Saturday, August 26, 2006
Bernanke on globalization
Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke gave an interesting speech entitled, "Global Economic Integration: What's New and What's Not?" that's worth a gander. Here's his answer to what's new:
Each observer will have his or her own perspective, but, to me, four differences between the current wave of global economic integration and past episodes seem most important. First, the scale and pace of the current episode is unprecedented. For example, in recent years, global merchandise exports have been above 20 percent of world gross domestic product, compared with about 8 percent in 1913 and less than 15 percent as recently as 1990; and international financial flows have expanded even more quickly. But these data understate the magnitude of the change that we are now experiencing. The emergence of China, India, and the former communist-bloc countries implies that the greater part of the earth's population is now engaged, at least potentially, in the global economy. There are no historical antecedents for this development. Columbus's voyage to the New World ultimately led to enormous economic change, of course, but the full integration of the New and the Old Worlds took centuries. In contrast, the economic opening of China, which began in earnest less than three decades ago, is proceeding rapidly and, if anything, seems to be accelerating.To me, the most astonishing difference is number two.
This seems like a good weekend topic
Well, I see the blogosphere is ablaze with talk about this Forbes colum by Michael Noer:
Guys: A word of advice. Marry pretty women or ugly ones. Short ones or tall ones. Blondes or brunettes. Just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career.Read the whiole thing and then coment away.
I'm shocked, shocked that Noer's article, "provoked a heated response from both outside and inside our building." Indeed, after a few days, Forbes felt compelled to publish a side-by-side rebuttal by Elizabeth Corcoran.
Forbes' definition of a career woman is extraordinarily broad, including any woman who has a college education, works 35 hours a week, and makes more than $30,000. So, if you define non-career women as all the "undereducated" who work part-time and make less than $30K, it becomes painfully obvious why female careerists are more likely to divorce than non-careerists: They can better afford to get out of an unhappy marriage than their sisters.I'm sure both Noer and Shafer would point to this Jacqueline Mackie Massey Paisley post to support this argument.
Friday, August 25, 2006
Thoughts on Iran and oil
Go check it out.
Who's afraid of peak oil?
With ever-growing attention to the peak oil question, it's worth observing yet again that the U.S. economy has been astonishingly resilient to the high price of oil. Indeed, if I'm reading this chart correctly, the real price of oil has tripled in the last four years -- easily the highest percentage increase in such a short span of time. Last year I wondered if $70 a barrel for oil would have stagflationary effects -- and the answer so far appears to be no.
Raphael Minder reports in the Financial Times that the global economy could be just as resilient:
The world economy will not face a serious inflation problem even if there is a further significant increase in the price of oil, the governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia said on Thursday.
Thursday, August 24, 2006
Mary Jordan has a front-pager in the Washington Post detailing how social movements use text messaging to surmount attempts to contain dissent:
Cellphones and text messaging are changing the way political mobilizations are conducted around the world. From Manila to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, andKathmandu, Nepal, protests once publicized on coffeehouse bulletin boards are now organized entirely through text-messaging networks that can reach vast numbers of people in a matter of minutes.The best part of the story documents a real-time Filipino protest designed to overwhelm the police's ability to disperse it:
At 1:30 p.m. on a recent day, Palatino and three students lingered near the doughnut case in the 7-Eleven on a congested corner of Morayta Street. They stood in the air-conditioned cool, cellphones in hand, waiting for a text....Note to self: add to paper on IT's effect on state-society relations.
The Howard Cosell of international news
I am happy to cross the partisan divide and state for the record that I am in 100% agreement with Matthew Yglesias:
I'm not sure if you guys know who Richard Quest is, but suffice it to say that based on my rather small level of watching CNN International while traveling he's far and away the most annoying television news personality on the planet.Naturally, Quest got his own monthly interview show, ‘Quest’, in July.
And if I was the head of CNN, I'd do the same thing -- Quest's voice, mannerisms, and teeth are so.... grating that the overall effect is hypnotic. Whenever I catch him in my travels, it requires a concerted effort to change the channel.
Those dirty Polynesian rats
I'm a big fan of Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs and Steel, and still need to read his sequel, Collapse. However, Terry L. Hunt has an essay in the latest issue of The American Scientist that calls into question Diamond's central case study in Collapse -- the decline and fall of the Rapa Nui on Easter Island:
In the prevailing account of the island's past, the native inhabitants—who refer to themselves as the Rapanui and to the island as Rapa Nui—once had a large and thriving society, but they doomed themselves by degrading their environment. According to this version of events, a small group of Polynesian settlers arrived around 800 to 900 A.D., and the island's population grew slowly at first. Around 1200 A.D., their growing numbers and an obsession with building moai led to increased pressure on the environment. By the end of the 17th century, the Rapanui had deforested the island, triggering war, famine and cultural collapse.
Wednesday, August 23, 2006
Can science solve the stem cell debate?
According to the Financial Times' Clive Cookson, there may be a way to end the ethical debate over stem cell research:
Scientists in the US have created human embryonic stem cells without destroying embryos, a discovery that appears to get round a basic ethical objection to stem cell research.Here's a link to the actual article in Nature.
The FT article does go one to assert that,"hardline critics of embryo research – such as the US Conference of Catholic Bishops – are unlikely to accept the manipulation even of a single embryonic cell, which they say could theoretically become a human being."
Question to readers: assuming that this is a real breakthrough, will it sway a sufficient number of stem cell opponents to render the debate moot?
Your photo sequences of the day
Then click here.
