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catallaxy in technical exile

Open forum 24/11/06

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November 24, 2006 at 9:59 pm

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  1. great piece in today’s Wall Street Journal on Milt.


    Milton Friedman Was Right
    “Corporate social responsibility” is bunk.

    Friday, November 24, 2006 12:01 a.m. EST

    Milton Friedman famously declared that the sole business of the managers of a publicly held corporation was to maximize the value of its outstanding shares. Any effort to use corporate resources for purely altruistic purposes he equated to socialism. He proposed that corporation law should prevent managers from straying off the reservation to join the altruists, a power now almost universally granted them by state legislation.

    At a conference 34 years ago, celebrating Friedman’s 60th birthday, I presented a paper questioning that dictum by noting that the vast part of apparently nonprofit-oriented behavior by corporate managers was really–and necessarily–a profit-maximizing response to business, social or political pressures dressed up to look like something else. For such a strategy to be successful, the behavior had to appear to be nonprofit maximizing, and, of course, had to be called something like “social responsibility.”

    Since it was difficult or impossible to distinguish a profit motive from a charitable motive in any particular corporate action, a strong rule against corporate altruism, as Friedman was advocating, would invite judges to examine the propriety of a significant set of managerial decisions. I argued that American corporation law had traditionally had a strong “business judgment” rule whose principle aim was to prevent judges from even engaging in that kind of examination, which they were perhaps more likely to get wrong than to get right. Thus, if any plausible basis existed for a bona fide managerial decision, no matter how charitable it looked, I argued, we did not want a stronger rule that would invite judges to second guess managers.

    The assembled audience of Friedmanites, as we were sometimes called–Are we all Friedmanites now?–was aghast that I dared to counter one of the master’s most pointed proposals, and the immediate response from the audience was hostile. Well, it was, until Friedman took the floor to declare that “I agree with everything that Henry said.” That settled that. I assumed that I would not hear Friedman again declaring that corporate social responsibility was the equivalent of socialism. Consequently, I was chagrined over the ensuing years to hear him make the same pronouncement many times, though to my knowledge not with any explicit proposal for a change in the legal rule.

    Now I realize (I should have known) he was absolutely correct about the significance of proposals for socially responsible corporate behavior, whether they emanated from within or outside the corporation. These proposals reflect, as well as anything else happening today, the inability of many commentators to distinguish between private and public property–in other words, between a free enterprise system and socialism. Somehow large-scale business success, usually resulting in a publicly held company, seems mysteriously to transform the nature of numerous individuals’ private investments into assets affected with a public interest. And once these corporate behemoths are “affected with a public interest,” they must either be regulated by the state or they must act as though they are owned by the public, and are therefore inferentially a part of the state. This attitude is reflected not merely by corporate activists, but by many “modern” corporate managers.
    An integral part of the older notion of public utility regulation required that the enterprise be, or act like, a monopoly (whether “natural” or not), in order to be affected with a public interest. But in today’s confusion, there is no such requirement. No arguments, weak as they are, about natural monopoly, market failure, government creation of corporations or the alleged government gifts of limited liability and perpetual existence, are required to justify the demands now regularly placed on business entities. Any large enterprise, no matter how competitive its industry and no matter how successfully it is fulfilling the public’s desires, has a social responsibility–a term that makes mockery of the idea of individual responsibility–to use part of its resources for “public” endeavors. Today’s favorite causes are environmental protection, employee health, sales of goods at below-market prices, weather modification, community development, private enforcement of (not merely abiding by) government regulations and support of cultural, educational and medical facilities.

    How did this transposition from private to public responsibility come about? After all, even the largest corporation started simply as an idea in someone’s head. At first this person hires employees, borrows capital or sells equity, produces goods or service and markets a product. Nothing about any of these purely private and benign arrangements suggests a public interest in the outcome. But then the business begins to grow, family stock holdings become more diffused, additional capital is required and, voilà, another publicly held corporation. In other words, another American success story.

    But what has happened to implicate public involvement in the management or governance of these enterprises as they grew from a mere idea? Nothing. And if that nothing be multiplied by tens or hundreds or thousands, the product is still zero. So where along the line to enormous size and financial heft has the public-private nexus necessarily changed? True, there are now a large number of complex and specialized private contracts, but every single one of these transactions is based on private property, freedom of contract, and individual risk and reward. If one apple is a fruit, even a billion apples do not become meat.

    The origins of this transformation lie in the minds of people who do not like or appreciate the genius of capitalist success stories, including always politicians, who will generally make any argument in order to control more private wealth. Of course, the social responsibility of corporations is always tied to the proponents’ own views of compassion or justice or avoidance of a cataclysm. But the logic of their own arguments requires that essentially private corporations be viewed as somehow “public” in nature. That is, the public, or the preferred part of it, often termed “stakeholders” (another shameful semantic play, this time on the word “shareholders”), has a pseudo-ownership interest in every large corporation. Without that dimension in their argument, free market logic would prevail.

