The Skeptical Liberal: 05/22/2005 - 05/29/2005

The Skeptical Liberal

How can we live together in peace, prosperity, and harmony, while retaining our liberties as autonomous individuals who can, and must, create our own values? -- J.M. Buchanan


Punctured Tires and Writing

Haven't blogged the last several days because I'm deep into sorting out a good way to present my thinking on the project I'm writing this summer: "Is there a Malthus that Julian Simon could like?" The basic answer is yes, and I know what the outcome is, but I've been working on finding a good way to present it. For now, I'm happy with what I'm doing, but have to get the preliminary draft of the project done within the next 10 days.

Friday morning I decided to rise early (6 am) and ride a circuit I've been thinking about doing since getting here. I rode 19th St. south to Nash (the last east-west street before you enter the mountains south of Bozeman), Nash to Sourdough Trail, and north on Sourdough Trail back into Bozeman. After I completed the circuit, I figured out I'd ridden at least 12 miles. A good morning workout! Imagine my chagrin that afternoon when I came out of PERC at about 4:30 and found the back tire on my bike flat! Turns out I must have picked something up going south on 19th St. that punctured the tire. This morning (Saturday), I got the good folks at Bangtail Bikes to give me a new tire, and I'm all set up again. So I've bought two new bike tires since being here (the other was merely a replacement of a worn out tire). I'll repeat that circuit, but perhaps with a different southward route, on Sunday morning.

PERC is beginning to enter summer mode, which is very active. The Kinship Conservation Institute begins the day after Memorial Day, and the rest of the fellows will all be here next week as well. Rob Fleck and Andy Hanssen, the other two Julian Simon fellows this year, are presenting their research project on Tuesday. The title is "How Bad can a Government Be?: Neighborhood Constraints and the Quality of National Governments," which argues that the contraints imposed on repressive governments by opportunities for their citizens to relocate to countries with better quality governments nearby is one of the reasons we find countries with similar quality governments clustered together. Should be an interesting conversation on Tuesday. I am also currently reading recent work by Torsten Persson and Guido Tabellini on the economic effects of constitutions. I have introduced comparative constitutional analysis into my "Constitutionalism and Democracy" course, and, with the help of the new Persson/Tabellini book, may also introduce it into my "Politics and Markets" class. It will fit well with the new public goods/collective action focus I will be giving that course next spring.

But now I've got to get back to Malthus and Simon.


Is This How Star Wars Ends? To Middling Applause?

I watched Episode 3 of the Star Wars saga on Saturday with Thomas and Kristine. The mixed reviews have it about right: it's not the worst of the series, nor is it anywhere near the best. Here's my ranking of the episodes, now that they're all out:

  • Episode I: The Phantom Menace (weak)
  • Episode II: Attack of the Clones (weakest)
  • Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (moderate)
  • Episode IV: A New Hope (good)
  • Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back (better)
  • Episode VI: Return of the Jedi (the best)

Best quote from Revenge of the Sith: "Is this how democracy dies? To thunderous applause?" (Padmé).

Remainder of the weekend in Edmonton went well. Lydia and I went shopping on Friday and I spent Saturday with her and Sebastian. Sunday I visited some more with kids, and then had a couple of hours with Neil, Doris and Elene before flying back to Bozeman. Elene, Neil and Doris showed me pictures of their Costa Rica sabbatical.