A government is worried about whether it is possible to do road work.
Minister of Public Works: We can't possibly do it. Cars are on the road all the time.
Market-Roadster: Well, we close the road.
Minister of Public Works: How?
Market-Roadster: We post signs saying that the road is closed.
Minister of Public Works: But how will that stop people from just driving through the signs?
Market-Roadster: People will respect them. We can have a couple of police officers to warn off anybody who wants to got through.
Minister of Public Works: A couple of police officers? Hundreds of people go by per hour.
Market-Roadster: A couple should be enough. If anybody really tries to go through, they'll get a ticket.
Minister of Public Works: You don't understand. Hundreds of people go by per hour. To give a ticket to all of them would require hundreds, thousands of policemen.
Market-Roadster: Most people would see the sign and drive around it. You'd also announce it so that people know the road is closed.
Minister of Public Works: Is this one of those expectation channel arguments?
Market-Roadster: Well, yes, if you'd like.
Minister of Public Works: I don't trust expectation channels. I think we need at least a thousand police officers to get the cars off the road.
Aid to Minister of Public Works: Maybe more if the cars do not run and need to be carried off.
Market-Roadster: What? No. The cars should run just fine.
Minister of Public Works: You have too much faith in the invisible legs of cars.
Market-Roadster: They are not invisible legs. You post a sign, say that you will ticket anybody who dares cross it, and most likely, you won't even ticket anybody. People will just drive around!
Minister of Public Works: No tickets?
Market-Roadster: Well, maybe, one or two. But ideally, yes, no tickets. Everybody would just see the sign and drive around.
Minister of Public Works: You have a lot of faith in the expectation channel. But the let's do nothing and let the invisible legs do the work approach does not work. We tried that before.
Minister of Public Works: We wanted to have no misparked cars in the city, but people keep parking wrongly even though we had a TV Public Service Announcement.
Market-Roadster: Did you give them any tickets?
Minister of Public Works: No, of course not! The voters actually hate getting tickets. They love the idea of regulated parking, but hate tickets.
Market-Roadster: So, of course your policy failed.
Minister of Public Works: You just previously said that it's just about announcing a policy and it will work!
Market-Roadster: If you mean to follow through, the citizens do most of the work: they will drive around, they will park correctly, but you need to follow through.
Minister of Public Works: You just said earlier, we wouldn't give many tickets in the closed road. So, the expectations channel sometimes work and sometimes doesn't! My point, exactly: you can't trust the invisible legs.
See here for context
In the last year or so I have had this conversation repeatedly with Portuguese people. Let me abridge it for you:
Me: Portugal should leave the Euro.
They: If that's a good idea, why doesn't it leave?
Me: Because people don't want to, particularly what I'd call the broad elite does not want Portugal to leave the euro.
They: You are so naïve. Power interests/Germany/The EU/The banks would never let Portugal leave.
Me: They don't have much of a say. A country can leave in five minutes if it wants, but there is broad societal support for staying. I think it is a wrong decision, but democraticly valid.
They: You are very naïve if you think this is anything democratic.
Me: Do you want Portugal to leave? Do other people you know also argue that it should leave.
They: No. I think it would be a disaster. Almost everyone thinks that.
Thus proving my point (they are almost invariably part of the broad elite, that being my social class—and if you are reading this, it's probably yours too). 
I am generally receptive to a revealed preferences argument, but I think it works better for individuals than for groups. Also, it reveals preferences, not necessary what is in a group's best interest. Policy serves the prejudices of population, with a heavy weight on the broad elite. In this case, I think those prejudices are mostly wrong.
|||I call the "broad elite" the top 10%, the sort of people who are (in a small society such as Portugal) one or two social hops away from the political power, who would not find it particularly odd to sit at a dinner party next to a (current or former) minister or, if they are younger, a journalist in an elite newspaper or an high-level advisor.|
On the X-axis, I put the amount of individual rights vs. societal rights, and on the Y-axis a measure of goodness (call it utility if you wish, but I wanted to avoid the baggage of that word). I like this particular shape of the curve because:
1. Both extremes are at zero. Neither complete anarchy (even anarcho-capitalism) nor communism is any good.
2. I think most of the benefits of societal rule come very early as the basic infrastructure is established and there is then a long decline all the way to communism.
3. I think the current gradient should push us to less government. Note that this is not true in every situation, but it is now.
4. Naturally, it simplifies tremendously to just have a one dimensional variable.
Men's Rights Will be Taken Seriously Within the Decade
This is my iffier prediction.
It fundamentally has the same structure as the other predictions: here is an assumption that is widely held without a very logical background. There is increasing tension in the society between the reality and the politically correct, so it is possible to see a sudden flip.
1. In the younger generation, men are the beneficiaries of affirmative action. Without any real data behind this, I think that it in many university campuses, the modal beneficiary of affirmative action is a white male. By this I mean, that if you made a list of all of the people who are only there because of affirmative action (compared to those who would have gotten in on a race-&-gender blind evalution), your list would include more white males than any other group (maybe black males do get a bigger boost on their test scores, but there are just fewer of them).
(If it is true that more white males benefit from affirmative action than any other group, does this change your moral evaluation of affirmative action?).
- Young single women already make more money that young single men.
3. Mainstream publications have been moving towards paying attention to men's rights for a few years. Slowly, but surely.
The Atlantic is at the forefront of that movement. In the last two years, there was a cover The End of Men and repeated articles about men doing badly. The one classically feminist article that made a splash Why Women Still Can't Have it All was written by someone of an older generation, while the equivalent break-away-article on women problems from a younger female writer was partially a complaint that men are doing badly and so make bad partners.
In the donglegate kerfuffle, I noticed that several writers felt they needed to respond to men rights groups. They did so disparagingly, but they did so. And this is what matters.
4. In personal conversations, I repeatedly observe that people (both men and women) will acknowledge the tension between what they are supposed to say and what they truly observe.
The generation gap is also obvious in this respect.
4. I am not saying that men right movements will be fêted at parties. But neither are feminists!
To their constant amazement, most feminist find that most women are not feminists. Women will say things like "well, I'm not a feminist, but I do think that it is clear that this rule is not good for women and should be changed."
5. "But men's rights movements are just a bunch of sexually deprived emotionally underdeveloped men who are crying that nobody gives them the world on a platter." "Sure, the justice system punishes men more heavily than women: they are the ones who are genetically predisposed to commit crimes. Male rape in prisons, who cares?" "Yes, men drop out of school more than women, but they are not suited for studying."
All of these complaints sound so much like anti-feminist speech that it actually convinces me that they could be the next feminists.
An unrelated subject is whether I think that men's rights groups are right to gripe about men being victims. My answer is mostly focused on American society (I could comment on a few European societies, but I don't think it makes sense to discuss an "European" answer to this question).
I think that men are routinely harmed as men and women are routinely harmed as women. Or did you think that there can only be a group that faces injustice?
In general, my opinion is that in the college-degree class, then men are still favored. A lot. In fact, the higher up you go, the more you see a pro-male bias. In my personal experience, I benefit the most from male privilege in leadership situations: I will often get deferred to as the man if I have to argue my point with a woman in a situation where the decision is mostly about arbitrary preferences. There are other subtler forms of privilege some of which I surely don't even notice, this one is obvious.
The situations where I feel disadvantaged all have to do with children (especially other people's children, they mistrust men much more than women). On the other hand, I also get a big boost every time I do the slightest little thing children-wise, whereas it is expected that women will do 100 time more. Case in point: a few times I stayed with our then-baby daughter while my wife was in another city for work; many people were really impressed with this. Now, my wife stays with our daughter alone 3 or 4 nights a week because our careers are in close-by-but-different cites; everybody thinks it is a convenient compromise for all our interests.
If you're elite, you'll live in a patriarchical society which accepts more women than men in its midst.
In the non-college-degree class, women are, on balanced, favored (college degree being the big distinction between the two classes of American society). In fact, one of the big ways in which men are discriminated against is that the educational system gives them less. Then we socially penalize men with non-elite non-manly jobs. The penal system is harder on men and there are fewer and fewer opportunities to recover from a few youthful mistakes if they resulted in criminal action.
