Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Merit beats “ocracies”


As far as you could see, among the endless lines of tents and waving standards, the broad maidan* was alive with foot battalions at drill, horse regiments at field exercise, and guns at practice — they were all uniformed and in perfect order, that was the shocking thing. Black, brown, and yellow armies in those days, you see, might be as brave as any, but they didn’t have centuries of drill and tactical movement drummed into ’em, not even Zulus, or Ranavalona’s Hova guardsmen. That was the thing about the Khalsa: it was Aldershot in turbans. It was an army. (Flashman and the Mountain of Light, p.58, Fontana Paperback edition, 1991)

tells us that constraints and barriers which stand in the way of merit are a problem since they favour the incompetent. Simple merit was the organising principle of the Kalsa as this passage (Wikipedia) shows:

The Sikh Army was strongly Punjabi with a predominantly Sikh and Hindu cadre but also had a significant multi-religious component made up from other parts of the Punjabi people: different religious backgrounds: Muslim, Hindu, Sikh and different tribal backgrounds: Pashtuns, Dogras, Khatris, Jatts, Nepalis and European mercenaries. A promotion to a higher military rank was based on military skill, not hereditary background, so was a classic meritocracy.

Competence then adds value providing merit can shine through irrational nonsense.


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Spare us the email yada-yada

The Economist recently pointed out what most of us suspected… that all that rubbish about lawsuits, illegality of reading wrongly addressed emails, attempts to disclaim various offences and other hopeful attempts to contract out of any conceivable whatever at the foot of emails is indeed rubbish. Apparently……

“no court case has ever turned on the presence or absence of such an automatic e-mail footer in America, the most litigious of rich countries” (Economist April 9 2011, p. 65).

They might well have added a further piece of irritating e-mail yada-yada… the “Please consider the environment before printing bla-bla…” . This plea should at least be balanced by something to the tune of “Please consider the unemployment of pulp and paper workers and their families before not printing this e-mail.”

For those who have ventured further along the demand curve, the message might be “Please consider how paper consumption leads to ever greater sized carbon sinks before not printing this e-mail.”

Presumably the harassed e-mail reader would, and is certainly advised, to pay as much attention to earth day sheep following footers as to bush lawyer automated font fodder – close to zero.


Friday, April 22, 2011

More regulators here to help you…

We know about this but it’s such an irresistible example….. especially for today’s loves of public interest, regulation, “responsible business” and various other costly fairy tales built on greed and envy. (HT Greg Mankiw)


Sunday, April 17, 2011

A poorly understood but critical message

“when everyone figures out how to get oil into tank cars, or cheap steel from Masabi ore, or close monitoring of retail inventories by computers, the profit goes back to normal, and we, poor exploited things, are left with cheaper kerosene and cheaper steel, and retail goods 30% cheaper than charged by our good neighbours the local hardware and clothing monopolists on Main Street.”  Deidre McCloskey, Bourgeois Dignity,  Univ Chicago Press, 2010.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Markets punish those who discriminate–the state’s record on the other hand is poor….

Boston Globe columnist Jeff Jacoby defends freedom of association. Here are Jeff’s concluding paragraphs:

Free and competitive markets aren’t thought of as promoting tolerance and reducing bigotry, yet they do so far more effectively than ever-more-detailed civil rights regulations. Writing in the 1730s, Voltaire famously described the London Stock Exchange as a place “where the representatives of all nations meet for the benefit of mankind. There the Jew, the Mohammedan, and the Christian transact together, as though they all professed the same religion, and give the name of infidel to none but bankrupts.” Gary Becker earned the 1992 Nobel Prize in economics in part for demonstrating that discrimination is economically detrimental — free markets penalize an employer who discriminates for reasons unrelated to ability and productivity.

Freedom of association is indispensable to making a free society work. No culture is without unfairness. But where men and women are unfettered in their freedom to form or avoid relationships with others — socially and economically — tolerance and cooperation increase, and ugly prejudice recedes. ( Cafe Hayek )


Saturday, April 9, 2011

Frozen in the headlights of our own cowardice

This is David Brooks in the NYT  on the US situation… but it is accurate in respect of the middle left and right of centre in N.Z.:

“The Democrats are on defense because they are unwilling to ask voters to confront the implications of their choices. Democrats seem to believe that most Americans want to preserve the 20th-century welfare state programs. But they are unwilling to ask voters to pay for them, and they are unwilling to describe the tax increases that would be required to cover their exploding future costs.” (HT M. Rev)

More immediately this is the exact nature of Bill English’s problem right now and the guts of the dilemma outlined by Fran O’Sullivan’s compelling analysis in the Herald.


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Cows and carbon emissions….

The simplicity is this namely....

1. Grass absorbs carbon (CO2) from the atmosphere.

2. Cows eat grass and belch, returning carbon to the atmosphere as methane (CH4).

3. As a greenhouse gas, methane is massively worse than CO2.

4. Methane survives a very short time, on a global warming timescale.

5. Methane rapidly breaks down and reverts back to the CO2 we started with.

Effect of a million cows on global warming?
Effect on global warming of reducing the herd by a million cows?

More if you need it.

Thanks to Ron Allan