Articles by Solveig Singleton

Solveig Singleton is a lawyer and writer, with ventures into ceramic sculpture, photography, painting, and animal welfare work. Past venues for her policy work include the Cato Institute (mostly free speech, telecom, and privacy), the Competitive Enterprise Institute (mostly privacy and ecommerce), the Progress and Freedom Foundation (mostly IP). She is presently an adjunct fellow with the Institute for Policy Innovation and is working on a new nonprofit venture, the Convergence Law Institute. She holds degrees from Cornell Law School and Reed College. Favorite Movie: Persuasion. Favorite Books: Dhalgren; Villette; Freedom and the Law. Favorite Art: Kinetic sculpture--especially involving Roombas. Most obsolete current technology deployed: a 30 yr. old Canon AE-1. Music: these days, mostly old blues, classical guitar, Poe, Cowboy Junkies, Ministry. Phobia: Clowns.

Peter Ferrara, offering us a taste of the dismal science for the American Spectator in reviewing a recent book’s economic predictions for an Obama Presidency (but what about civil liberties?). Hey, maybe they’ll send out more economic stimulus checks! We used ours this year to pay down a tax bill. It’s like the circle of life. (Other references to the Lion King will be swiftly and severely dealt with).

Arnold Kling on the Sergey Brin effect and inequality:

Income inequality in the United States consists of two gaps. The first gap is an upper-lower gap, between those with a college education and those without. The second is an upper-upper gap, between those with high incomes and those with extraordinarily high incomes.

The upper-lower gap reflects changes in the structure of the economy. New technologies place a premium on cognitive ability. Harvard University economists Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz have dubbed this “skill-biased technological change.” In today’s economy, more value added comes from knowledge work, and relatively less comes from unskilled labor.

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Smart as Paint

by on October 6, 2008 · 19 comments

I remark briefly on the commentary “how smart is Palin,” noting her mispronunciation of “verbiage” and “pundit.” I’d suggest that observers be wary of assessing qualifications based on this kind of thing. Example: one very well-educated person I know, whose IQ is high enough to qualify enough for Mensa, mispronounces several words because he was socially isolated for his formative years and formed the habit of saying them before he had the chance to hear others pronounce them correctly. I don’t mean he was shut in a closet, which wouldn’t be relevant as Palin clearly hasn’t been, but just that he lived in a rural area where most of his peers were relatively uneducated.

In any case, it is curious that the anxious analysis of Palin, stemming from the fact that she is relatively unknown, seems to turn on characteristics of social class rather than on information about her decision-making as an executive. What significant choices about things like taxes, education policy, resources, and so on was she faced with as governor? What did she do in those situations? Why? What were the alternatives? Many voters probably do elect candidates based on how someone talks or looks, but mightn’t it be nice for a change for the talking classes to assess a candidate on policy? Would she make a better political candidate if some professor had had a couple months to drill her on vocabulary and delivery, like the hapless flower seller Eliza whats-her-name? Continue reading →

Speaking of snakes, I am just returned from a camping trip along the Appalachian trail in the Michaux Forest, quite out of wireless reception range. Several days’ heavy rain had washed the forest clean, left the moss glowing green and the mushrooms, salamanders, crayfish, and frogs quite content. There one combats the same problems confronted by earlier settlers–mice (and the snakes they attract), staying dry and tolerably warm, the production of decent meals, and keeping small children from wandering off into the woods. Why do some people enjoy briefly returning to this world? Despite being one of those people, I can’t say. Now I am back and my day is easy and comfortable (comparatively), with time to spare contemplating the meta-structures of finance, property, and capital. Let’s all hope these structures are not nearly as fragile as our confidence in them, which, judging from the tone of remarks at last week’s ITIF conference on innovation, has fallen quite low. Continue reading →

Veoh Considered

by on September 22, 2008 · 8 comments

I reviewed the Veoh case for DRMWatch recently:

