by Ted on June 28, 2005

Recently the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the (Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation) continued to allow another fund manager, Alan Brian Bond, to manage $50 million for eighteen months after the New York money manager had been indicted in a high-publicity kickback scheme. This prompted Democratic State Senator Marc Dann to craft a bill requiring BWC administrators to Google the investment managers once a month to make sure they haven’t been indicted.

Google Earth!

by Eszter Hargittai on June 28, 2005

If you thought Google Maps and the corresponding satellite images were cool then you’ll be hard-pressed to find a word to describe the experience of using Google Earth. Before you get too excited, do check to see if your computer meets the current requirements.

I don’t think you have to be a geography geek like me (I did take four years of high school geography after all) to appreciate this service. It’s amazing. You can zoom in more than on GMaps, you can tilt the image, you can get driving directions superimposed on the satellite images, you can get road names added, dining options included and much more.

In line with this article in today’s NYTimes, neither the directions nor some of the locations of things are always correct, but they’re close. Go play.


Guns or butter

by Henry Farrell on June 28, 2005

“Alex Tabarrok”: denounces Paul Krugman as an “illiberal demagogue” who has forgotten his heritage as an economist. The reason: Krugman’s claim that China is a strategic rival, and his recommendation that the Chinese bid for Unocal be blocked. Now I’m far from being an expert on Asian politics, and so won’t pronounce on the substance of whether Krugman is right or wrong on this specific issue. But I do think it’s fair to say that there’s another term than “illiberal demagogue” for someone who believes that strategic concerns trump trade interests when push comes to shove. That term is “mainstream international relations specialist.” The kind of “doux commerce” liberalism that Alex seems to favour has been out of fashion in IR theory since Norman Angell’s (somewhat unfairly) ballyhooed _The Great Illusion_ .

If I understand Alex correctly, he’s telling us that economics, which likes to portray itself as a rationalistic and impartial approach to the understanding of human behaviour, is at its core a set of normative arguments for the increase of trade and commerce, and against the pursuit of a certain kind of ‘irrational’ self-interest. I think that Alex is largely right on this – though many economists wouldn’t admit it (and one is faced with the interesting question of whether scholars like, say, Dani Rodrik, are economists under Alex’s definition of the term). But it leads to the interesting question of when economists’ prescriptions for free trade over strategic manoeuvre are in fact the right prescriptions. On the one hand, posturing and mutual distrust can lead to a downward spiral and thus to war, in circumstances where peaceful commerce might otherwise have been possible. And it may well be, as Alex believes, that you can reconstruct people’s beliefs away from war, and towards peaceful exchange by substituting the voices of liberal economists for those of “mercantilists, imperialists and ‘national greatness’ warriors.”* On the other, if one state _does_ see politics as a zero-sum game and is unlikely to be persuaded otherwise, then it may be a big mistake to concede strategic resources to that state – it may use them against you later. This is of course the reason that international trade in, say, advanced weapons systems, does not resemble a free market (whether control over oil companies is a similarly sensitive strategic asset, I’ll leave to the discussion section). Which means that if Alex wants to make a convincing case that Krugman isn’t just making a claim that runs against the usual normative biases of economists, but is actually wrong on the merits here, he needs to provide more evidence than an argument-by-assertion that China is now “moving” from war to trade. As stated above, I’m not a China expert, but from what I do know, this is very much an open debate.

* interestingly, those in international relations theory who make this sort of claim are usually vehemently opposed to economic reasoning.

Go read

by Henry Farrell on June 28, 2005

Dan Nexon’s “evisceration”: of the RNC memo defending Karl Rove.

The US Supreme Court has declined to hear a case in which journalists have appealed against a ruling that they should either reveal anonymous sources or go to jail. A noteworthy feature of the NY Times treatment of the story is the presentation of the issue in terms of whether journalists are entitled to special protection not available to bloggers. At the end of the story Rodney A. Smolla, dean of the University of Richmond School of Law is quoted as follows

The federal judiciary, from the Supreme Court down, has grown very skeptical of any claim that the institutional press is deserving of First Amendment protection over and above those of ordinary citizens … The rise of the Internet and blogger culture may have contributed to that. It makes it more difficult to draw lines between the traditional professional press and those who disseminate information from their home computers.

The failure of journalists to establish a special exemption raises the more general question of whether and when people should be compelled to reveal details of their private conversations. If constitutional limits are to be imposed on such questioning, it may be better to derive them from the right to privacy in general rather than the specific claims of the press. Alternatively, and perhaps preferably, it might be better for the legislature to provide a public interest exemption of some kind.

On the same topic, I was going to respond to this piece by Margaret Simons about bloggers and journalists but, as often happens, Tim Dunlop has written exactly what I would have said, only better.

* And nowadays everyone does