Friday, May 30, 2008

Yes, You Can, Derive

Long live the Choice Architects of the World

As all women who have ever shared a toilet with a man can attest, men can be especially spacey when it comes to their, er, aim. In the privacy of a home, that may be a mere annoyance. But, in a busy airport restroom used by throngs of travelers each day, the unpleasant effects of bad aim can add up rather quickly. Enter an ingenious economist who worked for Schiphol International Airport in Amsterdam. His idea was to etch an image of a black house fly onto the bowls of the airport’s urinals, just to the left of the drain. The result: Spillage declined 80 percent. It turns out that, if you give men a target, they can’t help but aim at it.

Russian businesses fighting poverty in UK

Lost tribe found in the Amazon

Uncontacted tribe photographed near Brazil-Peru border
Isolated in Amazon, Visible From the Air

How do you define a terrorist?

Canada : Security Certificates - Time for Reform

Life of Guano workers, Peru

Peru Guards Its Guano as Demand Soars Again
  • Guano is an undeniably strenuous enterprise from the perspective of the laborers who migrate to the islands to collect the dung each year. The laborers rise before dawn to scrape the hardened guano with shovels and pick-axes.
  • Many go barefoot, their feet and lower legs coated with guano by the time shifts end in the early afternoon.
  • The workers earn monthly salaries of about $600, more than three times what manual laborers earn in the impoverished highlands, where most of them are from
  • Guano in Peru sells for about $250 a ton while fetching $500 a ton when exported to France, Israel and the United States. Its status as an organic fertilizer has also increased demand, transforming it into a organic niche fertilizer sold around the world.

Richard Thaler on Nudge

Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth, and Happiness

Dustin Hoffman’s mental accounting

Google goes against Burmese junta

Global Justice Center
Burma is a criminal cabal.

Bottom Billion - a myth?

An Ivory Tower Analysis of Real World Poverty

The economics of Scrabble

An interesting profile of economist Jacques Polak;

During a lengthy recuperation from surgery in 1955, Jacques Polak whiled away the hours playing the popular board game Scrabble. It wasn't long before he subjected the word-building game to economic analysis—invoking such common concepts as the Keynesian multiplier and Marshallian profit maximization to divine a formula to maximize a player's total score.

The fundamental mistake inexperienced players make is trying to maximize their score in each turn, a strategy that, in the argot of economics, involves a cost: the "sacrifice of the score that might have been obtained with the same letter in another word," Polak opined in a 1955 article in the American Economic Review.

Polak developed a profit-maximizing formula of how best to make words using the 100 letter tiles in each game that have values running from 1 for common letters such as E to 10 for hard-to-use letters Q and Z. He propounds three rules:
• Letters with face values of 1 and 2 should, and those with a face value of 3 may, be used any time.
• Letters with face values of 4 and 5 should be used only if they score at least double, but a player should not hold onto them for a triple score.
• Letters with face values of 8 and 10 should almost always be kept for triple scores.

The derivation of the rules may be complicated, but they "can easily be followed in practice, even by beginners," he concluded. And apply them he did, Polak noted long after the article was published. Sadly, he was regularly bested by his wife, who cares nothing about the economics of Scrabble.

An Identity Crisis? Testing IMF Financial Programming

Financial Programming and Policy: The Case of Sri Lanka

A Model for Financial Programming

Analytical and Policy Aspects of Financial Programming: The Case of Egypt

Financial Programming and Policy: The Case of Hungary

A Manual for Country Economists

Analyse et Programmation Financieres: Application a la Cote d'Ivoire

Financial Programming and Policy: The Case of Turkey

Poverty Alleviation in a Financial Programming Framework: An Integrated Approach

Guidelines for Fiscal Adjustment

The IMF Monetary Model

Clinton Ads

via The Caucus

“When Hillary was crying, and people said that was put on – I really don’t believe it was put on,” Mr. Pfleger said. “I really believe that she just always thought this is mine. I’m Bill’s wife, I’m white and this is mine. I just gotta get up and step into the plate. And then, out of nowhere, came ‘Hey, I’m Barack Obama.’ And she said, ‘Oh, damn. Where did you come from? I’m white. I’m entitled. There’s a black man stealing my show.”

Link of the Day

Understanding Uncertainty

Maths Pocast of the Day

Heads or tails? It’s a simple question with a far from simple answer. One that takes us into the strange and complex world of probability.

Probability is the field of maths relating to random events and, although commonplace now, the idea that you can pluck a piece of maths from the tumbling of dice, the shuffling of cards or the odds in the local lottery is a relatively recent and powerful one. It may start with the toss of a coin but probability reaches into every area of the modern world, from the analysis of society to the decay of an atom.

