Technology and Public Goods

As a wise man once taught me in a public choice class, excludability depends on the state of technology. Example:1 the Pay & Sit park bench.

Design student Fabian Brunsing has devised a fiendish device that makes pay toilets seem positively munificent: Dubbed “Pay & Sit: The Private Bench,” it consists of a bench covered with retractable metal spikes and a coin slot. If you want to sit down on the bench without an array of spikes jamming you in the keister, you’ve got to pay €0.50 (about 70 cents US).

As seen below, this causes the spikes to retract so you can sit on the bench, and also activates a timer. Shortly before the timer expires, you’re warned by a buzzer to get up; then, the spikes shoot back up. Beware!

Spikes, it seems, provide strong incentives.

Hat tip: Anthony Martin.

1. Jumper Colon!

How to Start a Movement

Fun video from TED with important implications for libertarians:

Green Police

A glimpse of the future from Audi’s Superbowl ad:

Hat tip: In The Agora.

Fear the Boom and Bust

Hayek versus Keynes rap battle.

Many hat tips; most recently Daniel Aguilar via email, which gave me the impetus to post.

I hope Russ Roberts and the econstories crew will consider a rap video of Tullock explaining why government performs poorly. I imagine a hype-man (Charles Rowley?) yelling “Trapzoid, motherfuckers!” somewhere in the chorus.

Policing in New Zealand

Reading the online version of my local paper today, I was struck by the differences between New Zealand and the United States. The top story – so I presume it’s on the front-page of the dead tree version – has the headline “Armed police brought in to arrest man in Christchurch.”

This obviously wouldn’t be newsworthy in United States or other countries with highly militarized police forces.  American officers routinely carry pistols and, if TV shows like Cops are any indication, are willing to get them out at every opportunity. Down here, the police don’t carry firearms and the use of the Armed Offenders Squad is relatively rare.

I think this is a major factor in the general professionalism and reasonableness of New Zealand cops. While there are bound to be a few sociopaths in any police force, police brutality and arrogance seem much less common here than in the States.

Compare and contrast:

To my knowledge, no reliable measures of police misconduct exist, but I don’t think this is just denominator-blindness: pointing guns at, tasing, pepper-spraying, or handcuffing people not posing any immediate threat seems to be common practice in the US, but is very rare here.

Guns and tasers give cops a greater sense of authority and dominance. It’s a cliché, but power does corrupt. I challenge anyone to watch video of the Stanford Prison Experiment and maintain that it’s possible to give person power over another without it being abused:

A bunch of normal young guys were randomly assigned to be either prisoners or guards in a mock prison. The experiment was due to run for a week, but had to be called off early after the guards became increasingly cruel – with situations eerily similar to those in Abu Ghraib – and the prisoners increasingly accepted the dominance of the guards. Normal people became either sociopaths or cowering messes depending simply on the roles they were assigned.

There are frequent calls to arm the New Zealand police, especially after an officer is killed or injured on the job, and the use of tasers is becoming more common. Needless to say, I think this is a very bad idea. Arming the police might make them slightly more capable of fighting genuine crime, but it’s almost certain to make them into a group to be feared by innocent New Zealanders.

Opposition to an armed police force isn’t based on nostalgia, as some would claim, but an understanding of human psychology. Citizens should not be afraid of their police, and police should definitely not be pointing guns at citizens without a very good reason for doing so.

Glenn Beck Suggests Liberalized Medical Marijuana is a Tool of Tyranny

Skip to about the 4-minute mark. What a dick:

Libertarian?

Glenn Beck is a complete and utter bigot.  That’s hardly news, but this anti-atheist rant is particularly icky:

Hat tip: Timothy Sandefur

Documentary Series on New Zealand’s Free-Market Reforms

The excellent 1996 documentary series Revolution is now available to watch online at NZ on Screen. I may be biased, but I see the reforms which took place here in the 1980s and ’90s as one of the most interesting series of political events in recent world political history. I haven’t seen the series in a few years, so I’ll give it another watch sometime soon.

It’s worth the price of admission to see a drunk Robert Muldoon call an early election, alone.

Hat tip: KiwiBlog

Police State – The Militarization of the Police Force in USA

Inside the Mind of a Politician: Taxation is Voluntary

Something about withholding taxes. I don’t get it.

It’s possible to support government without being a complete moron. Denying that government is force is not the way to do it.

Hat tip: The Peace, Freedom and Prosperity Movement.

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