Monday, April 30, 2007

In praise Schumpeter

Some reviews of the Prophet of Innovation: Joseph Schumpeter and Creative Destruction by Thomas K. McCraw.

The Economist review;

Most economists live pretty dull lives, dividing their time between technical intellectual problems and tedious academic politics. Even Keynes inhabited a comfortable Bloomsbury cocoon. Schumpeter was anything but dull.

He was a self-made man who put on the airs of an aristocrat: he spent an hour getting dressed every morning, frequently appearing in jodhpurs. He was also a notorious womaniser. He liked to regale his colleagues with stories of “orgies” and “advanced sexual techniques” (Mr McCraw is sadly incurious about this side of his life).

By his mid-50s he had lived in nine cities and five countries. He was Austria's finance minister for a time, and witnessed the collapse of the Habsburg Empire from close quarters. He taught in Germany when it was succumbing to the Nazi temptation. He was one of the first of the great European émigrés to the United States. Daniel Bell, a liberal sociologist, described him as that rarest of creatures: an economist with a tragic sense of life...

Schumpeter's two greatest insights were that innovation is the driving force not only of capitalism but also of economic progress in general, and that entrepreneurs are the agents of innovation. Entrepreneurs are possessed by “the dream and the will to found a private kingdom”. But they are confronted with all sorts of obstacles. Innovation is hard to produce and harder to sustain: all successful businessmen stand on ground that is “crumbling beneath their feet”. And of course it produces losers as well as winners.

The NewYork Sun;

Schumpeter remained a mess of contradictions, however, and his personal triumphs were quickly matched by stunning reversals. Soon after receiving tenure, his harsh classroom discipline inspired a crushing, and largely unprecedented, student boycott of his lectures. He lost his fortune in the Viennese stock market crash of 1924, and spent the next decade laboring to repay the ensuing debt. And in a forever devastating setback, he lost his beloved second wife and son in childbirth just two years later. Following his financial and familial ruin, Schumpeter structured his remaining life around two competing sentiments: a retrospective pessimism that gradually permeated his worldview and a relentless desire to produce academic works worthy of his youthful ambitions. The Schumpeter who arrived at Harvard in 1927, where he would serve as a central influence for a generation of graduate students, was at once intensely passionate and socially removed. His subsequent works, from the seminal popular work "Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy" (1942) to his encyclopedic and still unparalleled "History of Economic Analysis" (1954), remain suspended between cool objectivity and moments of fiery, often cynical, judgment...

Perhaps John Kenneth Galbraith had this paradox in mind when he called Schumpeter "the most sophisticated conservative of this century." Schumpeter harnessed the two central concepts of modern conservatism — embracement of the dynamic change enabled by the free market economy, and suspicion of its cultural effects — in a social analysis that did not disguise or pervert its ironical nature. That he did so while transcending a range of disciplines with a mix of massive erudition and academic daring makes his achievement all the more striking, and inimitable, today.

David Warsh;
At this point I probably should acknowledge that I have a foot planted firmly in the other camp -- the wing of the economists. The flip side of all that literary expression by Schumpeter is that you can get out of him almost anything that you wish. In Knowledge and the Wealth of Nations: A Story of Economic Discovery, I argue that a clearer view of economic growth can be obtained today through the use of formal methods. Creative destruction is often now matter-of-factly described as "churn" or "turbulence," its extent and costs and benefits measured through the Census Bureau's Longitudinal Employer-Household Dynamics Program. The study of markets and hierarchies has been largely overhauled by the likes of Michael Jensen, Oliver Williamson and their many students. Our view of the economics of knowledge has been transformed by Paul Romer. So I am somewhat embarrassed to be going on, uninvited, about the great merit of business history in general, and of a definitive biography of Schumpeter in particular.

Indian Infrastructure Deficit

An interesting article on India’s economic challenges via PSD Blog;

"Economic losses from congestion and poor roads alone are as high as $6 billion a year, says Gajendra Haldea, an adviser to the federal Planning Commission....

For all its importance, the tech services sector employs just 1.6 million people, and it doesn't rely on good roads and bridges to get its work done. India needs manufacturing to boom if it is to boost exports and create jobs for the 10 million young people who enter the workforce each year. Suddenly, good infrastructure matters a lot more. Yet industry is hobbled by overcrowded highways where speeds average just 20 miles per hour. Some ports rely on armies of laborers to unload cargo from trucks and lug it onto ships. Across the state of Maharashtra, major cities lose power one day a week to relieve pressure on the grid. In Pune, a city of 4.5 million, it's lights out every Thursday—forcing factories to maintain expensive backup generators. Government officials were shocked last year when Intel Corp. (INTC ) chose Vietnam over India as the site for a new chip assembly plant. Although Intel declined to comment, industry insiders say the reason was largely the lack of reliable power and water in India....

Add up this litany of woes and you understand why India's exports total less than 1% of global trade, compared with 7% for China. Says Infosys Chairman N.R. Narayana Murthy: "If our infrastructure gets delayed, our economic development, job creation, and foreign investment get delayed. Our economic agenda gets delayed—if not derailed."

The infrastructure deficit is so critical that it could prevent India from achieving the prosperity that finally seems to be within its grasp. Without reliable power and water and a modern transportation network, the chasm between India's moneyed elite and its 800 million poor will continue to widen, potentially destabilizing the country. Jagdish N. Bhagwati, a professor at Columbia University, figures gross domestic product growth would run two percentage points higher if the country had decent roads, railways, and power. "We're bursting at the seams," says Kamal Nath, India's Commerce & Industry Minister. Without better infrastructure, "we can't continue with the growth rates we have had."

India today is about where China was a decade ago. Back then, China's economy was shifting into overdrive, but its roads and power grid weren't up to the task. So Beijing launched a massive upgrade initiative, building more than 25,000 miles of expressways that now crisscross the country and are as good as the best roads in the U.S. or Europe. India, by contrast, has just 3,700 miles of such highways. It's no wonder that when foreign companies weigh putting new plants in China vs. India to produce global exports, China more often wins out."

Must Listen Podcasts

Nassim Taleb on Black Swans via EconTalk

How Good People Turn Evil: the psychology of social influence
Philip Zimbardo, Director of the Stanford Centre on the Psychology of Terrorism and Emeritus Professor of Psychology, Stanford University

Sunday, April 29, 2007

New Blog in Town

Leonardo Monasterio's Blog;

"Dear thief, I would like to ask you to sell me the goods that are you are going to steal from me. Buying it legally on the market is too expensive, and I've heard that you sell my goods for cheap prices. I promise secrecy, because I do not want to be arrested for buying stolen goods.

PS: Please, do not steal this banner."

Podcasts Assorted

Rabushka on the Flat Tax

Global Organised Crime

Emerging Trends in Global Economic Integration
Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank

God, the Universe and Everything
What can our understanding of the cosmos tell us about God, creation and our place in it? Father Bill Stoeger, a Jesuit priest and an astrophysicist, believes that science can help shed light on God's priorities in creation.

Bad teeth, bad economics

Are You Happy Now?, featuring Will Wilkinson

Jesus Tomb, Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3

Guatam Ivatury on the Cellphone and the Mattress

What's wrong with slavery?