    The illusion of great and threatening power, the superficial attractiveness of the notion, and the frequent repetition of the mantra of corporate social responsibility have made this fallacy a part of the modern corporate zeitgeist. Like the citizens who were afraid to tell the emperor that he was naked, no responsible business official would dare contradict the notion publicly for fear of financial ruin, even though the practice continues to cost shareholders and society enormous amounts. This is especially so in large-scale retail businesses like Wal-Mart or Coca-Cola or BP that are highly vulnerable to organized public criticism. Our laws against extortion do not function effectively when it comes to corporations. And so to some extent these private entities have indeed, via the social responsibility notion, been converted into crypto-public enterprises that are the essence of socialism. Milton Friedman was right again.
    Mr. Manne is dean emeritus of the George Mason University School of Law.


    November 25, 2006 at 12:09 am

  2. Reason’s Jacob Sullum also did a piece on Milt that’s worth reading:

    Milton Friedman, Archliberal
    Why the great free market economist was no conservative

    Jacob Sullum | November 22, 2006

    In 1994 Milton Friedman wrote a letter to Policy Review to complain that the magazine, then published by the Heritage Foundation, had inaccurately described his mentor and friend F.A. Hayek as a conservative. Noting that Hayek had included a postscript in his classic work of political philosophy The Constitution of Liberty explaining “Why I Am Not a Conservative,” Friedman said “Hayek, to the best of my belief, like myself, always considered himself a ‘whig’—a 19th century liberal, never a conservative.”

    Policy Review’s editor, Adam Meyerson, was unfazed. Not only was Hayek a conservative, he told Friedman, but “you are a conservative too. Sorry.”

    Friedman, who died on November 16 at the age of 94, is no longer around to insist on his right to describe his own political convictions. And judging from much of the commentary prompted by his death, many people agree with Meyerson that the great free market economist, a staunch foe of conscription, should be drafted into the conservative movement against his will. But the truth is that Friedman did not fit comfortably on the right or the left, which says more about the inadequacy of contemporary political categories than it does about his own confusion or perversity.

    Friedman sought to minimize government and maximize individual freedom. As he noted in his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom, “the right and proper label” for this orientation, for “the doctrines pertaining to the free man,” is liberalism. But in the United States during the 20th century, that term “came to be associated with a readiness to rely primarily on the state rather than on private voluntary arrangements to achieve objectives regarded as desirable.”

    Like Hayek and the novelist/philosopher Ayn Rand, Friedman resisted the solution of calling himself a conservative. “The nineteenth century liberal was a radical, both in the etymological sense of going to the root of the matter, and in the political sense of favoring major changes in social institutions,” he wrote. “So too must be his modern heir.”

    You would not guess from the New York Times obituary for Friedman that he considered himself a liberal. The word libertarian, adopted by some Americans as a replacement for liberal, does make an appearance in the 16th paragraph. But the Times also says Friedman flew “the flag of economic conservatism”; describes the Chicago school of economics, of which he was the leading representative, as “conservative”; says Friedman “helped ignite the conservative rebellion after World War II”; and calls him “the guiding light to American conservatives.”

    The general impression is that Friedman was a conservative with eccentric views about drug policy. But in what sense was Friedman conservative?

    Was it conservative to advocate laissez faire in the wake of the New Deal and World War II, when the consensus on the left and the right was that managing the economy was one of the government’s main tasks? Was it conservative to oppose Keynesianism when everyone was a Keynesian? For that matter, is there anything less conservative than the creative destruction of the free market?

    Such questions are especially relevant at a time when a president who calls himself a “compassionate conservative” is widely accused by other self-described conservatives of abandoning their cause, when many conservatives are ambivalent or even happy about the Republicans’ losses in this month’s elections because they feel the party has forsaken their principles. I’m not sure what those principles are, and I doubt the neocons, paleocons, fiscal conservatives, social conservatives, and national greatness conservatives could agree on anything like a coherent philosophy.

    What is the logical connection, for example, between opposing gun control and supporting drug control, between eliminating tariffs and banning online gambling, between deregulating campaign ads and censoring TV shows? A laundry list of policy positions is no substitute for a carefully considered worldview. Coherence is something conservatives could have learned from Milton Friedman, who emphasized that freedom is indivisible.


    November 25, 2006 at 12:12 am

  3. Is anarcho-capitalism sustainable?

    Is government inevitable?

    Can anyone point me to books that address these issues, please?


    November 25, 2006 at 1:46 am

  4. “The Glory of the Pritiken Diet”, Fats. It will help address ‘these issues”.


    November 25, 2006 at 2:12 am

  5. Here is three pieces of news people may want to discuss.

    1. Death of former KGP man Alexander Litvinenko of radioactive poisoning.


    November 25, 2006 at 3:29 am

  6. 2. Killing of violent and racist fans by a black policeman


    November 25, 2006 at 3:31 am

  7. 3. ” British Airways (BA) employee has lost her fight to openly wear a cross”


    November 25, 2006 at 3:32 am

  8. As BA is actually a private interest then they should have the right to make these rules however stupid.

    Steve Edney

    November 25, 2006 at 8:24 am

  9. fatfingers
    I think my comment over at ALS sums up my position on your questions

    Jason Soon

    November 25, 2006 at 8:51 am

  10. What is the logical connection, for example, between opposing gun control and supporting drug control, between eliminating tariffs and banning online gambling, between deregulating campaign ads and censoring TV shows? A laundry list of policy positions is no substitute for a carefully considered worldview. Coherence is something conservatives could have learned from Milton Friedman, who emphasized that freedom is indivisible.

    I think this shows just how incoherent the Bushies have become, as well as the extent to which the right – at least in the US – is an uneasy alliance of conservatives and libertarians. We came together to defeat communism, but by gum we disagree on a helluva lot.


