Archive for the ‘Foreigners’ Category

I am enjoying the goings-on in Dubai tremendously.  It’s like the field mouse of an economics drug trial: take every extreme symptom, jam it into one place of absolutely no global consequence, and then try to figure out the cure.

Suppose you had a tiny country that decided it wanted to be important.  Playing on confusion with its oil-rich neighbors, it goes out and borrows a lot of money to build buildings.  Taking the Paris Hilton strategy that if you insist on your caricature long enough others will eventually believe it, the country makes a big show of people piling into the buildings.  Real estate developers, the ultimate momentum players, pile in.  The country goes the offshore tax haven route – no income taxes – and throws in absolutely no labor standards to ensure that construction can proceed on whatever blistering pace can be achieved by malnourished Thais and Pakistanis welding in 115F heat.  Eventually it hits the wall – for reasons completely beyond its control, at some point people look around and realize they have the world’s largest Potemkin village.  There is no market.  The locals are preposterously corrupt.  Islam is not compatible with the hedge fund lifestyle.  What then? (more…)

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For years we have been subjected to odd debates about whether the government should permit, encourage, or attempt to prevent the reimportation of prescription drugs from Canada.  Seniors love it; they want to be able to drive across the border and save money.  The drug companies hate it; they want to charge American prices.

That the entire debate happens offends good sense.  Drugs that are researched, tested, trialed, and manufactured in central New Jersey do not magically become cheaper from a round-trip drive along the New York Thruway.  If we are to discuss prescription drugs, the only policy question should be whether the US should do something to use the purchasing power of its 300mm person market to drive down the cost of drugs, not whether scattered northern seniors should be left to try to free ride on the purchasing power of 30mm Canadians. (more…)

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The First World War ended ninety-one years ago.


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Apparently I’m a bit late to the latest academic kerfluffle: Superfreakanomics‘ curious decision to wade into the global warming debate on the Neanderthal side.

Well, not exactly Neanderthal.  More incoherent. (more…)

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Once upon a time, there was a hedge fund named Hermitage Capital.  Its head was Bill Browder, and it had the clever idea, back during the Yeltsin Administration, of investing Western capital in Russia.  It worked spectacularly well, until it didn’t:

Browder is a smart guy.  He made a lot of money and managed to get his money and his life out of the country, which would be reason enough for me to refrain from paying for Youtube videos naming the Russian government agents who defrauded me. (more…)

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Mike Konczal has an interesting post that is popping up all over the place (here, here, and here, and probably somewhere else by now) analyzing a throwaway human interest piece on a woman named Karen King from the Wall Street Journal:

Her biggest chunk of debt, $26,000, stems from student loans to pay for her two-year associate’s degree from a community college — loans now in the hands of collectors. The remaining $10,000 or so includes old credit-card balances, debt to a store that rents furniture, utility bills and back taxes. Another obligation is $400 a month she contributes to the rent on her grandfather’s two-bedroom apartment, where her mother, uncle and sister also live. (more…)

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Edward Glaeser (courtesy Stephen Dodson and Ben Casnocha) asks what went wrong with Argentina:

A century ago, there were only seven countries in the world that were more prosperous than Argentina (Belgium, Switzerland, Britain and four former English colonies including the United States)… In 1909, per capita income in Argentina was 50 percent higher than in Italy, 180 percent higher than Japan, and almost five times higher than in neighboring Brazil. Over the course of the 20th century, Argentina’s relative standing in world incomes fell sharply. By 2000, Argentina’s income was less than half that of Italy or Japan.

It is one of the great mysteries of human development. (more…)

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Economista Non Grata asks about the rumors that the dollar will be replaced as a reserve currency.  Allow me to try to get to it via something completely different – the Krug’s excellent diagram of what is going on in Bernanke’s mind:


There are times I kick myself for not coming up with stuff like this myself.  Then I realize I don’t know how to post my own graphics to WordPress.  And I don’t have a Nobel Prize.  So I’m going to have to use a lot of words. (more…)

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World Cup

Amazingly, some smart people are treating the celebration of Chicago’s defeat for the Olympics in 2016 as a sign of childishness, as opposed to the maturity to know a Trojan Horse when you see one.  Just because all the other kids are licking light sockets doesn’t mean you should do it too.  Since I have some confidence I know more about international sports than Rachel Maddow, and thanks to Ben Casnocha have some readers who are not solely focused on insurance rescission, I’ll go ahead give the constructive advice of what international event we should be trying to host: the 2018 World Cup

In fact, I think the current American proposal is far too timid.  Let’s go with something only the US can offer: a 64-team tournament. (more…)

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Bit of a Swiss theme this week; first the Polanski drama, then the planted articles in the Times discussing Swiss health care.  See, it isn’t so bad to do without the public option – the Swiss do just fine.

That is quite correct: the Swiss have a better health care system than we have, and they do so with private insurance companies.  They even have a mandate, which I suppose proves that it’s possible to have a functioning mandate and no public option.  But getting to the Swiss system would be far more difficult politically than getting to a public option; indeed, we would probably find it easier to take the plunge and go with a single payer system. (more…)

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