Posted by: CJ | February 28, 2010


Here are a few assorted links on economics.

  1. Nick Rowe has an interesting post on thought experiments in social science. The main reason I think it’s fascinating is as an explanation of Hobbes’ Leviathan. The easy critique of Leviathan is people have never lived around each other without making some sort of community, so there’s never existed this “nasty, brutish, and short” business. But the riposte is that Hobbes’ isn’t suggesting such a condition ever did exist, merely that if it did then we would have created some sort of community with certain rules. His argument is more that community is a stable equilibrium of what happens when people live around each other.
  2. Kevin Drum has an amusing story of advice Daniel Ellsberg (of the Pentagon Papers) gave to Henry Kissinger.
  3. Tabarrok says the government shouldn’t try to up wages by uping the wages of companies contracting for the government. I find his argument compelling. (Basically, it makes for a bad dynamic of people who get government contracts getting paid more than people who don’t, so a lot of energy goes into getting government contracts.)
  4. Eric S. Raymond mouths off about the modern labor market. The post involves thinking out loud about two friends of his that are having lots of trouble in the current labor market. Mostly because they don’t have any particularly marketable skills other than an ability to work diligently (if not hard or obsessively) and follow set rules and regulations. But, as Raymond points out, these two friends haven’t done are educated and haven’t done anything wrong. They’re just easy to fire when the time comes. Raymond thinks this is just the way things is how the world is evolving, that there is less need for such unskilled labor. He also thinks attempts to redistribute wealth or regulate will do more harm than good. I am unsure about the last point. Especially because Raymond is something of a stereotypical geek of a certain flavor: the contrarian, libertarian, very active and opinionated computer geek. My experience with other computer geeks like that have been less than stellar. Amongst the issues I’ve had to deal with are arrogance, a lack of empathy, unwillingness to engage (or even admit the validity of) opposing viewpoints, and great difficulties grasping the basics of cultures different from their own. So my natural inclination is to believe he’s making some mistakes in logic. On the other hand, there are still lots and lots of people who have been unemployed for a long time (over a year or two) by now. And that can’t be ignored. Hmmm….

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