Category Archives: Governance

Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years, 1830-1910 by Richard Evans

6/10. Death in Hamburg: Society and Politics in the Cholera Years, 1830-1910 by Richard Evans This book promises much but ultimately rather disappoints, largely because of its tendency to lose focus, sprawling into this of that side-avenue. Partly this must be due to a lack of clarity as to what the book is about — […]

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On the Optimal Size of Nations, Organizations etc

This is a topic I’ve thought about quite a bit before12 but on this particular occasion it arose from a discussion with a friend about the size of Cambridge colleges and the growth of the EU. Having (many smaller) different competing organizations rather than (fewer/one bigger) organization is: Good because of variation: the average rate […]

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Machiavelli on the Values of Foresight and Prompt Action in Statecraft as in Medicine

[After describing how the Romans behaved towards other powers both large and small] Because the Romans did in these instances what all prudent princes ought to do — taking care to concern themselves not only with present troubles, but also future ones. For these they prepared with every effort, because, when distant, it is easy […]

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Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-1963

I have just finished reading Taylor Branch’s Parting the Waters: America in the King Years 1954-63, the first volume of a trilogy. It is a fascinating book and fittingly for such a sprawling multi-faceted panorama the two most important themes were tangential ones. The first is the degree to which the perception of events, at […]

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What Financial Trading Systems Tell Us About Markets

From Hans Stoll, Electronic Trading in Stock Markets, JEP, Winter 2006, 20:1. Miscellaneous 1. Moving towards fully electronic market. NYSE has just merged with Archipelago and NYSE with Instinet. 2. Economies of scale and their affect on firm size and organization: “Technology has changed the nature of the specialist in other ways, too. In 1975, […]

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Politically, IP is where the Environmental movement was 30 years ago

This speech was delivered in my capacity as Director of FFII-UK in the “IP and the Knowledge Commons – Political Parties” panel of the TACD conference on The Politics and Ideology of Intellectual Property, which took place in Brussels on the 20-21 March 2006. Politically, IP is where the Environmental movement was 30 years ago […]

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Coase on Being Misunderstood

The world of zero transaction costs has often been described as a Coasian world. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is the world of modern economic theory, one which I was hoping to persuade economists to leave.

Ronald Coase, The Firm, The Market and The Law (Univ. of Chicago Press, Chicago, 1988), p. 174.

This is a point I often make to people, especially those doing Law and Economics who seem fixated on his 1960 JLE paper and the ‘Coase Theorem’ (assignment of property rights does not matter as bargaining will ensure the efficient outcome). The irony for anyone who reads the actual article is that that particular point is made briefly at the start and is there only to lead in to the main question: how should we set things up when bargaining is not possible.

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Parkinson’s Laws and Painting the Bikeshed

Law Number 1


General recognition of this fact is shown in the proverbial phrase ‘It is the busiest man who has time to spare.’ Thus, an elderly lady of leisure can spend the entire day in writing and dispatching a postcard to her niece at Bognor Regis. An hour will be spent finding the postcard, another in hunting for spectacles, half an hour in a search for the address, an hour and a quarter in composition, and twenty minutes in deciding whether or not to take an umbrella when going to the pillar box in the next street. The total effort that would occupy a busy man for three minutes all told may in this fashion leave another person prostrate after a day of doubt, anxiety, and toil.

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FFII Statement at WIPO IIM 13th April 2005

I authored the following in my capacity as Director of FFII-UK as the FFII statement at WIPO IIM on the Development Agenda. Submission of the Foundation for a Free Information Infrastructure, WIPO IIM 11th to 13th April 2005 First, at the outset Mr Chairman we would like to congratulate you, as well as the distinguished […]

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Second Life as Metaverse

Second Life is a massively-multiplayer world developed by Linden Labs. Unlike many other MMGs there is no particular aim, rather the intent is to live in the world and add to it. Thus importantly it is the game’s participants that create and develop the universe they inhabit (its creators explicitly invoke the Metaverse of Neal Stephenson’s Snowcrash as a model).

MMG (massively multiplayer games) solve the central problem that current computer technology faces in creating interesting games: namely no decent AI. Without AI all the interesting parts of a ‘world’ have to lovingly crafted by hand. Thus while we can draw some lots of pretty stuff we are a) we are severely limited in the size and variety of the world’s artifacts and geography b) /very/ limited in the other entities that we can interact with.

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