Philosophy, spirituality and the self - Part 1 and Part 2

Masters of Emotion

You are not your brain scan!: Critical reporting on the mind sciences

Jerome Kagan - The Father of Temperament

Julie's Story: Diary of a brain tumour


Russia: Boris Yeltsin, Vladimir Putin and Democracy

Editing the Complete Works of Shakespeare
Professor Jonathan Bate discusses editing a new edition of the Complete Works of Shakespeare

Nation of Rogues: Scotland and Independence

Australia's Eugenic Heritage

Long Live the King: Thailand's King Bhumibol Adulyadej

A Russian Tale
Over the past few months a number of journalists and critics of the Russian government have died in mysterious circumstances. Are these deaths coincidental or do they tell us something about the state of Russian democracy?

Sacred Science
Is there such a thing? Cell biologist, Bruce Lipton and former engineer Gregg Braden believe that thoughts and emotions change the material world and could bring peace to the planet. Stephen Post is from the School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, and his research shows that being good, happy, funny and courageous improves your health and lengthens your life

Iraq: new team, new strategy, new tensions

The obesity myth

China's Trillion in U.S. Dollar Reserves - Threat or Opportunity?"

World Economic Update: The Great Globalization Debate

Corruption in Photos

A series from World Bank;

"An Integrity Department investigator visited this school where children were still attending lessons in an overcrowded, thatched hut, while their new Bank-funded schoolhouse - just a few hundred meters away - was being used by a local official to store onions."

Visual for the Day

“The need for money is probably going to reach some diminishing return, and it’s probably going to be a pretty low ceiling, compared to past campaigns,” predicts Peter Leyden, president of the left-leaning New Politics Institute. In other words, the emerging high-tech marketplace may yet bring us closer to what decades of federal campaign regulations have failed to achieve: a day when candidates can afford to spend less time obsessing over the constant need for cash and more time concerned with the currency of their ideas.
-The Way We Live Now; The Post-Money Era

Five Star Jails

“I am aware that this is considered to be a five-star Hilton,” said Nicole Brockett, 22, who was recently booked into one of the jails, here in Orange County about 30 miles southeast of Los Angeles, and paid $82 a day to complete a 21-day sentence for a drunken driving conviction.

For roughly $75 to $127 a day, these convicts — who are known in the self-pay parlance as “clients” — get a small cell behind a regular door, distance of some amplitude from violent offenders and, in some cases, the right to bring an iPod or computer on which to compose a novel, or perhaps a song.

-For $82 a Day, Booking a Cell in a 5-Star Jail

Zimbabwe Central Bank and Inflation

A new Working Paper from the Fund, Central Bank Quasi-Fiscal Losses and High Inflation in Zimbabwe: A Note;

Summary: Zimbabwe's failure to address continuing central bank quasi-fiscal losses has interfered with both monetary management and the independence and credibility of the Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ). Realized quasi-fiscal losses are estimated to have amounted to about 75 percent of GDP in 2006. Because they were financed by creating money creation or issuing RBZ securities, they contributed to the four-digit inflation reached in 2006. The remedy for the current situation is clearly to eliminate the causes of losses by implementing measures to improve the cash-flow of the bank and restore its financial position

How safe is the medicine Incidal

Incidal is a common anti-allergy drug used in South Asia- any information about the side effects of the drug will be much appreciated. I came across the following on Essential Drugs;

Dear All,

Mebhydrolin Napadisylate (Incidal) is a commonly used anti-allergic drug. It is prescribed for pruritis, urticaria, and allergic rhinitis. It is excessively prescribed and used in Pakistan. We cannot find its prescribing details in the late editions of the BNF. A search through the MEDLINE revealed that there have been report of agranulocytosis and granulocytopenia reported to the Australian Adverse Drug Reaction Committee as early as 1984. We are very concerned about its availability
in Pakistan. Can anybody provide as to:
1. What is the current status of this drug in the world?
2. Why was it banned?
3. Which were the countries from where it was withdrawn?
4. Is it still manufactured and marketed in Germany, the country of origin? The drug is manufactured by Bayer of Germany.
5. The FDA has not registered it ever. Which other countries have not given registration to the product and why?
Thank you for your cooperation.

Ayesha Ahmed.
Incharge Drug Information Helpline.

Incidal Banned in Pakistan

The New Technology in African Wars

"Today, human rights groups say, there are 300,000 child soldiers worldwide. And experts say the problem is deepening as the nature of conflict itself changes — especially in Africa."- The Perfect Weapon for the Meanest Wars

France vs the World

A four part series of podcasts from BBC;

Part One: France on the world stage

Part Two: Citizenship

Part three: Agriculture and Rural France

Part four: Facing the Future

Rod Kedward, a professor at the University of Sussex in the U.K., Says France's Sarkozy to Win First Round
Barbet of BNP Says French Economic Data Could Sway Voters
Change France but keep the lunches
The French presidential election

Friday, April 27, 2007

There's a healing in honey

And thy Lord taught the Bee to build its cells in hills on trees and in (men's) habitations hen to eat of all the produce (of the earth) and find with skill the spacious paths of its Lord: there issues from within their bodies a drink of varying colors wherein is healing for men: verily in this is a Sign for those who give thought.” (Muslim scripture Quran- 16:68-9)

"Honey was commonly used in medicine before antibiotics became widespread. It is still used in the Antipodes; an Australian company makes a product called Medihoney for medicinal use. This formulation is a certified medicine in Europe, but has not been much used there because doctors developed a taste for prescribing conventional antibiotics.

Arne Simon of Bonn University Children's Clinic in Germany is now leading an international study to compare honey with existing drugs. The investigation will involve 150 patients in several countries including Britain, Germany and Australia.

Dr Simon has already used honey on 150 patients who were not responding to treatment, with some promising results. The patients were often children whose immune systems had been weakened by chemotherapy, which left their wounds from surgery vulnerable to infection. Around a third of them were also given some antibiotics at the same time as having their wounds dressed with honey. One patient, whose wounds had become infected by the potentially fatal strain of Staphylococcus aureus that is resistant to the antibiotic methicillin (MRSA), and who failed to respond to other drugs, was free of this superbug within 48 hours of receiving the honey treatment.

Research in Australia and New Zealand suggests that honey heals because it attacks bacteria in several different ways at once. Because honey is composed of saturated sugars, it sucks up water, depriving bacteria of the liquid they need to survive and multiply. As bees make honey they secrete glucoseoxidase, an enzyme that releases the bleach hydrogen peroxide when it comes into contact with wound liquids. The low-level but frequent release of this chemical ensures regular anti-bacterial washes of the wound.

Although honey is not about to usurp antibiotics, Dr Simon thinks it should be brought back into conventional medicine—and not only to sugar the pill."
- Medicinal use of honey

I wish all economics professors did this

Susan Athey's Research: A (Somewhat) Less Technical Introduction;
This document provides a somewhat chatty discussion of selected research papers that may be accessible to a broader audience. It starts with a discussion of different styles of research in economics, to try to better explain how some of my "basic research" fits in and how it might be used by other economists, and why it might be important even if it doesn't directly relate to policy. The document then provides more in-depth discussion of a few selected papers in different areas of economics.

At the end of each extended description of a paper or set of papers, I have included an "executive summary" that boils the ideas down to a few sentences.

Harvard's Susan Athey wins the John Bates Clark Medal;
This year's medallist is Susan Athey, of Harvard University. She is the first woman to win (so far all the Nobels have gone to men). More important, though, is the breadth of Ms Athey's work. At 36, she has already made a mark in several fields: economic theory; applied economics, from auctions and industrial organisation to macroeconomics; and econometrics. “Susan's work on the foundations of economic theory is of fundamental importance,” says Paul Klemperer, a professor at Oxford, “showing economists when they can have confidence in their 'equilibrium' theories and when they can't.”

