October 2006 Archives

I'm pleased to announce that my paper "A Legal and Economic Analysis of Graffiti," co-authored with Walter Block has been accepted for publication at Humanomics.

Abstract: A case for the de-criminalization of graffiti is made, based on the existence of an unjust government, and predicated on private property rights. A distinction is made between artistic trespass, or vandalism, on the one hand, which we claim can be undertaken only on private property, and, on the other, graffiti, which in our view can only occur on public property. If the government that claims ownership of the latter is an illicit one, then graffiti can reasonably be interpreted as a justified attack on it, or rebellion.

Type one and type two errors often refer to the economic problems associated with government regulating organizations like the FDA. Type one errors are when the FDA allows a drug on the market that ends up being harmful. Type two errors are when they restrict a drug that is actually beneficial. The insight behind the destinction is that type one errors are self-correcting. We get a grasp of how extensive the costs of type one errors are simply because they get exposed, but we are completely ignorant as to how prominent and persistent type two errors might be.

In his "Libertarian Manifesto," Rothbard devotes three sections to solving traditional problems of public goods in The Public Sector. In the third of these sections, Rothbard takes libertarianism into a more anarchist direction by explaining how the services of Police, Law and Courts can be provided in the free society. Unfortunately no specific attention is paid to the ex-post enforcement mechanism of imprisonment and incarceration. Why I'm not entirely sure, but if I had to offer a theory, I'd lean in the direction that it was a conscious ommission. Perhaps because the text is more a primer on libertarianism than it is an explicit case for anarchism, which I think is more directly implied by the implications of private incarceration than it is by private patrolling and detecting police.
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Readers should be keen to notice the text's earlier attention to prisons in the subsection "Courts" contained in the chapter on Involuntary Servitude. It is reprinted below:

Happy? Columbus Day...

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In american history, there are plenty of heroes that don't get villainized enough like FDR and Lincoln, and there are plenty of villains that don't get glorfied enough, like Rockefeller and the robber barons. Sometimes people buck the trend and present some alternative perspective that makes you totally change the way you think about these historical figures. Being an Italian, I hesitate to put Columbus in the first group, especially since it seems that smashing him could be just the politically correct thing to do. But as I think Bryan Caplan points out there's little room to saving Columbus from such criticisms.

Social Networking

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I came across, this article on digg.com (a unique application of the social netowrk process itself) about the unique and important qualities of facebook.com. In case you're unaware, I'm a big fan of facebook and most social networking websites. I think they are not only great ways to keep in touch with past aquantences and associates, thus making such relationships easier to maintain over time. But they have an unprecedented ability to distribute new information and ideas.

The article seems to be unconsciously informed of how reputational norms are weak in completely anonymous settings, a concern that Pete Boettke (1, 2, 3) often brings up in regards to the effects internet publications have had on academia. Do the weak ties displace the strong? Facebook with its ability to limit and control network access to different portions of a user's profile achieves levels of trust, legitimacy, and authority of signals sent through the network channels to greater degrees than other social network sites like myspace.

Another recent post on the mises blog points to facebook as the next breading ground for libertarian activists.

After many attempts to find a journal interested in running a book review on this text, I have decided to post it here and on Amazon instead. The main reasons for the difficulty in finding a journal were as follows:
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1. Scholarly journals rarely accept unsolicited book reviews.
2. This text has more to offer to a sociology and or criminology audience than it does to an economics one. My familiarity with these journals is small but growing, as I did find a few that had already ran a recent review by the time I contacted them. Which leads me to beleive...
3. Books must be reviewed recently after their publication. Or have lasting contribution to warrant being re-addressed.

None the less I think the book is worth reading and an important piece of the broader economics of prisons research agenda.

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