by Tyler Cowen
on August 23, 2011 at 10:56 am
1. Die Welt on Ireland, and the FT on Ireland, lots of Irish comments here.
2. The illusion of asymmetric insight, good starting point for understanding the blogosphere.
3. Scorsese trailer for the George Harrison movie to come.
4. Is the Iranian economy improving?
5. How to get 211 tons of gold to Venezuela.
6. How likely are ob-gyns (of various religions) to provide abortions?
Sort of a reverse Nostromo with that gold to Venezuela.
So, just how many Mini Coopers would it take to steal 211 tons of gold?
Is a man who has stolen so much from so many companies wise to draw attention to his little hostage to fortune?
We have massive evidence that conservative / classic liberal intellectuals know all of the ins and outs of the leftist world view — they’ve soaked in it their whole lives, for God’ sake.
We have equally massive evidence that almost all leftists / Democrats haven’t read or even heard of the thinkers & ideas & arguments of the conservative / classical liberal intellectuals — and most don’t even know a conservative or classical liberal. Read Mamet’s new book for a single case example of the facts.
We also have massive evidence of leftists or “moderates” encountering conservative / classical liberal ideas — and changing their minds, e.g. Hayek, Friedman, Sowell, Smith, Horowitz. and Mamet, and on and on and on. The list is truly endless.
If evidence matters, we have some important evidence to address and explain here.
Your post brings to mind Andrew Sullivan. My opinion of him is pretty ambivalent, so please don’t read too much into my use of him as an example. As a man well-versed in Locke, Burke, or whomever you have in mind as the basis for conservative / classical liberal intellectuals, Andrew Sullivan cannot bring himself to support the likes of Bachmann, Palin, and Perry. This does not strike me as strange. It’s hard to imagine Locke, Burke, Smith, or Mills jumping on the Bachmann bandwagon, yet one gets the strange feeling that if it were to come down to Bachmann vs. Obama in a general election, many of those espousing the greatness of Burkean conservatism would ultimately side with Bachmann.
My point is, is that in a two-party system, ultimately most are likely to cast their vote for one side or the other. And while I can understand why many “classical liberals” sided with the GOP for much of the 20th century, I struggle to see why many still do and why there aren’t more people like Andrew Sullivan who cannot bring themselves to side with the party of Bachmann, Palin, etc. not because they disagree with classical liberalism, and not because they’re unfamiliar with it, but precisely because they do know it and do agree with it.
And maybe its unfair to lump an entire party under the Bachmann/Palin umbrella. It is indeed a party that still contains other types – the Pauls, Huntsmans, Ryan’s, etc. And I know there are many who wish someone of the non-Palin/Bachmann persuasion would win the nomination. Ultimately though, I’m still a bit bewildered by how rare a viewpoint like Sullivan’s is by people who profess their love for those early classical liberal thinkers.
And once again, I’m not praising Sullivan, I’m just using him as a more well-known example of the type of person I’m talking about.
I’m a former student of Dr. Israel Kirzner (the man wrote one of my letters of recommendation that got me into grad school), and through him, I learned quite a bit about Mises, Hayek, etc. (he also talked quite a bit about Locke). I can recognize things in Paul (and even Perry) that would be a draw to such thinking. And I can recognize the appeal among such thinkers to the rightward parties of England, Canada, Australia, etc. But for the life of me, I can’t understand why so many classical liberals are so steadfast in their support for an American Right that is increasingly straying away from its intellectual roots (and increasingly is becoming anti-intellectual).
Come join me in Texas and we’ll go to one of Perry’s prayer rallies and we can do a survey of who has read the authors you have in mind in your post. There most definitely will be a selection bias with the results, but it’ll be a bias towards the direction the party is moving.
More particularly, in 2000 Al Gore was obviously more liberal (classically liberal) on both economic issues and social issues.
Gore was stronger on free trade and had a proven record of reducing regulation and government employment and expenditure. Bush was a classic crony capitalist who ran Texas like banana republic. Both promised new regulations on pollution and medicare drug benefits but Gore’s proposals were market driven while Bush was closer to command-control-and-subsidize.
Gore was obviously more liberal on classic social issues. He promised the same action on gun regulation that Bush did but no more.
So did so-called libertarians and classic liberals cheer and take up bumper stickers to stand behind the one and only candidate in the post-war cycles who was for both free minds and free markets, more liberal on social issues and economic issues than his opponent?
