Blogging at A Thousand Nations

I’ve been doing some blogging at Let A Thousand Nations Bloom. I only have a couple of posts so far: one short post on Gibraltar succumbing to international pressure not to compete on taxes and another, which is a bit more substantial, on the possibility of voluntary institutions reducing demand for government.

Thesis, APEE, and the Absence of Blogging

So I haven’t been blogging much, obviously.

I’ve now submitted my thesis (which you can read here, if you like) and I’m heading to Vegas tomorrow for the APEE conference, where I’ll be presenting my Templeton essay. If any readers are going to be there, I’m always keen for a beer or two.

I’ll have a stack of tests to grade when I get back, but after that I’ll have an abundance of free time until I find full-time work. Expect the blogginess to resume before too long.

The Key Speech

John Key’s speech to parliament today hardly signalled the commitment to reform he has been talking up. Summaries of the speech here and here, with commentary with which I largely agree here.

There’s unlikely to be much in the way of tax reform.  With only the possibility of a 2.5% increase in GST, probably some minor tinkering with depreciation rules, and no indication of spending cuts, there could only be very minor reductions to income and corporate tax rates.  The rejection of the introduction of new taxes, notably on land, is good, though for public choice rather than public finance reasons. There was some empty rhetoric about welfare reform, but major changes to the god-awful Working for Families were ruled out.

One thing really pissed me off though: the suggestion of unspecified reforms to liquor licensing rules to address the Problem of Binge Drinking. This means that beer is likely to get more expensive and less conveniently available so the government seems like they’re doing something. Not cool, John.

A Blog without Posts is Scarcely a Blog at All

My apologies for the lack of posting here. I’ll keep the blog open, but I doubt the frequency of posting will increase any time soon. If you just can’t get enough of me, head over to, where I blog more often along with some other fine people. You can also see what I find interesting by following my shared items in Google Reader.

BrewDog Launches 32% ABV Beer

BrewDog, the Scottish brewing company behind the 18.2% ABV Tokyo* and the low alcohol Nanny State have revealed their newest brew: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, weighing in at a mighty 32% alcohol!

Managing director James Watt said a limited supply of Tactical Nuclear Penguin would be sold for £30 each.

He said: “This beer is about pushing the boundaries, it is about taking innovation in beer to a whole new level.”

Mr Watt added that a beer such as Tactical Nuclear Penguin should be drunk in “spirit sized measures”.

A warning on the label states: “This is an extremely strong beer; it should be enjoyed in small servings and with an air of aristocratic nonchalance. In exactly the same manner that you would enjoy a fine whisky, a Frank Zappa album or a visit from a friendly yet anxious ghost.”

Want! Predictably, the wowsers aren’t too pleased about it:

However Jack Law, of Alcohol Focus Scotland, described it was a “cynical marketing ploy” and said: “We want to know why a brewer would produce a beer almost as strong as whisky.”

(Hat tip: @epicbeer)

Economic Anthropology Seminar

I’ve always been interested in economic anthropology, and think it’s a field unjustly neglected by economists.  The Nobel Committee’s recognition of Elinor Ostrom, whose work is based significantly on ethnographic field-work, will hopefully get more economists interested.

I also think the field also has a lot to offer libertarians. Capitalism is frequently charged with creating inauthentic desires within people. We tend to deny this by saying that expensive luxury goods really do improve the consumer’s material well-being. I think a better answer is to point to the ubiquity of material production and exchange aimed at social, rather than material material ends, across human societies. You say crass consumerism; I say culture.

Anyway, that’s all a preface to passing this along, which came in my email today:

Research Seminar

(Anthropology – Job Applicant)

2:00pm – 3:00pm WEDNESDAY 21 October 2009

A4 Lecture Theatre, University of Canterbury

All those attending this seminar are invited to morning tea and discussion after the seminar in the Sociology and Anthropology Common Room, Level 3 Link Block, University of Canterbury.

Creating art, linking culture: social relations and material culture in Samoa

Tobias Sperlich (University of Regina)

The importance that objects play in the creation and maintenance of social relations in Samoa has long been recognized in the ethnology of Samoa and, in fact, all of Polynesia and much of the Pacific. However, many of these studies have focused on the use and exchange of objects among few individuals and relatively small, geographically close groups (seen on such occasions as funerals or marriages). The use and exchange of objects between larger and geographically more remote groups can, however, create similar social and political ramifications, as the work of scholars such as Tapsell has shown. The concept of objects as ‘ambassadors’ has also gained currency among museum specialists dealing with issues of repatriation and the proper care for objects from the Pacific. In this paper, I will discuss how, from a Samoan perspective, objects are seen as essential in the formation and preservation of social ties between individuals, groups and entire countries. Using examples from my past research and from ongoing projects, I will illustrate how objects mediate the distance created between people by geography and history.

All those attending this seminar are invited to morning tea and discussion after the seminar in the Sociology and Anthropology Common Room, Level 3 Link Block, University of Canterbury.

The Unintended Usefulness of Fire Drills

Eric opines:

We have fire drills here at Canterbury once per semester to make sure that folks know what to do when the buzzers ring. Very annoying, and it’s pretty unclear to me that they do much to improve preparedness (what’s so hard about walking down the stairs anyway?)

I agree that fire drills don’t do much to make people better at exiting buildings, and any minuscule improvement certainly wouldn’t be worth the inconvenience of regular drills. I suspect, though, that they do lead to a significantly safer and more orderly exit in the event of a fire. My folk understanding of fire safety (which I can’t be bothered confirming) tells me that panic and the possibility of trampling are greater risks during a building evacuation than dawdling. By making a genuine fire alarm seem like an annoying demonstration of concern for health, fire drills keep people calm in the event of a real fire.

The ostensible purpose of fire drills is to make people more aware of the possibility of fire, which is supposed to make them safer. The real effect is to make them less aware, which in fact makes them safer. I’m sure this is entirely unintentional, and I suspect real fires are too infrequent to make the improvements of safety from drills worthwhile.

Cosmic Jewish Zombie


Seems about right. I’m guessing all religious people feel the same way as Father Dougal deep down:

Hat tip: Adam Mueller

Now That’s Marketing

I’ve been really impressed with the online marketing campaign for Free to Choose Media’s upcoming documentary The Power of the Poor (which features Hernando de Soto and is bound to be excellent; airs October 8 on PBS). They are running a blog contest, with a first prize of $250 plus a DVD of the show. That’s pretty low cost, and is getting them a lot of publicity ’round the free market economics blogosphere. (It’s only open to U.S. legal residents, so I can’t enter.)

They’re also making good use of twitter. I suspect they’re following everyone mentioning The Power of the Poor, and liberally posting links to blog posts. Again, very low cost with the potential to make a big aggregate difference in publicity.

Well done, chaps! It’s good to see such a worthy project getting the marketing it deserves. People need to see this film (including me; anyone know how those of us outside the U.S. can see it?).

Norman Borlaug, the Greatest Person Ever, has Died

Since he’s not a eccentric pop star, Norman Borlaug’s death is unlikely to be particularly newsworthy. Here’s a short video outlining his contributions to human wellbeing:

PC has a nice round-up of obituaries, etc.