More Readings;
F. N. David, Games, Gods and Gambling (Griffin, 1962)

T. M. Porter, The Rise of Statistical Thinking, 1820-1900 (Princeton University Press, 1986)

S. M. Stigler, The History of Statistics (Harvard University Press, 1986)

J. Von Plato, Creating Modern Probability (Cambridge University Press, 1994)

John Haigh, Taking Chances: Winning with Probability (Oxford University Press; New Ed edition (8 May 2003)

Gerd Gigerenzer, Reckoning with Risk: Learning to Live with Uncertainty (Penguin Books Ltd; New Ed edition (24 April 2003)

Frederick Mosteller, Fifty Challenging Problems in Probability With Solutions (Dover Publications Inc.; New Ed edition (1 Feb 1988)

Ian Stewart, Taming the Infinite: The Story of Mathematics (Quercus, July 2008)

Teacher package: Statistics and probability theory

The Drukard's Walk

A great talk from Authors@Google;
The Drunkard's Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives
by Leonard Mlodinow

Numbers Guy Interview: Leonard Mlodinow;
WSJ: If you can pick an index-outperforming stock 51% of the time, how many picks do you need to make to have better than a 99% chance of outperforming the index? (We’ll assume your picks are uncorrelated and that the magnitude of any outperformance or underperformance is the same.)

Mr. Mlodinow: Consider a stock analyst versus an index fund in a kind of stock-picking World Series. The law of large numbers says if you play a best-of-X series you can be confident that the best team will win — if X is large enough. But for small X, say, a best-of-seven series, there is a surprisingly large chance that the lesser team will win. So in sports just because one team is superior doesn’t mean it will win the series.

The same uncertainty applies to the market. For example, suppose the stock picker has a 51/49 edge over the index fund, meaning he or she will outperform it, in the long run, in 51% of the years in which they compete. How long is the long run in this case? The mathematics shows that in order to justify 99% confidence that the stock picker will outperform the index fund more often than it underperforms it, the contest would have to go on for about 13,700 years...

WSJ: After a particular drug is on the market, it will cause a particularly serious adverse effect to happen to one of every 3,000 patients in an epidemiological, i. e., post-hoc analysis. In retrospect, how many patients must be tested in the randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled, clinical trial to achieve 95% confidence that the side effect will show up?

Mr. Mlodinow: You need roughly 14,000 patients. Here is how you get that: The process is governed by the binomial distribution, which can be approximated by the normal distribution. The chance of an adverse reaction in any one patient is one in 3,000. Since you want a 95% confidence interval for one (or more) reactions, you want enough patients so that 1.00 is 1.64 standard deviations (or more) below the mean. With 14,000 patients the mean number of adverse reactions will be about 4.6 and the standard deviation is about 2.2, which gives you what you require. (I have rounded my answer to the nearest 1,000).

Correction: To achieve 95% confidence that the side effect will show up, you need 8,985 patients receiving the drug. This blog post misstated the number as 14,000. See the comments of this post for more details.

WSJ: Might we need to proceed irrationally in our lives to succeed? In other words, if we really believed that so much of success was the result of luck, wouldn’t a lot of us just give up trying?

Mr. Mlodinow: Some theorize that this is the evolutionary reason that we like to assume we are in control, even when we clearly aren’t. That may be so, but I don’t mourn the role of luck, I celebrate it. All else equal, it is a lot more fun not knowing how your book will do, or how your life will turn out, than it would be if everything could be determined by a logical calculation. Moreover, the fact that luck matters means you can help yourself by being persistent. A failure doesn’t mean you are unworthy, nor does it preclude success on the next try. As Thomas J. Watson, the highly successful IBM pioneer, said, “If you want to succeed, double your failure rate.”

Try the following spelling bee words

eidetic: marked by or involving extraordinarily accurate and vivid recall, especially of visual images.

hemotrophe: the nutritive substance supplied to embryos of some animals.

homeostasis: a relatively stable state of equilibrium or a tendency toward such a state between the different but interdependent elements or groups of elements of an organism, population or group.

laryngitis: inflammation of the larynx, the upper part of the air- breathing tube in humans, most other mammals, and some amphibians and reptiles.

: an impractical contemplative person having no definite business or income.

opalescence: reflecting an iridescent light.

Sioux: an American Indian people and their language.

sinecure: an office or position that requires little or no work and that usually provides an income.

-2 Hoosiers make finals of national spelling bee

Visions of the Future

Space elevator

More here and here

Most Stupid Quote of the Day- Sharon Stone

And then all this earthquake and all this stuff happened, and I thought, is that karma -- when you're not nice -- that the bad things happen to you?

Another Band Aid?

World Bank Launches $1.2 Billion Fast-Track Facility for Food Crisis

Trust the development experts – all 7bn of them By William Easterly;
The report of the World Bank Growth Commission, led by Nobel laureate Michael Spence, was published last week. After two years of work by the commission of 21 world leaders and experts, an 11- member working group, 300 academic experts, 12 workshops, 13 consultations, and a budget of $4m, the experts’ answer to the question of how to attain high growth was roughly: we do not know, but trust experts to figure it out.

This conclusion is fleshed out with statements such as: “It is hard to know how the economy will respond to a policy, and the right answer in the present moment may not apply in the future.” Growth should be directed by markets, except when it should be directed by governments.

My students at New York University would have been happy to supply statements like these to the World Bank for a lot less than $4m.

