September 20th, 2001


Myths of skepticism

Michael D. Sofka's Myths of Skepticism is a wonderful essay. Here's an excerpt:

Consider this study by Michael Mahoney.10 He prepared two papers that were identical in methodology, but different in which theory the
results supported. He sent these papers out for review by reviewers who had earlier expressed support for either the theory supported by the
experimental results, or the theory refuted by the experimental results.

Mahoney found two things: First, reviewers were more likely to reject papers that did not support the theory they favored. This is an expected,
if disappointing, result. Second, he found that reviewers were more critical of the methodology in the papers that did not support their
views---even though the methodologies were identical.


Mahoney, M.J., Publication Prejudices: An experimental study of confirmatory bias in the peer review system. Cognitive Therapy and
Research, 1, 1977, pp. 161--175.


Ted Galen Carpenter's review of the 1995 book,
Strategic Nonviolent Conflict: The Dynamics of
People Power in the Twentieth Century by Peter
Ackerman and Christopher Kruegler. From the

"....The most tenacious myth Ackerman
and Kruegler debunk is that nonviolent
resistance is effective only in dealing with
democratic governments that have adopted
uncharacteristically repressive policies.
According to that argument, peaceful
demonstrations and civil disobedience can
prick the conscience of democratic rulers and
publics, gain the support of international
opinion, and force a change of policy while
totalitarian and authoritarians regimes will
simply use whatever force is necessary to
smash the opposition...."

he Literature of Nonviolent Resistance and Civilian-Based Defense

In this bibliographic essay, Brian Caplan reviews strategies for
non-violent defense. From the essay:

"...There can be little doubt
that today's foremost thinker sympathetic to nonviolent resistance is
Gene Sharp. With an eye toward practical strategy rather than
philosophy, his major work "The Politics of Nonviolent Action"
(Boston: Porter Sargent, 1973) covers virtually every aspect of the
theory and history of nonviolent resistance to government....


The LETsystem
A local currency that works by Michael Linton
Governance (In Context #7) Autumn 1984, Page 60

"A LETSYSTEM, or Local Exchange Trading
System, is a new economic organization applicable to any community. It
is a self-regulating economic network which allows its members to
generate and manage their own (completely legal) currency system
independent of and parallel to the federal money system. It offers
communities everywhere the tools to stabilize and support their local
economy without diminishing their participation in the whole. It
allows members of the local community to exchange goods and services
on a "green dollar" basis when federal dollars are scarce or

Polycentric Law

Humane Studies Review Volume 7, Number 1
Winter 1991/92 Polycentric Law by Tom W. Bell

>From the introduction:

"As any cynic will confirm, money and law
have a lot in common. But their ties run even deeper than most
suspect. Money and law had similar origins: both arose spontaneously
out of the undirected actions of individuals seeking common standards
for mutual coordination. Money and law developed in parallel fashion,
too: medieval Europeans enjoyed competition in currencies and legal
systems until monarchies took over both fields. And state monopolies
in money and law now present common hazards: they are imposed by fiat,
inefficiently operated, and (as the cynics point out) jointly
corrupting. However, a new generation of scholars has come to question
the need for state monopolies in money and law. In the place of
central banks they advocate a free banking system. In the place of
state legal systems they advocate overlapping private jurisdictions in
free and open competition -- a polycentric legal system.

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Uprooting War

Professor Brian Martin's online text
examining the limitations of past anti-war efforts, as well as new
strategies for the future. From the introduction:

"This book is based
on the assumption that action to end war must come from individuals,
small groups and local communities, in short from the
grassroots. Grassroots action against war has a long and inspiring
history of protests, campaigns and initiatives. Unfortunately, most of
this activity has had little impact on military races because it has
relied on influencing elites, which is the least promising avenue for
such efforts. Moreover, many antiwar actions have been symbolic
protests with little connection with a long-term strategy to end
war. And the protests are mainly against symptoms of the problem, such
as nuclear weapons, rather than directly tackling the roots of modern

Damn Right!

Warren Buffett, as the most successful investor in history, is quite
rightly famous. Less well known is his partner, Charlie Munger. Janet Lowe
has written a great biography of Munger, entitled Damn Right!. Behind the Scenes With Berkshire Billionaire Charlie Munger.
The Motley Fool interviewed Lowe after the book came out. Here's the segment of the interview
that stood out the most to me:

TMF: What books were on the reading list you were handed by Munger when he grudgingly agreed to cooperate on the book?

Lowe: The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins; Three Scientists and Their Gods, Robert Wright (out of print); Influence: Science and Practice, Robert B. Cialdini; Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond.

TMF: In what ways did Munger surprise you?

Lowe: Munger is incredibly open in his thinking. He will listen carefully to opposing views and consider them. He sometimes disagrees, but he often comes up with a new way of thinking about the subject, or if necessary, changes his mind. This is unusual in most people, but especially people of his age, I think.