Tuesday, November 30, 2004
It's in the News
CBS looking longingly at Russert to replace Rather...
Rather says he spoke with Ed Murrow's ghost!
Dan Rather at CBS: 'Ed Murrow's ghost is here. I've seen him and talked to him on the third floor of this building many times late at night. And I can tell you that he's watching over us'...
NY Times vs. The White House: Brokaw gets into the fight
The Drudge Report:
Brokaw Astonished Over NYTimes Reporter Being Banned By White HouseTue Nov 30 2004 10:09:36 ETOutgoing NBC anchorman Tom Brokaw was asked on MSNBC's HARDBALL Monday if the Bush White House has been tough with the press corps, citing as an example of Dick Cheney stipulating no NEW YORK TIMES reporters on his trips. Brokaw said, "I think they have been too tough. "The idea that this White House has not given Tom Friedman a long, in-depth interview is astonishing to me. I have had a very good relationship with them, I have gotten to interview the President a lot. I have had access on the phone and other areas and I have been very vigorous in my discussions with them. But no reporter that I know covering national politics and the international policies that are of such great concern today know as much about them as Tom Friedman does and they have completely shut out the NEW YORK TIMES."
Scandals and messages
Kofi Annan's son involved in corruption allegations over UN's oil-for-food program. The U.N. General Secretary's son, Kojo Annan, has received paychecks (approx $2000 a month) from the Swiss company Cotecna which was involved in the U.N. Iraq initiative "oil for food".
Fred Eckhard, spokesperson for the General Secretary's office, says that Kofi Annan has had no connection with distributing contracts to companies and that the U.N. was unaware of Kojo Annan's involvement with Cotecna.
And at last... What we all knew would happen ... Tom Ridge is resigning.
Keeping the left lane open at SVT
Pravda - The Swedish Way.
Monday, November 29, 2004
New blog to keep in mind...
Land of the Free - property rights as the foundation of reasoning
To further promote my general argument on private property and deontological ethics - as an important part of analyzing markets for information - I would stress that we must treat any assessment of entitlements (even immaterial property such as information) according to patterns of deontological ethics.
I discuss this view in my Contitutional Economics paper Land of the Free, which was presented at George Mason University in the fall 2003.
Wednesday, November 24, 2004
To the battleground
Dan Rather is stepping down!
Read all about it:
Property rights and the post-modern society (again)
I would therefore like to recommend two books by Tyler Cowen: Creative Destruction: How Globalization is Changing the World's Cultures and also In Praise of Commercial Culture who address these problems and how a capitalist society encourages the creation of art. (This, however, doesn't necessarily mean such a society solves all the inherent problems with property rights.)
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Property rights in a post-modern world
Naomi Klein (see: “No Logo”) and other critics of today’s global economy often charge that the sophisticated form of brand management used by several global corporations (like Nike, Reebok and Asics) challenge the very foundation of these businesses ( i.e. “they don’t even manufacture the product they sell – they only put their brand tag on them”). My argument concerning property rights in a post-modern capitalist era is that this form of brand management has in fact been present in the art world long before business corporations used the very same technique. And we still haven’t seen the day when Klein and her political friends would criticize Jeff Koons, Marcel Duchamp, Andy Warhol or contemporary artists for using other people’s manual labor to complete a piece of art that the artist later market under his own name without contributing to its completion.
The outline of the paper
Property Rights in the Postmodern Era:
The Political Left and the Problem with Non-material Property Rights
In her bestseller No Logo, Naomi Klein is appalled by the way international corporations like Nike use sweat-shops in Asia to manufacture shoes under their brand name. In particular, she points to the fact that Nike and Asics now have outsourced the production so that they only control the “brand management” while the R&D as well as manual labor intensive manufacturing plants are being run by organizations with which Nike or Asics have signed contracts. This routine, as lean and on-demand as it may be, seems to upset the political left and members of “progressive economic groups” even though this form of management is far from new, and – interestingly enough – often gets its praise sung by many of Naomi Klein’s friends in the cultural elite.