No, they did not. In fact, they overwhelmingly voted for Bush.
Which just goes to show so-called libertarians are just a crew of ordinary Republicans who don’t want the social opprobrium of being outright racists.
Politicians say a lot of things. The question is who do you trust more?
Speaking of which, your last line demonstrates that you are an Us vs. Them person, not an Idea person.
That’s a very strange view of the choices in 2000. Gore wanted far more coercive environmental regulation, he was not better on free trade, he was not credible on gun issues, and he wanted to expand Medicare much more than Bush.
In any case, libertarians were hardly overwhelmingly behind Bush.
Someone didn’t read link #2!
Heh, I was thinking the same thing.
OTOH, the evidence does stand — there is a mountain of evidence for the leftward tilt in news media, entertainment media, and academia.
It might be true; but you should expect yourself to be the worst possible evaluator of that.
We have massive evidence that people will change understandings in order to have a better and truer understanding of the world, regardless of consequences for group identity and group membership. Just one example is bible scholar Bart Ehrman. Another example is F. A. Hayek. The examples are endless.
The group vs group & group membership imperative is powerful — and explains a lot about, e.g. the shape of economic “science”. But as an claim to explanatory dominion, the strategy explains too much — and not enough.
The move isn’t entirely novel logistically. India flew 67 tons of gold to Europe in the 1991 crisis. Wonder who insured that shipment. Although India had kept the move a secret; so that might have reduced the risk.
On Venezuela, and the Naval option, he says “Again, the theft risk is obvious — seamen can be greedy too — and this time there would be no insurance. “
But while seamen can be greedy (even to the point of Captains and Admirals being greedy), there’s no much they could do.
There would, in any sensible situation, be one or a handful of ships carrying the gold… and a surrounding ring of escort vessels, to prevent any outside trouble.
Thing is, those escorts also prevent inside trouble; even assuming a big conspiracy, there are huge trust issues – why would a “paid off” escort Captain trust that he’d get paid rather than thrown to the wolves, once it was over? And why would his second-in-command not run the same logic and decide he’s better off taking command after shooting the Captain for treason, and getting a lavish reward from the State?
And in the case of a single rogue ship, well… the escorts are heavily armed and have boarding parties, and it would be rather difficult, in the face of those odds, to avoid defectors on the inside…
Plus there’s the small problem of where you’d take a whole flotilla to unload it, how to prevent Chavez’s people from killing your family in retaliation… far better to do your duty honestly and get some bonus pay than take those huge risks.
I think the Naval option is probably Chavez’s best, safest bet for his stupid, counterproductive posturing scheme.
> rather than thrown to the wolves
Minor nitpick: he’d be thrown to the sharks.
Special report: Venezuelan naval ship suddenly disappears somewhere off the coast of Spain. Russia Offers it’s extensive deep sea salvage experience in locating and recovering the wreckage of the Venezuelan naval ship…
Truly a nonsense statement.
If Chavez cannot secure a shipment with his own military, how would it be secure once in Venezuela? How is he secure from military coup? The answer is obvious.
He obviously isn’t. He was already removed by the military once.
The military generally does not like him. There’s a real risk the naval crew would mutiny against his officers and take the gold somewhere else.
Re #5, the author makes rather too much of the problem. Transporting a few hundred tons of something is simply not that hard. Self-insuring by breaking up the shipments would deal with the insurance problem, assuming no company will offer insurance at a price Venezuela will pay. As for value and criminal incentives, the author seems to have the idea that there exist some significant number of people or organizations who are unwilling to (say) steal an oil tanker, but for the larger prize involved here would somehow become organized and motivated in time to put together some Ocean’s 11 style heist. I don’t see it.
As for his crowdsourcing proposal, I like it. But for the same reasons that I like it, I don’t think that Chavez would: I expect that those who delivered physical gold would require a significant premium in order to accept unseen, you-have-our-word-we’re-holding-gold-for-you in exchange, *and* this premium would provide valuable market information about the perceived risk of such holdings being lent out / missing. In fact I expect that this premium would significantly exceed the cost of transporting the gold to Caracas.
Gold’s easier to hide, transport and sell than oil. You don’t see the difference between fencing oil versus gold?
