Skip to main content


Showing posts from 2016

Saga Iceland Was a Communal Society... Really?

Oh Lord, grant me nose plugs mightier than Adamintine, for the Anarchist FAQers have been at their mischief again.

Like Iain McKay's reply to Bryan Caplan's long essay The Anarcho-Statists of Spain there is a big problem with the dispute. Basically the attackers make a big deal out of things that either don't affect Friedman's case, or that only affect it slightly.

~~~ COMMUNAL ~~~

For some reason the existence of local governments called hreppar (hreppr singular) is the main historical item used to dispute Friedman's claim that Saga Iceland played host to polycentric law and private property. Yes I uttered that sentence and yes I'm accurately summing up these guys' argument.

In other words they don't bother dealing with the actual meat of Friedman's argument, which is that there was no centralised executive to bring cases to trial. All cases were brought privately.

The laws of the land allowed for a set number of godord or arbitration associations, …

Econ Versus Elon!

Tesla has for some time offered its customers free lifetime recharges at Tesla charging stations. Anyone wanna guess the result? Turns out charging no money for the use of a scarce resource leads to shortages/excessive demand. Le gasp! In this case it means long queues of Model S and X Teslas lining up for juice, like a luxury breadline.

Masticating on McKay Part One - Limited Liability

As all three of you know Iain McKay, librarian of the workers' revolution and keeper of the one truth, is my favourite person ever.

Several of his pieces are published on so I couldn't help but browse. This will be a series with this top bit repeated through each post. Sorry for that. I'm unresponsive to my public :p

In a piece called The Grand Bluff: Private profits, social risks our truth-teller gives a quick history of limited liability and why it's a bad thing; namely that it decreases owners' exposure to the risks the businesses they own take on.

Correct! Limited liability is one state-granted monopoly privilege (along with organisational legal personhood, patents, and copyrights) that pretty much all anti-statists oppose. By describing the situation from the perspective of risk McKay even gets the reason why it's economically problematic right.

Inevitably, however, there are some things I must complain about; there wouldn't be any point…


A Youtuber called axe863 made a video in which he used scientific, mathematical and statistical common-sense to deliver the KO that the Venus Project and Zeitgeist Movement so richly deserved.

If his approach seems weird and unconventional it's because he's not attacking from a tradition neoclassical or Keynesian perspective. Axe863's poison is complexity economics, something a good deal more dangerous to ideas like TVP and TZM. [2]

Now to a couple of comment threads from below the video that I thought could od with being replicated just in case they get deleted at source!


AstralLuminary1 year ago
Why can't we generalize the consumption patterns of middle-income people in the western world, set our constraints equal to the amount of localized resources, and the rate of resource recovery, derive a population growth model that would be sustainable to said consumption patterns, and derive the necessary quantifiable amount of work required to expend a self-sustaining sy…

Bourgeois Dignity review by Lengthyounarther

Lengthyounarther reviewed Bourgeois Dignity by Dierdre McCloskey. Now I want to read that damned book even more!

In the course of his review I heard only two real criticisms of McCloskey's scholarship, one about environmentalism in Sweden and one about the degree to which her thesis about ideals that legitimate commerce actually holds.

Overall he is very positive about the book;

In the closing few minutes Lengthy gets on to current thinking on anthropology re food supply, population growth and the quantity and diversity of nutrition. I was delighted to hear this because I'm intensely curious about the history of farming and private property.

Two Approaches to a Book Review re The Myth of the Rational Voter by Bryan Caplan

Bryan Caplan's book The Myth of the Rational Voter is regarded as one of the best original economics books of this Century so far. I have read two pieces that act as reviews of the book, one by the Italian economist Francesco Caselli, and one by Prospect columnist Steven White. [1][2]

Now we all know the former will be vastly more useful than the latter, because the former is by a fellow economist who wishes to understand Caplan's position, even if he ends up disagreeing with many elements of it by the end of his piece. The latter work is basically froth, offering not even an attempt to get at why Caplan is advancing the idea that voters, when they vote, prioritise their instrumental rationality over epistemic rationality.

Oh well, never mind. At least I can laugh at White's piece, right?

[1] Review... by Francesco Caselli for the London School of Economics

[2] The Myth of Bryan Caplan's Seriousness by Steven Whit…

Iain McKay, Bryan Caplan & the Case of the "Anarchist" Anarchist

In the past I have written blog posts disputing claims contained in the online document called An Anarchist FAQ principally written by Iain McKay. I spent those posts trying to contend with Iain's claims re the ancap question and the mode of production called capitalism.

