Yo, ho, ho, and a bottle of love by Hyung Lee

The article of the day comes from The Daily Princetonian:

Pirate expert Peter Leeson’s new book, “The Invisible Hook: The Hidden Economics of Pirates,” contained a treasure of its own.

During summer 2007, the University Press approached Leeson about a writing a book on the economics of piracy. He decided the book was the perfect opportunity to propose to his then-girlfriend, Ania Bulska, by printing the proposal on the dedication page.

“After I was approached to write the book, after a week or two, the idea hit me — I don’t know how to describe it,” Leeson, an economics professor at George Mason University, said. “I thought it was innovative, different, perfect for her.”

For the Press, keeping Leeson’s planned proposal secret presented several unfamiliar challenges, employees said.

“This is the first time I’ve ever seen someone propose to anyone in a book,” said Press senior editor Seth Ditchik, who worked with Leeson on the book. “Everyone really got behind it and made sure that anything we did for the book didn’t ruin the surprise for his then-girlfriend and now fiance.”

The publishers took extra precautions to ensure Leeson’s proposal went according to plan, Ditchik said. The dedication page — which reads “Ania, I love you; will you marry me?” — had to be removed from advance review copies, or galleys, so that no one else would learn of the proposal prior to publication.

“When we were preparing the galleys, we had an ‘aha’ moment because someone might pick up on it,” Press assistant publicity director Jessica Pellien said in an e-mail. “I’ve never had to … deliberately excerpt [that] portion of the book from the galley.”

Pellien noted that the foreword also had to be excluded from the galleys, since in it, Leeson explained why he included the proposal in his book: “Several people besides me were critical to writing this book,” it read. “First and most important is my girlfriend, Ania Bulska … In this book’s dedication I ask her to marry me. If I’ve succeeded in hiding my plans from her since writing this, she should be very surprised. I hope she says ‘yes.’ If she doesn’t, I might have to turn to sea banditry, which would be tough since I don’t know how to sail (though I’ve tried to learn).”

Despite the special care that had to be taken with the book’s publication, Pellien said the outcome was well worth the extra effort. “It’s not often you come across romance while promoting economics books, so this has been a lovely and unique experience for me,” she said.

Leeson had the book mailed to a cigar shop near his house to keep it hidden from Bulska. “We went to great strides to get a copy available,” Pellien said, adding that the publishers sent “the first one off the press” to Leeson as soon as it was available.

On March 20, Leeson proposed to Bulska at the Washington, D.C., restaurant Citronelle. Leeson said he asked the waiters to bring a treasure chest to the table before dessert. Inside the chest was a copy of the book with a ribbon marking the dedication page.

“I gave her a key to unlock it … for a layer of surprise. She was happy because she thought we were celebrating the book,” Leeson said. After Bulska read the dedication, Leeson opened the false bottom of the treasure chest, revealing an engagement ring.

Bulska said the proposal came as a “total surprise.”

“The treasure chest came … [and] I was like, ‘What’s going on?’ “ Bulska said. “There was more than one waiter, and someone came with a camera … I thought, ‘Oh, my God, is this happening? Is this what I think it is?’ ”

When Bulska saw the book inside, she thought they were celebrating the book, she explained. “He said, ‘No we are celebrating more — keep reading,’ ” she explained. “I was very touched. It was very nice, and the chest was cool-looking. It was legit.”

Ditchik praised the originality of Leeson’s proposal.

“I think that the genius of it is that I’ve never seen it done before, so it ups the ante for guys in the future,” Ditchik said.

Bulska echoed a similar sentiment. “Some of my friends are like, ‘It’s the most amazing, most romantic proposal ever.’ They are taking that as the bar for proposals now,” she said.

Leeson said his plan initially met with some skepticism. “One of my closest friends told me it was a horrible idea. He said, ‘What if she says no? You’ll be a jackass,’ ” Leeson said. “But I listened to my own judgment.”

Ditchik noted that the book had already generated interest. “The story of the proposal is great, but on top of it, it’s the only book I’ve published that my mother has asked [for] a copy of,” he said.


California T.V. Nazis are they in violation of the Constitution?

