Tens of thousands of teachers are blocking highways and seizing
government buildings across Mexico to protest a federal education
reform ending their longtime practice of selling their jobs or giving
them to their children.
Of course, if one pursues this line of thought it raises serious questions about the tenure that is a universal feature of U.S. higher education, since it gives a prof a property right (a life estate) in his job. It is tenure that frees up portions of the academic class to become activist opposers of other people's property rights, since academic productivity is no longer required.
In telecom lingo, “white spaces” is the spectrum
adjacent to existing TV channels, which now goes unused for fear of
interference with TV. High tech companies are pushing to open it up to general,
unlicensed use, arguing that the technology is now good enough so that devices
can be equipped with adequate interference-prevention ware. TV broadcasters are
Additionally, Martin said that all devices operating on the
spectrum would have to have sensing capabilities that would automatically shut the
device down if it comes into interference with broadcast spectrum, as well as
access to a geo-location database that tracks mobile devices by locating them
through their specific IP address, media-access-control address,
radio-frequency identification or other location-based information.
The fundamental debate is between a “property rights” model,
in which spectrum is individually owned, and a “commons” model, in which spectrum
is open to all, with non-interference enforced by the government. It is an
extremely interesting question, and the arguments, at their best, are
articulated at a high level – see the interchange between Phil Weiser/Dale
Hatfield of the University of Colorado and Tom
Hazlett of George Mason.
But Hazlett also makes a crucial
point in the course of discussing the differences:
Both approaches aim to facilitate a rights
regime that enables markets to allocate radio spectrum, abandoning the
traditional regime in place since 1927, wherein administrative allocation
decides how to use the spectrum resource.
So it looks like progress
will be made, however it turns out.
The debate is also reminiscent
of the arguments over the public lands that roiled America in the 19th Century.
That one was resolved in favor of the idea of the public lands as a commons, to
which all were to have access, with title to valuable resources determined
according to Lockean criterion of mixing your labor with nature. It worked out
sometimes, and sometimes not (for example, water rights are still
frozen into un-economic forms). It would be interesting for the FCC to pan the
stream of our national experience with the public lands to see if there is any
useful gold there.
The Fall issue of the Claremont Review of Books is now available. CRB is, in my opinion, the most consistently thoughtful and rewarding opinion journal in existence, and anyone who does not subscribe is missing out on a good thing.
The issue has my review of Jonathan Zittrain's The Future of the Internet -- and How to Stop It. Among my points:
[O]ne must realize that it is not a stand-alone work. Zittrain is part
of a movement of cyber-world legal academics centered at Harvard and
Stanford, but with outposts at Berkeley, Duke, Yale, and other major
schools. Its creed is drawn from works by, inter alia,
Lawrence Lessig of Stanford, who has written a series of books on the
open internet and the deleterious impacts of intellectual property;
Yochai Benkler of Harvard, who argues that "social production" by peers
acting on communitarian rather than market incentives constitutes a new
mode of production that will rival capitalism; Tim Wu of Columbia, who
says Wikipedia "is best known for popularizing the concept of network neutrality";
and William Fisher of Harvard, who wrote a book on sources of support
for intellectual creativity in a world where property rights are both
undesirable and unenforceable.
The movement can be
characterized by five core sentiments, which include communitarian and
democratic idealism, disdain for property rights (especially
intellectual property), antipathy toward markets, social
libertarianism, and hostility to a group of corporate enemies-among
them the content companies (especially the music industry), the telecom
carriers (Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast), and Microsoft.
My judgment of the movement is skeptical:
Free and easy with the fundamentals of economic thought, blind to
the illuminations of history, and enamored with the wisdom of crowds
(which easily turns into the madness of mobs), the movement floats off
into abstractions about net neutrality, universal generativity,
communitarian sharing, and semiotic democracy.
(Come on, Jim -- stop the pussy-footing and tell us what you really think!)
The review will be available on the Claremont website in a few weeks -- or you can do what you should do anyway and subscribe.
Combatants in the financial world say that much of the current volatility and fear is because the system has become opaque. Why did AIG suddenly need $37B more? No one knows. Nor does anyone understand why Treasury allowed Lehman to go bankrupt in an uncontrolled way, leaving it to the mercies of a bankruptcy system which has as its dominant principle that the lawyers get to pick the meat from the carcass.
People who were customers of Lehman in that they had prime
brokerage accounts now find that they were actually creditors, and
millions of their dollars are gone. To say that every customer is supposed to run an independent check on the viability of everyone with whom it deals is a sure prescription for gridlock. Lehman was a renowned firm with a high rating from agencies which had access to non-public information; if the financial system is to work at all, that must be good enough.
Nor do people in the financial world understand why the government was so cavalier about the preferred stock in Fannie and Freddie; whatever the sins and corruption surrounding the GSEs, banks and foreign governments were, as late as last December, encouraged by the government to treat the preferred as rock solid, and the sudden wipeout has greatly degraded the value of government statements.
Nor has the government moved to force banks and others to reveal the truths of their positions. The assumption now is that anyone who asks you to trade knows something that you don't, so don't make the deal.
The government talks of getting the money flowing, but to do this it must first get the information flowing. Somehow, all the regulation of the past few years has increased the opacity rather than lessened it. For example, nothing in the 10Ks of the financial firms revealed the actual risks, despite the endless litanies of rote "risk factors" they are forced to contain.
I asked a securities lawyer "where was the SEC during all this?"; he answered: "busy making my life a living hell every time I misplaced a comma in a prospectus."
Income inequality in the United States consists of two
gaps. The first gap is an upper-lower gap, between those with a college
education and those without. The second is an upper-upper gap, between
those with high incomes and those with extraordinarily high incomes.
The upper-lower gap reflects changes in the structure of the
economy. New technologies place a premium on cognitive ability. Harvard
University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have dubbed this
“skill-biased technological change.” In today’s economy, more value
added comes from knowledge work, and relatively less comes from
Kling goes on to discuss policy options that might address inequality, such as tax and immigration reform options.
The FT reports that the CCP is "expected to enshrine the rights of rural
citizens to transfer or rent their 30-year land leases to other
individuals or companies and possibly allow that land to be used for
collateral to access loans."
Such a step would horrify remaining Maoists, of course, but it would also allay the outrage that is causing tens of thousands of demonstrations, as land is summarily taken from farmers and put to new uses, with minimal compensation.
Communist theory is that the land belongs to the people, so the farmer has no right to it anyway and cannot complain when its use is changed. But the farmers don't see it that way, and what they do see is Party officials getting paid by industrial and real estate developers for enabling the transition. When people talk of "corruption" in China, to a large extent they are talking about these payments to officials for shifts in land use.