<ul> <li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2011/05/05/the-paradox-of-property/">The Paradox of Property. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2011-05-05)</a>. <q>Nonlibertarians are often puzzled as to why libertarians accept such strong property rights claims (sometimes called “absolute” property rights, though I’ve never figured out what “absolute” is supposed to mean in this context). The answer I’m going to give here is one I’ve already offered elsewhere (see here and here),...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2011-05-05.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://hnn.us/blogs/entries/138924.html">History News Network | Because the Past is the Present, and the Future too. <cite>hnn.us</cite> (2011-05-05)</a>. Mutual Aid in Tuscaloosa. <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2011-05-05.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://news.consumerreports.org/cars/2011/04/back-fire-tomtom-sold-user-data-to-police-motorists-then-targeted-with-speed-traps.html?EXTKEY=I72RSC0">TomTom Sold User Data to Police, Motorists Then Targeted With Speed Traps. John Gruber, <cite>Daring Fireball</cite> (2011-05-02)</a>. <q>Consumer Reports: Following reports that TomTom had sold traffic data collected from GPS device users to police who then used it to determine locations for speed traps, the company has issued a statement and video in an effort to appease angry customers. Shameful. ★ </q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2011-05-05.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/wed-may-4-2011/face-off">Jon Stewart on the Photos of Osama bin Laden. John Gruber, <cite>Daring Fireball</cite> (2011-05-05)</a>. <q>Jon Stewart: Maybe we should always show pictures. Bin Laden, pictures of our wounded service people, pictures of maimed innocent civilians. We can only make decisions about war if we see what war actually is — and not as a video game where bodies quickly disappear leaving behind a shiny...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2011-05-05.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/c4ss/~3/hSgGP9S2zKA/6931">On the Road to Nowhere With Johnson and Paul. Thomas L. Knapp, <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2011-04-28)</a>. <q>Is it just me, or is the silly season of electoral politics — the presidential election cycle — arriving earlier and earlier in each successive four-year stretch? Last time around, it was nearly Memorial Day of the year preceding the election before pundits started speculating about when the obvious odd...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Thursday 2011-05-05.)</em></p></li>
<ul> <li><p><a href="http://blog.fair-use.org/2011/02/03/sunday-schools-that-teach-children-anarchy/">“Sunday Schools That Teach Children Anarchy,” from the New York Times (May 8, 1910) Rad Geek, <cite>Fair Use Blog</cite> (2011-02-02)</a>. <q>Here’s some more on mass-media reception of Anarchism during the early 20th century: a strange little piece from the Sunday New York Times magazine from May 8, 1910, on Anarchist Sunday schools in New York, focusing on the Ferrer Sunday School taught by Alexander Berkman. The Sunday schools were part...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://aaeblog.com/2011/02/02/c4ss-appeal-2/">C4SS Appeal. Roderick, <cite>Austro-Athenian Empire</cite> (2011-02-02)</a>. <q>Guest Blogs by Brad Spangler and Kevin Carson C4SS 1st Quarter 2011 Fundraiser by Brad Spangler Dear Supporters of the Center for a Stateless Society, I hope everybody had a happy holiday season and has been staying warm so far this Winter. Now it’s time to pay some bills …...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2011-02-02.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://reason.com/blog/2011/02/03/more-on-the-non-existent-war-o">More on the Non-Existent "War on Cops" Radley Balko, <cite>Radley Balko: Reason Magazine articles and blog posts.</cite> (2011-02-03)</a>. <q>In my Monday column debunking the "war on cops" meme currently working its way through the media, I noted that fatal attacks on police officer deaths have dropped pretty dramatically over the last 25-30 years. Yesterday a reader sent me a link to this mostly unfortunate discussion of the column...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2011-02-04.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://mises.org/daily/5002/Does-Gandhi-Deserve-a-Place-in-the-Libertarian-Tradition">Does Gandhi Deserve a Place in the Libertarian Tradition? <cite>Mises Institute Daily Articles (Full-text version)</cite> (2011-02-02)</a>. <q>If you abjure all violence, you must abjure the state. Thus, while not all libertarians are pacifists, all pacifists are libertarians, whether they realize it or not (and, admittedly, a great many pacifists have not realized it). Gandhi, it appears, did realize it.</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Friday 2011-02-04.)</em></p></li>
Bill Easterly recently wrote a brief article on the importance of attending to issues of complexity and spontaneous order in debates about government
foreign aid transfers (and the small army of planners, developers, charity-workers, et al. that come along with those grants). It’s interesting enough, but I’m mentioning it because there are a couple comments from David Ellerman beneath the post, which are really worth noticing. First:
One could go on but I might try to cut to the chase and indicate why theories that may give some insights when applied to physical systems (e.g.,self-organizingsand piles) and insect societies may rather “miss the boat” when applied to human affairs.
