Quotable (#199)

Why did the Industrial Revolution happen in Europe, rather than China? Joel Mokyr thinks fragmentation was the key:

In Europe, no one ever succeeds in unifying it, and you have continuous competition. The French are worried about the English, the English are worried about the Spanish, the Spanish are worried about the Turks. That keeps everybody on their toes, which is something economists immediately recognize as the competitive model. To have progress, you want a system that is competitive, not one that is dominated by a single power. […] I think that is the major difference. It isn’t just that China doesn’t have an Industrial Revolution, it doesn’t have a Galileo or a Newton or a Descartes, people who announced that everything people did before them was wrong. That’s hard to do in any society, but it was easier to do in Europe than China. The reason precisely is because Europe was fragmented, and so when somebody says something very novel and radical, if the government decides they are a heretic and threatens to prosecute them, they pack their suitcase and go across the border.

Unity is a decelerator.

Quotable (#198)

Jamelle Bouie on the dominion of tribalism:

Everyone agrees that American politics is more partisan and more polarized than it’s ever been. But not everyone grasps why that’s important. It’s not just Congress and the ability of our institutions to make progress and accomplish their goals. It’s also our elections. […] he folk theory of American democracy is that citizens deliberate on the issues and choose a candidate. That is false. The truth, as political scientists Christopher Achen and Larry Bartels describe in Democracy for Realists: Why Elections Do Not Produce Responsive Government, is that voters are tribalistic. Their political allegiances come first, and their positions and beliefs follow. We’ve seen this with Donald Trump. Support for free trade is a longstanding belief within the GOP, but Trump is a major opponent, slamming most of the trade deals of the past 30 years. You would think that this would depress his support among Republican voters. It didn’t. Instead, those voters changed their views of trade. Their beliefs followed their affiliations, not the other way around.

Bouie clearly doesn’t see this as a fundamental critique of democracy (which is amusing).

Market Signals

Crypto-currency investment continues to be highly-rewarding for the early adopters:

While blockchain developers have long aimed to provide users of digital currency with privacy, the technology offered by Zcash could offer its users a hereto unforeseen level of anonymity. Now, investors have taken note. […] This hype is evidence in the sharp price gains that Zcash futures contracts have enjoyed ahead of the cryptocurrency’s 28th October launch. […] The contracts, which trade against the price of bitcoin, have surged from a low of $18 (0.027 BTC) on 15th September to a high of $261 (0.379 BTC) as of yesterday, a change that represents an increase of nearly 1,300%. […] … At the time of its initial crowdsale, the price of one ethereum token (1 ETH) was roughly $0.30. Today, it’s $11.93, or a nearly 4,000% increase. A similar appreciation has been observed in bitcoin, which rose from $0 to $685, and Augur’s reputation toke (REP), which rose from roughly $0.50 to more than $6 today.

Monetary exit-pressure is clearly non-negligible.

More Zcash release news here.

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Digital Thing

Iceland could be about to become a redoubt for Cyberspace liberty:

The party that could be on the cusp of winning Iceland’s national elections on Saturday didn’t exist four years ago. […] Its members are a collection of anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks. It sets policy through online polls — and thinks the government should do the same. It wants to make Iceland “a Switzerland of bits,” free of digital snooping. It has offered Edward Snowden a new place to call home. […] And then there’s the name: In this land of Vikings, the Pirate Party may soon be king. …