1. Thanksgiving, Native Americans, and land theft Tyler Cowen, Bloomberg
  2. How to get through the “nationalism” minefield Steven Hayward, Law & Liberty
  3. Rioters of Hong Kong, champions of democracy Martine Bulard, Le Monde diplomatique
  4. There is no deep state Scott Sumner, EconLog


  1. Indigenous actors and International Relations Andrew Szarejko, Duck of Minerva
  2. You’re all a bunch of socialists Bryan Caplan, EconLog
  3. Doubting disaster capitalism Chris Dillow, Stumbling & Mumbling
  4. Inside America’s worst financial crisis Amanda Griffiths, Alt-M


  1. Canada’s Dark Side Susan Neylan, Origins
  2. The ethics of looted art Ian Johnson, NY Times
  3. Van Gogh and Japan Alastair Sooke, BBC
  4. How Chinese students exercise free speech abroad Fran Martin, Economist

Lunchtime Links

  1. Trophy-taking and dismemberment as warfare strategies [pdf]
  2. optimally vague contracts and the law [pdf]
  3. Germanic and Carthaginian republicanism
  4. traditional resurgence in tropical Africa [pdf]
  5. crisis bureaucracy: homeland security and the political design of legal mandates [pdf]

What’s Up with New Zealand?

Economist Scott Sumner’s 2010 piece on the unacknowledged success of neoliberalism (which I linked to yesterday and you should definitely read or reread) poses an interesting question:

There are two obvious outliers [to aggressive neoliberal reforms]. Norway, the highest-income country, is much richer than other countries with similar levels of economic freedom, and New Zealand, at 80 on the economic freedom scale and only $27,260 in per capita income (US PPP dollars), is somewhat poorer than expected […] Perhaps New Zealand’s disappointing performance is due to its remote location and its comparative advantage in agriculture holding it back in an increasingly globalized economy in which many governments subsidize farming.

Rather than challenge Sumner’s thoughts as to why New Zealand is much poorer (I think his guess explains a lot), I think I can add to it: The Maori.

The Maori are the indigenous inhabitants of New Zealand, and can be compared – socially – to the Native Americans of the New World or the aborigines of Australia. Unfortunately I know next to nothing about the Maori (or other South Pacific cultures), but I do know how to draw rough inferences about things by using data!

The Maori comprise about 15% of New Zealand’s population, whereas in other states settled by Anglo colonies the population of the natives relative to the overall population of the country is minute (aborigines in Australia comprise 3% of the population, for example, and in Canada and the US the indigenous make up about 2%).

The relatively large percentage of indigenous citizens in New Zealand can better explain why New Zealand is an outlier among rich countries, but I also think it’s important to ask why the Maori (and other indigenous populations in Anglo-settled colonies) have failed to match the demographic trends of their European and Asian counterparts.

Institutions are, to me, the obvious answer, but I’m curious as to what the rest of you think. I’d also like to add that I don’t think enough of us think about the issue of land (as in ‘land, labor and capital’ when we discuss the huge demographic gaps found between – for lack of better terms – settlers and natives in Anglo-American countries).

Around the Web

  1. A university in Malaysia has awarded an economics doctorate to North Korea’s communist dictator
  2. Ian Bremmer asks, in the pages of the National Interest, if China is in the middle of a big bubble
  3. The Diffusion of Responsibility: a short piece on government employees, the rest of us, and some implications of the drug war
  4. How laissez-faire made Sweden rich by Johan Norberg
  5. Why do banks keep going bankrupt? Kirby Cundiff answers this question in the pages of the Freeman
  6. Mud People and Super Farmers: Creatively adapting to the lack of land rights in Africa

From the Comments: Federalism, Local and Global

From a post of mine on Native American sovereignty, and prompted by the thoughts of readers, I muse a little more:


Thanks for the great link. My few thoughts, I am not so sure that Native Americans would choose sovereignty over membership into the federation currently in place. I lived near a reservation in northern California (and I’m sure you have the same sort of deal in Montana) and have some fairly extensive contact with Navajo Indians as well (they prefer the term ‘Indian’ to ‘Native American’, so long as they know you). These are people whose ancestors have fought for the US in all of its major wars over the past century. They are intensely patriotic.

What I think would emerge from working with the Indian tribes is a system where all of the major reservations were turned into regular states (like Montana and California) and the minor ones would just disappear. Indians would then be full-fledged American citizens but could still do what they liked culturally with their heritage, much as everybody else does.

Again, this is what I think would happen. If they wanted full-fledged sovereignty we should grant it (and include generous reparations for stolen property), but I think everybody would opt in for a spot in the federal system we have (despite its shortcomings, it’s still a very, very good system).