For example, economists frequently make simplifying assumptions about mathematical form. Most commonly, they may suppose a linear relationship between variables: when one thing goes up, another goes up or down by a fixed amount. That makes results easier to get—but at a cost: often there is no good reason to assume linearity. Ms Athey has shown that strong results can still be obtained even if you assume much less.

Clark Medal to Susan Athey ;
Athey's award is emblematic of the considerable progress women have made in economics in, say, the last twenty years. The Clark was first given in 1947 to Paul Samuelson. (Kenneth Boulding won in 1949, Milton Friedman in 1951, the committee deadlocked in 1953 and no award was made, before James Tobin was recognized in 1955 and Kenneth Arrow in 1957. The full list can be found here. Meanwhile, the somewhat similar Bernácer Prize, awarded annually since 2001 to a European economist under the age of 40, has been split evenly between women and men: Philip Lane (Trinity College Dublin), José Manuel Campa (Graduate School of Business New York University and University of Navarra, Luigi Zingales (GSB Chicago), Stephanie Schmitt-Grohe (Duke), Monika Piazzesi (GSB Chicago) and Hélène Rey (Princeton) in that order.

Quote of the Day

There was never a serious debate that I know of within the administration about the imminence of the Iraqi threat,” - George Tenet writing in his memoirs, “At the Center of the Storm,” a 549-page book,to be published by HarperCollins.

See also this interview with Tenet

Dean of Admissions at M.I.T. Made Up her Resume

Marilee Jones, the dean of admissions at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became famous for urging stressed-out students competing for elite colleges to calm down and stop trying to be perfect. But today she admitted that she had fabricated her own academic educational credentials, and resigned after nearly three decades at the university.

"I misrepresented my academic degrees when I first applied to M.I.T. 28 years ago and did not have the courage to correct my résumé when I applied for my current job or at any time since,” Ms. Jones said in a statement posted on the university’s Web site today. "I am deeply sorry for this and for disappointing so many in the M.I.T. community and beyond who supported me, believed in me and who have given me extraordinary opportunities.

Ms. Jones on various occasions had represented herself as having degrees from Albany Medical College, Union College and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, but she had no degrees from any of those places, said Phillip L. Clay, the chancellor of M.I.T.

Ms. Jones had recently been promoting a book, “Less Stress, More Success: A New Approach to Guiding Your Teen Through College Admissions and Beyond,” co-written with Dr. Kenneth R. Ginsburg. It had made her the guru of the movement to tame the college-admissions frenzy.

-Dean of Admissions at M.I.T. Resigns

Recently from the Fund

Article IVs; Tajkistan, Rep. of Congo,Kazakhstan,Libya, St. Kitts and Nevis,

IMF Survey, April 24th

IMF Issues Brief: The Multilateral Consultation on Global Imbalances

Working Papers;
Looking Beyond the Fiscal: Do Oil Funds Bring Macreconomic Stability?
Trade Adjustment and Human Capital Investment: Evidence from Indian Tariff Reform
Government Size and Intersectoral Income Fluctuation: An International Panel Analysis
Financial Market Risk and U.S. Money Demand
Central Bank Autonomy: Lessons from Global Trends
Concept of Offshore Financial Centers: In Search of an Operational Definition
Guyana: Why Has Growth Stopped? An Empirical Study on the Stagnation of Economic Growth

Central Banker to Treasurer with love

The Governor of Bank of England writes to the Chancellor;

The CPI inflation rate for March ... is 3.1%. That is more than one percentage point above our target of 2%. Under the terms of the remit you have given us, I am, therefore, writing an open letter to you today, on behalf of the Monetary Policy Committee, to explain why inflation has risen above target and what we propose to do about it.

Before coming to the inflation figures, let me recall the background to this letter. The 1998 Bank of England Act sets out the objectives of the Monetary Policy Committee. They are to maintain price stability and, subject to that, to support the economic policy of the Government, including its objectives for growth and employment. When you wrote to me on March 21 this year, you confirmed that the remit for the Monetary Policy Committee would remain unchanged and that the price stability objective remained a target for inflation, as measured by the twelve-month increase in the Consumer Price Index, of 2%, which the Committee should seek to meet at all times. But your letter also made clear that it is not, in practice, always possible to keep inflation at the target. The remit for the Monetary Policy Committee states that:

"The framework takes into account that any economy at some point can suffer from external events or temporary difficulties, often beyond its control. The framework is based on the recognition that the actual inflation rate will on occasions depart from its target as a result of shocks and disturbances. Attempts to keep inflation at the inflation target in these circumstances may cause undesirable volatility in output."

Consequently, if inflation moves away from the target by more than one percentage point in either direction, you have asked me to send you an open letter setting out the reasons why inflation has moved away from the target, the policy action that the Committee is taking to deal with it, the period within which we expect inflation to return to the target, and how this approach meets the Government's monetary policy objectives. As the remit for the Monetary Policy Committee makes clear, the thresholds for writing an open letter do not define a target range. The target is 2% at all times and is not a range. The purpose of the thresholds is to define when inflation should trigger an explanatory letter.

Let me turn to the reasons for the rise in CPI inflation to 3.1% from 1.8% a year ago. As discussed in our February Inflation Report, part of that rise reflects an unexpectedly sharp increase in domestic energy prices during the second half of last year, more than offsetting a fall in petrol prices. Part reflects a rise in food prices caused by a weather-induced global reduction in supply. But, taken together, those factors account for only around one half of the pick up in CPI inflation over the past year.

It appears that some of the risks identified by the Monetary Policy Committee over the past year have started to materialize. Spending in the UK economy, associated with continuing rapid growth of money and credit, has recovered from the slowdown in 2005, leading to five consecutive quarters of robust growth. Capacity pressures have increased. Against that background, businesses have become more confident that they could raise prices to rebuild profit margins, which had previously been squeezed by the doubling in world oil prices since 2004. Over recent months, official data for output prices and responses to business surveys confirm that the pricing climate in which businesses operate has become somewhat easier.

CPI inflation has recently been rather volatile from month to month, increasing the chance that at some point a letter would be triggered. Last August I said at the Inflation Report press conference that there was an evens chance of an open letter being triggered over the winter. That volatility had been anticipated by the Committee when it widened the fan chart for inflation in its projections published in August and thereafter. Indeed, in the February Inflation Report, the Committee explained that it felt uncertainty surrounding the near-term outlook for inflation had risen further.

Why did CPI inflation exceed 3% in March when it was 2.8% in February? Since February sterling oil prices have risen by around 25%, reversing part of the fall in prices seen in the second half of last year. Higher petrol prices contributed significantly to the pick up of inflation in March. Some of the falls in food prices a year ago, especially of milk, were not repeated in March this year. And the prices of furniture and furnishings rose by almost 10% in March - a record rise - as retailers put up prices, according to the Office for National Statistics, "in the lead up to Easter special offers." Some of these factors may turn out to be temporary - though that remains to be seen.

What does the Monetary Policy Committee propose to do about the rise in inflation? Because there are long lags between changes in interest rates and their impact on inflation, the Committee will continue to look through the short-term volatility in inflation over the next year or so resulting from fluctuations in domestic energy prices and set Bank Rate to keep inflation on track to meet the 2% target in the medium term. As some of the upside risks to inflation began to materialize last year, the Monetary Policy Committee acted. Since August, it has raised Bank Rate by a total of 75 basis points to 5.25%. At its May meeting, the Committee will have an opportunity to assess more fully the news contained in the latest inflation figures, as well as the full range of economic data, before reaching its next decision on Bank Rate.

