Tuesday, October 31, 2000

Africa tears down trade barriers Here's an interesting FT article about a proposed free trade zone in Africa to promote intra-regional trade. What's interesting is that some are concerned about large economies (Egypt) overwhelming small economies (Djibouti).

This is exactly the same argument that rich westerns raise when "protecting" small foriegn nations from free trade. And it is equally misguided in both places. So long as companies and customers are free to find the best products at the best prices, everyone will benefit.

Hopefully, this deregulation will also allow governments to do their job and work on areas no amount of free trade can fix, such as education, infrastructure, and law enforcement.

Monday, October 30, 2000

Another interesting article about European sclerosis. This piece from the Financial Times talks about why it's hard to give employees free PC's with internet service in Europe. Europe generally has rules that hurt consumers but help producers, and globalization is putting them under pressure.

Wednesday, October 25, 2000

Will "globalization" lead to peace in the Middle East? Here's an interesting article in Hebrew Daily Haaretz that discusses whether a hypothetical seperate Palestine and Israel should be economically seperated or united. The article mentions how early plans for Israel included Jews only hiring Jews, and Jews being encouraged to only buy goods that were Israeli made. This is obviously a terrible idea, as the only benefit would be uncompetitive Israeli goods and extorted consumers. A seperate Israel and Palestine should trade freely and openly with each other, and with the rest of the world. I don't know if labor laws, tax rates, or currency need to be the same, but free and open trade benefits everybody. (Thanks for JP for pointing me to this article).

Tuesday, October 24, 2000

Last post on Palestine/Israel until something real happens. Hebrew Daily Haaretz writes this article on how reports of worldwide anti-semitism have been exagerated. They correctly twig that the anti-semitism now is different from anti-semitism in the past, but do not understand that anti-Israeli feeling is being generated by the continual genocide Israel is committing against Palestine. This article was written by a friend of mine, and shows how profoundly even left wing Jews just don't get this simple fact. This is the heart of the problem and the misunderstanding.

Now, back to globalization.

Monday, October 23, 2000

Financial Times: A decent article that talks about Israeli desctruction, Palestinian corruption, and the cynical manipulation of the Arab world, comments on how the international community has failed to heal the emotional rift between Israelis and Palestinians. Once again, Arab and Israeli seem to live in separate universes. The Arabs live in a world where Israeli genocide is seen as just that, and Israel (along with the US) lives somewhere else. The big story right now for everyone but the US and Israel is "the genocide has to stop." The test the US is being put to by the Arab world is "can the world's only superpower be trusted to stop genocide against Muslims?" (which did happen in the Balkans).

Friday, October 20, 2000

Israel may isolate Palestinians in own state: Top Israeli military and political officials are drawing up plans that to lock the Palestinians into a small, disconnected state separate from Israel as a last resort if peace negotiations are not resumed. The article does not mention that this happens to be pretty much what the Oslo accord mandates.

In related news, here's an Associated Press piece on Israel refusing to cooperate with U.N. rights investigators who want to look into the Jewish slaughter of Palestinian civilians in Israel. The US supports Israel in its position. (Thanks to CD for the lead).

Thursday, October 19, 2000

The US managed to strongarm China into adopting a lousy mobile telephony standard (CDMA). Chinese adoption of this standard will be a windfall for its owner, US company Qualcomm, who lobbied hard to get the US government to force the Chinese government to force Chinese companies into using it. China, quite sensibly, was trying to use the superior GSM standard the rest of the planet uses. Irony of ironies, the US possibly made Chinese entry into the WTO contingent on force-feeding this particular standard to Chinese consumers. So much so for free trade.

Wednesday, October 18, 2000

Edward Said, noted historian and commentator on the Middle East, points out that the Oslo agreement to split Palestinians up into bantustans, like those which repressed blacks in apartheid South Africa, was unteneble and has fallen to pieces. Said feels that the Palestinians cannot be beat up enough to call the whole Palestinian cause off, and the current slaughter of Palestinians by Israelis can only end with Israel ending their military occupation and complying with UN Resolutions 242, 338 and 194. I disagree. I think the Israel will be successful in wiping out the Palestinians. (Thanks to CD for the pointer).