The mistake in applying complexity theory to human relationships such as the education, management, development aid, and helping in general is that the basic problem is NOT that the humansystemsare complex,messy,nonlinear, etc. The basic problem, across the whole range of the human helping relationships (like aid) between what might be called thehelperand thedoer,is that success lies in achieving more autonomy on the part of the doers, and autonomy is precisely the sort of thing that cannot be externally supplied or provided by the would-be helpers. This is the fundamental conundrum of all human helping relations, and it is the basic reason, not complexity, why engineering approaches and the like don’t work. Thus the application of complexity theory to development aid–as if the basic problem with aid was the complexity of the systems–isunhelpfulfrom the get go.
Of course, human social life is complex, messy, nonlinear, and whatever else, and if you aim to study it, or to do something on the basis of your study, then you had better keep that in mind. But what you had best keep in mind, when it comes to the
doing something part, is not so much some theoretical insight about top-down views of patterns of human activity, which you could have observed from Mars, say, through a very large telescope; it’s something about the human relationships that you are entering into — how you think about and how you treat the people you are supposedly coming along to help out with all their problems. (And just who are you? What are the problems you’re trying to solve, and whose are they, really?) For those who are interested in such things, this is of course the issue at stake in the Anarchist analysis of the difference between
mutual aid and
The second worth noticing are the comments on how this kind of discourse gets packaged, and how it spreads. I think the bits about the role of management theory as a vector for the fads to spread throughout institutionalized aid economics are especially insightful, and important:
Sticking to applications of complexity theory in the social or human sciences (the notion of aspontaneous orderis an older and more profound topic), one should consult Ben Ramalingam’s ODI paper at: http://www.odi.org.uk/resources/download/583.pdf . Ben and colleagues make a sustained attempt to usefully apply complexity theory to the problems of development aid–but I fear with little success. One can always reformulate some bits of old wisdom (openness, restraint, humbleness, courage) in terms of the jargon of some new faddish theory, but that is hardly a distinctive contribution of the theory. As Ben notes, there has for some time been a craze in organizational theory and business management to apply the buzz and jargon of complexity theory but with little if any results that are new or distinctive. Interconnectedness! Nonlinearity! Sensitivity to initial conditions! Unintended consequences! Adaptive agents! Wow!…
Ben, I do appreciate that your uses of complexity theory have been guarded and (as one can see from my book) I am certainly a great fan of eclecticism and interdisciplinary thinking. If anyone comes to some insights through complexity theory (as I also have, e.g., the series-parallel interplay between “exploitation versus exploration”), then that is great–even though other routes may also have been available. … My problems lie in how seemingly every advance in the natural sciences is turned into a fad, usually first in management theory, which is then used to avoid looking at deeper persistent sources of dysfunctionality. In business enterprises, management sits astride huge organizations based on the employment relation, but then constantly tries to escape the resulting dysfunctionality by surfing the latest fads popularized from the natural sciences. Similarly, we see the large development aid bureaucracies that are deeply failing for structural reasons but constantly grasping for the latest fad-theories to explainwhy it wasn’t working as expectedand to provide rhetorical cover for theirnew waysof doing development assistance.
In short, my message is: eclectic interdisciplinary approaches to development, Yes; new popsci cover stories for the failures of the development aid bureaucracies, No.
- Gertrude B. Kelly, in The Alarm (November 19, 1887): Bourgeois Charity, now recently put online thanks to the Fair Use Repository.