This leads to me to an odd-but-perhaps-pertinent musing: I am not so sure that the majority of Europeans, South Koreans and Japanese would want our troops to leave their states. Hear me out on this. Our military essentially provides for the defense of these states, and as a result their these societies are able to use resources that would otherwise go to military expenditures for welfare programs. As Americans, we can see why this is a bad thing, but the states we occupy militarily don’t necessarily think that it is such a bad thing.

As a result, I would be open to our continued occupation of these states under one condition: that traveling, working, starting a business, living, moving, etc., etc. between the US and the states whom we subsidize militarily is as easy to do as it is here in the US. So, for example, moving/etc. from Connecticut to Hesse or Nankaido would be as easy as moving/etc. from Texas to South Dakota. If this were to happen, then I could accept a continued US presence in these regions. What do you think?

Update (6/11): I was inspired to bring this up because of an old post on this subject by Dr Foldvary in the Progress Report. Do be sure to check it out.

Property Rights in Africa: More Decentralization Please

From the economist Camilla Toulmin:

While land registration is often proposed as a means of resolving disputes, the introduction of central registration systems may actually exacerbate them. Elite groups may seek to assert claims over land which was not theirs under customary law, leaving local people to find that the land they thought was theirs has been registered to someone else. The high costs of registration, in money, time, and transport, make smallholders particularly vulnerable to this.

You can read the rest of her article here [ungated version can be found here]. It goes on to elaborate upon how more decentralization is needed, as well as the need for more incorporation of indigenous legal practices. Highly recommended, but grab a cup of coffee first.

Arguments to ponder:

  1. James Buchanan’s work on public choice (elite groups seeking to capture the rent)
  2. Friedrich Hayek’s work on tacit knowledge and the inability to plan societies from the top
  3. Elinor Ostrom’s work on governing the commons and how states muddle the intricate “rules of the game”

Any thoughts? Suggestions for further reading?

Property Rights in the Post-Colonial World

Land grabs and crony capitalism at its finest. From Reason magazine:

Politicians in the affected countries are key partners in operations that resemble the late-19th-century scramble for control of Africa. The land grabs aim at enriching privileged companies and their political allies, usually at the expense of those already on the land. States, companies, and their frequent close friend, the World Bank, see no reason to respect sitting owners and resource users, whatever their rights under customary law and (sometimes) postcolonial statutes. Pastoral nomads get even less respect. In Tanzania, for example, governments and safari capitalists have reduced the traditional grazing lands of the Maasai herdsmen to a fraction of what they were. And in Ethiopia, the government’s “villagization” policy, Pearce writes, resettles peasant farmers “in the manner of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot,” clearing the way for deals with foreign capital.

You can read the rest here. I hope to have some more academic articles up as links soon.

Native American Property Rights and European Contact

Despite the claim to rights based on discovery, British colonists often acquired land by contract. For example, almost all of Massachusetts was acquired by purchase from local tribes. The primary exceptions there, Salem and Boston, were uninhabited areas, having been depopulated earlier by the diseases the colonists unwittingly brought with them. Although the British crown claimed the sole right to negotiate transfer of land rights from the Native Americans, many colonists thought otherwise and regularly made individual arrangements with various tribes to secure land.

This is from Europe Meets America, a heavy post in the Freeman.

Department of Oops!

One of the most influential anthropologists to my own way of analyzing global society and how it interacts with each other is Edwin Wilmsen, whose book Land Filled with Flies: A Political Economy of the Kalahari has deeply influenced my thoughts about intercultural (“foreign”) relations (the other two most influential books on me so far have been Peace Pact… and 1491…). I am currently doing a research project and came across the following sentence, which deserves to be deeply pondered by anthropologist and layman alike:

[…] those who have been responsible for formulating and implementing policy towards [the San] have relied on a functionalist equilibrium model derived from ethnography grafted onto a residual colonial construction of a static San social condition […] A key element in this ideology [governing Botswana policy towards the San] is the mystification of [San] uniqueness, a condition that [has] been imposed on them by other, hegemonically dominant ethnic groups.  Among these hegemonically dominant groups – I urge that we not forget this point – are ethnographers, whose work serves as scientific sanction for this mystification.

Wilmsen is a Marxist, and Land Filled with Flies… was written before the collapse of the Berlin Wall, but I nevertheless find his work extremely satisfying. Can anybody see why this is such a powerful critique of collectivism? Admittedly, I have depraved this post of its rich context, but I think readers here at Notes On Liberty are smart and thoughtful enough to find some gems among this deceptive-looking rock pile.

An online profile of Edwin Wilmsen.