Why should we care about the debacle of a World Bank report? Because this report represents the final collapse of the “development expert” paradigm that has governed the west’s approach to poor countries since the second world war. All this time, we have hoped a small group of elite thinkers can figure out how to raise the growth rate of a whole economy. If there was something for “development experts” to say about attaining high growth, this talented group would have said it.

Science that can blow your mind

Class One Impossibility =Hollywood

Our most advanced computers are currently like retarded cockroaches

Michio Kaku on Science you thought never possible- a fascinating interview

War over Arctic- Can it Happen?

Affirmative Action Programs gone wrong

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Photo of the Day- Unrest in China

A day after parents staged an impromptu rally in Mianzhu on Saturday, the Communist Party's top local official, Jiang Guohua, came to plead with the protesters to not carry out their plan to march to Chengdu, the provincial capital, where they sought to prevail on higher-level authorities. Mr. Jiang, on his knees, failed to deter the parents, who shouted in his face and continued their march.

The Secrets of Growth success

Zambia Economist has more on the Growth Commission report

Growth Economics (book Review)by Asaf Razin

The end of race as we know it?

John H. McWhorter and Glenn Loury debate on Blogging Heads

The Stupidity of Dignity- Steven Pinker
This spring, the President's Council on Bioethics released a 555-page report, titled Human Dignity and Bioethics. The Council, created in 2001 by George W. Bush, is a panel of scholars charged with advising the president and exploring policy issues related to the ethics of biomedical innovation, including drugs that would enhance cognition, genetic manipulation of animals or humans, therapies that could extend the lifespan, and embryonic stem cells and so-called "therapeutic cloning" that could furnish replacements for diseased tissue and organs. Advances like these, if translated into freely undertaken treatments, could make millions of people better off and no one worse off. So what's not to like? The advances do not raise the traditional concerns of bioethics, which focuses on potential harm and coercion of patients or research subjects. What, then, are the ethical concerns that call for a presidential council?...

The sickness in theocon bioethics goes beyond imposing a Catholic agenda on a secular democracy and using "dignity" to condemn anything that gives someone the creeps. Ever since the cloning of Dolly the sheep a decade ago, the panic sown by conservative bioethicists, amplified by a sensationalist press, has turned the public discussion of bioethics into a miasma of scientific illiteracy. Brave New World, a work of fiction, is treated as inerrant prophesy. Cloning is confused with resurrecting the dead or mass-producing babies. Longevity becomes "immortality," improvement becomes "perfection," the screening for disease genes becomes "designer babies" or even "reshaping the species." The reality is that biomedical research is a Sisyphean struggle to eke small increments in health from a staggeringly complex, entropy-beset human body. It is not, and probably never will be, a runaway train.

A major sin of theocon bioethics is exactly the one that it sees in biomedical research: overweening hubris. In every age, prophets foresee dystopias that never materialize, while failing to anticipate the real revolutions. Had there been a President's Council on Cyberethics in the 1960s, no doubt it would have decried the threat of the Internet, since it would inexorably lead to 1984, or to computers "taking over" like HAL in 2001. Conservative bioethicists presume to soothsay the outcome of the quintessentially unpredictable endeavor called scientific research. And they would stage-manage the kinds of social change that, in a free society, only emerge as hundreds of millions of people weigh the costs and benefits of new developments for themselves, adjusting their mores and dealing with specific harms as they arise, as they did with in vitro fertilization and the Internet.

Worst of all, theocon bioethics flaunts a callousness toward the billions of non-geriatric people, born and unborn, whose lives or health could be saved by biomedical advances. Even if progress were delayed a mere decade by moratoria, red tape, and funding taboos (to say nothing of the threat of criminal prosecution), millions of people with degenerative diseases and failing organs would needlessly suffer and die. And that would be the biggest affront to human dignity of all.

The prize Hillary isn't owed;
Women, we are told by some people who say they know them, are not amused. Women, or at least those whose consciousnesses have been properly raised, supposedly think that the impatience being expressed about the protracted futility of Hillary Clinton's campaign is disrespectful. They say that if the roles were reversed — if Barack Obama's delegate arithmetic were as hopeless as hers — people would not be so insensitive as to try to hurry a man off the stage.

But they would. And some people, claiming to speak for African Americans, would be explaining that African Americans find it all disrespectful. In identity politics, ritualized indignation about imagined affronts is highly choreographed and hence predictable.

In America, however, nothing ages as fast as novelty, and efforts to encourage Clinton to pack it in are heartening evidence that the novelty has worn off: The female candidate is like all other candidates. This is what equality looks like — life as an equal-opportunity dispenser of disappointments.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Sean Mills, President of The Onion

Our Dumb World: The Onion's Atlas of the Planet Earth, 73rd Edition
by The Onion

Obama Practices Looking-Off-Into-Future Pose

McCain Vows To Replace Secret Service With His Own Bare Fists

Illicit Mexico

Mexico: On the Road to a Failed State?