The Columbi Egg of Today’s Art World
If we compare the contemporary world of shoe manufacturers with the world of arts, then all of a sudden Klein’s argument doesn’t seem to be as well founded. Many respectable artists, like Rembrandt and Ruben never painted all of their paintings themselves. They simply hired employees to help them with the rather boring task of performing the actual painting of backgrounds, exteriors and other less central parts of the canvas. However, they – Rembrandt and Rubens - did paint. They just abstained from doing things they didn’t need to. When we move to the world of postmodern art, no real form of artistic talent (other than blatant self-promotion) is needed any longer. Modern printing technique made it possible for artists like Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein during the mid-20th century to mass produce their art form with little or no first-hand personal craft included in setting their pieces together.
Today, one of the most widely celebrated artists in this trade of so-called postmodern art is called Jeff Koons - a former Wall Street commodities broker who became recognized for his absurd paintings, sculptures and installations with anything from three mercury-injected basketballs floating in a fish tank to rather revealing pornographic sculptures of himself and his former wife. He is in general best known for his sculptured works, for example “Balloon Dog” (metallized porcelain (several different versions), “Michael Jackson and Bubbles” (ceramic, 1988) and “Made in Heaven” (ceramic and photo series, 1991).
In his art, as well as in his personal life, Koons is a provocateur with a seemingly ever-present interest in trying to explain his work with expressions like “penetration” and “intellectual hymen”. In 1991, Jeff Koons married Ilona Staller, more known under her adult movie actress name “Cicciolina”. Even his harshest critics agree that Koons has an extreme talent for self-promotion and his provocative absurdist-inspired form of kitschy art, be it in the form of porcelain pieces or stylized readymades, seems to become more appreciated by the political left and the cultural elite the more it upsets the conservative right. Many art critics describe him as the undisputed enfant terrible of the postmodern age and his appropriation of artifacts has been interpreted as a gleeful smearing of the mass-consumption culture in today’s society. No doubt about it – Koons is one of the most successful artists in the contemporary art world.
For everything in his art that isn’t readymade, Koons has a staff of painters, sculpturers and craftsmen who perform the actual manufacturing of these objects. Koons is merely a manager of the various “projects” in his studio and he is the one who eventually puts his name on them and takes credit for their creation at the next vernissage.
(In fairness it should be said that Koons is not really alone, even though he might be the most obscure in his trade: an artist who himself turns out to be merely the brand name of the line.)
We should try to stay away from reducing an analysis of Koons’ fairly low level of reasoning and his hypocritical position (i.e. to recycle mass-consumed commodities in his own work, commodities that have been manufactured by sweat-shop workers and labeled by global corporations, and to stress that this is done to criticize this commercial culture while he is at the same time making a profit from selling the collection as “art” under his own name). However, we could argue that not only does his form of art make us aware of the somewhat vague definition of genuine art – it also begs the question how property rights should be defined when it comes to intellectual achievements that can become marketed as art when someone else is putting their own name on a collection of already manufactured goods. To attack the nature of the metaphysics of private property is perhaps the very intention of Koons’ and his peers. As one museum’s folder would put it: “His conflict with the dominant culture's model of art is no different from other conflicts that postmodernist ideas create for existing systems, especially the legal/political systems.”
Who has the right to a work of art? This is perhaps the pith and substance of the question I would like to address. In any kind of blend of immaterial property rights (brand names) and material property rights (manufactured goods) we face a number of cases to provide us with a setting of property-based distinctions.
a) First of all – it should be obvious to at least anybody but Naomi Klein that there is no inherent difference between Nike paying for a contract with a manufacturer and Koons paying a laborer to polish his metallized balloon dog sculpture.
b) However, Koons is in fact taking it a step further. He is using already labeled basket balls which he places in an installation of his.
Roxette, Per Gessle and The Entitlement Argument
Let's look at this from a freedom of trade perspective – if I sold my guitar (an acoustic Ibanez, steel stringed with a solid one-piece lid) on Ebay I might only get $100 for it (although it is a very good guitar, I can assure you…) But as it turns out, I once met Per Gessle (from the Swedish pop group Roxette) one night on the town when he was nice enough to sign my guitar after I bought him a pint of beer. So the lid no reads “Per Gessle 2003”. I assume that this will increase the value of my guitar with x dollar. So, due to his signature my guitar is now worth [$100 + x]. A guitar, no matter the quality, gets its value increased by x as soon as Gessle writes his name on it.
