2008 July 31 Thursday
East Asian Bond Purchases Seen As Cause Of US Trade Deficit

A lecture by Financial Times writer Martin Wolf in 2005 entitled "Will Asian Mercantilism Meet its Waterloo?" correctly called attention to Asian purchases of US debt as the cause of the massive US trade deficit and the housing bubble.

Thus, the job of sustaining demand in the context of the huge drain on demand of the current account deficit shifted from the private sector to the government sector. If the US government had not gone so massively into deficit, what would have happened? Either a big recession, which would have reduced the current account deficit somewhat, or a still more aggressive monetary policy. Fed Funds might well have hit zero, as the Federal Reserve tried to sustain a huge private sector financial deficit in the post-bubble era.

The widely held view that the fiscal deficit is causing the current account deficit is, therefore, the wrong way round. It is much closer to the truth to say that the current account deficit is causing the fiscal deficit.

It is equally wrong to argue that the current account deficit is merely the consequence of relatively fast US growth. It is rather the consequence of relatively fast demand growth, in relation to supply, itself a function of the overall real exchange rate — or, to put the point in less technical terms — of US (un)competitiveness.

This story can be told in the following way: US demand has had to grow faster than potential GDP to accommodate foreign lending. Technically, at the real exchange rate of the dollar created by the policies of the rest of the world, US demand has had to grow faster than potential output, if actual output is to grow in line with potential output. And that is again precisely what has happened. From 1997 to 2003, inclusive, real demand grew faster than GDP in every year, except 2001, the year of the slowdown. Cumulatively, the difference was more than 4 per cent of GDP. The price that had to be paid was policies that promoted what may well prove to be a housing bubble, after the earlier stock market bubble.

We had a massive misallocation of capital, huge US government deficits, and a housing bubble so that the Chinese could build up large foreign reserves and grow their factories.

We live in a world of manipulated currencies and mercantilistic countries competing with countries which have lower barriers to trade. When the Doha trade talks finally collapsed recently a major reason was that the Chinese leaders decided that protecting their farmers was more important than a new world trade agreement.

After nine consecutive days of high-level talks, discussions reached an impasse when the United States, India and China refused to compromise over measures to protect farmers in developing countries from greater liberalization of trade.

Supporters of the so-called Doha round of talks, which began in 2001, say a deal would have been a bulwark against protectionist sentiments that are likely to spread as economic growth falters in much of the world.

Peak Oil is going to cause major economic contraction. Will this strengthen trade barriers?

By Randall Parker 2008 July 31 11:53 PM  Economics Trade
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2008 July 30 Wednesday
Big Decline Seen In US Illegal Alien Population

Our rabble rousing demands for tougher immigration law enforcement have begun to pay off in a big way. A new study by Steven A. Camarota and Karen Jensenius at the Center for Immigration Studies finds that the illegal immigrant population is down by 1.3 million since an August 2007 peak and that tougher enforcement of immigration laws is a substantial cause of the decline.

Monthly data collected by the Census Bureau through May 2008 shows a significant decline in the number of less-educated, young Hispanic immigrants in the country. The evidence indicates that the illegal immigrant population may have declined by over one million in the last year. There are strong indications immigration enforcement is responsible for at least part of the decline. The economy also is likely playing a role.

Among the findings:

  • Our best estimate is that the illegal immigrant population has declined by 11 percent through May 2008 after hitting a peak in August 2007.
  • The implied decline in the illegal population is 1.3 million since last summer, from 12.5 million to 11.2 million today.
  • The estimated decline of the illegal population is at least seven times larger than the number of illegal aliens removed by the government in the last 10 months, so most of the decline is due to illegal immigrants leaving the country on their own.
  • One indication that stepped-up enforcement is responsible for the decline is that only the illegal immigrant population seems to be affected; the legal immigrant population continues to grow.
  • Another indication enforcement is causing the decline is that the illegal immigrant population began falling before there was a significant rise in their unemployment rate.
  • The importance of enforcement is also suggested by the fact that the current decline is already significantly larger than the decline during the last recession, and officially the country has not yet entered a recession.
  • While the decline began before unemployment rose, the evidence indicates that unemployment has increased among illegal immigrants, so the economic slow-down is likely to be at least partly responsible for the decline in the number of illegal immigrants.
  • There is good evidence that the illegal population grew last summer while Congress was considering legalizing illegal immigrants. When that legislation failed to pass, the illegal population began to fall almost immediately.
  • If the decline were sustained, it would reduce the illegal population by one-half in the next five years.

We need to wage another political battle in 2009 to prevent President Barack Obama from getting the chance to sign an immigration amnesty bill. We scared Congress out of going through with an amnesty in its last 2 attempts. I think we have better than 50:50 chances of stopping it in the next round. If we stop the next illegal immigrant amnesty attempt then we will be able to force continued tough immigration law enforcement and continued decline in the illegal immigrant population.

The next thing we need to move on is to put a stop to chain migration where people keep bringing over relatives from extended families.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 30 11:05 PM  Immigration Demographics
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2008 July 29 Tuesday
Costly Energy Brings Prius Price Rise

Toyota dealers are offering to buy back several month old Priuses for what people originally paid for them.

“I look at the data a lot and it's very rare -- I've almost never seen this -- to see the transaction price of a new vehicle rise after it has been sold," says Tom Libby of J.D. Power & Associates. "It speaks to the huge imbalance between supply and demand of the Prius."

Libby says the average price of a new 2008 Prius sold last month -- to those relative few who could get their hands on one -- was $26,672. With Toyota unable to meet demand, the price of used 2008 models with about 8,000 miles on them was almost $1,300 more than retail at $27,945. Even more impressive, used 2007 models have been fetching an average of $26,396. That's just $276 less than new 2008 vehicles.

Toyota will bring a new Prius factory online in 2010.

I've been watching used car prices for over a year on AutoTrader.com and watched various used small cars go up in price. Used Ford Focuses have definitely gone up for example. These high prices will ease as a lot of factories get shifted over toward making smaller cars. Also the smaller cars will become more fuel efficient. You can already see this trend in the last few years. Go to FuelEconomy.gov and compare a 2006 Ford Focus with a 2008 Focus. Ford found ways to boost its fuel efficiency a few miles per gallon. Ford did the same with the Ford 500 when they renamed it the Taurus (while improving acceleration at the same time). Better transmissions with dual clutch and more gears, direct injection, and other techniques can boost fuel efficiency.

More coming improvements in fuel efficiency will eventually cut down the value of the used small cars that do not possess these advantages.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 29 11:24 PM  Economics Energy
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2008 July 28 Monday
US Deficit Headed For Half Trillion Dollars

Neither political party is proposing spending cuts to bring the US government back within its means. This party can't last forever. Big deficit. But party while we can.

WASHINGTON — The White House predicted Monday that President Bush would leave a record $482 billion deficit to his successor, a sobering turnabout in the nation’s fiscal condition from 2001, when Mr. Bush took office after three consecutive years of budget surpluses.

I've previously posted that Barack Obama is going to be heavily constrained from enacting new spending programs because he's going to be faced with huge fiscal problems. Baby boomers retiring, Peak Oil, and other problems come due on his watch. Hard to enact nationalized health care under these circumstances.

We could be (and probably are) headed for an even larger deficit.

The worst may be yet to come. The deficit announced by Jim Nussle, the White House budget director, does not reflect the full cost of military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, the potential $50 billion cost of another economic stimulus package, or the possibility of steeper losses in tax revenues if individual income or corporate profits decline.

The new deficit numbers also do not account for any drains on the national treasury that might result from further declines in the housing market.

Are we having fun yet? I say deport the illegal aliens as a way to cut back on costs of health care, welfare, education, and other social programs. Pull out of Iraq for a $150 billion or so a year savings. Raise retirement age eligibilities.

Obama does not want to say what he's going to do about this problem. He will say that he'll spend more on health care. Of course, that increase will come on top of increases for swelling ranks of retirees getting expensive Medicare.

WASHINGTON — The projected record federal-budget deficit of $482 billion will severely limit the next president’s ability to cut taxes and pay for pet programs, yet Barack Obama and John McCain are offering few specific ways to deal with it.

The new president will take office four months into a fiscal year whose deficit is likely to shatter the current record of $413 billion, set in 2004, the White House said Monday.

McCain has pledged to balance the budget by 2013, while Obama has no timeline. Both candidates pledge to keep most taxes low while revamping the country’s healthcare system and strengthening its military.

Suppose the East Asians decide to stop buying US Treasury bonds and opt instead to let their currencies rise against the dollar. The deficit could become ridiculously high as US federal, state, and local governments would then have to pay far higher interest rates for the money they borrow.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 28 11:42 PM  Economics Government Costs
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Obama Favors Racial Quotas

Barack Obama has come out against state ballot measures that seek to abolish racial quotas (which have the politically correct name of "affirmative action").

Connerly, who led the successful 1996 campaign for Proposition 209, authored by Tom Wood and Glynn Custred, and a similarly victorious initiative in 2000 in Washington, will likely have anti-racial preference initiatives on the ballot in three states this November: Colorado, Nebraska, and John McCain's own Arizona.

Obama opposes Connerly’s initiatives. This year, Obama's spokeswoman explained:

"Sen. Obama believes in a country in which opportunity is available to all Americans, regardless of their race, gender or economic status. That’s why he opposes these ballot initiatives, which would roll back opportunity for millions of Americans and cripple efforts to break down historic barriers to the progress of qualified women and minorities."

Somehow, "regardless of their race" winds up meaning, in Obama-speak, "regardful of their race."

When asked whether his daughters should benefit from affirmative action, Obama routinely makes a head fake in the direction of supporting adding class-based preferences to the mix.

But he's not serious about this.

Steve Sailer points out that John McCain could put some distance between himself and Obama and win support by coming out in favor of these ballot measures. McCain told journalists he at least is open to considering these measures once he knows more of their details. Obama responded by saying that any effort to support these measures would be "divisive". He's using "divisive" in a pejorative sense. What does this tell us about Obama? Well, let us consider the dictionary definition of divisive.

