Saturday, March 30, 2013

FD: Politicization of Climate Sciences

originally published at Freedom Democrats; 12 Dec 2009
In the wake of Climategate, climate researcher Mike Hulme has articulated the ideal role of science in public discourse. Basically, he declares that scientific debates should be kept separate from ethical debates (leaving aside bias inherent in hypothesis generation and choice of research directions), while still informing our actions. This is a nice ideal, but ignores the fact that people will enter scientific debates with ulterior motives and it can be hard for the layman to distinguish between the sincere scientist and these charlatans.
In contrast to Mike Hulme's call for the separation of science and politics, we have his colleague James Hansen (head of NASA's Goddard) who is quite happy to transform his scientific prestige into a platform for political moralizing. In reviewing Hansen's new book for DailyKos, DarkSyde introduces him in this manner:
To be a top climate scientist today means being up to speed in graduate level physics, advanced mathematics, planetary astronomy, meteorology, paleontology, oceanography, bio and geo-chemistry, dealing with programmers and constantly shifting computer architectures, and now on top of everything else, you have to be a tireless political activist and media celebrity.(emphasis mine)
No, you don't have to be a political least not in Hulme's model of science and politics. The scientific method strives for consensus, while the political method strives for domination; If Hansen and DarkSyde want to make politicians out of scientists, then they should expect politicized resistance and deal with it as a political dispute.
When Hansen compares carbon emission credits to the Indulgences that sparked the reformation, he just sounds like a moralizing fool (even to someone like me who agrees with his preference for a carbon tax, in this case).
There is no necessary connection between doing research and political advocacy. A scientist does have a responsibility to communicate his findings to the public, and when his findings have urgent implications, there is not time to allow the knowledge to percolate through the formal education system (i.e. inform other researchers, who inform their students at university, who become teachers in the primary and secondary schools). So there is an imperative for some member of the field to directly communicate the field's findings to the general public, which probably means being "a media celebrity". However, this is an issue for all academic disciplines, and it is not a requirement for everyone in the field--certain individuals naturally distinguish themselves within the field as communicators and politicians (often taking jobs such as heading major research institutions), and these individuals are the natural public spokespersons of the field.
But what if the research findings have implications for economic policy? If the spokesperson ignored those implications, they would be neglectful in their communication to the public, but taking a position politicizes the field of study.  Following Hulme's model, I suggest that that the scientist make a point of contacting political activists, informing them of the situation, and allowing them to advocate for policy changes. This may even include sitting down with them for a public Q&A, where the scientist acts as a resource on which they draw as they suggest policy responses. This could be either a live discussion, or a book where the first chapter describes the scientific situation and the subsequent chapters are written by activists/politicians who explore the implications.
I'm not saying that scientists should avoid politics all together, just that they shouldn't use their prestige as a practicing scientist to gain exceptional authority in their political advocacy (at least until they have retired).

FD: Climategate

originally published at Freedom Democrats 11/25/2009

By now, i'm sure everyone is aware that the CRU at University of East Anglia was hacked recently either from the outside, or as inside job, and roughly 160 megabytes of documents and emails were archived and uploaded to a Russian file server(btw, russian server farms are a hackers' choice spot for storing warez and other booty). Since then, the document archive has been widely disseminated over the internet, and after the story hit Drudge, it has become fodder for the blogosphere. Predictably, the reactions have reinforced the tribalistic group polarization over this issue. I reviewed some of email correspondence, and unless someone has a firm grasp of climate science, it's virtually impossible if tell if there is any conspiracy to fudge the data. So, i suppose each side will refer to their own priests to tell them what they want to hear. However, it is fairly apparent from the email correspondence that there are some public choice games being played, which frankly, is hardly surprising; that's to be expected from any scientific research that is primarily being funded by the government and which has political ramifications. The only really troubling aspect of the email correspondence is the apparent conspiracy among a few prominent scientists at the CRU to use their political standing and influence to bully refereed journals not to publish papers contrary to "consensus research." This is a very putrid form of public choice, in that group A, which has significant standing with a government body(IPCC) and receives public funding, uses that power to threaten to boycott any refereed journal that publishes research research contrary to the consensus opinion of Group A, or if Group A uses that power to actively conspire to fix the referees.

