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Mistah Kurtz, not quite dead

By Owen Paine on Wednesday May 27, 2009 11:32 PM

From this --

... to this? --

So says the Marlboro Man manque below, Pecos Paul Romer:

Romer is among other distinctions the father of a particularly kinky model of economic "grohfffff"(*) -- based on Father Smiff's bete noire, "intellectual property" -- that set off a few gongs about 15 years ago.

Now, it seems he wants to play Solon to a Hanseatic League of black African Hong Kongs -- no, really, he does. Honest.

"The idea is to create city-states along the coast of Africa that can become economic hubs for the region and at the same time be insulated from the continent's notorious corruption and political chaos. In a sense, it's what the British did with Hong Kong in the 19th century when China was relatively unstable....

"I am going to put my whole career on the line with this new idea."

Yes you -- AREN'T.

If ever the trans-nat limited-liability crowd had a Don Quixote of Filibuster Incorporated, this guy has got to be him.

"Romer envisions a Nordic country, perhaps, emerging as a champion for his concept. The European host could accelerate economic growth by taking charge of police forces, jails, and courts. Local government would take care of the rest....

Romer said he would not trust the United States to serve as a steward in Africa, and he even doesn't think even the European Union is up for the task.... [He] prefers to focus on the Nordic countries and their history of conflict mediation and peacekeeping operations, working closely with the U.N."

You can't make stuff like this up.


(*) Sample -- this is the setup:

"A traditional explanation for the persistent poverty of many less developed countries is that they lack objects such as natural resources or capital goods. But Taiwan stared with little of either and still grew rapidly. Something else must be involved.

Increasingly, emphasis is shifting to the notion that it is ideas, not objects, that poor countries lack. The knowledge needed to provide citizens of the poorest countries with a vastly improved standard of living already exists in the advanced countries. If a poor nation invests in education and does not destroy the incentives for its citizens to acquire ideas from the rest of the world, it can rapidly take advantage of the publicly available part of the worldwide stock of knowledge."

Now the turn into the home stretch:
"If, in addition, it offers incentives for privately held ideas to be put to use within its borders—for example, by protecting foreign patents, copyrights, and licenses, by permitting direct investment by foreign firms, by protecting property rights, and by avoiding heavy regulation and high marginal tax rates—its citizens can soon work in state-of-the-art productive activities."

Comments (10)

Billy O'Connor [TypeKey Profile Page]:

Roland the headless Thompson gunner...


I saw this a little while ago.

The more I learn about the personal beliefs of top economists, the more scared I get. These people are socially retarded and historically illiterate.

Michael Hureaux:

Stinking running dogs. Arf arf arf. Not only do we have to indulge this stuff at the national level, but now, a lot of us who teach get to go to "professional development" classes. These classes offer curriculum ideas for helping students learn about the "economy of the 21st century" and "globalization". I was told that "we should be tolerant of people new ideas, even if we're not in agreement with them" the other day when I remarked that the global economy of the 21st century resembled nothing so much as the global economy of the late 19th and early 20th century, down to the territorial conflicts that emerged during that era.

Apparently 19th century thuggery and Eurocentric ideology are new ideas. How these people square this with their culty-mulcheralism is beyond me.


I always thought Dante's Inferno was a pretty exhustive catalogue of evils, but we've expanded the field so vastly in our time, the Inferno now seems kinda quaint. What ring could you possibly put this guy in? Could you even stand to think of a name for it?

The ring, hce, where you get served plates of virtual baked Alaska and holographic meatloaf for every meal.

Ha-Joon Chang should kick this clown square in the nuts.

Son of Uncle Sam:

"...its citizens can soon work in state-of-the-art productive activities."
Does state of the art mean little kids get en education on manufacturing by cleaning those hard reach places or state of the art means automated plants will do everything but sweep the floors and unblock toilets? That sounds economic either way.

Slaney Black:

This actually kind of happened already in Equitorial Guinea. Except it was drug cartels instead of Swedes...but then again opium is basically what the Sino-Brits were trafficking in anyhow, so either way Romer comes out ahead.

Peter Ward:

IP is a hot topic among liberal intellectuals these days. Peer to Peer, a scheme claiming to remedy some of the disaffection caused by the current workplace also has reform of IP as one of its tenants--in this case calling for the removal of copyright restrictions on certain artifacts. Obviously I'm in favor of abolishing IP or any other form of "property right"; unfortunately P2P mainly targets products that are basically practically impossible to protect anyway such as website designs and product designs. And the real aim is, I suspect, not to help the masses expropriate intellectual property but to alleviate from designers and developers the burden of costly litigation currently the result of absurd application of traditional IP laws to IT and kindred product.

If real reforms are sought by the agents mentioned above one presumes motives are a bit less altruistic than made out to be.


Motives are never altruistic, Peter. But anything that tends to brush back the IP hegemons, even a little bit, is a good thing, surely.



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