Divisive \Di*vi"sive\, a. [Cf. F. divisif.]
1. Indicating division or distribution. --Mede.
2. Creating, or tending to create, division, separation, or difference.
It [culture] is after all a dainty and divisive quality, and can not reach to the depths of humanity. --J. C. Shairp. -- Di*vi"sive*ly, adv. -- Di*vi"sive*ness, n.

Now wait a minute. How can we have the diversity that Obama celebrates without having differences? Also, what is wrong with differences in opinion where people differ from Obama? Is Obama saying that disagreements are bad? He seems to be. He's basically arguing that people who disagree with him and his supporters should change their views to mirror his rather than he and his supporters changing to agree with their opponents.

In a nutshell: Obama is arguing that he holds the morally superior position and that those who dissent from it are creating an undesirable state of affairs. When Obama says he is a "uniter" he is really saying all people should agree with him. Er, isn't that unAmerican?

By Randall Parker 2008 July 28 06:28 PM  Ethnic Preferences
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2008 July 27 Sunday
Obama Brother Living In Shenzhen China

Barack Obama's half-brother Mark Ndesandjo lives in Shenzhen China and helps Chinese exporters with web site design and communications.

BARACK Obama’s half-brother has been helping to promote cheap Chinese exports in a low-profile business career while the Democratic senator has been winning worldwide fame in his race for the White House.

He has gone to extraordinary lengths to avoid public attention and his family links remain unknown to most of his acquaintances in Shenzhen, a border boomtown in southern China where he has lived since 2002.

Mark Ndesandjo is the son of Barack Obama’s late father and his third wife, an American woman named Ruth Nidesand who runs the up-market Maduri kindergarten in Nairobi.

Ndesandjo disappointed Obama by not feeling African enough. But Ndesandjo is living the international life that probably gives him insights about the world Obama only pretends to have. Living in the future world superpower China gives Ndesandjo a perspective that is more relevant to the future than anything Obama can get out of a fast trip thru the Middle East and Europe. Once Obama gets into the White House maybe Ndesandjo can give him tips on China relations. Though in light of America's huge trade deficit with China Ndesandjo's work boosting China's exports are going to put him and Obama on opposition sides of disputes.

Ndesandjo has a Chinese girlfriend in her 20s. How stereotypical.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 27 04:15 PM  Politics American Presidency
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Postville Slaughterhouse Illegal Workers Were Very Young

This use of young laborers in dangerous jobs is great news for people who are nostalgic about the 19th century.

POSTVILLE, Iowa — When federal immigration agents raided the kosher meatpacking plant here in May and rounded up 389 illegal immigrants, they found more than 20 under-age workers, some as young as 13.

16 year olds working 17 hour shifts do not have time to join gangs. You suppose that was the motivation of the management of this plant? Keep the streets safe from Hispanic gangs? Or maybe the management liked the feeling of having slaves?

One, a Guatemalan named Elmer L. who said he was 16 when he started working on the plant’s killing floors, said he worked 17-hour shifts, six days a week. In an affidavit, he said he was constantly tired and did not have time to do anything but work and sleep. “I was very sad,” he said, “and I felt like I was a slave.”

Federal prosecutors might bring charges of violations of labor laws.

While federal prosecutors are primarily focusing on immigration charges, they may also be looking into labor violations. Search warrant documents filed in court before the raid, which was May 12, cited a report by an anonymous immigrant who was sent to work in the plant by immigration authorities as an undercover informant. The immigrant saw “a rabbi who was calling employees derogatory names and throwing meat at employees.” Jewish managers oversee the slaughtering and processing of meat at Agriprocessors to ensure kosher standards.

So why do the bad rabbis throw meat at the poor, young, low-skilled illegal aliens? The rabbis belong to the clannish separatist Lubavitcher sect who run the slaughterhouse. They look down upon those who are not chosen by God. So the locals of Postville get replaced from jobs by cheaper foreigners and the Lubavitchers look down on both local whites and Central Americans.

Immigration law enforcement actions and new state laws against illegal aliens are provoking the creation of more organized opposition by the cheap labor lobby. Cheap imported labor really amounts to privatized profits and socialized costs. But that ethical consideration doesn't seem to restrain those who want those privatized profits. Cheap labor business interests are organizing and funding an attack against immigration restriction.

Under pressure from the toughest crackdown on illegal immigration in two decades, employers across the country are fighting back in state legislatures, the federal courts and city halls.

The businesses are basically fighting back against a Republican base that supports tougher immigration law enforcement. Will the businesses use their money to buy influence and neutralize the immigration restrictionists?

Though the pushback is coming from both Democrats and Republicans, in many places it is reopening the rift over immigration that troubled the Republican Party last year. Businesses, generally Republican stalwarts, are standing up to others within the party who accuse them of undercutting border enforcement and jeopardizing American jobs by hiring illegal immigrants as cheap labor.

Tamar Jacoby is leading a new national organization that represents the interests of the cheap labor lobby. If we can manage to cut down the supply of cheap foreign labor then machines can replace the laborers if the labor supply becomes restricted enough.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 27 03:44 PM  Immigration Labor Market
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2008 July 25 Friday
International Monetary Fund Increases Mortality Rates?

David Stuckler and Lawrence P. King of the University of Cambridge and Sanjay Basu of Yale find that 3 post-communist countries which participated in International Monetary Fund programs had higher rates of tuberculosis and mortality. The IMF seems like the causative agent of this outcome according to their analysis.

We performed multivariate regression of two decades of tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality data against variables potentially influencing tuberculosis program outcomes in 21 post-communist countries for which comparative data are available. After correcting for confounding variables, as well as potential detection, selection, and ecological biases, we observed that participating in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis incidence, prevalence, and mortality rates by 13.9%, 13.2%, and 16.6%, respectively. Each additional year of participation in an IMF program was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 4.1%, and each 1% increase in IMF lending was associated with increased tuberculosis mortality rates by 0.9%. On the other hand, we estimated a decrease in tuberculosis mortality rates of 30.7% (95% confidence interval, 18.3% to 49.5%) associated with exiting the IMF programs. IMF lending did not appear to be a response to worsened health outcomes; rather, it appeared to be a precipitant of such outcomes (Granger- and Sims-causality tests), even after controlling for potential political, socioeconomic, demographic, and health-related confounders. In contrast, non-IMF lending programs were connected with decreased tuberculosis mortality rates (−7.6%, 95% confidence interval, −1.0% to −14.1%). The associations observed between tuberculosis mortality and IMF programs were similar to those observed when evaluating the impact of IMF programs on tuberculosis incidence and prevalence. While IMF programs were connected with large reductions in generalized government expenditures, tuberculosis program coverage, and the number of physicians per capita, non-IMF lending programs were not significantly associated with these variables.

Some conservatives might find this a reason to attack the IMF. But the correlation of IMF program participation and decreased government spending is inconvenient for this line of attack. My guess is that if these governments had selectively not cut back on public health spending while cutting back on other forms of spending then they could have prevented much of the increase in mortality and TB. But I'm speculating. Certainly, some public health spending delivers a net benefit in average health. But my problems with full socialized medicine include loss of freedom, waiting lists, and a big reduction in incentives for the development of new treatments. Pharma new drug development is overwhelmingly driven by profits in the US market.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 25 05:03 PM  International Institutions
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Obama Declares Self World Citizen

Barack Obama opposes national borders and declares himself a citizen of the world. By contrast, I think I'm a lot better off by being a citizen of a Western industrialized democracy with strong rule of law and (if only) strongly defended borders.

In an echo of former President Ronald Reagan's speech when he demanded the Berlin Wall be pulled down, Obama said: "The walls between the countries with the most and those with the least cannot stand. The walls between races and tribes; natives and immigrants; Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand. These now are the walls we must tear down."

Obama introduced himself to the Berlin crowd as a proud U.S. citizen and a "fellow citizen of the world."

The Western developed nations need walls to keep out the exploding populations of the Third World. There are many times more of them than there are of us. If we let them all in our quality of life would plummet and we'd lose basic freedoms. Obama's flowery rhetoric amounts to pretty lies. His idealism appeals to people who want to dream impractical dreams. But if you want to hold on to what you've got then impracticality is your enemy.

I would like to see a reporter ask Obama he's saying that Israel's walls around the Gaza Strip and West Bank should be torn down and if Israel's wall on the border of Lebanon should be torn down. I would also ask him if he thinks that the South Korean government should tear down its DMZ barrier with North Korea. Or how about walls around prisons? Should they go too? We've got all manner of walls keeping various groups in and out. Tear them all down? They all start seeming analogous to the Berlin Wall if you just suppress your critical reasoning faculties.

In a post entitled "Obama Christ, Superstar" Rod Dreher argues Obama's liberal internationalism sounds a lot like Bush's.

As I've said elsewhere, I find Obama's stance to be a liberal internationalist version of the same crusading, feelgood, soaring, moralistic universalism that led us down the primrose path when it came out of the mouth of George W. Bush (compare Obama's speech to Bush's second inaugural address). It's perfectly understandable that people want a big change after eight years of Bush. I certainly do. But this Obama Messiah business is absurd. People think the guy is going to usher in a New Jerusalem; guess what, folks -- it's a Potemkin Village.

People like to think happy thoughts. Right now a lot of people are projecting their dreams onto Obama and he's using rhetoric that lets them interpret what he says in the most optimistic way possible. I'm reminded of vague popular song lyrics where different people imagine a song is about different topics.

Does Obama's strongly stated support for Israel extend to the West Bank settlements which have lots of fences and walls around them?

JERUSALEM — An Israeli defense committee has approved the construction of 22 homes in a barely populated West Bank settlement, Defense Ministry officials said Thursday. The move appeared to catch some Israeli officials off guard, angered Palestinians and was likely to prompt criticism from the international community as it tried to push forward a long-faltering peace process.

Would the settlements be okay without barriers around them? That way the settlements would bring more Palestinians and Israeli Jews into contact with each other. Won't that produce mutual understanding and affection? Or might it produce mutual understanding and hatred?

By Randall Parker 2008 July 25 09:55 AM  Elites As Enemies
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2008 July 24 Thursday
Iraq Refugees Coming To United States

A wrong-headed group called Refugees International wants the US government to allow tens of thousands of Iraqis to move to the United States each year. The US government plans to let in only 12,000 this year.

