone who has ever thought about starting their own business, this essay by Paul Graham may be encouraging. I am among many people I know who have started a business. Most of them have not yet acheived great success and even if it has to be a part time gig at first, it is all still worth it for the experience alone. If you can do it full time and make good money, tant mieux. Working at a start-up is also much better in terms of setting your own schedule. As such, the BBC found that flexible hours were the most valuable job benefit.


Tax Reform in Sverige

In both a symbolic and truly effective move, the Swedish government plans to eliminate the wealth tax which encourages successful Swedes to shelter their money in other countries, or move entirely as in the case of Johnny Hallyday from France. In a world of capital mobility, this can only be a positive move for the Swedish economy.

Quote of the Day: 2007-03-29

"Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles."

- George Jean Nathan


Adam Curtis Documentaries

Adam Curtis, creator of 'The Power of Nightmares' has produced several documentary series about the political, economic, and psychological forces driving Western society. UKNova has a torrent for a collection of his series. His new series, 'The Trap: What Happened to our Dreams of Freedom' is currently airing in the UK. It can be accessed on MVGroup.

School Vouchers

School vouchers is an idea which I first heard proposed by Milton Friedman in 1962 in 'Capitalism and Freedom.' The idea is a public good with positive externalities and therefore needs subsidy. However, rather than a limited and uncompetitive system of public schooling, education should be subsidised as vouchers which can be applied to private or public education. Especially in the United States, the educational system is completely broken. Public schools are funded by neighbourhoods, which result in well funded and decent public school in rich school districts, and absolutely abysmal prison-like schools in poorer areas. The problems are compounded by teachers unions which block the firing of incompetent teachers and support the interests of established teachers instead of students' education. Even George Bush campaigned for president by supporting school vouchers, but as with most of his campaign promises, they had very little to do with his actual policies. Having attended private school and realising their enormous superiority over their public counterparts, I have always supported the idea of school vouchers. If education should be subsidised at all, then private schooling should be accessible by anyone who is accepted, not just the wealthy. Financial limitations on access to education serve only to reinforce class differences, reduce competitiveness of the public schools, distort real estate markets, and dampen long run productivity of the economy.

Tyler Cowen on vouchers.


US Department of Transportation: Not Completely Worthless

The Department of Transportation has tentatively approved Virgin America as a new domestic United States carrier allowing renewed life and competition into this overprotected and stagnant industry.

I have posted before on this story. Thank you to everyone who petitioned the DoT to achieve this result.

Home Ownership and Unemployment

Via Mankiw again, I have learned something I never before considered. Home ownership, by reducing geographic mobility, greatly increases unemployment. Of course! On the other hand, it is important to remember that owning a home gives strong incentive to improving it, while renting has almost no such incentives. Given the overwhelming amount of wealth tied up in real estate and the externalities of neighbourhood effects, the unemployment factor cannot be taken at face value to completely demonise home ownership subsidies.

Freedom of the Press

I had a discussion recently with a friend regarding sensationalistic television news stories in the United States and what it says about our society in general. The discussion was provoked by a local Bay Area television news story which targeted the fears and frustrations of drivers concerning high gasoline prices in California. Rather than addressing the root causes of rising petroleum price or the strong economic arguments behind high consumption taxes on fossil fuels, the story instead targeted the anger and frustration of lower-income, uninformed drivers.

I have almost completely given up consuming television news media, but these stories get to the heart of the failure of modern American "democracy". The founders of the United States realised that freedom of the press and more abstractly, freedom of information, was fundamental to the proper functioning of a representative republic where the will of the masses translates ultimately into political policy and law. Unfortunately, the capitalist environment in which this "free press" operates, has transformed mass media into either infotainment, sensationalism, or fear-mongering. The purpose is simply to sell advertising by any psychological technique necessary to attract viewership and boost ratings. A society whose press is controlled by commercial interests is arguably as bad as or worse than one with governmental controls over the dissemination of information. The same distortions and manipulations are possible: media-driven public support for the invasion and occupation of Iraq proves the point.