A progressive pro-life movement will emerge in the United States in the generation that are now teenagers
This one is easy:
1. There is little logical relationship between being a progressive and being pro-choice, unless you just define progressive as pro-choice. The link between thinking that labour unions are good idea and that a foetus is not a life with rights is purely incidental.
There is a perceived link in that progressives tend to be pro-women and there is an idea that pro-choice is pro-women. This is fine as abstract argument, but fails to describe reality: that women tend to be (just barely) more pro-life than men.
2. The historical relationship between progressivism and pro-choice politics is very recent. In the US, it dates from the 1980s, and in South America you can find pro-life progressives.
3. The young in the US are more progressive, but more pro-life as well. There is bound to be an overlap between these two groups.
Notice that I am not predicting that the whole progressive movement will become pro-life, not even a majority, but a significant minority. If you think this is hedging too much, let me predict that a radically pro-choice candidate like Obama will become impossible and that you'll see one primary contender in the democratic party that is both very progressive and pro-life (even if she does not win the nomination).
4. The progressive movement is now accepting of fairly extreme pro-maternity opinions. If you've had a child in the elites in the last few years, you will know that the progressive opinion is at least accepting of attachment parenting (I think this understates my case).
The idea that a mother should sacrifice her interests for those of her child is accepted and celebrated. It is even argued, in progressive circles no less, that the woman should sacrifice her interests without any benefits for the child in order to demonstrate that she really cares (foregoing pain relief during labour would be a prime example of this attitude).
The mommy wars perhaps started as Christian stay-at-home-moms versus progressive working-mothers, but they are no longer broken along these lines. These are progressive civil wars in mommyland.
5. The progressive spirit finds its more natural expression in fighting for change rather than in standing against it. This is doubly true if the change being fought for is put in moral terms about the protection of the weak. It thrives on exposing what really goes on in hidden corners of our society, which the establishment have chosen to not discuss.
I think I do not need to spell out how the pro-life movement can be couched in the terms above. I can imagine an exposé of the abortion industry being marketed as this century's `The Jungle <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jungle>`__.
(I'm neither a progressive nor pro-life, by the way.)
Over the next 10 to 15 years, Europe will go through a religious revival.
1. Demographics. This argument is simple: religiosity is hereditary (culturally and genetically), religious people tend to have more children than the non-religious, therefore, religion wins in the end. I think this is an important phenomenon and it is now starting to make an impact.
2. Privatized religion. Religion has been privatized in Europe: while 100 years ago, every state had its own church and was heavily involved in suppressing any alternatives; nowadays, it is mostly a free-market. The muslim population had an important role to play here as they were suing to be allowed to open mosques. However, evangelicals can and do take advantage of these openings. Privatized religion is more effective at getting converts than the state-run monopolies: it also gives the consumer a wider choice of practices and beliefs so that each can believe the god that suits them best.
3. Conversion. Most die-hard anti-religion types had a very religious upbringing and rebelled against it (the Monty Python were all very knowledgeable about the Christianity they mocked in Life of Brian). Their children are rebelling by going to Sunday school (or the Madrassa). Even when it does not go that far, it also means that that the young generation has not grown up in an environment with constant fights about religion.
There is also a confusion between being anti-Catholic Church (or Church of Sweden, or whatever the established religion was), anti-religion, or anti-supernatural. In the past, these thinking strands would mesh together. The rationalists would provide ammunition, the priests would be corrupt and anti-reform. Nowadays, they break apart. After all, if your beef with religion was that priests did not practice what they preached, then a more fundamentalist preacher will satisfy you. And the rationalists are actually a much smaller group than they seemed.
There is still a need for spirituality. There are, of course, secular sources of spirituality. New Age quasi-religion is very widespread. The environmentalist movement has a super-natural spiritual element at its core. It is possible to be a non-supernatural environmentalist [I am one], but that will often put you at odds with the environmentalist movement (the environmentalist movement still has not come to grip with the Urea experiment).
And this Environmentalist New Age BS can easily be a gateway drug to religion. It is surprisingly common to find beliefs in other irrational things like reincarnation, predicting the future, energy flows... Some yoga or whatnot instructors easily make the transition to talking about harmony with the energy of the chakras (another bit of irrationality). At some point, it really becomes a matter of definition whether someone who believes in the super-natural, reincarnation, and takes advice from mystics should be called non-religious.
At the same time, evangelicals are gaining adherents even in the old continent.
4. Religion is already heavily under-represented in the public sphere. The public sphere in Europe is still dominated by secular types and atheists, but they are not representative of the population as a whole.
In the last few years, there have been religious demonstrations numbering millions of people in European capitals (protesting against gay marriage). This means that a change can actually come abruptly as the tabu of religion is broken.
Or, in this more democratic world, it can come about from outside the establishment (as Fox News did).
This is actually what I mean by religious revival: it will be again acknowledged as part of the public discussion, instead of needing to hide behind euphemisms.
The context of the three posts above was a question by Elidorado on twitter:
I would like to hear everyone’s answer to Tyler’s question: “What is your most surprising prediction?” marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolu…— Eli Dourado (@elidourado) April 19, 2013
I gave three answers.
I don't think all of them will become true or even that they are very likely, but I think they are all underrated.
- Over the next 10 to 15 years, Europe will go through a religious revival.
- A progressive pro-life movement will emerge in the United States in the generation that are now teenagers
- Men's Rights Will be Taken Seriously Within the Decade
Below is the number of words on my draft of The Libertarian Welfare State, the book I am writing on free-market-based welfare.
In mid-June 2012, I had a deadline as I was submitting a pitch to present the ideas in a public setting, so I worked hard on a summary. Then, nothing. Then, in November 2012, I start using beeminder. The result is obvious. If you have not heard of Beeminder, but would like to get stuff done, check it out.
My rule for beeminder is that I mark as valid any writing session of at least 5 words. As you can see, most of the time, once I break through the activating energy, I actually write more than 5 words.
The book is still below 10,000 words; while I think that it will end up with 40,000 or so. But, now, I can confidently say progress is being made.
1. One very weak patient walked into a hospital and was submitted to a blood transfusion. He felt better. Another weak patient walked into a hospital and was submitted to blood letting. He did not improve. Conclusion: medicine is unpredictable, unlike physics: when you mess with someone's blood, you never know what's going to happen.
2. The New York Times on Latvian austerity: the government laid off a third of its civil servants with the result that in the second half of 2010, after less than 18 months of painful austerity, Latvia’s economy began to grow again and unemployment has fallen from more than 20 percent in early 2010, but was still 14.2 percent in the third quarter of 2012. This is unlike the case in Portugal and Greece, where austerity has also been tried and growth is lacking and unemployment is still rising. Conclusion: economics is unpredictable, unlike physics: with austerity, you never know what's going to happen.
3. Except that neither Portugal nor Greece laid off a single civil servant. Almost all "austerity" in the PIGS has come from higher taxes (in Portugal, most of the "cuts" to civil servant salaries are in the form of higher taxes also borne by the private sector). The state in Portugal has increased as a share of GDP to the highest level ever, while the Latvian state retreated and left room for the private sector. They are radically different policies, almost opposites. So, if they have different results, we don't need to throw our hands up in the air and say Oh, it's complicated.
4. The NYT is right that Latvia should have devalued its currency. It should have done so in addition to the austerity measures. The Eurozone too should devalue its currency (the Euro). The NYT is silly in suggesting that this option is closed to the 16 countries that form the Euro. Of course, they can devalue. And they should, but have repeatedly chosen not to.
I wrote previously that it is sometimes easier to understand Portugal as a very successful third-world country than a poorly working first-world one.
Today the Portuguese government backed down on the idea of privatizing the state-owned airline, TAP. The official statement mentioned technical doubts on the financial structure, but there had been a strong campaign against it, including a strong campaign by Publico, the main Portuguese daily newspaper.