The Gangs of Central America

A Hellish Sunrise

A Dangerous Sunrise on Gliese 876d

Indonesia- A Budding Democracy

Vice-president thinks the country is 'too free'?

Latin-American Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee??

Latin-American Shadow Financial Regulatory Committee;

Some of the members; Ricardo Hausmann / Alberto Carrasquilla / Gullermo Calvo /PEDRO CARVALHO de MELLO / Ernesto Talvi

Here's latest press release

Blogging at the World Bank

Pierre Guillaume Wielezynski, who works on blogs and social media for the World Bank, said: "Dani (Kaufmann) has the profile of a good blogger: open, conversational, opinionated and, most important of all, passionate. He understands that blogging, and social media in general is a powerful new form of expression. With Shanta (Shantayan Devarajan), the CommGap team (Communication for Governance and Accountability Program), and Dani, I am excited to see the Bank embrace social media."

The Governance Blog joins the other recently launched blogs that are helping to break ground on the social media front: CommGap's Public Sphere, East Asia & Pacific on the Rise, and Devarajan's End Poverty in South Asia. "The PublicSphere blog has been going since January," said Sina Odugbemi, program manager in CommGap, who recently joined the Bank from DfID. "We've had thousands of readers so far, most of them from outside the Bank. It's a way for us to engage with a global community on a whole range of issues related to the interactions among public opinion, the public sphere, and governance," Odugbemi said....

Kaufmann, whose trademark, even in his research, is being a straight shooter, says about his newest medium: “I like the language of blogging—the straightforwardness is very salutary. I like it when you don’t have to write in ‘Bank-ese.’”

-We Continue to Innovate: From Surveys to Blogging

Congratulations to Governance Matters Blog and to Mr. Daniel Kaufmann who has been instrumental in creating a Bank blog focussed on governance issues. Still it seems Bank's work are too much in silos and there isn't much talk on cross themes.

The following post was on East Asia blog;
Number 1 essential to fighting corruption: political will

I would have liked to see a reaction from the those at Governance Blog. With all the focus on Africa why isn't there a blog focused on Africa? IMF has taken lead in creating a blog on public financial management.

Who do you think at World Bank should be blogging? Robert Zoellick, Danny Leipziger, Anwar Shah, Charles Kenny, etc.,

Book recommendation for Mankiw

Guesstimation: Solving the World's Problems on the Back of a Cocktail Napkin
Lawrence Weinstein & John A. Adam

Chapter 1: How to Solve Problems

Archived Weekly Problems and Solutions

John A. Adam on Flick

Terminally ill bloggers

Baldy's Blog;
Adrian Sudbury has been a reporter for both the Huddersfield Express and Chronicle Series and the Huddersfield Examiner. In November 2006 the 25-year-old was promoted to digital journalist, effectively editing the new-look Examiner website. Just two days into his new role he became seriously ill and called in sick. A week later he drove himself to A&E and was eventually diagnosed with leukaemia. It was then identified that he actually has two distinct types of the disease running at the same time. According to the medical literature he is the only person in the world to have this condition. As such, it has not been possible to offer Adrian a prognosis. Here he shares his experiences of the disease and his treatment.

We wish all the best to Adrain- you're a very courageous man.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Philosopher and musician David Rothenberg jamming with whales

Tyler Cowen recommends David Rothenberg

David Rothenberg jamming with whales


The Black Death;
In October 1347, a Genoese trading ship arrived at the busy port of Messina in Sicily. Readying to dock, it would have nosed in among many similar ships doing similar things. But this ship was special because this ship had rats and the rats had fleas and the fleas had plague. Within four years, over a third of the population of Europe lay dead. This was the Black Death and its terrible progress was captured by the Florentine writer Giovanni Boccaccio who declared “in those years a dead man was then of no more account than a dead goat”.

The Black Death devastated Europe, changed its economics and broke up its society, but did the disease also bring subtler transformations in its art, its religion and its intellectual outlook?

Hanson on Signalling

Link of the Day

Walk Score

Assorted Science and Technology

Robot that gives birth helps medics learn

Shockwave traffic jam recreated for first time

Obama on Social Security Reform

via Andrew G. Biggs blog

Natural Disasters and Corruption

Planet Surveys- Another Scam?

Planet Surveys;
an online marketing research organization . We help companies that want to hear your opinion find you, listen to you, and compensate you for the time you spend helping them improve. Our members earn $300 to $550 per week by taking on-line surveys, participating in virtual focus group discussions, and testing new products, websites and services

NO! Do not join these sites. They are a scam. To take a survey you have to pay and give your email address to them. They will them send your email address to thousands of spammers. I had to shut down an email account I had because the spam was so bad. Not to mention I lost my money.

These survey sites are a scam. Please don't give them your money or email address or any information for that matter

How Germans Love

More here

There's no secret to development

Your Lawmakers at Work

The Same Old Song on High Gas Prices;
In one of the more pointed exchanges, Representative Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, seized on the record $40.6 billion profit of Exxon Mobil in 2007. She pounded on the company’s senior vice president, J. Stephen Simon, demanding to know if gas prices would be lower if the company earned a few billion dollars less.