In the end, Climategate probably doesn't necessarily say much about the reliability of climate science, but it certainly does reinforce the perception among many of an intolerant orthodoxy that that has built up around AGW. The term usually thrown around is "denier," with the connotation being the equating of "AGW consensus" skepticism with something like young earth creationism. I define such skepticism not to imply that there is no such thing as anthropogenic influence on climate(e.g, just nuke the amazon rain forests and we could witness first hand the possible anthropogenic influences on climate, as an extreme example to make a point), but rather with respect to the notion that climate scientists can model the impact of human collective action(or lack thereof) on future long-term climate changes. Admittedly, I don't know much about climate science per se, but I do know a little about non-linear dynamical systems. I'm sure everyone is familiar with the concept of "butterfly effect" in chaos theory, meaning that small variations in initial conditions of a non-linear dynamical system can result in wildly different evolutions in such dynamical systems over time. This is why you can predict weather only over a short term. Climate modeling, where climate is the long-term average of weather over time, however relies on boundary condition, numerical fluid dynamic modeling of the ocean and atmosphere to predict future climate, wherein current observable boundary conditions can be more or less plugged in to test the reliability of the model in explaining past and current climate. These models may be useful in understanding current climate, but it doesn't mean they will accurately predict future changes in climate by fiddling with the boundary conditions. It's a similar, analogous concept, I suppose, to a best fit curve to graph data points in an experiment, which of course, can involve fiddling and fudging, but how well will that best fit curve fit future data points? And in the real long term, that is paleo-climate, it doesn't matter what the fuck humans do, the earth is going to enter into another ice age.

One thing for sure, there should be plenty of skepticism about the public choice dynamics of any collective action. The two things that primarily aggravate me about the typical political debate is the contention that we have only *T* amount of time to act before it's too late, that we have to immanently act to pass whatever boondoggle before time *T* or else all is lost and irreversible. That's scientific nonsense and fear-mongering. The other thing is the propaganda that a public choice game of subsidized green technology is going to be an economic boom. No it's not. There is another type of "denial" at work here, namely "government failure deniers."

FD: The risk of climate change, and its implications

originally published at Freedom Democrats, 12/19/2007
When dealing with an issue like greenhouse gas-induced climate change, productive discussion needs to stay focused on the practical questions: what is the general nature of the risk, and how can we mitigate the risk. Discussions of climate change often become sidetracked by non-productive investigations into the detailed nature of the risk, which are often initiated by individuals who are afraid that general recognition of risk implies that particular strategies/policies must be adopted. I hope to keep this discussion on track by starting with these two declarations:

 1. We don't know exactly how the climate will respond to our greenhouse gas emissions, and it doesn't really matter.
 2. There are many different strategies available to us.

Before getting into the details, let's consider the nature of risk and uncertainty with respect to climate change. We don't know what our climate will be like in the future. It might be similar to today's, or it might be worse. We often wish to refrain from developing plans/opinions until we have a clear sense of what to expect in the future, but this prudence becomes paralytic in situations where we will never have high confidence in our predictions. Some degree of uncertainty is unavoidable with any prediction, and this is especially true with climate predictions due to the complexity of the system. Just to become an expert on this topic would require about 10 years of full time study, and even the experts don't know what will happen. Obviously, most of us cannot become experts, yet we still need to decide how we will act. So, let us begin:

*Greenhouse gas emissions (GGEs) create a substantial risk of problematic climate change.*

1. Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas: it allows visible light to pass , but prevents the passage of infra-red light. The net effect is that energy from the sun can easily reach the surface of the earth, but it is hindered from leaving the earth.

