The Dance

EconTalk Extra
by Amy Willis
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Michael Munger on Permissionle... Dennis Rasmussen on Hume and S...

English dance.jpg Mike Munger, "the Tom Brady of EconTalk, returned to EconTalk this week to talk with host Russ Roberts about what he deems the most important concept in political economy, permissionless innovation. Should innovators ask permission first or forgiveness later, and under what circumstances? And why aren't economists generally any good at predicting innovation?

1. While Munger claims permissionless innovation as the most important concept in political economy, he dubs opportunity cost the most important in economics. What do you think is the most important concept in economics, and why?

2. Why is rule of law a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for permissionless innovation? What does Munger mean when he says if a law allows something, it encourages it?

3. Munger and Roberts briefly mention the (relatively) recent incident on United Flight 3411. How might permissionless innovation have mitigated the negative effects of this incident? How can companies like United encourage such innovation effectively?

4. What does Munger invoke Schiller's English dance metaphor (40:33) to explain? (For a helpful example of such a dance, check out this clip from the BBC's Pride and Prejudice.) To what extent to do you find this illustration useful? What other metaphors might you suggest?

5. Given Munger's popularity as an EconTalk guest, what would you most like to hear him discuss with Roberts next?

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COMMENTS (5 to date)
TimothyLu writes:

With regards to Mike Mungers curiosity about English dances and which Schiller could have meant, here is wikilink to the standard dancing manual, The Dancing Master (1651-1728), which I believe are the dances he was referring to in his poem "Der Tanz" (1796). These dances were popular the court of Elizabeth I (reign 1558-1603), where social classes mixed, as opposed to the French court where social classes were kept separate. During the French Revolution (1789-1799), the English dances became popular in France and spread in Europe. This is according to a book I was reading (ISBN 9783484970427, page 246).

[Broken url fixed. —Econlib Ed.]

Walter Clark writes:

The dance metaphor and not asking permission should be joined with Matt Ridley's idea of ideas having sex.
https://www.ted.com/talks/matt_ridley_when_ideas_have_sex

Trent writes:

Replying to #5, I'd like to them reprise the multi-topic/bell format, where Russ had multiple questions for Mike to answer/discuss and would ring a bell once a certain amount of time had elapsed (I'd call it the "PTI Format," but if you're not an ESPN nerd, you wouldn't get it).

Ravi writes:

>> While Munger claims permissionless innovation as the most important concept in political economy, he dubs opportunity cost the most important in economics. What do you think is the most important concept in economics, and why?

when i heard this question, the first thing to come to mind was 'incentives', which I feel is the same as opportunity cost.

Richard writes:

This was a very lop-sided discussion with little to no rebuttal of the advantages of permission-less innovation. Such innovation has resulted in the massive privacy invasions of Facebook and Google; the environmental and health damage from insufficiently tested chemicals; the increase in societal divisions from the deliberate falsehoods spread through unrestricted social media.

Permission-less innovation can provide great things but only if the innovators are required (regulated) to provide the transparency necessary to evaluate the harms their innovations will cause.

This topic chosen by Roberts and Munger is an important one and it deserved a better treatment.

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