At another point, Ms. Waters brazenly suggested that perhaps the American oil industry should be nationalized, acknowledging that it was an “extreme step” but one that might be necessary if outsize profits and exorbitant gasoline prices continued.

“Thank you for being here today,” Ms. Waters told the executives. “If you feel a little bit beaten up on, we all feel beaten up on, so just share the pain. We get our behinds kicked every day in our districts about what is going on.”

Election assorted

Obama the activist

Hillary: Why I continue to run

The White Working Class: Forgotten Voters No More

'Pushing Clinton Out Against Her Will Would Cost Obama'

Foxed News on Obama/Osama

The State of Post-Suharto Indonesia

Books to Pre-order

Economic Gangsters Corruption, Violence, and the Poverty of Nations

* Chapter 1: Fighting For Economic Development
* Chapter 2: Suharto, Inc.
* Chapter 3: The Smuggling Gap
* Chapter 4: Nature or Nurture? Understanding the Culture of Corruption
* Chapter 5: No Water, No Peace
* Chapter 6: Death by a Thousand Small Cuts
* Chapter 7: The Road Back From War
* Chapter 8: Learning to Fight Economic Gangsters

The link between Corruption and Dating Economics

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A competitor for Dani Rodrik's program?

MSc in International Trade, Finance, and Development- from Barcelona

See the Director's Blog

Hans-Joachim Voth / Antonio Ciccone / Alessandra Bonfiglioli / Jaume Ventura /
Fernando Broner /Kurt Schmidheiny / Ghazala Azmat / Paula Bustos /Xavier Sala-i-Martín/ Gino Gancia / Alberto Martin / Libertad González/Antoni Estevadeordal/Eduardo Levy Yeyati

Applied Econometrics for Masters Students

A Course on Poverty and Development from Google

Ted Miguel / Davesh Kapur / Steve Redelet

Lant Pritchett

Seema Jayachandran / Ted Miguel

Janice E. Perlman
/Ananya Roy

Nancy Birdsall / Raymond C. Offenheiser

Predict and Prevent

Narayana Murthy- Bill Gates of India

N. R. Narayana Murthy- a true Indian hero.
"I want to be remembered as a fair person...nicety I don't care"

He attributes the success of the firm to the reforms of 1991.

Infosys Foundation

Books to read

The Limits of Organization
by Kenneth J. Arrow

See also here

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Another Rodrik review

A review of Rodrik's recent book from Australia;

The rest of the book suggests how such reforms might be designed and implemented. Rodrik pays by far the most attention to the ‘market failure’ branch of the tree, either because he thinks it is the most important, or has received too little attention elsewhere. It is generally accepted that if innovation is under-rewarded by the market, it is necessary to offer some extra inducement. This is the reasoning behind intellectual property and government-funded R&D. These are not always appropriate instruments for developing countries, however, since their problem is not so much expanding the frontier of new knowledge, but getting to that frontier by importing ideas and technology from elsewhere. This process is vulnerable to many kinds of market failure, so that it is hard for new industries to be established without some kind of government support. Industrial policy is not about ‘picking winners’ or comprehensive planning, but encouraging experiments with new types of economic activity. Many will fail, but even a few successes can amply repay the costs of failure. Developing countries still have plenty of room for this type of policy, although relaxing international rules on export subsidies would be helpful. The exact form of the intervention is not as important as the process: it is necessary to have a close enough relationship between government and business to identify promising opportunities and encourage entrepreneurs to take them up, but at the same time preserve enough independence to withdraw support from the failures so they do not become a permanent drain.

This is a self-confessedly modest program. Yet it contradicts everyone currently making a noise on the subject: assorted protesters such as Joseph Stiglitz and Ha-Joon Chang (because it does not demonise the IMF, World Bank, and WTO); heterodox economists such as Erik Reinert (because it asserts the value of neoclassical theory); neoclassical economists at the IMF, World Bank and WTO (because it advocates industrial policy and deprecates both the old Washington Consensus and the new ‘augmented’ version); Jeffery Sachs and Bono (because it denies the importance of poverty traps and barely mentions foreign aid); and William Easterly and Greg Clark (because it offers, if not a one-size-fits-all solution, at least some concrete advice on how to engineer growth).

It is no small achievement to disagree with so many luminaries and still receive back-cover endorsements from three Nobel laureates. He is very convincing arguing against the ‘laundry lists’ of comprehensive reforms that have been advocated by international institutions, whether the first generation of privatisation and liberalisation, or the more ambitious second generation focused on institution building. Trying to bring everything at once up to world's best practice is beyond the capability of even the best governments. But without detailed local knowledge, anything short of this can easily miss the most important problems in an economy, if it does not make things worse. The case against a generalised poverty trap is equally strong: spurts of growth lasting several years are relatively common, while sustained growth over decades is rare.