    November 25, 2006 at 8:53 am

  11. Jason, it was your well-considered comment that encouraged me to seek others’ opinions.

    I asked for books because having read some Friedman, Hayek, Rand, Popper; a tiny bit of Adam Smith; other people’s writings about Rothbard, Bakunin and Nozick; and various anarchist books and manifestos; I have yet to come across one that shows any reason why anarcho-capitalism or anarcho-syndicalism or left-libertarianism can be sustained in the long term.

    Obviously Catallaxy readers are typically minarchists, but some go further than that towards anarcho-capitalism, and so I thought they might know a couple of books that could help.

    I ask for books because any rationale will most likely be much longer than is feasible in a blog post, but if someone wants to take a crack at it, go ahead.


    November 25, 2006 at 12:47 pm

  12. Sinclair Davidson

    November 25, 2006 at 1:05 pm

  13. FF
    >Is anarcho-capitalism sustainable?

    Rafe usually recommends Jan Lester’s ‘Beyond Leviathan’.

    Daniel Barnes

    November 25, 2006 at 1:43 pm

  14. Fats

    Libertarism is not something that can be taught although there are many books explaining why maximum personal freedom is best.

    It has to come from you. You have to arrive at the crossroads in life when you don’t need a book to explain it to you. All books should is reinforce what you already know to be right.

    Priro to reading books I would suggest you finger through Reason Magazine each week for several months and see what you think.


    November 25, 2006 at 1:43 pm

  15. Fats, one other thing.

    Left wingers have the most trouble with libertarianism.


    November 25, 2006 at 1:44 pm

  16. The decentralised Icelandic Commonwealth lasted for 334 years.

    Longer than any liberal democracy.

    Mark Hill

    November 25, 2006 at 2:09 pm

  17. Sinclair and Daniel, thank you. I shall look those up.

    JC, I have many objections to full libertarianism, but I am certainly willing to consider arguments that counter those objections. I am actively seeking those counterarguments, but I need some help.

    “All books should [do] is reinforce what you already know to be right.”

    I find that highly disturbing, JC. It is through reading and discussing what I didn’t originally think was right that I can confront my assumptions and put them to the test. Your method looks like a recipe for stagnation and zero intellectual development. I pity that stance.

    Mark, welcome back, I suppose the doctorate was eating up all your blogging time? 🙂 And will it be Mark from now on, no more ABL?

    Funny you should mention Iceland. Apparently it was the natural accretion of money and power to a privileged few through the actions of a free market that brought it to an end. This another of my objections to an unfettered market – the concentration of money and power. But I will leave that one for today.

    Plus, 334 years is nothing compared to various empires and kingdoms throughout history. And the English Parliament is closing in on that number anyway.


    November 25, 2006 at 2:35 pm

  18. Fats
    Fess up. The only reason you want help in finding books is that you want to use them to further your ideological prejudices.


    November 25, 2006 at 2:47 pm

  19. ff has a point, JC. I was a fairly statist lefty, probably heading towards conservatism (except I hated their drug policies) when Professor Ratnapala introduced me to Hayek. I had to read stuff in order to form the incoherent thoughts in my head into something that made sense. Lo and behold, I finished up libertarian, although I suspect I’m still more moderate than minarchist on that score.


    November 25, 2006 at 2:56 pm

  20. “Plus, 334 years is nothing compared to various empires and kingdoms throughout history. And the English Parliament is closing in on that number anyway.”

    18 years shy FF. From 1688-1815, they had a corrupt electoral boroughs system, and a recurring civil war until 1745.

    No other civilisation has had freedom for that long, ever. Still if England/Britain pips them, they are still the second longest ever free nation. Britain doesn’t have the problem of Caesaropapism that the Icelandics, Athens and the Hansa had from external factors.

    May I ask, what is your actual objection to:

    1. A utilitarian Government which bases all spending on cost benefit analyses and collects taxes through a Georgist tax?

    2. A minarchist Government which raises the tax as above?

    3. A minarchist Government which raises funds by donation?

    Where each Government has regular democratic elections.

    As for the fall of Iceland’s Commonwealth – I don’t know what started the civil unrest, but this was accelerated by naming the King of Denmark as their nominal chief, who followed the leviathan state model. Note too that the West Roman empire lost citizenry and legions to the Goths when necessary reform by Diocletian, all too late cost too much and there was a “brain drain” on the Empire.

    Mark Hill

    November 25, 2006 at 3:02 pm

  21. “A utilitarian Government which bases all spending on cost benefit analyses and collects taxes through a Georgist tax?”

    None. In fact, you have just described my ideal. You and I are the only ones ever to mention Georgist tax on these libertarian blogs, AFAIK. The devil is in the detail, though – how to measure costs and benefits?

    “A minarchist Government which raises the tax as above?”

    Several. In short, a minarchist gov doesn’t do enough, and is under-utilising the good that gov can do.

    “A minarchist Government which raises funds by donation?”

    Is it even a gov any more?

    Iceland (without going into details) reinforces my own vague take on politico-economic history – when power and wealth become too concentrated, the system collapses.

    This quote from Wikipedia on Iceland supports my argument, but I don’t rely on it.

