Two thoughts come to mind on this point. The first is about free trade. Suppose there was no free trade, and so urban England had to rely on rural England for food. The cost of disrupting the countryside would be higher, leading me to wonder if there is an inverse connection between free trade and the security of property rights. (This is speculation, not a confident assertion. There are certainly countries that are heavily protectionist that also have insecure property rights.) The other thought is about crime. Tony Martin is the farmer who was imprisoned for shooting an intruder in his home. The British Labour Party is primarily an urban party. Because guns are a component of rural life, they raise the costs to criminals of plying their trade in rural areas. This makes urban areas more attractive to criminals, affecting the constituency of Labour. Punishing people in rural areas for using their guns in self-defense lowers the cost of commiting crimes in rural areas. This ought to induce some substitution by criminals out of urban areas into rural areas, making Labour's urban constituents safer.
Wednesday, September 25, 2002
There is an intriguing article by Salil Tripathi in the Wall Street Journal Europe's editorial page (the link is here, but it requires subscription). Tripathi argues that the big pro-hunting protest, drawing at least 400,000 people, was less about fox hunting than about the general contempt with which the British government treats rural England.
Israpundit notes that Magen David Adom (the Israeli equivalent of the Red Cross) is facing a financial crisis brought on by the current wave of terrorism. Israpundit links to a story in the Israel National News and to the American fundraising arm of Magen David Adom. You can also go directly to the Magen David Adom website.
Tuesday, September 24, 2002
There was a lot of talk in the papers about the German election, but Jeffrey Gedmin talked about the mess that is the German economy. He noted the Ladenschlussgesetz, the laws restricting opening hours. I have lost the working paper, but I saw an interesting public choice explanation for them recently. Long opening hours are costly to provide and therefore raise prices. That is not a good trade-off for people whose time has low value (the retired) or is more flexible (housewives). If I can ever find the paper, I might have some idea why Germany's restrictions are so severe compared to other places.
Colby Cosh talks about Touched by an Angel, and criticizes its weak relationship to actual Christianity. I used to watch it as a bit of sentimental mush on a tired evening, but I stopped when the angels were rescuing some poor dear, played by the always smug and insufferable Swoozie Kurtz, whose life had been ruined by an attack on her sainted father by the House Committee on Un-American Activities, chaired by the villanous Sen. Joe McCarthy. Both the International Herald Tribune and Time made that particularly dopey blunder (you would think at least one editor could figure out that senators don't run House committees), so maybe I should not expect much of the people who make TV dramas. But to mix McCarthy and HUAC so ineptly together suggests a mind warped by a form of demonology, and for that I have no patience.
Gerhard Schröder lets his people call Bush a Nazi, and now he seems startled that Bush isn't being very friendly. This strikes me as equivalent to the Apple mistake. Apple thought the Mac was so good that they could require their customers to buy all the software from Apple as well. Customers went to Windows instead. Polaroid required its customers to buy film from Polaroid, and thought they could do this because there were no other instant cameras. When technology allowed one hour photo processing, customers went elsewhere and Polaroid took a beating. It is hard question just when this is profitable (the invaluable Hal Varian has a nice paper talking about when it is and isnt' profitable), but it is sometimes easy to see when it does not pay to package things together as Apple and Polaroid did: when the customers can easily go somewhere else. InstaPundit suggests that Rumsfeld blasted the German government from Poland for a reason: to remind the Germans that Americans can go elsewhere in Europe for allies. Perhaps he was even reminding the Germans that American bases can go elsewhere too. The German government was packaging bases and some small support with an awful lot of pandering to the Greens and the like. Packaging like that does not work if the customer has somewhere else to go.
Monday, September 23, 2002
When the New York Times' editorial page decides to be funny, it is either sadly lame or very, very funny. Today it fortunately gave us the latter.
I finally read Lawrence Summers' speech about anti-Semitism and Israel. Are university presidents allowed to talk this way? As an economist, I always thought Summers was over-rated, although he was unquestionably very good. Just too much hype over his abilities. As a university president, though, I expected him to be the very model of a spineless Harvard president. I was wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong.
Sunday, September 22, 2002
Cold Spring Shops announced that he is keeping his chilli recipe secret. This is a good idea. I have eaten his chilli. The recipe alone is hot enough to melt the internet lines. (Good chilli, though)
More whining about breast implants. I don't understand why women want them, but it strikes me as their business. Why is it, though, that the "our bodies, our selves" feminists are creating more of a stink about restrictions on breast implants. Maybe they never really believed it in the first place, and it was just a lie for public consumption?
The Washington Post offers a bit of comedy today. Gar Alperovitz is hauling out the old Gulf of Tonkin Resolution. Does anyone remember that old commie any more? I'm surprised the online version was accompanied by Pete Seeger singing old Stalinist songs in the background. For grown-ups, George Will is there to offer a serious reflection on how to treat battlefields.