Ryan Avent and Matt Yglesias ponder whether the degree of disagreement among economists is exaggerated in public debate. The classic statement of this argument, of course, is Alan Blinder’s dictum in Hard Heads, Soft Hearts that:

Economists have the least influence on policy where they know the most and are most agreed; they have the most influence on policy where they know the least and disagree most.

But ever since reading this argument, I’ve wondered whether it was quite right. Blinder’s observation helps explain a readily observable empirical correlation between (a) disagreement among economists and (b) apparent prominence of economists’ arguments in public debate. But _prominence_ is not the same thing as _influence_ – and I can’t help wondering whether the causation goes the other way, so that economists are only middling influential at most when they disagree. Consider the following model (for _extremely_ casual senses of the term ‘model’). [click to continue…]

Lansing, MI, March 16.

by Harry on March 17, 2011

Speaks for itself.

IPv4 endgame; following the money

by Maria on March 17, 2011

As part of its campaign to be able to buy and sell IPv4 addresses in the profitable end game of numbering availability, Depository Inc., a US company led by David H. Holtzman (formerly of NSI) has written to ICANN complaining about the US regional Internet registry, ARIN. Depository wants bulk access to ARIN’s IP Whois in order to ensure accuracy of its own records, and says it doesn’t intend to use the database for direct marketing. ARIN rather unconvincingly argues that Depository’s stated use would contravene the community-developed acceptable use policy. Without bulk Whois, it’s hard to see how Depository can reliably sell routable address space to its own putative registrants. But how could a private firm with no obligation to the multi-stakeholder process or global Internet community get its hands on addresses and legitimately sell them on?

Many of the initial Internet address allocations were enormous; giving rise to the oft-stated complaint a few years ago that MIT had far more IP addresses than China. Initially, Internet address blocks were doled out to techies ‘in the know’ and in countries that got their Internet acts together quickly. In the early 2000’s, the UN’s International Telecommunication Union (ITU) – which had initially ignored the Internet or railed against it – started clamouring to be the numbering authority. ITU’s argument that a closed shop of rich country engineers could not be allowed to divvy up the global public pool of address space resounded strongly with its largely developing country membership. But those interested in developing the Internet itself, and not simply using IP addresses as a communications ministry cash cow, agreed that the while the ITU proposal might arguably be fair, it was far from efficient. Something had to be done. [click to continue…]

No nuclear renaissance

by John Quiggin on March 17, 2011

Over the fold, an opinion piece I wrote for today’s Australian Financial Review. Non-Oz readers may need to Google some names. Also, although it refers mainly to US experience, the piece is written with an eye to influencing Australian policy debates, so some of the angles may seem a little counter-intuitive to those outside Oz.

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