Friday, September 22, 2017

Did Anyone Record my Debate with Austin Petersen?

I debated him at the Young Americans for Liberty national convention on anarchism vs minarchism. I unfortunately did not record the debate, and YAL didn't either. 

It occurred to me that, since nowadays practically everyone has a smartphone which doubles as, among many other things, a recorder, someone in the audience probably recorded the debate. If so, I would be interested in getting, and webbing, a copy.

A commenter has now pointed me at a recording of the debate that someone has webbed.

I live in a world where almost everyone in my audience has a video camera disguised as a phone in his pocket and where I can put a question to the world at large, as I did in this post, and get an answer in three days.

For those unhappy with how rarely I post here nowadays, the main reason is that I am active as a commenter on my favorite blog, Slate Star Codex, which I highly recommend. I will continue to post here from time to time when I have something I feel like writing about.

On another subject, Eric Raymond has an interesting post up today, arguing against the destruction of Confederate Statues on the grounds that they, the treatment of Lee in the North as well as the South as a hero rather than a traitor, and a bunch of other things were part of a successful attempt on both sides to heal the wounds of the Civil War.

Reading it, it occurred to me that it parallels what is happening at the end of my second novel, Salamander. There has been a rising attempting to reverse the result of an earlier succession struggle, it has failed, and the victorious incumbents are deliberately offering very generous terms to the losers for essentially the same reason Eric describes.

The issue comes up in the sequel, which I am currently working on. The following is the relevant passage, spoken several years later by a secondary character who was involved in the rising and is now arguing against another attempt:
“Don’t know if you remember, but a bit before the mountain blew up, all Earl Eirick’s food stores went up in flames. Figure the Prince and his mages did it somehow. With no food and no Forstish army, we were in pretty poor shape. Prince could have offered terms a fair bit worse than he did, asked for the Earls’ heads, maybe some others, maybe mine. Sent all of us he didn’t trust north, put his people in the holds. From where he sat, we were traitors tried to bring in a Forstish army, take his capital, mebbe kill him and his brother. Not a lot we could have done to stop him once the rest of the royal forces showed up–can’t keep an army in the field without food.

“I was the one brought the Prince’s terms back to the Earl, good terms considering. Duke Morgen gave ‘em to me–didn’t even know the Prince was in the keep till he stood up to guarantee ‘em.

“One part you don’t know, cause I never told anyone but the Earl. Morgen’s daughter that’s Princess Mariel now, Prince’s wife. Maybe widow. At the College with me. Knew her pretty well. After I got the terms from her father, Prince endorsed them, still wasn’t sure we could trust ‘em, considering what rode on it. Asked Mari. Prince had proposed to her during the siege. Figured she should know.

“She said they would keep the terms. And why. Prince and Duke wanted to tie the kingdom back together, had worried about it a long time. Reason to give us generous terms. Reason to keep them. Told Earl Eirick. He accepted the Prince’s terms. They kept them.

“Try to break up the kingdom, steal the throne from the Prince’s heir, I’ll do what I can to stop you. Asgeir too.”

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Reviving the Living Paper Project

A very long time ago, I wrote some computer programs to go with my price theory textbook. The idea, in each case, was to do something on the computer that could not be done on paper. My favorite was a program I called curvedraw, which let you draw a total cost curve freehand on the computer. As you did so, the computer drew the corresponding marginal cost and/or average cost curves. At any point you could switch from drawing total cost to drawing one of the other two, at which point the computer would take over drawing the total cost curve. You could click on any part of the total cost curve and have the program draw a tangent with horizontal length one, hence vertical length equal to the slope, i.e. the marginal cost, thus seeing visually why the marginal cost curve was what it was. The idea was to teach the student to intuit the relation between total, marginal and average, between a function, its derivative, and its average.

My plan was to produce more programs and offer to customize them to other textbooks, and I sketched out ideas for some of them. I also had a design for a computer game in which the player was  building a trade league, an "empire" based not on conquest but on mutual advantage. An early version was written  by a programmer friend of mine but the living paper project eventually died, since neither I nor my friend was willing to put enough time and effort into it.

I put up a description of the project a few years ago, in the hope of bringing it back to life as open source. That may now be happening.  Ricardo Cruz has been looking at doing my programs in javascript so that anyone could try them using the browser. He has asked me to announce the mailing list [1] and the github page [2]:


Monday, June 19, 2017

Shanghai and Batumi

Two cities I have enjoyed visiting and hope to visit again. They are quite a long distance apart and in many ways very different, but they have one thing in common. In both cities, all the architects are crazy.