This from Wired.com:

“The California Energy Commission is proceeding with a proposal this summer to ban the sale of TV sets that do not meet new efficiency standards when they are turned on and displaying a picture — a measure of power consumption that is not currently regulated at all.

But the market and technological advances may already be advancing this goal, as large-screen plasma sets fall out of favor and LCDs become more energy efficient.

The CEC proposal is set up as a two-tiered system. The first enforces efficiency standards beginning in 2011 and would save 3,831 gigawatt hours (and bring down overall TV energy consumption by 33%) by placing a cap on the active mode power usage (in watts) of individual TVs. Current standards in California only regulate TVs in standby mode, at a cap of 3.0 watts.”

First, this state has their own car standards, then their own food standards and now they will be banning televisions. It is true that these T.V.’s use more energy than others but the idea is that people pay their bills on how much they use. If the market is not interfered by the government and as long as the people are not stealing the energy then it should be fine. Instead, it is being used as a tool to regulate anything and everything.

The second, yet still important point is the question; doesn’t this violate the Constitution under the interstate commerce laws. I support federalism and allow states to adopt their own rules but if you imagine that in California the “green T.V. company” had a factory and in say Nevada it was the non-green T.V. This would mean that the prices of “green T.V.’s would go up because of a less competitive market.

The rest is here.


Published in: on March 31, 2009 at 1:07 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Marxist of the Week: Green Advisor Johathon Porritt

This from TimesOnline:

“JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown’s leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt’s call will come at this week’s annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron.

The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably.

Porritt said: “Population growth, plus economic growth, is putting the world under terrible pressure.

“Each person in Britain has far more impact on the environment than those in developing countries so cutting our population is one way to reduce that impact.”

Population growth is one of the most politically sensitive environmental problems. The issues it raises, including religion, culture and immigration policy, have proved too toxic for most green groups.”

How exactly does he plan on reducing the population? The easier way would be to nuke or install the economic plan of collectivization and let them starve. Since he is so into efficiency, is this going to be how he wants to do it.

This is just flat out wrong. It is true that the more people we have the worse the environment is? Some people may think so but what they are not thinking about is how many new minds and new geniuses are being born. These people could very much be the person who invents something that solves this problem. The impact of the marginal person is very small on the environment but big on innovation, which doesn’t even include the fact that nobody knows the optimal amount of population. Thomas Malthus believed what this guy believes but we seem to be doing find three hundred years later!



Economic Recovery: Are we there yet?



Published in: on March 30, 2009 at 12:12 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Dr. Peter Leeson on the Recession and his new book


The Hell with Our Constitution by Walter Williams

The Article of the Day is from Walter Williams’ Website:

Dr. Robert Higgs, senior fellow at the Oakland-based Independent Institute, penned an article in The Christian Science Monitor (2/9/2009) that suggests the most intelligent recommendation that I’ve read to fix our current economic mess. The title of his article gives his recommendation away: “Instead of stimulus, do nothing — seriously.”

Stimulus package debate is over how much money should be spent, whether some should given to the National Endowment for the Arts, research sexually transmitted diseases or bail out Amtrak, our failing railroad system. Dr. Higgs says, “Hardly anyone, however, is asking the most important question: Should the federal government be doing any of this?” He adds, “Until the 1930s, the Constitution served as a major constraint on federal economic interventionism. The government’s powers were understood to be just as the framers intended: few and explicitly enumerated in our founding document and its amendments. Search the Constitution as long as you like, and you will find no specific authority conveyed for the government to spend money on global-warming research, urban mass transit, food stamps, unemployment insurance, Medicaid, or countless other items in the stimulus package and, even without it, in the regular federal budget.”

By bringing up the idea of constitutional restraints on Washington, I’d say Dr. Higgs is whistling Dixie. Americans have long ago abandoned respect for the constitutional limitations placed on the federal government. Our elected representatives represent that disrespect. After all I’d ask Higgs: Isn’t it unreasonable to expect a politician to do what he considers to be political suicide, namely conduct himself according to the letter and spirit of the Constitution?

