Gongol.com Archives: July 2009
Brian Gongol

July 21, 2009

Business and Finance The Pope is a terrible economist
In an encyclical, Pope Benedict XVI has come out swinging against the notion of profit, blasts the "rigid assertion of the right to intellectual property", and promotes a notion of painful economic illiteracy. While acknowledging the growing wealth of the world, he decries inequality. But that's what happens with growth -- inequalities do grow, at least in the short term. At its founding, the United States was a widely-varied nation, ranging from very poor to very wealthy. But over time, as the country has made use of the natural forces of economics to promote development and innovation, the entire nation has grown much wealthier. There are profound inequalities, to be sure -- Bill Gates has a vastly better standard of living than someone working for minimum wage at a convenience store in Mississippi. But both live like kings when compared to the very Founding Fathers of the nation, who knew nothing of modern indoor plumbing, penicillin, or HDTV. What the Pope (and many others) appear to overlook is that market forces are really forces of nature, like the wind and the tides. We can adapt to them and even harness them, but we can't stop them. And what those forces do is reward those who create and apply new ideas to problems that others are willing to pay to stop suffering. Rather than greater government power and authority and intervention, as the Pope calls for, what the world needs is better recognition of things like property rights for all, but most especially the poor. The poor are rarely poor due to a lack of capacity -- they're poor because bad systems and cruel governments keep them poor.

Science and Technology More popularization of science, courtesy of Bill Gates
He's using a tiny fraction of his colossal wealth to make classic lectures on science available to the public, and says he wants to do much more of the same. And that's an excellent thing to hear, because there's a huge disconnect between the advanced world in which we live and the general level of understanding of how that world works. After all, 42% of Americans reject evolution as an explanation for how we got here and say we've always been the way we are.

Computers and the Internet Computers without controllers: On the way soon
Microsoft is working on taking a sensory project called Project Natal and applying it to everything from gaming systems to personal computers. The system senses the user's movement and behavior, doing away with the need for controllers. Science fiction has long proposed computers that didn't involve a lot of keyboard use. This might be one significant step in that direction.

Broadcasting New FCC chair sounds like the kind of person who likes market-based ideas
But if he's called upon to implement new ownership controls or a revived "fairness doctrine," then we could be in for trouble. Politics and communications have a strange relationship, since politicians need to promote their campaign messages and brands, but they tend not to like criticism once they get into office.

Water News Public-private partnerships and infrastructure investment

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