The State Department cannot resettle in the United States about 25,000 Iraqi interpreters and other refugees who worked for the U.S.-led coalition over the next two years because of limits on the number of applications that can be reviewed, according to Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte.

This is yet another of the long list of costs of the Iraq war. It is a cost we could reject. Let the Iraqis stay in Iraq building a Jeffersonian democracy. Don't they love freedom so much that they are willing to work to free all the people in their country? What's wrong with them for wanting to leave? More to the point: why should Iraqis get to leave while American soldiers have to stay?

If Refugees International had its way we'd accept 37,500 Iraqis per year.

Wisner, in a July 3 letter to Negroponte, had called on the Bush administration to resettle 12,500 Iraqis in each of the next two years. Assuming each would bring two family members, the total influx each year would be about 37,500 people.

Note that would be a yearly influx which could continue for years. My take on it is that we've paid enough for Iraq already.

Nearly 20 percent of military service members who have returned from Iraq and Afghanistan -- 300,000 in all -- report symptoms of post traumatic stress disorder or major depression, yet only slight more than half have sought treatment, according to a new RAND Corporation study.

In addition, researchers found about 19 percent of returning service members report that they experienced a possible traumatic brain injury while deployed, with 7 percent reporting both a probable brain injury and current PTSD or major depression.


The RAND study also estimates that about 320,000 service members may have experienced a traumatic brain injury during deployment -- the term used to describe a range of injuries from mild concussions to severe penetrating head wounds. Just 43 percent reported ever being evaluated by a physician for that injury.

Hundreds of thousands of people with brain damage by themselves add up to far too high a cost for the Iraq war. We should pay no more beyond what we have to pay to take care of our own.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 24 10:48 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2008 July 22 Tuesday
Hibernia Girl On Cousin Marriage And Veils

Hibernia Girl observes Muslim societies with higher rates of cousin marriage also have higher rates of requiring female head covering such as with the hijab and niqab. She sees these veils as an attempt to control female reproduction by preventing men from being attracted to women.

But what is the flow of causality in this relationship between head covering (and body covering) and cousin marriage? A man who is married to his cousin has daughters who are genetically closer to him than his daughters would be if he married a woman from a distant place. A man who is married to his cousin whose parents and grandparents were also cousins has even more in common with his sons and daughters. Does this genetic relatedness by itself cause men to seek to ensure their offspring will marry close relatives?

Or does the desire to marry cousins flow from the need for alliances in personal life and that need for alliances and loyalty cause men to exercise reproductive control over their offspring by covering up their daughters?

I also wonder about the connection between consanguineous marriage and Islam. My suspicion is that Islam provides a belief system that empowers men in Muslim societies to unite in defense of the customs that allow them to control female reproduction. This empowerment of men in this fashion retards political development in Muslim countries with high rate of cousin (consanguineous) marriage (and in that post you can find links to my old posts and writings of others on cousin marriage).

Cousin marriage is an enemy of Western liberal democracy and of our culture. I think we should want to keep the practice of cousin marriage out of the West and also to keep Islam out of the West as well. Hibernia Girl does not want Ireland to step centuries into the past.

Hijabs (and female circumcision) simply have no place in modern Ireland because we are simply no longer marrying our cousins on a regular basis and, therefore, are no longer interested in controlling the reproductive rights of our women so strongly. Sure, Da and Mammy will still want to have a say on who ye marry (or with whom ye mate), but those decisions are largely left up to the individual nowadays -- unless, that is, we want to step back several centuries into our past.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 22 10:25 PM  Civilizations Clash Of
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2008 July 19 Saturday
Poultry Processors Want Cheap Immigrant Labor

The poultry processing industry wants more immigrant labor to lower its labor costs.

Now, poultry processors in Virginia and across the country are taking their case to Congress. Last week, several hundred industry leaders met in Washington to lobby for immigration changes and an improved document-checking system as well as relief from environmental rules that have doubled the price of the feed corn they buy for their birds.

If the poultry processors aren't hiring immigrants (legal and illegal) to lower costs what other possible reason could they be doing this?

"We depend on immigrants. If they all went away today, people like us couldn't operate," said Jim Mason, president of the cooperative, who visited a half-dozen congressional offices. "People think we hire Hispanics because we can get them cheaper, but it is absolutely false. We do everything the government asks and more to make sure our workers are legal, and we turn a lot of people away. But if an ID is stolen, there is nothing we can do."

What kind of suckers does he think we are?

Americans will do this work. Take away the Mexicans and Guatemalans and the work will still get done - albeit at higher hourly rates. Plenty of people would like to move up from minimum wage fast food jobs to slightly better paying jobs in factories and agricultural products processing plants.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 19 11:08 PM  Immigration Labor Market
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Thinking About Democratic Party Upper Class

An article in the Washington Post observes the Democratic Party is making in-roads among affluent voters in formerly solid Republican states that have become more urban and developed.

But the Democrats' ascendance in prosperous areas leaves them with weak spots in key swing states such as Ohio. And it presents questions about their identity: The party that fought for the little guy against the party of the wealthy has, while still representing racial minorities, increasingly become defined by the metropolitan middle and upper-middle class.

Theorists have spent years debating what is behind the shift, but they generally agree that the parties are in a cycle in which each plays to its emerging strengths. By pressing issues such as gun rights and same-sex marriage, Republicans tightened their grip on the South and snared such states as West Virginia, but lost many business-minded voters and alienated areas such as Fairfax County, where one in seven Virginians live.

I see the Republicans losing ground due to a combination of immigration, rising population density, and higher energy costs. All these factors are pulling people into more dense and smaller housing in more dangerous areas and this reduces affordable family formation and swings white voters leftward. If the career advantage of living in and near cities rises then the economic incentive to live in urban areas will reduce baby-making by Republicans while creating incentives to vote for Democrats.

The Dirt Gap, Mortgage Gap, Marriage Gap, and Baby Gap might all be pushing many upper middle class whites toward voting for the Democratic Party. But leave aside what this does to the Republicans for the moment. What does it do to the Democrats? The smarter and more affluent people will tend to dominate any organization they join. The affluent people who have shifted toward the Democrats are bringing their brains and money with them. How have they changed the party?

The decline of the unions makes it harder to measure how the influx of affluent people have changed the Democratic Party. How much of the change is due to declining union power rather than to the arrival of upper middle class professionals and business owners? I put this out there as a question to those who might think of analytical approaches to use to come up with answers.

My guess is that the biggest change in the Democratic Party as a result of the influx of the urban affluent comes from more of a faux concern for poor people. Noblesse oblige impels the Democratic Party upper class to support more health care and educational spending for the poor. But on wages the Democratic upper class sees the poor as domestic servants. Maids, nannies, yard workers, and other servants should be cheap. Prices at the local dry cleaner should be low. So the elites of the Democratic Party want cheap labor.

We can see how far the Democratic Party has fallen under the influence of its more affluent voters with this: Obama doesn't want to alienate his upper middle class supporters with tax increases on them.

"If you are a family making $250,000 or less, we will not raise your taxes," he said. "Not your income tax. Not your payroll tax, not your capital gains tax. Not any tax. We will cut your taxes. So I'm happy to have a debate about taxes with John McCain."

Those who earn very high salaries are going to pay more taxes under President Obama. But do not be fooled by this. Clearly the Democratic Party does not represent the interests of manual labor.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 19 11:01 PM  Politics Demographics
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Obama To Up US Pressure On Europe

Top Barack Obama foreign policy advisor and former Assistant Secretary of State Susan Rice (not to be confused with Condi Rice and not to be mixed in with about 300 lesser Obama foreign policy advisors) tells the Daily Telegraph of London that Obama will be in a stronger position to bend Europe to America's will.

"There is some truth to the notion that some of the animus at the popular level towards the Bush administration may have made it easier for some of our European partners to avoid taking steps that we may want them to take and that perhaps they ought to take," she said.

"That has, in some respects, perhaps on some issues, given them an easy out. Barack Obama will lead from a position of strength and seek progress, and he will want to work with Europe in very strong partnership.

"It means we in the United States will have to do our part; but Europe will have to do its part too. There can be no free riders if this is going to be an effective partnership."

Is this funny or what? At the same time Obama says he doesn't want to abuse Britain as much.

"We have a chance to recalibrate the relationship and for the United Kingdom to work with America as a full partner," Obama told more than 200 American expatriates gathered at the Notting Hill home of Elisabeth Murdoch, the head of Shine television production company and daughter of the media tycoon Rupert Murdoch.

The event, which raised more than $400,000 for the Obama campaign, was intended to be confidential, but several guests have since confirmed the senator's remarks. A foreign policy adviser to the Obama campaign said the remarks on the US-UK relationship reflected the senator's general foreign policy approach.

"It's no longer going to be that we are in the lead and everyone follows us. Full partners not only listen to each other, they also occasionally follow each other," the adviser said.

It sounds very pretty. But Barack Obama will try to get other countries to do his bidding just as George W. Bush has done. He might manage to exert more influence than Bush because he'll appeal more to the electorates in other countries.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 19 10:19 PM  Europe and America
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Suppose Israel Attacks Iran: Then What Happens?

Israeli historian Benny Morris thinks Israel will attack Iran's nuclear facilities late in 2008 or early 2009.

ISRAEL will almost surely attack Iran’s nuclear sites in the next four to seven months — and the leaders in Washington and even Tehran should hope that the attack will be successful enough to cause at least a significant delay in the Iranian production schedule, if not complete destruction, of that country’s nuclear program. Because if the attack fails, the Middle East will almost certainly face a nuclear war — either through a subsequent pre-emptive Israeli nuclear strike or a nuclear exchange shortly after Iran gets the bomb.

The time line makes sense. My guess is that Israel will attack after Barack Obama wins the Presidency. While George W. Bush is a lame duck seems like a great time for Israel. Bush probably won't retaliate against Israel. Obama won't want to punish the Israelis right when he takes office given the huge role that Jewish supporters of Israel play in the Democratic Party.

What I want to know: What will this attack do to the supplies and prices for oil? My guess is the Israelis won't attack oil facilities because the Israeli Air Force (IAF) will need to use all the airplanes at its disposable for hitting the nuclear sites. But will the Iranians temporarily suspend exports to basically punish the whole world for not restraining Israel?

