Hamiltonian cathedrals and the the Jeffersonian bazaar

Tumblr pointed me to a fascinating essay on the structure of our economic system. In ‘The American cloud‘ Venkatesh Rao explores the economic system of the United States by applying the much hyped cloud metaphor to the production, flows and consumption of goods. While it is not without flaws (reading it one might be tempted to believe that the USA are a self sufficient economy without any connections to the rest of the world) the essay provides an interesting perspective on our times. At the cor…

An unlikely group of social innovators: The Amish

Planet Money has a gem of a story on ‘the Business Secrets Of The Amish‘. The story zooms in on how the Amish, who have made their living through small plot farming for centuries, have adapted to an environment that does not allow for this lifestyle anymore: What you see in this hall is the transformation of Amish culture. Up until certainly the 1970s the vast vast majority of amish men were farmers. They lived at home, typical plot size would have been about a 130 acres, which is enough for a f…

The market's clock speed is laughable

Just finished reading ‘Red Plenty‘ by Francis Spufford which has replaced ‘Turing’s Cathedral‘ as my favourite book from this year. In fact the two books probably should be read together. Red Plenty picks up approximately where Turing’s Cathedral ends and offers a rather fascinating peek into how the invention of electronic computers interacted with the planned economy of the Soviet Union under Khrushchev and his immediate successors. Red plenty follows a community of scientists (economists, com…

The future of copyright will most likely not be determined by a cost benefit analysis

So i finally managed to start reading the ‘Future of Copyright‘ anthology that contains the winning essays from a contest organised by the Modern Poland Foundation. So far (i have not read them all) my favourite essay is ‘Give‘ by Togi, which i read as powerful argument that systemic change (and not just reform) is not only much needed but also possible. While his overall line of argument is pretty convincing (to me), i have a bit of trouble following one of his (her?) central arguments (Mike Li…

Belgium: l’économie de la débrouillardise?

Wired has a short interview with Robert Neuwirth author of Stealth of Nations: The Global Rise of the Informal Economy which highlights some of the points made in the book (the main point being that combined the informal economy worldwide would be the second largest economy after the US). The interview hints at some fairly interesting observations such as merchant-driven product innovation and multiple layer interfaces between formal economy multinationals and their informal sales forces. Hopefu…

Economy 101 #fail

Stumbled across this little hidden gem in an interview on ‘Tendencies and stakes of copyright’ that Lorena Boix Alonso (Deputy Head of Cabinet of Neelie Kroes) gave to the Forum D’Avignon (emphasis mine): For example, according to recent studies many consumers are confused about what they are allowed to copy or record concerning content leading to negligible costs of reproduction they have legally, to the point that in many cases consumers are even paying for unauthorised access to content. More…

Why the U.S is and will remain miles (sic!) ahead of europe.

If you want to understand this you simply have to listen to the below excerpt from a planet money interview with Mark Zandi the chief economist of Moody’s Analytics and contrast that with the petit bourgeois, xenophobic attitude towards immigration that is prevailing in Europe: and again, fundamentally we are fine. we can’t loose the sight of what makes our economy really tick though and that is: the most educated population, the best infrastructure and most importantly of all that we continue t…

Stock trades, art and algorithms

If you ask me one of the more fascinating things going on out there right now is high-frequency trading. High-frequency trading (HFT) occurs when traders program computers to buy and sell stocks (or other financial products) in quick succession under certain, pre-defined circumstances. (a good starting point to learn more about HFT is this planet money episode or this ai500 article by Joe Flood). Apparently High Frequency trading enables successful trading firms to skim of enormous surplus off t…

Abi --> putzen

In eastern Germany you get your abitur (the secondary school exam that entitels you to study at a university) after 12 years (where i grew up you have to do 13 years of school for the same exam), but apparently it also gets you less: There are areas in east germany where more than a quater of the population is unemployed. And that is after the young and educated have left to find their luck elsewhere. This picture taken in greifswald (a port city in the north of meckelemburg vorpommern where une…