Search Results for 'ellickson'


“Texan” — a term that in Shasta County connotes someone who is both an outsider and lacks neighborly instincts.

I’d been planning on reading Elinor Ostrom for a while, possibly (though less than probably) before she and Oliver Williamson won the econ Nobel (there not being a poli-sci fauxbel, it was a decent enough fit). Peter Boettke had been writing about her and the “Bloomington School”, but it seemed best to go to the source. A lot of the work she’s known for centers on common pool resources, so “Governing the Commons” seemed the best single text to go for.

I’d first like to get out of the way the canard that Ostrom somehow debunks Garett Hardin’s “tragedy of the commons” or shows it to be a non-issue. She regards it as one possible outcome, and some of the examples in the book are of people that failed to prevent it from happening. Her complaint is that policymakers jump to assume firstly that it will happen if they don’t intervene, and secondly that their intervention will fix things. The people on the ground who actually use the resource often notice the problem and come up with systems that they have the capability of carrying out (for the most part) for themselves, and outsiders intervening sometimes makes things worse. One of my links earlier suggested that Ostrom is arguing for anarchy, and anarchists can certainly rely on some of her arguments, but that would not be an accurate representation of her position. The beneficiaries of common pool resources often make use of government resources (as in her first study, California water basin management), but they can also achieve government backing and still fail (as with some of those very basins). (more…)

Recently I cited a Gary Becker paper showing that many microeconomic theories remain valid even if individual actors exhibit irrational behavior. Tremble at the power of relative prices! Dan Ariely has a different perspective. He writes in “Predictably Irrational”:
“[…] imagine that two new taxes will be introduced tomorrow. One will cut the price of wine by 50 percent, and the other will increase the price of milk by 100 percent. [traditional economic consequences blah blah] What if the new taxes are accompanied by induced amnesia for the previous prices of wine and milk? […] I suspect that the price changes would make a huge impact on demand if people remembered the previous prices and noticed the price increases; but I also suspect that without a memory for past prices, these price changes would have a trivial effect, if any, on demand. If people had no memory of past prices, the consumption of milk and wine would remain essentially the same, as if the prices had not changed.”
In his paper, Becker gives two extremes of irrational actors. There is the extremely impulsive, who acts randomly, and the extremely inertial, who makes the same choices as before the same regardless of exogenous changes. It seems to me that the first type is much like Ariely’s amnesiac. I shouldn’t overstate Ariely’s position though, on the next page after discussing a gas tax he acknowledges “I am not suggesting that doubling the price of gasoline would have no effect on consumers’ demand. But I do believe that in the long term, it would have a much smaller influence on demand than would be assumed from just observing the short-term market reactions to price increases.” That sounds much more plausible, though also vague enough to be a pretty weak statement. I suppose quantifying such things is more appropriate for journal articles. This is interesting, because well-known behavioral economist George Loewenstein (and fellow-traveler Peter Ubel) have recently argued that policy-makers should focus more on the blunt-force of changing relative prices in order to make significant changes in consumer behavior. It should be acknowledged though that personal vehicles consume a rather small proportion of fossil fuels, so presumably more bottom-line oriented organizations (e.g. coal plants) be the targets.

The next part I found interesting is unrelated. (more…)

Hopefully Anonymous (I hope he does not rest in peace) used to recommend I preserve comments made elsewhere. But usually they don’t seem worth the effort. However, recently at Attack the System I started spitting out too many associated ideas that I thought I might have to lay back on the links for fear of tripping a spam filter. So here goes below:

David, part of the problem is, as Bob Black explained in My Anarchism Problem, anarchy itself is rather poorly defined. As Black notes, Kropotkin seemed to think the medieval towns were anarchic. From the other end of the spectrum, Hans Herman Hoppe seems to have a fondness for that era, Spencer Heath’s vertically integrated proprietary communities (”Georgism turned on its head”) are something like it, and your son Patri’s Seasteads are similar. This is also why left-wing critics often deride plumb-line or right-libertarians as feudalists or royalists.

Nick Szabo, who is somewhat libertarian but not an anarchist, has written a lot about feudalism and property rights in jurisdiction. He is quite critical of your use of the Coase theorem in discussions of anarcho-capitalism. I’d be interested to hear your response to him.

keith, your note about anarchy being possible within similar communities seems sort of supported by Elinor Ostrom’s work on self-governing commons. David himself made a similar point in his video/lecture on market failure/public goods. I haven’t read it yet, but Ellickson’s “Order Without Law” gives examples of that happening among neighboring farmers in California (though this is an example of people already living under a state). Will Wilkinson did a diavlog a while back with the author of a book criticizing economics called “The Dismal Science”. His main counter-example is the Amish, who are of course a small likeminded religious group who don’t find a state necessary. I apologize if I’m throwing out to many references, but Jane Jacobs’ “The Death and Life of Great American Cities” says one of the major differences between cities & suburbs (or small towns) is the presence of strangers. The mechanisms that smaller communities rely on break down with strangers, whereas cities rely on their heavy presence (yet also having some long-established local figures to play key roles). Cities need to rely more on impersonal interaction and institutions which support them. This helps to explain why, as Ed Glaeser has pointed out, urbanization leads to liberalism.

I had thought I’d have to purchase Walter Block’s Defending the Undefendable, but found that it’s freely available online. I wonder if Block would defend IP piracy? I read it in pretty much one sitting and liked it (it even has funny one-panel comic strips). My objections are to the sections on the non-government counterfeiter and the litterer on public property. Sure, we can object to the government intervention that forms the background for their acts. However, given that background their acts harm others and so they are not heroes. Some months ago I got Herodutus’ Histories but left it at home while I was at school. It’s pretty good and I just finished book seven. Given the frequent references to Thucydides in the notes and its current spotlight at Voxiversity, I am considering reading up on the Pelloponnesian war after the Persian ones. Meanwhile I’ve been at part four of Der Staat for some time now and after I finish that I’ve sworn to read Public Opinion. I think part of the problem is that as long as I’m on the computer reading these I’m too tempted to read other stuff online. Any further suggestions are welcome.
UPDATE: I’ve been inspired by my own lament to finish the rest of Oppenheimer. As it progressed it began to resemble Jouvenel, but viewed from a different angle. The conclusion was disappointingly optimistic, or “Whig” as MM is putting it now. It predicted that from the constitutional/capitalist state the forces of the economic means would eventually win their long struggle with the political means and so society would evolve to statelessness. He explicitly rejects the Marxist or “proletarian”/”anarchistic” theory of revolution, which would violently destroy much of society including the beneficial stuff like division of labor. In that respect he seems to resemble Herbert Spencer, who was inspired by biological evolution (though Lamarckian rather than Darwinian), though he cites the “pre-Manchester liberals” Adam Smith and Quesnay on that point instead. Spencer only gets a nod for scoffing at racial theories. I recommend reading it together with the contrastingly pessimistic On Power.
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Lawrence Auster has been having a discussion of gay marriage and “civil unions” here. Some earlier comments from me are posted there, but the latest was too long, so now it is here: (more…)