This very fact, however, points to a weakness, or gap, in the book. If lighting the fire is relatively easy compared to keeping it going, why spend so much time focusing on ignition techniques? For the long run, Rodrik's only specific advice is to actively diversify the industrial base, and build institutions of conflict management, which he links with democracy. There is a more general recommendation to use the time bought by growth accelerations to gradually implement more ambitious institutional reforms, but this is rather vague. Is this just the standard ‘laundry list’ implemented more slowly? Then what becomes of the ‘many recipes’? Or is the long run, from a policy point of view, just a series of short runs — life is one binding constraint after another? In this case, growth diagnostics offers no way to identify and fix constraints before they start to bind, which is what he seems to be recommending. How can you avoid Argentina's long decline, or Japan's stagnation, or the East Asian financial meltdown, except with hindsight? It is surely too much to expect answers to all of these questions — indeed, they only become relevant with short-run success — but they could have been faced more squarely.

Short-run success is, of course, not to be disparaged. It would be nice to have a reliable method of making poor countries rich, but failing that (which we have been), significantly raising the number of growth accelerations would be a great start. With this more limited goal in mind, Rodrik's advice seems sensible, although I am sceptical of his emphasis on ‘cost discovery’ as a justification for industry policy. He argues that those entrepreneurs who introduced garment manufacturing to Bangladesh and soccer balls to Pakistan were revealing new information about what was profitable in those countries, which could then be copied by others. This treats manufacturing as some exotic crop that will only grow under particular conditions of soil and climate, as if it was not equally likely that Pakistan would have ended up making shirts and Bangladesh balls. Rodrik's own summary of the evidence concludes that ‘managerial and labour turnover’ is the key mechanism by which innovations spread, which points to a ‘learning by doing’ or ‘human capital’ interpretation. He mentions these only briefly, which is strange, as he has argued elsewhere that the widely accepted economic case for government involvement in education is similar to the case for industry policy. I would go further and say that they are practically identical.

This is, however, splitting hairs. Specifying the exact market failure is far less important than recognising that a particular activity (in this case, innovation) is likely to be undersupplied by profit-seeking enterprise. First-best intervention is usually impractical, if not impossible, so there is no one-to-one mapping from diagnosis to policy. It is a great strength of the book that it does not offer such precise, pre-packaged answers, even in a country-specific form but, rather, hints as to the right questions to ask as part of an open-ended policy-making process.

Supposing that growth diagnostics is widely adopted (the World Bank has already shown interest), will it prove more successful than previous development fads? While it requires a great deal of intelligence, knowledge and judgment (or failing that, luck), expecting to get rich without these is surely a pipe dream. At least its inherent conservatism, with the emphasis on detailed local knowledge and targeted intervention, should minimise the potential for damage.

Have a great Memorial Day

Memorial Day

Advice of the Day - from Nixon

'I have impeached myself'

The Conviction of Richard Nixon: The Untold Story of the Frost/Nixon Interviews
by James Jr Reston

Link of the Day

Free Documentaries


Effective Presenters

via Presentation Zen

Wisdom from Seth Godin

Target Otaku

The new standard for meetings and conferences
If you think a great conference is one where the presenters read a script while showing the audience bullet points, you're wrong. Or if you leave little time for attendees to engage with others, or worse, if you don't provide the levers to make it more likely that others will engage with each other, you're wrong as well...

Here's what someone expects if they come to see you on an in-person sales call: that you'll be prepared, focused, enthusiastic and willing to engage honestly about the next steps. If you can't do that, don't have the meeting.

Here's what a speaker owes an audience that travels to engage in person: more than they could get by just reading the transcript.

And here's what a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement.

how to read a business book:

1. Decide, before you start, that you’re going to change three things about what you do all day at work. Then, as you’re reading, find the three things and do it. The goal of the reading, then, isn’t to persuade you to change, it’s to help you choose what to change.

2. If you’re going to invest a valuable asset (like time), go ahead and make it productive. Use a postit or two, or some index cards or a highlighter. Not to write down stuff so you can forget it later, but to create marching orders. It’s simple: if three weeks go by and you haven’t taken action on what you’ve written down, you wasted your time.

3. It’s not about you, it’s about the next person. The single best use of a business book is to help someone else. Sharing what you read, handing the book to a person who needs it... pushing those around you to get in sync and to take action--that’s the main reason it’s a book, not a video or a seminar. A book is a souvenir and a container and a motivator and an easily leveraged tool. Hoarding books makes them worth less, not more.

Effective managers hand books to their team. Not so they can be reminded of high school, but so that next week she can say to them, "are we there yet?"

Gore Vidal on US Elections

Burundi- another African tragedy

Another explanation of holocaust?

At issue was Mr. Hagee's reference — in a late 1990s sermon and in his 2006 book "Jerusalem Countdown" to Adolf Hitler being a "hunter" used by God to force Jews to emigrate to Israel.

In a reference to the Book of Jeremiah, whose author predicts a scattering of the Jewish people but saying God would bring them back to the promised land, Mr. Hagee says in the sermon: "How did [the Holocaust] happen? Because God allowed it to happen. Why did it happen? Because God said my top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel."

