Wednesday, June 27, 2007
Monday, June 18, 2007
via Spiegel via Marc Andressen
The Kenyan economics expert James Shikwati, 35, says that aid to Africa does more harm than good.
Shikwati: Why do we get these mountains of clothes? No one is freezing here. Instead, our tailors lose their livelihoods. They're in the same position as our farmers. No one in the low-wage world of Africa can be cost-efficient enough to keep pace with donated products. In 1997, 137,000 workers were employed in Nigeria's textile industry. By 2003, the figure had dropped to 57,000. The results are the same in all other areas where overwhelming helpfulness and fragile African markets collide.
This hit me like a pound of diamonds. We're destroying African markets with free crap. Let's build factories there instead- and then the people get the benefits of the infrastructure the factories require. Again, it's not that aid to Africa is bad, it's just that what we give them makes their economies worse. Ooops.
I've been listening to the "World is Flat" by Friedman. There are some interesting anecdotes in the text, but the whole metaphor really bothers me. He does such a build up for it and then repeats it over and over again, but it never really makes sense. Perhaps I am just being overly literal?
In any case, the point is really that location is not as important as it used to be. Many things can be made anywhere. It always boggled my mind that it was cheaper to make something overseas and ship it here than to make it here, simply because of cheaper labor. The new outsourcing, where "knowledge work" can be done anywhere, actually seems to make much more sense, as knowledge can be shipped for a very low cost...culture appears to be shipped easily as well, as "Creative Destruction: Globalization Changing Cultures" by Tyler Cowen points out. There is definitely a trend for individuals to belong to global cultural movements and less to local/regional movements.
So why is labor cheaper elsewhere? Supply and demand is the obvious cause, more supply elsewhere. Cost of living is a big factor as well though, as is standard of living. It's clear that a person considered poor in the US is generally satisfied at the basic level, with shelter, running water and food. The more surprising part is that they also often have electricity, appliances, and televisions. It is clear that poverty is merely a relative term. Would an unemployed person be better off moving to a country with a lower cost of living? Probably yes from a raw numbers perspective and from a perspective of increasing their relative status.
So given all of this, wouldn't it be best to move somewhere cheap and live a rich life? Apparently not, as this survey points out: http://money.cnn.com/2007/06/15/pf/most_expensive_cities/
"A luxury two-bedroom in Moscow now rents for $4,000 a month; a CD costs $24.83, and an international newspaper, $6.30, according to Mercer. By comparison, a fast food meal with a burger is a steal at $4.80."
There is still a lot of local culture and the experience of place to soak up.
Some places are better than others...I want to be location independent, but where would I go? Everywhere better than "here" costs even more, and location independent work goes to the lowest cost of living places with adequate labor supply. A conundrum.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
Their economic collapse was largely brought on by the mid 80s drop in oil prices. Thanks Saudi Arabia! It's kinda funny, but I was living in Texas at the time, and the drop in oil prices caused all kinds of problems there. There were so many strip malls constructed near me that were completely without occupants. Houses wouldn't sell. Fortunately, we had plenty of grain.
Anyway, this puts in perspective a lot of the ridiculous claims that Ronald Reagan somehow brought down the USSR by running up our debt.
Friday, June 08, 2007
they're not bad at this...
Built to Spill – Just A Habit just listened
Clap Your Hands Say Yeah – In This Home On Ice 4 minutes ago
Pavement – Perfume-V 8 minutes ago
The New Pornographers – Jackie, Dressed in Cobras 10 minutes ago
Sufjan Stevens – Sister 13 minutes ago
TV on the Radio – Blues From Down Here 19 minutes ago
The Microphones – The Moon 24 minutes ago
The Magnetic Fields – Strange Powers 29 minutes ago
The Unicorns – Emasculate the Masculine 32 minutes ago
Neutral Milk Hotel – The Fool 36 minutes ago
Friday, June 01, 2007
A great buy for CBS. last.fm is (was?) really great. They needed money in the wake of the recent evil copyright decision where record labels get paid more for internet airplay than for radio airplay. (makes NO sense!) $280M should cover that.
Anyway, I added a little widget to the blog which is over to the right. I haven't done much "scrobbling" so it's not exactly a top songs list like you'd see in my itunes.
I am thinking about changing the name, location etc. of this little gem of a blog. There aren't that many readers, but I love them all dearly, so I am reluctant to move it and then have no readers. However, I recently discovered a wash dc band (a capella group actually) that "stole" the name staticflow, so it is now dead to me. dead i tell you...
Anyway, check out last.fm before CBS pulls any shenanigans with it. You can choose to be my friend on there (I am called "staticvars") and then we can recommend silly songs to each other. Won't that be nice? Happy scrobbling!