The Economics of Europe’s Insane History of Putting Animals on Trial and Executing Them

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The fantastically creative and insightful Peter Leeson published an article in the Journal of Law and Economics in 2013 on the practice of putting animals on trial in the Medieval ages.

Abstract
For 250 years insects and rodents accused of committing property crimes were tried as legal persons in French, Italian, and Swiss ecclesiastic courts under the same laws and according to the same procedures used to try actual persons.

I argue that the Catholic Church used vermin trials to increase tithe revenues where tithe evasion threatened to erode them.

Vermin trials achieved this by bolstering citizens’ belief in the validity of Church punishments for tithe evasion: estrangement from God through sin, excommunication, and anathema.

Vermin trials permitted ecclesiastics to evidence their supernatural sanctions’ legitimacy by producing outcomes that supported those sanctions’ validity. These outcomes strengthened citizens’ belief that the Church’s imprecations were real, which allowed ecclesiastics to reclaim jeopardized tithe revenue

Leeson’s paper is also closely connected to Ekelund, Herbert, and Tollison’s (1989, 2002, 2006) and Ekelund et al.’s (1996) work. They study the medieval Catholic Church as a firm. They discuss how ecclesiastics used supernatural sanctions to protect the Church’s monopoly on spiritual services against heretical competition.

HT: Wired – fantastically-wrong-europes-insane-history-putting-animals-trial-executing/

The vast right wing conspiracy is done so on the cheap when you follow the money

Much is made of how the Cato Institute and the American Enterprise Institute are funded by the Koch Brothers to act as their propagandists. Greenpeace and Right Wing was good enough to follow the money:

  • American Enterprise Institute: $350,000 in total between 2004 and 2011 as compared to an annual income of $25 million.
  • Cato Institute $ 5.35 million over 14 years. Their last  annual donation in excess of $250,000 was in 2001. Its annual income is $12 million.

Chickenfeed – on an annual basis, this financial largess would barely pay for a cheap research assistant in a small office out of the Cato’s 90 staff members and 60-adjunct scholars. An average congressman raises more than this in political donations each year. Romney and Obama each spent $1 billion on their presidential campaigns.

Karl Popper argued that who made an argument is of little value. What matters is critical discussion of what they said. Knowledge grows through critical discussion.

Peter Drucker made similar points about people with great strengths also come with great flaws. (Biography sales would be 1/10th of its size if the great were not flawed).

Drucker championed a business rule of never making a decision until there is disagreement; only then do you know the boundary of what you plan to do. Unless one has considered alternatives, one has a closed mind.  This above all, explains why effective decision-makers deliberately disregard the second major command of the textbooks on decision-making and create dissension and disagreement, rather than consensus.

Decisions of the kind the executive has to make are not made well by acclamation. They are made well only if based on the clash of conflicting views, the dialogue between different points of view, the choice between different judgments. The first rule in decision-making is that one does not make a decision unless there is disagreement

The peculiar evil of silencing the expression of an opinion is, that it is robbing the human race; posterity as well as the existing generation; those who dissent from the opinion, still more than those who hold it. If the opinion is right, they are deprived of the opportunity of exchanging error for truth: if wrong, they lose, what is almost as great a benefit, the clearer perception and livelier impression of truth, produced by its collision with error.  - John Stuart Mill

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