Over what horizon does the Monetary Policy Committee expect inflation to return to target? The Committee will present a full analysis of the inflation data - which, in line with pre-release arrangements, were available to the Committee only today - in our next Inflation Report to be published on May 16 and in the minutes of the May meeting published a week later. But, at first sight, the news seems unlikely to alter the broad picture painted in the February Report. As the substantial increases in household gas and electricity prices that occurred a year ago drop out of the annual comparison, and the falls in those prices which have already been announced take effect, CPI inflation is likely to fall back within a matter of months. At the time of the February Report, the Committee judged that, assuming Bank Rate followed the market yield curve, the central outlook was for inflation to fall to a little below the target by the end of this year, before settling at around the target during the following year. Output growth in the central projection was thought likely to remain robust at around its long-run average over the next two years or so.

Of course, there are many risks to this outlook. One of the risks identified at the February meeting - to pay growth - has, at least so far, not yet materialized. Although it is still too early to be confident, wage settlements are not far above last year's levels and in the public sector are modest. But the Committee will consider very carefully at its next meeting whether the inflation data for March mean that some of the other upside risks to the outlook for inflation are materializing. The Committee must ensure that inflation expectations are anchored on the 2% target. It is important to prevent that anchor from dragging.

Letter writing is a key part of the accountability provisions of the monetary policy framework. I am surprised that it has taken ten years and 120 meetings of the Monetary Policy Committee before a deviation of inflation from target sufficient to trigger a letter has arisen. When the Monetary Policy Committee was set up in 1997, the chances of going almost ten years without an open letter being triggered seemed negligible.

The Monetary Policy Committee remains determined to set interest rates at the level required to bring inflation back to the 2% target, and I welcome the opportunity to explain our thinking in this first open letter.

I am copying this letter to the Chairman of the Treasury Select Committee, through which we are accountable to Parliament, and placing it on the Bank of England's website for public dissemination.

Yours sincerely, Mervyn King

Monetary policy in the UK
Financial Stability Report
Inflation Report
Fuel, food and furniture: why the Bank had to explain itself to Brown
English lessons - to India?
Gordon Brown- The day of the spider

Markets in Everything- Rent a Breast

Rent-a-womb ;

Jyoti Dave is pregnant, but when the 30-year-old gives birth in March the baby will not be taken home to bond with her other child, but will instead be handed over to an American couple unable to conceive.

For her trouble, the Indian surrogate mother will be paid. She won’t say how much, but she says it’s money she desperately needs to feed her poor family after an industrial accident left the family’s only breadwinnner unable to work.

“My husband lost his limbs working in the factory,” Dave told Reuters. “We could not manage even a meal a day. That is when I decided to rent out my womb.”

See also Outsourcing Breast Milk via FP Blog

International Breast Milk Project
Prolacta Bioscience-"The first and only commercially available Human Milk Fortifier made from 100% human milk"

Global Implications of China's Trade, Investment and Growth

A recent IMF conference on Global Implications of China's Trade, Investment and Growth- the material is online.

An Anatomy of China's Export Growth
Mary Amiti (Federal Reserve Bank of New York) and Caroline Freund (IMF)
Discussant: Chong Xiang (Purdue University)

The Relative Sophistication of Chinese Exports
Peter Schott (Yale University)

Multinationals and the Creation of Chinese Trade Linkages
Deborah Swenson (University of California, Davis)

China's Export Growth and the China Safeguard: Threats to the World Trading System
Chad Bown (Brandeis University) and Meredith Crowley (Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago)

China's Role as Engine and Conduit of Growth
Shaghil Ahmed. et. al. (Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System)

Das (Wasted) Kapital: Firm Ownership and Investment Efficiency in China
David Dollar (World Bank) and Shang-Jin Wei (IMF)

Measuring the Vertical Specialization in Chinese Trade
Judith Dean, K.C. Fung and Zhi Wang (U.S. International Trade Commission)

Is China Changing its Stripes? The Shifting Structure of China's External Trade and Its Implications
Li Cui and Murtaza Husain Syed (IMF)

History Lesson of the Day

"A physician in 1859 claimed that a quarter of all women suffered from hysteria, which is reasonable considering that one physician cataloged 75 pages of possible symptoms of hysteria and called the list incomplete[2]; almost any ailment could fit the diagnosis. Physicians thought that the stresses associated with modern life caused civilized women to be both more susceptible to nervous disorders and to develop faulty reproductive tracts.[3] In America, such disorders in women reaffirmed that the United States was on par with Europe; one American physician expressed pleasure that the country was ”catching up” to Europe in the prevalence of hysteria.[2]

Rachael P. Maines, author of The Technology of Orgasm: "Hysteria," the Vibrator, and Women's Sexual Satisfaction, has observed that such cases were quite profitable for physicians, since the patients were at no risk of death but needed constant treatment. The only problem was that physicians did not enjoy the tedious task of massage: The technique was difficult for a physician to master and could take hours to achieve "hysterical paroxysm." Referral to midwives, which had been common practice, meant a loss of business for the physician.[1]

A solution was the invention of massage devices, which shortened treatment from hours to minutes, removing the need for midwives and increasing a physician’s treatment capacity. Already at the turn of the century, hydrotherapy devices were available at Bath, and by the mid-19th century, they were popular at many high-profile bathing resorts across Europe and in America. By 1870, a clockwork-driven vibrator was available for physicians. In 1873, the first electromechanical vibrator was used at an asylum in France for the treatment of hysteria."

- Female hysteria

Excerpt From Chapter One: The Job Nobody Wanted, The Technology of Orgasm ;
In 1653 Pieter van Foreest, called Alemarianus Petrus Forestus, published a medical compendium titled Observationem et Curationem Medicinalium ac Chirurgicarum Opera Omnia, with a chapter on the diseases of women. For the affliction commonly called hysteria (literally, "womb disease") and known in his volume as praefocatio matricis or "suffocation of the mother," the physician advised as follows:

When these symptoms indicate, we think it necessary to ask a midwife to assist, so that she can massage the genitalia with one finger inside, using oil of lilies, musk root, crocus, or [something] similar. And in this way the afflicted woman can be aroused to the paroxysm. This kind of stimulation with the finger is recommended by Galen and Avicenna, among others, most especially for widows, those who live chaste lives, and female religious, as Gradus [Ferrari da Gradi] proposes; it is less often recommended for very young women, public women, or married women, for whom it is a better remedy to engage in intercourse with their spouses.

As Forestus suggests here, in the Western medical tradition genital massage to orgasm by a physician or midwife was a standard treatment for hysteria, an ailment considered common and chronic in women. Descriptions of this treatment appear in the Hippocratic corpus, the works of Celsus in the first century A.D., those of Aretaeus, Soranus, and Galen in the second century, that of Äetius and Moschion in the sixth century, the anonymous eighth- or ninth-century work Liber de Muliebria, the writings of Rhazes and Avicenna in the following century, of Ferrari da Gradi in the fifteenth century, of Paracelsus and Paré in the sixteenth, of Burton, Claudini, Harvey, Highmore, Rodrigues de Castro, Zacuto, and Horst in the seventeenth, of Mandeville, Boerhaave, and Cullen in the eighteenth, and in the works of numerous nineteenth-century authors including Pinel, Gall, Tripier, and Briquet. Given the ubiquity of these descriptions in the medical literature, it is surprising that the character and purpose of these massage treatments for hysteria and related disorders have received little attention from historians

Unbaptized babies can go to heaven

"According to a 41-page report released last week by the Roman Catholic Church’s International Theological Commission, limbo—a celestial middle ground between Heaven and Hell—is no longer necessary. That means that babies who die unbaptized are now free to go to heaven rather than being consigned to limbo, where for the last 800 years they’ve been forced to await the End of Days, unable to share in the beatific vision of God and Jesus Christ with their Roman Catholic brethren."