2. Humans are drastically increasing the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (about 25% since 1900).

By themselves, these facts give us reason to consider how to reduce GGEs. But we still may wonder if these changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels can impact atmospheric temperatures. So we look at fact 3:

3. Atmospheric temperature is strongly correlated with carbon dioxide concentrations. This has been seen over the long term (ice cores ) and over the short term (modern monitoring).

3b. We also know that the size of glaciers is inversely correlated with atmospheric carbon dioxide, both over the long term and the short term.

This doesn't prove that carbon dioxide levels cause an increase in atmospheric temperature or glacier-melt, but the data is consistent with that proposal. Warming may have all types of side-effects, while excessive glacier-melt will impact the entire water system of the earth, ranging from glacier-fed rivers to the ocean itself. As a practical matter, we face a substantial risk that carbon dioxide emissions will cause global warming and climate change. If these facts aren't enough to convince you that we face a risk of GGE-induced climate change, here's one last fact:

4. The experts agree that we face a risk of GGE-induced climate change.

The Earth is warming. Glaciers are melting. It's time to admit that there is a risk of GGE-induced climate change, and figure out what we want to do about it:

*We have many options for dealing with the risk of GGE-induced climate change.*

 1. Reduce GGEs. This is the intuitive response, and has recieved the most attention over the past couple of decades, meaning that we have developed plenty of ideas of how to reduce GGEs. These options include personal, institutional, and governmental reforms. They exhibit a wide range of return on investment, as illustrated by abatement curves . These options include development of low-emission infrastructe (buildings, vehicles, cities), low-emission technologies, low-emission lifestyles, and carbon sequestration. These may be promoted by private initiative or governmental policies including subsidies, mandates, spending decisions, taxes, cap-n-trade, etc. The most drastic measures (immediate elimination of fossil fuels) could be as bad as global warming.
 2. Buffer the change on a global level (i.e. Geo-engineering , such as putting sulfur dioxide in the upper atmosphere)
 3. Do nothing/Deal with the symptoms directly: We may decide that other concerns are more pressing, and that the risk of climate change does not justify the expenditures needed to stop it. We may also find that we "can't put the geenie back into the bottle", since we've already changed atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations. We may also find that it is easier to deal with the symptoms (both technically and politically) than it is to deal with the cause of climate change.

Personally, I favor a mix of options 1 and 3. Reductions in GGEs will reduce the severity of climate change -- both in its magnitude and its suddenness. Total elimination of GGEs in the near-future is possibly not worth the cost, and is probably politically impossible (considering the needs of developing countries). Finally, the climate change models are relevant to the extent that they help us to anticipate future challenges arising from climate change. Keep up the work guys!

/Inspired by discussion with John, and cross-posted to Swords Crossed and Daily Kos . /

FD: The World's Most Elite Libertarian Scientist on Global Warming

originally published at Freedom Democrats, 5/18/2007; author unknown

Sorry for the bombastic title. But I'm not sure any of you have heard of David Deutsch, so "David Deutsch on Global Warming" doesn't have the same bite as say, "Stephen Hawking on Global Warming."

Deutsch is the intellectual father of quantum computation, the viability of such likely validating his Multiverse, Many Worlds Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics--a paradigm to be the most radical since the overthrow of classical physcis with relativity and quantum mechanics at the turn of the 20th century. And he is a libertarian--probably, no doubt, the only one at Oxford.

Deutsche believes in "liberty as an essential human value, the abolition of victimless crimes, favors entrepreneurship and takes the view that if something is worth doing, it is worth doing at a profit."

Deutsche rejects carbon taxes, regulations, centralized control of output, arguing, that, firstly, it is too late for carbon dioxide emissions controls to work, anyways, and secondly, mankind is better off focusing on ways to adapt to a constantly changing environment, rather than spending huge sums on attempting to prevent that change.

