Dopes On A Boat

Here you go.  As the old joke goes, Palestinians really need someone smart in charge—they should find a smart Jewish guy to run the show.

PS – Crowbars are not normal instruments for “peace activists.” Or if they are, that would explain why these “peace activists” are so terrible at promoting peaceful activity.


The Most Boring MST3K Episode Ever

The Starfighters, from season 6, episode 12.  The movie is so bad that they couldn’t even make fun of it nearly as much as you’d think.  On the plus side, it had Crow describe his Pentium 90 computer with 32 MB of RAM, a SoundBlaster 16 card, and a 28.8K modem.  That was pretty hot back in 1994.

Check it out on YouTube (unless you have Netflix, in which case you can get it instant).

Update On Aliases For Named Instances

On Friday at work, I realized that there was a bit of configuration in my previous post on aliases for named instances that I was missing.  Here’s a recap:  you have three instances of SQL Server and want to use IPs,, and as server IPs.  Then you create three DNS aliases for these three IP addresses, pointing to the names you would like to use.

When you do this, you will likely want to do them on a different IP address than the host lookup address. Why?  Because otherwise, you won’t be able to use the named instance references in SQL Server Management Studio (or anywhere else, to be honest)!  So if you really do want to connect to “SVR\Dev2” instead of “Dev2,” you won’t be able to do so.  Fortunately, there’s a way to fix that.

Remember that we have a server called SVR and the three instances.  Let’s also say that SVR points to  Each of the named instances currently has TCP/IP looking only for connections on the appropriate IP address: for Dev, 3 for Net, and 4 for Dev2.  For each of the named instances, you can open SQL Server Configuration Manager, edit the TCP/IP properties, and accept connections on as well.  Here’s the trick, though:  you must specify three separate ports, one for each of the named instances.  In my particular case, I had a static port on the MSSQLSERVER instance and a specified dynamic port on each of the DEV2 and NETWORK instances.  Doing this gives you the best of both worlds:  it allows you to reference “Dev2.[your domain]” (or just “Dev” if you’re inside your domain) and still lets you connect to “SVR\DEV2” for software which requires this kind of connection.

Stabilizing The Debt

I’ve been waiting for somebody to make a simulation like this one.  The idea is to stabilize the debt at 60% of GDP by 2018.  It’s a bit more realistic than I would like—“reneg on entitlement programs” wasn’t an option, for example—but it’s fun.  It’s also a bit scary realizing exactly how much we would have to cut in order to get anywhere.  Reneging sounds like a better and better—or at least more likely to become necessary—idea.

In The Papers: Lessons From Medieval Trade

Back when I visited Germany last (you can see how long my backlog is…), I read a then-more-recent book review of Avner Greif’s Institutions and the Path to the Modern Economy:  Lessons from Medieval Trade by Gregory Clark.  Clark notes that Greif’s goal is “to show that institutions are the fundamental driver of all economic history and of all contemporary differences in economic performance” (725*).  Clark argues that unfortunately, this book is “two very different books that have been forcibly married and that cohabit in domestic discord” (725).  Book 1 is a work on institutional economic history, an argument that medieval institutional structures led to later differences in performance.  The second book, however, “is a long, deep, thoughtful, indeed brooding, meditation on the nature of social institutions in general, their stability, and their dynamics” (725).  Mixing these two books together, unfortunately, is troublesome for readers.

The problem with any attempt to tie institutions to performance is that, as Clark notes, “there is no simple mapping between explicit institutional rules and the actual operation of institutions” (725-726).  Apparently-minor differences in institutions may have come about for drastically different and may perform significantly differently.  Furthermore, stated institutions are not the same as acting institutions.  A superficial overview of institutions is bound to miss very important aspects and can easily lead to the wrong conclusions.

So why study institutions?  Because, as North and Thomas wrote, “Efficient economic organization is the key to growth; the development of an efficient economic organization in Western Europe accounts for the rise of the West” (726).  We have to understand these institutions if we are ever to make sense of the world.  The 1950s account of institution-free microeconomics had some value, but it lost a great deal, including explanatory power over the real world.  When Hayek and Mises railed against the concept of socialist calculation, they took into account sometimes-subtle institutions that could not exist in a non-market order.  The salutary effects of these institutions were assumed into the institution-free model, but without good reason, and to great harm for the profession of economics.

Another historical point that most economists (may) have wrong is the idea that markets “are an easy and natural thing.”  For example, Adam Smith, during a lecture in 1755, noted, “Little else is requisite to carry a state to the highest degree of opulence from the lowest barbarism but peace, easy taxes, and a tolerable administration of justice:  all the rest being brought about by the natural course of things” (727).  Greif would argue otherwise—he notes how precarious and difficult the development of long-distance trade was, and believes that “the path to modern growth, a tortuous and difficult one, was through the creation of institutions that supported trade” (728).  Clark begs to differ:  he writes that this belief “is hard to square with the archeological record that shows long distance trade even before the Neolithic Revolution created settled agriculture,” and that “long distance trade was present from the dawn of agriculture, and perhaps even before” (728).  There was a decline in long-distance trade in Europe after the fall of Rome, but it was neither necessary nor even necessarily the default position.

Greif also “argues that even cities that profit from trade will have an incentive to expropriate or cheat isolated merchants who come to trade” (728).  I disagree with this on two grounds:  one theoretical and one practical.  The theoretical ground is that the folk theorem could lead you to believe otherwise.  If denizens of a city reneg on trade agreements, merchants can hear about this and subsequently refuse to trade with that city, leading to a long-term decline.  As long as the denizens value the future stream of goods more than the value from reneging on a present deal, there will be a “natural” check on the threat of expropriation.  This isn’t enough to stop it in all cases, but it does build up a presumption that there will be more trade than Greif assumes.  The practical reason is, as Clark noted, we had trade for so many millennia, even before merchant guilds.  Reputation and information could spread fairly widely, even in a medieval world.

Going back to the problem of the difficulty of analyzing institutions, Clark notes (following Greif) that “institutions are generally much more complex than the formal rules and that this creates major difficulties for institutional analysis” (733).  One example that Clark gives is that, in medieval England, given the rules of serfdom in place, “the serfs ended up enslaving the lords.  Serfdom disappeared in England without ever being formally abolished.  Governments can make any rules they want, but what institution actually results will be determined by much more complex social interactions” (733).  This is a strong warning to people who undertake the decidedly important task of learning about and understanding historical institutions.  Such a path is vital, but also fraught with danger.  Well, intellectual danger at least.

* – The copy I printed out spanned pages 725-741, but the PDF above goes from 727-743.  I give the page numbers that appear in my copy.