To put it another way: Why should we worry about the impact of an Israeli strike on Iran?

Iran recently tested some ballistic missiles. Iran is seen as a dangerous place to invest. Why is that? Are Israeli bombs going to damage oil producing and natural gas producing facilities? Why?

The US vowed to defend Israel and its other allies in the Gulf, as Iran carried out its second ballistic missile test in two days yesterday.

As the situation worsened in the Gulf, the French oil company Total said it would pull out of a large-scale investment in an Iranian gas field - a serious blow to Tehran, which is keen to exploit its gas reserves, and a victory for the Bush administration, which has been seeking to isolate the Iranian government.

A spokeswoman for the company said it was too risky to invest in Iran at present.

Supposedly Iran's missiles can do damage. Okay, but will Iran try to hit anywhere besides Israel in response to an Israeli attack? If Iran hits US targets then the US would likely retaliate and do far more damage than Israel's original attack. So would Iran attack knowing that?

An Israeli attack would almost certainly be met with an Iranian counter attack, Israeli security experts said. Iran boasts an arsenal of 50 to 80 conventional missiles that could reach Tel Aviv. Others could target American military installations in Iraq and the Persian Gulf.

"I don't think they're bluffing," Efraim Halevy, former head of the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad, said of Iranian threats to return fire.

So Israel attacks Iran to knock out some nuclear sites and Iran lobs some missiles at Israel. Why should this cause a big economic disruption for the world? Maybe Israel then sends another wave of aircraft or maybe missiles into Iran. But will any of those bombs be aimed at oil facilities?

I do not see Iran attacking Saudi or Kuwaiti or Iraqi oil facilities in response to an Israeli attack. If Iran was foolish enough to do so the USAF would send in B-52s, B-1s, B-2s, F-15s, and other aircraft and do serious damage to Iranian military facilities and nuclear facilities. Why would the Iranians bring that down on themselves?

Does anyone see a plausible way that an Israeli attack on Iran causes global economic disruption? I'm not seeing it myself.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 19 08:40 PM  MidEast Arabs Versus Israelis
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Muslim Woman Denied French Citizenship Over Religion

A French high court decided that at least some forms of Islam are incompatible with French citizenship. Political correctness prevents US courts from seeing this obvious truth.

“I would never have imagined that they would turn me down because of what I choose to wear,” Ms. Silmi said, her hazel eyes looking out of the narrow slit in her niqab, an Islamic facial veil that is among three flowing layers of turquoise, blue and black that cover her body from head to toe.

But last month, France’s highest administrative court upheld a decision to deny citizenship to Ms. Silmi, 32, on the ground that her “radical” practice of Islam was incompatible with French values like equality of the sexes.

It was the first time that a French court had judged someone’s capacity to be assimilated into France based on private religious practice, taking laïcité — the country’s strict concept of secularism — from the public sphere into the home.

Faiza Salmi's wearing of burqa figured largely in the decision to deny her citizenship.

A Muslim member of the French Government has attacked the head-to-toe Islamic dress as a prison, applauding a court decision to deny citizenship to a Moroccan woman who wore it.

“The burka is a prison, a strait-jacket,” Fadela Amara, the Minister for Urban Affairs and a longstanding women's rights campaigner, said yesterday. “It is not religious. It is the insignia of a totalitarian political project for sexual inequality.”

Not all cultures are compatible with each other.

Seoul South Korea-based journalist Shim Jae Hoon argues the burqa is a sign of cultural exclusivity.

Wearing a burqa, however, is a different matter. As a religious practice, it represents an extreme form of discrimination against women, even a hint of sexual bondage, as a burqa is mainly intended to keep its wearers from the gaze of males. It's more than a simple matter of religious practice or ethnic custom. In Malaysia once, I was startled by the sight of an Arab woman whose black figure in a burqa dispelled many people. Some Muslim friends told me a woman in a burqa would be the best way to keep their own women from accepting the fundamentalist form of Islam. Cultural diversity is today taken for granted in many countries, but fundamentalist Islam in the form of burqas -- we have seen what it did in Afghanistan under the Taliban -- is a sign of cultural exclusivity, not accommodation.

This woman and her husband follow the Salafi form of Islam.

Now the Conseil d’Etat has rejected her appeal on the ground that she “adopted a radical practice of her religion, incompatible with the essential values of the French community, and particularly with the principle of sexual equality.” This is the first time the court has refused nationality on the grounds of religious expression. The court heard that the couple followed salafism, a radical form of Islam. The woman adopted the burqa at her husband’s request in France, where she “lives in total submission to the men in her family”.

One French Muslim leader claims religion is personal as if that makes it unpolitical. But religion - especially Islam - is very political.

M'hammed Henniche of the Union of Muslim Associations in the Seine-Saint-Denis district north of Paris, fears that the ruling may open the door to what he considers ever more arbitrary interpretations of what constitutes "radical" Islam.

"What is it going to be tomorrow? The annual pilgrimage to Mecca? The daily prayer?" said Henniche. "This sets a dangerous precedent.

Religion, so far as it is personal, should be kept out of these decisions."

Islamic countries are politically just that: Islamic. They enforce laws about many aspects of life that are considered abhorrent in the West.

A 2004 poll of Muslims in Britain shows substantial support for very unBritish Sharia law courts. Doesn't sound personal to me.

A special Guardian/ICM poll based on a survey of 500 British Muslims found that a clear majority want Islamic law introduced into this country in civil cases relating to their own community. Some 61% wanted Islamic courts - operating on sharia principles - "so long as the penalties did not contravene British law".

Many civil cases in this country deal with family disputes such as divorce, custody and inheritance.

A 2007 poll of Muslims in Britain found stronger support for Sharia law among the young.

In the survey of 1,003 Muslims by the polling company Populus through internet and telephone questionnaires, nearly 60% said they would prefer to live under British law, while 37% of 16 to 24-year-olds said they would prefer sharia law, against 17% of those over 55. Eighty-six per cent said their religion was the most important thing in their lives.

Nearly a third of 16 to 24-year-olds believed that those converting to another religion should be executed, while less than a fifth of those over 55 believed the same.

A 2006 poll found that a fifth of Muslims in Britain sympathized with the Muslims who carried out bombing attacks in Britain on July 7, 2006.

Forty per cent of the British Muslims surveyed said they backed introducing sharia in parts of Britain, while 41 per cent opposed it. Twenty per cent felt sympathy with the July 7 bombers' motives, and 75 per cent did not. One per cent felt the attacks were "right".

We should not let people into our countries who will resent us and seek to impose a repressive religion on us.

David Pryce-Jones points to another European country where local attitudes toward Islam are not submissive. In Geneva Switzerland the City Fathers rejected a request to build a second mosque.

A mosque already existed in Geneva, but when the Muslim community sought to have a second mosque, the City Fathers replied that this would be possible when the Christians were allowed a church in Saudi Arabia. There is no record that outraged Arabs consequently withdrew their petro-dollar millions held in the local banks.

The Swiss are going to hold a referendum on whether to ban mosque minarets.

The Swiss Peoples' Party (SVP) has raised a storm by collecting more than 100,000 signatures on a petition calling for a ban on minarets in the country. Minarets, according to the SVP, are "symbols of political-religious imperialism." A spokesman for the party pointed out that, "Many women, even socialists, signed this petition because not one Swiss woman can tolerate the way that Muslim men treat their wives." By law, a national referendum is now obligatory.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 19 12:10 PM  Immigration Culture Clash
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2008 July 16 Wednesday
Zimbabwe Inflation 2.2 Million Percent

In February 2008 the inflation rate on the Zimbabwean dollar was only a very sedate 165,000%. But now the inflation rate has finally taken a turn for the worse.

After months of silence on the inflation rate, central bank governor Gideon Gono let slip it was well into seven figures as he rejected suggestions by a leading economist that it was in reality many times higher.

"Statistics provided by the CSO (central statistical office) indicate that it is now at 2.2 (million percent)," Gono said in a brief address in Harare ahead of a speech by Mugabe, the country's 84-year-old president.

If humanitarians sincerely want to help Africa they should donate to create a prize for any group that overthrows Robert Mugabe's government.

The Zimbabwean government tortures and kills whites who try to keep their farms.

It was a frigid June night at Pickstone Mine in Zimbabwe when 67-year-old Angela Campbell -- soaking wet, her arm broken and a gun to her head -- signed a document vowing to give up the fight for her family's farm.

The kidnappers demanding her signature at gunpoint were "war veterans" from President Robert Mugabe's heyday as a liberation hero, and they made it clear that her refusal would mean more beatings.

Zimbabwe signed a treaty that gives these white farmers standing to try to get their farms back by appealing to a multi-national court that meets in Namibia. Some farmers are trying to get this court to order the return of their farms.

Jeffrey Gauntlett, who represented the Zimbabwean farmers at the hearing in the Namibian capital Windhoek, told the five judges of the Southern African Development Community tribunal the expropriations were unconstitutional, discriminatory and contravened the 14-nation bloc's founding treaty.

But the Zimbabwean government could ignore this court's decision or just pretend to respect it. If the farmers return they could easily be killed and the Zimbabwean government could not lift a finger to identify who did it.

Update: It turns out to be hard to measure such a high inflation rate because of sampling problems. One needs to measure many prices at the same moment or at least to measure the exact second when a price is recorded in a transaction. The report above looks already obsolete. The inflation rate in June was probably 10 to 15 million percent. By the end of July Robertson thinks it could hit 50 million percent.

One of Zimbabwe's most respected economists, John Robertson, said that while inflation was probably about 2m% in May, it soared again last month. "I think the June figure is more likely to be 10m% and it could turn out 15m%," he said.

Can the Zimbabwean currency hit a bilion percent inflation? I see a real problem where business will need to migrate to be next to the printing presses in order to get the highest prices possible.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 16 08:45 PM  Civilizations Decay
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2008 July 15 Tuesday
Full Day Kindergarten Brings No Lasting Benefit

Yet another educational panacea gets discredited (except the results will be ignored).

Children in full-day kindergarten have slightly better reading and math skills than children in part-day kindergarten, but these initial academic benefits diminish soon after the children leave kindergarten. This loss is due, in part, to issues related to poverty and the quality of children's home environments.