Here's the video of his talk

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Creeping communism in a market economy

In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor, has vanished; after labor has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly—only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!
Every once in a while, I see little hints of the above dynamic in our capitalist society. Basically, it occurs when a person has so much money that he thinks nothing of parting with it. I've wondered how this plays out with waiters -- their wages are typically lower than is typical for such work, and it is supplemented by tips. As my income has increased over the years, I have increasingly left "large" tips -- tips that exceed the standard percentage, but which are still very affordable to me. I've wondered how this would play out when taken to extremes --could we reach a point where payment for services was essentially voluntary (from each according to his ability)?

I'll continue with the above thought; but first, it appears that "pay what you want" has caught on in a more extensive manner. Panera has introduced a meal that is funded totally by donations. So far, they say it is sustainable.

Of course, we have to assume that Panera is driven purely by profit; but it does say something about the development of our society that this business model is plausible. I like it much better than the model where the seller gives a portion of their profits to charity -- the "pay what you want" model cuts out the middle man and uses the business' own economy of scale to facilitate the charity (rather than relying on an outside organization), and it also offers much more flexibility in terms of how much a person wants to contribute or take. Perhaps most importantly, it doesn't distinguish between the granter and recipient of charity; they are both just people going about their lives and acquiring their dinner in the same way.

That being said, I don't want to be naive. Both the "pay as you go" system and the over-tipping strategy can have unintended consequences. They can even be cynically manipulated. 

First: over-tipping. Waiters know which customers are likely to leave a large tip, and I expect that they provide more attention to those customers in the hopes of securing a larger tip. This could lead to the perverse scenario where people are provided services according to stereotypes rather than their own willingness to pay for service. That may actually be a step backwards. Furthermore, the erratic nature of tips could make it difficult for potential waiters to decide which job to take; over-tipping could actually make low-wage workers less secure economically (if it becomes linked to lower wages for workers who receive tips).

Second: "pay what you want". I assume that Panera wants to attract people who are ready to part with large amounts of money, and will spend some of their money on other products that Panera offers (and tips for the staff). So this model could not cover the expenses of the entire store. We also have to trust that Panera is not pocketing the excess donations. Finally, Panera could manipulate the system to minimize the number of meals that they provide without full payment. For instance, they can place stores in locations that are only accessible to wealthy people. They could even lobby for laws that drive indigent people out of retail districts (such as "Measure S", which was narrowly defeated in Berkeley, CA).

Given the above considerations, I think that the first thing I will look for in any proto-communist retail establishment is that they have publicly accessible bathrooms. That is the simplest implementation of "each according to his need".

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

FD: Legalize non-sexual marriage

published at Freedom Democrats 3/28/2006
In all the brouhaha over "gay" or "homosexual" marriage, Americans have been overlooking another sexual minority and ignoring how including sex in the legal definition of marriage may interfere with their ability to develop healthy familial relationships.

Asexual Americans, like many dispersed minority groups, are using the Internet to form a community. Browsing the Asexuality Visibility and Education Network website , I was unable find any evidence of a political agenda, and I have no interest in presenting asexuals as the next step in identity-politics.

Instead, I bring up asexuality as a conceptual framework that can help us to think about the role of sexuality in our society, and in particular, the role of the state in defining sexual norms.

How does a person live in a predominantly sexual society if that person has no sexual desire? I suspect such individuals are commonly frustrated as they develop intimate relationships with others, only to find that those others expect sexual behavior to be part of those relationships. If such confusion doesn't exist, they still find that the importance of their (asexual) relationships is minimized by comparison and competition against sexual relationships. I suspect they have trouble finding others who share similar views towards intimate and committed relationships. When they do find a person to form a committed relationship with, half of the time they are frustrated by society (including the state) declaring that their relationships are less important, and less respectable than (hetero)sexual relationships.

Thinking about these asexual relationships can help us clarify what we want from socially sanctioned relationships and why state promotion of heterosexuality is so deeply offensive, even for those who comfortably fit the heterosexual mold. We support "homosexual" marriage not because we like gays, nor because we want to promote homo-sexual activity. We simply want to remove sexuality from the definition of marriage. We want the state to stop thinking of us as sexual objects, and to start thinking of us as independent humans with a right to our own bodies and a right to define our own relationships.