-Letting Go of Limbo

Jesus Tomb Part 1 and Part 2

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wolfowitz Update

Wolfowitz Escalates Battle to Stay at Bank;
Escalating his campaign to remain president of the World Bank, Paul D. Wolfowitz accused the bank’s board on Wednesday of treating him “shabbily and unfairly,” and appealed for more time to defend himself against allegations of favoritism and other matters.

Mr. Wolfowitz, increasingly isolated at the bank and facing a board seemingly determined to force his resignation, sent a letter to the head of a board panel dealing with issues affecting his leadership, asking to appear before the board next week in the interest of “fairness to me” and “good governance” at the bank.

The letter was described by people who had seen it.

Bank officials described many on the 24-member board as having been taken aback by the tough tone of the letter but said the board appeared likely to grant Mr. Wolfowitz at least some of his request, perhaps by allowing him to appear next week, though not necessarily with his newly hired lawyer, Robert S. Bennett....

But the board was described as puzzled and put off by Mr. Wolfowitz’s decision, disclosed this week, to bring in Mr. Bennett, who is known as a litigator but also as someone who can make a deal in situations that seem beyond compromise.

For example, as the lawyer for President Bill Clinton in the 1990s, he got a settlement of a lawsuit charging sexual misconduct brought by Paula Jones, a former Arkansas state employee.

He also negotiated a deal with a federal prosecutor last year leading to freedom for Judith Miller, a reporter for The New York Times who was jailed for refusing to testify in the investigation of a leak of the identify of Valerie Plame, a Central Intelligence Agency employee.

A top European official involved in setting bank policy said there could be a deal avoiding a censure of Mr. Wolfowitz but that it had to involve Mr. Wolfowitz leaving the bank.

World Bank to let Wolfowitz defend himself
World Bank Anti-Graft Group Urges Quick Decision on Wolfowitz ;
In their letter, the members of the Washington-based agency's Governance and Anticorruption Strategy group said the ``credibility of our front-line staff'' had been undermined by the controversy. They asked the board ``to resolve this crisis quickly in a way that demonstrates to all our stakeholders the bank's commitment to the highest standards of integrity."

Wolfowitz Seeks a Bodyguard

Podcast of a discussion about Wolfowitz with Patricia Adams
(Economist and author; Executive Director of Probe International)and Robert Calderisi
(a former senior official at the World Bank for 20 years; author).

King Wangchuck and the Mock Election

Only a very wise King would want to give up power and force democracy on his nation;

King Wangchuck—who warrants a special bow, with both hands raking the ground—had an impressive reign. At his accession, the average Bhutanese died at 40 after a life of uneased toil. Continuing a modernisation begun by his father, and underwritten by foreign aid, the king oversaw a transformation. Life expectancy for the 700,000 Bhutanese is now 64 years. The economy grew by 12% last year; GDP per person is reckoned to be $1,400—twice that of India. These are remarkable successes for a monarch committed to the pursuit, in his phrasing, of Gross National Happiness—a policy most constructively defined as favouring sustainable development over growth at any cost.

For most Bhutanese, King Wangchuck's imposition of democracy is therefore unwelcome. Only 125,000 people voted in the mock election, around 28% of the total eligible. Most turned out—in the elegant knee-length tunics and full-length dresses that Bhutanese must wear in public—because they were told the king wished it. Of the four fictitious parties they were asked to choose between, Druk (“Thunder Dragon”) Yellow, which stands for “culture and tradition” and bears the royal colour, won by a landslide. “It's too soon to bring democracy,” said Thinlay Dorjee, a businessman queuing to vote in Thimpu, a capital of finely-tiled roofs, monasteries and, by next year, the world's biggest statue, of the Buddha. “We should stay beneath our king who has given us so much.”...

Since 1998 Bhutan has been run by a council of royally approved ministers. Laws have been passed by a parliament whose members are either elected, or Buddhist clergy or picked by the king. Even after next year's election, the new king, Jigme Khesar Wangchuck, an Oxford-educated 27-year-old, will control the army and appoint key functionaries. The head of the new (genuine) main party, the People's Democratic Party, is his uncle. The king will be impeachable—with the support of two-thirds of an elected parliament—but this is currently unimaginable.

Young King Wangchuck and his clan will also keep a grip on the economy. Two more royal uncles head the country's two biggest conglomerates. Otherwise, the private sector is tiny. Growth is driven by state-owned hydroelectric power generation; the sale of surplus power to India accounts for 87.5% of Bhutan's exports. Last month saw the opening of an Indian-funded 1,020MW power station, more than tripling total generation. Yet this remains a small fraction of Bhutan's hydropower potential, estimated at 30,000MW. “We consider this our black gold,” says Karma Dorjee, the chief official in the trade and commerce ministry.

History Podcast of the Day- Greek and Roman Love Poetry

Greek and Roman love poetry - the source of many of the images and metaphors of love that have survived in literature through the centuries. We begin with the words of Sappho, known as the Tenth Muse and one of the great love poets of Ancient Greece:
“Love, bittersweet and inescapable, creeps up on me and grabs me once again”

Such heartfelt imploring by Sappho and other (mainly male) writers led poetry away from the great epics of Homer and towards a very personal expression of emotion. These outpourings would have been sung at intimate gatherings, accompanied by the lyre and plenty of wine. The style fell out of fashion only to be revived first in Alexandria in the third Century BC and again by the Roman poets starting in the 50s BC. Catullus and his peers developed the form, employing powerful metaphors of war and slavery to express their devotion to their Beloved – as well as the ill treatment they invariably received at her hands!

So why did Greek poetry move away from heroic narratives and turn to love in the 6th Century BC? How did the Romans transform the genre? And what effect did the sexual politics of the day have on the form?

Listen to the podcast from BBC.

The Great Convergence

Lecture Three of Reith Lectures by Jeffrey Sachs- The Great Convergence - now available for download;

"Global cooperation is at risk for three reasons. The most urgent is the ever-present threat and reality of war, born of the darker side of human nature. A second reason why cooperation fails is that in our interconnected world, the collapse of any single part of the world - even a place as isolated as Afghanistan - has implications for all of the world. Cooperation in an inter-connected world must therefore be comprehensive, something that our societies still do not appreciate or accept. We must care, and also act, in response to suffering in Sudan, or Yemen, or Gaza, or Papua New Guinea. A third reason for failure is sheer complexity. Our problems are now of global scale. The world is interconnected in unprecedented ways that require unprecedented strategies for global cooperation. Tonight I will focus on the first of these risks - the threat of war - leaving the challenges of failed and fragile states, and of global complexity, for later lectures.

Our gravest threat on the planet remains the threat of massive war. Our species is drawn to it like moths to a flame. We are not warlike by nature - that is far too simplistic - but we are vulnerable to the allure of war to solve problems. Half a trillion dollars later in Iraq, you might think that we would have been disabused. Yet even our home town press, the New York Times, recently (March 18, 2007) editorialized for a boost in the size of the standing army. This, indeed, would be a recipe doomed to fail. The military will not solve the problems that we face. Our money, training, and effort, can be much better invested elsewhere.

