Odds and ends, 6/9/11


Here's a list of the best things I've read online over the last week or so. We're trying it out as some might find it interesting – it's a trial, so leave your suggestions in the comments.

The Most Important Economics Debate of the Interwar Period – Steven Horwitz

Austrian school economist Steve Horwitz says that the Hayek-Knight capital theory debate was the crucial economics debate of the 1920s and 1930s. Horwitz says that disagreements over the nature of capital and how decisions about its allocation are made that are at the root of both the socialist calculation debate and the Hayek-Keynes debate about economic stimulus and recessions.

Russia's Economy: Putin and the KGB State – Paul Gregory

Economist and Russian historian Paul Gregory argues that the street gangs of the Yeltsin era have been overtaken by the state KGB gang under Vladimir Putin. He says that weak property rights, a cronyist banking system and the insecurity of foreign investment in Russia will cause the Russian economy to stagnate.

North Korea: The Long Coma – Alex Tabarrok

Reviewing Barbara Demick's extraordinary study of ordinary people's lives in North Korea, Nothing to Envy, Alex Tabarrok reflects on the insulation that North Korea has had from the rest of the world, even compared with the Soviet-era Eastern Bloc. This was so tight that many North Koreans believed that their dystopian state was prospering relative to the rest of the world.

Labor is Not Fungible – Sheldon Richman/"Dhanson" 

Why didn't the Obama stimulus work? Because jobs are not the same, and labour is not homogeneous. An economic stimulus package disrupts the normal economy (by pulling some workers out of their gainful employment and by changing reskilling incentives for others) and boosting aggregate demand does nothing if the problem is a supply-side problem with finding the right people for jobs that really are in demand.

What is Wrong with Global Warming Anyway? – David Friedman

The key point here is uncertainty. Anybody who claims to know what any economy will look like in one hundred years is being foolish. We have little idea about the costs and benefits of a warmer temperature – or how rich, say, Bangladesh will be in a century, which is a very important factor when determining what (if any) action we should take to try to prevent global warming.

"the tax on freddos" – e-petitions

Thank goodness somebody is finally raising this important issue (Freddo bars). This is what e-petitions were made for.