McKay has a bee in his bonnet re anarcho-capitalists' insistence on referring to themselves as anarchists, that much is obvious. Every reference to ancapism runs something along the lines of "an"cap or "anarcho"-capitalism.

I find this very amusing because 'anarchist' or 'anarchism' are words (articulate mouth-sounds) first and specific concepts second.  Ditto 'socialist' and 'socialism' friends. Speaking of socialism...

In the comment section of one of his videos the Youtuber called StatelessLiberty responded to a criticism by linking to Caplan's work on the Anarchist adventure in Spain in the 1930's. The critic shot back with a criticism of Caplan&…

Tragedy of the Olympic Commons Burger Feast...

Turns out, according to Newsweek, that Olympians have induced a miniature tragedy of the commons at the Rio Olympics. Basically McDonald's opened an outlet that serves athletes for free. Guess what happens next. Yep, overuse. McDonald's has imposed a 20-item limitto avoid running out of stock before it can be sold to non-athlete patrons.

Non-price rationing is, believe it or not, not all that efficient.

Dan Hannan & Peter Hitchens Defending Liberty...

Sometimes a person has something sensible to say and is met by insane raving. The only sensible response is to push forward rationally. In that vein I submit two YouTube videos of people I respect (one more than the other) defending common sense in the face of insanity, Dan Hannan and Peter Hitchens.

Dan Hannan
This is Dan Hannan taking the European Union to task and making a case for Brexit.
Peter Hitchins
Peter Hitchens defends the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

Private Ownership and the Emergence of Field-based Agriculture

Quick update: There is a nicer, fancier article on this very subject on another blog. If for some reason you read my article below, treat yourself and partake of properal's piece too.

There is a paper by Samuel Bowles and Jung-Kyoo Choi called 'Coevolution of farming and private property during the early Holocene' and it is wonderful. It leaves a few stones unturned and its thesis needs to be empirically verified or falsified but it really begins to clarify the intimate relationship between the form of agriculture that we refer to as farming on the one hand and private ownership on the other.

Their thesis is that technology was not the driver that led to long-term (inter-generational) farming, but also that farming did not follow some moment where the folks in a society all said "hey, let's all have private property now!" Rather, what they posit is that farming and private property actually coalesced, ad-hoc and over a multi-generational time-frame, around…

My Six Grievances Re Anarchist Labour Economics

A summary of grievances addressed to my 19th Century anarchist chums re their concepts of exploitation and wage slavery.

a/ non-sequiturs
Inferring something moral (exploitation) from an accounting fact (<100% of revenue in wages) is a non sequitur and runs afoul of the is/ought problem.

The non sequitur arises because in this case the accounting fact doesn't actually imply the moral one. Further steps would be needed to connect these two different facts, whether an LTV or the will of some deity.

For another link describing the is/ought problem, first formulated by David Hume, maybe anarchist econ needs a guillotining.

b/ metaphysics
Avoiding the non-sequitur problem requires a metaphysical theory of value that is invalidated by observable reality and serious contemporary logical inquiry - namely falsification (Karl Popper) & the maths and quantum mechanics behind incompleteness (Kurt Godel) and uncertainty (Werner Heisenberg) respectively.

Completeness/objectivity as a fram…

Tom Bell on Law at Sea and in the SEZ...

Tom W. Bell, whom I have linked to on this blog before, helps out at the Seasteading Institute. Joe Quirk interviews him on the subject of seasteads & special economic zones, saying things that won't surprise people like me in the slightest.

Such zones are less ambitious than seasteads, but they offer a chance, especially when privately administered, for people to increase their prosperity far moreso and far more quickly than outside such SEZs.

Give it a listen.

StyxHexenHammer666 is a Youtuber with things to say...

... and listening to him can be quite edifying. Here he talks about gun control and violent crime. His angle? The best explanation for America's violent crime rate (though that rate is at a historic low right now) is the war on drugs. Watch, enjoy, learn, dance.

Foreign Policy hates you...

In Foreign Policy a hardcore fluff piece* talks about young Americans falling out of love with capitalism. The closing paragraph is very artful but also insipid and inaccurate. Read it and weep!

* A fluff piece that does a very bad job of grappling with a subject that is actually important.

