no third solution

Blogging about liberty, anarchy, economics and politics

Monday Quickies

January 2nd, 2008

With a tip o’ the hat to Andrew Sullivan, I came across a Wired article discussing new data suggesting the people of the United States are among the most surveilled by their government the world over, joining notable Big Brother States China, Russia:

map.jpgIn terms of statutory protections and privacy enforcement, the US is the worst ranking country in the democratic world. In terms of overall privacy protection the United States has performed very poorly, being out-ranked by both India and the Philippines and falling into the “black” category, denoting endemic surveillance.

What was that about trading liberty for security?


The Financial Times notes that it’s probably a bad idea to provide relief to mortgage borrowers because such relief efforts are (as I’ve previously noted) arbitrary, complicated, and of also not likely to be much help, anyways.

Oh, also noteworthy is the fear associated with systematic repudiation of contracts with government assistance, that “any move to dilute bondholder protection is a dangerous strategy that could scare investors away,” and that the “benefits of a near-term reduction in foreclosures could be offset by the scarcity of mortgage credit for the long-term.”


The University of Michigan’s horrendous recent streak of losing any game that actually matters (and a few of those which don’t) finally came to an end yesterday, as lame-duck coach Lloyd Carr and the Wolverines defeated 12th ranked University of Florida in a 41-35 shootout. Michigan tried very hard to give the game away, twice turning the ball over on the goal line. In spite of their poor ball-handling, it was quite an entertaining game. I’m thankful for that.


A piece in Slate today explains how the “Starbucks Reverse-Jinx” has actually been a boon for the coffee-shop industry.

“In a world where Starbucks operates nearly 15,000 stores, with six new ones opening each day, isn’t this a reasonable assumption? How could momma and poppa coffee hope to survive?”

I’ve often though the same thing might be true with regards to McDonalds. As long as McDonalds covers the interstate with billboards, and as long as competitors locate themselves near the McDonalds, they can benefit from the giant’s own success. And I’ve heard variants of the Starbucks story in the past, predominately that the rise of Starbucks essentially created the demand for gourmet coffee among a large number of Americans, prior to which there were very few “mom & pop” coffee shops. In fact, “[F]rom 2000 to 2005—long after Starbucks supposedly obliterated indie cafes—the number of mom and pops grew 40 percent, from 9,800 to nearly 14,000 coffeehouses.”


An interesting article in the Washington Post today about the myriad difficulties encountered by gay divorce-seekers:

Because the IRS does not recognize gay marriage, Uncle Sam may skim off the top of any property transfer in excess of statutory requirements, for instance, “Retirement savings and pension plans, easily split for heterosexual couples divorcing, would have to be cashed out and would be heavily taxed for gay couples.”

Further, one divorce-seeker has been left without recourse in the courts after having moved from Massachussetts: “There is now no way for me to get divorced unless I move back to Massachusetts, establish residency and then wait a year before I file,” because other states may not recognize the marriage.

Separate but equal, indeed.

Quick Hits

December 28th, 2007

If gold is such an anachronism, why do governments maintain such large stockpiles of it?


Who knew that the Unions are in favor of national healthcare?

Union members and outside experts said the UAW will have difficulty keeping its commitments unless the federal government has a national health care system within 5-15 years.

Always looking out for their members, everyone else be damned.


Egypt is trying to copyright pyramids “in an attempt to get paid from the sale of replicas…” Even if you are inclined to accept traditional arguments in favor of Intellectual Property (i.e., the inventor/creator’s right to profit from his time and effort), this is utterly absurd. Egypt, a sovereign country, is trying to claim a copyright on something that they basically found, which merely by accident happens to lie within their present-day borders. Could Norway claim copyright on fjords? Can Spain copyright “The Americas”? Can China copyright pork-fried rice, and earn royalties on every late-night quart served anywhere in the world?


New home sales are at a 12-year low. This is not particularly good news, especially when it is combined with the number of adjustable rate mortgage loans (this is not limited to subprime loans) which have yet to reset, and are scheduled to do so throughout 2008.


Not good at all. Looks like 2008 is going to be one hell of a year…

Public Goods, 1906

September 26th, 2007

According to the commemorative plaque in Lily Bay State Parke (ME), the first continuously operated forest-fire lookout station was established privately by M.G. Shaw Lumber Co., a private lumber company in the Moosehead Lake region of Maine, in 1906.


This is not the first time that the quasi-public good of fire protection was provided by purely private means. But it is yet another example of how well-defined property rights – in this case, to unharvested lumber – create the necessary incentives for private actors to accomplish what most people generally consider a”public” charge.

no third solution

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