If you'd like more information on asexuality, I recommend the Wikipedia article. The article presents a range of views and issues regarding asexuality , along with links to mainstream news sources and other resources on asexuality.

With those thoughts, I'd like to refer you to two articles that have caught my attention. The first is a libertarian perspective on how to reform state policy regarding marriage:Tully's Page: As the Free State grapples with gay marriage...

The second is a bit more radical analysis of state-sponsored sexuality from the New Times in Russia:WHAT COMES AFTER A MAN AND A WOMAN , by Denis Dragunsky, excerpts follow:

"The state did not care a whit about the thick book which priests showed to people from time to time. A state...needed statistics and control.

"To be more exact, it demanded two things: a population census with a view to collecting taxes and calling up young men for military service....So it would be no exaggeration to say that heterosexuality as a norm derived from certain functions of power, namely, the registration of the population, tax collection and the formation of a regular army.

"Heterosexuality was a general standard of behavior toward one's own body (and soul) forced by the state on its citizens, inasmuch as their bodies and souls were, if not its full property, then at its disposal."

FD: Libertarian evaluation of anti-discrimination laws

published at Freedom Democrats, 5/22/10

With the recent hub-bub over Rand Paul's dislike for laws against discrimination in employment, I thought it would be good to lay out the issues from a libertarian perspective. I think that Paul's description of the issues has been pretty weak, so I want to dig into those issues a little more.

Proponents of anti-discrimination laws appeal to two benefits of the laws:

 1. Creation of economic opportunities for excluded groups.
 2. Normalization of interactions between the dominant group and excluded groups.

My own libertarian attitudes prompt a few questions to evaluate the justice of anti-discrimination laws:

 1. Is the law burdensome?
 2. Is the law effective?
 3. Is the law necessary?

The answers to these questions are in large part a matter of fact. I have not gathered the relevant facts here (that job is much too big for a blog); instead, I am just going to discuss which facts would be relevant to the case.

* Is the law burdensome?* This is what I see as the crux of the libertarian critique. If a law imposes no costs on anyone, then it is irrelevant. Obviously, anti-discrimination laws will be seen as costly by those who wish to discriminate. Let's just assume that they are worthless people anyway, and ignore this cost. Do the laws place burdens on people who would not discriminate on their own? The people to ask are probably business owners, who are the ones who face discrimination lawsuits. How often are they sued, and how often are accusations dismissed as unfounded? What do businesses pay to retain legal counsel? How do they change their practices to avoid lawsuits. As an anecdote, a small-business owner once told me that she had been the target of discrimination lawsuits from a few disgruntled employees, and consequently limited her job advertisements to locations where "protected" workers would be unlikely to see them. I cannot vouch for the legitimacy of this anecdote, or how generalizable it is, but it does suggest a way that the law may place a burden on businesses. I can also speculate that businesses may try to shield themselves from lawsuits by using affirmative action in promotions or investing in "sensitivity" training. Rather than being a dead-weight loss of compliance, these may amount to transfers from the business to the excluded group.

* Is the law effective?* Libertarians often like to point to the unintended consequences of laws. Just because a law says "thou shalt" does not mean that everyone will. In fact, rather than following the spirit of the law, some members of the public will develop behaviors that comply with the letter of the law, or help to evade the law. Sometimes these behaviors can exacerbate the original problem, or prevent the development of alternative solutions to the problem. The anecdote above suggests that anti-discrimination laws could create discrimination in situations where it would not exist. Taking a cue from the opponents of affirmative action, there's a chance that anti-discrimination laws cause members of the dominant group to feel threatened by members of the excluded group, thereby interfering with the normalization of attitudes. I don't believe that there is any way to actually quantify this for long/standing anti-discrimination laws (though I'm sure many people have tried). Perhaps when the law is originally initiated, the expansion of economic opportunity could be measured by looking at the businesses that had openly discriminated prior to the law, and then see how much business they did with the excluded group after the law went into effect.