From Wikipedia we can retrieve a list of countries which still have a fully, or almost fully (>90%), state-owned airline:
- Cayman Islands
- Costa Rica
- Czech Republic
- North Korea
- Papua New Guinea
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
- Trinidad and Tobago
There are a bunch of previously-communist countries in Eastern Europe, Portugal, and most of the third-world.
1. The Eurozone NGDP Catastrophe. Moneyshot: Eurozone NGDP is up only 2.47% since [the second half of] 2008 Not 2.47% per year, rather 2.47% in four years! Insanity.
In the meanwhile, the ECB is not even sure whether it should do something about this Mmmm, inflation at around 1%, unemployment growing... Does this economy need more stimulus or will things get out of contrl? They're not sure. Let me repeat really slowly: inflation is, when properly measured (take out the effects of tax raises), is around 1%, unemployment is growing without bounds. Should there be more stimulus. They're still not sure. Who are these idiots?
2. The EU, overall, has had a good run lately, though. Particularly, when it comes to the less well-off states. We should not forget that either.
Looking at Eurostat data, in 1995, there were several states with a GDP per capita of half or less of the EU average. All of them grew even if compared with 2011:
- Hungary: from 51% to 66%
- Slovakia: from 47% to 73%
- Poland: from 43% to 64%
- Croatia: from 46% to 61%
- Estonia: from 36% to 67%
- Lithuania: from 35% to 66%
- Romania: from 33% to 49%
- Latvia: from 31% to 58%
- Bulgaria: from 32% to 46%
Now, only two states have a GDPpc less than 50% of average: Bulgaria at 46% and Romania at 49%.
Yes, the wealthier nations of the Eurozone did poorly, but the success of the poorer states needs to count for something too.
3. By the way, look at Ireland over the medium-term: from 103% (Italian-levels, in 1995) to 126% just before joining the Euro, to 129% (Dutch levels, in 2011). They fell of the pedestal (147% in 2007), but are still doing pretty OK.
- Takehome message: EU good, ECB bad.
The EU is great! We should have more EU.
The ECB is a disaster! They should be taken 'round the warehouse and made to listen to Vogon poetry in simultaneous translation.
Today, on my twitter, I saw that @ModeledBehavior had a new post up on Forbes on school choice in Sweden. This is all based on a recent paper by Anders Böhlmark and Mikael Lindahl:
Importantly, they find that the primary way that competition effects outcomes is by improving the performance of the nearby public schools, and not by outperforming the public schools.
The paper is on my TOREAD list.
Here is a reader's comment on a recent edition of The Atlantic. The original author had argued that the improved schools in New Orleans were due to the hits against the teachers' union and reform. The reader replies
[T]he colorful bar graph does not provide a comparison between the public schools and the charter schools today, but only a comparison of the schools then and now. The public schools may in fact be better than the charters.
This is missing the point of choice and vouchers!
In fact, many supporters of choice make the same mistake. The point is not that voucher schools are better than public schools, or that privately run schools are better than public schools in general. The point is that, with choice, every school is better. If the reader is correct and the public schools in New Orleans are now better than the charter schools (and much better than before reform), then this is an even stronger argument for reform.
Most of the school choice studies make this exact mistake: they compare the kids who attend charter schools with the kids left behind at public schools. However, the public schools are not a good control group. They are competing to be better in a way that they would not if the charter schools did not exist.
This is a book whose working title was The Libertarian Welfare State, which is the name of my upcoming book.
1. The most interesting part of the book is the importance of positional consumption. The examples he keeps coming back to are not very good. He mentions sports a lot, but this is a highly artificial setting where we do not care about anything but position and there are many artificial restrictions (if there was any general value of putting a ball through a hoop, we'd just use a staircase instead of relying on really tall people practicing for years on how to do it in a jumping motion). Similarly, school districts are so important because public policy decided that you must pay taxes to fund schools, but those will be tied to your address. The obvious alternative is a school-voucher system that travels across district boundaries.
The general mechanism is sound, however.
The author also avoids a common mistake in discussing positional consumption which is to think that it matters what people who are very different from us have. All envy is local (or a rich man is he who makes more than his brother-in-law). The idea of consumption cascades (I want more than my brother-in-law who wants more than his neighbour, ....) is more plausible and is based on local comparisions.
As Bryan Caplan asked (in a tweet), it is interesting, though, that R. Frank misses the single biggest positional item in modern society: higher education.
2. The whole book suffers terribly from the curious asymmetry where even smart left-wingers think that they arguing against extreme-libertarian positions is enough (it is a curious asymmetry because the argument that the free-market is good because the alternative is the Gulag is, correctly, confined to talk radio and other havens of stupidity; but I very much doubt that Robert Frank sees himself, or is seen, as sort of the liberal equivalent of Glenn Beck).
Around pages 123 (nook edition), the author discusses two men, Rand and Paul (yes, really). Rand earns twice as much as Paul does. After setting up an example, Frank argues how a head tax (i.e., each paying the same) would not be ideal and, therefore, we need a progressive tax system.
The problem is that everyone to the left of Murray Rothbard agrees that Rand should pay more than Paul. Even flat tax advocates say that Rand should pay more. They will just argue that they should pay the same percentage of their income.
And even this is not true, almost all flat tax proposals carry an exemption, so that Rand would pay a higher percentage of his income than Paul would. To see how this works: imagine a 30% tax with a 10k exemption. If Rand earns 80k, he pays 30% of 70k, i.e., 21k, or 26% of his income. Paul earns 40k and pays 30% of 30k, i.e., 9k or 22% of his income.
Every tax plan ever proposed by any serious person in the last 50 years has had Rand paying more and even a higher percentage of his income than Paul does. But Robert Frank wastes pages arguing against a position that nobody to the left of Murray Rothbard actually holds.
3. Frank also sometimes confuses a purely Potlach competition of wasteful spending with competition with positive spill-overs (including to one self). In one of the chapters, he argues that a young couple will be tempted to save less than they would really like to because they are pressured to buy a house in a nice neigbourhood so that their kids go to a better school.
This sounds plausible. However, while buying a house is often a bad investment on finantial terms, it is often great in behavioral terms: people will cut their savings first, their mortgages last.
And a couple who struggles to pay a higher-than-they'd-like mortgage in their 30s so their kids can go to the fancy Montesorri school, will be able to sell this position (to the next generation) in their 60s. Yes, some neighbourhoods come up and come down, but they generally don't lose all their value. In fact, if I wanted to design a saving scheme for 30-year-olds with kids, tying it to a good school for their kids would actually be the way to go. Not that I want to do this (I find it a too disturbingly paternalistic: "if you want your kids to go to a nice school, you need to save for your retirement"), but it makes behavioral sense.
At the highest tax bracket in Portugal (over 250k€ for a household), you will be subjected to the tax (48%), the surtax (3.5%) and the overtax (5%)! (In portuguese: a taxa, a sobretaxa e taxa extraordinária). Whatever you think of the total rate (56%—which is after 30% of income tax, for a total of 70%), adding all these surcharges to avoid saying the real value is stupid.
The radio journalist actually said The number of families in this bracket is very small and has been falling despite the recent rate increates. Despite? If the rate increases have any impact on the number of families who declare 250k€ is to make it smaller as people work less, compensate themselves differently (in legal and illegal ways) or move to tax-friendlier regimes.
Most of the tax-emigration, though, I think is happening in the intermediate brackets; households in the 100k€ brackett can almost halve their tax bill by moving and still receive much better public services. Most tax-emigrants do not really think themselves as tax refugees either (and might even deny it).
The Grand Bargain that can be struck in Europe goes something like this:
- The European Central Bank (ECB) prints five trillion euros or so and promises not to neutralize them.
- The ECB gives those 5 trillion to the governments of Germany, Holland, and Finland, and France.
That's it. This is the grand bargain where everybody wins and which nobody wants to take. The PIGS gain in step 1, the rest gain in step 2. Win-win.
The PIGS have been getting a few crums from the ECB, which the North finds unfair (and it is completely against the treaties). So, rebalance the system by giving them something as well.