The same seems to be true with Jeff Koons. An item, seemingly any readymade item, no matter how dumb or kitschy it may be, gets an increase in its value as soon as it is touched by the hands of Koons and thereby labeled “art”.
The left radicals who are protesting Nike and Asics should have to ask themselves what the difference is between earning profit from a sweatshop in Southeast Asia to selling a signed guitar (which, as it happens, is made in a sweatshop in Indonesia) on Ebay or trading cheap figurines (manufactured in sweatshops in China) or basketballs (also made in China) under your own name. For all we know, the left seems to attack Nike and Asics just because they thrive on the publicity this brings (few people would get upset if I sold my guitar on Ebay, other than Mr. Gessle himself, who I actually promised, at the time of the signing, that I would never trade it in for money).
Freedom of speech or Is the left fooling itself?
There can be no moral justification for limiting people’s right to trade with each other even though the appreciation of the value stems from emotional assessment.
Jeff Koons is clearly an artist who is reproducing banality. It is a form of rip-off-culture that bears the resemblance of Marcel Duchamp or Andy Warhol in the world of art, and Milli Vanilli in the world of pop music. It would be interesting to try to understand why in the world of art, this flagrant idea has lingered while businesses are being blamed for it.
But the question that is perhaps even more interesting from an economic point of view (perhaps even more so in a metaphysical scope) is the concept of private property, entitlement, and trade, and how far these values can be stressed in a world that is predominantly being run by brand managers (be it in the world of art as well as in the world of manufacture business). How are we to treat brand names when the reproduction actually is nothing more than a extra form of appreciation based on a former owner (shoes with a Nike-tag on them are worth more than shoes with a Payless tag)? Can the distinction of contracts bring any new clarity? In the Nike case there are contracts between the sweatshops and the brand manager, in the Koons case there are no such contracts.
Not only does this postmodern dilemma stress the problems of private property distinction. It also points out that the increasing use of brand names may instigate material/immaterial border-cases – almost as deontological siderestrictions but with the difference that they are now not only material or immaterial. For example: Can Koons be said to have an inherent right (for example as freedom of speech) to use Nike’s shoes in his next installation or sculpture? How far can we stress the right to someone’s name (brand) according to entitlement theory arrangements in situations like these?
IAPC - Consultants gone clueless?
Political consultants know a lot. But isn't it a little bit too early to give definite answers to an election just three days after the battle in Ohio? Doesn't this advise-on-demand risk to minimize the trustworthyness that is the consulting worlds bread and butter?
Btw... Kevin Newman, the former ABC News anchor, spoke at 11.45 on November 6 about “The View from the Press Box” - How foreign and domestic journalists impact and view the U.S. presidential election. Anyone who wants to fill me in on what he said?
Monday, November 22, 2004
U.S. Ambassador Teel Bivens in Lund
Mr Bivens apparantly spoke for about half an hour, leaving open for questions for another 30 minutes. He was very straight-forward and kept putting emphasis on just how much he liked president Bush.
The funniest punchline of the evening came after he received a question from the audience about a recent poll from D.C. which gave the Democrats support by more than 80 percent of the people working inside the Beltway. Mr Bivens replied: "Oh you're talking 'bout D.C., the city where the mayor got arrested for cocaine possession? Look, in the US there's only one poll we care about, it's on november 2nd every four years."
Economic theory explaining pack journalism
In the paper, we argue that we can explain the interactions between media pack hunts and the way they interact with public officials whenever there is an emerging crisis. By using the theoretical foundations of economics, it is possible to analyze the development of a media event in terms of a variety of game settings. (I have continued this line of research and I am right now writing on a paper about Arrow’s impossibility theorem and the general agenda-setting functions in political campaigns.)
Nobody that I have talked to, among public choice scholars, has said that PC has been implemented like this before. However, I recently found that Shanto Iyengar and Stephen Ansolabehere are implying that this may indeed be a very fruitful way of analyzing politics - they do so in the afterword to their book Going Negative. I strongly recommend it.
More on game theory and political communication:
Going through the basics… Why game theory? There are a number of different ways to deal with economics and political communication. Inis often possible to translate ordinary game theory papers on economic issues into a media context - see the Public Choice Society's conference papers. For those who need to brush up on their game theory mathematics, I recommend this page.
I also recommend the following Media link about the empirical field of study.