*Is the law necessary?* I think this is where Rand Paul really failed. The principles of libertarian law are not absolute. Human institutions, including the law, exist to serve human needs. To paraphrase one libertarian I know: notions of property rights are worthless to a starving person who sees a loaf of bread cooling on a windowsill. So, given the conditions of 1964, were anti-discrimination laws necessary (assuming that they were effective)? */Most definitely, yes/*. The economic argument for anti-discrimination laws is based on the fact that humans need access to physical materials (often called land and capital) in order to survive, but our property system does not provide such materials to anyone by right. Therefore, many people must ask others for permission to use the materials that they need to survive--they must sell their labor. On top of that, they are sometimes prevented from selling their labor because of anti-competition clauses in contracts.

This may be a tough situation in day-to-day life, but in 1964, the situation had been exacerbated to an intolerable degree. The dominant group (whites) had systematically and violently prevented the excluded group (blacks) from acquiring ownership of the materials that they needed to survive. In the absence of laws prohibiting discrimination in employment, blacks would have been dependent upon whites for their survival, and it was well known that many whites fully intended to discriminate against them. If I had faced what blacks had faced before the Civil Rights Act, I would consider the USA to be absolutely illegitimate, and a CRA without the private anti-discrimination considerations would not be enough to convince me that I would live within that system.

Rand Paul completely overlooks this situation when he compares the anti-discrimination laws to other regulations that may be placed on businesses (e.g. unable to prohibit guns) or to freedom of speech.

Some libertarians may be uncomfortable with the identity group mentalities that permeate our society, but our ideological opposition to such mentalities does not provide any excuse to ignore their role in real life, and the legacies of injustices done in their name.

FD: More discrimination against homosexual couples

published at Freedom Democrats, 12/12/07

Homosexual couples can be separated by law, while heterosexual (married) couples cannot. How's that for discrimination?
While it is customary for the U. S. Probation Office to bar people on supervision from associating with other felons while on supervised release, it ordinarily makes exceptions for close family members. After their release, Mangini and Roberts were informed that same-sex relationships were not treated as family and that they would have to stay away from each other.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

FD: The Globalization-Libertarianism connection

published at Freedom Democrats, 11/5/2005; Author unknown.

Surprisingly, one of the most heated intellectual debates in the security community these days is not on terrorism or the US's approach to the Middle East, but instead on globalization and its impact on traditional conceptions of US power and foreign policy practice. Commentators from economist Joesph Stiglitz to former national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski to journalist Walter Russell Mead have all weighed in on the issue in recent years and all argue from the position that globalization is a dialectical force that could empower the US or destroy its democratic institutions and hegemony. The problem that I have with many of these conceptions is that they generally do not define the parameters of "globalization," which is one reason why it is often parsed into subdefinitions that are defined as positive or negative. To explore my attempt at defining globalization in more effective terms, I am returning to a previous post that devolved into a discussion of the sources of libertarianism, where I described a recent emergent group I have named "global-libertarians." These libertarians generally tap into globalization and the information age as an impetus for a major devolution of political and bureaucratic power to localities and individuals.

One of the most important emergent patterns of globalization is the proliferation of information technology and the creation of a supranational information-based community, of which the Internet is a major part. This "global consciousness" that is fed by 24-hour cable news, electronic forums and, more recently, blogging has greatly accelerated the global spread of American culture and values. This process was originally based on the post-WWII growth of America as a manufacturing and trade hub, which had the effect of establishing similar customs, values and lifestyles around common US products. In a sense, McDonalds, Coca-Cola, Levi's, and English led the way of cultural growth across the globe for about 40 years. This was a fairly passive, one-way evolution with non-Americans mostly a position where they could only react to changes with relatively no input or space to voice criticisms. The information age completely changed this situation - the proliferation of communications technology reduced the cost of acquiring and sharing information to the point that the global community could finally take an active role in the process of cultural change. A protest of McDonalds could be felt across the world as it is reported by AFP and broadcast on CNN, reaching both the company's executives and its customer base. Not only has this changed the nature of consumer-producer relationships, it also has created a transnational community that can exert influence on national policy-making. But what does this all mean and why is it important for libertarians?

