name.withheld.for.obvious.reasons June 28, 2013 4:03 PM

Right in line with your talk…

A colleague of mine, a mathematician, seems to be running afoul of the “security apparatus” due to the nature of our communications. We share development ideas via e-mail that is technical in nature. Not a single thing we have communicated could be construed as questionable AT ANY LEVEL. My colleague is now receiving threading emails supposedly from legal authorities. This is troubling. This bullshit has to end. This has given me cause to act, harm to others in claim of “protecting” people is a lie and constitutes theft from the taxpayer. I would add criminal extortion to the list.

Julien Couvreur June 28, 2013 7:19 PM

Thanks for the good interview. Your writing on security and software had a lot of influence on me getting interested again into economic thinking (ie trade-offs). I continue to see a lot of connections between your work and economics.

On the question of corporate vs government power. It was good to hear your arguments.
That said, I still don’t understand how you think that government regulation could somehow improve on problems.
All the problems that you identify (lack of consumer interest for small stuff, lack of consumer leverage, potentially mis-aligned incentives for employees making decisions, etc) apply to government too, except that government has a unique monopoly on taxation and has a unique externality (decisions apply to all citizens).
You point out that competitive forces are not perfect or strong enough, which is a fair point. But dynamics of politics are only worse, unless one of Milton Friedman’s “angels” gets in power and regulates us (or maybe Bruce as benevolent technocrat ;-).

A few scattered thoughts:
1) If a corporate magna carta would be very valuable, then some companies can already commit to such declarations and this should be a valuable competitive strategy.
2) It is ironic to have Bruce attempt to lecture Russ on methodological individualism (corporations are not actors, only individuals are actors), since that is something Russ is very keen on already.
3) There was a little miscommunication on the problem of corporate power and privacy. Bruce was thinking of Google recording people in the street (un-owned space), while Russ was thinking of a store or mall recording its customers on premise (store property).

[Comment cross-posted with minor modification from EconTalk]

Frodo July 1, 2013 6:52 PM


Julien made some excellent points above, so I won’t rehash them, except one. I was disheartened to hear you getting in a disagreement with Russ on individuals. It’s disheartening because you both are huge advocates for individual rights and decentralized power. I’m not sure how familiar you are with Russ’s work, but upon further reading, I don’t think you would disagree on much of that topic.

It is a dream wish of mine that you and Russ would get together and do a joint project. I am a devout reader of both of you, and I think it would be incredibly powerful for you two to put together a project that discredits the status quo and puts forth a better road forward.

Russ’s last 2 Hayek vs. Keynes music videos were hugely successful. I’d pay good money to see Bruce rapping about security backed by Hayekian economic law. (Bruce, if you haven’t seen the videos check out

Chris July 9, 2013 5:53 PM

Bruce, having followed your work for seven years and EconTalk for three or four, I was initially very excited about this appearance. As a guest I know there is no onus for you to be familiar with past episodes of the podcast, but if you had I think this episode could have been fantastic.

Instead it was, to quote the comic-book guy, The Worst Episode of EconTalk Ever. Not that it was an essentially bad episode; it simply fell far short of its. I don’t remember every cringe-inducing moment, but the accusation that Russ had made some claim along the lines of “when the government does something it’s bad but magically when corporations do it’s good” is a ready example. You were tone-deaf and exhibited classic nerd arrogance. The interview was disposable.

Thank goodness your usual work is a lot better.

Leave a comment


Allowed HTML <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre> Markdown Extra syntax via

Sidebar photo of Bruce Schneier by Joe MacInnis.