Saturday, August 23, 2003
Give yourselves a hand
Due perhaps to my own personality quirks, I will confess to having had some trepidation about adding a comments feature to the blog. Will Baude and Jivha (and countless others) have speculated on the reasons why top-tier bloggers don't have them.
As a non-top-tier blogger, I was basically worried that the comments would be too difficult to manage, overhelming the posts by going off topic, just being nasty, or as James Joyner notes, more disturbing behavior.
I'm glad to say I was wrong. On the whole, the comments have been of exceptionally high quality. I've had to delete very few of them. And as Mickey Kaus) has pointed out about a recent post of mine: "The relatively high-quality comments... are also recommended."
So, thanks to all of you for the value-added!!!
Friday, August 22, 2003
If you checked my original post, you'll see I'm torn on this one. I'll post my thoughts after reading everything I just assigned.
ANOTHER UPDATE: Well, this is what I get for procrastinating -- "pj"'s comment below summarizes what I was going to say in a more pithy way than I could have devised. The problem here is that because of the absence of well-defined property rights, the issue is a distributional one. Either the telemarketers are assigned the property right of being able to make automated calls, or the individual consumer is assigned the property right of blocking unwanted calls. I have no problem whatsoever with the consumer receiving this particular property right, particularly given the blackmail problems associated with allocating the property right to producers.
Another fact, which neither Balko or Yousefzadeh mention, tips me in favor of the registry: unless one believes that consumers are irrational or have time-inconsistent preferences, the registry should be a Pareto-optimizing move. The consumers who don't want the service of unsolicited offers don't get it by signing up. The producers, are also provided valuable information. They are told which calls would be completely unproductive. Even if the cost of making the calls is minimal, it's still greater than zero -- ergo, a profit-maximizing producer should be glad to receive this information as a way to cut costs.
Of course, this raises an interesting theoretical question: if the government merely informed the telemarketing industry who had signed up for the do-not-call registry, but provided no sanctions for making calls to those individuals, would the telemarketers still comply? I suspect not, because the telemarketers believe they could still extract a high-enough yield to warrant the costs. That action, however, suggests that these firms believe they could override an individual's prior choice -- and that bothers the hell out of me.
In the end, any theory of libertarianism must place great confidence in the ability of individuals to make choices that will maximize their self-interest. Balko's argument regarding the nanny state violates that assumption for me.
LAST UPDATE: A final hat tip to Balko for linking to all of the negative reaction he's got while still sticking to his guns.
Thursday, August 21, 2003
The grand opening
Those of you prowling around the rest of DanielDrezner.com have probably figured this out, but for the rest of you, I've added a few bells and whistles to the site. [You've added?--ed. Good point!! A big thank you to Robyn for all of her help in getting everything fixed up. My apologies for occasionally marring your beautiful design with some slapped-on code of my own.]
In no particular order:
If you want to see anything else within reason, let me know and I'll see what I can do. Otherwise, enjoy!!
*WARNING: Those of you more comfortable with the word "resume" will be flabbergasted at both its length and the extent of piddling stuff that's included on my cv. That's not me being vain; that's just the nature of academic resumes for those without tenure.
So how'd they do?
Well, there's this story:
Despite such statements, the Congress has not endeared itself to local Islamic philosophers.
Ah, if only some of the Crooked Timber folk had been in attendance to provide a firsthand report.
About that flypaper hypothesis
The thing is, I don't buy it. In terms of the broader neocon vision of transforming the Middle East, Iraq needs to be an oasis of stability, not a grand opening for Terrorists 'R Us. [But what about Josh Marshall's theory that the neocons want greater instability as an excuse for greater U.S. intervention?--ed. If Marshall was correct, then the last thing the administration would want is for destabilizing elements to leave their home countries and go to Iraq. That would make it harder, not easier, to justify U.S. incursions elsewhere in the region.]
There's also this little nugget of information contained within today's Los Angeles Times story regarding the U.S. decision to seek another U.N. Security Council resolution in Iraq:
If the flypaper hypothesis is correct, then why would the administration be so concerned about border protection?
