I posted recently on The paradoxical politics of credible commitment, noting the excellent analysis of Gordon Brown’s politics by Sebastian Dellepiane.  He argues that the Labour government did not make the Bank of England independent simply in order to defuse City suspicions of them. This self-binding policy was also in fact enabling, because it made it possible for Brown to adopt a classic Keynesian economic strategy by about 2000.

The Euro started out as a self-binding credibility-gaining mechanism for Eurozone member states. But the Euro also turned to have an ‘enabling’ side to it. It contributed to new kinds of instability by facilitating the extension of cheap credit and by permitting increasingly risky lending practices to spread throughout the European financial system, in Germany and France as well as in the weaker peripheral economies.

This has led me to think some more about the relevance of the logic of credibility gains in the current European crisis.

The self-binding austerity politics now under way in the Eurozone also has some paradoxical features. The crisis has produced an explosion of fiscal deficits and an accumulation of sovereign debt. The ECB favours fiscal austerity to restore stability, and so does German public opinion. This means that every other member state must adjust to low demand conditions and domestic deflation. But while Gordon Brown’s self-binding monetary policy proved to be enabling, Eurozone governments’ self-binding fiscal policy might be seen as self-disabling, because it involves commitment to a strategy that may prove self-defeating. There are two reasons for this.

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On knowing how to start, and when to stop

by Kieran Healy on February 1, 2010

Mark Pilgrim, on getting started:

I’m a three-time (soon to be four-time) published author. When aspiring authors learn this, they invariably ask what word processor I use. It doesn’t fucking matter! I happen to write in Emacs. I also code in Emacs, which is a nice bonus. Other people write and code in vi. Other people write in Microsoft Word and code in TextMate+ or TextEdit or some fancy web-based collaborative editor like EtherPad or Google Wave. Whatever. Picking the right text editor will not make you a better writer. Writing will make you a better writer. Writing, and editing, and publishing, and listening — really listening — to what people say about your writing. This is the golden age for aspiring writers. We have a worldwide communications and distribution network where you can publish anything you want and — if you can manage to get anybody’s attention — get near-instant feedback. Writers just 20 years ago would have killed for that kind of feedback loop. Killed! And you’re asking me what word processor I use? Just fucking write, then publish, then write some more. One day your writing will get featured on a site like Reddit and you’ll go from 5 readers to 5000 in a matter of hours, and they’ll all tell you how much your writing sucks. And most of them will be right! Learn how to respond to constructive criticism and filter out the trolls, and you can write the next great American novel in edlin.

Bill Watterson, in his first interview in 15 or so years, on stopping:

Readers became friends with your characters, so understandably, they grieved — and are still grieving — when the strip ended. What would you like to tell them?

This isn’t as hard to understand as people try to make it. By the end of 10 years, I’d said pretty much everything I had come there to say. It’s always better to leave the party early. If I had rolled along with the strip’s popularity and repeated myself for another five, 10 or 20 years, the people now “grieving” for “Calvin and Hobbes” would be wishing me dead and cursing newspapers for running tedious, ancient strips like mine instead of acquiring fresher, livelier talent. And I’d be agreeing with them.

I think some of the reason “Calvin and Hobbes” still finds an audience today is because I chose not to run the wheels off it.

I’ve never regretted stopping when I did.

Shafting Your Customer As a Reputational Strategy

by Henry Farrell on February 1, 2010

“The Irish Times”:http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/ireland/2010/0201/1224263502392.html

RYANAIR HAS appeared in the bottom 10 of an “ethical ranking” of 581 companies, based on environmental performance, corporate social responsibility and information provided to consumers. … Ryanair is ranked 575 on the latest list, just ahead of Occidental Petroleum, US tobacco company Phillip Morris and oil giant Chevron. At the bottom is Monsanto, chiefly known for genetically modified foods.

This isn’t interesting because the ranking has any validity (I suspect that the ranking process is even more arbitrary than the usual – the worst-ranked companies are too obviously the bottom feeders that you _would_ expect to find there) but because I imagine that Ryanair will respond to this with a press release that marries bluster and belligerence with a certain sense of accomplishment. The company prides itself not only on being perceived as having no social conscience, but as having a reputation for screwing its customers as systematically and mercilessly as possible. Which other airline’s CEO would “announce that he wanted to charge passengers to use the toilet”:https://crookedtimber.org/2009/03/06/captive-markets-in-everything/ as a publicity stunt? Clearly, Ryanair thinks that this reputation is a money spinner for them (it is quite deliberately cultivated), and they have indeed made quite a lot of money. But why (if they are right) would a reputation for shafting your customers be a commercial asset for a consumer-oriented business in a relatively competitive sector? The “standard economic account”:http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=JBrDXvye-1UC&oi=fnd&pg=PA221&dq=%22Kreps%22+%22Corporate+culture+and+economic+theory%22+&ots=d4IZNyqkpi&sig=eCsbVwbrsNTRcCwhiFcx7xQgOJ4#v=onepage&q=%22Kreps%22%20%22Corporate%20culture%20and%20economic%20theory%22&f=false doesn’t seem to provide much insight. Help me out here.