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Astral Codex Ten Podcast

Sep 23, 2022

[original post: Billionaires, Surplus, and Replaceability]

1: Lars Doucet (writes Progress and Poverty) writes:

Scott, the argument you're making rhymes a *lot* with the argument put forward by Anne Margrethe Brigham and Jonathon W. Moses in their article "Den Nye Oljen" (Norwegian for "The New Oil")

I translated it a few months ago and Slime Mold Time Mold graciously hosted it on their blog, where I posted the english version and a short preface:

Their observation is that when access to something is gated either by nature or by political regulation, you get what's called a "resource rent" -- a superabundance of profit that isn't a return for effort or investment, but purely from economic leverage -- a reward simply for "getting there first." Norway's solution to this in two of their most successful industries (hydropower and oil prospecting) was to apply heavy taxation to the monopolies, and treating the people at large as the natural legal owner of the monopolized resource.

(To address Bryan Caplan's argument about disincentives to explore and invest, you can just subsidize those directly -- a perpetual monopoly should not be the carrot we use to encourage development, and Norway's success over the past few decades bears this out IMHO).

The Oil & Hydropower systems aren't perfect, and there's plenty of debates (especially lately) about what we should do with the publicly-owned profits from the monopoly taxation, but it's clear that without them Norway would be in a much worse place.

The thing the authors warn about in the article is that all the hopes for new resources on the horizon to be the "new oil" (Salmon aquaculture, Wind & Solar Power, Bio-prospecting) are likely to be dashed, because Norway has lost touch with its traditional solutions, and so new monopolies are likely to arise uncontested, allowing private (and often foreign) countries to siphon money out of the country.