Not, however, in the same way. Shanghai architects are science fiction crazy:

 A spherical building of glass

A skyscraper with a stylized Saturn on top. 

Or a space station.


A very large transformer, about to transform.

Batumi architects are fantasy crazy. 

Build a tower. Take a bite out of one side. Insert a magic spinning array of capsules.

Each, presumably, containing someone. Or something.

A three pointed tower, complete with clock and gilded dome.

A steampunk palace.

The Poor Man's Air Conditioning

It has been very hot in San Jose the last few days. One solution is air conditioning, which we have and sometimes use. The other is to open the windows in the evening, when it cools off, close them in the morning. Sometimes–last night, for instance–that cools the house faster than air conditioning. And it doesn't show up on our electric bill.

I have long wondered why there isn't an automated version available, or if there is and I haven't come across it. It would be easy enough to have an insert for a window that was controlled by a simple thermostat. If the inside temperature is both above your optimal and higher than the outside temperature, open to let air in, if not close. A few such inserts should do, automatically and more reliably, what we do by hand. For an improved version, provide the insert with a fan--that uses some power, but much less than an air conditioner.

Does anyone know of a commercially available version of such a system for home use? Alternatively, am I missing some reason why it isn't as good an idea as I think?

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Embedded Economics: v. 0.1

I have just webbed the first draft of the project I have been discussing here, a collection of short works of literature that contain economics with some brief comments by me. Most of the works are available online, so I could do it as a collection of links without first getting copyright permission for the pieces I included. There are, however, a few pieces missing as a result.

The draft is here. Comments and suggestions for additional things to include are welcome. For a more detailed description of what sort of things I want, see my recent posts.

Suggestions for a better title are also welcome.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Legal Systems Very Different From Ours

I have just webbed the latest draft of the book I have been writing. To give you a quick idea of what's there, here is the table of contents:


1.      Imperial Chinese Law
2.      Romani Law
3.      The Amish
4.      Jewish Law
5.      Islamic Law
6.      When God is the Legislator.
7.      Pirate Law
8.      Prisoners’ Law
9.      Student Law [Not yet in]
10.    Embedded and Polylegal Systems
11.    Saga-Period Iceland
12.    Somali Law
13.    Early Irish Law
14.    Comanche, Kiowa and Cheyenne: The Plains Indians
15.    Feud Law
16.    England in the Eighteenth Century
17.    Athenian Law: The Work of a Mad Economist
18.    Enforcing Rules
19.    The Problem of Error
20.    Making Law
21.    Guarding the Guardians
22.    Ideas We Can Use


Comments welcome.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

My European Speaking Trip

For people interested in attending, here is the list of the open talks:

Gothenburg, Sweden, May 24, 18:00 CEST
"A World of Strong Privacy: Anarcho-Capitalism Online"
Allégården, Södra Allégatan 4, Gothenburg
Stockholm, Sweden, May 25, 17:00
"The Confederation of Liberal and Conservative Students - Speakers evening with David Friedman"
"Market Failure: An Argument Both for and Against Government"
Blasieholmsgatan 4a

Batumi, Georgia, European Students for Liberty Batumi Conference, May 27
Shota Rustaveli University   11:30 – 12:30 "Market Failure, an Argument Both For and Against Government"
14:45 – 15:30 "Feud Law: The Logic of Private, Decentralized Law Enforcement" 
17:30 –18:00 – "Future Imperfect: Many Ways the World Might Change in Your Lifetime"

Moscow: May 29, 7:30 P.M.
"Zombie-Visionary: Can We Control the Future?"
Osobnyak na Volkhonke, Bolshoy Znamensky 2 Building 3, 2 floor
People need to apply at
A recording of the talk is now webbed. You have to figure out what to click on to turn on the sound, however. And what you will hear is in Russian--the simultaneous translation (I don't speak Russian), not the English.

May 30, 7:30
"Legal Systems Very Different From Ours"
Higher School of Economics, Staraya Basmannaya, 21/4 Building 1, 4 floor
People need to apply at and have their ID with them, since it is on a university campus.  

Graz, Austria, June 6
University of Graz, Resowi Building, 2nd floor
"The Case for Anarchy," 11:30am, room SZ15.22
"Climate Change, Population, and the Problem with Externality Arguments, 6pm, room SZ15.21
Link to organizer with some additional information (partly in German): 

Budapest, Hungary, June 7, 6 P.M.
"The past and future of law without the state"
Kossuth Klub, Múzeum u. 7, Budapest 1088, Hungary
Facebook event
Facebook page for details and discussion