The IT revolution has resulted in a dramatic shift in the traditional calculation of the rational choice model. Since the late 20th Century, political scientists have used the rational choice model to explain the process of political choice making by assuming that all decision-makers are rational and make their decisions based on a set of values and a limited set of information regarding their choices. I am arguing that the unprecendented access to information regarding choices and the expressed values of others are the core of globalization's effect on politics, both national and international. Spin, the practice of controlling the context and portrayal of an issue in order to shape the perspective of an audience, is just one manifestation of this idea. The rise of personal power and global individualism is another aspect of this process and is particularly important for libertarians.

Information technology has set the stage for a major devolution of power in the US and across the global for two reasons:

1) It allows operators in a bureaucracy to operate more effectively
2) It allows individuals to make better decisions and lowers the difficulty of group formation

The operators of a bureaucracy are the front-line actors of an agency - they are the tellers at the DMV, the auditors of the IRS or the ground troops of an army. Not only does information technology make the managers and executives of a government more responsive to the actions of their operators, through automated activity reporting, it also increases the operator's productivity (think of Internet-based driver's license renewal, auditing software or netcentric future combat systems). As a result, a bureaucracy needs less staff and can empower operators and their customers to take a larger role in government processes.

Individuals are empowered by the information era because they can make better decisions. The Internet reduces the cost of "shopping around" for consumers, it also gives invdividuals easy access to information that they can easily filter. You no longer have to rumage through a paper to find out about political decisions - all you have to do is search the BBC's news site or "Google it." A rational decision-maker has become less bound by the limits of their knowledge and the prevasive state of reporting give foreign policy-makers a broader image of the intentions of other states. Nowadays, a state that does no publish policy papers on relavant issues is considered isolated, standoffish or overly secretive - just look at the major shift the People's Republic of China has made in its public diplomacy practices.

What does this mean for libertarians? Simply that the era of big government should be coming because citizens no longer need it. Social Security can be privatized because Americans have easy access to the equity markets and financial data needed to make good investments. School vouchers can create an education market for well-informed parents, telecommuting and online training can reduce structural unemployment thus reducing the need for welfare programs, and the benefit of trade barrier removal when coupled with e-commerce should be self-evident. The list goes on, but I believe you get my meaning. What does everyone think? Is this a pipedream or are "global-libertarians" actually on to something significant?

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Tools for modeling society

I intent to become familiar with this software package, Insight Maker. It is a modelling system, and seems to be pretty flexible. It may not be appropriate for my day-job, but it looks like it might be capable of handling the simple social/political models that I have contemplated. I'm thinking of things similar to Gavrilet's model of the Egalitarian Revolution. Basically, I think that it should be possible to evaluate the level of fairness/prosperity that results from different modes of social organization, given certain assumptions about human social behavior. I think that a lot of political debates rest upon unstated assumptions about how humans behave, and that an explicit model will help to clarify these issues.

My suspicion is that statist models of social organization only produce widespread prosperity when humans act within a very narrow range of possible behavioral tendencies. I don't know if professional political philosophers have used this tool much, but either way, I think that this tool would be particularly useful for popular political philosophy, where the audience may not have the patience for obtuse arguments.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Here's what a bossless workplace looks like

Slashdot examines the software design company Valve, which is apparently a non-hierarchical organization. I have yet to read up on this, but it has been covered by Library of Economics and Liberty (Brian Caplan's site, I believe).

I'd like to compare it to more traditional coops, such as the Cheese Board in Berkeley.