- GT 2009-10-13: On Big Charity
- GT 2008-05-29: Dump the rentiers off your back
<ul> <li><p><a href="http://www.phdcomics.com/comics.php?f=1335">06/25/10 PHD comic: 'Call for Papers!' <cite>PHD Comics</cite> (2010-06-28)</a>. <q>Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham www.phdcomics.com title: "Call for Papers!" - originally published 6/25/2010 For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Monday 2010-06-28.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/radleybalko/~3/60CZwtRuWpk/">Robert Byrd. Radley Balko, <cite>The Agitator</cite> (2010-06-28)</a>. <q>So if I’m correctly reading the various tributes to Sen. Robert Byrd floating around the web this morning, I’m supposed to celebrate how the man atoned for his bigotry earlier in life by devoting the rest of his life to public service . . . where he used other people’s...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-06-29.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/portlandhousingblogspot/~3/l5rH06_OZFA/hamp-fails-your-tax-money-at-work.html">HAMP Fails: Your Tax Money At Work. email@example.com (MontyB503), <cite>Portland Housing Blog</cite> (2010-06-21)</a>. <q>The Obama administration's HAMP program has proven to be an exercise in futility, and largely a waste of taxpayer dollars as only about 30% of the 5.7 million borrowers who are 60 days delinquent are eligible for the program. Of those who are eligible for the program, less than 350,000...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-06-29.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://c4ss.org/content/2948">Couchsurfing: Mutual Aid 2.0. Ross Kenyon, <cite>Center for a Stateless Society</cite> (2010-06-26)</a>. <q>Couchsurfing epitomizes a modern and hip mutual aid society. Couchsurfing.org is an online network of just under two million users which connects hosts and travelers from around the world in order to facilitate cultural exchange, provide free hospitality through local hosts, and to make the world a better place “one...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Tuesday 2010-06-29.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/reason/HitandRun/~3/uPXJdFUjAS8/thomas-sowell-on-ends-and-mean">Thomas Sowell, on Ends and Means. Radley Balko, <cite>Hit & Run</cite> (2010-06-23)</a>. <q>Here's Thomas Sowell this week, comparing Obama's economic policy and response to the oil spill to Hitler and Lenin: With vastly expanded powers of government available at the discretion of politicians and bureaucrats, private individuals and organizations can be forced into accepting the imposition of powers that were never granted...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)</em></p></li> <li><p><a href="http://thecurvature.com/2010/06/29/scotland-anti-rape-ad-tackles-she-was-asking-for-it-myth/">Scotland Anti-Rape Ad Tackles “She Was Asking For It” Myth. Cara, <cite>The Curvature</cite> (2010-06-29)</a>. <q>Trigger Warning for rape apologism. A few months back, I wrote an article for the Guardian’s Comment is Free about a U.K. study, which showed a significant number of respondents thought that some rape victims were at least partially to blame for their attacks. The various reasons that respondents blamed...</q> <em style="font-size: smaller">(Linked Wednesday 2010-06-30.)</em></p></li>
How an online community mobilized to rescue two young Russian women.
Forget the irritating title and summary. Besides being needlessly sensationalistic, the rhetoric of “saving” or
rescuing women from sex trafficking is infantilizing and intensely unhelpful; also, it’s just inaccurate as a description of what actually happened.
What is awesome about this story, crappy headlines aside, is how a good friend and an Internet community managed to not only alert two young Russian women that the “agency” was lying to them, that the replacement jobs they’d been promised were actually at a skeazy strip club, and — even more important — while government “hotlines” and “counseling” proved to be alienating and more or less completely useless, an ad hoc group of folks on MetaFilter managed to come together to connect the women with information, a safe place to stay in New York, a friend to advocate for them and help them out, and leads on getting help to secure straightened-out visas — meaning practical solidarity and mutual aid, through an ad hoc distributed grassroots network, scattered throughout cities all across the continent, which managed to foil a gang of lying traffickers, helped two women get themselves out of a really dicey situation, and provided with plenty of resources to help them land on their feet.
(Story thanks to a private correspondent.)