27 February 2011

"Age of Persuasion" and other podcasts

The CBC Radio show "Age of Persuasion" used to only be available as an unofficial, fan-run podcast. I just found out that starting in January they launched an official feed.

The show is about marketing, but is full of interesting stories and anecdotes even if that topic does not interest you.

I just listened to a recent episode ("Speedbumps") and host Terry O'Reilly had a good explanation of Van Halen's infamous "no brown M&Ms contract rider."  Go and listen.

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Philosophy Bites is old, but new to me.  10-20 minute interviews with philosophers on a wide variety of subjects.  Worth a listen.

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I have recommended Radiolab before, but their latest [when I drafted this weeks ago] is particularly good.  It is about sense of direction and being lost.  Well, loosely about that.  The story at the end is moving, and I am rarely moved by stories in the loved-one-gets-sick-will-they-recover? genre.

Oceanographers and others like to point out that we know more about the Moon than we do about the oceans which are so close by.  I would add that we know even less about what is inside our own skulls.

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The most recent [actually this time] History of Rome has some interesting economics, as it deals with Diocletian's economic reforms during the Tetrarchy.

Run away inflation and an obsession with the neatness and order of top-down command-and-control systems made him do all sorts of silly and destructive things.  Unable to trust the money supply, he invented a new unit of universal exchange for tax assessing and collecting purposes so that the worth of any quantity of one good could be converted into some quantity of any other.  But in order for this static system to remain approximately workable he needed to freeze production of everything at then-current levels in every region, so there were orders remarkable similar to Directive 10-289.  No one was allowed to move or to change professions, even inter-generationally, ushering in the era of serfdom.  Throw on top of that the Edict on Maximum Prices, which imposed death penalties for exceeding the price caps, and assorted other dirigiste tomfoolery and you got yourself a lovely mess worthy that Hugo Chavez or Robert Mugabe can only dream of rivaling.


  1. Unsurprisingly, I find myself listening to a couple of the same podcasts (History of Rome and Philosophy Bites). I had always known that Diocletian was somewhat infamous in modern circles for his disastrous economic policies, but I had no idea just how around-the-bend he was on the subject until History of Rome got there. It was a bit shocking to see Atlas Shrugged playing out there.

    The thing I find the most puzzling/depressing about history is that the societies that are most regarded as successful historically are those in which the government is best at squeezing its populous dry of money and conquering the neighbors for several successive centuries. It makes a libertarian sad to realize that this teaches modern people that a society should be judged by some sort of governmental economic/military pissing contest, rather than on the standard of living it can provide its citizens (using "provide" loosely). Thoughts?

  2. I think you're right about the types of people and nations we tend to glorify. I try and stay vigilant against that, but even I still catch myself thinking the Alexanders and Octavians are pretty boss.

    What societies should libertarians like us be boosters for instead of the autocratic military juggernauts? The Italian renaissance city states come to mind. The Early republican Rome? I'm partial to Scotland in the couple of centuries before being subsumed by England, but that's partially ancestral good will.

    Regarding Diocletian, I'm actually willing to give him a bit of a pass for terrible economic reforms because unlike modern day statists, he really didn't know any better. Or I imagine he might not have. Was there anybody who had a decent theory of things like dynamism in prices or inflation or monetary policy? He made some terrible decisions, and maybe he should have been able to reason out how they would end up, but unlike, say, Mao, there wasn't anyone around who could proove what he was doing was batshit.