Showing posts from April, 2006

The People and the Elite

Some people believe that we are all equal; that everyone is equally important, and that everyone's contribution to society should be counted as equal. People who believe this also tend to believe that whatever success one achieves in life is not primarily due to work, sweat or talent, but rather through luck; and that, therefore, people who have achieved something (= have been very lucky) should part with their spoils in favor of people who haven't achieved much (= haven't had luck). A large proportion of people in Europe subscribe to these or similar beliefs. I am not one of these people. While I agree that partly an ingredient of a person's financial success is luck, I think that the luck factor has mostly contributed its share by the time one is born. One is either granted an intelligence or other traits through which one will achieve success; or else one is born into a family which inculcates in the person constructive values that will help this person succeed; or

The postal system needs a DNS-like layer

The whole postal system lacks the equivalent of a DNS layer. You don't manually type in, you go to Likewise, you shouldn't have to jot down the complete, current physical address of anyone. Instead, people and companies should have unique "mail names"; you would simply put down the mail name of the person you want to send something to, and the postal service would look up their current address and send it to them. All it takes is some rudimentary insight on behalf of the Postal Service to put this into action, and it would greatly improve the reliability of mail for everyone.

U.S. banking history: free banking era

I yesterday ran across an interesting speech by Greenspan illuminating the history of U.S. banking. From 1837 to 1863, the United States did not have a central bank, and it was relatively easy to register as a bank and issue money. I found the following part of his speech remarkable: While free banking was not actually as free as commonly perceived, it also was not nearly as unstable. The perception of the free banking era as an era of "wildcat" banking marked by financial instability and, in particular, by widespread significant losses to noteholders also turns out to be exaggerated. Recent scholarship has demonstrated that free bank failures were not as common and resulting losses to noteholders were not as severe as earlier historians had claimed. The American Currency Exhibit at the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco states a few interesting factoids about the free banking period, mostly about the negative but funny aspects that are unimaginable today. However, Gree

David Brin: The Transparent Society

Wei Dai has just informed me that David Brin has already written a book about issues very close to those I raised in my earlier blog post about The questionable value of anonymity . I haven't read his book, but this excerpt from the Amazon synopsis looks promising: Fearing technology-aided crime, governments seek to restrict online anonymity; fearing technology-aided tyranny, citizens call for encrypting all data. Brin shows how, contrary to both approaches, windows offer us much better protection than walls; after all, the strongest deterrent against snooping has always been the fear of being spotted. Furthermore, Brin argues, Western culture now encourages eccentricity-were programmed to rebel! That gives our society a natural protection against error and wrong-doing, like a bodys immune system. But social T-cells need openness to spot trouble and get the word out. The Transparent Society is full of such provocative and far-reaching analysis.The inescapable rush of technology i