Billions Served: Norman Borlaug interviewed by Ronald Bailey
, by Norman Borlaug
, Ronald Bailey, Reason
, Apr 2000
Topics discussed include his current projects, Africa, roads, DDT, biotech, crossing genetic barriers in nature, biodiversity, monarch butterflies, organic produce, Lester Brown, Paul Ehrlich, India and the Green Revolution
"Biotechnology will help us do things that we couldn't do before, and do it in a more precise and safe way. Biotechnology will allow us to cross genetic barriers that we were never able to cross with conventional genetics and plant breeding. In the past, conventional plant breeders were forced to bring along many other genes with the genes, say, for insect or disease resistance that we wanted to incorporate in a new crop variety. These extra genes often had negative effects, and it took years of breeding to remove them. Conventional plant breeding is crude in comparison to the methods that are being used with genetic engineering."
Bundling and unbundling
, by Thomas Sowell
, 13 Apr 1998
Argues that the government should not be telling Microsoft (or any other company) what it can or cannot bundle in one of its software products or otherwise interfere in private transactions, except for holding sellers responsible for what they sell
"It is a frustrating business to phone one of the computer companies' technical support systems and be told that what you have is a software problem, not a hardware problem. Then you phone the software company's technical support people, who tell you that you have a hardware problem and that you should call the computer company. ... Back in 1956, the government forced Eastman Kodak to stop selling Kodachrome film with the developing included. Because developing Kodachrome is more complicated than developing most other color films, Kodak sold it with the processing included, so that they could see that it got done right."
Felix Morley: The Journalist Philosopher
, by Oscar B. Johannsen, Fragments
Biographical essay based on Morley's autobiography For the Record
, contrasting the Brontë sisters with the Morley brothers (Christopher, Felix and Frank) but focusing on Felix
"Morley assumed that tremendous technological advances made political integration necessary. However, in this assumption he probably erred. If anything, the ongoing technological revolution has made necessary the disintegration of state, national, and international political organizations. Just as a pilot of a jet plane is forced to rely on the automatic controls which fly the plane almost independently of him, so the advancement of technological knowledge requires the automatic controls of the natural laws of economic and social action, with political control, like that of a pilot's, reduced to a minimum."
George Reisman - Hero of the Day
, The Daily Objectivist
"Reisman credits to two technological artifacts of Western civilization with helping him pull off such a difficult long-term project ,,, '[A] very important element in the pleasure I have derived from the writing of this book rested on my use of a personal computer. ... I fully believed, of course, that the pen is mightier than the sword .. But however mighty is the pen, the personal computer is far mightier...To me, as a writer, the personal computer is the greatest of all the remarkable goods supplied by capitalism, surpassing even the personal automobile in its contribution to the ease and enjoyment of life.'"
Hess, Karl (1923-1994)
, by Brian Doherty, The Encyclopedia of Libertarianism
, 15 Aug 2008
"In his 1979 book, Community Technology, Hess wrote candidly of some of the successes and of the many failures that attended his efforts to turn his Adams-Morgan neighborhood in D.C. into a self-sufficient community through rooftop hydroponic gardens and trout aquaculture in basements. ... He regarded his new vocation [welding] as consistent with the view that human technologies have been more important to the spread of liberty than political philosophers or ideologues. From 1980 to 1985, he edited a newsletter titled Surviving Tomorrow, in which he emphasized small-scale alternative technologies over big centralized ones. "
Intersecting Currents of Change
, by Kevin Carson
, 1 Jul 2013
Examines how different forces, such as technogical change, counteract the hierarchies of corporations and states
"Sometimes, improvements in networked communications and cybernetic technologies reinforce the shift in military balance of power from the United States and its allies to dissident regional powers ... Sometimes states, in attempting to undermine rival states' control of their domestic populations, create liberatory technologies that undermine not only their rivals' power but their own. For example the Tor router ... now undermines the NSA's ability to keep the American domestic population under surveillance and the proprietary content industries' ability to prevent file-sharing."
John Gilmore on inflight activism, spam and sarongs
, by John Gilmore, Mikael Pawlo, GrepLaw
, 18 Aug 2004
Topics discussed include: terrorism, the drug war, encryption, censorship, spam, the end-to-end principle, the right to travel, anonymity, secret FAA/TSA rules, blogs, copy protection, free software and the EFF
"Many forms of expression have been rapidly enhanced by computer technology, without being throttled in the cradle by vested interests. ... The Internet and the Web synergized with digital media creation and editing, providing a cheap and powerful distribution path. High bandwidth distribution of large files, including music, movies, and software, is now automated, and EFF helped to keep these networks free to operate despite powerful opposition."