The user-generated video site Veoh achieved a victory in court on August 27th when California District Judge Howard Lloyd ruled that it was entitled to the protection of the DMCA’s safe harbor provisions. Veoh was accused of copyright infringement by IO Group, a maker of adult films…

Like eBay v. Tiffany, another case in which one might trumpet a tech-side win… the tech gets at least some protection from liability. But only in a context in which the tech is already taking substantial steps to help the plaintiff trademark/copyright owner with their enforcement problem, steps that would have been hard to conceive of a decade ago, and that many would have grandly declared to be too ambitious and too invasive for online services to attempt. Prediction: the case law is now much more mature, but the business side is just getting started. More and fancier filtering to come.

It’s funny and scary how many of our grand ideas about justice, rights, freedom, fairness and property come down to what we can become accustomed too.  Bad, in the sense that one can easily lose the customary baselines against which freedom is measured in a generation or so. Good, in the sense that one is not limited to identify freedom with just one historic mythical Golden Age; a free society has somewhat more leeway.

I’m fond of paradoxes these days. Tedious things. Almost as annoying to other people, I am sure, as those characters (you know who you are) who make puns all the time.

My recent comments on a developers experiment in combatting software piracy, posted here.

And an absolutely brilliant adventure in free speech marital event planning, here (OT).

Recently for DRMWatch I commented on the Court of Appeals ruling that Cablevision’s remote digital video recorder service did not directly violated copyright. The Court, however, did raise the possibility of indirect liability. Continue reading →

Read Recently: The Marriage of Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Robert Browning. A remarkable and very non-technological story.

Also: Most of John Dupre’s book Human Nature and the Limits of Science. This turns out to be a critique of two models of human nature, one derived from evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology, and the other derived from economics. Dupre favors a view of human nature more closely linked to culture, acknowledging the value of diversity. This is a topic well worth writing about; unfortunately, this particular book would have benefited from a vigorous pre-publication critique. Reading it is a lot like having a very frustrating dinner conversation with Dupre, in which interesting arguments are stumbled over, explained only partly, and then abandoned. Continue reading →

TCS Daily on June 18 ran an essay by me on regulatory policy. I excerpt thus:

In a sense, both models – market and regulatory — are flawed. But there is a difference. For every theory contending that markets fail, there is usually an answering argument that they tend to self-correct. Once, economic theory worried that markets would fail to fund “public goods” like lighthouses—until more careful economics revealed markets doing exactly that. More theory pointed to the evils of monopoly. But in reality a monopolist reaping substantial profits is a big target, with every entrepreneur looking for a substitute good or service. Many of the markets’ self-correcting mechanisms are simple Darwinism. Poor investors and badly run businesses lose (their own) money until they go under. Technology and other factors that bring change keep even established firms on their toes.

In contrast, self-correction is not a common response to regulatory failures. There is no good explanation for how an agency or a system of rules can be designed to systematically succeed or self-correct.

On June 10 at the National Press Club, the Federalist Society for Law and Public Policy organized a forum on technology policy in the Presidential campaigns, featuring former FCC Chair Reed Hundt, tech advisor to Senator Barrack Obama and former FCC Chair Michael Powell, advisor to Senator John McCain. One sees in U.S. elections such a fascination with the personal qualities of the candidates that one would think that the President ran the executive branch single-handed. But, of course, he doesn’t, and the teams matter. A relatively inexerperienced candidate might make up for this by having a knack for identifying astute advisors–or find his platform hijacked by a careerist with his own agenda.

Reed Hundt opened with an attack on Sen. McCain, including such details as McCain’s vote against the e-rate, the provision of the 1996 Telecom Act that funded Internet service to schools and libraries. This sally might have given him greater leverage had the room not been filled with tech-savvy types aware of the program’s difficulties–and the failure of the computerized classroom to produce any educational miracles. Then he offered an outline of an Obama administration’s tech policy. Continue reading →