Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Don't follow leaders?

Economists don't talk about leadership too much, and sociologists seem to attribute leadership to the mystical magic of charisma. The only economic theory that comes to mind is Hayek's, which basically states that shit bags rise to the top because only shit bags would want to control other people. There's certainly some truth to that, but here I offer a more charitable view.

We choose our leaders based on the confidence they exude, since it's the best signal of expertise. No doubt this signal can be faked fairly easily for many people, but for the most part confidence comes with real expertise. And confidence is readily apparent. No need for credentials. The good news is that more and more people have access to the information necessary to create expertise, e.g. the internets. In other words, the world is moving towards a perfectly competitive market in information, where anyone can compete for expertise, and therefore leadership, in a given field. Thus, we have reason to believe that our leaders are better today than they were yesterday, and they'll continue to get better.

This is almost enough to get me interested in the presidential debates.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

War protesters becoming less moonbaty

I was at yesterday's war protest on the Mall, which I feel is the closest thing we have to Carnival. So it's strange to me that there's not more news coverage. Where else can you find a Santa on stilts? Overall, the crowd was surprisingly diverse, politically and otherwise, as compared to the last protest I attended in March. I found myself sympathizing with most of them, like the vet who drove down from Boston, and this woman, who says she hasn't protested anything since Vietnam. But I must give it to the counter protesters for coming up with the funniest signs:

Friday, September 14, 2007

Just say no to New Orleans

Ed Glaeser puts it this way:

President Bush got us on the wrong path of favoring place over people when he declared “this great city will rise again.” The Democrats have echoed this sentiment. Barack Obama promises “to rebuild now, stronger than ever.” Hillary Clinton argues that “rebuilding New Orleans is not a local obligation, it is an American obligation.”

Wrong. Federal policy does not have an obligation to see that cities rise again — not Buffalo, not Detroit, not New Orleans. Federal policy has an obligation to see that the people of America enjoy as much freedom and opportunity as possible. Federal attempts to rebuild declining cities areas are quixotic, inefficient, and unlikely to help the poor. Spending billions on light rail in New Orleans or upstate New York may make for good stump speeches, but the people of these regions would be better off if they were given cash or fully portable housing vouchers rather than boondoggle projects.

I'll be in New Orleans next month for a wedding and of course I'll try not to mention this.


An atheist friend, worldly wise and well travelled, told me there is no connection between religion and ethics. How else do we explain the Amish of Lancaster County:

Many from Nickel Mines have pointed out that forgiveness is a journey, that you need help from your community of faith and from God ... to make and hold on to a decision not to become a hostage to hostility.