Welcome bloviations

by Ted on July 19, 2004

We’re delighted to announce that Ross, the man behind the excellent blog The Bloviator, will be joining us on Crooked Timber as a guest poster. I’ve long been a fan and an admirer. At the Bloviator, Ross concentrates non-exclusively on public health policy and law. For a while, he was surely the only blogger with a recommendation in his masthead from both me and Bill Quick of Daily Pundit.

After taking a few months off of blogging, he’s tanned, tenured and ready to debate. It’s a great pleasure to have him join us this week.


by Harry on July 19, 2004

Via the Virtual Stoa I have learned that you have to sign up to MPs’ email lists. I suggest that Tim Collins find out who is faking his site and email list, and close them down. I know it’s a fake, because if it were true Gyles Brandreth would be listed.

Respect for the Dead

by Chris Bertram on July 19, 2004

“Norm’s rock stars poll closed”:http://normblog.typepad.com/normblog/2004/07/the_greats_of_r.html the other day, and, “like others”:http://users.ox.ac.uk/~magd1368/weblog/2004_07_01_archive.html#109023113656478321 , I’m inclined to protest a little about the results. [1] The source of _my_ dissatisfaction is that the incomparable “Grateful Dead”:http://www.dead.net/ not only miss the top 25 but aren’t even among the further 30 also-rans. Meanwhile, talentless losers like REM (someone had to say it) capture 11th place. Young people today….

fn1. I fear I may have misread the rubric, since the results include bands and I voted _inter alia_ for Keith Richards, Joe Strummer and Jerry Garcia. I assume that Norm just folded those in as votes for the Stones, the Clash and the Dead.

Paul Foot dies

by Chris Bertram on July 19, 2004

British socialist journalist Paul Foot, contrarian and campaigner against many miscarriages of the criminal justice system, “is dead”:http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,3604,1264355,00.html.

Hansard report on political blogging

by Chris Bertram on July 19, 2004

The Hansard Society “have produced a report on political blogging”:http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/node/view/189

bq. “Political Blogs – Craze or Convention?”:http://www.hansardsociety.org.uk/assets/Final_Blog_Report_.pdf [pdf] reports on the relatively new phenomena of political blogging and examines whether these blogs can offer an alternative to traditional channels of political communication in the UK . The research study focuses on eight political blogs as representative examples of how individuals and organisations are harnessing blogging as a tool to promote political engagement. The research monitored activity on these blogs and, in addition, a blogging “jury” of members of the public with little or no experience of blogging scrutinised the blogs to assess their relevance as channels of political thought and debate.

[via “Harry’s Place”:http://hurryupharry.bloghouse.net/ ]

Rational manias

by John Q on July 19, 2004

There’s a cottage industry within economics involving the production of historical arguments giving rational[1] explanations of seemingly irrational historical episodes, of which the most famous is probably the Dutch tulip boom/mania. This Slate article refers to the most recent example, a complex argument regarding changes in contract rules which seems plausible, but directly contradicts other explanations I’ve seen.

Once opened, questions like this are rarely closed. Still, articles of this kind seem a lot less interesting in 2004 than they did in, say, 1994. In 1994, the efficient markets hypothesis (the belief that asset markets invariably produce the best possible estimate of asset value based on all available information) was an open question, and the standard account of the Dutch tulip mania was evidence against it. In 2004, the falsity of the efficient markets hypothesis is clear to anyone open to being convinced by empirical evidence.

[click to continue…]

Faux Pas

by Kieran Healy on July 19, 2004

Guest-blogging over at Volokh, Cathy Seipp tells us “why we should learn French rather than Spanish:”:http://volokh.com/posts/1090100809.shtml

Last year, when she took French at Pasadena Community College, we got the same reaction: “Why French? Why not Spanish? Isn’t that more useful around here?” Well, no. What’s useful in Los Angeles, just like everywhere else in the country, is English. I suppose if I were a contractor rounding up day laborers every morning, and wanted my daughter to learn the family business, Spanish would be invaluable. … I do speak enough Spanish to communicate with the cleaning lady … This is sort of useful, but not vital.

Since 1066, educated English speakers have studied French. Even if we don’t speak it … it gives us a deeper understanding of our own language, and prevents embarrassing gaffes like “I just love that Why-vees Saint Laurent!” Which some trophy wife actually said to me at a fashion show once.

An example of the kind of embarrassing gaffe that the study of French seems powerless to prevent is left as an exercise to the reader.

Speculative Economics

by Henry Farrell on July 19, 2004

“Dan Drezner”:http://www.danieldrezner.com/archives/001477.html makes a highly questionable empirical claim.

bq. The worst aspect of science fiction/science fantasy books is their malign neglect of the laws of economics.

Dan just hasn’t been reading the _right_ science fiction/science fantasy books. For starters, there’s “Ken MacLeod’s”:http://kenmacleod.blogspot.com/ ‘Trots in Space’ quartet, “Cory Doctorow’s”:http://www.boingboing.net/ and “Bruce Sterling’s”:http://blog.wired.com/sterling/ “different”:http://www.craphound.com/down/ “takes”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0553576399/henryfarrell-20 on the reputational economy; and “Steven Brust’s”:http://www.dreamcafe.com/weblog.cgi fantasy about a “complicated insurance fraud”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0441010105/henryfarrell-20. And those are just the economics-literate books written by bloggers. Neal Stephenson’s gonzo-libertarian novels are all about the intersection of economics and politics – his most recent set of books (which I’ve blogged “here”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001721.html and “here”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/001362.html) is an extended fantasia centered on the birth of the free market economy. Can’t get much more economistic than that. Unless indeed you want to jump to the other end of the ideological spectrum, and read China Mieville’s Marxist account of mercantile capitalism at its nastiest in “The Scar”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0345444388/henryfarrell-20 (also blogged “here”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/movabletype/archives/000149.html and “here”:http://www.henryfarrell.net/movabletype/archives/000157.html on my old blog – enter ‘ok’ for both userid and password if you want to read the entries). China has a freshly minted Ph.D. in international relations from the LSE – he’s a Fred Halliday student. And I haven’t even mentioned Jack Vance, or Iain M. Banks’ Culture novels, or Pohl and Kornbluth’s _The Space Merchants_, or the “interesting panel”:https://www.crookedtimber.org/archives/000436.html on the economics of abundance that I went to at Torcon last year. Or … or … or … And I don’t even know this stuff that well – I reckon that Brad DeLong could point to many other examples of smart econo-sf if he put his mind to it.

Dan does have a point – yer average Star Trek novelization or ten volume fantasy trilogy about Dark Lords on the rampage probably doesn’t have much in the way of well-thought-out economic underpinnings. Diana Wynne-Jones has some fun with the latter in her cruel, frequently hilarious “Tough Guide to Fantasyland”:http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/057560106X/henryfarrell-20. But a fair chunk of the most interesting science fiction of the last few years starts with interesting economic questions and answers them, usually in rather unorthodox ways. It steals as much from game theory and Leontiev matrices as from hard physics. It’s never been a better time to be an academic in the social sciences with a weakness for sf – lots and lots of good, fun literate stuff out there.