Letters to Thomas Robert Malthus, on Several Subjects of Political Economy, and on the Cause of the Stagnation of Commerce
, by Jean-Baptiste Say
Series of five letters from Say to Malthus, written in response to the latter's criticisms in Principles of Political Economy
(1820); the letters were translated from the French by John Richter
"What difference do you perceive between knitting-needles and a stocking-frame, but that the latter is a tool more complex and more efficient than the needles, but, in fact, applying ... the properties of metal, and the power of the lever, to fabricate the vestments with which we cover our feet and legs? The question is, therefore, reduced to this:—Is it advantageous for man to take into his hands a tool more powerful, capable of doing a much greater quantity of work, or of doing it much better, in preference to another tool of a gross and imperfect construction, with which he must work more slowly, with greater toil, and less perfection?"
Related Topics: Capital Goods
, Free Trade
, Adam Smith
, United States
Minimum Wage Rates
, by Ludwig von Mises
, Human Action
Chapter 30, "Interference With the Structure of Prices", Section 3; discusses the setting of minimun wages both by legislation and by collecitve bargaining, pointing out some of the resulting problems
"The technological improvement in the production of A makes it possible to realize certain projects which could not be executed before because the workers required were employed for the production of A for which consumers' demand was more urgent. ... Mere technological knowledge is of no use if the capital needed is lacking. ... A tendency toward higher wage rates is not the cause, but the effect, of technological improvement."
Monopolies versus the Free Market, Part 1
, by Gregory Bresiger, Future of Freedom
, Sep 2006
Contrasts state-backed monopolies or quasi-monopolies vs. regular businesses in a free market, with historical and current examples, and discusses antitrust laws
"Today Microsoft is a software giant. But its commanding market share is by no means assured. That's because its power is non-coercive and, therefore, it must worry about competitors. Even today, Google, Mozilla, and Linux pose challenges to Microsoft's domination. Microsoft must also always worry about new competitors offering new kinds of technology that could suddenly take away market share. Yet antitrust regulators have had Microsoft in their sights for many years. In the 1980s, the regulators had IBM in their cross-hairs, only for their antitrust case to collapse after some 15 years of futility."
Natural Resources Aren't Finite
, by Julian Simon
, Cato Institute Commentary
, 4 Mar 1997
Discusses losses incurred by commodities traders and investment managers who believed that prices of commodities must rise because there is a "finite" stock of natural resources on Earth
"... science is attaining an undreamed-of ability to create new materials. The first auto-engine parts made of silicon and carbon (water-pump seal rings) are being installed in Volkswagens. Engines could soon be made of silicon carbide, cutting weight and emissions in addition to replacing metals. Palladium instead of platinum can now be used in auto-exhaust emission systems. Ceramics engineering is exploding with new knowledge, putting an end to past generations' worries about running out of metals. Organic plastics can now be blended with glass to yield a material as strong as concrete, but flexible and much lighter."
Objectivist Ethics in the Information-Age Economy
, by Nathaniel Branden
, Feb 2001
After reviewing human progress, from hunter to farmer to laborer to thinker, argues that what he calls "Objectivist ethics" are more relevant to current society
"Scientific and technological discoveries are pouring from our research-and-development laboratories at an unprecedented rate ... The value of the computer ... lies not in its material constituents, but in its design, in the thinking and knowledge it embodies ... Microchips are made out of sand; their value is a function of the intelligence encoded within them. A copper wire can carry forty-eight telephone conversations; a single fiber-optic cable can carry more than eight thousand conversations—yet fiber-optic cables are cheaper, more efficient, and much less energy-consuming to produce than copper."
Parity: Bureaucratic Tyranny by Moral Fraud
, by James Bovard
, Future of Freedom
, Sep 1999
Discusses the consequences of establishing "parity" of agricultural prices, in the name of "fairness"
"While parity advocates have long declaimed that crop prices are unfairly low, crop prices have fallen primarily because modern technology, better seeds, better fertilizers, and better-educated farmers have produced far higher yields and lower costs of production. The concept of parity presumed that there had been no change in the cost of production for major crops; yet farming underwent a mechanical revolution in the 1920s."
Pleasing Consumers Isn't Easy
, by Sheldon Richman
, 12 Jan 2007
Comments on the challenges faced by entrepreneurs, in particular those selling "high-tech gadgets", before the release of the first Apple iPhone
"People want to sell us things such as portable music players, mobile phones, and personal digital assistants (PDAs; small electronic calendars, notebooks, and the like). Many of us want one or more of those things, and entrepreneurs know that. But their knowledge is very general. What they are far less certain of are the scads of details involved. How much are we willing to pay? What combination of features do we want? Should a phone play music? Should a PDA be able to make calls? Do you want a camera with that? Should everything be rolled into one electronic Swiss army knife? They don't know."
Risk and Safety
, by Aaron Wildavsky, Adam Wildavsky, The Concise Encyclopedia of Economics
Discusses the increase since the 1950s in government regulation of risks to health and safety, and the views of proponents and opponents of a "riskless society"
"Contrary to common opinion, living in a rich, industrialized, technologically advanced country that makes considerable use of industrial chemicals and nuclear power is a lot healthier than living in a poor, nonindustrialized nation that uses little modern technology and few industrial chemicals. ... Surveys of risk perception show that knowledge of the known hazards of a technology does not determine whether or to what degree an individual thinks a given technology is safe or dangerous. This holds true not only for laymen, but also for experts in risk assessment."
