The Skeptical Liberal: 07/10/2005 - 07/17/2005

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


"M," Spartan Women, and a New Blog

Busy couple of days. I'm working on my PERC Policy Series paper on Malthus, but took time yesterday to finish my course syllabus for "Constitutional Political Economy," MC 497, which I teach in Fall 2005. In the process I created a blog for the course, to which all the students can be contributors. It will be my first experiment with a team blog. We'll see how it works. You'll find the blog here (there's also a link to it in the list of links provided at the top of my blog.

This morning I rode/hiked up to the "M" again, this time taking the "rigorous" path up and the "popular" path down. I was able to run down most of the way. If I had the willpower to run more, I'd probably be healthier! After I biked back into town, I stopped at Bangtail Bikeshop and watched the final climb of the day's Tour de France stage. Lance wiped out the competition! It was great to see the race; the Tour has been a part of July for me for years now.

This afternoon Andy Hanssen and Rob Fleck presented a paper at PERC on the rise and fall of women's rights in ancient Sparta. Being a Spartan, I had to attend of course! The argument was really interesting: they provided an economic argument for the constitutional changes in Sparta that granted women property and other rights. You'd have to contact them for the paper to get the details. Two interesting twists: a) we usually think of "progressive" societies granting women rights, but Sparta was far from progressive. They did it because it was the best way to arrange their institutions to maximize wealth for the whole society. And b) one result of the new constitution was a significant decline over 200 years in the population of Spartan citizens. The opportunity cost of having children in Sparta was high for women, and so they had fewer children. The decline in population actually contributed to Sparta's eventual defeat and the subsequent elimination of all rights for women after the invasion of Philip of Macedonia.