Media theory - the mainstream Chomskyans
I have now started to put the pieces together for the first chapters of my dissertation. There will not be as many remarks on structural determinism as in my previous book. Those of you who are interested in a report on Chomsky can read the following article I wrote a few years ago: Chomsky – Handelsresande i konspirationsteorier (Chomsky - a merchant in conspiracy theory).
(In the same category I have written a paper on how allegedly independent research on public policy issues is being framed by the Swedish government to fit an ideological pattern: Jeopardy med Jämit (Jeopardy with the Gender equality issue - you pose the question the government has already the answers.)
Friday, November 19, 2004
The Left and the Science Community
And I am far from alone in raising doubts about the impact the from the left. Today, Dan Klein (at this time, research fellow at the Ratio institute in Sweden) is featured in The NY Times in an article about his research on the left leanings in Academia.
Klein has written two papers about the political left now dominates the research staff in all scientific fields . [Abstract Paper 1, Abstract Paper 2] The papers can be dowloaded (in full) from The Ratio institute.
The South Will Rise Again
APSA – Election Special
John Kingdon was the moderator of a field of panelists who referred to the candidates from the Republican party as “they” and Democrats as “we” just a few times too many to make it sell as a non-partisan event. And even if everybody on the panel didn’t use these fine semantic distinctions the framing of the questions definitely left no one wondering on which candidate the panelists had cast their votes.
Bring One Democrat pollster to the table. Bring One Democrat scientist blogger (Ruy Teixeira). Bring one journalist from The Washington Post. And just to add a little flavor of impartiality – a representative from The Campaign Finance Institute.
Add them all together with John Kingdon and – simsalabim – a political science panel – as objective as science can be. It is an understatement of the year to say that Democra…sorry… the political science community isn’t working very hard to try and hide its partisan framings of issues.
Why in the world did APSA not let a Republican pollster get on the panel? Two weeks after the election - when the evangelical vote has been analyzed over and over again, and found to be nothing more than a phantom in pollsters minds (see my earlier posts on the subject) - the APSA panel lets a Democrat pollster (who happens to be an old student of Kingdon) suggest that "born-again Christians" were behind the entire Bush victory.
Link: Donkey rising
One of the main difficulties with a broader theoretical scope, as I have tried to apply it in my research, is that APSA, AEA and The Public Choice Society are getting farther away from eachother. Not only in the way their members might be biased in ideological terms, but also in the way they use premises for their research.
I recommend this guide to help answer the question: Why are Public Choice scholars different?
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Bias about the U.S. in Swedish Media
The one part of the debate I find most fascinating is when some of the most influential journalists on the panel argue that every journalist not only has to critisize Bush but that a journalist furthermore has a duty to editorialize against the Bush policies, since Bush is for capital punishment. (However, the same journalist seemed to be oblivious of the fact that Kerry favored capital punishment for terrorists.)
Life in a game theory setting
Interesting empirical study: Game theory can, in fact, explain why men and women are different - or, rather how men and women really act very similar, given their respective institutional restraints. I am looking forward to professor Gordon Tullock's upcoming book on the subject of human sexual behavior. In the meantime - if you haven't done so already - please read these two very popular books on the subject: Steven Pinker's How the Mind Works and David Barash and Judith Lipton's very insightful Myth of Monogamy. (In this genre, I would also recommend The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins.)
How to model the issue:
(I know that my Swedish colleague Peter Santesson-Wilson has some strong opinions on Pinker's work. I wonder what he would say about this, well, here it goes... my way) I would advocate Darwinian Politics by Paul H. Rubin as a good starting point of how to explain the differences in "The Battle of the Sexes". However - and this is important - people do not make choices based on marginal utility alone - and maybe Lipton's and Barash's conclusions rather should be discussed from a security-setting game model where the payoff for every individual is less important than the very signal of belonging in a community. Clearly, it seems too hasty an argument to say that studies like these can be discussed only in terms of marginal utility principles or the difference in viable micro-macro strategies. (In fact, this is probably better described as a coordination game with pending (and hidden) interest rates.)
To the individual, to leave the tribe is more dangerous than any outcomes within the community which is why the normal pareto-optimal actors would like the signalling game to be recognized. On the other hand - those who would be really interested in the marginal utility are the ones who act like extreme optimists. As interesting as they may be to study, they may cause some scientists to overlook the power of institutions.