Blame poverty. That's the ticket. We'll always have people who have less money than other people. So poverty is always available as a handy excuse.

Those are the findings from a new study by researchers at the University of Pittsburgh and Loyola University Chicago. Published in the July/August 2008 issue of the journal Child Development, the study sheds light on policy discussions as full-day kindergarten programs become increasingly common in the United States.

The use of full day kindergartens will continue to grow because blacks and Hispanics are increasing percentages of the total population and they do more poorly in school than East Asians, whites, and south Asians. The desire to do something, anything to close the scholastic performance gap means longer school days, longer school years, more teaching assistants, more standardized tests, any all the other ways to spend more money that educational "reformers" can pretend will help.

The kids in part-day kindergartens did better. But how did the kids in part-day kindergartens from poor families do as compared to kids from equally poor families that attended full day kindergartens?

Using data on 13,776 children from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study—Kindergarten Class of 1998-1999, a study of a nationally representative group of kindergartners, the researchers measured children's academic achievement in math and reading in the fall and spring of their kindergarten and first-grade years, and in the spring of their third- and fifth-grade years. The researchers also looked at the type and extent of child care the children received outside of kindergarten, the quality of cognitive stimulation the children received at home, and the poverty level of the children's families.

Overall, the study found that the reading and math skills of children in full-day kindergarten grew faster from the fall to the spring of their kindergarten year, compared to the academic skills of children in part-day kindergarten.

However, the study also found that the full-day kindergarteners' gains in reading and math did not last far beyond the kindergarten year. In fact, from the spring of their kindergarten year through fifth grade, the academic skills of children in part-day kindergarten grew faster than those of children in full-day kindergarten, with the advantage of full-day versus part-day programs fading by the spring of third grade. The fade-out can be explained, in part, by the fact that the children in part-day kindergarten were less poor and had more stimulating home environments than those in full-day programs, according to the study.

But not all those kids in part-day kindergartens were from less poor homes. How'd the poor ones do?

By Randall Parker 2008 July 15 06:39 PM  Education
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2008 July 14 Monday
Chinese Seen As Quietly Fighting For More Rights

Will the Chinese become strong supporters of limits on state power and for protection of individual rights?

WASHINGTON, DC—While the 2008 summer Olympics in Beijing has elicited a rallying cry for human rights among high-profile activists and organizations outside China, ordinary Chinese citizens are mobilizing to fight for their rights inside the rapidly changing country, according to sociologist Ching Kwan Lee, writing in the summer issue of the American Sociological Association's Contexts magazine.

As per capita income rises what people want changes. As they satisfy some basic needs they shift toward wanting to satisfy an expanding list of desires. Really poor people want food and shelter. People living in nice houses turn their attention toward clean air and a greater say in local governance. Various sorts of rights are preferences that people pay more attention to as they can afford to. I expect greater demand for rights in China as living standards rise.

"Ordinary Chinese workers, homeowners and farmers have emerged as unlikely activists in a quiet revolution that is filling the gaps between central government law-making and the rights violations and corruption of local governments," said Lee, a sociologist at the University of California-Los Angeles who studies rights activism in China and Chinese investments in Africa. "This emerging rights mobilization has failed to attract the level of attention paid to other human rights activism directed at China, yet citizen activism inside the country is creating the potential for much broader social change."

One can understand why people want property rights. They want to protect what they've managed to accumulate. But will they move on to eventually wanting right to freedom of political speech and right to limit government powers in ways that resemble the kinds of restrictions on government we see in some Western countries?

In contrast to traditional activism appealing to universal notions of human rights, this grassroots movement among everyday people in China invokes "the protection of lawful rights," or weiquan. This activism focuses on specific rights prescribed by Chinese law, such as labor, property and rural land rights.

According to Lee, growing unrest over social injustice, as well as wealth and power gaps in Chinese society—due to the country's rapid economic development—has led to three decades of market reform and legal proliferation by the central government in Beijing.

However, in many local Chinese governments, the central government's legal reform suffers at the hand of economic and fiscal decentralization, as local governments pursue revenue and resources above all else. In this climate, Lee asserts, local governments are prone to violate citizens' rights through vested interests and the collusion of local officials with employers, investors and land developers.

Collusion of political players to violate citizens' rights happen everywhere. The difference is a matter of degree. People get their rights violated in part because they individually do not feel they have enough power to fight for themselves and are not sufficiently motivated to fight for the rights of others. How motivated will the Chinese people become to support the rights of others?

By Randall Parker 2008 July 14 10:45 PM  China
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Cash Subsidies Used To Reduce Child Moves

Rent subsidies are used in Flint Michigan to reduce the number of times children from poor families have to change schools.

In some of Flint’s elementary schools, half or more of the students change in the course of a school year — in one school it reached 75 percent in 2003. The moves are usually linked to low, unstable incomes, inadequate housing and chaotic lives, and the recent rash of foreclosures on landlords is adding to the problem, forcing renters from their homes. The resulting classroom turmoil led the State Department of Human Services to start an unusual experiment, paying some parents $100 a month in rent subsidies to help them stay put — a rare effort to address the damaging turnover directly.

It is politically incorrect to say this but very poor people really should not make 6 babies. The world is overpopulated. The poor are a burden to us all.

The program is popular with parents, and not just for the money. Sinceria Williams, 27, and her partner of 11 years, Marcus Turner, 37, had been living with their six children, ages 3 through 11, in a substandard house that was an unreliable bus ride from Bryant Elementary School.

The welfare state subsidizes poverty. When you subsidize something you get more of it. Modest proposal: Offer cash to poor people who elect sterilization after their first children or before they get any children at all. In fact the fewer children a woman has before sterilization the bigger the payment should be for not making more babies.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 14 09:56 PM  Economics Poverty
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Russians Pay Big Price For Corruption And Bribery

The new Russian President Dmitry Medvedev proclaims that bribery in Russia should be rare. But Russian leaders have vowed to crack down on bribery in the past with seemingly little effect. The cost of corruption in Russia is very high.

Bribery enriches Russian bureaucrats and other officials to the tune of $120 billion annually, a senior Russian investigator said. "The revenues of our bureaucrats from corrupt activity, according to experts, account for one-third of our national budget," Vasily Piskaryov, a senior official at the Investigative Committee of the Prosecutor General's Office, said last month.

Other groups believe the scale is even bigger. The Indem Foundation, a Russian grass-roots organization, estimates that Russians pay $319 billion annually in bribes.

Without sufficient virtue in the people the society carries a big burden and pays for the effects of bribery through injustices and less competency.

"There is a very easy and light-hearted attitude to corruption in our country," said Panfilova of Transparency International. "But I keep trying to stress that corruption kills. Do you really want to take your children to see the doctor who bought his diploma? What about the drunk driver who pays, and then kills someone down the street?"

Another small-businessman, a glass company owner who wouldn't allow even his first name to be used, said he pays about $900 a month to various inspectors and police. If he refused, he said, they would paralyze his business with alleged fire, health, labor, tax or sanitary violations.

Maybe some of his regulatory violations are real and create safety dangers for his workers. When the regulators are corrupt not only do do businesses with high safety standards have to pay extortion but also unsafe businesses can pay bribery to avoid obeying beneficial rules.

Russia's $2 trillion economy is growing at 7% a year due to high oil and other commodities prices. If the estimates above are correct then bribery comes in at over 5% and perhaps as much as 15% of GDP. But some of that bribery is for services that the government funds (e.g. medical care). So the bribery would go down if the government privatized more services and the bribery is partially compensating for the government's underfunding of medical and other services.

More troubling is the corruption that forces businesses to pay protection money. Taxes collecting the same amount of money would cause far less damage because of the transparency and predictability of taxes versus extortion payments.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 14 09:49 PM  Russia
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2008 July 13 Sunday
British Preschoolers Who Dislike Spices Seen As Racist

The tragic decay of once Great Britain continues.

Toddlers who turn their noses up at spicy food from overseas could be branded racists by a Government-sponsored agency.

The National Children's Bureau, which receives £12 million a year, mainly from Government funded organisations, has issued guidance to play leaders and nursery teachers advising them to be alert for racist incidents among youngsters in their care.

This could include a child of as young as three who says "yuk" in response to being served unfamiliar foreign food.

Mom to 4 year old son: "Never say yuk." "Why mummie?" "They'll come and take you away from me and send you to a reeducation camp." "What's a reeducation camp mummie?" "A very bad place." So then Johnnie tells the school teacher about this and then the government comes and takes away Mummie for calling the reeducation camp a bad place.

The thought police want to start early.

The 366-page guide for staff in charge of pre-school children, called Young Children and Racial Justice, warns: "Racist incidents among children in early years settings tend to be around name-calling, casual thoughtless comments and peer group relationships."

Mummie will need to teach Junior that he can have only one white friend and must instead make friends with non-white kids or else, again, Junior will be taken away.

While communism has collapsed the evil leftists are still in our midst.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 13 06:59 PM  Cultural Wars Western
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High Gas Prices Drive Online Education Growth

High gasoline prices are driving another nail into the coffin of bricks and mortar educational institutions.

The vast majority of the nation’s 15 million college students — at least 79 percent — live off campus, and with gas prices above $4 a gallon, many are seeking to cut commuting costs by studying online. Colleges from Massachusetts and Florida to Texas to Oregon have reported significant online enrollment increases for summer sessions, with student numbers in some cases 50 percent or 100 percent higher than last year. Although some four-year institutions with large online programs — like the University of Massachusetts and Villanova — have experienced these increases, the greatest surges have been registered at two-year community colleges, where most students are commuters, many support families and few can absorb large new expenditures for fuel.

In this case high gasoline prices are catalyzing a change that is beneficial for other reasons. Automation of the delivery of lectures and course material is a needed step to tame and lower educational costs. This shift isn't doing much yet to lower course prices. But I predict that will change.

Enrollments in online classes expanded rapidly early in this decade, but growth slowed in 2006 to less than 10 percent, according to statistics compiled last year by researchers at Babson College in Massachusetts. Some recent increases reported by college officials in interviews were much larger, which they attributed to the rising cost of gasoline. Pricing policies for online courses vary by campus, but most classes cost as much as, or more than, traditional ones.

