Thursday, July 22, 2010

JournoList, Breitbart, and the Prisoner's Dilemma

JournoList was an e-mail list created by Ezra Klein for liberal opinion setters to have off-the-record conversations. It has been on the fringe of news for a couple of years, but about a month ago, in reaction to some incident, Andrew Breitbart offered $100,000 for the full JournoList archives.

The list had 400 members. None of them would want the list to be made public because in the 25,000 e-mails that make up the archive, there must be numerous things that would be very embarrassing. However, the logic of the prisoner's dilemma suggests that it would be quite likely that someone would move to grab the money. And if you know that others have that incentive, you might was well be the one to collect the $100K

I do not know if someone collected, but the offer has been withdrawn and the Daily Caller has begun to publish articles about what is in the archives. The former JournoListers complain that things are taken out of context, but are unwilling to release the archives so everyone can take a peak. It would seem that if Breitbart got the archives, the articles would be on his BigJournalism site, not on the Daily Caller, but Breitbart is a master of media messaging, and maybe he wants the details to come out elsewhere.

In addition to being a wonderful illustration of a real world prisoner's dilemma situation, there are two other things that I find interesting about this whole incident. The first is that some apparently bright people did not realize that whatever you put out into the Internet (and an e-mail list-serve is part of the Internet) should not be considered private. I am constantly appalled at what young people put on Facebook, but stupidity is part of being young. That supposedly sophisticated journalists would make the same mistake is comic.

The second is a failure to recognize that intentions are not enough. Jonathan Chiat writes, "Let me disabuse everybody by revealing that Journolist was not created for people to work out some party line." What he fails to recognize is that as organizations and interactions continue, they often (usually?) drift into new purposes and new uses. It was almost inevitable that a list like this, with all conservatives kept off (epistemic closure is alive and well on the Left) would at some time be used to work out partisan party lines. Moreover, one of the differences between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives are more likely to be concerned with unintended consequences and actual effects and less interested in the motivations or intentions than are liberals. I think the defense of JournoList will show that tendency--the defense will focus on intentions, not results.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Merle Hazard on Greek Debt

Merle Hazard has another winning video:

The decline of books

From the Washington Post:
In the past three months, Amazon has sold 143 Kindle books for every 100 hardcover books, the company said. In July, sales of e-books accelerated to 180 sold for every 100 hardcover versions. Kindle book sales this year have also exceeded broader e-book sales growth, pegged by the Association of American Publishers at 207 percent through May, Amazon said.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Expectations matter

From Fareed Zakaria's "Obama's CEO problem -- and ours" in the Washington Post:

So why are they reluctant, despite having mounds of cash? I put this question to a series of business leaders, all of whom were expansive on the topic yet did not want to be quoted by name, for fear of offending people in Washington.

Economic uncertainty was the primary cause of their caution. ... But in addition to economics, they kept talking about politics, about the uncertainty surrounding regulations and taxes. ,,,

One CEO told me, "Almost every agency we deal with has announced some expansion of its authority, which naturally makes me concerned about what's in store for us for the future." Another pointed out that between the health-care bill, financial reform and possibly cap-and-trade, his company had lawyers working day and night to figure out the implications of all these new regulations. ...

Most of the business leaders I spoke to had voted for Barack Obama. They still admire him. Those who had met him thought he was unusually smart. But all think he is, at his core, anti-business. 

How much did people worry about offending people in Washington when Bush was president?