Liberty is Prosperity

Saturday, September 02, 2006

A free market solution to Katrina

I recently watched Spike Lee’s documentary on Hurricane Katrina. While the political slant was not to my liking, the depiction of the scale of the suffering and the role of big government in making the situation worse was effective and heart breaking. It raised several questions:

What is a better solution to the problem of a massive natural disaster that occurs within a community that is already an economic and political disaster area?

How do we harness the power of the crowd that is affected to help themselves immediately- without waiting for the government to come along with physical assets?

My idea is this- to create credit and let the free market work.

Could the president proclaim a new “currency” for those affected by the disaster? Let the U.S. government give its guarantee to any reasonable handwritten note presented for payment at the Federal Reserve that contained the following information:

For the buyer/disaster victim: Name, address within the declared emergency area, thumbprint, photo, SSN
For the seller/service provider: Name, address, company information if applicable, thumbprint, photo, SSN
General: What purchased, where, when, dollar amount

This scheme would immediately empower all of the victims to seek their own solution. Even if they were in an area without normal communications capabilities they would soon find out about the grant of credit because sellers of essential services would converge on the area within hours to “exploit” the situation of willing buyers with ample credit.

People in nearby communities would have a financial incentive to immediately start renting rooms in their homes to displaced persons.

The buyers and sellers would be the ones to decide how much of this credit to use. There would be no guarantee of any grant of aid- the idea is simply to get purchasing power to the affected people immediately and then sort it all out later. Fraud will occur but the threat of being caught is very high due to the photo and thumbprint identification of both buyer and seller in each transaction. Notes for obviously ridiculous transactions could be refused for payment at the Fed.

In an area where everyone now has all the “money” they need to take care of themselves, lawlessness can rightfully be treated as zealously as necessary in order to maintain order.

Make me a user-god and I will bless you

This was an email sent to feedback@digg.com

I want to experience being the center of my information universe, being served people and things that I love or love to hate.

Google, schmoogle- the site that gets this right owns the internet- by owning the loyalty of its users!

In the real world, I am not God. In my information universe, serve me as though I am a god. Expect nothing from me as your god-user. I will then bless you with information about me that you will find profitable as you continue to serve me.

I discovered Digg a few months ago, and at first really liked it and spent a lot of time on it. Now though I realize that much of what’s on it is of no interest to me and any story I submit or digg doesn’t have much chance of being promoted because I am outside the typical digg user profile.

How about offering additional “views” of digg stories?

1. Digg Love- this would be a front page consisting of the most popular stories dugg by people most like me, based on our digging activity
2. Digg Hate- this would be a front page with the most popular stories dugg by people most unlike me

To get a good Digg Hate profile on a user it seems that there has to be a trinary response available to each story- so I can tell you what I hate just as easily as what I like. The current bury option is too weak and the word has too much alternative meaning and the bury options further confuse its use. Let’s have a second button right next to “digg it”- perhaps “shigg it” or a similar made up word that works well as the counterpoint to “digg”. So the three options on each story would be digg, shigg, or null. The dig and shigg should appear on the exterior links that I’m starting to see on a lot of stories as well.

People who know that digg is forming a profile on them as they digg and shigg are more likely to digg and shigg as their user experience should get better and better as they start being formed into communities of like interest automatically by digg. These communities will become immensely profitable to digg in the future since every marketer desires targeting to specific audiences.

To further segregate your users you could also have a pop up behind each digg or shigg button- the Whyy? screen. This screen would offer some popular tags or let you add a tag as to why- another way to get more information from users. Offer a choice on applying the tag to the story or to the author.

Digg could be so much more that it is now- I don’t want to comb the internet selecting blogs to add to RSS feeds etc. I want a primary information and entertainment home (and I do use Digg as my home page already) that knows me (or at least the identity I have chosen to reveal to Digg) and will serve up stuff that I love when I’m in one mood and stuff that I hate when I’m in another mood- or even let me change it up- provide a Love-Hate slider control that serves up stories either on the continuum between love and hate or another one that lets me decide on a percentage of Love stories and percentage of hate stories.

And let me know who my friends should be. Rank all the users on the site, most like me to least like me. Use the tags to calculate likely areas of agreement and disagreement. If I want to evangelize in an area, let me see a person who has similar interests in 90% of things but digresses from me in the 10% issue that I want to evangelize.

Let me filter comments based on who the commenter is. One of the real weaknesses of Digg compared to many other sites is how insipid the comments are. Let me digg and shigg the comments and tag them also- with a lot of weight given to the choice of, in this case, comment or author. So if I’ve applied the “idiot” tag to a particular commenter more than a few times, I don’t have to see that idiot’s comment again for a very long time- like when the idiot finally grows up.