New Sad News from Iraq + Condi Rice to take on Democrats in California?
Also - Condoleezza Rice is planning to run for the Senate when Dianne Feinstein is retiring in 2006?
Monday, November 15, 2004
Newsflash: Allegations on Falluja executions - another PR disaster in Iraq?
Cox: Raw video from the fighting in Falluja.
For updates: The Drudge Report
A bias quagmire - The Euro-U.S. cultural gap
Scandals at the NY Times
There are certainly more stories to be told about the reign of Howell Raines and the political impact of the New York Times.
Saturday, November 13, 2004
In the wake of the election - voter fraud
Yes, it is true - election outcomes are sometimes very hard to face. A lot of people could have prospered from a challengeable result. Prior to the election I visited the AEI where John Fund discussed voter fraud, and presented his book on the subject. Even though there is nothing that says Florida 2000 can't repeat itself, Fund seemed to be sure of at least one thing - that the U.S. has nothing to learn from other countries.
This became evident when I asked him what other countries (with few or non-existant cases of voter fraud) did right: Afterall – Australia has mandatory voting, with an average of more than 90 percent of voters showing up at the polls. And Australia haven’t been rocked by missing ballots or hanging chads. The same goes for countries like Sweden, Norway or Denmark, where voter turnouts are usually around 85-92 percent.
Fund didn’t seem to like the examples I brought up. His answer was as blunt as it was revealing of the U.S. predicament itself: “We will solve this. But we will do it according to American traditions”
What those American ways of life are? Voter fraud, anybody?
The West Wing
At this time, I would like to promote the campaign to create the XXVIII amendment.
Friday, November 12, 2004
Soros, where art thou?
Spins and sore losers
"Politics is a blood sport." Ronald Reagan
"Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time." Baretta
The spin is up. A number of Democrats should try to learn something from both Reagan and Baretta. Empty spinning becomes boring, especially when the spins are obviously cover-up attempts for a poor election result. Michael Moore, who predicted a landslide victory for Kerry, has been using the last week to create a parallel universe where apparently everything he says is true, as opposed to his claims about the real world. So, according to Moore – the Republican victory is the beginning of the end, because there is going to be a great divide between Republican fractions in Congress. And Moore seem to have his followers. Colleen Shogan from GMU Political Science Department is only too eager to approve of this spin in the Fairfax local edition of The Washington Post (November 11, not in the net-edition), while at the same time trying to argue that she is in fact not spinning at all. Judge for yourself.
Shogan in WP: ”I’m not a talking head, and my job isn’t to spin. But I do see a silver lining for the Democrats. President Bush’s second term could mark the beginning of the end for the Republican regime. We have already observed the early fissures of the coalition. The two dominant factions within the party, the “small government” libertarians and the interventionist “big government” social conservatives, may soon come to blow over emerging policy issues.”
Aaaah, sweet political science – when you’re lacking a decent theory you can always go back to good old wishful thinking. A victory is only the beginning of the end... Well, let's look at it from a more sober point of view - after all, it is not only the Republicans who face problems with internal fractions. Even Democrats have to deal with strategic positionings, where moderate senators like Joe Lieberman have to face the left-wing of Nancy Pelosi. And they didn't even win the election.
Wednesday, November 10, 2004
With "Swedish eyes" - How the U.S. Presidential Election was framed by Swedish journalists
The invited speakers, Thomas Nordegren from Swedish Public Radio (SR) and Lisa Karlsson (for the Swedish Public TV's (SVT) program Agenda), answered questions about Swedish media and the election, posed by the Swedish Embassy's Press Councelor Claes Thorson.
Thorson started off the discussion by declaring that both Mr. Nordegren and Mrs. Karlsson had asked about the crowd since they were nervous about the effect of a statement, made by the SR journalist (and former US Correspondent) Cecilia Uddén, who argued on Swedish radio that she didn't want to be objective or bi-partisan when she was reporting during the election. In fact, Uddén argued, she strongly supported John Kerry and had no intention of not letting it show. She was later pulled from the public broadcast network by her superiors and put in "quarantine" over the election. Which of course begs the question - how could she be so defiant in her argument and yet so sure of herself? At the time when she said it, how could she feel so certain that it was alright for a public service journalist to favor John Kerry? Maybe the answer is that she felt very secure, knowing full well that her fellow reporters at the Swedish public radio network, all agreed with her? In any way - by simply pulling her from the air does not help to solve the problem. The Swedish media's picture of the United States in general, and Republicans in particular, is a long overstatement of media bias.
