Match Wits With Inspector PowerLine!

by Ted on January 28, 2005

8:05 AM, Milwaukee

This is bad,” said Mayor Barnett. “I don’t know what went wrong in this election, but something did. There were more than 1200 votes cast from invalid addresses. We’ve got 300 people listed as voting twice from the same address. The papers are eating us alive; they’re reporting an 8000-ballot gap between the number of ballots cast and the number of recorded voters. We’ve got to check this out; this can’t happen again.”

“Listen, we’ve got a lot of resources we can throw at this,” said Milwuakee District Attorney E. Michael McCann. “I’ve got a commitment from Steve Biskupic, the US Attorney, Chief Hegerty, and the local FBI. There’s a million and six pieces of paper to review, but we’ll have a lot of manpower to draw from.”

“That’s good. But we don’t want this to look partisan. You’re a Democrat, right?”

“That’s right,” said McCann. “But Biskupic is a Republican. In any case, we don’t know yet if the erroneous votes skewed one way or another. The heads of the election commission are blaming glitches and honest errors, as you might imagine. Their systems have awfully weak safeguards. At first glance, it seems to have a lot in common with the problems in Ohio.”

“Hmmm. Just in case, I’ve called a representative from the PowerLine Detective Agency to join us. McCann, have you met Inspector Hindraker?” A well-groomed man stepped out from the side of the room, inconspicuously fanning himself with an old copy of Time Magazine.

McCann shook hands with Inspector Hindraker. “Can I confirm something with you?” asked Hindraker. “Milwaukee went for John Kerry in the last election, didn’t it?”

“That’s correct, Inspector Hindraker. Kerry won Milwaukee by 123,000 votes. We’ve got a hell of a job ahead of us-”

“Gentlemen, please,” sighed Inspector Hindraker. “It’s perfectly clear what went on here. This is a case of massive Democratic Party fraud!

(How did Inspector Hinderaker know to blame this on Democratic fraud? Turn to page 154 to find out!)

VP on Lands’ End Payroll

by Kieran Healy on January 28, 2005

“What do you mean a ceremony at Auschwitz? I was just about to go dig out the driveway.”:

The Economist has an interesting piece on the interaction between the economy in massively multiplayer games and that of the real world. The classic study of this question is Castronova’s analysis of the economy of Norrath, the setting for Everquest. Among various features of Norrath’s economy, one of the most interesting is trade with Earth through the sale of game items (weapons and so forth) via private treaty or on eBay[1]. This enables Castronova to estimate that the wage in Norrath is $US3.42 an hour, a figure that has some interesting implications.

At the Creative Commons conference last week, I heard a story to the effect that when the owners of one of these games tried to prohibit item trading they were sued and, in the course of litigation discovered that the plaintiff ran a sweatshop in Mexico where workers participated in the game solely to collect salable items. Clearly as long as the wage is below $3.42 there’s an arbitrage opportunity here. More technically sophisticated arbitrageurs have replaced human workers by scripted agents, working with multiple connections. Either way, arbitrage opportunities can’t last for ever, and are likely to be resolved either by intervention or inflation

The positive economics of all this are interesting enough. But how about policy analysis? Who benefits and who loses from this kind of trade, and do the benefits outweigh the costs?

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