Pickering

by Henry on January 16, 2004

“Jack Balkin”:http://balkin.blogspot.com/2004_01_11_balkin_archive.html#107428705909763064 on the Pickering appointment.

bq. I don’t have much of a problem with Bush appointing judges he believes in to recess appointments. Presidents should appoint the best people possible to the federal judiciary. My problem, rather, is that the fact that Bush believes so strongly in Pickering says something deeply troubling about Bush’s politics.

Academic publishing and monopoly pricing

by Henry on January 16, 2004

Via “Cosma Shalizi”:http://cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/weblog/archives/000161.html, a very nice “article”:http://octavia.zoology.washington.edu/publishing/BergstromAndBergstrom04.pdf on the economics of academic publishing in the _Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences_. The authors provide compelling empirical evidence of a large differential between the price of commercial journals and the price of journals put out by professional societies and academic presses, which isn’t explained by journal quality. The graphs almost jump from the page – there are dramatically different relationships between price and number of citations, depending on whether you are looking at commercial or non-commercial journals. Furthermore, according to the authors, the differential between the two has increased over time. Commercial journals are lousy value for money – but they’re apparently hard to displace in the marketplace.

The authors’ wider argument is also interesting – and worrying. Increasingly, academic publishing is moving towards a model based on the licensing of electronic access to a bundle of journals to universities and other research institutions. The authors’ model suggests that site licensing of journals by commercial publishers will leave scholars worse off on average than if each scholar purchased individual licenses to the journals that she wanted to read. While site licences to larger groups are more efficient, these efficiency gains are more than absorbed by the sellers, if the sellers are profit maximizing firms.

Economists who are interested in new economy issues, like “Brad DeLong”:http://www.j-bradford-delong.net/movable_type/2004_archives/000033.html, usually focus on the massive productivity gains that we can expect from information technology. While these are important, so too are the distributional consequences – the ways in which new technologies affect who gets what. Even if new technologies, such as electronic publishing, are more efficient in some broad sense of the term, the efficiency gains may be distributed in ways that are difficult to justify.

As the primaries creep up on us (in the US), I want to make a point against the primary system that seems obvious to me but I’ve not heard made elsewhere. It is simply this: it constitutes an unwarranted violation of the principle of freedom of association.

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Brad^2

by Daniel on January 16, 2004

In an interview with Norman Geras, J Bradford DeLong makes the following odd statement:

If you had to change your first name, what would you change it to?

> Brad :)

So in an ideal world, he’d be called Bradford Bradford DeLong? Without wanting to cast aspersions, I have to say that if Prof DeLong had ever been to Bradford, he might not be so keen on having it in his name, twice.

4′ 3″

by Chris Bertram on January 16, 2004

“Chris Brooke reports”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/2004_01_01_archive.html#10742438267620365 that “BBC Radio 3″:http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/music/3401901.stm are to broadcast a performance of John Cage’s 4′ 33” this evening. At the time of the “Mike Batt copyright row”:http://www.telegraph.co.uk/opinion/main.jhtml?xml=/opinion/2002/07/20/do2002.xml&sSheet=/opinion/2002/07/20/ixopinion.html I recounted on my old blog that I had attended a school performance of 4′ 33″. We all sat completely silent. No-one coughed, no-one shuffled. At the end of the 4 minutes and 33 seconds the pianist turned and berated us for giving such a poor rendition of the Cage’s work. He explained that “the point” of the work is to attend to the sounds produced by a restless and impatient audience and that, by sitting so quietly, we had sabotaged the “performance”. What he didn’t know was that a week earlier, rowdy behaviour by boys during a lecture from an explorer recently returned from the Hindu Kush had been savagely punished by the headmaster — several boys were caned — as a result, none of us had dared to make a sound for fear of further beatings.

Globollocks, v2.0

by Daniel on January 16, 2004

Thanks very much to Michael Pollak, whose comments on the last Globollocks piece spurred me to make a few changes to this rather tiresome feature. Below, I score this piece by Nicholas “Airmiles” Kristof in the New York Times. The new scoring system is fairly self-explanatory; it’s based on the original Globollocks list, but it’s a bit more subjective rather than box-ticking, and you can now win points back for writing things that aren’t Globollocks.

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Norberto Bobbio

by Henry on January 16, 2004

Via “A Fistful of Euros”:http://fistfulofeuros.net/archives/000252.php, I see that Norberto Bobbio has died at the age of 94. Like all the best Italian intellectuals, he played an important role in public life; unlike some of them, his contribution to political debate was marked by an extraordinary level of personal integrity and decency. His approach to political theory was difficult to categorize in the usual terms – while he drew both on liberal and social democratic ideas, there was a more radical and subversive tinge to his thought than is usually associated with either of those schools. The “Guardian obit”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/obituaries/story/0,3604,1121657,00.html has it about right; “to his credit, he founded no school, while influencing many.” He’ll be missed.