Assorted links

by on February 14, 2011 at 11:56 am in Web/Tech | Permalink

1. Arbitrage.

2. Which mistakes do the alien invaders usually make?

3. The booming Russian television market.

4. How Scott Sumner views the political spectrum; very good post.

5. Samuel Bowles on parasitic liberalism.

6. Via Chris F. Masse, marital markets in everything.  And how to upgrade Colombian rail and beat the guerrillas at the same time.

7. Good profile of Geithner.

Jeff J February 14, 2011 at 9:16 am

A link to cracked.com. Awesome.

Incidentally, I used to have a summer job that involved scrubbing obscene graffiti off the giant axe at the bottom of page one of the article.

dirk February 14, 2011 at 9:36 am

6. What is the "beat the guerrillas" part?

Alvin February 14, 2011 at 11:10 am

What is arbitrage? Every law and economics type uses that word, arbitrage? I hear it in every presentation and read it in every paper. What does it mean?

Two Things February 14, 2011 at 2:47 pm

Why is Sumner's post so good? He gives his game away when he writes, hilariously, that "US politics is dominated by the right" (Obamacare, anyone? How about "fiscal stimulus?").

Sumner himself is a typical American leftist (what Arnold Kling would call a folk-Marxist): all his friends are leftists too, so he thinks he's a centrist. He sees no enemies to the left, so anyone Sumner disagrees with is a "rightist."

Of the six "neglected" policies Sumner brings up (occupational licensing, war on drugs, immigration, progressive income taxes, zoning, mortgage/health-insurance tax deductions), his position on four of them is folk-Marxist (e.g., a progressive income tax– which Sumner labels "consumption tax," is a core Marxist demand, literally straight out of the Communist Manifesto). Despite his preening, he takes arguably "pragmatic libertarian" positions only on occupational-licensing and the war-on-drugs.

Worse, though Sumner rightly doesn't complain that his personal big issue of "stimulus" spending is a neglected policy question, he doesn't point out how leftist his views are. Sumner has been arguing for years that the government should spend (and therefore tax, if only by inflation) truly vast sums to "stimulate the economy," that is, to substitute political spending decisions for market forces. Sumner's own big idea is the antithesis of libertarianism, pragmatic or otherwise.

Alvin February 14, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Arbor – thanks. The other buzzword is "robust". I always hear it.

mulp February 14, 2011 at 11:29 pm

from the Russian TV market:

The usual way to get a job in Russia is not by impressing at an interview, but by what is known as blat – ‘connections’. Russian society isn’t much interested in the hard-working, brilliant young business mind. Everyone knows where that type ends up: in jail like Mikhail Khodorkovsky, or in exile like the mobile phone billionaire Yevgeny Chichvarkin. Today’s Russia rewards the man who operates from the shadows, the grey apparatchik, the master of the politique de couloir – the man like Putin. Promotion in such a system comes from knowing how to debase yourself, how to suck up and serve your master, how to be what the Russians call a holop, a ‘toady’. Bright and extrovert and aspirational? Not if you want success. The shows that did work were based on a quite different set of principles. By far the biggest success was Posledny Geroi (‘The Last Hero’), a version of Survivor, a show based on humiliation and hardship. This chimed in Russia – a country where being bullied by the authorities is the norm.

As this isn't so different from the US over the past decade, I now understand the reason Survivor is now in its tenth season here in the US.

wikipedia says: The American version has been very successful. From the 2000–2001 through the 2005–2006 television seasons its first eleven seasons (competitions) rated amongst the top ten most watched shows. It is commonly considered the mother of American reality TV because it was the first highly-rated and profitable reality show on broadcast television in the USA, and is considered one of the most important shows of the first decade of the 21st century.

And to think some people believe Reagan defeated the Soviet Russians, when in reality the US became the enemy.

anonymous February 15, 2011 at 5:30 am

The sky is always gray on Planet Mulp.

Yes, dammit, the situation in the US is quite different. Don't forget, Russians are the folks who borrowed the expression "with aplomb" (from French, the same place we got it from) and turned it into a negative connotation, along the lines of cocksure and overconfident.

anonymous February 15, 2011 at 9:50 am

What is interesting is how China is […] building transport infrastructure […] globally. I wonder how long it will be before Warren Buffett will be competing against a Chinese transcontinental railroad over a southern route.

In the United States? Don't be ridiculous.

Do you have any idea how utterly impossible it would be to assemble rights-of-way to build brand new railroad tracks through what are nowadays heavily built-up and populated areas?

Not merely infeasible or ruinously expensive… outright impossible. For a Chinese company, for an American company… for anyone.

Warren Buffett is notorious for preferring businesses that have a high "moat" (ie, large barriers to entry for would-be competitors). Railroads within the US are the ultimate example. Buffett is half of a duopoly for rail between the US West coast and the interior, and that isn't going to change.

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