Archive for January, 2008

Tear down this fence!

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

It may not last, but the breaching of the Gaza-Egypt border for voluntary movement and trade is a wonderful thing:

Official reaction to the day’s events ranged from dismay to embarrassment to outright anger.

For ordinary Gazans, it was a day of joy and plenty.

“Freedom is good. We need no border after today,” said Mohammed Abu Ghazal, a 29-year-old out-of-work Gazan.

Of course the Gaza border is atypical in many ways and at least initially this breach will satisfy pent up demand for goods and travel rather than provide opportunity for labor, but the release of this demand paints the ongoing massive cost of borders in vivid fashion (if there were no cost the opening of a border would result in no border crossings).

The purpose-driven voluntary sector

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

I’ve always had reservations about and similar phrasings. Nathan Smith’s alternative delights me:

I like to call this the “purpose-driven voluntary sector,” as distinct from (a) the profit-driven voluntary sector, i.e. the private sector, and (b) the purpose-driven coercive sector, i.e., the public sector.

Don’t forget the (AKA , to varying degrees). Of course there’s a fair amount of overlap.

The most exciting parts of the purpose-driven voluntary sector involve peer production.

Smith also used this terminology in an excellent comment on the nonprofit boom last October:

Some labor economists have distinguished the “intrinsic rewards” (love of the work itself) and the “extrinsic rewards” (money, benefits) from working.

By working for a non-profit, you may sacrifice some extrinsic rewards for some intrinsic rewards. As people get more and more affluent, it makes sense that more and more people will be willing to make that trade-off.

I think of non-profits as the “purpose-driven voluntary sector.” It’s distinct from the pure profit sector, officially dedicated to profits, and the government sector, which is ultimately financed through coercion. If more and more public goods can be provided through the purpose-driven voluntary sector, government can shrink.

Wikileaks flows

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

A year ago I mentioned Wikileaks, with some skepticism:

Wikileaks, currently vapor, may be a joke. If Wikileaks is not a joke and if it successfully exposes a large number of secrets, I’d find it hilarious to see this happening on a public website and without financial incentives. P2P, digital cash, information markets, and crypto anarchy? Nope, just a wiki and a communinty.

With each new item I read about Wikileaks, usually via Slashdot, my skepticism wanes and hilarity waxes. Bully for Wikileaks, the Wikileaks community, dissidents and transparency worldwide.

Read the and Wikileaks:About on Wikileaks, available securely and via many front domains.

Of course Wikileaks is blocked in China, which gives them some cred in my opinion (but note the measurement described in that post doesn’t seem to work anymore — from within the U.S. it appears and now give identical results).

In one recent item cited on Slashdot, a copyright claim is being used to attempt to censor Wikileaks. How unsurprising.

Ron Paul Hatevolution

Saturday, January 12th, 2008

I’ve been asked or told about Ron Paul many times over the last months, usually on the assumption that I’d respond positively. It always pained me to explain that while I broadly agree with Paul on policy (with some glaring exceptions like immigration and abortion), I could not work up significant enthusiasm for the campaign, nor even support it (apart from joining his Facebook group, which I’ve left).

First, Paul’s supporters wildly overestimate the chances of the campaign’s success, whether that be election, nomination, or even just effectively growing the constituency for freedom. He never had any chance of winning and I’m happy for the demonstration that merely speaking the truth on national TV doesn’t change anything. Of course many libertarians will ignore that truth and continue throwing money at false hopes.

And while there were bright spots, Paul was an extremely problematic messenger for freedom. He’s a marginal kook, he attracts hardcore kooks, and the fundamental basis of his argument — the U.S. constitution as holy writ — is about the least interesting and least convincing argument possible. In other words, Paul is an embarrassment. (Of course almost every politicianhuman spouts nonsense almost continuously, but more or less conventional nonsense that is not accorded the kookiness factor richly deserved.)

However, I had no idea how problematic and embarrassing Paul would be. While it is conceivable that Paul is not a racist and did not write any of the racist items in his newsletter and did not authorize or know about any of those items, I assign these probabilities ranging from medium to almost nil. Paul’s response is evasive and painful to watch, despite his attempt to redeem himself by focusing on the drug war.

If you really need to read more go here. I urge anyone who has supported Paul in public or private to reverse that support, immediately.

Most important political news of the day

Friday, January 4th, 2008

I’m fairly satisfied with the results of last night’s Iowa caucuses, though I wish the loathsome Edwards had done poorly enough to drop out. (By the way, although I stated my preference for Richardson and effectively for Obama a few days ago, I had forgotten that I already did the same back in March).

Far more important and satisfying is the launch of real money presidential decision markets today. Hooray for Peter McCluskey! I’m sure I’ll have much more to say about this.

There were play money presidential decision markets in 2004.

Piracy subverts censorship

Thursday, January 3rd, 2008

Copyright is and enables censorship. Lack of copyright enforcement enables free speech. Philip J. Cunningham writes:

I was browsing for DVDs on a cold winter afternoon in one of Beijing’s finer bootleg shops when I came upon three boxed sets of DVDs critical of communism. One of the pirated sets, produced by Turkish presenter Harun Yahya, promised to detail the horrors of communism from an Islamic perspective, another by an American producer chronicled the uncomfortably bloody rise of modern China and the third contained Tiananmen footage from BBC TV News. Presumably the DVD pirates were in it for the money, but were they also unwittingly making China a freer place?

The underground network and commercial resourcefulness of the pirates makes it technically possible for startling and truthful images to be sold more or less in the open in a less-than-open-society. In that sense, lax enforcement of intellectual copyright may inadvertently engender a kind of information freedom and even allow for the infiltration of revolutionary ideas.

If so, then the copyright zealots, mostly big US companies, with profit first and foremost on the mind, come down firmly on the side of information control and in that sense side firmly with the Beijing authorities. Subversive access of the sort I had just tapped into would dry up if US anti-piracy efforts were successful.

Read all of Banned and Bootlegged in Beijing.

This is why intellectual freedom is a crucial part of constructive engagement.

Via Against Monopoly.

No Law (celebrate!)

Tuesday, January 1st, 2008

I just learned that today is — but unfortunately that Wikipedia link merely redirects to the article.

I have little to offer but past postings on the public domain.

Here’s to expanding the size and scope of the realm beyond lawsuit, regulation, and taxation!