That cost difference is going to change because much of the cost is in development of materials and fixed administrative costs. Eventually some institutions will go for much larger volumes of students and emerge as low cost leaders. This will drive a shake-out and the number of colleges will decline.

We might see a split emerge between course content generation and test administration. Take calculus for example. State governments could mandate that their state colleges record calculus lectures and make them freely available. Then only the tests would be charged for. Video recordings of dozens of different teachers delivering basic calculus lectures might become available for free. But to get credit for knowing calculus you'll have to pay to take a series of tests from an accredited college.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 13 11:22 AM  Education Online
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2008 July 12 Saturday
Obama Foolishness On Value Of Multilingualism

Barack Obama thinks Americans need to learn other languages.

I don't understand when people are going around worrying about, "We need to have English only." They want to pass a law, "We want just, uh, we want English only."

Ron Unz waged a battle in many states across the country against so-called multi-lingual education. In practice multi-lingual education amounted to putting Spanish-speaking kids in Spanish instruction classes so that they didn't get exposed heavily to English when they were young and most able to rapidly learn a language. We have every reason to worry about kids learning English because teachers and school administrators can make more money by keeping kids in Spanish language educational ghettoes. But Obama is oblivious to all this.

Now, I agree that immigrants should learn English. I agree with that. But, but, understand this. Instead of worrying about whether, uh, immigrants can learn English -- they'll learn English -- you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish.

Our children do not need to learn Spanish if all the people around them speak English. Having everyone speaking the same language is called having a communications standard. Communications standards are extremely useful. You are able to read what I've written here because standards such as TCP/IP, HTTP, HTML, Javascript, and ethernet allow a large number of computer devices to communicate with each other.

People can communicate because they speak the same language. The tower of Babel is a bad idea. Fewer languages mean more people can communicate with each other.

You should be thinking about how can your child become bilingual. We should have every child speaking more than one language.

Why? What is the point of this? I learned German in high school and rarely had any opportunity to use it. I'd have to spend a lot of money to go to some place where speaking German would be useful. This is just leftist elite snobbery. He is embarrassed that we do not measure up to multi-lingual Europeans. But the linguistically balkanized Europe is at a huge competitive disadvantage because they can not communicate in a single shared language. The advantage of America is that all the immigrants learned English and English became a worldwide standard for business communications and scientific communications.

We embarrass Barack Obama. Poor dear. We do not measure up.

You know, it's embarrassing, it's embarrassing when -- when, uh, Europeans come over here, they all speak English, they speak French, they speak German. And then we go over to Europe, and all we can say is, "Merci beaucoup."

In Europe the big push for decades has been to learn English so that everyone can talk to each other in a common language. That's true in international companies around the world. A world standard language lowers costs and improves efficiency.

I had a Dutch friend in college who could speak 5 languages. He told me he needed to speak 5 languages because he could drive a couple of hours in a car and find himself in areas where the people speak 5 different languages. But living in America he saw it as a waste of time to spend time learning languages that you'll have little opportunity or need to use.

Obama reacts to criticism of his statement by claiming that learning more languages is learning more knowledge and how can anyone be opposed to learning more knowledge?

"This is an example of some of the problems we get into when somebody attacks you for saying the truth, which is: We should want our children with more knowledge. We should want our children to have more skills. There's nothing wrong with that. That's a good thing. I know, because I don't speak a foreign language. It's embarrassing," Obama said chuckling as his audience did the same.

This is yet another example of left-liberal elite folly. Some kinds of knowledge are useful. But other kinds of knowledge are a waste to learn because they have little or no value. How many job advertisements do you see saying "We'll pay you $20000 more per year if you speak Czech"? Or how about the big bonuses for speaking Swahili? You might be able to make more for speaking Chinese - but only if you work in occupation where you coordinate the work of Chinese engineers or production workers. Or if you want to go sell your products in a country that speaks another language then skills in that language can help. But this advantage from speaking other human languages is rare for people who speak English.

Obama thinks we should think about how to make our kids trilingual.

"Instead of worrying about whether immigrants can learn English - they'll learn English - you need to make sure your child can speak Spanish," Mr. Obama said. "You should be thinking about, how can your child become bilingual? We should have every child speaking more than one language."


This is not the first time Mr. Obama has addressed the issue of bilingualism, as he touched upon the subject during a town hall meeting held in Colorado on May 28.

"Understand that my starting principle is, everybody should be bilingual or everybody should be trilingual," Mr. Obama said in response to a question about bilingual education. The Illinois senator explained his position was predicated on the belief the U.S. would be economically impaired if it remained a country geared toward English only.

He has a "starting principle"? Obama is like the sum of all Ivy League liberal prejudices. He's never worked in an international corporation. He doesn't speak the foreign languages he thinks Americans should speak. He hasn't done cold hard calculations on the economic value of speaking various languages. He hasn't done trade-off analyses of the relative value of learning Spanish versus Chinese versus C++ or Java or petroleum engineering. He's just got this belief common among his clique which he hasn't thought hard about.

We are headed into 4 to 8 years of hearing foolish left-liberal elite utterances from a sitting President of the United States. While Democrats see Obama as a big departure from Bush I see him as Bush Plus. He'll be just as wrong on immigration. He'll be just as wrong on education. But he'll add on to that even more liberal beliefs than Bush believes.

Update: Steve Sailer points out Barack Obama has not availed himself of excellent opportunities to learn foreign languages.

Obama lacks a second language despite living for four years at an impressionable age in a foreign country, and then spending eight years at a lavish prep school that currently offers five different languages and makes studying at least one of them mandatory in 7th grade. Sen. Obama also has an undergraduate degree from Columbia University, which has a foreign language requirement and offers 37 different foreign languages, including some that don't exist anymore, such as Akkadian. He later spent three years at Harvard, which offers instruction in more languages than I'm willing to count. I did make it through Harvard's "African Languages" list and counted 20 separate ones offered at Harvard.

So, Obama has had more opportunity to learn a foreign language than 95% of all native-born Americans, but he hasn't.

I do not like "Do as I say, not as I do" messages.

Update II: Obama thinks people in India who speak English have a huge advantage by being bilingual.

"We as a society do a really bad job teaching foreign languages, and it is costing us when it comes to being competitive in a global marketplace," the Illinois senator said at a school here Wednesday. He said India has a "huge advantage" because most people speak English besides their native language.

India has several hundred languages with 29 languages each spoken by at least 1 million people. That's not a competitive advantage. That is a competitive disadvantage. This necessitates complex constitutional clauses and laws on the use of languages. A late 1964 attempt to phase out English in government in favor of Hindi met with violent protests. The existence of multiple languages widely used within a nation's borders causes political divisions as we see in Iraq, Canada, Belgium, and other countries which labor under political splits that result from competing languages.

Update III: John Derbyshire points out beyond early childhood people find it very hard to learn additional languages. Derb also argues that Obama overestimates the amount of cognitive capacity most people have available to learn languages. Most people are not as smart as Obama. People with high verbal IQ but not as much spatial IQ seem to overestimate the IQ of others.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 12 09:47 AM  Cultural Wars Western
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2008 July 11 Friday
Stop Calling Elected Officials Leaders

Modest proposal: We should stop calling our elected officials "leaders". We should stop referring to the "national leadership". We should stop calling for "strong leadership". We should stop seeking to be led.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 11 11:58 PM  Freedom Philosophy
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2008 July 09 Wednesday
Obama Promises To Outdo John McCain On Immigration Amnesty

For Barack Obama it isn't enough that McCain worked harder and longer to grant immigration amnesty to poorly educated, low skilled illegal immigrants. Oh no. Never mind that McCain was much more up front about it than Obama was before they started running for the Presidency of the United States. Obama questions McCain's commitment to immigration amnesty and emphasizes his own dedication to let in and legalize the Third World flood.

Now, I know Senator McCain used to buck his party on immigration by fighting for comprehensive reform, and I admired him for it. But when he was running for his party's nomination, he abandoned his courageous stance, and said that he wouldn't even support his own legislation if it came up for a vote. Well, for eight long years, we've had a President who made all kinds of promises to Latinos on the campaign trail, but failed to live up to them in the White House, and we can't afford that anymore. We need a President who isn't going to walk away from something as important as comprehensive reform when it becomes politically unpopular. That's the commitment I'm making to you. I marched with you in the streets of Chicago to meet our immigration challenge. I fought with you in the Senate for comprehensive immigration reform. And I will make it a top priority in my first year as President -- not only because we have an obligation to secure our borders and get control of who comes in and out of our country. And not only because we have to crack down on employers who are abusing undocumented immigrants instead of hiring citizens. But because we have to finally bring undocumented immigrants out of the shadows. Yes, they broke the law. And they should have to pay a fine, and learn English, and go to the back of the line. That's how we'll put them on a pathway to citizenship. That's how we'll finally fix our broken immigration system and avoid creating a servant class in our midst. It's time to reconcile our values and principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That's what this election is all about.

I'm not voting for either of these disasters.

On Obama's "and avoid creating a servant class in our midst": The only way to do that is to deport the illegals and to stop letting in anyone who isn't highly skilled and smart. But you can bet Obama isn't going to admit that any more than McCain will.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 09 10:14 PM  Immigration Politics
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2008 July 07 Monday
Iraq Veterans Will Get More Heart Disease

The tens or hundreds of thousands of cases of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) coming home from Iraq are going to die sooner than they otherwise would have.

DANVILLE, PA – Vietnam veterans who experienced posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) were twice as likely to die from heart disease as veterans without PTSD, a new Geisinger study finds.

In a study published in the July issue of Psychosomatic Medicine, Geisinger Senior Investigator Joseph Boscarino, PhD, MPH examined the prevalence of heart disease, PTSD and other problems in more than 4,000 Vietnam veterans.

The more severe the PTSD diagnosis, the greater the likelihood of death from heart disease, the study showed.

Vietnam veterans with PTSD--like chronic smokers—are at higher risk of early death from heart disease, Dr. Boscarino concluded. Boscarino equated PTSD to smoking two to three packs of cigarettes per day for more than 20 years.

