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February 08, 2010


Paul Sagar

Machiavelli in his Discorsi puts forward a conception of republican institutions whereby things are so ordered as to manipulate individuals' self interests so that selfish pursuits end up benefiting the community, particularly by enhancing collective liberty.

It's a theme common in republican writings (see James Harrison's Oceana and Rousseau's infamous dictum that the laws may force us to be free). Yet in such theories men are usually seen as liable to revert to destructive self interest should institutions fail.

So I'd say it's not just neoclassical economists and (vulgar) Marxists. There's a case for including republicans too.


Hayek criticised planning because it 'failed' to respond to regional short term decisions but late monopoly capitalism has the same problem writ large and capitalism tends towards monopoly.
Funnily enough Hayek was less vocal about this problem.
And that is even ignoring the enourmous waste and anarchy inherent within it.

Just had to say that.


There's a non-vulgar kind?


1) Not sure who the buxom young lady is
2) Not sure why more cleavage isn't on show as it normally is on your blog
3) Fairly certain that the reason people become " brave" or "good" has lots to do with being bloody-minded when shit scared and/or angry. I had an uncle who won 2 MCs and bars, and he maintained on each occasion it was that he was simply NOT going to give in under ANY circumstances. It's why the suicide bommbers are lethal. You can't do anything to them to make them want to stop.

Surreptitious Evil

Errm, it's fiction? Admittedly, like much of the economics output from HMG (and the opposition and the wonkeries) at the moment.

What does it tell us? The 24 screen-writers don't think that people are much interested in having management portrayed as competent - probably because they suffer from the same confirmation bias as the rest of us in remembering the poor amongst the mix of managers they have worked for.

Of course, if you look at the CSI / NCIS / Criminal Minds / Without a Trace genre, the management are portrayed much more sympathetically, with middle management being core 'hero' characters - Grissom, Caine etc. Not being an obsessive watcher, I may be (aka am probably) wrong but I think Ecklie in the original Las Vegas is the only one portrayed as regularly counter-productive to the team and, even then, he is a highly competent careerist going through several promotions (and you can easily argue that, in the US legal system, a devotion to process is hardly a major flaw.)

As for turning in to heros? All that tells us is that the script writers came up with an entertaining way of ending somebody's contract.


"In this sense, a further cost of hierarchy - missed, I think, by Williamson - is that it has an innate bias towards being run by incompetents."

Isn't this the Peter Principle?

David Friedman

"If he had to rely upon pure market transactions, he’d have to haggle over the price of mercenaries and helicopter hire, and never get near a villain."

I'm not familiar with any of the shows you are discussing, but I think that comment is wrong. If response time is an important product characteristic you can buy it, just like other characteristics.

I am told that firms that sell computer support to other firms routinely guarantee to fix problems within some (short) time, and do so.

So far as "haggling" is concerned, quite a lot of goods and services are sold at predetermined and publicly stated prices.

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