Tag Archives: News & Politics

Recent Interesting Science Articles (Nov ’10)

Three articles this month, one on an amazing new implant that allows the blind to see, albeit in low resolution, one on a way of treating auto-immune disorders that I’d long suspected would work, and one about which sorts of people think the most like an economist. Let’s start with the eye implant first.

Using technology to let the blind see again has long been one of the staples of science-fiction, perhaps one best exemplified by the character of Geordi LaForge of Star Trek: The Next Generation. I remember being amazed a few years back when scientists successfully gave a very crude form of sight to some blind people by essentially using feeding the input of cameras to nerve receptors on their chests. But as far as I know, this is the first example of an actual artificial eye implant.

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Zimbabwe Inflation Rate Now at 2.2m%

Back in February, I blogged about Zimbabwe’s $10 million note and received a ton of hits when it got stumbled. At that time, Zimbabwe had an official annual inflation rate of over 150,000%. Now that Mugabe has blatantly stole the elections, inflation has again shot up so ridiculously high that it makes the previous rate look like just a milk run.

According to this report in the Guardian, the official, and hence woefully under-reported, inflation rate is now at 2.2m% and the largest bank note is now denominated at $50 billion, with a value of around 18 British pence. The government can’t even print money fast enough, so that ordinary people are now limited to only $100 billion of withdrawals a day.

Just another day in the ongoing trainwreck that is Zimbabwe.

A Biography: Frédéric Bastiat

If each man has the right to defend, even by force, his person, his liberty, and his property, several men have the right to get together, come to an understanding, and organize a collective force to provide regularly for this defense. Collective right, then, has its principle, its raison d’être, its legitimate basis, in individual right; and the collective force can rationally have no other end, no other function, than that of the individual forces for which it substitutes. Thus, as an individual cannot legitimately use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, for the same reason collective force cannot legitimately be applied to destroy the person, liberty, and property of individuals or classes.

– Frédéric Bastiat in The Law

Frédéric Bastiat

In a modern France that idolizes José Bové, a French farmer who is best known for vandalizing a McDonald’s restaurant, as a national hero, it is easy to forget that there once lived in that same country, a liberal economist by the name of Claude Frédéric Bastiat. In America, he happens to be one of the most well-known of the French liberalists, yet is almost completely unheard of in his native France.

Bastiat is most famous for his 1845 “Candle-makers’ Petition”, a satirical plea on behalf of the candle-makers of France to the French Parliament to ban the sun, which he wittily describes as a competitor that brings ruin to the candle-makers since it offers illumination for free. Here, Bastiat effectively demonstrates that if the citizens of the country may obtain a good or a service cheaply, it would be ludicrous to turn down this offer even if it would mean some loss of business for the domestic producers of that same good or service. This is one of the best-argued denunciations of protectionism ever written and is justly reprinted in a number of economics textbooks.

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