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Posts Tagged ‘Institutions’

Commenting on the Berlin Wall and political institutions, Robin Hanson notes why private law doesn’t work so well in the United States:

It seems to me that the main problem is trying to invoke private law via small clauses on page 20 of 30+ page contracts – most folks feel reasonably justified in not always literally enforcing such terms. What private law needs instead is a clear deliberate solemnity like that of a new citizen moving to and then swearing allegiance to a new nation, an expensive signal showing they understand there are large consequences.

It’s interesting to note the distinction between lowering transaction costs of switching between such private providers of law, which is an essential feature of private law, yet requiring an expensive signal, which would give private law more legitimacy today. Is this a contradiction?

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Paul Hollander writes an excellent piece in the Washington Post about the momentous events of November 1989.  Hollander escaped the communist hegemony in 1956, and he writes about the oppression and murder committed by the statist regimes of the last century.

While greatly concerned with communism in the late 1940s and early 1950s, Americans — hostile or sympathetic — actually knew little about communism, and little is said here today about the unraveling of the Soviet empire. The media’s fleeting attention to the momentous events of the late 1980s and early 1990s matched their earlier indifference to communist systems. There is little public awareness of the large-scale atrocities, killings and human rights violations that occurred in communist states, especially compared with awareness of the Holocaust and Nazism (which led to to far fewer deaths). The number of documentaries, feature films or television programs about communist societies is minuscule compared with those on Nazi Germany and/or the Holocaust, and few universities offer courses on the remaining or former communist states. For most Americans, communism and its various incarnations remained an abstraction.

The different moral responses to Nazism and communism in the West can be interpreted as a result of the perception of communist atrocities as byproducts of noble intentions that were hard to realize without resorting to harsh measures.

In the New York review of Books, Timothy Garton Ash breaks down the chronology of the mass liberation of Eastern Europe. (more…)

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