The Death of Politics
, by Karl Hess
, Mar 1969
Discusses libertarianism, contrasting it with both conservatism and modern liberalism, including specific policy differences
"Monopoly cannot develop as long as technology is dynamic, which it most abundantly is today. ... Short of total state control, and presuming creative brains in the community, and presuming the existence of capital with which to build even modest research facilities, few would flatly say that technological innovation could be prevented simply because of some single source enjoying a temporary 'monopoly' of a given product or service."
Related Topics: Cold War
, War on Drugs
, Barry Goldwater
, Ayn Rand
, Freedom of Speech
The Economic Role of Saving and Capital Goods
, by Ludwig von Mises
, The Freeman
, Aug 1963
Explains there is a third factor of production aside from nature's resouces and human labor, and also that entrepreneurial judgement is necessary to attain the desired end of production
"What distinguishes contemporary life in the countries of Western civilization from conditions as they prevailed in earlier ages ... is ... not the familiarity with the exploits of pure science and their utilization by the applied sciences, by technology. ... What these poor countries need in order to adopt the Western methods of mass production for the satisfaction of the wants of the masses is not information about a 'know how.' There is no secrecy about technological methods."
The Importance of Tools
, by Karl Hess
, Future of Freedom
, Apr 1993
Contrasts scientific and technological discoveries or inventions with political events throughout the history of humankind
"Perhaps the first great tool of change was the horsecollar or ox yoke. It was the tool which first enabled human beings to use a non-human source for energy. Even the discovery of fire seems pallid beside this. ... Isaac Newton described differential calculus. In some distant future, private space travellers will owe their journeys, in no small part, to Newton and his analysis. ... In America, the Wright brothers’ plane successfully flew. ... That was also the year that Crick, Wilkins, and Watson received their Nobel prize for describing the molecular structure of DNA."
The Kirznerian Way: An Interview with Israel M. Kirzner
, by Israel Kirzner
, Austrian Economics Newsletter
Topics include: Ludwig von Mises, the Austrian School, equilibrium, entrepreneurship, capital, business cycle theory, time preference, Hayek, Lachmann and Rothbard
"Imagine Victorian England, where everything is calm and still, with horse carriages and trains carrying people here and there. Along comes the entrepreneur who invents the automobile. ... People lose jobs and physical resources are shifted to new lines of production. ... when the entrepreneur discovers the automobile, he is not simply disrupting the calm. He is identifying what was in fact waiting to be introduced. Technological knowledge was being misapplied. Resources were being wasted on trains, carriages, and bicycles, when, in fact, what was waiting to be put together was this new gadget called the automobile."
Related Topics: Capital Goods
, Austrian Economics
, Friedrich Hayek
, Ludwig Lachmann
, Ludwig von Mises
, Murray Rothbard
, Joseph Schumpeter
The Third Industrial Revolution: Not As Easy to Co-opt as the Second
, by Kevin Carson
, 8 Jun 2013
Compares the first (steam and hydraulic power) and second (electric power) industrial revolutions with the new micromanufacturing and networked communications technologies and the ability of dominant players to co-opt the third revolution
"By all these means, the state and the coalition of interests that controlled it were able to stave off the threat liberatory technologies posed to their centralized power. The Second Industrial Revolution, which offered to destroy the factory system, free labor from the domination of capital, destroy decentralize production to the neighborhood and village, and abolish the divisions between both town and country and hand-work and brain-work, was instead co-opted into the institutional framework of the First Industrial Revolution. The technology that should have destroyed the old system of power was instead harnessed to serve it."
Who Is Garet Garrett?
, by Jeffrey Tucker, Mises Daily
, 25 Oct 2007
Biographical and bibliographical essay, including both his novels and non-fiction writing
"His next novel is his epoch story of steel. It is The Cinder Buggy (1923) ... In the course of the story, the reader discovers how it is that technology has such a dramatic effect on society ... We also have here a realistic portrayal of the truth about innovation. It is not enough to come up with a good idea. That idea must be embodied in real production that takes place in a cost-reducing way, and then marketed in the service of society. The unity of technology, accounting, and marketing must all come together to make possible such things as technological revolutions."
Why is Medical Care so Expensive?
, by Hans Sennholz
, Mises Daily
, 22 Aug 2006
Discusses various explanations given for the explosion in medical expenses and then focuses on some of the more likely culprits behind the increased costs
"Medical expenses are rising faster than the costs of any other service. ... Many observers offer lucid explanations of the medical-spending explosion. ... Other observers hold the endless stream of medical innovations responsible for rapidly rising health-care costs, such as new drugs and delicate tools for microsurgery. They lay most of the expense explosion at the feet of technology. But these writers never explain why new drugs and new tools should raise medical costs threefold and consume an ever larger share of national income. Technical innovations usually lower the costs of production."