In the meanwhile, everybody wins from the monetary stimulus.
The European Central Bank decided today not to do anything more to stimulate the economy.
Notice the stupidity in this reasoning: Owing to high energy prices and increases in indirect taxes in some euro area countries, inflation is likely to remain above 2 percent for the remainder of 2012, therefore, we do not need to do anything else do help.
Without the tax increases, inflation in Portugal has been around 1% or less for the last few years! We need more.
It should have been 3 or 4 per cent. If it had been so, we might not have needed the tax increases in the first place.
While we are playing austerity, the real issue that will bring down the Portuguese economy is still around the corner. This is not just a Portuguese issue, and it affects Germany as much as the PIGS (not Ireland who, as good Catholics, still have babies).
This (the red line) is an estimate of the population going forward. Data was taken from Pordata and I just project birth and death rates forward assuming that all of the deaths happen in old people. It is a rough estimate, which is why I drew it in this "hand-drawn" style. One particular misestimation is that it assumes forward the average birth rate of the years 2005-2010, which is higher than it was in 2011 (and 2012 will likely be even lower). Still, we can expect that over the next 10 years or so, population will be stable, and then a crash starts, where Portugal loses about 1 million every 10 years (that's 100,000 people, a medium-sized town, per year).
The blue line shows a sort of dependency ratio. This is the number of people over 65 divided by the number in the ages 20-65 (all people in these ages, many of which might not be working). Around 2035, there will be 1 person over 65 for every person in the age group 20-65!
Let me repeat that: if the current trends continue, we can expect that around 2035 (and henceforth, forever), there will be one person over 65 for each person in the age group 20-65.
The migratory balance is probably now a net negative (more people moving out of the country as moving in), so that's another net negative.
Another thing that I actually did not realise is how far back the drop in fertility goes. Here is the curve of births per 1000 from 1960 (the earliest year in Pordata's data) to last year:
(The script to generate these plots is here)
These are spread around Lisbon. They are from the Movement for a Socialistic Alternative.
I laugh every time I see one. It lists a few "crimes": BPN (a bank which was bailed out after it was found out that previous management had been fraudulent), some public-private partnerships, the expensive submarines that the navy bought, and, finally, the funny part: Madeira's debt.
You see, Madeira is an island and half, which are part of Portugal, but have a good amount of autonomy. Lately, it turned out that through semi-legal chicanery, the local government had accumulated a fairly large debt and wanted the central government to bail them out.
Now, a lot of people in Portugal are unhappy about this. The funny part is the total lack of perspective. A similar Bewegung für eine Sozialistische Alternative, the German version of this leftist movement could very well list Debt of Portugal in its list of complaints against the right-wing German government! In fact, they would even be more right to complain about bailing Portugal out: it's not the same country, they are not a government above the Portuguese government, and they signed a bunch of agreements where Portugal promised never to ask for a bailout.
(As for the BPN, I will just make the same comment I made wrt Bankia. Bailing out banks or any other industry is socialism for the well-connected [is there any other kind], not the free-market. In the free-market, their investors would have lost their money, not been bailed out by daddy state).
We tend to think of political divisions as left-right, but there are at least a few other important divisions:
1. pundits vs politicians (which is often pundits/public opinion). Left-wing and right-wing pundits will often agree on some issues and so will left-wing and right-wing politicians. Except that politicians will disagree with the pundits.
2. The extremes vs the centre. Look at who is saying do not bailout the banks: the extreme-left and the extreme-free-market right. Which is why you have Garett Jones approvingly quoted J. Stiglizt on banking regulation.
The centre is there, Very Serious People of the left and the right, bailing out the banks. The fringes, of the left and the right, protest. The left-wingers say how this is just an example of what is wrong with capitalism. We, on the right, say how this is just an example of how we are becoming socialist.
1. Intrade is not perfect, which is why I have dabbled in it from time to time. But, remember, the traditional retort to skeptics applies: If you think it is so bad, why aren't you rich trading there?
2. Intrade just "got it wrong" on the SCOTUS and the mandate. They were giving 75% chances to it being struck down. Actually, if they give things 75% chance and they do not go the other way at least 1 in 4, then intrade would be wrong in a much more important sense and you could get rich on intrade. I have not seen any longer term statistics on their predictive power.
3. Every so often, someone looks up intrade and says: Look, it is silly: Obama has 54% and Romney 42%, therefore there is only a 96% that either will be President.
Again, if you think this is so silly, why don't you just buy both Obama and Romney and make that tidy profit? There are two points to consider:
(a) The percentage value that intrade gives you is actually not corrected for the fact that they are holding your money. If you buy both Obama and Romney and one of them does get elected, you are basically lending intrade at about 8~10% a year; not bad, but how's their risk rating, what if they go broke?
On a related subject, the intrade interface is slightly misleading: you want to buy when you think that the event is more likely than the current price, even if you still think it will not occur. So, if the current estimate is ~5% and you think it actually will occur 1 in 10 times, then you should buy.
(b) A 5% chance for an election is a once-in-a-century-event. Thinking that one of the candidates will be unavailable (dead, very ill, victim of a scandal so big that their party switches the candidate at the last minute so they can "spend more time with their families") is such a remote possibility that it will not happen even once in a century.
- Again, if intrade is so bad, why aren't you rich?
1. Austerity is a mood. It is the mood of sacrifice, of bourgeois ascetism. It invokes Protestant sacrifice and a cleansing effort to redeem ourselves of sin.
2. Austerity is not a policy, although some policies may be said to embody austerity.
3. Different policies can be austerity. The same policy can be austerity and non-austerity.
4. Love of austerity is a disease of the Right, but the idea that we have sinned economically and need sacrifice to atone appeals to the Western psyche on a deeper level than the left-right divide (and much left-wing is Right-wing at a deeper level).
This was motivated by listening to callers in Forum TSF (a Portuguese radio call-in show which goes during my commute) being largely against austerity. However, a few argued that what was needed instead were more cuts in governmental spending (as opposed to higher taxes).
It seems that calling a policy a growth policy means "I like this" and calling it an austerity policy means "I don't like this."
- What Portugal and Greece need are a more stimulative monetary policy.
- Ideally, the European Central Bank would step up to the task.
- Since, it does not, they are best off leaving the Euro zone and pursuing an independent monetary policy.
- Or they can do nothing and blame Germany for everything.
Someone on the Right says that wages need to be cut and, predictably, the Left goes bananas: how can people survive if their wages are cut?
Someone on the Left says that inflation should be higher and, predictably, the Right goes bananas: how can people survive if their cost of living goes up?
It's all a joke (because terms get mixed up and nobody specifies whether they mean real or nominal cuts) and fake outrage.
Whatever government wins in Greece will either (1) take the country out of the Euro or (2) stay. They will also do a bunch of other unimportant things on the labour market, regulation, etc.
If they choose option 1, the country will have a little economic boom and they will reap the credit from all the unimportant things. It they choose option 2, the quagmire will continue and it will just go to show that all the unimportant things were wrong.
Here is a first draft of an introduction to my book.
Comments are welcome.
Despite all the rhetorical polarization in modern day America, there is central ground on which both the Democrats and Republicans agree. The Democrats are not socialists (they will not completely nationalize industry and hand it to politically appointed technocrats) and the Republicans will not eviscerate the institutions of the welfare state (in fact, the last time that Republicans controlled both the Congress and the Presidency, they expanded the welfare state, in the form of Medicare Part D). No matter who wins the next election, the American government will be about as big as it is now (at most a few percentage points bigger or smaller). Of course, there are differences, there are important issues at stake, but that should not blind us the middle ground on which progress can be made.
The question is not whether to have a government or not, not whether the government is the problem or the solution (it is rarely either, but it can often be a hindrance or a help), nor even whether to have a welfare state or not. The question is, which forms the government it should take. This book will be part of this conversation.
There is a role for the state in guaranteeing everyone a set of basic goods so that they may fully participate in society as equal citizens. This book will not question this premise. However, the way in which state institutions perform their tasks does not always respect the recipients of such aid. The usual charge is that they breed dependency or complacency. I will also argue that they insult its recipients.