Maybe the LA Times sources are way off (nothing like this appeared in either the NYT or WaPo stories), but if they're right, then either the flypaper thesis is a load of bulls@#t, or the Bush administration underestimated how sticky the Iraq flypaper has turned out to be.
Wednesday, August 20, 2003
Welcome to the blogroll
I've added three new blogs to the roll. The first one was long overdue -- Tom Maguire's Just One Minute.
The second is Eric Zorn's new j-blog for the Chicago Tribune, which has a great title, Breaking Views. This column provides Eric's raison d'etre for the blog. He writes mostly about Chicago issues, but occasionally looks into foreign affairs.
The third is John Scalzi's new blog for AOL, entitled By the Way. [That name sounds familiar--ed. Scalzi also blogs here.] He now joins the very small ranks of people who earn a living by blogging. According to this page on John's personal web site, AOL fired him back in 1998; his new job must be some form of karmic payback.
By the Way is part of the new "AOL Journals" campaign to enter the blogosphere in grand fashion -- click here and here for background. In John's first live post for AOL, he explains his ambassadorial role:
Your source for outsourcing
Why? Not because outsourcing is new, but because it's going to affect an entirely new set of professions. As Raghuram Rajan and Luigi Zingales (for more about them, click here) point out in Saving Capitalism from the Capitalists, (p. 282):
That quote, by the way, provides the best counter to outsourcing anxiety. Opposing it perfectly akin to opposing technological progress. They're both Luddite.
[That's easy for you to say. You're an academic facing minimal market pressures.--ed.] Not true. Rajan and Zingales use academia as one example of a profession newly affected by technology:
Thoughts on the UN attack
There's a lot of blogosphere speculation about the "who?" and the "why?" of the bombing of UN headquarters in Baghdad -- see Matthew Yglesias, David Adesnik, Glenn Reynolds, Juan Cole, and -- in a heartbreaking post -- Salam Pax.
As I've said before, such speculation often leads commentators to fit overly neat narratives into messy realities. However, this New York Times news analysis of the bombing, which has a paragraph that just startled me:
So the question is, what group is nihilistic enough to see victory in the mass immiseration of fellow Arabs and the destruction of international supportagencies?
While the B'aathists are contemptible, while in power they were always clever enough to play the United Nations off the U.S. and Great Britain. This attack has the feel of someone incapable of making such distinctions yet willing to hit soft targets. In other words, an Al Qaeda subsidiary. So, my money's on Ansar al-Islam.
UPDATE: William Dyer is less than pleased with the Times coverage of the bombing (link via InstaPundit).
Mounting multilateral pressure on Pyongyang
When the multilateral talks on North Korea were announced a few weeks ago, Russia's seat at the table raised a few eyebrows. Until that point, the U.S. insistence was on five-party talks -- the U.S., North Korea, South Korea, Japan, and China. Russia's inclusion -- and its historical ties to the DPRK -- caused some to wonder if this was some kind of effort to level the playing field for Pyongyang.
Well, as Fred Kaplan and the New York Times indicated yesterday, that speculation was way off. According to the Times:
Fred Kaplan explains the significance of Russia's actions in Slate. The key grafs:
Actually, rereading the Times story, Kaplan is understating things. Russia's participation in naval exercises is a powerful signal, but just as significant is the bulking up of Japan's forces and the cooling down of China's friendship with Pyongyang.
Ironically, by the time the talks start, the countries in the multilateral coalition that will have the biggest policy differences will be the U.S. and South Korea. Jim Dunnigan manages, in a single paragraph, to neatly summarize why the U.S. and South Korea disagree so frequently on what to do with North Korea (link via InstaPundit):
Tuesday, August 19, 2003
The blogosphere and the Guardian take on agricultural subsidies
This is from their first real post:
Go check out the site, which contains some useful links.
Just as interesting as the battle to end agricultultural subsidies is the fact that the Guardian, in setting up the site, thinks that the blogosphere can affect political change. I've expressed my doubts on this score in the past, but I also hope I'm wrong in this case.