While Americans, through ignorance or purpose, show contempt for our Constitution, I doubt whether they are indifferent between a growing or stagnating economy. Dr. Higgs tells us some of the economic history of the U.S. In 1893, there was a depression; we got out of it without a stimulus package. There was a major recession of 1920-21; though sharp, it quickly reversed itself into what has been call the “Roaring Twenties.” In 1929, there was an economic downturn, most notably featured by the stock market collapse, after which came massive government intervention — you might call it the nation’s first stimulus package. President Hoover and Congress responded to what might have been a two- or three-year sharp downturn with many of the policies President Obama and Congress are urging today. They raised tariffs, propped up wage rates, bailed out farmers, banks and other businesses, and financed state relief efforts. When Roosevelt came to office, he became even more interventionist than Hoover and presided over protracted depression where the economy didn’t fully recover until 1946.

Roosevelt didn’t have an easy time with his agenda; he had to first emasculate the U.S. Supreme Court. Higgs points out that federal courts had respect for the Constitution as late as the 1930s. They issued some 1,600 injunctions to restrain officials from carrying out acts of Congress. The U.S. Supreme Court overturned as unconstitutional the New Deal’s centerpieces such as the National Industrial Recovery Act and the Agricultural Adjustment Act and other parts of Roosevelt’s “stimulus package.” An outraged Roosevelt threatened to pack the Court, and the Court capitulated to where it is today giving Congress virtually unlimited powers to tax, spend and regulate. My question to my fellow Americans is: Do we want a repeat of measures that failed dismally during the 1930s?

A more fundamental question is: Should Washington be guided by the Constitution? In explaining the Constitution, James Madison, the acknowledged father of the Constitution, wrote in Federalist Paper 45: “The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the federal government are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negotiation, and foreign commerce.” Has the Constitution been amended to permit Congress to tax, spend and regulate as it pleases or have Americans said, “To hell with the Constitution”?

Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University. To find out more about Walter E. Williams and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at http://www.creators.com.


Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 7:42 pm  Comments (1)  
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Privatize the Postal Service!

This from USA Today:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — Postmaster General John Potter said Wednesday the financially strapped U.S. Postal Service will run out of money this year without help from Congress.

The only lingering question, Potter told a House subcommittee, is which bills will get paid and which will not. He did say ensuring the payment of workers’ salaries comes first. But Potter also said other bills may have to wait.

Potter’s appearance came as the agency, which has lived on a reputation of serving through wind, rain and all sorts of obstacles, seeks permission to reduce mail delivery to five days a week. It also wants to change the way retiree health benefits are amassed to save money.”

It goes on to say that USPS was $2.8 billion dollars in debt. This goes to show that a government bureaucracy cannot even run a law given monopoly in their favor. Congress should act now and privatize the postal service. FedEx and UPS do a much better job of delivering packages but they are only allowed to do that. It is illegal for them to even think about delivering a standard sized envelope, what we know of as “first class mail”.

Nannystate fact of the day: At one point the postal service was trying to get a monopoly on fax machines and a tax on emails. They do not take technological innovation very well.

The rest is here.


Published in: on March 27, 2009 at 12:32 pm  Comments (3)  
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The devalued Prime Minister of a devalued Government

This Video of the Day is from Daniel Hanna MEP:


Mr. Cockshott have you met Ms. Shufflebottom

This from Reuters:

“The number of people in Britain with surnames like Cockshott, Balls, Death and Shufflebottom — likely the source of schoolroom laughter — has declined by up to 75 percent in the last century.

“If you find the (absolute) number goes down, it’s either because they changed their names or they emigrated,” Webber, author of the study, told Reuters on Wednesday.

He said that in many cases, people probably changed their surnames as they came to be regarded as in bad taste. “It’s because the meaning of words can change. Take the name Daft — that as a term for a stupid is a relatively recent innovation.”

Even when it comes to people’s names, they make economic decisions. The costs of some names are high, like the above, and some people are willing to change it. I would imagine the reason why you do not see an all-at- once movement is because changing your name is costly. First, you have the common bills and accounts problem but this is relatively low as people who get married do this all the time. Second, you have the mocking factor that parents may have experienced and do not want their kids to go through. There is also a possible job factor. As it might be beneficial to catch a future employers eye, they may not want someone with these names representing their company. I could be wrong.