The welfare state is a big subject. I will focus on a few subjects: education, health care, basic income provisions, and the environment. The environment is, strictly speaking, not a welfare state topic, but it fits the rest of the book.
I will discuss how American institutions currently operate and talk about alternatives. These will not be utopian alternatives, but we will see examples from both American states and local regions or other societies. In particular, a few societies will keep coming up, the S-countries: Singapore, Sweden, and Switzerland. Neither is a perfectly good model for the US to follow. Singapore is a dictatorship and, no matter how mild of a dictatorship, its political system is abhorrent. Still, we can look at some of their economic policies as examples. Sweden and Switzerland are both democracies, but are small countries, with a culturally and racially homogeneous population (very different from the US). Still, we can learn from their examples. Denmark and Finland, even though they do not start with an S, will show up as well. The Nordic countries are often darlings of the Left, but they could as well be darlings of the free-market Right.
It may be the case that a complete rewrite of the system to a Universal Basic Income as favoured, for example, by Charles Murray, is a much better alternative. However, my focus here is, to borrow a phrase from the blog Marginal Revolution, small steps to a much better world.
There are a few interlocked goals to this book. One is to save the economic freedom arguments from those who have used them (and often abused them) from the conservative side. For example, conservative activists will often use the language of property rights to defend zoning laws that keep poor, dark-skinned, people away from rich people. However, zoning laws are very much anti-free-market. See the quote in this blog post for a perfect example. Matt Yglesias makes the same point in his wonderful book The Rent is Too Damn High.
The other is to present free-market solutions to social problems not only as more efficient than current alternatives (which is how they are typically defended), but as morally superior. Not morally superior only because they involve less coercion or better respect property rights (the traditional libertarian goals), but morally superior because of the way in which recipients are treated. At the interface of the welfare state and the recipients, there are no magic rights, but a real interaction between recipients and bureaucracies. The alternative models I propose here will empower (in the literal sense of the word, will give power to) the recipients.
A family who approaches a school system with a voucher that gives them choices is more empowered and will get more respect than a family who, because they cannot afford a private school, approaches their failing neighborhood school.
There is always almost complete choice for parents who can afford it. Well-off parents can resort to private schools or simply buy a house in their desired school district. The discussion is only whether that choice should be extended to not so fortunate parents. We should not lose track of this simple fact.
In fact, if the current system was a voucher system, then I do not think that there would be very strong arguments against moving to a limited-choice system (currently, in the US, we can find systems ranging from voucher to assigned school as well as many systems in between where there is a certain amount of choice, but not complete choice).
In the Eduction chapter, I will discuss the empirical evidence on school choice and whether children benefit from switching schools under that system. I think that there is evidence for a small positive effect, but even if there was no effect on grades or other outcomes, school choice would be the more moral system because it treats recipients with greater respect.
In other chapters, I will reverse the focus and look at provision of services. Too often the focus of welfare discussion is on the demand side. That is, how to pay for it? Almost all of the discussion on health care reform in 2008--10 was about how to pay and who should pay, given a fixed set of resources. In the health care chapter, we will look at the other side of the ledger, how to provide services and I will argue that health care costs are so high, at least in part, due to over-regulation in the provision of services. If it was easier for doctors trained abroad (including Americans who attended medical schools in other countries) to practice in the US, if it was easier to provide medical services in innovative ways; then health care could be cheaper for everyone. But over-accreditalization (demanding that even subsidiary staff have advanced degrees) and too many barriers to innovation have driven up costs. Again, we need not see the alternatives as either no-regulation or our current system. Every regulation has costs and benefits and the US has too often taken the view that no cost is high enough.
This is not a partisan book. I hope that both Democrats and Republicans can learn something from it and see that the middle ground is larger than the rhetoric lets on.
The Spanish government is bailing out Bankia at the tune of 19 billion euros. For some reason, this massive state intrusion in the economy is being touted by some as a failure of the free market.
There is nothing free-market about bailouts.
"Capitalism without bankruptcy is as Christianity without Hell."
Whoever lent Bankia money should lose (at least part of) it. It is in society's interest that such affairs be solved quickly, but there are other solutions other than bailing everybody out 100%. Here is one: just auction off Bankia next week. Whatever money is raised is distributed by the creditors (in order of priority) and the new owner assumes responsibility for making the bank a going concern.
There is no reason why this cannot be done in a few days.
How to Leave the Euro in a Few Easy Steps:
1) At 18.00 on a Friday evening, announce that (a) the New Escudo will be legal tender for all contracts in Portugal and (b) all existing contracts are now converted at the rate of 1 Euro = 100 NE (New Escudos). All bank withdrawals at ATMs will be suspended while new notes can be distributed, but the automatic payment system will start working in New Escudos in less than 24 hours.
It is the conversion of contracts which is the most important step. If bank accounts were kept in Euro, everything would work just fine too, but I expect that the government will actually want some of those Euros for itself. So expect your bank account to now contain New Escudos.
After this, we are almost done.
2) Print money and mint coins as fast as you can and start giving them out at ATMs. I expect this to take a few weeks to fully normalise, but small amounts should be available for withdrawal by Monday (some printing/minting could be done ahead of time). Withdrawals would still be limited due to limited availability of notes and coins, but Portuguese people use electronic payments a lot and they would be working. A limit of 2,000 NE (equivalent to 20 Euro) per day would allow for small cash payments (drug dealers and other users of large cash transactions would be able to continue to operate in Euro).
3) Set up special courts to deal with the fall-outs. Almost all contracts are clearly under Portuguese Law and would be converted to NEs, so no questions there. It is only international contracts that would need sorting out. Of those, a large fraction could simply be renegotiated (it doesn't matter at what value they were set by the government, as they would be ripped apart).
Only a few would actually need a court decision. For those, make decisions as fast as possible in a way that is generally well-accepted by all (even if they are not happy). For this, one would need, at least, the acquiescence of the EU powers-that-be.
None of this is covered by any EU treaty or international law. But, hey, it's the EU, who cares about legality? (Unless by legal you mean what Germany wants or can be guilted into paying for, which is the legal standard that has traditionally been used in EU matters).
Of course, by 18.01 on Friday evening, the NE would be trading at 1 Euro = 150 NEs or so, which is the point. It's 5 years of austerity in 5 microseconds.
The New Portuguese Central Bank can now allow more inflation and keep NGDP growing stably.
Money is mostly about coordination. Switching the currency is a major discoordination event. However, if it is done well, and there is a proper expectation that the system will henceforth be stable, then the one-time price that is paid would be worth it to get away from the ECB straight-jacket.
On the other hand, it might actually reduce uncertainty. Right now, nobody is sure of who (and most importantly, when) will leave the single currency. By settling this question, coordination might actually improve.
and so should Greece and Ireland, but Italy and Spain can stay, along with Belgium.
1. Here is the evolution of NGDP in the euro zone and a few select countries (normalized to start at 2002):
We see the typical large fall in 2008 followed by a new trend line. I added a dotted horizontal line from the 2008 value. In this environment, we should expect that the nominal effects lose importance every day as the new growth curve starts to assert itself.
Note that Germany was doing worse than the rest of the EZ before 2008, **but has been doing better since the crisis*, catching up.
- Now, look at the PIIBGS (the black line is the same as in the plot above):
3. Greece is a basket-case and its statistics are all marked provisional (even those from 10 years ago). But both Ireland and Portugal have (nominally) stagnated since 2008. Portugal has had no nominal growth at all!
4. Now, while I too find the suggestion that the European Central Bank is unable to inflate borderline ridiculous. However, it is possible that the ECB is unable to make NGDP grow in the PIIGS without unacceptable levels of inflation in the rest of the EZ. It is possible that, even if they wanted to, the ECB could not raise NGDP in the periphery without major negative effects in the centre.
Banks in Germany are charging fees to have people deposit their money there. Banks in Portugal are desperate for savers (partially because it was decided that now was the right time to raise their reserve requirements, partially because of capital flight).
