Micro-Institutions Everywhere: Defining Death

From the BBC: In the majority of cases in hospitals, people are pronounced dead only after doctors have examined their heart, lungs and responsiveness, determining there are no longer any heart and breath sounds and no obvious reaction to the outside world…. Many institutions in the US and Australia have adopted two minutes as the […]

Micro-Institutions Everywhere: Virus Naming

The alphabet soup of naming new viruses rivals Pentagonese. AIDS. SARS. MRSA. Where do these names come from? One major source of influence in this area is the International Committee on Taxonomy of Viruses (ICTV). Their latest innovation is MERS, referring to a new form of coronavirus that was first reported in September, 2012. In the […]

Micro-Institutions Everywhere: Gypsy Law

Forthcoming from Peter Leeson (who previously brought us an analysis of pirate democracy), a new paper on self-governance among Gypsies (via Mike Munger): Gypsies are nomads. They’re often separated from one another, which precludes direct monitoring. Further, Gypsies’ locations are changing continuously. In the past Gypsies arranged debris on roadsides and configured bits of torn […]

Micro-Institutions Everywhere: The Five-Day Work Week

When it came about in the early 20th century, the five-day workweek was a triumph. Labor unions bargained collectively to get workers another day off, doubling their free time to enjoy the country’s booming prosperity. Now, though, it is an anachronistic holdover of a bygone era. (Many professionals are at their employer’s beck and call 24/7 […]

Micro-Institutions at the Gym

Jason Gay of the Wall Street Journal has 27 rules for the gym, and then 25 more. Below are some interesting examples of norms and insider know-how. There’s coded language: “Great job!” is trainer-speak for “It’s not polite for me to laugh at you.” Be cautious about any class with the words “sunrise,” “hell,” or […]

Micro-Institutions Everywhere: Book ID Numbers

If you are a bookworm like me, you have evidence of this micro-institution all around you. Grab a nearby book and look at the back cover, or a couple of pages inside the front cover. You will see a series of numbers that uniquely identify the book: its International Standard Book Number (ISBN). That 10 or […]

Micro-Institutions Everywhere: The English Alphabet

We take our ABC’s for granted, learning 26 letters in a precise order from our youngest days. When introduced to a second or third language later in life we may realize that even similar tongues to English contain slightly different alphabets–the Spanish ñ, the French ç–despite the fact that they evolved from the same roots. […]

Micro-Institutions Everywhere: Around Your Waist

Men have always worn belts with their trousers, right? Wrong. Until the First World War, belts served one of two purposes. They could be a way for a ruler to accessorize, or an easy way for soldiers to carry around gear (a belt with pouches all around it for ammunition is essentially a manly fanny […]