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May 18, 2003


Ole Eichhorn

Pierre -

A little off topic but I was wondering, what do you think of companies like LinkedIn ( http://www.linkedin.com/ ) which formalize the networks of trust we all have? One of the attributes of successful volunteer organizations (or indeed any organizations at all) is mutual trust among the members. Is it necessary to wait for these organizations to form "spontaneously" or can they be "seeded"?

Seems like the problem with government in large countries is that it is a "they", not an "us", and people inherently do not trust "them".


Doug Kenline

Great post Pierre.

Thank you very much.

Here is something for you to consider.

Republic versus Democracy



"What kind of government have you given us?" a lady asked Benjamin Franklin after they had drafted a new Constitution.

"Madam," said Franklin, "We have given you a republic if you can keep it."


"A Democracy is the most vile form of government there is!"
- Thomas Paine


Keep on bloggin' Pierre. Help us to make this a better world for everyone.


Doug Kenline
Atlanta, Georgia

Fred Smart


Thank you for your interest in society.

However, I believe we would all be better off if we'd focus on "the individual."

Our country was created from the consent of the governed - something known as popular sovereignty - to do ONE (1) simple thing: allow individuals to be free to own their own property.

The ownership and protection of private property begins with the ownership and protection of our rights as individuals.

Rights and Property are two sides to the same coin.

We live in a communist country Pierre because we are focusing on the wrong things.

Let's focus on property.

If we focus on the protection of property will will overcome the socialist-communist slavery we see all around us.

Peace and God Bless,


Chad Williams

Pierre, on a *slightly* related topic, I was wondering if you have an opinion on Buffett's stance on dividends

Chad Williams

Oops heres the link http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A13113-2003May19.html to the editorial.

Pierre Omidyar

Sorry for the delay in posting...

Ole, I'm curious about LinkedIn and am playing with it a little bit. On the surface it seems to suffer less from the issues I raised in my previous post on the Global Trust Exchange (http://www.ginx.com/~pierre/archives/000023.html).

Everyone else, thanks for your comments.

Chad, I'm not sure how your question is even slightly related... but I have a lot of respect for Mr. Buffett, and sometimes I really can't understand how people (not him) can argue with a straight face that the disproportionally wealthy should receive disproportionate advantages.

That said, the issues are complex -- for instance, why is the tax benefit to dividends given on the receiving end versus on the corporate end? Dividends are taxed twice currently, which seems strange, certainly on the surface. I haven't had an in-depth conversation on this subject with anyone who really understands the issues, though, so I don't have a clear point of view.


The democracy of the small Athenian city-state was, of course, a democracy of property owners based on slave labor the antithesis of the "voluntary associations" you laissez-fairers are constantly on about. But at least in ancient Athens, free citizens were accountable for their actions to the community of the qualified. In our democracy, the status of corporations as "legal persons" functions to insulate shareholders, whose interests drive the organization's behavior, from personal liability for that behavior. That lack of accountability sort of moots your notion of the "personalized institution," doesn't it? Many institutions enjoy the rights of persons but are quick to assert their exemption from liability. Case in point: Ken Lay. To the Beverly Hillbillies theme:

Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Lay
Whose only goal in life was to increase his pay
He was born in Missouri to plain old Baptist folk
But he though the golden rule was nothin’ but a joke.

"Sell stock to others while others can’t sell stock, that’s my rule," he says

Another: does Microsoft give software donees in the Third World a choice of Windows or Lindows? Hardly. Steve Ballmer's recent philanthropic swing through Spain during an election season in which open-source was a campaign issue was a pretty self-evident demonstration of what MS's giving is all about. (A partial exemption from this criticism might be afforded Cisco Networking Academy.)

It's indicative of the intellectual sloth of the elites in this country (and Canada, sorry) that very few of you people who cite Greek democracy as the foundation of our democracy with such glibness have ever even read Herodotus or Thucydides to reflect upon the lessons of history, where the Devil's in the details, yourselves. In your case, Herodotus' desire "that things done by man not be forgotten in time" has been sorely disappointed.

Tim O'Reilly

I've long been fascinated by the parallels between the late Athenian and Roman republics and the US -- like Brian O'Connell, I highly recommend Gibbon and Plutarch to those who believe that history repeats itself. And in fact, with this background, the relevance of the Buffet article that was cited by Chad Williams is quite clear. The late Roman republic was largely a plutocracy in which policy was directed far too much by the desire of Senators and Equites to enrich themselves and their friends, to the detriment of the state.

The way in which corporate interests feed at the trough of politics today has close parallels in history. Unfortunately, the historical solution -- a strong man to come in and "clean up" the abuses for a time -- has the unfortunate side effect of destroying that which it was supposed to save.

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