Octavo Dia

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Hostage taking

In any sort of negotiations, one of the tactics is to tie your own hands. If you cannot concede, it forces the other side to do so. So I was wondering, what would happen if, when someone took hostages and demanded an exchange of prisoners, you took the list of those they demanded released and summarily executed them? Suddenly, their demand has become impossible to fulfill. They'd have to come up with secondary demands or kill the hostages. If they kill the hostages, they've just thrown away their only negotiating piece.

It gets more interesting, however, when you consider the negotiating counter-moves. Would people demand lists of prisoners in the future if they knew that was the result? Would people take hostages and then demand the release of prisoners from another faction just to have them killed? How would you counter such a move?

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

This is just a random thought about which I have no basis for criticism, but if the world was warming, wouldn't we be seeing a significant increase in precipitation somewhere? Why would the only rivers with increased flow be as a result of increased snowmelt?

Broken windows and sunk costs

According to the Economist blog, the city of Flint Michigan is buying up and bulldozing vacant homes to help clear the market. Most of the commentators think it's a poor economic decision--you are, after all, destroying wealth. Many of the them, though they don't say it explicitly, are arguing that this is the broken window fallacy in action.

I think the government is actually make a rational business decision. They're not destroying wealth, they're ignoring sunk costs. The houses they're buying have already been built. Nothing is going to undo that fact. What remains is to pursue the most advantageous course of action despite what has been done before. If the most advantageous course is to bulldoze, then by all means they should bulldoze. My gut reaction is that it isn't, but it is at least within the realm of possibility.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Bad ideas: open source bailouts

Here's a good idea in the wrong context. Basically, they think that bailout plans should be open source, so people can analyze them before they're enacted. It's a good idea, but for run of the mill regulation. For a bailout, making it open source would simply allow people to create rent-seeking positions, and influence public opinion towards a plan which would benefit those positions.