5. By going back to the Escudo, the Portuguese Central Bank would be able to inflate back the economy, the state's debt would be suddenly much more manageable as would its large wage and pension bill (the implied debt to current and former workers dwarfs the debt to bond holders). It could do all the austerity it plans to do over the next five years in about five microseconds (no exaggeration here, this is about how long it would take for the New Escudo to devalue, taking down the value of public servant wages and pensions). Then, growth could resume instead of this morass.
6. The danger is that the state would use the opportunity for a bit of state gangsterism and take over some people's property and go all Argentina on us. Logically, these are separate questions: whether to be gangster and whether to remain in Euro. Ideally, capital controls should be avoided (although, really, anybody that still has large savings in Euro in a Portuguese bank account is asking for it). Still, if this is not done now by a reasonable government, it will be done later by an unreasonable one.
For the last few years, I have been thinking about something. For the last six months, I have been working on a book about it. For the last weeks, I have started discussing it with friends. Today, I am talking about it publicly.
My book will be called The Libertarian Welfare State. The major thesis is explained in the following quote from Hayek:
There is little reason why the government should not also play some role, or even take the intiative, in such areas as social insurance and education, or temporarily subsidize certain experimental developments. Our problem here is not so much the aims as the methods of government action.
It argues that a libertarian welfare state is not only more efficient, but morally superior as it treats the beneficiaries with greater respect.
It can be seen as a liberaltarian project, if you wish, but I rather just call it straight libertarian. Or we can start calling Hayek and Milton Friedman liberaltarians.
I will be using the twitter moniker @libwelfare for this project (in case you do not care to follow my other ramblings).
I have written a few pages long-hand and made several notes, but when I start typing, this will show up on my github account. Ignore this if you don't know what github is.
(I know that R. Frank almost wrote a book with the same name. I think I had the name before he did [according to google, I have references going back to 2009]. At least, I independently came up with it. Also, I think this is a better name for my book and Darwin Economy is a better book for his).
“Fomos muito exigentes quanto à consolidação orçamental e muito débeis quando chegou [a altura de pensar na] outra dimensão, igualmente essencial, que é a do crescimento” [disse Jean-Claude Junker]. Os gregos “não têm uma perspectiva [de futuro] positiva”. Nada está a ser feito “além de cortes e de reduções de benefícios sociais”.
O líder da missão do FMI em Atenas, Poul Thomsen, também admite falhas na orientação externa do plano grego, mas sobre outro prisma. “O programa era muito baseado sobre o aumento dos impostos, quando deveríamos ter colocado mais ênfase sobre a redução da despesa pública”, afirma numa entrevista ao semanário grego To Vima, que a AFP cita.
Na TSF, que ouvi ontem no carro, ainda era pior. Parecia que o Junker e o Thomsen até estavam de acordo.
A crítica do Junker e a da Poul Thomsen são opostas! JCJ diz que só se fizeram cortes e reduções, Thomsen que não se fizeram cortes e reduções suficientes.
Mas no jornalismo de telenovela (a Troika contra o povo, &c), o importante é que houve duas pessoas importantes a criticar a Troika. Logo, claramente, estão do lado do povo. O conteúdo substantivo das críticas é que não interessa muito.
Os jornalistas deste país, frequentemente referem os items do Memorando de entendimento com a Troika como imposições. Mas não foram imposições! Foram items acordados por dois governos portugueses com a Troika depois do governo português ter pedido e recebido ajuda estrangeira.
São imposições como um restaurante impõe que eu pague a conta depois de eu entrar, pedir, e comer.
Ainda hoje, o governo podia simplesmente recusar o dinheiro e as ditas imposições. Até tirar o país do euro.
No caso grego, o governo deveria ter tirado esse país do Euro há meses e que continue a insistir manter-se com uma moeda forte como o euro é quase negligência criminal.
Reporters frequently refer to items in the Portugal/Troika Memorandum as impositions, even if they were agreed to by two different Portuguese governments after the Portuguese government asked for and received foreign aid.
They are impositions like a restaurant imposes that I pay my meal after I walked in, ordered, and ate.
Still today, the government could refuse to take the money and the impositions. It could even take the country out of the Euro.
Same thing goes for Greece (and, there, the government should have taken the country out of the Euro months ago---that they continue to not do so is almost negligent).
Paragraph of the day:
A century or so ago, German sociologist Max Weber observed that Protestant countries in northern Europe tended to outperform the Catholic and Orthodox countries in the south of the continent. Weber believed that the northerners had a stronger work ethic, were thriftier, and possessed more of what is today called “social capital.” Though Weber attributed these differences to Protestantism itself, we should note that countries did not randomly convert to Protestantism. The roots for the cultural differences might very well go even deeper.
I am getting tired of listening people on the radio drone on and on about European solidarity, shared European responsibility, the joint construction of the European project, investment in European growth and other ways of saying that Germany should pay for everything.
Or they do that leftist thing of pointing out how people are hurting and how Germany has all this money, implying that we should be able to just take it.
Here's the thing: Germany will not simply pay for PIGS deficits. It doesn't really matter how good your moral arguments that they should pay, they won't. The German voter does not want to pay any money to the Portuguese state or the Greek state.
Also, calling Germans Nazis, however subtly, is not a good negociation tactic (anymore, it used to work with a previous German generation). You are probably better off calling them the callous rich, but it won't work either.
I have repeatedly argued that the ECB is at fault and should push for monetary expansion (money is way too tight). But this need not, should not, involve transfers from Germany to the PIGS. In fact, I think the solution probably involves the ECB buying a whole lot of German Bunds (and whatever the Dutch call their bonds) with newly printed money.
Diz a ministra da Justiça:
A opção comercial de exposição de produtos ao público não pode deixar de ser acompanhada pela adopção, de quem faz essa escolha, dos meios necessários e adequados à sua vigilância e salvaguarda.
citada pelo Público, ao tornar os pequenos furtos crimes privados.
Isto trata-se mesmo de resolver o problema errado. Se o problema era que os custos com pequenos furtos custavam demasiado, ora a solução era torná-los mais simples e baratos de resolver. Não havia, na maioria dos casos que vieram na comunicação social, razão nenhuma para não terem sido resolvidos por um juiz, oralmente, em poucos minutos, sem perda de direitos para ninguém porque não parecia que os acusados contestassem sequer a acusação.
E sem o Estado desistir de fazer cumprir a lei. Porque assim parece que quem expõe produtos ao público é que é culpado. Não quem rouba.
Sentence of the day:
John Tuld, who appears to be the villain of the movie [...],does exactly the opposite of what his model, Dick Fuld, one of the widely-recognized and vilified villains of the actual financial crisis, did in real life.
Diga-se o que se disser do conteúdo, o Público engana-se ao chamar a um artigo numa revista de ética, escrita por filósofos um artigo científico.
From the ongoing series things I repeat all the time:
We Americans cherish our myths. One myth is that there is more social mobility in the United States than in Europe. That's false. Another myth is that the government is smaller here than in Europe. That's largely false, too.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development recently calculated how much each affluent country spends on social programs. When you include both direct spending and tax expenditures, the U.S. has one of the biggest welfare states in the world. We rank behind Sweden and ahead of Italy, Austria, the Netherlands, Denmark, Finland and Canada. Social spending in the US is far above the organization's average.
Note that the reverse is true too: Europeans like to think that they have a bigger social net than the US, which is not true. Some EU states do have a better social net (not all), but it is not bigger.
Once you look beyond rhetoric and into policy, the US is a Northern European economy (if anything, it's on track to being less free-market than Nordic Europe as they become more free-market and the US becomes less so).
Maybe Malcom Gladwell should write this book:
(Image from Kris Carillo, under CC-BY license).
Portugal has the same economy it had in 2002. I'd say it has been a lost decade, but I don't want to be overly optimistic.
I think this is horrible. Europeans should not be taking jobs away from the Chinese worker just because they are willing to work for very little money.
