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Comment Re:Even more citations (Score 1) 185

Well, whether the situation fits the various definitions is a judgment call. It depends on whether you perceive what the property company is doing as productive, or exploiting their middleman position to extort fees they've done nothing to earn -- an activity which would fit all the definitions I listed. I'll leave that up to other readers, since we clearly differ on issues of substance as well as terminology.

a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner

There is nothing "frivolous" about being clear when making economic and political statements,

Says the person who draws a distinction between "rent seeking" and "business decisions", as if one were not an instance of the other.

I see irony is not one of your strong suits.

Comment Even more citations (Score 1) 185

I'm back at my computer so here you go:

"Rent seeking is the socially costly pursuit of wealth transfers" -- The Encyclopedia of Public Choice, Rowley, Charles, Schneider, Friedrich (Eds.), Springer-Verlag 2003.

"Definition of 'Rent-Seeking' When a company, organization or individual uses their resources to obtain an economic gain from others without reciprocating any benefits back to society through wealth creation." -- Investopedia,, Accessed June 1 2014.

"The idea that resources are unproductively used in rent-seeking contests has much broader application than the original rent-seeking papers suggested[emphasis mine] The rent-seeking logic has been applied to issues in history, sociology, anthropology, biology and philosophy. The core has also been formalized and analyzed more rigorously, using the tools of modern game theory. The modern rent-seeking literature describes the rational decision to invest in contesting pre-existing wealth or income, rather than undertaking productive activity. [emphasis mine]" -- Congleton, Roger D., Arye L. Hillman, and Kai A. Konrad. "Forty years of research on rent seeking: an overview." The Theory of Rent Seeking: Forty Years of Research 1 (2008).

In other words while rent-seeking in the sense of Anne Krueger's 1974 paper still continues to be an active area of research, the term is used differently in wider areas of economic research.

Oh, yes, and one more citation for you:

"prig (n.): a person who displays or demands of others pointlessly precise conformity, fussiness about trivialities, or exaggerated propriety, especially in a self-righteous or irritating manner." -- "prig." Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 01 Jun. 2014.>.

Comment Citation provided (Score 1) 185


Cutting yourself a bigger slice of the cake rather than making the cake bigger. Trying to make more money without producing more for customers. Classic examples of rent-seeking, a phrase coined by an economist, Gordon Tullock, include:

a protection racket, in which the gang takes a cut from the shopkeeper's PROFIT;
a CARTEL of FIRMS agreeing to raise PRICES;
a UNION demanding higher WAGES without offering any increase in PRODUCTIVITY;
lobbying the GOVERNMENT for tax, spending or regulatory policies that benefit the lobbyists at the expense of taxpayers or consumers or some other rivals.
Whether legal or illegal, as they do not create any value, rent-seeking activities can impose large costs on an economy.

Source The Economist Magazine Dictionary of Economic Terms. I can cite many other sources, but I'm posting this from a phone so you can Google them yourself.

The Wikipedia article is about the rent seeking as described in Anne Kreuger's well-known 1974 paper. However that is only one example of how investors attempt to seek higher than normal profits without creating any utility, which is the more general sense of the word.

Comment Re:Settle Down... (Score 1) 294

And in a sense we were undone by our own economic theories, more specifically by the assumptions in those theories like perfect information. Those oh-so-useful but obviously untrue assumptions have some nasty corner cases.

When people discovered how to create financial instruments that eliminated risk, they thought they'd discovered how to do what was literally impossible. If I had to boil it all down to one sentence, here it is: All these financial institutions thought they were insulating themselves from risk, but when everyone started to do it they ended up coupling themselves to risks other institutions were taking. When everyone is underwriting everyone else's risks, those risks don't disappear, they end up chained together, as if everyone was standing in a circle and leaning on the guy to his right.

Comment Re:Settle Down... (Score 2) 294

Yeah, but doesn't *everything* fall apart with "so long as its being used responsibly". It's great that the military has the weapons it needs to do its job, "as long as they're being used responsibly."

That's not the way to think about this. The way to think about is to ask what can the government do do you that the couldn't do before?

Just like any private enterprise, the government can pull your credit report if it wants to. Now. And you'd better believe they do when they're investigating someone, or even looking for suspects. It's been happening for years now. The Washington DC sniper was a watershed case in the government procuring private sector data mining services to conduct a digital dragnet. Haven't you ever heard of a "fusion center"? The idea that *this* database gives the government any data about you it didn't have or couldn't easily get is silly.

So what can the government do with this database that it couldn't do before? It can find out whether a bank is writing bad mortgages and handing them off like a hot potato.

Comment Wow. Classic rent-seeking behavior... (Score 5, Insightful) 185

Which I guess under the circumstances is pretty predictable.