My worry is that we are gambling recklessly with a "2014" to match the year 1914. Let me explain. Nearly one hundred years ago, in 1914, the peace was sundered by the Guns of August, and the 20th century never quite recovered. World War I almost literally came out of nowhere, so much so that historians still debate why the war occurred. A happy march of soldiers to win each nation's honor within a few weeks turned into four years of mass carnage, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise of Hitler, the Holocaust, and more. Our war in Iraq, our threats to Iran, and even the growing anti-Chinese sentiments in the well of the US Senate all raise the stakes of a similar disaster on our generation's watch...

In President Bush's 2008 budget just submitted, military spending is $623 billion, more than all of the rest of the world combined, while aid to all of Africa is $4.5 billion. Inexplicably, Vice President Cheney accused the Chinese of a build-up of their military budget, though their military outlays are vastly lower than ours."

David Walker meets the Colbert Nation

David M. Walker, Comptroller General of the United States appeared on Colbert Report last Wednesday- highly recommended.

The Nation's Growing Fiscal Imbalance: Perspectives with David Walker

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

A Heavyweight Blog

Dani Rodrik is blogging.

The Mother of All Bills- US Farm Bill

"For the answer, you need look no farther than the farm bill. This resolutely unglamorous and head-hurtingly complicated piece of legislation, which comes around roughly every five years and is about to do so again, sets the rules for the American food system — indeed, to a considerable extent, for the world’s food system. Among other things, it determines which crops will be subsidized and which will not, and in the case of the carrot and the Twinkie, the farm bill as currently written offers a lot more support to the cake than to the root. Like most processed foods, the Twinkie is basically a clever arrangement of carbohydrates and fats teased out of corn, soybeans and wheat — three of the five commodity crops that the farm bill supports, to the tune of some $25 billion a year. (Rice and cotton are the others.) For the last several decades — indeed, for about as long as the American waistline has been ballooning — U.S. agricultural policy has been designed in such a way as to promote the overproduction of these five commodities, especially corn and soy.

That’s because the current farm bill helps commodity farmers by cutting them a check based on how many bushels they can grow, rather than, say, by supporting prices and limiting production, as farm bills once did. The result? A food system awash in added sugars (derived from corn) and added fats (derived mainly from soy), as well as dirt-cheap meat and milk (derived from both). By comparison, the farm bill does almost nothing to support farmers growing fresh produce. A result of these policy choices is on stark display in your supermarket, where the real price of fruits and vegetables between 1985 and 2000 increased by nearly 40 percent while the real price of soft drinks (a k a liquid corn) declined by 23 percent. The reason the least healthful calories in the supermarket are the cheapest is that those are the ones the farm bill encourages farmers to grow."
- You Are What You Grow

Hull-losses and Russian Planes

"Russia and other former Soviet states had the worst air-safety record in 2006, according to the International Air Transport Association's annual safety report. This measures “hull-losses” (accidents resulting in write-offs) for both passenger and cargo aircraft. While the world average was one accident in 1.5m flights, the former Soviet region had over 12 times as many. In contrast, some regions, such as north Asia, were accident-free. Reassuringly for the holiday-maker, cargo aircraft account for 24% of accidents but only 4% of departures. Overall, the total number of accidents fell to 77 from 111 in 2005." - From The Economist

Photo of the Day- Laundry Time

"At a laundry pool grimy with sewer runoff, laborers from the state of Andhra Pradesh make ten cents per piece of clothing'- National Geographic

Been Travelling

Posting will be lite as I will be travelling a bit in the coming days.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Advice for Applying to Grad School in Economics

Advice from Susan Athey, the winner of The John Bates Clark Medal, on choosing classes;

-Graduate schools care much more about what hard classes you've taken and how you've done in them than about overall GPA.

-If you have taken difficult classes its probably a good idea to point this out in your application essay because schools might not know what the math classes are, which economics classes are the advanced ones, etc. ?

-Real analysis is an especially important class because it tends to be demanding everywhere, and forces you to do logical and formal proofs. Get a good grade in this class.

-Taking some graduate classes can be a good thing, but be prepared. You will be at a disadvantage since the grad students will all have study groups. Try to join a study group and devote serious time to any graduate classes you take. More and more applicants are taking graduate classes.

-Students from top universities who have the bare minimum coursework (an undergraduate major, no graduate economics or math classes, and only basic undergraduate math classes) will need something really outstanding -- like a thesis that is publishable in a top economics field journal--to get fellowships at the top two or three graduate programs. Typically the strongest applicants have some distinguishing feature, like scoring near the top of a graduate class at a top PhD program, very strong math (e.g. graduate level real analysis and topology), or an outstanding thesis or coauthored research.

-Undergraduate classes at most U.S. universities are much easier than graduate classes. To be a strong applicant you should be getting mostly or all As in undergraduate economics classes--with grade inflation even A-'s are not going to help you. Some poor grades your freshman year won't disqualify you though, doing really well in very advanced classes will more than compensate

Jakarta Islam

A profile of Abdurrahman Wahid;

Suppose for a moment that the single most influential religious leader in the Muslim world openly says "I am for Israel." Suppose he believes not only in democracy but in the liberalism of America's founding fathers. Suppose that, unlike so many self-described moderate Muslims who say one thing in English and another in their native language, his message never alters. Suppose this, and you might feel as if you've descended into Neocon Neverland.

In fact, you have arrived in Jakarta and are sitting in the small office of an almost totally blind man of 66 named Abdurrahman Wahid. A former president of Indonesia, he is the spiritual leader of the Nahdlatul Ulama (NU), an Islamic organization of some 40 million members. Indonesians know him universally as Gus Dur, a title of affection and respect for this descendant of Javanese kings. In the U.S. and Europe he is barely spoken of at all--which is both odd and unfortunate, seeing as he is easily the most important ally the West has in the ideological struggle against Islamic radicalism.

Conversation begins with some old memories. In the early 1960s, Mr. Wahid, whose paternal grandfather founded the NU in 1926 and whose father was Indonesia's first minister of religious affairs, won a scholarship to Al-Azhar University in Cairo, which for 1,000 years had been Sunni Islam's premier institution of higher learning. Mr. Wahid hated it.

"These old sheikhs only let me study Islam's traditional surras in the old way, which was rote memorization," he recalls, speaking in the excellent English he learned as a young man listening to the BBC and Voice of America. "Before long I was fed up. So I spent my time reading books from the USIS [United States Information Service], the Egyptian National Library, and at the cinema. I used to watch three, four movies a day."

As Mr. Wahid saw it, the basic problem with Al-Azhar was that the state interfered in its affairs and demanded intellectual conformity--a lesson he carries with him to the present day. In 1966 he left Cairo for Baghdad University, where he encountered much the same thing: "The teaching [suffered from] conventionalism. You were not allowed to go your own way."

Here Mr. Wahid digresses into Islamic history. "In the second century of Islam, the Imam al-Shafi'i began remodeling the religion," he says. "He put into place the mechanism of understanding everything through law [Shariah]. Now people can't talk about that anymore. We cannot attack al-Shafi'i."

The point is crucial to Mr. Wahid's understanding of Islam as being something broader, deeper and better than the tradition-bound view of life imposed by traditional schools of Islamic law (all the more striking because Mr. Wahid is himself a leading theologian of the Shafi'i school). It is equally crucial to Mr. Wahid's politics, not to mention his relaxed approach to social issues.

