Ash Navabi's blog mostly about economics, intellectual property, and politics. But also some language and culture.

To Taylor Swift, Love Freedom

Originally posted to

imageDear Taylor,

You recently wrote an open letter to Apple, Inc. (To Apple, Love Taylor) where you spelled out your decisions on why you will not be allowing them to stream your album, 1989, without paying you for the privilege. Your letter was clear and eloquent, and provides a strong emotional case for why you feel Apple needs to pay artists during the three-month trial period for their new streaming service.

As I understand your letter, your grievance with Apple can be summed up with your statement that “it is unfair to ask anyone to work for no compensation.” In a biting kicker, you conclude, “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation.”

If Apple is truly asking you (and other artists) to provide them with labour or products with absolutely no compensation, then I agree that would be an unfair deal. In order to acquire your property, it’s only fair that the richest corpor
ation in the world offers some of theirs. But what if Apple has already compensated you for your work (or more accurately, your property), and you are now double-dipping—asking for even more compensation? Wouldn’t that be unfair? Read the rest of this entry »

Will Iceland’s Sovereign Money Proposal End Economic Crises?

Frosti Sigurjonsson

A recent proposal out of Iceland has been making the waves around economics blogosphere. In it, Frosti Sigurjonsson critiques the current fractional-reserve banking system and proposes instead a system he calls “Sovereign Money”. But what is “sovereign money”, how is it different from the current system, and how will it work? In this post I’ll first explain how the current system works and the problems it has from an Austrian perspective, then go through the sovereign money proposal to see how it solves any of the short-comings of the current system.

How is money created in the current system?

Before we can analyze the sovereign money proposal, we need to understand how the current system operates. This can be demonstrated in a 4 step process. But first understand that a central bank (like the Bank of Canada or the Federal Reserve) is a lot like any other bank: it offers deposit accounts and loans to clients. The difference is that you can only become a customer of the central bank by invitation only.

Here’s a step-by-step process:  Read the rest of this entry »

What is the Motte and Bailey Fallacy, with Examples from Economics

A “motte and bailey doctrine” is a style of argument (and informal fallacy) that’s based on a motte-and-bailey castle. The bailey is a big courtyard and where people live and work and generally want to be. The motte is a mound with some kind of fortification on top, that’s used as a last refuge when the bailey is under attack.

motte and bailey

A motte and bailey doctrine for arguments goes like this: someone is usually making an argument from a big and comfortable courtyard of ideas, being very liberal with their terms, accusations, and implications. But when someone attacks their argumentative “bailey”, they retreat to a “motte” of strict terms and/or rigorous reasoning. They can’t be attacked at the motte because even their opponent would agree with their definitions and reasoning. The problem is that the motte and the bailey are different arguments: often to get to the bailey, additional assumptions are required; sometimes the arguments are even contradictory.

In short, to argue from the motte is to argue from a strongly defensible position, whereas to argue from the bailey is to make broad and far reaching statements that are poorly defended. Read the rest of this entry »

Gravity, Alternative Physics, and the Force in Star Wars

With all the hype about the new Star Wars movie, I’ve been becoming more interested in the franchise. Specifically, I’ve become more interested in the concept of the Force.

According to Wikipedia, the Force ” is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power in the fictional universe of the Star Wars galaxy created by George Lucas…. can enhance natural, physical, and mental abilities, including strength (such as during a “Force jump” or to slow a fall from an otherwise dangerous height) and accuracy… other Force powers are demonstrated in the film series including telekinesis, telepathy,levitation, deep hypnosis, enhanced empathy, reflexes, precognition, and enhanced speed.”

So the Force isn’t just the ability to control objects at a distance, it’s something that seems to permeate the entire being of a person possessed with it, including their emotions. Sounds pretty mysterious, right? It’s almost like magic. At least, I always thought so. And others in the Star Wars Universe seem to think so as well.

But what if there was a non-mysterious, rational, and physical explanation for the Force, as opposed to mysterious metaphysical magic? Read the rest of this entry »

The Maximum Punishment Possible for Nonviolent Marijuana Crimes Around the World

Marijuana mapEveryone knows different countries treat drugs differently. For example, if you get caught buying or selling a large amount of marijuana in Canada, you’re probably not going to get your head chopped off by the government–but in Saudi Arabia, that is the law.

I wanted to see just how different the laws were in world when it came to nonviolent marijuana crimes: that is, if one or more people are breaking a marijuana-related crime (like buying, selling, smoking, or producing) and they didn’t hurt anyone in the process, what is the worst that can legally happen to them? Read the rest of this entry »

A Guide to Intellectual Property So Simple, a Monkey Would Understand

[Originally posted on]

Macaca_nigra_self-portrait_0These days, everyone and their mother seems to have an opinion on intellectual property. This has its positives and negatives.

The positives are that the more people are aware of the issues affecting society, the more likely they are to take a stand to demand change or protect the status quo. This applies to everything from police militarization to laws governing the administration of voting.

The negative is that, when it comes to intellectual property at least, nearly everyone is utterly confused by what intellectual property is on a fundamental level. This can lead to misguided outrage and result in even more destructive legislation.

So just what is intellectual property? Read the rest of this entry »

Interview with the Economics Detective

An interview I did with Garret Peterson’s podcast, The Economics Detective. Garrett is an economics PhD student at Simon Fraser University. Topics of discussion were the articles I wrote on mathematical economics versus “literary” economics and whether the Austrian School is a cult.