April 25, 2010
Baseline + technology
One of the farmers develops an agricultural machine. Using the machine one farmer can farm 10 plots of land rather than 1. The technology is perfectly renewable – the machine is built and powered using certain types of plants that can be cultivated. Amortized over the entire lifetime of the machine, building, running and disposing of the machine requires the output of 5 plots of land.
The landowner, who wishes to minimize the land being used, strikes a deal with the farmer-engineer by which he is allowed to use the new machine and in return will supply the inventor with 3000 calories per day (who will build the machine and maintain it). The landowner then trains and employs one farmer, who, using the machine, cultivates 10 plots of land, produces the materials for the machine and, in addition, 10,500 calories in food per day. The landowner and the farmer-engineer get 3,000 calories per day each and the farmer-operator gets 2,000 calories (leaving some 2,500 calories surplus per day).
Compared to the baseline, only a third as much land is cultivated, and only a 10th as many people are fed by the food economy.
Baseline + bargaining
The farmers bargain collectively with the landowner and manage to reach a deal which grants each farmer being employed by the landowner 2070 calories per day. As a result, the landowner, who still wishes to consume 3000 calories per day, employs 100 farmers. Compared to the baseline, each of the farmers employed enjoys higher income and at the same time, more farmers are employed.
April 6, 2010
In a previous post I argued that Glenn Greenwald’s arguments against laws for the suppression of certain ideas cannot be effective until he establishes what makes expressing ideas different from other human activities that are regulated by law. Greenwald’s main argument, which seems generally on the mark and deserves close examination, is that regulations that bar the expression of certain ideas foreclose the possibility of certain political changes. It seems that Greenwald considers this effect as something clearly to be avoided (even at high potential short term cost) but, as is unfortunately his habit, he does not make his argument and his reasoning explicit. I previously committed to consider this argument in detail next. Before doing so, however, I want to consider a somewhat different argument mentioned by Greenwald. I therefore postpone treatment of the main argument to an upcoming post.
Greenwald’s other argument purporting to show why banning speech is not like banning other types of behavior is short-term utilitarian. Greenwald claims that “airing” ideas is “better” than suppressing them – “better”, we are given to understand, even for those who find those ideas wrong or offensive. Read the rest of this entry »