Anarchists Return to Paris to Re-establish the Paris Commune by...

... you guessed it, smashing in some windows...

Reuters carry a video report about the protests as a whole including what the protesters are actually protesting. France 24 reporter Aurure Dupuis gives some info about anarchists in Paris during an otherwise peaceful protest back in April this year. Indeed those peaceful protesters were upset by the violence of the anarchists. Oh well. Maybe direct action and insurrection aren't all they're cracked up to be.

Early this march the BBC reported on the protests, which included such inteeresting and ultimately quite harmless things as schoolkids barricading their schools. Amusing as these measures were, a later report included video of miscreants marring an otherwise peaceful march in Paris.

Al Jazeera offers a similar line to the BBC - overal peaceful, marred by a few bad apples. Naturally The Guardian offers a childlike ignorance of basic economics in its coverage of the issue of labour law in France, but still toes the same line …

Change in GDP v change in SNALT 1830 to 2000

Alas, in the end I never found comprehensive, annual labour time data, so I settled with something less rigorous but hopefully capable of making the point.

The data I was able to bring together I used to create the chart below showing change in GDP per capita versus change in hours worked per year per employed person, with the latter acting as my way of calculating Marxian SNLT. You can now have a look-see for any strong, lasting corelations between the two.

I chose per capita figures to remove any noise from the GDP growth figures, by which I mean GDP growth from population growth. In a discussion about something that is compiled in such a way as to offer a per capita dataset anyway, as labour time records are, you might as well skip aggregate GDP and go straight to the per capita stuff.

I extrapolated change data from the static data in the sources because the static data are not in comparable/commensurable units, whereas the change data are both percentages, making the comparison …

Random MSN Noozey Bits

While signing out of my emails today I happened upon some nooze.

A UK schoolgirl died because healthcare professionals misdiagnosed her condition. This would happen sans the NHS. This would happen in a free market. But it also happens in a planned healthcare industry.

McDonalds folks are talking about automating their customer-facing functions, and a UK-based media outlet is finally bothering to report on it.

And speaking of minimum wages, in Venezuela the government has raised the minimum to assure the success of the glorious Bolivarian Revolution.

Finding Comprehensive USA Labour Time Data is Really Hard

I'm trying to find year-by-year work-year data for the United States for a paper I'm working on that compares change in work hours per year, which I define as socially necessary labour time per year, and change in GDP per capita per year.

Thus I can see for myself what correlation if any exists between labour time and GDP...

Anybody wanna help me find some damned data? All I have so far are partial sets that start in 1870 and offer decadal numbers, not annual ones.

Anarchist FAQ Versus Hong Kong

In the parallel up-is-down psycho-world of anarchist 'economics' one can find such gems as the assertion that free market capitalism is not the foremost reason for Hong Kong's rapid move from universal subsistence to near-universal affluence from 1950 to 2000, by which point the country was wealthier per-capita than the UK. [1]

The basis for this case is two-fold; the government of Hong Kong owns title to almost all of the land within its borders and the LegCo members have a lot of cosy relationships with folks in business. On the face of it these seem very practical points. They are certainly both true, but there's something missing here.

On the first point, government control of land is a key factor in the absurdly high house prices in Hong Kong. Linda Yueh wrote for the BBC in January 2014 that house prices in Hong Kong averaged 13-times Hong Kongers' annual incomes. [2] In a similar vein Yvonne Liu commented in January 2014 on the city-state being ranked the m…

US 1790 to 2006 Annual GDP & GDP Per Capita - both Nominal & Adjusted for Inflation

Below is a table of annual GDP data for the United States that I have shamelessly stolen from Wikipedia. I am rather irritated that it has taken me as long as it did to find historical GDP data going back before the 80's. Why this is a massive challenge (as in the OECD, IMF and World Bank websites have no easily accessible historical GDP data) in 2016 is beyond me.


United States Annual Economic Data[257]YearGDP
($ billions)GDP
($ billions)Population
(millions)GDP per capita
Nominal ($)GDP per capita
Adjusted ($)17900.193.603.9294891617910.213.824.0485294417920.224.104.1715398317930.254.434.29758103117940.315.004.42870112917950.385.314.56283116417960.415.474.70087116417970.415.574.84385115017980.415.804.99082116217990.446.205.14186120618000.486.555.29791123718010.516.875.48693125218020.457.095.67979124818030.487.215.87282122818040.537.496.06587123518050.567.886.25889125918060.61