HT: Tyler Cowen
Esta é a notícia mais importante da semana, em termos económicos:
Na série graçolas de oportunidade (roubada ao 31 da Armada):
Incrível o número de pessoas que argumenta que um dia de funcionários públicos a trabalhar não faz diferença absolutamente nenhuma para a produção nacional.
Nem eu acho que os funcionários públicos trabalham tão mal.
Whoever said "all P.R. is good P.R." probably never had dozens of protesters gathered in front of the office calling them "Hitler."
H.T.: Radley Balko
Na série já chegámos a Cuba?
Uns oficiais militares ameaçam o Ministro da Defesa. Dizem que não serão submissos.
Num país decente, estes senhores estariam despedidos antes do fim do programa de televisão em que fizeram estas ameaças. Talvez antes mesmo da publicidade.
Que República das Bananas!
From the ongoing series is this Cuba yet?
Military officers threaten the defense minister on radio and television. They say that they see no reason to be submissive.
In a decent country, these gentlemen would now be out of a job.
What a fucking Banana Republic!
O Metro está em greve. Eu paguei um passe de 30 dias, mas hoje não o posso usar porque não há Metro. Acho que devia ter direito a reembolso ou a mais um dia no final do prazo para compensar (aliás, devia ter mais do que um dia para compensar, eu não comprei um passe "30 dias à escolha da Metro de Lisboa").
Imagine-se que uma outra empresa me cobrava um serviço adiantado, mas depois não cumpria por causa de greve e não me reembolsava o dinheiro.
In the US, political players are in broad agreement, therefore disagreements can be vicious. In EU, there are fundamental disagreements, therefore it becomes necessary to repeat that we all agree.
Um post estranho no jugular:
Hoje, Eva Gaspar diz que Krugman terá dado uma entrevista ao Le Monde onde defendeu que os chamados periféricos devem cortar os salários em 20%, uma solução que, assegura a jornalista do Negócios, este economista tem vindo a defender nos últimos dois anos. Qualquer pessoa minimamente familiarizada com o que Krugman escreve sabe que este nunca poderia defender tal coisa
Porquê estranho? Porque aqui está Krugman:
Pour restaurer la compétitivité en Europe, il faudrait que, disons d'ici les cinq prochaines années, les salaires baissent, dans les pays européens moins compétitifs, de 20 % par rapport à l'Allemagne. Avec un peu d'inflation, cet ajustement est plus facile à réaliser (en laissant filer les prix sans faire grimper les salaires en conséquence).
Claro que Krugman tem absoluta e completa razão. Não percebo porque é que o João Galamba está a estranhar, achar que os custos laborais portugueses são demasiado elevados e era preciso um pouco de inflacção para corrigir é Keynesianismo puro.
Neste caso, eu estou em perfeita concordância com Krugman, sobretudo quando ele diz coisas como Une politique monétaire moins stricte avec une inflation plus élevée - autour de 4 % - offrirait une part de la flexibilité qui manque à la zone euro.
Há um fenómeno engraçado que, quando se trata do estrangeiro estamos todos mais de acordo sobre os problemas e as soluções.
"L'inflation n'est pas le problème, c'est la solution"
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This is Task 2 from my online course on How to Teach Webcraft and Programming to Free-Range Students . The question is to describe who the learners are.
Again, my answers are focused on my Programming for scientists course.
Who are my learners?
Sabah is a trained microbiologist who is doing pharmaceutical research. She picked up a bit of Matlab in a two day workshop a year back and has been writing some code to analyse her results. She is surprised at herself for enjoying it, but does not use any version control, has no experience writing anything longer than 100 lines of code, and, generally, her code is spaghetti like.
Maria works on material sciences for her PhD. She has been forced to learn how to write a bit of Fortran code. She learned it back in undergraduate in a formal university course and others in the lab have developed a big solid state simulator library that she must use for her work. She doesn't like it very much and it takes her a very long time to get anything done. Her advisor or supervised recommended that she take a few more courses so that she can improve. She is not enthusiastic, but thinks that programming is something that, unfortunately, has become a required lab skill.
Naturally, I prefer the enthusiastic student, but I have seen both attitudes and every thing in between.
Who are not my learners?
I also decided to list people that would probably not benefit from the course I want to teach.
Anna is a biochemist. She does not know any programming and uses Excel for everything now. She has seen other people in the lab do simple scripts and it seems to help them. She would like to learn. I think Anna does not have the background for the course.
Rita is a computer programmer who wants to learn Python. She is also interested in learning about bioinformatics, so she thought that a for scientists course would help. Rita could probably benefit from the first module, where students are, in fact, taught Python, and she is welcome to sit through those sessions. But we do not really go over any bioinformatics as such and much of the rest of the course might be a repetitiion of what she already knows.
A mim, não me assustam os movimentos de extrema-esquerda nem de extrema-direita. Podem ser responsáveis por crimes, e são-no, incluindo homicídios; mas não são perigosos, por si e hoje em dia, para a democracia na Europa.
Os movimentos que me assustam são os movimentos sincréticos que não se percebe bem se são de esquerda ou de direita (como eram os fascismos ou o nazismo). Assusta-me muito mais a Le Pen-filha que se diz à esquerda dos sindicatos do que me assustava o Le Pen-pai. A esquerda-nacionalista (e anti-semita) ou a direita-esquerdista podem ser perigosas.
E a confusão em relação à União Europeía está a começar a tomar contornos que, se Portugal não é a Húngria com um governo nacionalista e contra o neo-liberalismo europeu, podem ser a semente para movimentos semelhantes.
Em Portugal, os partidos de extrema-esquerda começam a namorar o apelo nacionalista. O PCP sempre foi para a cama com o nacionalismo para depois, de manhã, dizer que são só amigos. No BE, é um flirt mais novo, mas perigoso. Os intelectuais de esquerda devem ter cuidado com os seus partidos. O apelo ao nacionalismo funciona e traz votos, mas podem perder o controlo. A combinação de um apelo nacionalista a um apelo socialista pode ser demasiado eficaz.
(O mesmo se aplica um pouco ao contrário quando o Paulo Portas se diz à esquerda do PS, mas o CDS-PP é um partido do regime, um partido burguês. Os partidos burgueses não são perigosos. O Manuel Monteiro encaixariam melhor no molde acima, mas ele e os seus apoiantes não chegam para encher um taxi.)
I am not scared by either the extreme-left nor the extreme-right. Yes, they can easily be criminal (and they are criminal, including murder). But they are not dangerous, today, for democracy in Europe.
The dangerous movements are those that are difficult to say whether they are left- or right-wing (like fascism and, especially, nazism often defied simple categorization). I am much more scared by the Le Pen daughter who claims to be to the left of the unions than I was about her father who was more clearly of the right. The nationalistic left (or anti-semite left) or the nationalists who take up leftist economic can be very dangerous.
The confusion w.r.t. the EU is starting to get to a point where it can brew a movement like this. In Hungary, there is a strongly nationalistic movement who decries neo-liberalism. In Portugal, the danger will probably appear as leftist movements become increasingly and openly nationalistic. This is still embrionic, but leftists should watch out over their own parties. The nationalistic appeal is effective, but it can get out of control.
Evolução do discurso esquerda-caviar em relação ao Hugo Chavez
- Não é maravilhoso o que ele faz? O teu cinismo é medo que ele mostre os falhanços do capitalismo.
- Não apoio tudo o que ele faz, claro; mas no global é um grande passo em frente para um modelo alternativo.
- Sim, há coisas más no sistema, mas ele não é um ditador (vocês os direitosos chamam ditadores aos que estão pelo povo). Ele faz coisas boa. No global, acho que o balanço é positivo.
- Tudo o que eu digo é que nem tudo é mau na Venezuela.
- Como é que te atreves a falar no Hugo Chavez? Eu nunca defendi o Hugo Chavez. Eu defendo uma coisa completamente diferente.
Estamos agora entre o 4 e o 5.
Evolution of caviar-left speech on Hugo Chavez
- Isn't it wonderful what he is doing? Your skepticism is hidden fear that he'll actually succeed and make capitalism look bad.