The makers of the gasoline price stories are probably reasonably intelligent people of above average education. They likely understand that raising gasoline prices and especially raising prices through taxation are extremely beneficial overall to the global economy and environment. However, the stories lament high gasoline taxes, claiming they are an injustice. Ignoring economists or sensible policy makers who might actually enlighten the public, they focus on the petty frustrations of gasoline consumers of low education and attempt to elicit similar anxieties in the viewer and thereby making the viewer more likely to sit through the commercial. The wider repercussions of misinforming the public are of no concern to the television producers. En masse, people are controlled by fear, not responsibility. Their consumption of information and their political reactions will follow the same overall trend.

As a college student exploring the ideas of libertarianism, one of the strongest arguments I found for maintaining a government paternalistic presence in the media was the manifestly brilliant quality of BBC, PBS, NPR and other publicly sponsored media in stark contrast to the base intellectual standards and low overall quality of commercially driven and advertisement interrupted media. While a high value should be placed on freedom and choice, it should not completely supersede pragmatism, efficiency, and social progress.

Mankiw on Friedman on Global Warming

David Friedman, wary of ever expanding government, expresses caution for the seemingly obvious imposition of a Pigovian carbon tax. Greg Mankiw gives an excellent response to Friedman's slippery slope argument, citing his father, the legendary Milton, as a supporting argument.


More on Virtual Machines

The new version of Parallels for Mac has a great new view called 'Coherence.' Windows and the Mac OS can be used as a single integrated environment with both the Windows taskbar and Apple Dock and Menubar accessible simultaneously. Additionally, the Apple Doc now contains all the programmes running within Windows as well as OSX. With a click of the mouse, the Windows or OSX desktops are brought to the front and accessible. One may easily drag and drop files between the Mac and Windows file systems as well. This software greatly increases the value, accessibility, and productivity of both the Mac OSX and M$ Windows desktops.

Another virtualisation software, VMWare, can run a virtual OS from a separate bootable partition.


The End of Stargate

Stargate SG-1 was one of the funniest and consistently well made science fiction shows ever made. Indeed, 10 years also makes it one of the longest running. It started to decline in the 8th season with the gradual exit of Richard Dean Anderson (aka MacGuyver) from the show yet still held up reasonably well with the other core characters and the absorption of the actors from the failed Farscape series. I recently finished watching the final episode of this enjoyable show. A collection of all the episodes is available here in high quality formats.

Google Talk Gadget

While as I have stated before, Google should provide secure encryption for their Instant Messaging and voice link communications, they have taken a giant step forward with the new Google Talk Gadget for the Google personalised page or other Google Gadget capable sites.


Caloric Restriction versus Obesity

This is my response to David Friedman's thought that a parent who does not enforce a Calorie Restricting diet (ie provides a standard diet) on their children is nearly as unfit a parent as one who overfeeds their children because in both cases lifespan is being shortened.

Immigration Policy

Legendary businessman and philanthropist, Bill Gates criticises immigration policy in the United States before a Senate committee. WSJ article. FT article. Many foreign students lucky enough to be given subsidised graduate-level education in the United States are then forced to return home right at their economic prime. An economy only benefits from the import of high skilled, high income labour. Conversely, brain drain in undeveloped countries tends to maintain a vicious cycle of poverty. Much fuss has been made recently in the US calling for anti-immigration policies. Maintaining tight limits on the numbers of H1-B visas owing to a large influx of low skilled illegal Mexican immigrants is a travesty of economic policy.



You can learn a lot about a person from their web History or Bookmarks - perhaps too much. I have taken the bold move of publishing mine on the web via the Companion Page.

I did this by exporting my Google Bookmarks with the Google Toolbar and the Firefox Gmarks plugin as suggested by this post. This was still a relatively involved process and as I have said before, Google needs better Bookmarking features with better sharing and exporting capacities. In the meantime though, I refuse to use del.icio.us because it is just too dirty, and as Matt Panaro stated "you share with that many people, you tend to get diseases." As anonymity is important to me, kindly inform me if I did not properly filter out any identifying or otherwise inappropriate links. Now enjoy browsing years of bookmarks and I encourage everyone to publish their own.