Culture and space colonization

Consider the following thought experiment.  Earth is dying, unable to further sustain human life.  Mankind has thrown their last resources into creating a space ship that can reach a habitable planet.  However, the space ship can only carry 10,000 people and little is known about the planet beyond gravity and oxygen levels.  With the literal fate of humanity lying before us, who do we send and why?
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Traditionally, attempts to answer this question have focused on individuals.  We would pick the most outstanding specimens of humanity, our greatest scientists and athletes.  However, there is a more important dimension to consider, what cultural group should we send?  To further refine the question and focus the mind, if we could bet on the outcome, which cultural group would have the highest probability of success?
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For all the praise of multiculturalism, no one would seriously bet a diverse group of cultures would give the greatest chance for success.  Even if we ignore the obvious language barrier, consider how children are raised.  What is standard practice for one culture might be considered child abuse in another.  The differences in raising children are merely indicative of numerous other problems which arise among different cultural groups.  Ethnic fractionalization is associated with numerous bad outcomes in the economics literature.
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Picking a cultural group to colonize a new planet and save humanity forces the mind to focus on positive and negative attributes of the cultural group.  Positive aspects include trust as well as a tradition of liberal democracy.  Without trust impersonal exchange becomes nearly impossible.  Further, a people who have only known tyranny are likely to recreate such tyranny in their new homes.  A last consideration is the malleability of their formal institutions.  A new planet will likely present new challenges which require new solutions.  As such, a people with a history of adapting would be better than a people without.
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My personal choice would be to send the Swiss.  Their informal institutions are comparable to other first world countries.  Their form of government, Cantons, which is likely to be recreated in part in the new planet, is what gives them their decisive advantage.  By decentralizing the provision of public goods they will be able to respond more rapidly and effectively to the new challenges that await them while giving a new life for humanity.

The Victorious and the Resentful, Socialist calculation past and present

Twenty-five years ago today the Berlin Wall fell, that monument to the brutality that the domesticated ape is capable of when its operating software is infected by bad ideas. Twenty-five years is a dangerous amount of time because it is enough time for an entire generation to have grown up largely unaware of the significance of the event, and by extension of the horrors of socialism when put in practice. Around 42% of the current world population was born after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet considering that before a certain age (around 15?) politics and economics are largely alien interests, the percentage of us that are left largely to our own devices to learn about this history is much greater than 42%. This is dangerous if there is some reason to believe that those who do not know their history are condemned to repeat it.
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Another reason that twenty-five years is dangerous, is that it is just enough time for those who cried of sadness (and many in my home Latin America did) instead of joy when the wall fell to have distorted history enough to make socialism appealing once again. After all history, is not written by the victors, it is written by the resentful (regrettably these are often the same ones that write the textbooks). The advance of twenty first century socialism by Podemos in Spain, and its consolidation in Latin America, are proof positive that the failure of socialism in Eastern Europe has long been forgotten by those not directly affected by it, and that it has been revived and revised by the necromancers of bad ideas. In trying to understand how this is possible at least part of the problem is thinking that societies learn from their past. Societies do not learn from their past, individuals do. It is only when the learning of individuals is institutionalized that societies are capable of learning. But this analysis stops short as well because institutions are only self perpetuating on average terms and in the long run, the consolation of the economist is the misery of everyone else that lives in crests and troughs of history, and not on the trendline.
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The revived version of socialism slightly alters the means and goals of its former self. Unlike its Marxist-Leninism, it does not aim at producing more than capitalism, but rather at producing “buen vivir” or good living (as defined by the government’s sub-secretary of good living of course). The means have been revised as well, rather than the complete abolishment of private property, productive firms are to be directed by the state, with only certain sectors ripe for outright nationalization. Very reminiscent of Lenin’s New Economic Policy. Thus the only problem with socialism that this revised version concedes is the one that all practical implementations have conceded, the one pointed out by Mises, something really telling about the fundamental economic problem with socialism. The concession in the means employed by all the implementations of socialism is really a testament to Mises’ paradox of planning. The change in the goals of twenty first century socialism is telling as well. If you can’t accomplish what you originally set out to accomplish with the means you propose, alter your goal to that which your means can accomplish. If the means you propose are unable to deliver material prosperity but instead deliver poverty, redefine poverty as “good living”, and set up an official agency to preach about it.ray ban sunglasses Discount

Ryan’s Intro

I’m happy to a part of this blog with my good friends and colleagues. I am in my fourth year at GMU and am currently on the academic job market (wish me luck). My dissertation brings an institutional focus to bear to copyright and its alternatives.
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I plan on focusing my posts here largely on ideas and intellectual property (IP), both at a scholarly and popular level. I believe IP is one of the big issues of our age, and especially our generation. I think that we are not bringing all of our intellectual resources we have down to bear on the issue: rather than focusing on optimizing a tradeoff between increasing incentives for innovators and increasing monopoly power from an engineering standpoint, I think we should better understand the nexus of institutions involved in managing the common pool resource we call knowledge. At a broader level, what really interests me is the political economy of alternative institutions that provide public goods.
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I view this blog as the spiritual successor to all the temporary personal blogs I have tried to maintain over the past few years at my personal website. I will stop blogging at my website and focus all of my attention here.
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You can find more about me, including my research, CV, and teaching, at my website: ryansafner.com

Obligatory Introduction

Welcome to the Calculus of Dissent.
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We are five economics doctoral students at George Mason University all at or approaching candidacy, and all with a strong passion for economics and discussing ideas. We thought that this blog would be a good way to keep in close contact and stay intellectually engaged. Hopefully it will emerge into something more.
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While each of us researches, teaches, and writes about different subject areas, we all believe that economics is pervasive and that using the tools of economics can gain insight into nearly all aspects of human society. We also all explore issues from a perspective that emphasizes the nature of markets as emergent discovery processes, the role that incentives play in politics, and the importance of social institutions in determining prosperity, all of which we feel can be neglected sometimes by our fellow economists, scholars, and pundits. Otherwise, we have no specific agenda. We hope to post about a lot of different issues, and see where the conversation goes.
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Notably, we decided to launch this blog after many days of deliberation. We settled on the name “the Calculus of Dissent” just a few days before the passing of one of our collective intellectual heroes, Gordon Tullock, who has influenced each of us greatly.
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Expect a brief intro from each of us before we return back to your normally scheduled programming. Of course, all of the posts on here are not affiliated with or endorsed by any institution, and all opinions contained are the individual author’s own.