- I don't support everything he's doing, of course; but overall it's a big step towards an alternative model.
- Yes, there are bad things in his regime, but he is not a dictator (you right-wing people always use the word dictator for men of the people). He is doing some good things too. On balance good.
- All I'm saying is that not everything is bad in Venezuela.
- How dare you bring up Hugo Chavez? I have always denounced him as a dictator. He is not at all what I defend.
We are now between 4 and 5.
Using data from a national survey, it is shown that intelligence tends to be positively related to the probabilities of having tried alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and several other recreational drugs. Evidence is also presented that those relationships typically disappear or change sign at high levels of intelligence.
The "reversing signs" phenomenom is stronger for cigarettes.
(Plots need error bars)
Anda aí muita gente chocada porque os meios de comunicação do Estado seguem as políticas definidas pelo governo. Acham que se lhe chamarmos controlo democrático das fontes de informação já pode ser?
Por falar nisso: comparar o governo actual português aos Khmers vermelhos devia ser, por si só, motivo de despedir o jornalista; por estupidez. Portanto, em termos jornalísticos, acho que o ouvinte até fica a ganhar.
Na série uma posta um bocado à João Miranda:
Uma malvada organização religiosa tem andado da prometer leite grátis para pessoas com poucas posses.
Não sabem que é ilegal?
Alguém que os denuncie à ASAE!
Some evil religious organisation has been giving milk to poor people.
Don't they know that it's illegal (Portuguese supermarkets were fined for selling milk too cheaply)? Someone should stop this!
Dois grandes artigos sobre o mundo moderno:
Acho pena que nenhum dos artigos sequer sinta a necessidade de justificar moralmente porque é que devemos "proteger" o trabalhador Americano que ganha $13/h se isso prejudica o trabalhador chinês a ganhar $2/h. Aliás, porque quem ganha $13/h está no 10% de topo mundial.
(Portugal está mais próximo de $2 do que $13 para uma hora de trabalho não qualificado; muitas vezes se ouve um discurso anti-china importado de países mais ricos que não faz tanto sentido no contexto português).
Two great articles on modern manufacturing:
I do find it a bit grating that none of the articles found a need to address the underlying moral question of why we should accept policies that make the $13/hour American worker better off and hurt the $2/hr Chinese worker. At $13/hr, you are in the top 10% worldwide.
(Note to Portuguese readers: we often have an anti-China speech imported from the US or France, but Portugal is much closer to $2 than to $13 for unskilled labour).
Portugal é a Alemanha da Madeira.
O governo central (do continente) terá de salvar as contas do governo regional que gastou mal e mentiu sobre isso (algumas das mentiras serão certamente criminosas, mas, em Portugal, ninguém se preocupa muito com tais questões procedimentais).
O Alberto João Jardim, é muitas vezes gozado pelas elitas de Lisboa, mas pelo menos o Bloco de Esquerda devia olhar para o senhor com mais atenção. É que ele se comporta em relação ao continente exactamente como os bloquistas dizem que o governo português se deve comportar em relação à União Europeia e à Troika.
Cada vez que vejo ou leio sobre o Alberto João sorrio a pensar que isto é exactamente aquilo que o BE defende:
- O problema não é ter-se gasto demais, é dos de fora (continente/Troika)
- Eles não respeitam a soberania regional/nacional
- Se não me derem mais dinheiro, eu ameço ser independente
- Ou não vou pagar a dívida
- Faço tudo pelo povo
Se o Alberto João ainda tem ambições em Lisboa, devia fazer uns telefonemas ao Francisco Louçã e ser candidato pelo Bloco.
Portugal is Madeira's Germany.
The central government is being asked to bail the regional government out of its mispending, its bungling of the budget, its lies (including at least allegedly crimes, but, it's Portugal so nobody cares about such "procedural" issues).
Alberto João Jardim, Madeira's elected-for-life President, is often laughed at by Lisbon's elite. But, at least the left-wing Bloco de Esquerda (BE) should look at the man more carefully. He behaves with respect to the mainland exactly as they argue that the Portuguese government should behave with respect to the EU.
Everytime I see or read about Alberto João, I cannot help but smile. Here's how Alberto João is BE's model prime-minister:
- Everything is the outside's fault (mainland/Troika)
- They don't respect the sovereignty of Madeira/Portugal
- If you don't give me more money to mispend/invest in the economy, I will threaten to leave the Union (with mainland, EU)
- Or I won't pay the government debt
- I do it for the people
Mudanças de A para B:
- Em A, livre-se das suas coisas.
- Vá de A para B.
- Em B, compre exactamente as mesmas coisas que tinha anteriormente.
Here's how you get furniture from point A to point B:
- While at A, get rid of your things (sell, donate, trash...)
- Move from A to B.
- Once you get to B, buy exactly the same things you had.
I am taking Greg Wilson's online course on How to Teach Webcraft and Programming to Free-Range Students.
The first task is to relate the recommendations in this education study guide to our experience (as teachers and students).
I will talk about what I did for my Programming for scientists course and how it relates to the recommendations.
Space learning over time. I did a good job with the programming part of the course where Python examples kept coming up and being reviewed, but a lousy one with other aspects. In particular, some of the tools that I wanted the students to learn (the shell and version control) were only mentioned in their respective sections.
Interleave worked example solutions with problem-solving exercises I think I did some of this, going through code examples. I also used to review the homeworks (after they were due) in class and go through the solutions. The major reason was for efficiency, but it might get me some cookie points here.
Combine graphics with verbal descriptions I would like to have done a bit more slides (if I had the time), but I did most of the verbal communication orally.
Connect and integrate abstract and concrete representations of concepts I certainly tried to do this, but I am going to refrain from evaluating whether I did it well. I had a lecture class and a practical class. They had the same format (lecture), but I tried to do more worked-out examples in the practical and more concepts in the lecture.
Use quizzing to promote learning There was a multiple choice homework every week (plus a single long-answer question or coding problem) and at the end of the first module (which was an introduction to Python), I had a full in-class quizz. This was done by show of hands, ungraded, with discussions. I mostly did this for expediency as the class was not worth enough credits for me to assign time-consuming homeworks, but I think it worked out very well.
Use pre-questions to introduce a new topic Other than as rhetorical devices, I did none of this.
Use quizzes to re-expose students to key content As I said, I did a lot of short quizzes as homework. I could have been a bit more pro-active in class, though.
Help students allocate study time efficiently Nope, I did none of this.
Ask deep explanatory questions Unfortunately, I refrained from assigning questions that were too deep as homework as it was a low-credit class. In this context, it might be programming that is most important, in the sense that I want the students to be better programmers (i.e., a skill) and not verbal or conceptual knowledge (I'm sure that there are educational science words for these concepts, but I don't know what they are).
Reparem como a manchete é exactamente ao contrário do que diz a notícia:
Notícia: [Uma] associação de recrutamento está em Lisboa até quinta-feira à procura de médicos e técnicos de saúde que queiram um posto de trabalho em França. Isto é, empregos em França procuram médicos portugueses (o contrário do título).
Uma coisa que tem melhorado em Lisboa é que finalmente o estacionamento é suficientemente caro.
Marxists did lose a big argument, one we now know as "the 20th century."
Em Portugal, ainda são levados a sério.
Marxists did lose a big argument, one we now know as "the 20th century."
In Portugal, they are still taken seriously.
Se isto fosse lei, quantas pessoas seriam despedidas ao fim de 18 meses?
Pessoas com empregos mais especializados provavelmente fariam a transição para posições permanentes, aqueles que podem ser facilmente substituídas, seriam substituídas, facilmente.
If this were to become law (that after 18 months a temporary employment contract needs to become a permanent one), how many people would be fired after 18 months?
People who have more specialised jobs would probably make the transition to a permanent position, people which are more easily replaceable would be easily replaced.
Na série tudo é um escândalo:
Eu só como se pagar e nem sequer tenho 70 anos. Para quando a comida toda gratuíta?
Em resposta a isto