I’m willing to give you my most personal information- what I like, what I hate, why I like it, and why I hate it. In return you get access to me for marketing purposes- but only when I’m using digg. Do not require any personal information to register- no email address and do not save my IP address as I surf. Make the use of Digg totally anonymous and I won’t ever be scared to use it and share with it. You’ll know where to find me- I’ll be on My Digg. If necessary, use some sort of weighting of the diggs and shiggs by user history in order to discourage sock puppetry.

But, while I’m on digg, which should be a huge proportion of my computing time if you’ve done it right, you have my attention. I don’t have any problem with Google style boxes down one side of the screen. And I’ll click on a whole lot of them if they are contextual to the most important thing in my world- me.

Smarter marketers will learn how to use stories to get out their messages in a way that me and people like me will actually digg. I wouldn’t even have a problem with having one story per page that has been promoted by payment- as long as it is clearly labeled as such like the top bar items in a Google search and it is an actual story, not just an advertisement. Speaking of Google- be Google without me even having to search- serve up what you’ve calculated I’m interested in so I don’t have to go searching for it.

Go ahead and integrate Google or some search so that you can capture that information about me as well.

It’s okay to test me- throw in an occasional identified as such story that is out of my profile so I will be encouraged to digg or shigg it as necessary to further define me. I really want you to know me (but not my personal information) very very well so you can do a great job of serving me.

I’m sending this to y’all because you have as good a chance as anybody of becoming my ultimate web site and I think most people want the same thing.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Can you afford to buy used?

Can you afford to buy used?

I usually can't afford to buy used. God created me with a few creative gifts that He has asked me to share with others. When I share my gifts with others they usually reciprocate. While I receive a lot of tangible and intangible gifts from others, many of them just give me money.

Sometimes I can afford to use a little bit of the time God has given me to buy used - since many of the finer things are better used than new.

But for most items, I've learned that there are other people whom God has entrusted with different creative gifts- and they are using those gifts to create new products and services to give to me. And since this creative process in ongoing, newer is often better.

The time savings of getting and using new stuff gives me a lot more time to use my God given gifts to give even more to others.

So buying used is great, if you can afford it. I'm not a very good trader. My time is better spent creating gifts for others. Getting the stuff I need to use in order to create even more has to be as easy and simple as possible so I can maximize my giving.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

The Anti-politician

This post was a letter to Glenn Reynolds sent as a reply to his post, A third party threat? at GlennReynolds.com.

Anti-politician?

Could someone win a high profile office by being everything a politician usually isn't?

Since politicians are widely perceived to be dishonest with hidden agendas, there is room in the minds of voters to create a new category, the anti-politician. This is a mind share that no one has yet successfully tried to create and occupy.

The idea is to use the web to gain celebrity by disclosing every candidate detail from the day of initial announcement. And it better be true, since the blogosphere will vet it. In a culture that values novelty, celebrity could be attained by being the best disclosed candidate in history.

Tell the possibly juicy stories of youthful indiscretions- drug use history, sexual history, and any run ins with the law. Publish the educational "permanent record". Post tax returns. List medications taken. Disclose business and relational failures as well as successes. Share stories of shameful incidents that will drive voter interest while establishing the candidate as a truly transparent individual. Set a new standard for true and full disclosure without victimizing others with the disclosure.

The full disclosure should extend to an elaboration back to first principles of how policy choices would be made. For example, if a libertarian believes in public policy choices that maximize liberty, a prospective open book congressperson would not only disclose how they would vote on the issues, but the logic that backs up the choice starting with the maximize liberty proposition.

Then, when elected, every vote would have the rational behind it published. If a vote ended up being made because of party affiliations, horse trading, or special interest pressure- disclose that in detail. Keep an open dialogue with constituents. Listen to special interests and even accept their donations but post a summary of every such interaction on a web site.

One brave open book anti-politician could set the stage for many more to follow. The new paradigm could become contests between candidates who fully disclose every detail of themselves and their philosophies and agendas and those who don't.

Our new technologies are affording an unprecedented opportunity to break the curse of sound bite politics. Just as the book on journalism is being rewritten by an army of Davids, the book on political strategy could be rewritten by a single David.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

The Primacy of Productivity

This post was written for the discussion forum of Tim Worstall's post, "Productivity: The Labor of Love" at Tech Central Station.

The fundamental truth that average standard of living is set by average productivity can never be repeated too often.

It is especially applicable in the current immigration debate. If the ranters and ravers clamoring to "send them home" ever took the time to analyze what that would do to their own standard of living, maybe they would calm down and realize that welcoming their brown or other skinned brothers to work beside them is actually a really good idea.

Consider the productivity implications of deporting illegal immigrants.

On average, all of those immigrants are more productive here than they were in their country of origin. If they weren't, they wouldn't have bothered to emigrate.Forcing them into less productive jobs or unemployment in their home countries will make a substantial cut in the productivity of the closed economic system that is our planet. Their loss is our loss.

Meanwhile, their living costs do not go away just because they step over a magic line designated "border". Their families still demand similar resources- food, shelter, education, and health care.People have to eat every day, but they don't have to produce every day. The lost productivity is gone forever. Even a half-hearted attempt to deport illegal immigrants whose only crime is to come here and attempt to stay here will have the effect of making a large deduction from the global asset pool.