PTSD causes the body to release stress hormones, which leads to the inflammation and damage to the arteries and cardiovascular system damage. Stress hormones also tend to reduce the amount of inflammation-reducing cortisol in the body—though researchers aren't sure why.

Plus, the concussions from IED blasts cause lasting brain damage. The costs of the war in Iraq far exceed the $3 billion per week that the US government spends on it now. The war does not help to increase US security. It drains us.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 07 11:03 PM  Mideast Iraq Costs
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2008 July 06 Sunday
1% Of Jihadists Have Been Arrested In The United States

We have Jihadists in our midst.

In the six-and-a-half years that the U.S. government has been fingerprinting insurgents, detainees and ordinary people in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Horn of Africa, hundreds have turned out to share an unexpected background, FBI and military officials said. They have criminal arrest records in the United States.


As they analyzed the results, they were surprised to learn that one out of every 100 detainees was already in the FBI's database for arrests. Many arrests were for drunken driving, passing bad checks and traffic violations, FBI officials said.

Well, the Jihadists tend to be middle and upper class. They are not the products of poverty. So they are better traveled than the average Muslim.

What would be interesting to know: What percentage of Jihadists show up in criminal fingerprint databases in Britain, France, Germany, and other Western countries?

Steve Sailer points out that this 1% are only the Jihadists who managed to get arrested while in the US. My guess is they are just a small fraction of all the Jihadists who visit the US.

So, one percent is just the fraction of jihadis who got fingerprinted in America when they got caught by the police screwing up. What fraction managed to not get caught when they were in America? Of course, we don't seem to collect fingerprints on foreigners in the U.S., so nobody knows.

We ought to let in fewer Muslims. That would reduce the number of Jihadists who visit the US. We do not need lots of Muslim visitors. The Muslim countries are not great founts of science and technology or

Airlines and foreign governments do not want the US to make digital records of departing visitors.

The airline industry and embassies of 34 countries, including the members of the European Union, are urging the U.S. government to withdraw a plan that would require airlines and cruise lines to collect digital fingerprints of all foreigners before they depart the United States, starting in August 2009.

Their opposition could trigger a battle with Congress and the Bush administration, which want the new plan established quickly.

Members of the US Senate claim they are slowing the development of a visitor exit tracking program because of concerns over whether the system will work. You believe them?

The Senate Appropriations Committee significantly cut the budget for the Homeland Security Department's program to electronically track when foreign travelers enter and leave the United States, fearing the system might not work as planned.

The committee's fiscal 2009 spending bill for DHS would provide $181.3 million for the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program, a 62 percent cut from the program's $475 million fiscal 2008 budget and 54 percent less than the $390 million that President Bush requested. The bill now heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 06 10:58 PM  Terrorists Activities
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2008 July 05 Saturday
Dennis Dale: America Is Not The Answer

We are led into false beliefs about our nation by ambitious people who seek to harness us in their pursuit of their goals.

America is not the answer. This statement does not constitute sacrilege, as we've been conditioned to believe. Yet its opposite assertion, the prevailing sentiment of our times, is taken for granted and only rejected by the remnants of the sixties radical Left who haven't yet gone mainstream, mad or over to the neoconservative Right, where the business of quasi-religious global revolution, still, is so much better.
But this sentiment, that American values and institutions, that is to say America, are the answer to the ills of the world, is sacrilege in the literal religious sense, as well as loosely speaking--against decency, good sense, modesty, those tragically under-appreciated values that compel us to, for instance, recognize the rights of nations to self-determination and liberty. This widely held if little examined faith works through the same means of cultural intimidation as political correctness--is becoming intertwined as an article of political correctness--and is how liberal interventionists and neoconservatives alike have become the useful idiots of adventurous practitioners of machtpolitik--Cheney, Rumsfeld, Bush, et al. It's illustrative that there's not an ideologue in this unsavory triad.

We have become incapable of recognizing the tragic pride of this attitude. This, the closest thing we have to a national religion, is a faith that cannot rise to the level of religion because it requires nothing of us--other than nodding, unthinking acquiescence to power. It combines the worst aspect of religiosity--resistance to contradictory reality, with the worst consequences of secularism--immodesty, intellectual and moral sloth, decadence. We forget ourselves.

Read the whole thing. By saying that America is not the answer we actually defend America from people who would turn our republic into an empire. We can not maintain an internal republic and an external empire. They are not compatible. Liberals and neoconservatives both promote American exceptionalism as an argument for remaking the world. Patriots should hear these calls with skepticism.

Update: I am reminded of a quote from John Adams:

Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself. There was never a democracy that did not commit suicide.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 05 11:47 AM  Cultural Wars Western
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Knee And Hip Replacement Rationing In Canada

Socialist rationing of medical care in Canada:

Los Angeles, London, New Delhi, Singapore (June 19, 2008) ¯ Health-care system constraints combined with a lack of a uniform referral process are leaving Ontario physicians brokering which patients are in greatest need of hip and knee replacement, a study led by a St. Michael's Hospital researcher funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research has revealed. The variability in this process means not everyone who needs this surgery will actually get surgery.

Rather than rationing by price Canada effectively rations based on all sorts of factors. The advantage? American socialists can ignore this rationing and point at the Canadian system as morally superior.

"Findings from our study suggest several system factors are shifting the onus to physicians and surgeons to prioritize which candidates will receive hip and knee replacement," said lead author Pamela Hudak, a researcher in the Keenan Research Centre in the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute of St. Michael's Hospital. "Physicians appear to adjust their criteria, often on a case-by-case basis, to identify which patients will be referred for or, in the case of surgeons, offered surgery. Ultimately this results in a varied approach in determining the best candidates, leaving many eligible and suitable candidates on waiting lists or to manage their problems as best they can with conservative approaches like medications."

The study, conducted by a team of researchers from across the University of Toronto and published last week in the journal Medical Decision Making, published by SAGE, examined the impact of patient characteristics, including age, weight/obesity, comorbidity and perioperative risk, and gender and caretaker roles in the decision-making process of 18 family physicians, 15 rheumatologists and 17 orthopedic surgeons from across Ontario.

"Although we expected these characteristics to affect candidates chosen for surgery, we did not expect the significant impact system constraints, such as lack of home care and postoperative support, waiting lists and access to operating rooms, would have on the decision-making process," Hudak explained. "Waiting lists prompted some physicians to refer patients earlier than normal while the lack of available home care and postoperative support, crucial for hip and knee replacement patients, prevented other physicians from referring patients. Beyond these limitations, surgeons also said they would take on more cases if more operating room time was available. These limiting factors can then affect how surgeons and physicians prioritize their patients, especially without common guidelines."

You can see why more affluent Canadians drive south over the border to pay for treatment in the United States.

Update: Ned brings my attention to this video on how the Canadian health care system makes people with deadly diseases wait when their lives are at great risk:

By Randall Parker 2008 July 05 10:50 AM  Economics Health
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2008 July 04 Friday
Global Recession Seen From $200 Per Barrel Oil

High oil prices and unemployment.

"Two-hundred dollar oil would break the back of the global economy," Deutsche Bank AG's chief energy economist Adam Sieminski said in an interview on Wednesday in Tokyo. "Next step after US$200 would be global recession and bad news for everybody."

This is why I think our current mild recession will be longer lasting and deeper. I wonder if this is one of the reasons Warren Buffett has commented that he expects a longer recession.

Sieminski states the obvious: We are in the process of finding out how high prices have to get to destroy enough demand.

“What we’re seeing is a very painful experiment to see what price will get demand to slow down,” said Adam E. Sieminski, chief energy economist at Deutsche Bank. “Four dollars a gallon is slowing consumption in the United States. But there is an awful lot of people in the developing world and they all want a car and they all want a better diet. That is putting a lot of pressure on food and energy prices.”

Goldman Sachs analyst Arjun Muri was not taken seriously when crude oil was only $40 and he foresaw a big upward spike in oil prices to over $100. Now we look nostalgically back on those good old days. Well, Murti sees oil hitting $200 within a couple of years. I do not think it will take that long.

IN 2004, ARJUN N. MURTI, A TOP ENERGY ANALYST AT GOLDMAN SACHS , published a report predicting "a potentially large upward spike in crude oil, natural gas and refining margins at some point this decade." It was a controversial call, with crude around $40 a barrel at the time. But it was right on the money. Four years later, crude is trading around 139. Murti sees energy in the later stages of a "super spike," in which prices rise to a point where demand drops off. In a note last month, he wrote that "the possibility of $150-to-$200-per-barrel oil seems increasingly likely over the next six to 24 months."

Murti says we are getting close to the end game. But a game implies a competition where we can win or lose. Well, we definitely lose on this one.

We are getting closer to the end game here, where despite eight years of rising energy prices, supply looks like it is going to barely grow this year. We have been bullish, but we didn't expect such a slow growth rate of supply. And demand outside the U.S., Europe and Japan has been more resilient than we expected.

But if the whole world goes into a deep recession next year then we could probably delay the $200 per barrel oil since the recession would dampen demand.

Doesn't sound bad enough yet? The next American President might decide to make our energy situation worse by cutting back on Alberta tar sands oil imports.

A senior adviser to Mr. Obama's campaign told reporters it's an "open question" whether oil produced from northern Alberta's oilsands fits with the Democratic candidate's plan to shift the U.S. sharply away from consumption of carbon-intensive fossil fuels.

"If it turns out that those technologies don't advance . . . and the only way to produce those resources would be at a significant penalty to climate change, then we don't believe that those resources are going to be part of the long-term, are going to play a growing role in the long-term future," said Jason Grumet, Mr. Obama's senior energy adviser.

Hopefully more rational heads will prevail once Obama gets elected. But I expected more mature and reasonable people would surround George W. Bush and we all know how that turned out. Other governments are making the world energy problem worse by subsidizing internal consumption. It is not that big of a stretch to expect the US government under Obama will continue to block offshore oil development and Alaska oil development and even to put obstacles in the way of Alberta oil development.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 04 06:30 PM  Economics Energy
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India Energy Subsidies Run Up Government Debt

Subsidiies to keep down domestic energy and food prices are running on the government debt in India.