Jews defend Hagee's words

Friday, May 23, 2008

'Obsessive Sarkosis'- A new mental disease in France

Serge Hefez, a practicing psychiatrist, has identified a new mental illness among the French: obsessive Sarkosis, an unhealthy fascination with the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.

“As I listened to my patients during consultations, many of them mentioned Sarkozy by name,” Dr. Hefez said. “He’s penetrated some of their deepest fantasies. I noticed all this passion in people speaking of him, and I thought there is something particular about this man — he’s like a reflection of us in the mirror.”

The French project themselves onto Mr. Sarkozy, too, Dr. Hefez said.

“He’s the incarnation of the postmodern man, obsessed with himself, turned toward pleasure, autonomous and narcissistic,” the psychiatrist said. “And he exhibits his joys and sorrows, all his private life, his sentimental doubts and pleasures. He represents the individualism of the society to the extreme, that it’s the individual who counts, not the society.”

A year after taking office, Mr. Sarkozy can appear to be everywhere, at least in the world of television and print. The daily newspaper Le Figaro counts at least 100 books devoted to the French president, his life and loves, with more than a million sold, for $25.1 million.

-A Passion for (and Against) Sarkozy

Mankiw should write a book on parenting

Book advise for nerdy dads from Mankiw

Mankiw's Parenting Skills

The merging of the sexes

A miracle?

Recently from UN

World Health Statistics 2008

2008 World Economic and Social Survey

Photo of the Day- You don't know Dick

Vice President Dick Cheney

Things in Fareed Zakaria's Post American World

270 Illegal Immigrants Sent to Prison in Federal Push

Gods Must Be Crazy, updated

Weird South Korean Teenagers

A meeting of government accountants


Authors and Books

Can't Remember What I Forgot: The Good News from the Front Lines of Memory Research
by Sue Halpern

Why Popcorn Costs So Much at the Movies: And Other Pricing Puzzles
by Richard B. McKenzie

Right Is Wrong: How the Lunatic Fringe Hijacked America, Shredded the Constitution, and Made Us All Less Safe

by Arianna Huffington

Mergers & Acquisitions
by Dana Vachon

The cult of Ataturk?

UK's foreign minister writes on blog;

The founder of the Turkish Republic Kemal Attaturk dominates every public building. His mausoleum which I visited yesterday is monumental. But he also said: "culture is the foundation of the Turkish Republic". Not a bad place to start.

I wonder whether present generation of Turks will agree with Ataturk.

Policy Talks at Google

Condoleezza Rice & David Miliband

Robert Atkinson, Edwin Garrubbo, Michael Avon, and Google Chief Economist Hal Varian

Aliens, Animals and Humans are not so different

Sometimes it's refreshing to see the world through the eyes of others.


You’ve Seen the YouTube Video; Now Try the Documentary

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Is US Election a distraction from real news?

World Bank's Danny Kaufmann asks;

I don’t get it. Late in the evening I watch CNN news. For the past week it has been saturated with interminable reporting on the Obama-Clinton democratic candidate contest. Many pundits have been paraded and asked for opinions on trivia. Obscure (until now) ’superdelegates’ have been interviewed, even if it is to say that hey still ’sit on the fence’.

One could argue that this constant reporting is right now very important to many Americans (which I am not) during this crucial election year. If only it would matter: unless my math is flawed, the contest for the democratic nomination has been effectively over for a week already, ever since the North Carolina and Indiana primaries. Yet the cameras keep rolling, obsessed with campaign trivia, on ocassion interspeded by a report on the weird Texas cult.

Obama Begins Search for Vice President

Happy Polygamists

None of the State's Business

Jagdish Bhagwati on Food Prices

Jagdish Bhagwati on Food Prices;

Bhagwati and Sachs on the food crisis

Malthus is Back

World Food Outlook

World could face severe economic downturn, new UN report suggests

Have African Economies Turned Around?

African Economic Outlook 2008- OECD

Sub-Saharan Africa: Private Capital Fueling Growth

Have African Economies Turned Around?

Tea- Fact of the Day

World tea production continued to grow in 2006. The annual growth rate was more than 3 % to reach an estimated 3.6 million tonnes. The expansion was mainly due to record crops in China, Viet Nam and India.

The very latest figures put world black tea production at 2.5 million tonnes as compared to 968 000 tonnes for green tea. FAO projections to 2017 indicate that world green tea production is expected to grow at a considerably faster rate than black tea, 4.5 % annually compared to 1.9 % for black tea. The projections reflect the growth in China where the programme for production expansion through rehabilitation, replanting and some conversion is expected to continue to 2017.

The level of world tea consumption in 2006 was roughly equal to production. But its growth rate was only one percent, a slowdown from the annual average of 2.7 % growth over the previous decade. Per capita consumption in the major tea producing countries lags behind, in spite of their strong economic growth. Russians consume 1.26 kg per year and the British 2.2 kg per year but in India tea consumption is only 0.65 kg per head per year and in China it is only 0.53 kg per year.