We'll see if these kinds of campaign blogs are more interesting than the ones that Maureen Dowd ripped to shreds last week.
UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias is pessimistic that anything of substance will be accomplished with this campaign, because of the limited reach of English-language blogs and the concentration of interests within the agricultural sector of the U.S.
I share his sense of pessimism but not its depth. First, as KICKAAS itself observes, the key actors to influence are the United States and the European Union. The blogosphere's power in the U.S. is much debated, but it occasionally demonstrates some pull.
As for the EU, I hear they speak some English on the continent. Indeed, given the elite nature of EU policymaking, a blog sponsored by a major media outlet might actually significant attention in the corridors of Brussels.
As for the U.S., the concentration of interests is acute, but it's worth remembering that U.S. agriculture is not a monolithic bloc. In some sectors (sugar) the United States is not competitive; in others (wheat, I believe) it is. So, some of these concentrated interests stand to gain from liberalization in agriculture.
So, to sum up: still generally pessimistic, but not as dour as Yglesias.
Interesting company I keep at Amazon
I have no explanation for this -- except for Nye's latest book, I don't think I've cited or discussed the other authors in either the blog or my research. I just thought it was good company to keep.
Monday, August 18, 2003
Current events economics on the web
Some "current events" economics worth reading on the web:
3) Brad DeLong has an informative post on the extent to which the U.S. trade deficit is unsustainable. Well, it's informative in that DeLong is honest about what's known and unknown regarding the sustainability of the deficit.
Go check them all out.
Trouble brewing for the EU
An awful lot of international relations scholarship is devoted to the European Union, in part because it doesn't look like any other actor in world politics. Is it simply an international organization run by the powerful member states (Germany, France, the U.K.) or is it a genuinely supranational authority with preferences and resources of its own? The IR community remains split on this issue (click here for the "EU is only an international organization" thesis, and here for the "EU is a supranational authority" argument).
However, even die-hard realists had to acknowledge that, with the Euro and the establishment of the Maastricht criteria of fiscal and monetary constraints designed to keep Euro as a viable currency, something different was taking place in Europe. Parallels to antebellum America have been made repeatedly.
I raise all of this because 2004 could provide a crucial test of the EU's internal cohesion, according to the Financial Times:
Germany is not the only country to face this problem -- France also appears to be in violation of EU rules on this score.
If the European Commission and EcoFin can actually manage to force Germany and France into austerity programs with the threat of fiscal sanctions, then the supranational argument wins the day. If not -- my strong suspicion -- it doesn't completely vitiate the supranational argument, but it comes damn close.
Sunday, August 17, 2003
"nerdy, inane and barely grammatical"
The above quote is embedded in an Economist article on various efforts to make a profit in the blogosphere. The full paragraph:
I should make this my new tagline -- danieldrezner.com, your best source for nerdy, inane and barely grammatical thoughts!!
The article does contain some interesting suggestions on how blogs can generate earnings. One surprise -- no mention of the revenue stream that worked best for Sullivan, the tip jar.
The real power of DVDs
The New York Times has not one, not two, but three articles in its Sunday edition on the allure of DVDs. David Kirkpatrick has a front-page page story on who's purchasing DVDs (mostly men) and what they're buying (mostly action movies).
Both the Sunday Arts articles are worth reading, but they focus more on the pleasure of seeing quality works of art with commentary tracks and behind-the-scenes interviews. Far more interesting is the effect of DVD technology on really bad pieces of pop culture ephemera.
Every new film released on DVD now seems to require additional commentaries and interviews. It's fascinating to watch actors, actresses and directors providing high-minded reasons for why they decided to participate in some piece of schlock. In some cases, these efforts are far better acting jobs than what actually appears on the screen.
For an example, rent the DVD to Kiss of the Dragon, a forgettable Jet Li martial arts flick. The DVD includes a priceless conversation in which Bridget Fonda -- a good actress who appeared in some fine films in the 1990s -- explaining with deep conviction why she was artistically attracted to the role of the junkie whore with a heart of gold. Now that was an Oscar-caliber performance.