Wednesday, January 26, 2011
And some people thought that "pianist congressmen and congresswomen" existed only in places like Brazil. To be fair to Brazil, there the misdeed at least led to a big public scandal, a public statement of misconduct by the Congress, and a change of the voting system (which now reads fingerprints).
One important economic lesson here is that, as it's well known among economists, ethical integrity of politicians is not among the strongest factors explaining developmental differences across countries, independently of the popularity of the notion.
Enjoy the representatives' ballet!
Sunday, January 23, 2011
I've made a point of asking in the past why, if income redistribution is an unqualified good, we don't pay for state provided health insurance for poor Africans or Indians. Nobody ever has given me a good answer that doesn't ultimately reduce to nationalism.This may indeed be true when it comes to most nationalists and socialists that I know.
I think part of the reason that nobody will ever admit to being an adherent of this ideology is because the natural label for it is none other than national socialism.
I believe however that I can make a quasi-libertarian case for some amount of conditional redistribution in open societies not based on nativist criteria. To that, redistribution is qualified by commitment to the values of open societies. Societal participation, contribution and access to benefits is conditional on the support of those values. Immigration is open, but only to the extent that there's commitment to these values -- which has to be shown in part by "moving in".
The idea is that open societies shouldn't be in the business of supporting individuals that are committed to the values of closed societies. They should allow however individuals that are committed to the values of open societies to immigrate. Obviously, open societies could and probably should support one another.
Now, this argument poses a few practical problems of its own. How do you measure an individual's level of commitment to the values of an open society? Isn't this intrusive? Should individuals that aren't committed be exiled from open societies? Would such possibly draconian rules be compatible with the values of open societies themselves? BTW, what are the values of open societies?
Up to a certain extent, modern open societies try yet to guide their policies, even if in a somewhat awkward fashion, by this principle. They would probably do better however if they would acknowledge it more explicitly.
Saturday, January 22, 2011
Monday, January 17, 2011
As an ideology it's a relatively recent phenomenon, so we may only now be observing the broader consequences of the institutionalization efforts of the last 20 years. Examples abound; the ethnically motivated but factually ludicrous Batman French sidekick called Nightrunner is an interesting one.
PC in rich countries renders measures of freedom according to restrictive economic standards irrelevant. The Heritage Foundation's Index of Economic Freedom for example ranks Canada in 2011 as the 6th most free country in the world, above the US and much above France. Yet, the song "Money for Nothing" by Dire Straits has been banned from the airwaves in Canada. Here's what has happened according to the Washington Times:
Formally, the CBSC isn't a government body, but does it really matter? In practice, it has the same powers of censorship of government, and operates under the auspices of government.
The Dire Straits song "Money for Nothing" was ruled by the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to be "extremely offensive" and thus inappropriate for airing on radio or television because it uses an anti-gay slur...
Though the decision does not bind Canadian record stores, Canada has broad human-rights policies and tribunals that may give the broadcasting decision probative value.
So who wins the day, Dire Straits or Canada? Between great music and political idiocy, it's an easy pick: I choose great music. So, here's to the CBSC: enjoy Dire Straits!
Saturday, January 15, 2011
Some economists argue that efforts to reduce government spending as a share of GDP have adverse effects on unemployment. This is not what the data show. There is no indication that lower government purchases increase unemployment; in fact we see the opposite. In sharp contrast, the data on spending shares show that the most effective way to reduce unemployment is to raise investment as a share of GDP.Not convinced? A picture (or two) is worth a thousand words (US data, 1990 to 2010):
Thursday, January 13, 2011
If this is the case, the negative effects of the demographic transition may prove to be much more worrisome than previously acknowledged by economists, not restricting themselves to retirement and other benefits to elders.
It's interesting to notice that these problems aren't confined to rich countries. Brazilian economist Jorge Arbache, a colleague of mine, has written articles in which he alerts for the fact that the same demographic phenomenon is happening in China and won't take long to happen in Brazil, even though these countries are yet very far from having reached the status of developed countries.