    “During the 12th century, wealth and power began to accumulate in the hands of a few chiefs, and by 1220, six prominent families ruled the entire country. It was the internecine power struggle among these families, shrewdly exploited by King Haakon IV of Norway, that finally brought the old republic to an end.”


    November 25, 2006 at 3:24 pm

  22. “you want to use them to further your ideological prejudices.”

    Don’t judge me by your standards, JC. My ideological prejudices have changed dramatically over the last ten years or so. 🙂


    November 25, 2006 at 3:26 pm

  23. People can change – I think ff is going through the same process I did in in 2003. Lots of thinking, but also very good because you have to go back to first principles.


    November 25, 2006 at 3:33 pm

  24. “Is anarcho-capitalism sustainable?
    Is government inevitable?
    Can anyone point me to books that address these issues, please?”

    I’d listen to anything Hoppe has to say over at or at his own site.

    That would be your best bet.


    November 25, 2006 at 3:51 pm

  25. As Sinclair said — David Friedman. His book “machinery of freedom” is a great intro guide to anarcho-capitalist issues written by a utilitarian.

    His personal webpage is at:

    And I can rave about the issue for hours if you get me in the wrong mood — so I’ll see you at the blogbash in december.

    John Humphreys

    November 25, 2006 at 4:09 pm

  26. Details for the blogbash will be up soon. It will be on December 16. I’m giving you due notice, ff, so you can buy yourself a pair of binoculars after what happened last time …

    Jason Soon

    November 25, 2006 at 4:15 pm

  27. Fair go John that would be very taxing!!

    Bring Back CL's Blog

    November 25, 2006 at 4:19 pm

  28. “Several. In short, a minarchist gov doesn’t do enough, and is under-utilising the good that gov can do.”

    1. Such as…

    2. What do you base that on?

    “Is it even a gov any more?”

    Yes, a minarchy is. I can’t actually understand your objection to this.

    As for the Icelandics: never trust a politician: like I said, they had very little allies who shared the same ideals. Metternich, on the other hand, had most of Europe’s elite on his side.

    Mind you, the hypothetical 1. I previously posted is much truer to the ideas of liberalism than any free-market spruiking Government has ever got to.

    As for the Georgist tax…I think some of the more socialist Georgists have done a lot of damage to this idea. Their fixation on economic woes led by monopoly on land is much, much stranger than the Austrian fever swamp.

    Mark Hill

    November 25, 2006 at 4:23 pm

  29. “if you get me in the wrong mood”

    I’ll give you a spliff to mellow you out 😉


    November 25, 2006 at 4:49 pm

  30. “1. Such as…”

    Keeping the poor from being too poor, keeping the sick from being too sick, keeping the under-educated from being un-educated, transferring resources from those who can afford it to those who have little in the interests of peace and stability, providing public goods (yes, yes, I know about the lighthouses, no need to repeat yourself), attempting to correct for market failures, controlling natural monopolies to avoid exploitation by private interests.

    “2. What do you base that on?”

    Nozick’s definition: Minarchism – a minimal state limited to the narrow functions of protection against force, theft, fraud, enforcement of contracts.

    “I can’t actually understand your objection to this.”

    Voluntary funding of government implies no services to non-payers. This raises problems. Plus, how do you get due compensation from non-payers who benefit from positive externalities of the minarchism?


    November 25, 2006 at 4:58 pm

  31. fatfingers,

    Your 1. can be summarised as:

    a.transferring resources from those who can afford it to those who have little

    b. providing public goods (yes, yes, I know about the lighthouses, no need to repeat yourself),

    c. attempting to correct for market failures,

    d. controlling natural monopolies to avoid exploitation by private interests.

    So in answering your 1. and 2.;

    The concern of a. is contentious, most poverty now is caused by interventionism. Amelioration of poverty is arguable as it has non-trivial negative externalities. However, evidence shows that before the imposition of income tax, per-capita charity donations were five times the proportion of what we give today. It is also arguable that a well designed privatisation-by-gifting scheme would see permanent wealth and incomes rise to an extent that generational poverty would be eliminated and those who require care would have sufficient funds to divest from.

    The concern over b. is justified, but what a public good actually is boils down to defence, courts and the police as most public services are actually Government business enterprises, and Spulber exposes many myths of public goods in his book, using examples by Coase, Klein etc, such as public roads, lighthouses and positive agricultural externalities. Note that Umbeck found that in the absence of Government granted rights, property rights arise endogenously from social convention.

    As for c., externalities are usually trivial and the removal of externalities has greater costs than the benefits of removal. Otherwise, Coase’s rule applies. Public goods are dealt with elsewhere. Market power is not a market failure, as when there are no barriers to entry, the alleged deleterious effects of monopoly do not occur. More on this for d.

    And as for d., monopoly profits are merely a necessary price signal to direct investment into an industry. Removing this “market failure” simply removes information and stifles investment and growth.

    As to the final issue of voluntary provision of public services:

    What you say is actually contradictory. You mention excludability and non-excludability. However, the real issue and theoretical objection to minarchism is that there will be a provision of public goods, but these will be underprovided. However, public goods carry a very specific definition, and most public services do not meet this criteria. However, judging public goods on the same criteria is a mistake. The optimal provision of defence, is not determined by what people could pay if they were compelled to do so, but what passes a CBA. As long as voluntary donations meet this limit, then there is no problem. The issue of free riding is trivial – it is just a positional externality.

