Saturday, March 20, 2004
The outsourcing bogeyman
Regular readers might have noticed that I was focusing a bit on offshore outsourcing recently. There's only so much one can say about the topic in a blog post, however, so I figured, what the heck, let's turn it into a paper:
Here's a link to the bibliography and footnotes, but you should comment on the piece here.
Thursday, March 18, 2004
Open Al Qaeda thread
Wednesday, March 17, 2004
Blogging will be intermittent at best for the rest of this week, as I'll be at the International Studies Association annual meeting in Montreal. Weather aside, I've never been to the city and I've heard from reliable sources that it's a great town.
Don't worry, however -- within the next 24 hours, I will be posting something that should prompt a fair amount of conversation (cue enigmatic smile).
UPDATE: OK, it might be 48 hours.
I'll have my coffee extra bitter, please
Brad Delong writes:
Yes, spring is coming!! Oh, wait....
Even better -- I'm departing for Montreal later today!!
Damn you DeLong!! Damn you to hell!!
The lack of correlation between jobs and trade
Brink Lindsey has a policy brief on the relationship between employment and trade over the past few years, particularly in the manufacturing sector. From the abstract:
Read the whole thing.
Iran in turmoil?
Well, don't I feel like the perfect fool.
We'll see where this leads. One wonders whether the complete impotence of "reformers" in the government triggered this outbreak.
I would love for this to pan out -- but I have every confidence that the hardliners are prepared to be as brutal as necessary to stay in power.
I really hope my confidence is misplaced.
Should there be a "grand bargain" with Iran?
Here's my question -- should this deal have been made back in May? Should it be made now?
Note that the FT story makes it clear that the quid pro quo required the US to give the Iranian regime a partial pass on human rights. On the other hand, that's also not part of the Libya deal either. One could argue that Iran's record of prior bad acts raises the bar for trusting them. On the other hand, Libya tried to acquire WMD capabilities while the negotiations with the US and UK were taking place.
My initial take -- the deal should have been cut, and probably should still be cut. I say this fully aware that such a deal would be detrimental to the short-term advancement of human rights in Iran.
The top priorities of the administration are the war on terror and remaking the Middle East. Iran's cooperation on the terror front would have been pretty easy to measure (making the deal easy to revoke if Iran failled to follow through), and an unambiguously good thing if Iran had followed through. The downside would have been giving the Iranian hardliners a freer hand in cracking down -- but it's not as if not making the deal has improved matters. Furthermore, if the deal increases Iraqi stability, then it improves the odds of Iraq democracy, which would have a powerful demonstration effect.
I'm perfectly willing to entertain counterarguments.
One final thought -- the deal is still out there. Should it be taken now?
UPDATE: Lots of good feedback, mostly centered on a) whether Iran would live up to its side of the bargain, and b) what this would mean to Iran's citizenry.
My arguments in favor rested on the notion that a) The Iranian government lived up to its bargain, and b) Our current policy of "regime change" via isolation and browbeating was not working (though check out my next post). Furthermore, cooperation on terrorism, WMD proliferation, and Iraqi stability cannot be lightly dismissed -- though I agree that there would need to be tangible metrics to ensure Iranian compliance.
Furthermore, in terms of policy consistency, why would it be OK to cut a deal with Libya and not Iran? Roger L. Simon [who y'all should read] says that it's a question of magnitude -- Iran is bigger and more important than Libya.
Fair enough -- but my question would be whether the demonstration effect of a more stable and democratic Iraq on the Irania population outweighs whatever direct effect U.S. condemnation has on the stability of the Iranian regime.
Why Bill James is not an economist
Bill James, the godfather of baseball sabermetrics, is now working as a consultant for the Boston Red Sox. Of course, it's only recently that James' pioneering idea of using statistical analysis to determine what causes a baseball team to win games has been accepted.
Before that, he had an interesting set of careers, as he told mlb.com:
As someone who also started out in economics, but found politics more interesting, I can certainly understand.
UPDATE: On a loosely related topic, David Pinto has an interesting guest essay by Glenn Berggoetz and Jeff McBride arguing that contra conventional wisdom, ex-catchers make lousy managers.