The government also subsidizes 60% of the price of such fuels as diesel. In 2007, when inflation was a low 3%, economists such as Standard & Poor's Subir Gokarn urged New Delhi to start cutting subsidies. Instead, the populist ruling Congress government spent $25 billion on waiving loans made to farmers and hiking bureaucrats' salaries.

Botched Opportunities

Now those expenditures, plus an additional $25 billion on upcoming fertilizer subsidies, is adding $100 billion a year—or 10% of India's gross domestic product, or equivalent to the country's entire collection of income taxes—to the national bill.

The Indian government can not sustain this foolish policy indefinitely.

The government's official debt, which dropped below 6% of gross domestic product last year, will now be closer to 10% this year.

Socialistic policies are alive and well all over the globe. But India's government has chosen market interferences that are especially hard to sustain. Oil prices are set to go much higher. India's people will have a much harder time adjusting to higher energy prices when the government finally can't sustain subsidies and the prices inevitably rise to higher levels very rapidly. The rate of price rise will be even faster when the deregulation comes than it would have been had world market price changes had immediately translated into price changes in India.

With inflation over 11% in India the Indian government is restricting exports of a variety of products in order to keep down costs.

To contain inflation that has tripled in the past seven months, the government yesterday banned exports of corn after restricting overseas sales of food items including wheat, rice, cooking oils and pulses. India had earlier banned cement exports and imposed a tax on outgoing shipments of steel products.

These export bans only help in the short run since the resulting lower prices reduce incentives to increase productive capacity.

China suffers from similar distortions. But the Chinese government has a much larger pile of money to use to hold down internal energy prices. Also, the Chinese are letting some adjustments toward higher prices to take place.

Update: India is not alone with 10+% inflation.

Economists at investment bank Morgan Stanley found that about 50 nations show consumer prices up 10 percent or more from a year ago.

They warn that some central banks feel constrained, because they are focused on maintaining currency exchange rates against the US dollar. A weak dollar has caused loose monetary policy in nations with such "dollar-pegged" currencies.

These high inflation rates and the problem with oil production rates makes me think a global recession is inevitable in the next 2 years.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 04 03:19 PM  Economics India
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2008 July 03 Thursday
Brazil Hits Skilled Labor Shortages

Natural resource riches have driven Brazil's economy to a level that hits limits in its labor force.

After years of boom and bust, the administration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is projecting a period of sustained growth, with the gross domestic product increasing 5 percent a year, from now to 2010, and about 3 and 4 percent annually for the decade after.

But many companies and economists, including some inside the government, say the dearth of highly skilled labor, particularly engineers and tradesmen, will jeopardize those goals, and Brazil’s economic and political rise.

“The lack of availability of technical ability may be a constraint on growth, no doubt about it,” José Sergio Gabrielli, president of Petrobras, the state-run oil company, said in an interview. “It is a big challenge for the country.”

The engineering shortage here is spreading across industries. The lack of civil and construction engineers threatens infrastructure projects; areas like banking, aircraft manufacture, petrochemicals and metals are all competing for the same top graduates. In the booming oil and gas industries, companies are turning to foreign labor because there are not enough qualified Brazilians to go around.

Brazil is doing well in large part because of excellent agricultural land, lots of oil, and lots of other natural resources. Much like the resource rich Persian Gulf countries Brazil ends up pulling in skilled workers from abroad. But its ability to pull in engineers and scientists is limited by its national language of Portuguese. Outside of Brazil only Portugal with 10.7 million people shares the same national language.

Brazil could still try to bring in foreign engineers who speak English. Lots of European corporations use English for a substantial portion of their internal communications. A greater embrace of English by their managers and engineers would let them use more highly skilled foreign workers. Anyone have a sense of what fraction of the Brazilian engineers and large corporation managers are fluent in English?

The average level of education in Brazil is very low.

The average Brazilian worker has six years of schooling, compared with 10 years in South Korea, 11 in Japan and 12 in the United States and Europe, according to the National Confederation of Industry study.

Of the few Brazilians who go to a university, fewer than one in five take engineering, science, mathematic or computing, according to a recent World Bank study on the links between education and economic growth.

Brazil has an average IQ of 87 versus 105 for Japan, 106 for South Korea, and 98 for the United States. So these results are not surprising.

Lots of skilled American farmers are setting up farms in Brazil and American capital is flowing into the Brazilian agricultural sector. These farmers can hire foremen who speak both English and Portuguese who can manage manual laborers. American farmers in Brazil operate huge farms.

The gains, though always uncertain, come from both operating income and appreciating land values. John and Kelly Carroll also considered Brazilian farming a good bet. "We put every penny we had into it," says John, 27. A couple from west-central Illinois, they graduated from college in 2003, got married, and honeymooned 10 days later in Brazil.

John's 5,000-acre family farm in Illinois raises corn, soy, and hogs. Here, in the northeastern Brazilian state of Bahia, he mostly grows cotton and operates a cotton gin. Along with other investors, he's running 20,000 acres with 100 full-time employees—a distinctly bigger operation than typically seen in the Midwest.

I wonder how many white farmers from Zimbabwe have made it to Brazil and started farming there.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 03 12:36 PM  Economics Labor
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Younger College Faculty Seen As More Moderate

The younger faculty in American universities and colleges think of themselves as more moderate than their predecessors.

In general, information on professors’ political and ideological leanings tends to be scarce. But a new study of the social and political views of American professors by Neil Gross at the University of British Columbia and Solon Simmons at George Mason University found that the notion of a generational divide is more than a glancing impression. “Self-described liberals are most common within the ranks of those professors aged 50-64, who were teenagers or young adults in the 1960s,” they wrote, making up just under 50 percent. At the same time, the youngest group, ages 26 to 35, contains the highest percentage of moderates, some 60 percent, and the lowest percentage of liberals, just under a third.

Keep in mind that they are labeling themselves as moderates based on a scale that is leftward shifted relative to the American population. Their idea of moderate still means voting for Democrats.

They aren't as activist. But tenure is a lot harder to get and the pursuit of tenure leaves little time for activism. Plus, more of the faculty are women who are less extreme and more practically oriented than men.

When it comes to those who consider themselves “liberal activists,” 17.2 percent of the 50-64 age group take up the banner compared with only 1.3 percent of professors 35 and younger.

“These findings with regard to age provide further support for the idea that, in recent years, the trend has been toward increasing moderatism,” the study says.

The authors are not talking about a political realignment. Democrats continue to overwhelmingly outnumber Republicans among faculty, young and old.

What is not said: Are the younger faculty in the social sciences and humanities any different in their positions on political issues? Are they just as likely to support, say, mandatory government-provided health care? Are they as likely to support Robin Hood taxes and social programs? My guess is yes.

But the New York Times, showing little sign of moderation, can not resist an opportunity to get in a plug for Barack Obama.

But as educators have noted, the generation coming up appears less interested in ideological confrontations, summoning Barack Obama’s statement about the elections of 2000 and 2004: “I sometimes felt as if I were watching the psychodrama of the Baby Boom generation — a tale rooted in old grudges and revenge plots hatched on a handful of college campuses long ago — played out on the national stage.”

Obama wrote up a psychodrama of his own in a book centered around his race.

The growing fields in academia are more firmly grounded in science and technology and attract more realistic people.

Changes in institutions of higher education themselves are reinforcing the generational shuffle. Health sciences, computer science, engineering and business — fields that have tended to attract a somewhat greater proportion of moderates and conservatives — have grown in importance and size compared with the more liberal social sciences and humanities, where many of the bitterest fights over curriculum and theory occurred.

The harder sciences are producing results that undermine ideological positions. What is the nature of the human mind and how and why do humans differ from each other? Neuroscientists and geneticists can offer more insight than radical left wing sociologists. The younger sociologists know that they have lower status than physicists and neurobiologists because their field has been far less quantitative and rigorous. They'd like to get some of that higher status.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 03 08:33 AM  Education
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2008 July 01 Tuesday
United States In Slow Motion Recession

Have you noticed that the financial institutions are failing slowly and the real estate price drops occur over years? Though oil's rise has been fast and steep. So not everything that is going wrong is happening slowly. But the US economy's slide into recession has happened gradually rather than suddenly.

Among economists, the sense is broadening that the troubles dogging the economy will be stubborn, leaving in place an uncomfortable combination of tight credit and scant job opportunities perhaps well into next year.

“It’s a slow-motion recession,” said Ethan Harris, chief United States economist for Lehman Brothers. “In a normal recession, things kind of collapse and get so weak that you have nowhere to go but up. But we’re not getting the classic two or three negative quarters. Instead, we’re expecting two years of sub-par growth. Growth that’s not enough to generate jobs. It’s kind of a chronic rather than an acute pain.”

Mr. Harris expects tepid economic growth and a shrinking labor market to persist through the fall of 2009.

Warren Buffett prophesized a long and deep recession. Buffett understand things better than 10 economists. So I'm expecting continued downturn into 2009 just because he says so. But on top of that I expect high oil and food prices to keep economic growth either low or negative.

Though the auto industry is in a faster motion recession.

Detroit automakers were hit hard. Ford Motor was down 28 percent in June, General Motors was off 18 percent, and Chrysler dropped 36 percent. Despite its sharp decline, G.M’s results were better than expected, which industry analysts attributed to a sales blitz with offers of zero-interest, long-term financing deals. The cut-rate loans helped G.M. retain its historic position as the top-selling United States automaker over Toyota, whose sales fell 21 percent.

I do not expect the price of oil to go down until the whole world sinks into a recession. I expect inflation to go up as oil goes even higher. Kevin Hassett reports that economist Mark Zandi expects a big surge in inflation.

Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody's Economy.com and one of the savviest students of the economy, told me in an interview last week: ``Energy and food prices, which together account for one-fourth of the CPI, will rise nearly 20 percent annualized in the third quarter. Top-line CPI inflation looks destined to top 7 percent annualized in the third quarter. It is very possible that third-quarter inflation will be the strongest since the third quarter of 1981.''

In the early 1980s global oil demand dropped and so did the price of oil. But oil production isn't going to rise much and Asian demand for oil will keep rising faster. So higher oil prices are going weigh more heavily on the US economy every month.

By Randall Parker 2008 July 01 10:46 PM  Economics Business Cycle
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