Shipment of large quantities of gold by naval vessel is hardly unprecedented, at least as recently as WWII, and seems to work fairly well. Neither mutiny nor high-seas piracy is really a credible threat; Port Royal no longer offers no-questions-asked sanctuary for anyone who shows up in a treasure ship, and the high seas are too small and closely observed for anyone to just abscond with a Venezuelan Navy frigate. There is the possibility that opponents of Chavez might want to simply sink the treasure ship in order to weaken the regime, but warships are deliberately hard to sink without devoting substantial resources to the task and absent the profit motive those resources will be hard to come by.
Another relevant example might be the Japanese shipments of MOX reactor fuel from France; hundreds of tons of arguably very precious metal, on a single lightly-armed naval auxiliary, openly and repeatedly, with no problems of note.
I don’t think it would be that hard for a man with a drager rebreather to attach a limpet mine near the propshaft of said frigate.
Better yet, why not take the gold and put it on four ships. Then sink two of them. How does the market know how much gold was lost? And what happens to gold prices then?
Why am I suddenly reminded of Donald Westlake’s “Drowned Hopes”? I don’t know about you, but I have spent enough time under water to understand that yes, it would be that hard to limpet-mine a warship. Even in port and without countermeasures. Harder still to do it without being detected, and if either you or the mine are detected before the ship leaves port you have accomplished nothing of significance.
Hint: you aren’t the only one who knows what a “drager rebreather” is. You probably will be the only one who has one in the harbor in question, but only because the professionals will have more appropriate gear for their job. Hypothetically speaking, though it would be amusing to watch you try.
Egad! Really!? I will change my plans immediately!
I appreciate your guff defense of the Venezuelan navy. Many lives were saved here!
I’m tempted to call BS here. I won’t quite do that, but I believe you are expressing unwarranted confidence. And a faux tough-guy act, which I don’t understand in this forum.
The US Navy finds defense of ships in port to be a terribly hard problem. There’s a reason they deploy large fixed barriers and _trained_dolphins_, not to mention other technical solutions that don’t work very well. The Venezuelan navy, in a foreign and not-all-that supportive port will not have these advantages. In particular, they are not likely to be able to engage with lethal force every time a marine critter wanders near the ship.
I yield that a more sophisticated attack would be better, and lack of motive for the sophisticated players who could carry that out is probably the primary issue.
I don’t think attaching limpet mines to naval ships is as easy as you make it sound. Do you know any recent successes? I’m sure lots of terrorists would want to try if it was easy. USS Cole wasn’t lost to a limpet mine after all…….
Forgive sloppy phrasing. I don’t mean to make it sound easy, but I do mean to make it sound possible.
Swimmer detection is a really hard problem. Even in good circumstances SCUBA divers are hard to spot, though bubbles are belching out. Consider night and bad weather, and an actual harbor with noise and marine animals playing havoc with the little high frequency sonars.
Things like American submarines are protected by expensive and extensive defenses because sneaking up and doing various clandestine things around them is very tempting.
Yes, I agree a sophisticated opponent would probably do something more subtle.
The Cole was lost to a couple of guys in a small boat. Which should indicate the nature of the problem.
I think the issue with terrorist attacks of this type is that combat swimmers are not a dime a dozen, not that there’s anything magical about our defenses. The people who are motivated don’t have the ability, the people who have the ability are not motivated.
There’s a whole subplot of Neal Stephenson’s “Cryptonomicon” that involves the issues of moving a huge quantity of gold stashed deep in the Philippine jungle. Great book.
Thanks for the rec, I liked Anathema even it plodded a bit, maybe I’ll give that one a try too.
In the “How to get 211 tons of gold to Venezuela” link, scan down to the two comments by tsarna.
“now THAT’S a counter party risk!” had me in stitches.
I can’t wait to see the George movie.
#2: isn’t this the way academic discourse works in general?
#2. An excellent piece. Something we should all keep in mind.
When reading Brad DeLong’s statement “If you are still playing for Team Republican and want to have any honor whatsoever, you need to leave the Republican Party now, apologize to America, and work to remove it from our political system.”
it was difficult to avoid reminded of
“In a political debate you feel like the other side just doesn’t get your point of view, and if they could only see things with your clarity, they would understand and fall naturally in line with what you believe. They must not understand, because if they did they wouldn’t think the things they think. By contrast, you believe you totally get their point of view and you reject it. You see it in all its detail and understand it for what it is – stupid. You don’t need to hear them elaborate. So, each side believes they understand the other side better than the other side understands both their opponents and themselves.”
Not that this is ideology-specific, mind you…
He can’t steal the gold if its in England in Venezuela’s account.
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