"The globalization of ethics is always frightening to people, particularly Islamic radicals," he says in reference to a question about the so-called pornoaksi legislation. For the past three years Indonesian politics have been roiled by an Islamist attempt to label anything they deem sexually arousing to be a form of "porno-action." Mr. Wahid sees this as an assault on pancasila, Indonesia's secularist state philosophy from the time of its founding. He also sees it as an assault on common sense. "Young people like to kiss each other," he says, throwing his hands in the air. "Why not? Just because old people don't do it doesn't mean it's wrong."

Mr. Wahid is equally relaxed about some of the controversies that have recently erupted between Muslims and the West. Pope Benedict's Regensburg speech from last September was "a good speech, though as usual he pointed to the wrong times and the wrong cases." As for the furor over the Danish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammad, he asks "why should we be angry?" And he dismisses Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, the al-Jazeera preacher who helped incite the cartoon riots, as an "angry, conventional" thinker.

What really concerns Mr. Wahid is what he sees as the increasingly degraded state of the Muslim mind. That problem is becoming especially acute at Indonesian universities and in the pesantren--the religious boarding schools that graduate hundreds of thousands of students every year. "We are experiencing the shallowing of religion," he says, bemoaning the fact that the boarding schools persist in teaching "conventional"--that word again--Islam.

But Mr. Wahid's critique is not just of formal Islamic education. He also attacks the West's philosophy of positivism, which, he says, "relies too much on the idea of conquering knowledge and mastering scientific principles alone." This purely empirical and essentially soulless view of things, broadly adopted by Indonesia's secular state universities, gives its students a bleak choice: "Either they follow the process or they are outside the process."

As a result, Western-style education in Indonesia has come to represent not just secularism but the negation of religion, to which too many students have responded by embracing fundamentalism. At the University of Indonesia, for example, an estimated three in four students are members or sympathizers of the "Prosperous Justice Party," or PKS, an ultra-radical Islamic party.

Reaction to Osama bin Laden's worst nightmare

Public Choice Outreach Conference

If you go to one workshop this year, be it this one- Public Choice Outreach Conference at GMU. May 14th is the deadline- very highly recommeded;

What will I learn?
Students will be introduced to the history and basic tools of public choice analysis, such as models of voting and elections, and models of government and legislative organization. Students will also learn to apply public choice theory to a wide range of relevant issues. Finally, students will be introduced to "constitutional economics" and the economics of rule making.

Center for Study of Public Choice 2006 Outreach Conference
Learn Public Choice
Summer Institute for the History of Economics

Scholarships for Muslims

Islamic Development Bank offers some scholarships in the field of science and
technology- thought might be of interest to some of our Muslim readers;

Scholarship Programme for Muslim Communities in Non-Member Countries

Merit Scholarship Programme for High Technology

MSc Scholarship Programme in Science and Technology for IDB Least Developed Member Countries

I don't have a clue why their focus is only on science and technology, not on economics or finance.

IDB Prize in Islamic Economics

The annual prize from Islamic Development Bank for achievements in Islamic Economics has been awarded;

Prof. Abdus Salam Al Abadi of Jordan, has been awarded the IDB Prize in Islamic economics for the year 1427H (2006)., in recognition of his outstanding efforts in this field. The Prize will be presented to the winner during the 32nd Annual Meeting of the IDB Board of Governors, which is to be held in Dakar, Senegal, on May 29-30...

"Prof. Abdus Salam Al Abadi exerted distinctive and continuous efforts in promoting Islamic economics besides his efforts in Islamic Da'wah and public services. His research output in the field of Islamic economics is impressive and diversified in addition to his academic contribution, especially, his book on the ownership in Islamic Shari'ah which is considered one of the best sources on the subject, the citation said.

I don't get any Google hits on the person.

May be El-Gamal at Islam and Economics blog might be able to help.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Survival in the Anthropocene

Podcast of the day- second lecture of Jeffery Sachs in the Reith Lecture series;

"I called my lecture today 'The Anthropocene' - a term that is spectacularly vivid, a term invented by one of the great scientists of our age, Paul Crutzen, to signify the fact that human beings for the first time have taken hold not only of the economy and of population dynamics, but of the planet's physical systems, Anthropocene meaning human created era of Earth's history. The geologists call our time the holocene --the period of the last thirteen thousand years or so since the last Ice Age -- but Crutzen wisely and perhaps shockingly noted that the last two hundred years are really a unique era, not only in human history but in the Earth's physical history as well. The Anthropocene is the period when human activity has overtaken vast parts of the natural cycles on the planet, and has done so in ways that disrupt those cycles and fundamentally threaten us in the years ahead..."

Videos for World Bankers

Where is Paul Wolfowitz? – Daily Show

Alpha Dog of the Week- Colbert Report

Bush says he has ‘full confidence’ in World Bank president despite scandal

Wolfowitz Backed Friend for Iraq Contract in ’03 ;
The meeting of the board was called by the panel’s most senior member, Eckhardt Deutscher, of Germany. There was no sign of what the board would do, but Mr. Deutscher gave a speech on Thursday to a German foundation offering a strong though oblique criticism of Mr. Wolfowitz.

“The World Bank needs a strong leadership with compassion, integrity and vision,” Mr. Deutscher said in the speech, to the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. “The governance structures need a fundamental reform. And lastly, the World Bank needs credibility, credibility, credibility.”

It's not about Wolfie's girlfriend

Banker Says He’ll Smooth His Style, but Waters Are Choppy

Hungry like the Wolfowitz

Why was Riza sent to Iraq?

The Wolfowitz non-story;
Why the World Bank chief and his girlfriend are victims of scandal peddlers, not their own judgment

Will there be life after Wolfowitz?

More coverage at Whistleblower blog

Capacity Day 2007

World Bank conference on capacity building- Capacity Day 2007.

Here's a link to the background papers-some of them listed below.

“Developing leaders? Developing countries?” Henry Mintzberg. Development in Practice, Volume 16, Number 1, February 2006.

Leadership and Reform: A nonlinear process, Manuel Hinds, April 2007

Leading through Conflict: How Successful Leaders Transform Differences into Opportunities , Mark Gerzon, Harvard Business School Press, 2006. Gerzon calls the philosophy "Mediator" leadership, and he claims it's the "emerging leadership archetype of our era."

"Portrait of a Leader; Fundamental qualities for effecting change." Gabriel Sékaly. Public Sector Management Newsletter, Vol 17, Issue 3, 2006.

Systems Citizenship: the Leadership Mandate for this Millennium,” Peter Senge (for Leader of the Future II), February 28, 2006

World Development Report 2007: Development and the Next Generation

'You shouldn’t just think of the here and now, but also of the there and then;' An interview with Herman Wijffels.” Harry Kunneman & Henk Manschot.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Celebrating Economic Reforms in Egypt

A very interesting presentation by Egyptian Finance Minister at Cato talking about economic reform in Egypt. Some comments on the discussion;

1- Talking about debt to GDP ratios and statistical issues in general he commented, ‘You need to know your way in Egyptian institutions to be able to get calculations right’- I find this a very lamentable issue that one needs to know around Egyptian bureaucracies to get your economic statistics right.

2- Should we wait for a critical mass of reformers to develop to reap the benefit of reforms?

3- I thought his comments on how to make reforms irreversible insightful- a major challenge in the developing world.

4- I find it unacceptable his justification for sitting in the parliament and seeing no conflict of interest as a cabinet minister

5- Would economic liberalization bring in democracy to the Arabs?

6. In the Q&A session, talks about a wide range issues including pension reforms, PPPs, role of democracy, etc.

Listen to this podcast- very highly recommended.

