Archive for the ‘economics’ tag
A really interesting and worthy book review of the awkward tension that exists — and is highlighted in William Easterly’s new book — about how the huge western economic development industry seems to have a big soft spot for freedom-hating autocrats.
In 2013, Melinda Gates, on the eve of a trip to Ethiopia, described it as one of her favorite countries. “I always enjoy visiting Ethiopia,” she declared, “because I see inspirational stories and concrete leadership from the government and community health workers reaching the hardest to reach and making change.” Easterly quotes a 2013 report by Tony Blair’s Africa Governance Initiative praising the Ethiopian government’s “strong, accountable leadership in implementing the plan.”
Strong, certainly; accountable, certainly not. According to Human Rights Watch’s 2014 country report, “Ethiopia’s ambitious development schemes, funded from domestic revenue sources and foreign assistance, sometimes displace indigenous communities without appropriate consultation or any compensation.” And after describing in detail the government’s imprisonment of nonviolent opposition leaders and journalists, and denial of the right to assembly, among many other violations of human rights, the report notes that while Ethiopia receives donor assistance of almost $4 billion a year.
There are reasons people are suspicious of the stock market, and a new study seems to be a good reason to be hesitant. Insider trading, which is illegal in the US, is actually common:
A quarter of all public company deals may involve some kind of insider trading, according to the study by two professors at the Stern School of Business at New York University and one professor from McGill University. The study, perhaps the most detailed and exhaustive of its kind, examined hundreds of transactions from 1996 through the end of 2012.
Monopoly is a terrible board game — - I thought I’d linked to one, but here’s a great post about that. These rules wouldn’t make it any better, but they’re a nice use of the common understanding of the game to highlight the strangeness of the world of modern finance:
One-thousand dollars invested at a 20% discount with 5% interest (calculating interest every 3 turns, but simple, not compounding interest) means a player will have starting debt of $1000. After three turns the debt is $1050, 6 turns is $1100, 9 turns is $1150, etc. Totally manageable. The banker is your friend and wants you to succeed.
The reason I love a good book review is it gives 80% or the value of the book, plus some insight from (one hopes) an expert about how that book doesn’t quite achieve its potential. Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century is super hot this summer, and Larry Summer’s review does what I describe:
All of this is more than enough to justify the rapturous reception accorded Piketty in many quarters. But recall that Kennedy seemed to hit the zeitgeist perfectly but turned out later to have missed his mark as the Berlin Wall fell and the United States enjoyed an economic renaissance in the decade after he wrote; similarly, I have serious reservations about Piketty’s theorizing as a guide to understanding the evolution of American inequality. And, as even Piketty himself recognizes, his policy recommendations are unworldly—which could stand in the way of more feasible steps that could make a material difference for the middle class.
I really appreciated David Brooks recent column about how — especially as the recent “Bring Back Our Girls” campaign for those abducted schoolgirls of Nigeria filters through the American media — the outside world still has Africa as a whole quite wrong.
In 2011, roughly 60 million African households earned at least $3,000 a year. By next year, more than 100 million households will make that much. Trade between Africa and the rest of the world has increased by 200 percent since 2000. Since 1996, the poverty rate has fallen by 1 percent per year. Life expectancies are shooting up.
Only about a third of this new wealth is because of commodities. Nations like Ethiopia and Rwanda, which have no oil wealth, are growing phenomenally. The bulk is because of economic reforms, increased productivity, increased urbanization and the fact that in many countries political systems are becoming marginally less dysfunctional.
Really neat study from the Nate Silver-directed venture FiveThirtyEight: they did a pretty rigorous statistical analysis of Hollywood movie using the Betchdel test (on LB) of the portrayal of women and found pretty clearly that movies that do better on the test do better in the box office.
The article’s way more thorough and detailed that an one chart, and well worth a read.
I’m not sure if this is a peculiarly American problem, but I heartily support Michael J. Petrilli’s argument that we should back off on the idea of making every high school student ready to attend a post-secondary institution and spend a lot more energy helping them find skills that will help them get ahead in a modern economy. He starts:
What if our own hyper-credentialed life experiences and ideologies are blinding us to alternative pathways to the middle class? Including some that might be a lot more viable for a great many young people? What if we should be following the lead of countries like Germany, where “tracking” isn’t a dirty word but a common-sense way to prepare teenagers for respected, well-paid work?
An intriguing argument, whether or not you’re convinced by it:
Over the first decade of the twenty-first century, about 5.8 million U.S. manufacturing jobs disappeared. The most frequent explanations for this decline are productivity gains and increased trade with low-wage economies. Both of these factors have been important, but they explain far less of the picture than is usually claimed.
I found myself pretty sold, though I’d clarify that these forces aren’t as intentional or chosen as the author/title seems to suggest. Technology and the narrow pursuit of efficiency are the issues.
(via 5 Intriguing Things)
Currencies of the World Map
I really liked Ross Douthat’s column yesterday about the way work and politics fits together:
But the universal 15-hour workweek is not exactly with us yet. Instead, a different trend seems to be emerging, in which well-educated professionals — inspired by rising pay and status-obsessed competition — often work longer hours than they did a few decades ago, while poorer Americans, especially poorer men, are increasingly disconnected from the labor force entirely. (That this trend coincides with widening inequality is not coincidental.)