Assorted links


6. XKCD on human competition with computers:


Orphan Black is a good show, but I don't get the "Girardian" reference.

I don't get the "Girardian" reference either -- do you mean Rene Girard and his idea of mimetic doubles?

1: I genuinely find the Zambia article interesting, but does anyone else notice that one can know pretty well what the author is going to say before he says it?

I'm all for environmental protections, for instance, but why does he list poor protections as a reason for the economy doing poorly? He has the relationship backwards, right? And the copper mines cause the economy to do poorly? Well if the mines weren't there, wouldn't they simply be more poor? It's pure nonthought, isn't it?

It is an elaborate dance around the obvious. Early on he says the only reason anyone comes to Zambia is the copper. There's your first clue. You go to France to see the product of French people which is the French culture. No one, it seems, is interested in anything the Zambians have produced. Put another way, the problem with Zambia is it is full of Zambians.

I cousins who lived in Zambia. They left when she said "I can raise children without cheese but I will not raise them without soap."

"Put another way, the problem with Zambia is it is full of Zambians."

That's a pretty stupid way to think about the problem. Yes, it is true that the culture in Zambia is self-defeating -- but culture is strongly influenced by pathological institutions around it.

With a stable, non-interventionist, but law-enforcing government (Hayekian "rule of law" over rule by administrative fiat), the culture that wins out is not of the self-defeating type.

To get such a Hayekian government is not easy -- but it would help if the IMF and other international arm-twisting bodies were to send a clear and consistent message that this is what is needed first, rather than defeatist musings about how hard it is to solve the environmental problems in Zambia.

I think you can file this under "if a frog had wings" section of your favorite rants. if your prefer, maybe label it "if things were different, they wouldn't be the same." The facts available to us show that this population and the surrounding populations have had ample opportunities to be something other than what they are, but have never made even a tiny step in another direction. Loads of smart guys like yourself, full of self-righteous passion and the latest ideas from the social sciences have tried to "change the culture" and yet here we are. A man would be tempted to conclude that the Zambians have no interest in creating a Hayekian Paradise. Ergo, the reason Zambia is not living your dream is it is full of Zambians.

If. If.

If I was a female, with my long legs I would be a supermodel. I am a male (yes, Marian is a male name in Slavic nations) and my long legs are just an annoyance when buying pants or trying to sit in a crowded train.

From the article I get an impression that Zambians are quite content with the current state of things, having the highest standard of living among their neighbors, no hunger etc. As such, they may feel relatively successful and have no incentives to spped up things. Arm-twisting them into reforms from the outside would inevitably attract cries of "Neocolonialism!". If I were the IMF, I would be just content with pouring no money into the country.

That’s a pretty stupid way to think about the problem. Yes, it is true that the culture in Zambia is self-defeating — but culture is strongly influenced by pathological institutions around it.

And what are institutions? Acts of God? Products of nature? What else are they but the products of Zambian culture? Or more accurately, they are the Zambian-influenced interpretation of British institutions. Products of British culture. They work in Britain. They do not in Zambia where Zambians operate them differently and give different cultural meanings to those acts.

If Zambian political culture is pathological - and the fact that Zambian political institutions are is good evidence of it - it is likely that the problem is Zambian culture. There is nothing in Parliamentary democracy that says Kenneth Kaunda always had to be shown with various magic piece of wood in his hand to awe the "voters". They did that to themselves.

The computer emperor paints with no clothes.

1. That impala wasn't going to be eaten? What a joke.

1. "Many of the mining companies pay just 0.6 percent royalties to Zambia, far below the already-meager industry standard of three percent."

Can anyone confirm that 3% is the "standard"? Seems odd that there would be any standard for a rate that would normally be negotiated fiercely case by case.

Good old bussiness friendly 'Merica charges you between 2 and 5% from total sales due to state taxes for cooper extraction. For coal is also between 2 and 5% from total sales for state taxes PLUS betweeen 8 and 12.5% for federal land royalties (if applies).

Yes, Zambians are being ripped off.

And the richest oil-rich nations demand a 95% royalty on their oil. Any way you look at it, .6% is shockingly low.

On the other hand, at least mines in America ARE NOT IN ZAMBIA. I'd pay an extra 2.5% for that.