    Statically your favour towards utilitarianism is reasonable, but the revelation of certain facts, such as the mythical status of some public goods, the benefits of monopoly within a free and contestable market and charity data point towards the minarchist model being the utility-maximising model. In other words, I expect your bureaucrats would decide not to regulate monopolies but open up markets.

    Nevertheless, I’d vote for a Georgist/utilitarian model if it was on offer!

    Mark Hill

    November 25, 2006 at 5:30 pm

  32. this is pretty damned amazing – blind kid uses echolocation to see.

    and as any comic book fans would know, it’s fiction anticipating fact – this is like Daredevil’s radar ability

    Jason Soon

    November 25, 2006 at 7:25 pm

  33. “Keeping the poor from being too poor, keeping the sick from being too sick, keeping the under-educated from being un-educated, transferring resources from those who can afford it to those who have little……..”


    Listen closely…….




    And we KNOW this.

    So why persist in your stupidity.

    You aim to TAX these self-same people you pretend to want to help. Which means you aren’t fair dinkum and really just mucking about.


    November 25, 2006 at 7:39 pm

  34. I don’t often laugh out loud whe reading The Age, but this morning there is a classic by Jason Koutsoukis,

    Asked to write a story about who the Liberals might fear the most, I dug up this quote about Rudd from a senior Liberal strategist: “Rudd is the class prat, the sort of guy who would have worn a bow tie to the high school quiz contest,” said my source. “He might know all the answers, but everyone would want to beat him up after school.”

    The phone started ringing very early on the day the story appeared and before the receiver even reached my ear I could hear someone shouting at me. Amid liberal use of the f-word and several colourful references to me being some kind of very smelly, very fat and very stupid walking genital not fit to breathe the same air as human beings, I realised that it was none other than the bow-tied class prat himself.

    The whole piece is at – great image too.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 10:07 am

  35. Kruddy was my local member while I lived in Annerley (Brisbane suburb). He had a prat reputation, but also a reputation for working hard in the electorate. It seemed that people were willing to put up with him being a prat because he got things done.


    November 26, 2006 at 11:11 am

  36. i don’t doubt that he’s worked hard to get where he is, but I don’t think people want to be preached at in the tone he adopts for his public speaking.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 11:24 am

  37. I don’t think his local success would translate nationally, no. The ALP is in a real pickle federally – the Beazer is unelectable, Kruddy comes across like everyone’s incarnation of their least favourite teacher and Gillard – who probably is electable – is disliked by some of the dinosaurs in her own party because she’s not married and doesn’t have any kids.


    November 26, 2006 at 11:36 am

  38. Anyway, back to the cricket for now.


    November 26, 2006 at 11:37 am

  39. Gillard used to be my MP – but I got redistributed into Nicola Roxon’s seat. So I quite like her, but not enough to vote for her. She has a number of problems, not all associated with the dinosaurs.

    Being unmarried and without children undermines the argument that the ALP supports ‘families’. Many people understand the difference between a theoretical understanding of familiy pressures and the practical understanding of family pressures. So if Gillard, as leader, were to be saying, “The ALP supports family life” etc. there will be someone, and pehaps many someones, thinking “how do you know?”, or “look who’s talking”. As an aside, in terms of Gary Becker’s ‘family as a market’ type theories the fact that she hasn’t been ‘selected’ in the marriage market also indicates some sort of problem. (Now before I get abused by feminists etc. I concede Becker’s theories are controversial).

    Also, she may be a ‘faker’ – she migrated from Wales at a youngish, but not too young, age – yet has a very flat nasel Australian working class accent. She has probably worked hard to acquire that accent, but why? For what purpose? Finally, she is from the left, the ALP will not be elected with left views. Their best option is to outflank the government on the right. Something, I can’t see that happening any time soon.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 12:12 pm

  40. Ridiculous arguments Sinclair
    1) No lifestyle should be subsidised in preference to another. So it means bugger all whether a politician understands family life. Get government off everyone’s backs and let them do as they please.

    2) People have different priorities in life and not everyone necessarily wants to have a family or get married, or they may not want to do it this early. Highly educated women are getting married later in life. Insofar as some characteristics of women less likely to be married now are a proxy for IQ we actually have dysgenic rather than eugenic trends at present – not that it’s any of the State’s business either way because the only benchmark is individual utility. Becker’s theory is just not applicable in this climate assuming you have read it correctly. There was a Palestinian suicide bomber recently in the news who had 49 grandchildren. Was she better material for the continuance of the human race than Julia Gillard or Lisa Randall?

    Anyway marriage is just a fluffy little ceremony anyway. How do you know Gillard isn’t in a relationship and therefore has been ‘selected’ and once again, who cares?

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 12:19 pm

  41. Jason – good libertarian arguments all. The electorate, however, tends not be liberatarian and would judge Ms Gillard along the lines I have suggested.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 1:28 pm

  42. Not sure the point about Lisa Randall – do you know her?

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 1:30 pm

  43. Nope, just using another example of an unmarried woman of many accomplishments (arguably more than Julia Gillard). I’m reading her book at the moment,

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 1:34 pm

  44. Lisa Randall looks like one helluva brains trust, that’s what.

    It’s fairly well documented that complete loss of accent on migration (even for non-English speakers) takes place at about 12 or 13 years of age. I don’t know how old she was when she migrated, but if she was 10 or so, there’d be no accent.