So much for the single-payer utopia
I've said repeatedly on this blog that health care policy puts me to sleep most of the time. I usually stay awake long enough, however, to hear many left-of-center colleagues praise the Canadian single-payer system to no end.
Which is why I bring up this New York Times story by Christopher Mason:
A doctor who operates Canada’s largest private hospital in violation of Canadian law was elected Tuesday to become president of the Canadian Medical Association. The move gives an influential platform to a prominent advocate of increasing privatization of Canada’s troubled taxpayer-financed medical system.Before I doze off, do check out Megan McArdle's recent health care post as well.
That said, I should also acknowledge that this is hardly the uniform view of left-of-center policy analysts. For critiques of the Canadian system from Democrats, see this post by Ezra Klein.
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Wikipedia vs. Brittanica
Wikipedia has been able to generate so much content -- 1,000,000 in English, compared to 120,000 for Britannica -- precisely because it has so few rules. As Americans know, it is very dangerous to put limits on free speech when that is the essence of what makes you great. Yet some limits are necessary....
There's more than one way to measure economic prosperity
Following up on recent posts about economic inequality and Wal-Mart, it should be noted that Virginia Postrel has a great column in Forbes about how government figures likely underestimate the welfare gains among the bottom half of the income ladder:
Nowadays, candid and intelligent people--not to mention partisans--tell us that the average American's standard of living has barely budged in decades. Supposedly only the rich are living better, while everyone else stagnates or falls behind.Which brings us to Wal-Mart:
Price indexes also haven't kept up with changes in what consumers buy and when and where they shop. Wal-Mart's share of the U.S. grocery market is more than a fifth and is growing. Wal-Mart and other superstores charge up to 27% less for food than traditional supermarkets, estimate economists Jerry Hausman of MIT and Ephraim Leibtag of the Department of Agriculture. But the BLS doesn't factor those lower prices into its inflation estimates. It simply assumes that Wal-Mart's price reflects worse service, and ignores the savings.
Blog debate on government policy and income inequality
Let me recap the blog debate over the extent to which government policy is responsible for increases in income inequality in recent decades, set off by this Paul Krugman column from last week.
That Lopez Obrador has an interesting political strategy
Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s strategy to reverse the results in Mexico's presidential election is starting to confuse me. Consider this Financial Times story by Adam Thomson:
Ever since Mr López Obrador, leftwing candidate in the election for president on July 2, lost by a razor-thin 244,000 votes to Felipe Calderón of the ruling centre-right National Action party, he has been “fighting to save democracy”....If this Bloomberg report by Patrick Harrington and Adriana Arai is accurate, the sit-in in Mexico City cost his party votes in Chiapas.
If Lopez Obrador knows that his "permanent protest" campaign is causing him to lose support, and there is no indication that the protests to date are affecting the legal part of the electoral process, how is this Mexican standoff going to end?
Monday, August 21, 2006
Who's going to McCain McCain?
John M. Broder has a story in today's New York Times on John McCain's efforts to monopolize GOP operatives and policy wonks in preparation for 2008:
Senator John McCain is locking up a cast of top-shelf Republican strategists, policy experts, fund-raisers and donors, in a methodical effort to build a 2008 presidential campaign machine, drawing supporters of President Bush despite the sometimes rocky history between the two men....McCain's list includes a fair number of foreign policy heavyweights -- a telling sign of front-runner status.
This leads to the obvious question -- who's going to play the role of insurgent outsider to McCain's front-runner? At some point, there has to be a media boomlet for a candidate other than McCain. [But the media loves McCain!!--ed. They love a good horse race a lot more... besides, this allows reporters to push the "McCain has changed" meme in the way that rock enthusiasts talk about how they only like early Nirvana.] This candidate will inevitably be painted as an authentic straight-shooter who is somehow more "authentic" than McCain.
According to Greg Mankiw, the only other Republican with an active Tradesports market is Giuliani. While it would be hard to picture neither the frontrunner nor the challenger coming from the Christian conservative wing of the party, it's hardly unprecedented -- look at 1996 or 1988.
Readers are encouraged to offer who they believe will be McCain's McCain. My money is on this man.
Sunday, August 20, 2006
The muted power of transnational capital
If the International Whaling Commission is my favorite international governmental organization, then my favorite international non-governmental organization would have to be the TransAtlantic Business Dialogue. Why? Because despite the impressive membership roster, this group does not appear to accomplish all that much. On issues like data privacy or genetically modified foods, the TABD has repeatedly issued stern proclamations with no effect on the outcome.
Which is why I am unmoved by this Financial Times story by Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Citigroup chairman Charles Prince has urged President George W. Bush to reinvigorate multilateral trade discussions and “identify a way forward” on the Doha round of trade talks.After such a proclamation, any good Marxist would predict that Doha would be reborn. And, as usual, they will likely be wrong.
UPDATE: Henry Farrell disagrees:
I think Dan is wrong here. The main reason that the TABD isn’t very influential in the grand scheme of things is that it doesn’t need to be. Business leaders on both sides of the Atlantic have plenty of access to policy makers without any need to go through the formalities of the TABD....Henry's point that multinationals have access to policymakers beyond the TABD is well-taken. That said, I do think the failure of transnational capital to pry open the transatlantic market poses a greater challenge to structural Marxists than Henry asserts. To be sure, there are political economy arguments that explain the collapse of Doha and other transatlantic trade frictions as placating agribusiness and other forms of national capital. But these kind of political economy arguments do not mesh well with this part of the Communist Manifesto:
The need of a constantly expanding market for its products chases the bourgeoisie over the entire surface of the globe. It must nestle everywhere, settle everywhere, establish connexions everywhere.