Friday, September 30, 2011

Posner on Government Workforce Size

Posner busts some myths regarding the size of government workforce in developed countries:
The percentage of public employees in the workforces of these [advanced] countries ranges from 6.35 percent in Singapore to 33.87 percent in Sweden. Indeed the three lowest countries, and the only ones with fewer than 10 percent public employees, are Japan, Singapore, and Taiwan. The highest countries after Sweden are Denmark (32.3 percent) and Norway (29.25 percent)... The United States is in approximately the middle, with 16.42 percent. Surprisingly, it is well ahead of Israel, Spain, Italy, Germany, France, and Portugal. The European countries with the lowest percentage of public workers are the Netherlands and Austria, but Portugal is only slightly above the Netherlands.
Many get this information wrong because they tend to associate government workforce with bureaucracy and bureaucracy with GDP share of government spending. These dimensions may correlate but the correlation is far from perfect, among other reasons, due to different levels of government transfers in each economy.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Time to Kill the Hellenistic Myth

Essential article by Guy Sorman on the origins of the modern Greek state. He explains:
It all began with the Romantics, when Chateaubriand, great writer yet also wonderful fibber, then Lord Byron, thought they could retrieve in Greece the sources of occidental civilization. A misunderstanding for which we are now paying the price: if it is true that the Greek live on the same land as Aristotle and Pericles, there is no great continuation between the Hellenic civilization and modern Greece. The Byzantium line, from which modern Greeks proclaim they descend from, is a weak one. Mark Twain was more realistic: when visiting Athens in 1865, he admitted he had only met a few shepherds, whose sheep were grazing amid the ramshackle columns of the Parthenon. Those Greeks, actually, were a Christian tribe among others in the Ottoman Empire. Yet just as Don Quichotte dreamt that an ugly peasant girl was the love of his life, Europeans wanted all Greeks to be Hellenics. We cannot blame the Greeks for taking advantage of the situation: throughout the whole 19th century, the Greek state‘s finances were supported by the British, the French and the German.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

No Mr. President, Technology Doesn't Cause Mass Unemployment

And so we discover that the American President is a Luddite:

But President Obama also spreads disinformation according to Market Watch:

Republicans have mocked President Barack Obama for suggesting that more jobs might be available if not for the increasing use of machines such as bank ATMs. But does the president make a legitimate point?

By and large, economists and executives say no.

For one thing, there are actually more bank tellers in the U.S. now than there were five, 15 or even 25 years ago, when ATMs first became widely available. Except for a small drop after the recent recession, the number of tellers has risen gradually for the past century.