Thomas Nordegren started off by explaining that Kerry was well liked among Swedes, because he is a "European type of intellectual." Mrs. Karlsson responded to the allegations about media bias by simply stating that she was bi-partisan. Her evidence for this claim was the following sentence: "I never said that Kerry was gonna win.[...] But you do what you have to do to balance and be impartial[...]"
When asked about the "reaction back home", Mrs Karlsson replied:
"I think the reaction in Sweden and Europe as a whole are similar. I've heard many of you here react to the election. And it was surprising for the Europeans too that Bush won with such a big margin. It was a chock, and they are nervous now. They are afraid and they do listen to Tom Delay when he says that we [the U.S.] are going to put God in the center of the debate."
Nordegren continued: "I think it is more of an attitude thing. Some of the more informed [Swedes] didn't think it would be a change in policies" [...]It is hard to explain to Swedish listeners why Bush is so well liked. I've done interviews with Jerry Fallwell and so on, but the listeners don't believe that this is a part of the debate. [...] And if I can go back, to the election and do something different, ... well, I followed Karl Rove, but I missed the evangelical part of the moral vote. But so did the BBC, and they have 40 journalists here." [Note: So did even Karl Rove himself as many evangelical societies have now explained that they were organising their efforts quite outside of the GOP movement. As the Washington Post reports it: "But the untold story of the 2004 election, according to national religious leaders and grass-roots activists, is that evangelical Christian groups were often more aggressive and sometimes better organized on the ground than the Bush campaign."]
Mrs Lisa Karlsson then closed the discussion with a statement that, more than anything, shows just how much she is buying into the Democrats' agenda: "This is a very divided country. The ones who are voting for Bush are the rural voters, those who are least likely to be hit by a possible future terrorist attack. They are also the ones who would benefit the most from Kerry's economic ideas about minimum wage. " [O really? A great number of the members of The American Economist Association (AEA) would argue that a minimum wage is directly harmful for workers, since it shifts the economy towards import alternatives. Any economic policy which drives up the prices on labor will increase unemployment rates. That's pretty basic economic theory. If Mrs Karlsson thinks that her editorialising is fair and objective news reportings, then I guess it is futile to discuss media bias with her.]
When I asked Mrs Karlsson about Mrs Uddén's statement on Kerry, she replied: "I think it was an unfortunate way to say what Cecilia Uddén said. And of course I don't agree. But I also don't agree with the statement that I have to be objective - or should I put it in this way - I should be bi-partisan. I am supposed to use my Swedish eyes when I am reporting. I have met Cecilia Uddén and maybe that's what she meant when she said what she said."
[Her "Swedish eyes"? Wonder what that might mean? A new way of defining a bias?]
I spoke with Mr. Nordegren after the public discussion. He agreed that the question about media bias was a problem which dealt with framing the news and putting different news pieces into perspective. Hence, it seemed as if he and Lisa Karlsson did have different opinions on the matter.
As for me, I read a few headlines from Swedish newspapers to the audience who was gasping for air. Lines like these: "Kerry is a more sophisticated politician than Bush, and maybe this country does not want such a president" (Lars Moberg, SVT), "Half of the American electorate wake up as losers today - how will that effect America?" (News anchor, SVT), "Even the weather responded to the election result and the night after the election became rainy and drizzly" (Aftonbladet) ... and so forth... (More headlines from Stockholm Spectator.)
Research about media bias is very interesting, and stimulating. And sometimes, just so very obvious.
Americaletter to Sweden
The Bush administration just got smaller. John Ashcroft leaving,... now what we all are looking for is of course a lot of scandals. It is no secret that Ashcroft didn't get along very well with the established media. (Even thought the well established media might have a few skeletons in their closets too - as documented in Hard News.)
What can we learn from the former Attorney General's office? I trust that Wonkette might be on any scandals that might appear on the horizon. Oh, and apparently Don Evans also left the administration. Nobody seems to care.