Tuesday, March 16, 2004
Reflection on Spain and Al Qaeda
The New York Times has two very good op-eds about the implication of the 3/11 bonbings and subsequent Spanish elections. Edward Luttwak shows it's possible to simultaneously disagree with the war in Iraq and disagree with the Spanish socialists:
This was Fareed Zakaria's point in the Sunday Washington Post as well (link via Virginia Postrel):
Meanwhile, Scott Atran picks up on the evolution of the relationship between Al Qaeda and local terrorist groups in the other op-ed. The highlights:
This makes sense. Terrorist attacks conducted by Al Qaeda proper have usually been targeted at highly symbolic targets -- luxury hotels, embassies, the Pentagon, the WTC, etc. They're not averse to killing large numbers of civilians, but they prefer doing it while destroying important symbols of political, economic and military power. The Madrid bombing was not like that -- hence, it's likely that the operation, while perhaps sponsored by AQ, was not implemented by them.
UPDATE: This commentor makes a good point: "I wonder if what's happened is that AQ or its franchisees have moved from targeting physical symbols such as hotels and embassies to also targeting more nebulous symbols, such as the elections themselves."
Thanks, but no thanks
The bad news -- According to this ranking system, David Brooks comes in at #20, Tom Friedman comes in at #40, David Broder at #57, and George Will at #172. Fareed Zakaria is not among the top 200.
In other words, I'm fairly certain that the methodology used to compile this list is horses--t. [What if you're wrong?--ed. Then I'll magnanimously offer to trade places with Tom, Fareed, George, or either David -- because I'm that kind of guy.]
UPDATE: After informing my lovely wife Erika of this ranking page, she queried, "I didn't know your Mom had a web site."
ANOTHER UPDATE: Kudos to Philippe Lourier for responding to semi-constructive criticism and taking the responses in stride.
Monday, March 15, 2004
Productivity, outsourcing, and employment
Business Week has a cover story on the mystery of low job growth in the United States. Some of the highlights:
Given that Forrester's estimates on the effect of outsourcing on the American economy have been at the high end of this debate, this should be treated as an upper bound estimate. This USA Today editorial -- the contents of which are otherwise none too friendly to business -- says, "Many economists estimate that only about 1 in 100 layoffs are caused by outsourcing. By contrast, the bulk of job losses stem from domestic factors. (emphasis added)" Back-of-the-envelope calculations would imply that only 27,000 gross jobs (as opposed to net) have been lost due to offshore outsourcing. Which would be the lower bound estimate.
Technological innovation is responsible for the vast improvements in labor productivity, which explains the combination of seemingly robust economic growth and seemingly weak job growth. One wonders whether this will foster the the rise of a neo-Luddite movement in the United States.
UPDATE: Hmmm.... maybe the USA Today figure was not a lower bound. This Economist story says:
Remember, this is for posterity....
In the final month before I handed in my dissertation, I was working in my office at Stanford when the fire alarm went off. I gathered my things to leave the room, including my laptop with the digital version of the dissertation (during grad school, that laptop was rarely more than ten feet away from me). Leaving the building, I was surprised to see that there was an actual fire in the building? My first reaction? "Thank God I got the dissertation out. Even if something had happened to me, at least my work would survive!"
This is how academics think -- will their work live on?
Today I received an e-mail stating that: "The Library has selected your site for inclusion in its historic collection of Internet materials."
What does this mean? Practically speaking, it means the following:
Well, I do share that vision, but my reader-commentors may not. So consider this a public service notice -- your comments are being recorded for posterity.
Think about it -- decades or centuries from now, some struggling graduate student may be reading some of this.
That poor, pathetic soul.
Did Al Qaeda knowingly influence Spain's election?
In the aftermath of the Socialist Party's victory in Spain's national elections -- after trailing in most polls to the People's party before last week's Madrid bombings -- what does it all mean? Is this a harbinger of Al Qaeda's ability to influence European voters? Was the electoral outcome what Al Qaeda intended?
Andrew Sullivan believes the answers to both questions are yes:
Matthew Yglesias is not so sure about either proposition:
I'm on the fence on this issue. The fact is, authoritarian/totalitarian actors have had a pretty lousy record at consciously influencing democratic elections in other countries. That said, it seems difficult not to believe that AQ got what it wanted from this attack.
FINAL UPDATE: This story would seem to vitiate Yglesias' argument.
That cursed affluence
Robert Samuelson's latest Newsweek column argues that America's obesity "crisis" is an ailment of affluence. The interesting grafs:
Read the entire piece.