    People can also choose not to participate in markets – particularly the ‘marriage’ market. I did for years. It’s relatively simple to refuse to play. I don’t see how Becker’s argument can hold any water at all, as pair-bonding in a country like Australia is entirely a matter of personal choice.


    November 26, 2006 at 1:39 pm

  45. ‘I don’t see how Becker’s argument can hold any water at all…’

    Most women I tell about Becker’s theories don’t seem to agree with them. Perhaps its my poor explanatory powers 🙂 .

    More importantly, are the google ads random or somehow attuned to the blog? They really don’t seem to be appropriate.

    Why not get one of those Amazon link things, whereby you get a cut from Amazon sales? I would imagine that many Catallaxy readers buy from Amazon (and Abebooks, although I don’t think they have that sort of deal).

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 2:09 pm

  46. Sometimes the google ads are really spot on – especially when you click on a particular post. Other times they’re really weird and unrelated. I don’t know how the Amazon thing works, we’d have to check it out. It would probably involve doing a fair few book reviews, though.


    November 26, 2006 at 2:21 pm

  47. Not book reviews, book purchases.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 2:29 pm

  48. I’m assuming you’d review a book (or provide one of those ‘libertarian top ten’ lists) with links back to Amazon, and hope that everyone who visits buys via our site.


    November 26, 2006 at 4:04 pm

  49. There is an interesting interview with GMU economist Larry Iannaccone on the economics of religion. Interestingly, he finds that the level of ‘religiousity’ in a society is based largely on supply-side conditions. Less state intervention means more religious people.


    November 26, 2006 at 4:33 pm

  50. Sorry. I understand. I’m not sure, I think you can just buy via a link – on the other hand, if just two people wrote up a quick review each week and placed it into the open forum that would be heaps of reviews. Rafe, for example, writes reviews direct for Amazon.

    On the issue of books, Susanna Clarke has put out a collection of short stories.

    Sinclair Davidson

    November 26, 2006 at 5:09 pm

  51. I’m not posting this as a main post since I never intend to finish it. But now that we have a professional writer on board I’ll expose it to public view. It’s the last bits of my never to be finished sci-fi novel which I wrote almost a decade ago now:


    In the west wing, a huddle of robot workers could be seen tending to the soil-chemical mixture that was to lay the foundations for the terraforming of the asteroid to be ready in a few months, which would happily render the fairly expensive to maintain ion bubble redundant. In the east, the robots, as organised as an ant colony, could be seen carrying bits of machinery around, making adjustments to the mining equipment and assembling new office buildings.

    Despite everything proceeding smoothly, the scene below remained a sad reminder to Fiorella of her sister Hypatia’s death under mysterious circumstances.

    Ten years of Hypatia’s research on the industrial applications of nanotechnology had been wiped out by the mysterious fire in her lab which had also left behind her charred remains and those of her fourteen co-researchers. It had also been mysteriously deleted from the databases of the organisations she had worked for. As tragic as was the death of her and her co-workers, the scientific community were equally shocked by the implications it had for progress in that area. It was well known that the co-researchers were the best in the world which Hypatia had managed to poach on behalf of her employer. Everytime Fiorella gazed down on the asteroid settlement she was reminded that most of the mining equipment and buildings she saw could be viably growing and maintaining themselves from the ground up if Hypatia and her associates had been given the chance to complete her research.

    Soon the trademark overlapping gothic letters of P and E of Prometheus Enterprises came into view at the side of one of the shapeless blue hulls in the middle of the settlement. The pod sped unremittingly towards it as the previously seamless, impenetrable wall parted to reveal a tunnel just snug enough to manouevere into. As the terraforming was not yet complete, the only two human residents had to live inside the special pressurised atmosphere of this hull for the time being.

    It was eerily quiet when they stepped out, except for the echo of their footsteps and the familiar hypnotic purr of Fiorella’s cat. The blue-eyed, shorthaired grey sleekness of a figure had suddenly materialised the way cats always do, next to Fiorella’s right leg just as she had eased herself out of her boots.

    Dagny the cat exchanged its usual ‘one aristocrat to another’ look of dignified mutual recognition with its human intimate and then crept back up the path where it expected the two humans would follow. Javier did not share Fiorella’s love of cats, regarding them as mooching ingrates. But it was this exchange of valuation with valuation, this look of acknowledgement from one proud being to another which Fiorella got from her cat, which convinced her that cats did not mooch. Cats were not easy to befriend or to win trust from, which was precisely why Fiorella valued their companionship when she could win it.

    Javier frequently compared cats unfavourably to dogs and their alleged fidelity. But to Fiorella it was a fidelity almost promiscuously given. In the innumerable times on which this conversation came up, Fiorella asked Javier to imagine what one would think of a human friend who was so lacking in self-esteem, so lacking of shame at self-abasement that he or she would dispense loyalty so easily and loyalty of such scope as that which was acclaimed in dogs. Javier frequently replied to this by asking why one would apply the same psychological criteria to human as to animal companions, and this presupposing that it was the right criteria to apply. But to Fiorella such an attitude was the only one consistent with her stance on the rights of sufficiently intelligent software. To her it was the content of an entity’s mind that mattered and by the same principle she was obliged to evaluate all entities with sufficiently sentient minds by the same standards.