How to Reform the Business Environment
Why Do Economies Grow?
Reformers’ Club

Womenomics and Opportunity Costs

"A report this week by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific concludes that sex discrimination costs the region $42 billion-47 billion a year by restricting women's job opportunities. A gap of 30-40 percentage points between men's and women's workforce participation rates is common. The poor state of girls' education costs a further $16 billion-30 billion. And those are just the economic costs, before violence against women and access to health care are counted."
-Womenomics revisited

Poverty Statistics

"According to the World Bank, the number of people living on less than $1 a day fell in 2004 to 986m, or 18.4% of the population of developing countries. There were also fewer people on less than $2 a day, but still 2.6 billion, or almost half the developing world's population. The bank says that annual average growth of 3.9% in GDP per person since 2000 has helped cut poverty rates in all developing regions. The most striking reduction in extreme poverty has been in China, where 374m people (33% of the population) were on less than $1 a day in 1990. By 2004 the figure was 128m (9.9%). In sub-Saharan Africa the extreme poverty rate fell only from 46.7% to 41.1%—and the number of poor rose, from 240m to 298m"- The Economist

Private Sector Health Projects Database

A useful database on private sector participation in health.

I checked South Asia- a problem with such databases is that there is no systematic updates happening once it's started like this Infrastructure Contracts & Licenses Database from World Bank.

Ask your questions to

Queen Rania

Jeffrey Sachs

Podcast of the Day- Symmetry

The Greek philosopher Aristotle described symmetry as one of the greatest forms of beauty to be found in the mathematical sciences, while the French poet Paul Valery went further, declaring; “The universe is built on a plan, the profound symmetry of which is somehow present in the inner structure of our intellect”.

The story of symmetry tracks an extraordinary shift from its role as an aesthetic model - found in the tiles in the Alhambra and Bach's compositions - to becoming a key tool to understanding how the physical world works. It provides a major breakthrough in mathematics with the development of group theory in the 19th century. And it is the unexpected breakdown of symmetry at sub-atomic level that is so tantalising for contemporary quantum physicists.

So why is symmetry so prevalent and appealing in both art and nature? How does symmetry enable us to grapple with monstrous numbers? And how might symmetry contribute to the elusive Theory of Everything?

Listen to the podcast from BBC.

This and That

In Hong Kong, diners fined for leaving leftovers;
At one restaurant, customers are charged 64 cents per ounce for food left on their plates.

Computer Scientists' Analysis Of Venezuelan Election Does Not Substantiate Fraud Claims
An analysis of polling data from the Aug. 15 referendum in Venezuela to recall President Hugo Chávez indicates that certain forms of computer fraud were unlikely to have occurred during the electronic voting process, according to a study by computer science researchers from Johns Hopkins and Princeton universities.

Banker Says He’ll Smooth His Style, but Waters Are Choppy ;
According to several bank officials who talked to people who were at the meeting, one of Mr. Wolfowitz’s two senior deputies in charge of running the bank, Graeme Wheeler, a former senior Finance Ministry official from New Zealand, said Mr. Wolfowitz needed to step down as president for the good of the bank.

Two Years Ago Bruce Bartlett Wrote About Paul Wolfowitz

The Origins of State Capacity: Property Rights, Taxation, and Politics

The Advisers Are Writing Our Future;
The truth is that if you put the economic advisers, from both parties, in a room and told them to hammer out solutions to the country’s big economic problems, they would find a lot of common ground. They could agree that doctors and patients need better incentives to choose effective medical care. They would probably hit upon education policies along similar lines, requiring that schools be held more accountable for what their students are, and are not, learning. They might suggest a carbon tax — a favorite idea of Mr. Mankiw — to deal with global warming. And they would shore up Social Security by reducing benefits for high earners, as Mr. Hubbard has suggested.

Addressing Climate Change-Is there a role to be played by the IMF?;
Global climate change has moved high on the agenda of key policy makers in many industrial countries. As a “global public good,” a coordinated global response in terms of efforts at mitigation will be critically necessary. Equally, many countries will face serious economic harm in the absence of adaptation efforts. As one of the key global institutions with responsibility for global economic stability and growth, this paper argues that climate change should be on the economic surveillance agenda of the International Monetary Fund, with the focus principally on the macroeconomic implications. While the IMF’s role would be necessarily limited, the paper raises questions about the adequacy of the financing and organization of current global coordination mechanisms to address climate change.

In the Real World of Work and Wages, Trickle-Down Theories Don’t Hold Up

Matrimony Has Its Benefits, and Divorce Has a Lot to Do With That - Tyler Cowan
Divorce seems an unusual topic for economists, but decisions to end a marriage weigh costs and benefits and thus reflect economic reasoning. Justin Wolfers and Betsey Stevenson, both assistant professors of economics at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, have led the creation of new studies, which are surveyed in their working paper “Marriage and Divorce: Changes and Their Driving Forces.”

Harvard’s Former Lightning Rod Is a Hit in Asia;
But in Asia, Mr. Summers appears to be the man of the hour. His views on the importance of Asia’s growth, the challenges of globalization and the danger of the United States’ huge trade deficit are widely promoted by policy makers and economists. He is eagerly solicited for lectures and keynote speeches, where his characteristically unvarnished opinions creep into discussions of fiscal policy.

On Tuesday, Mr. Summers spoke to an audience that overflowed a ballroom at the Taj Mahal Hotel in New Delhi, telling hundreds of economists, government officials and business executives that most of the action on global warming needed to “take place in the developing world.”

Eastern Europe Becomes a Center for Outsourcing ;
To be sure, Eastern Europe, with an outsourcing business estimated at about $2 billion this year, represents just a fraction of the global outsourcing market, estimated this year at nearly $386 billion. But Robert H. Brown, an outsourcing analyst at Gartner Dataquest, expects growth in Eastern Europe to outstrip the rest of the market in the next four years, expanding close to 30 percent by 2010, compared with 25 percent for the global market

No-Fishing Zones in Tropics Yield Fast Payoffs for Reefs ;
The Micronesia Challenge has resonated far beyond Micronesia. Five months after Mr. Remengesau issued it, President Susilo Bangbang Yudhoyono of Indonesia pledged to increase marine protected areas to 24.7 million acres from 18 million acres by 2010. In the Antilles, the states of Grenada, the Bahamas, Belize and the Grenadines, which have already protected some reef areas, have committed themselves to a Caribbean Challenge and are trying to persuade the other nations to make similar pledges, according to Bill Raynor, the Nature Conservancy’s director for Micronesia.

But in the United States, marine protected areas are less than 1 percent of near-shore waters. In Hawaii, where the reefs are largely depleted of fish, a “right to fish” bill recently approved by the state house of representatives would make it almost impossible to create any protected areas by requiring unattainable scientific data

What Environment Do We Owe Our Descendents?

For a Change, Good News on Dating

Mel Gibson and Social Category Bias

Kremlin justice in the U.S.

For Consumers, the Raw Deal

The power of prices

Reviewing Landsburg's Errors

Find the error

Maybe Only God Can Make a Tree, but Only People Can Put a Price on It

Jesus tomb film scholars backtrack

What a lawyer means by "fact", "conclusion" and "opinion"

Prudence is knowing that not all swans are white

Sanjaya’s Surprise: Behind the ‘Idol’ Vote

Counting Clicks on the Web

Carnival of Mathematics 5

Winning 'triggers fan aggression'

The psychopathology of the modern American corporate leader

One for All

Pas de Deux of Sexuality Is Written in the Genes

When a Brain Forgets Where Memory Is

The Coming (?) US Current Account Adjustment: Two Questions Inspired by Two Graphs