Real losses

by Henry Farrell on March 23, 2004

“Invisible Adjunct”: has announced that she will be leaving academia and giving up her blog. It’s a very considerable loss – her blog has been wry, balanced, and very very smart. It’s become the core of a real community. She’s going to be missed.

Deadweight losses

by Henry Farrell on March 23, 2004

“Brad DeLong”: speaks to the costs of Microsoft’s market dominance.

bq. I certainly think that I have been harmed by Microsoft’s bundling Internet Explorer with its Windows operating system. Remember the days when there was not one single dominant browser that came preinstalled on 95% of PCs sold? Back then there was ferocious competition in the browser market, as first a number of competitors and then Netscape and Microsoft worked furiously to upgrade their browsers and add new features to them. … And now? There is no progress in browsers at all. Why should anyone (besides crazed open sourcies) write a new browser? Why should Microsoft spend any money improving its browser?

It’s a point that’s made eloquently in Albert Hirschman’s _Exit, Voice and Loyalty_. Hirschman, who has had far greater influence on political scientists and sociologists than his fellow economists (Brad is an exception) points out that the real costs of monopoly are much greater than the inefficient prices they maintain to extract rents. Monopolies are lazy. They have no reason to respond to their customers – where else, after all, can dissatisfied customers go? Without the threat of exit, monopolies face few incentives to improve their service.

Of course, it’s far harder to model or to measure these effects than it is to measure the inefficiencies caused by monopoly pricing (and even that involves a fair amount of guesswork). Still, they’re the real reason for welcoming the EU’s forthcoming decision to restrain Microsoft’s shenanigans with media player software. If Microsoft has its way, we can expect to have similarly sloppy, bug-ridden media software, with infrequent updates and proprietary standards. This isn’t to say that Microsoft’s competitors have the consumer’s interests at heart: inside every lean, hungry entrepreneur, there’s a bloated monopolist struggling to get out. But without competition, there’s no restraint on firms’ ability to abuse consumers, and sometimes (as here) the maintenance of competition requires vigorous state intervention.

The Murder (dream) Machine

by Maria on March 23, 2004

I wish I could have normal recurring dreams like everyone else seems to; falling off buildings, discovering you’re naked in a crowd of people, or even flying. But no. Two or three times a year, unprompted by anything particular in my waking life, I have to re-sit the Leaving Cert. And not just re-sit it. I am sent to a new school half way through the school year, and have to figure out how, this time, I will manage to pass Honours Maths.

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Kitsch rubbish

by Chris Bertram on March 23, 2004

“The Guardian leader today is about Jack Vettriano”:,3604,1175661,00.html “the self-taught Scottish painter of melancholily erotic encounters laced with a subliminal narratives”. Vettriano was the subject of an over-respectful treatment by Melvyn Bragg on British TV the other day. Pointing out the Mr V is now very rich (£500,000) and that the public buys posters of his work in large numbers, the leader-writer asks:

bq. Why is the most popular artist in Britain still shunned by its publicly funded galleries?

To which the answer is, simply and obviously, that his work is kitsch rubbish and that the curators of galleries have an elite function of educating the public and shouldn’t pander to their prejudices. (On this anti-democratic note, I’m off to New York for a week, where I’m sure that neither the Metropolitan nor MOMA have sunk so low as to be hanging Vettriano.)

Relatives in West Virginia

by Brian on March 23, 2004

Most politicians have got the memo that says book-burning is a no-no, but it seems that not all of them realised that this was meant to extend to other forms of written expression as well. It seems an Abercrombie & Fitch t-shirt with the slogan “It’s all relative in West Virginia” (picture below fold) has upset the West Virginia governor Bob Wise (D).

bq. “I write to you today to demand that you immediately remove this item from your stores and your print and online catalogues,” Wise wrote [to Abercrombie & Fitch]. “In addition, these shirts must be destroyed at once to avoid any possibility of resale and proof be given thereof.”(“link”:

I can see why some people would find the t-shirt offensive. And to be fair the governor is not advocating a law against it. But government officials campaigning for the destruction of written material because of what is written still makes me worried.

Story via “Jonathan Ichikawa”:[1].

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by Kieran Healy on March 23, 2004

Where I come from, a “Removal” is when the body of a recently deceased person is transported from their house or the Funeral Home to the Church, where it awaits the funeral ceremony. I believe the phrase “The Viewing” is roughly equivalent in the United States. Which is why “Patrick Belton’s words”: threw me off for a few moments:

bq. Haaretz has a number of good pieces about the removal this morning of Sheikh Yassin: … Dichter argued against Yassin’s removal … while Europeans considered Yassin’s removal (to my mind, dubiously – has anyone seen a fleshed-out argument?) as a violation of international law …

Now, Patrick also quotes a news report that uses the correct word in this context — i.e., “assassination” — so I’m wondering why he avoids it himself. I can’t think of any good argument to prefer a euphemism like “removal” to “assassination,” or even to “killing.” Is it well-established in this context? Is the unarticulated implication here that actions of this sort cannot count as assassinations because they are carried out by the State? This seems obviously wrong. Better to just “come out and say”: that you thought they were right to kill him, I think, than let a euphemism do the work for you. If not, then should I expect to read about “removal attempts” in future? And what does this new usage imply about companies who carry out furniture removals?