Cold Soup / Economics / Policy / Technology

Cold Soup: Evonomics, innovation commons, and climate agnostics

Our weekly roundup of links, events, and stories from the interwebs. Served cold, but appetising all the same.

The Ethereum Developer Conference, ÐΞVCON1, took place in London this week. The whole event was live-streamed and can be found here. The open-source, knowledge-sharing ethos that sits behind events like this is an example of what Jason Potts and Darcy Allen call an innovation commons:

In an innovation commons entrepreneurs pool innovation resources (i.e. inputs into the innovation process) under defined access and governance rules. Innovation requires entrepreneurship, which requires information about market opportunities. This information has interesting characteristics that lend itself to becoming a common pool resource: it is dispersed about the economy; difficult to value in its parts; and largely produced through experiment and experience.

In fact, Ethereum co-creator Gavin Wood in his talk at GETD#3 Summit & Hackathon Berlin described the Ethereum platform itself as an innovation commons (from 6:20 in this video):

If we have a single computer in the world that everybody uses it gives a certain number of benefits. Essentially the computer becomes an innovation commons. It’s a commons because we’re all free to put our code on this computer and to execute. But of course the code can interact with other people’s code and we can imagine many systems emerging from this rules-based commons.

Also this week, John Roskam and James Patterson of the Institute of Public Affairs were in New York at the Atlas Network to contest the final of the 2015 Templeton Freedom Award. They were honoured for their ‘Stop the Carbon Tax’ campaign, but unfortunately went down to the Acton Institute and their short film, Poverty Inc. Congratulations to all the finalists.

Speaking of climate change, here is Rafe Champion at Catallaxy Files on Popper on the danger of Big Science and here is Popper on the scientific method: “Science, and more especially scientific progress, are the results not of isolated efforts but of the free competition of thought. … Ultimately, progress depends very largely on political factors; on political institutions that safeguard the freedom of thought.”

Stephan Livera attended a UNSW Climate for Change panel discussion this week, and wondered: Are we still allowed to be climate agnostic? Indeed, was Popperian freedom of thought on display from the panel? His post exudes a fairmindedness and nuance that is all-too-lacking from the climate change public policy debate:

Ultimately, it’s not that I deny the existence of the climate change problem, or that humanity should not ‘act’ on that problem. It’s that libertarians advocate for a different sort of action to what progressives support. Rather than top-down carbon emission reduction schemes, government regulation and subsidies, I am for bottom-up wealth creation and climate adaptation. Rather than the command economy approach, libertarians are supportive of making the fullest use of distributed information. Think market prices of coastal land, market prices of energy, futures markets for commodities, and entrepreneurial efforts in using technology to improve human quality of life.

A couple of nice pieces from the IPA’s Mikayla NovakFirst, why the loosening of China’s infamous one-child policy is unlikely to fix gender imbalance. As is often the case, knowledge problems predominate: “the future growth of the Chinese economy will be very heavily constrained by the heavy-handedness of its demographic central planners.” Second, she makes the case that welfare reform must contribute to budget repair: “Middle income earning households on average receive more in benefits ($462 per week) than they pay in taxes ($348 per week).” The full report is here.

The Turnbull government will be much better equipped to tackle the budget repair task following the appointment of Dr Alex Robson to Turnbull’s economic advisory team: “Dr Robson has written numerous papers for the Libertarian think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs, as well as for Quadrant magazine. He is professionally affiliated with the Mont Pelerin Society.” He’s also an affiliate of the Public Choice Society, having published on Coasean bargaining in its leading journal (an ungated version here), and has written a new institutionalist book on Law and Markets. As it turns out one of Robson’s final acts in his academic post was to examine an unnamed student’s PhD thesis. Small world. Let’s hope Turnbull listens to Dr Robson, and we can move past the days of Abbott-Hockey’s economic incompetence.

I’ll be heading over to New Orleans later this week for the Society for the Development of Austrian Economics meeting at the Southern Economic Association conference. I was fortunate enough to be judged co-winner of the 2015 Don Lavoie Memorial Graduate Student Essay Competition for my paper on spontaneous order in the formation of non-territorial political jurisdictions. The SDAE program is here: I’m looking forward to the sessions on the economics of science and applied epistemics, lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina, the economics of anarchy, and the political economy of war. I’ll aim to give a run-down of my paper and a recap of the conference next week.

Here’s a magnanimous take by Peter Boettke on the missteps and misdiagnoses of David Sloane Wilson’s ‘evonomics’ crusade:

The problem isn’t Adam Smith or F. A. Hayek, or even Milton Friedman, the problem correctly identified lies in Keynes and then Samuelson and what the Samuelsonian transformation of economics resulted in, and has continued to constrain economic thought from correcting ever since.

In the end he suggests that Hayek and the “mainline” of economic science and political economy must be recognised again before the conversation between economic and evolutionary theorists can advance. I think Boettke and Wilson would be ideal participants in such a conversation, and it seems we can hope for some cooperation between the two:

The December 2015 issue of The Review of Austrian Economics is now available, and features a symposium on William Easterly’s The Tyranny of Experts (including a piece by 2015 economics Nobel winner Angus Deaton). I should mention that the September 2015 issue of Public Choice also features a symposium for the 50th anniversary of Mancur Olson’s The Logic of Collective Action. And just released is the December 2015 issue of The Journal of Institutional Economics, featuring a back-and-forth on the economics of property rights. Read all three.

Finally, the last call for the 2016 Public Choice Society Meetings is out. I think I’ll submit my paper on non-territorial internal exit for the conference (and the Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Prize) and hope to make it over to Florida in March. Wish me luck!

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