Even though I am not sure when Death was a good surname.

The rest is here.


Published in: on March 26, 2009 at 12:22 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A staunch advocate of globalization and trade

The article of the day comes from the International Herald Tribune:

Friday, March 20, 2009

PARIS: Victor Fung has a simple message to the global leaders who will soon try to set a new path for the economy: “Please deliver.”

As chairman of the International Chamber of Commerce, or I.C.C., since last year, Mr. Fung, a Hong Kong businessman, is eager to restart global trade, which has been hobbled by the crisis.

He also has personal interest in the march of globalization, having transformed, with his brother, the family business Li & Fung into a power in the sourcing and export of Chinese textiles and manufactured goods.

In Paris recently to celebrate the 90th anniversary of the I.C.C., which represents businesses and helps arbitrate disputes, Mr. Fung was at pains to warn leaders — before they met in London April 2 representing the Group of 20 industrialized and emerging economies — against a drift toward protectionism.

“If we take away what we’ve nurtured all these years in the multilateral trading system, then we do so at our peril,” he said during an interview at the I.C.C. offices.

Mr. Fung has been concerned by recent messages sent by Western leaders, like President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, who has called for auto jobs to stay in France, and the notorious “Buy America” provisions introduced, and later modified, in the U.S. stimulus bill.

He says the current crop of leaders need to reflect on the past before reacting in haste. “Go back to the 1920s,” he said. “They, too, had a financial bubble that burst and the problem was after the busting of the bubble.”

Then, as protectionism spread, jobs were lost across the world, he said. Now, given the interdependence of economies globally, the ramifications could be even more acute. “Protectionism, actually serves to destroy jobs in the economy,” he said. “Things are so interconnected, you lose jobs immediately.”

Mr. Fung noted that the Chinese word for crisis was a compound of the characters “danger” and “opportunity,” and said economies and businesses should be positioning themselves for the rebound, whenever that comes.

Ever the optimist, Mr. Fung also found reasons to be positive about the outlook for the so-called Doha round of trade talks at the World Trade Organization, which have all but collapsed amid disagreements over agriculture subsidies. “I won’t write off Doha,” he said. But if it is declared dead, “think of the knock on confidence that would have. I don’t think the world could stand it.”

Mr. Fung is encouraging I.C.C. members to lobby governments to bolster export credit insurance programs to make up for the collapse in the trade financing in recent months. “There’s some talk now about countries pooling the risk,” he said, citing a pilot program to share the burden of backing trade financing among Japan, South Korea and Malaysia. He hopes that idea will spread.

Mr. Fung, 63, is married with three children. An avuncular figure who intersperses his conversation with hearty chuckles, he now ranks 12th on the Forbes magazine list of wealthiest Hong Kongers, one place behind his younger brother William, who as managing director of Li & Fung, takes a more hands-on role in the business.

Mervyn Davies, the British trade minister, knows Fung from his time in Hong Kong as chief of the bank Standard Chartered. “He is an outstanding Asian business leader and as chief of the International Chambers of Commerce can make a real difference,” he said.

Li & Fung was founded in Canton in 1906 by Fung Pak-liu, Victor’s grandfather, and Li To-ming. It was one of the first companies to export from China financed solely by Chinese capital, competing with the British-backed trading houses known as hongs.

Today, the group is a combination of listed and privately held companies. It has three core businesses — export sourcing, distribution and retailing. It has set a revenue target of $20 billion by 2010; Mr. Fung thinks that is still attainable.

As well as his work with the I.C.C. and the company, Mr. Fung has worn a number of other hats, including running an education foundation and heading the Hong Kong Airport Authority and the Greater Pearl River Delta Business Council. Crucially in Hong Kong, he is trusted by Beijing.

What, then, about entering politics, as is sometimes rumored in Hong Kong? “It’s absolutely furthest from my mind,” Fung said, a smile lighting up his face.

Published in: on March 25, 2009 at 7:31 pm  Comments (2)  
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