    Suddenly Fiorella’s tangential flights of fancy were repulsed off-course by an eruption from outside the hull. The hull shook with such ferocity she lost her balance and tumbled down, falling on her back, just as a shard of metal from the wall in front of her cut a swathe through the air just above her face as her head hit the floor.

    Fiorella closed her eyes stoically, expecting the atmosphere in the hull to seep out in a matter of seconds, judging from the hole in the wall. If her brain wasn’t starved of oxygen first, she would be unlikely to survive the low pressure atmosphere of the asteroid given the incomplete terraforming.

    She then jolted herself out of the shock and disorientation of her fall. She realised that the hole in the wall led to the ‘engine room’ of the hull which in turn was connected to a series of underground tunnels joining the buildings in the entire settlement. The intruders, whoever they were, had broken in from there and not from outside. The noise from outside was probably from a similar ambush in a nearby building.

    The jets of scalding hot air erupting from the hole in the wall had now settled down into a steady, hissing blanket of steam. Behind that blurry blanket, Fiorella could make out about half a dozen figures clad from head to foot in black silk outfits and white ski masks. Slung over their shoulders were multi-function bomb-thrower/machine guns. They were looking the room over. Seeing her, arms akimbo, eyes peeled open looking as if still in a state of shock, they took her to be dead or at least incapacitated.

    That split second of inaction on their part was all she needed. The steady spurts of adrenalin that were pumping into her the moment she had regathered her bearings had cleared off the last vestiges of fear and grogginess accumulated after the explosion.

    She sprang to her feet. Suspended about six inches in mid air, she pivotted around and dove behind the space pod. At the same time she noticed Javier’s limp body under the debris of torn metal piled up at the front end of the pod. She did not take a close enough look to see if he was dead or merely unconscious, but she censored such thoughts. He would be as good as dead if she didn’t take out at least some of the attackers.

    Landing softly on her knees behind the pod, she drew a small pistol out from under the left side of her blouse. It was a state of art New Wesson, firing tiny but powerful pellets which could have a man’s body configured like Swiss cheese. Because the bullets were so small it packed more shots before reloading was necessary, which was just as well given that the only supply of bullets she had access to at the moment was what was already inside the gun.

    Fiorella was no mean shooter. That was one of the many things that she and her ex, Trane Drexler, had in common. The first bullet found it way in the chin of one of the six masked intruders and out through the top of his skull. Blood and gray matter spurted out of him like some surreal fountain and temporarily blinded his comrade behind. He was next, as a second bullet whirred through his neck, leaving a hole where his throat used to be. A third bullet left a third man (presumably) clutching his blood soaked groin, but not before reflexively depressing the red button on his bomb thrower and then hurling it to the floor.

    The inevitable happened. A bomb was discharged from the thrower as it landed in an arc like motion a few feet away from the back part of the pod where Fiorella was kneeling. The bomb hurtled straight down into the floor beneath the muzzle of the falling thrower. The next thing that Fiorella saw before she could react was a flash of red haze, the next thing she felt was a scalding heat that scorched her face and flew right into her eyes, the next thing she heard was the floor disintegrating into a crater of powder and jagged shards and the even more horrible sound of the exposed part of the pod being thrown against and collapsing on her.

    When the smoke and steam cleared, she noticed the three intruders who were still alive (the unfortunate bullet castrati had fallen into the path of the bomb) were in varying degrees of disshevelment and bloodiness as well. Their silk garments now hung off them like bark off a razen tree.

    Though she had been closer to where the bomb landed she was at least partly sheltered behind the pod, though the price was that now the lower half of her body was pinned beneath its collapsed ruins. She could not possibly lift the fragments of the pod off her and get to her feet in time, if she could get to her feet at all, even though her assailants were hardly able to run at the moment.

    Even more unfortunately, both her hands were flailingly groping around whatever was within their range, but to no avail did they encounter what would have been the comforting lacquered texture of her pistol. She had inadvertently let go of it when every nerve point in her body was assaulted with scalding painful heat and the pistol had probably been propelled even further away from her with the force of the explosion. The three marched silently towards her as she lay, unarmed, helplessly pinned beneath the hot and crumpled remains of the exposed part of the pod.

    Who was going to be charged with the task of taking out the troublesome bitch, she thought? Fine thing infusing your crisis moments with Hollywood pathos, was her second thought, but at this she almost had to suppress her laugh. A noble soul laughs at life and laughs at death, was her next thought. But a noble soul also prefers life to death and this isn’t helping … was this ridiculous train of thought really herself trying to calm herself down or simply hysteria taking her down the wrong tracks?

    Before there was time for another loop of introspection to ensnare her, she noticed one of the three crumpling limply to the floor, and heard the sound of a gun. It came from the direction of the debris pile which Javier was buried under. He was still alive, and had obviously come to. One of the remaining two turned around to finish him off and got it in the chest. The remaining person standing was sufficiently alert to dodge a third hail of bullets when it was his time to turn around.

    Fiorella remembered the nanogun beneath her belt. She could not take the risk that Javier would run out of bullets, that the remaining intruder who was alive would finish him off … but first she had to lift the considerable debris off her, at least enough to get hold of the nanogun. She heard four horrible, rattling discharges of whizzing metal which were evidently from a machine gun. Blinking the warm tears away from her eyes, she concentrated with all her might.