The global asset pool is the accummulated surplus of the planet since time began. It includes both tangibles and intangibles. It is the fuel for the fire of economic growth. It has a critical mass. When the global asset pool is smaller then necessary to support the global population, people die for lack of basic necessities and this loss of human assets shrinks the asset pool geometrically. When it is large enough to support the global population, the pool expands geometrically.

We are blessed to live in a time when the global asset pool has grown geometrically for over 60 years. World War II destroyed an enormous portion of the pool. Peace and prosperity is not just a popular idiom because of the alliteration. Peace brings prosperity and prosperity brings peace. Peace allows the global asset pool to grow as assets are not being destroyed or consumed due to conflict.

Totalitarian regimes around the world have limited but not stopped the growth of the pool. Forcing productive workers to relocate to a less productive locale would simply be our own totalitarian regimen. And it would have the same predictable results, reducing the growth of the global asset pool, cooling the fire of economic growth.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

We are Consoled

We buried our 14 year old son yesterday. He was my best friend and my wife's best friend.

The church was full and the service was roundly described as "the best funeral ever" by those in attendance.

My son testified, via a video that was recorded when he was in the 4th grade. His testimony was a solo performance with the school choir, "I Believe".

He believed, as I believe, in Jesus Christ the Son of God, who gave us salvation and eternal life through his obedient separation from the Father as sacrifice for the sins of the world.

Because he believed, the service was indeed the Celebration of Life as stated on the bulletin.

As referenced in a previous post, we are consoled. Our consolation is in God the Creator of all things, who now draws our son closer to Himself, and will soon call us to be fully in Him as well.

To Be or Not to Be

This is a comment posted to Glenn Reynolds article at Tech Central Station,
Hey, Maybe the Singularity Really Is Near.

It appears we may each soon be facing the most profound question of life- whether of not to go on living it.

When someone today commits suicide or dies in an accident, they are only shortening their life. In a future without aging and deadly disease, suicide or accidental death is a wholly different matter.

Does anyone dare to drive a car or even walk across the street if there is a potential to be involved in an accident that could end your "eternal" life?

More significantly, if you believe in heaven, do you have to demonstrate your faith by committing suicide in order to achieve it?

Dispensing with aging and deadly diseases will be an incredible triumph, but will the victory be hollow for those who exist eternally here on earth?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Is the Broken Window a Fallacy?

This is the substance of an email I sent to Walter Williams regarding his Townhall.com piece, Economic lunacy.

I may have gotten up on the wrong side of the bed this morning because I find myself pondering whether or not the Broken Window is really fallacy.

That it is fallacy is beyond question if we are only talking about the physical window.

The argument here is that perhaps there is economic benefit if you consider the relational effects of the "broken window".

Physical objects are a manifestation of a complex web of human relationships. A break in the physical can lead to a break in the relational.

Specifically, in the case of Katrina, it is conceivable that the productivity of the new New Orleans could exceed the productivity of the old New Orleans by a sufficient margin to warrant the added investment occassioned by the tragedy.

The quick counter argument is that, if the investment was warranted, it would have been made anyway.

This counter argument fails to take into account the potential of a disaster to precipitate a significant reordering of the relational dynamics surrounding the physical capital.

In the case of New Orlean, the city of my birth, the relational order was so broken that only a catastrophic event may be able to change it. Katrina has shown a bright light upon the defects of the city that have heretofore been mostly hidden.

While the physical cost of rebuilding is a loss, perhaps the gains of a potential new order in the city will more than offset those costs.

Of course, this is theoretical. I will be much surprised if the new New Orleans does not make the same sort of mistakes as the old, and perhaps many new mistakes as well.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Never the Same

This is a comment to Ralph Kinney Bennett's Tech Central Station post, We Know How This Is Going to End.

As a native New Orleanian, I fear that, as mentioned, the city will come look similar, smell similar, sound similar, but yet never be the same.

My immediate family is a rare one that left the city many years ago. At the time, relatives could not fathom how we could move away from the greatest ciy in the world. Indeed, my father could not stay away, he divorced my mother and moved back.

My first love was a beautiful girl in New Orleans. I had one date with her after she had graduated from college and I was professionally established and it was abundantly clear that I would have to move back to New Orleans to continue courting her.

So the tragedy of the refugees is more profound than many may realize. If you live in Dallas, Denver, Atlanta, or similar you are used to people constantly moving around the country seeking opportunity.

New Orleanians of all races and economic status have a bond with the place that is incredibly strong. For many of the refugees, not only is their immediate family displaced, but every extended family member, every friend, and every person of influence is also displaced or perhaps gone.

The devastation of these relationships goes so far beyond any physical damage. Those who now refuse to leave their homes are being rational in their desire to keep all that is near and dear to them- it's so much more than physical possessions.