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Category Archives: Politics

Equalising consumption => lowering vulnerability

A comment on a previous post expresses a common set of views among conservatives: Darwin has the final word on sillyness. If same sex marriage was a useful thing in society, then the vast range of human societies would show us a successful society with same sex marriage as normal. This confuses natural selection with social selection, […]

Modernity struggles: how priests and clerics are unreliable moral guides

Priests and clerics tend to be unreliable moral guides, because their interests are served by complexity and differentiation. Which is not to deny that, for example, Christianity has been a major factor in the distinctive achievement of Western civilisation. The ambivalent civilisation The late Kenneth Minogue argued that (via) the Enlightenment saw a shift among Western intellectuals from belief that […]

Short observations 2

Smartphones slow down the restaurant experience (via). Time constraint means scarcity will always be with us. (That is scarcity in the trade-offs-have-to-be-made sense. Hunger and famine need not always be with us.) *** I find the notion that people without a state cannot have money risible. They may not have their own coins, but coins are merely branded […]

Too big not to fail: the rise and fall of Fannie Mae

The debate over the role (if any) of the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in the sub-prime crisis, and thus the Global Financial Crisis (GFC), often seems to be a stand-in for other issues. In particular, to what extent was either financial meltdown the consequences of government regulation (or the lack thereof). The answer to the former question is: almost entirely, […]

The ECB’s dismal performance and the European elections

These two graphs, taken from here, express vividly how much worse the performance of the European Central Bank (ECB) has been compared to the US Federal Reserve (the Fed). Between the two of them, they caused the Great Recession, but the Fed has done much better since. The ECB’s dismal performance also helps explain the recent […]

Small-yet-broad is beautiful (or why it is good to have been British)

The central purpose of Calomiris & Haber’s Fragile by Design: the Political Origins of Banking Crises is to explain to Americans why their banking system does not perform as well as other countries–particularly compared to that of their neighbour, Canada. In chapter 14, the authors put the matter quite starkly: … if a highly stable banking system […]

Arsonists in charge of the fire brigade

A favourite economic justification for state action is to deal with externalities–the effects on people of some action or transaction that they were not willingly a party to.  The problem with this is that the coercive nature of the state makes it a prime creator of externalities: since it has coercive power, it can force consequences […]

The Jacobin impulse

What makes the decent Left decent is not that it is Left, but what it shares with decent folk who are not of the Left. Failure to grasp that leaves one claiming that any person of the Left is morally and intellectually superior to any person of the “Right”: so Pol Pot is morally and intellectually superior […]

Banking privilege as social bargaining: a nice case study

Have been reading Fragile by Design: The Political Origins of Banking Crises and Scarce Credit by Charles Calomiris and Stephen Haber. It is an excellent, and highly readable, history of banking: slides from a presentation explaining the basic thesis of the book are here (pdf). The information in the book also explains a puzzle of economic history. Technologically, the key […]

That exporting revolution business

Afghanistan successfully held provincial and first-round presidential elections. Various folk are in the running for President. Part of building a viable democracy is building the habit of elections and change-through-elections. Since the incumbent is barred from running again (two-term limit), a new President must result. The high turnout is encouraging, especially as the Taliban threatened to disrupt the […]