Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Big Bag of Ethics: Internet, Rent Seeking, and Development

On the business ethics of search engine optimization (getting your website to the top of Google searches), or Simultaneously racing to the top and the bottom:
To Mr. Stevens, S.E.O. is a game, and if you’re not paying black hats, you are losing to rivals with fewer compunctions.
On internet governance post-Egypt
"If your government shuts down your internet, it’s time to shut down your government.” ... Yet mandating internet access as a matter of course is far easier than guaranteeing it during national emergencies. And a greater threat for the internet than kill switches—as well as cable cuts and human error, for that matter—is creeping and muddled regulation.
The article also discusses some countries declaring a human right to the internet. So does this mean that for thousands of years, mankind's rights to high-speed internet connection were being denied them by lack of technological progress? How many other technological rights do we have? And where's my jetpack?

On economic growth and governance post-Egypt:
... good economics need not always mean good politics; the two can part ways for quite some time. It is true that the world’s wealthy countries are almost all democracies. But democratic politics is neither a necessary nor a sufficient condition for economic development over a period of several decades. ... A second lesson is that rapid economic growth does not buy political stability on its own, unless political institutions are allowed to develop and mature rapidly as well. In fact, economic growth itself generates social and economic mobilization, a fundamental source of political instability.
On Friedman's maxim of corporate social responsibility, OR Yglesias blames rent seeking on firms:
[It] implies that a business executive has not only the right as a citizen of a democratic country but a moral obligation to dedicate his energy and that of the firm he manages toward erecting regulatory barriers to competition and to begging for bailouts and subsidies.
Meanwhile Boudreaux blames the exact same behavior on governments:
"Each year since 2006, they have asked the Commerce Department to review the U.S. duties paid by Chinese manufacturers on imports of wooden bedroom furniture. Many Chinese firms, fearing a steep rise in duties, agreed within months each time to pay cash to their U.S. competitors in return for being removed from the review list." ... What’s going on here is properly called extortion.
My first thoughts on the blame game. Update: The article seems to focus more on the business’ culpability: ‘A Commerce Department spokesman said it didn’t approve of the private settlements but lacked “authority to investigate or police agreements between private parties.”‘ So we need more authority to combat the misuse of our authority.

On the Washington Consensus model (less evil than advertised):
And here’s the thing; the Washington Consensus basically was not an evil neoliberal conspiracy, it was a reaction against reckless governments pursuing ill-advised statist policies the like of which would look pretty unrecognizable today. These are humdrum bread and butter suggestions for sound macroeconomic management, with perhaps an emphasis on limiting the ability of poorly skilled and often corrupt governments with weak accountability to do damage and mischief. ... I used to be much more enthusiastic about the proactive role of government in the economy before I actually worked for one.

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