I guess where I'd start is with the facts. I'd build a model for how much it would cost, additional staff needed, how much it would bring in, support (and under the circumstances enforcement) costs, what competitors the users could turn to, what the content providers would be willing to pay (if anything) etc. I wouldn't do the new business idea any favors; I'd be objective and hard-nosed about it as possible. If the new service selling your residents to content providers isn't going to be profitable, then the whole idea goes no farther.

It's a safe bet that the business wouldn't be as profitable as the directors think, simply because it's usually a lot harder to make money in an unfamiliar business than you hoped it would be. It's easy enough in the abstract to believe the new idea will be like printing money, but in fact you're still trying to get people to part with their money, which is going to cost you *your* money. And you think, "Gee we got 15,000 customers, we can charge content providers a pretty penny for access." But is 15000 so large a potential customer base that content providers will adjust to a new way of doing business just for *you*? The big guys like Apple and Netflix and Amazon will probably just laugh at you and leave you twisting slowly, slowly in the wind rather than pay you a dime and invite every two-bit Internet baron to shake them down too. So maybe contact some of the big guys and just ask them how much they'd be willing to pay up and what kinds of services they'd expect in return. Those services are important!!! It's usually the unanticipated support costs that kill gold-egg-laying IT geese.

As for the small guys, well, they probably don't have much money to cough up. But it'd still be worth contacting some local business that needs access to your 15000 customers and taking them for a test shakedown, just to show you were a good soldier and looked in the sofa cushions for loose change. That kind of pathetic detail often drives home the futility of a hare-brained scheme. People when they come up with a brainstorm like this imagine piles of money-for-nuthin rolling in, so a bit of a reality check is healthy.

In other words, I would start with due diligence before you contemplate waving the bloody shirt. If, against all expectation, the idea proves to be promising, well I'd discreetly get an idea how your existing customers will react to having some of the Internet sites they need throttled. Remember, you're dealing with the dream of money-for-nuthin. Your job, your responsibility to your employers is to show them what it will really cost them in money, headaches and reputation.

Comment Re:What has happened in Florida? (Score 2) 40

Disclaimer: My comment/question isn't based upon any scientific background, so feel free to throw mud on my theory.

So, if a species is only found in a tiny area, is that species really viable?

Answer: often it is. Many species show signs of having done through a "genetic bottleneck" and subsequently grew to considerable populations. In the 1890s, there were fewer than 30 northern elephant seals in the whole world. Today there are hundreds of thousands, but back then a single project could have wiped them out. All the cheetahs in the world today descended from only seven individuals that lived ten thousand years ago. But they subsequently went on to be a highly successful species, with a range that covered all of Africa and Central and South Asia. Even humanity went through a population bottleneck 100,000 years ago. We could well have gone extinct.

If their survival is that fragile, that they can't survive outside of that area, is there value in making the effort to helping them, or are they more likely to go extinct anyway?

You're mixing up different questions: whether there is value in making efforts to help endangered species (which is an philosophical question, not a scientific one), or whether they're likely to go extinct "anyway" (which is an exercise in prognostication).

"Anyway" is a loaded term. Extinction *is* a natural process, but we are living in a period extinction rates unprecedented in the lifetime of our species. That means that the vast majority of species facing extinction face it as the result of human activities. Where merely tweaking an activity can save a species from extinction, say placing a facility *here* rather than *there*, that doesn't seem like too much to ask.

And taking steps to protect endangered species works. Not 100% of the time, of course, but enough of the time to show it's worth giving it a try. I'm old enough to remember when seeing a bald eagle was a once-in-a-lifetime event. When I was a small kid, there were maybe a thousand bald eagles in all the contiguous 48 states. Today there are about ten thousand nesting pairs. As a result of conservation efforts, most conservation efforts are no longer needed. It's still a thrill for me to see a nesting pair soaring over some pond, but it's actually a very commonplace sight these days. I suppose if you don't remember a time when seeing an eagle was a rare even than seeing a wild bison is today, you might not realize how successful a conservation program can be.

Comment Re:What has happened in Florida? (Score 2) 40

You're missing the point. The *specifics* of the site, particularly the specific *species* it hosts, makes a difference. That's why you check. Sometimes its not *what* you are building that's the problem, but where you're proposing to build it.

The outline at least of the process is reasonable. Before you start bulldozing, you check to see what it is you'll be demolishing and what the impact on your neighbors will be.

We can argue about what should be sufficient to red light a project, but since the project got the green light the project's owners don't have anything to complain about. Like breaking ground (which comes later), passing the environmental impact review is an important but routine milestone in a project.

Comment Re:The Songs of Distant Earth (Score 1) 323

In Clifford Simak's novel "WAY STATION", intelligent beings "traveled" between the stars using machines that created a perfect copy of themselves at the destination (and simultaneously destroyed the original). Since the copy contained all the original's memories it was for all measurable purposes teleportation.

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