-Intergovernmental meeting on tea

Islam vs Christianity

Rev. Chloe Breyer and James Pinkerton on Blogging Heads- a bit misleading title. Other topics discussed Columbia University expansion,...

Campaign Rumors

Joyce Rozen of Pompano Beach said she believed that the Obama campaign was deliberately keeping Michelle Obama out of sight — one of many false rumors floating around Florida.

Turkey and IMF

IMF`s Last Review of Turkey`s 3-Year Stand-By Arrangement

Turkey -- Letter of Intent, April 28, 2008

Econ Talks

From Singapore National University;

The Natural State
Douglass C. North

A View from the Outside: Why Good Economics Works for Everyone

Speaker: The Honourable P Chidambaram, Finance Minister, Government of India

Memo to Self- Books to Read

The Practice of Economic Management: A Caribbean Perspective
by Courtney Blackman

African Development: Making Sense of the Issues and Actors
by Todd J. Moss

Singapore's Success : Engineering Economic Growth
by Henri Ghesquiere

Rents, Rent-seeking and Economic Development: Theory and Evidence in Asia
By Mushtaq H Khan and Jomo Kwame Sundaram

Flat World, Big Gaps: Economic Liberalization, Globalization and Inequality
by Jomo K.S. , Jacques Baudot

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Classic BBC Comedy

The News Quiz;
The emergency budget, see-through folders and Cherie's memoirs...

Press cuttings;

Police reveal that a woman arrested for shoplifting had a whole salami in her knickers. When asked why, she said it was because she was missing her Italian boyfriend. (Reuters via The Manchester Evenings News)

Irish police are being handicapped in a search for a stolen van, because they cannot issue a description. It's a special branch vehicle, and they don't want the public to know what it looks like. (The Guardian)

After being charged £20 for a £10 overdraft, 30 year old Michael Howard of Leeds changed his name by deed poll to Yorkshire Bank PLC Are Fascist Bastards. The bank has now asked him to close his account, and Mr. Bastards has asked them to repay the 69p balance, by cheque, made out in his new name. (The Guardian)

Would the congregation please note that the bowl at the back of the church labelled 'for the sick' is for monetary donations only. (Churchtown Parish Magazine)

6.10pm: Pride and Prejudice. Mr. Bennett's estranged cousin, Mr.Collins, writes to announce his imminent visit to Longbourne - the house he will inherit on Mr.Bennett's death. Mrs. Bennett rallies the residents to stop him setting up a minicab service. (Hampstead and Highgate Express)

There must, for instance, be something very strange in a man who , if left a lone in a room with a tea cosy, doesn't try it on. (Glasgow Evening News)

A young girl who was blown out to sea on a set of inflatable teeth was rescued by a man on an inflatable lobster. A coastguard spokesman commented, "this sort of thing is all too common". (The Times)

At the height of the gale, the harbourmaster radioed a coastguard on the spot and asked him to estimate the wind speed. He replied that he was sorry, but he didn't have a gauge. However, if it was any help, the wind had just blown his Land Rover off the cliff. (Aberdeen Evening Express)

Mrs Irene Graham of Thorpe Avenue, Boscombe, delighted the audience with her reminiscence of the German prisoner of war who was sent each week to do her garden. He was repatriated at the end of 1945, she recalled. "He'd always seemed a nice friendly chap, but when the crocuses came up in the middle of our lawn in February 1946, they spelt out Heil Hitler". (Bournemouth Evening Echo)

Commenting on a complaint from a Mr.Arthur Purdey about a large gas bill, a spokesman for North West gas said "We agree it was rather high for the time of year. It's possible Mr.Purdey has been charged for the gas used up during the explosion that blew his house to pieces." (Bangkok Post)

Globalisation's Hit Men

John Perkins

How Good People become Evil

Errol Morris’ “Feel-Bad” Masterpiece

Assorted Podcasts

Doing without a ruler: in defence of anarchism

Morality and political violence

To be or not to be (Part 1)
Suicide has been a focus of philosophical examination in the West since at least the time of Plato, and for good reason. It raises a lot of difficult questions. What makes behaviour suicidal? Is suicidal behaviour rational and - the question that has obsessed philosophers down the ages - is it morally permissible? This week, the first part of a two-part investigation of this enigmatic and disconcerting phenomenon

The science of happiness

Frost/Nixon interview

DeLong Expects Dollar to Fall Versus Asian Currencies

Shultz Supports Fuchs-Emanuel Social Security Plan

Flynn Siler Says Mondavi Was `Brilliant' at Marketing

Credit Shocks and Economic Aftershocks

Quitting the habit: neurobiology, addiction and the insidious ciggie

Look at the history of parishes from about the 14th Century

The Logic of Life

Secrets of Mental Math

Implementing Cluster Competitiveness Initiatives

Glenn Loury: The Missing Voice of Jeremiah

Bad News in High Style: Kevin Phillips

Zakaria Says U.S. Political System Has Broken

Common Wealth: economics for a crowded planet

"American Idol and Poverty" featuring Edward H. Crane

The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State

Georgia's Transformation into a Modern Market Democracy