That said, the USA provides the miners with stable environment including highways, healthcare infrastructure and policing.

In Zambia, the investor probably needs to build all of that, and keep a private army as security.

From number 1:
"In America, getting from poverty to here meant crowded factories, tenement housing, belching smokestacks, diseases caused by human shit in the drinking water. In other places development was born out of devastation, revolution, authoritarianism—nothing we would ask other countries to emulate."

So I guess it's worth having millions stay poor for centuries than trying out things that worked.

Perhaps it's just me, but I wanted to hit the writer after reading this piece. So what if the policies (such as the green policy non sequiturs) he espouses deny people rapid growth and higher incomes -- it's the purity of the process that matters, not the outcome!!

+1 +1 +1

Of course, nobody wants to be a factory worker in 1840s Manchester: harsh conditions, hard work, poor pay.
Except 1840s English farm workers. Their life (and their ancestor's life) had always been even harsher, even harder work, even less pay.

Industrialization is a huge step ahead.
It's really a tradegy, that NGO people, who are supposed to improve the life of people in Africa, fail to see that.
How can there ever be an improvement, if the people in charge believe that industrialization (and capitalism in general) is the disease, not the cure?

Or maybe there are other things to aspire to than material wealth. Industrialization has worked in the past for some nations, therefore it's the only path forward? All nations should try to become like industrialized nations, and in doing so ensure they're always lagging behind developed nations? If a country decides to focus on say tourism or decides to self sustain through micro farming or whatever local solution there is, and the government decides not to pursue a path that leads to ownership of iPhones and fancy cars, but instead focuses on universal healthcare access, we'd still be deploring that those people live on $1 a day even though they may be content with their lives.

6. These two points seem in tension:

"As for politics, Cowen quotes Richard Florida of the University of Toronto: "Conservatism, more and more, is the ideology of the economically left behind.""


"Then Cowen adds: "The values of the wealthy class will become more influential. It is their values that will shape public discourse. We’ll pay for as much of a welfare state as we can afford to, and then no more." "

If the ideology of the economically left behind is conservatism and the majority of people are expected to wind up in this category, then it follows that the future politics of the country will be more conservative. Yet you also claim the values of the wealthy class will become more influential. How will the values of the wealthy overcome popular opinion? It seems there is an interesting story there.

In the same fashion that Wall Street stacks the cabinet today.

I was going to say something about Krugman and broken clocks but it's not worth the effort.

@#2- this is a dishonest fluff piece. The only thing Heidi Williams showed is classic macroeconics 101: a property right is less utilized than a free good. Big freaking deal. I can come up with a research paper that shows a property that is fenced is trespassed less often than an open field. Or if I give out free ice cream on a hot day, like they do in Havana, Cuba, you'll have a line of people waiting for it, whereas if you pay for it, you'll have less people. The fact is: stealing genomes other people have invented and using them for free is wrong--as witnessed by the recent NIH settlement with the family of a black woman whose genes, being cancer genes used in research since her death in the 50s or 60s, were being used without permission. Why did the NIH settle? There was little legal precedent for settlement but I bet they knew what they were doing is wrong and would not play well with a jury. Likewise, if I make a non-obvious and novel discovery of a genome, why should you get it for free? If the government wants to sponsor research that uses these patentable genes, why not do as they did in copyright, and set up a statutory royalty that is fair, reasonable and non-discriminatory? Every researcher would pay, a portion would go to the inventor and a portion to a royalty society like ASCAP, and everybody save pirate researchers would be happy. And society would be better off since it would encourage innovation, unlike today's anti-IP climate.

Richard Reeves's conclusion in reviewing Tyler's new book (which I for sure will read): 'Chilling stuff and not fiction. What should we do about this? I heard Cowen on NPR the other day. Asked that question, he answered, "Get used to it!" '

Tyler - is that indeed your answer? What, e.g., do you say about government subsidizing the education, healthcare and food/shelter of "the other 85 percent" (quoting Reeves, but let's figure it's a large percentage) who are technologically not adept enough to do more than eke out a living? I guess I shd read the book before asking but while I'm thinking of it, I'll post this....

I admit that even as I continue to watch "Orphan Black", I find it a bit cheesy.

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