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 5:30 pm


    DrAtilla Yayla, recently interviewed in Policy Magazine, was sacked from his teaching position in Turkey because he refered to Ataturk as “this man” (i.e. supposedly disrespect the Turkish idol).


    November 26, 2006 at 6:13 pm

  53. that is worrying, Amir but not surprising. I’ve blogged about that interview before.

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 6:33 pm

  54. Jason, is this the conclusion? Or near the beginning? I’d guess the latter, as you seem to be establishing rather than narrating.

    SF is very hard to write well, in my view, because it requires so much descriptive work (‘establishment’). Another world must be made completely real to the reader, yet the narrative must also be plausible and internally consistent.

    The only writing lesson anyone gave me was ‘show, not tell’. It’s good advice. SF writers struggle with this, as some things almost inevitably need to be told, hobbling the narrative. It is this characteristic that causes much sf to be badly written (or over-written – like the Broderick piece I linked to earlier).

    Douglas Adams famously solved this conundrum with his ‘Guide’, but he was also having a go at the genre.


    November 26, 2006 at 7:04 pm

  55. end of chapter 3, SL, so there was a fair way to go. It was going to be a very convoluted story with a lot of background so I just gave up.

    It would’ve made a good movie though – scientific babes with guns, alien invasions, whodunits, political intrigues (libertarian anarchists vs people who wanted to instigate a disaster to bring back the State), a little Gulliver’s travels chucked in, AI conundrums …

    Jason Soon

    November 26, 2006 at 7:14 pm

  56. It struck me as a bit Firefly-ish, yes. That show worked exceptionally well because he managed to work all the backstory into the narrative. If you’ve got anything more recent, I can take a look at it when I’m in Sydney.


    November 26, 2006 at 7:19 pm

  57. Look at this oz blog-feed.

    Look at it and then think about putting it on your browser.

    I’ve not seen it before this very day and was most surprised that I was on it.


    November 28, 2006 at 7:03 pm

  58. Boris
    if you’re reading, what do you make of this business with Yegor Gaidar now being suspected of being poisoned?

    Jason Soon

    November 30, 2006 at 12:58 am

  59. Any of you leftiods out there. Zimbabwe is a great example of your philosophy is action. Should we take Mugabe out or is it better to leave him in power with the full knowledge that he killing 3,500 people per week.

    Recall this country was a food exporter before this murderous leftist prick took over.

    Former Oz PM Malcontent Fraser may want to speak to this too.

    you call

    Archbishop: Thousands of Zimbabweans starve, die weekly from disease

    By Simon Caldwell
    Catholic News Service

    LONDON (CNS) — More people are dying from starvation and disease in Zimbabwe under President Robert Mugabe than are killed in the war in Iraq or the conflict in Darfur, said an African archbishop.

    Archbishop Pius Ncube of Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, said about 3,500 people are dying each week in his country from a “unique convergence of malnutrition, poverty and AIDS.” He said the world has forgotten about the plight of Zimbabweans although “hunger, illness and desperation stalk our land.”

    “Cemeteries are filling up throughout the country, but no blood is being spilt,” he told a private meeting of politicians and church leaders in London Nov. 22. “People are just fading away, dying quietly and being buried quietly with no fanfare, and so there is little media attention.”

    As many people die prematurely in Zimbabwe in one week as in one month in Iraq when the violence is at its worst, he said. In October, 3,700 people died in Iraq.

    The mortality rate in Zimbabwe is also a thousand per week higher than the Darfur region of western Sudan, where a genocidal campaign by government-backed militias against local tribes has claimed an average of 2,500 lives a week since 2003.

    Archbishop Ncube said World Health Organization figures reveal that life expectancy in Zimbabwe is the lowest in the world — 34 years for women and 37 years for men.

    The U.N. World Food Program estimates that 6.1 million Zimbabweans, about half of the 12 million population, face starvation.

    The archbishop said Zimbabwe’s unemployment rate is 80 percent, and the country has the fastest-declining economy in the world.

    Archbishop Ncube, who was in London to raise funds for an AIDS charity, blamed the crisis on the mismanagement of the country under Mugabe over the last seven years.

    “Zimbabwe is not a nation at war,” Archbishop Ncube said. “It used to be able to feed itself and its neighbors. Zimbabwe used to have one of the highest life-expectancy rates in Africa.

    “And these figures cannot just be blamed on AIDS,” he added.

    He said the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front government, or Zanu-PF, was not investing in medicine to treat AIDS because it was “more interested in importing military aircraft from China than protecting (the) lives of its people.”

    “We remain in the grip of a dictator. … We cannot compete for attention in a world fixated by events in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Sudan and elsewhere. Yet we need the international community to maintain pressure on Zanu-PF now as much as ever before,” he said.



    November 30, 2006 at 1:47 am

  60. “Boris if you’re reading, what do you make of this business with Yegor Gaidar now being suspected of being poisoned”

    Just read about it. Sounds very strange. Unlile Politkovskaya and Litivinenko, Gaydar wasn’t a threat to anyone. Of course, many people hate him, but it is hard to imagine Putin or KGB going after him.

    The fact that dotors can’t find the cause of his abrupt illness sounds very strange. Hope he will recover soon. He is not a young man, so it may be just some natural cause. Let’s wait and see.


    November 30, 2006 at 2:21 am

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