Monday, October 16, 2000

E-commerce groups 'will quit Germany' This Financial Times article talks about how German internet companies are threatening to leave the country after two court rulings against discount online retailers. The problem is that Germany has passed a law against giving consumers discounts (ridiculous, isn't it?) Globalization is fundamentally about empowering consumers at the expense of producers by increasing choice and lowering barriers to entry. Consumers should be empowered at the expense of producers.

Friday, October 13, 2000

Events in the Middle East are rapidly reaching their foregone conclusion as the Isaelis polish off the Palestinians with assault helicopters and gunships. So far, the Palestinian death rattle has included one rather pathetic suicide bomber (NYTimes, subscription required) taking out a US ship. Ariel Sharon, the Israeli who started all this, must be pleased to see his life's work coming to fruition, as the Final Solution to the Palestinian problem unfolds. Be it 1945 or 2000, it's comforting to know that some things don't change.

Thursday, October 12, 2000

Following up on yesterday's blog here's a piece on why the middle class should not need to wear Gucci to feel good (but does). In particular, it talks about how "middle class" people on today's TV shows (Friends, Mad About You) live far more affluent lifestyles than those in TV shows in the past (The Andy Griffith Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show). Our aspirational frames of reference have moved up.

Wednesday, October 11, 2000

Globalization and happiness go hand in hand. Or do they? This article rationally and systematically explores the links between gloablization and happiness, concluding that not only does globalization bring happiness, but it brings it disproportionately to those who are poorest. It also raises the point that once basic needs are met, people view wealth in relative, not absolute terms, and so everyone starts trying to "keep up with the Joneses." The one issue I have with this article is that it assumes globalization is unstoppable, while the truth is it is not. The turn of the century saw huge strides in international trade that were all but erased after World War I. Thanks to AG for pointing me to this link.

Tuesday, October 10, 2000

CMGI was a once high flying "internet incubator" that is now in some financial difficulty. This article does a good job of exploring the idiocy at the heart of the whole incubator "business model": i.e. find people smart enough to start a great business but dumb enough to sell it to you for a pittance. Thankfully, those days seem to be over. For those who don't know, an "incubator" is a company that helps start other companies, usually in return for a mix of stock and cash.

Friday, October 06, 2000

McSpotlight: "The biggest, loudest, most red, most read Anti-McDonald's extravaganza the world has ever seen." What to say about this site? It makes some interesting reading. It also demonstrates how the Internet is good at amplifying ideas and messages. This weblog you're reading right now, for example, ultimately benefits McSpotlight by drawing attention and linking to it. So, while I raise the site's profile, let me also draw attention to the way it both promotes freedom of choice ("we can print what we like on the Internet") and also squelches freedom of choice ("people should stay poor and only eat what we say"). Beleiving that others would live better lives if they just stopped doing "unpleasant" things is a persistent conceit of the priveledged.

Wednesday, October 04, 2000

Instead of talking about the US presidential debate, let me point folks to some good thinking (backed up by counting) about social security. The dirty secret about switching from a pay-as-you-go system, where current payees support current retirees, to a individual-retirement-account system, is that there is a hidden debt that needs to be paid by someone. Krugman, points this out in a spirited piece on his website.

Tuesday, October 03, 2000

Last week was banned books week: January Magazine highlights the American Library Association's list of the 100 books whose existence in a public or school library collection was "challenged" most by librarygoers or parents over the past decade, from Maya Angelou to Mark Twain to Judy Blume. Blume actually has 5 books on the list. Thanks to CD for the tip. The whole thing is rather quaint, isn't it?

Monday, October 02, 2000

No link today, but some commentary and focus: People have pointed out that the posts on this page have no context, and so are difficult to understand. They have a good point. Here is some context:

Free trade makes countries richer. This is true for both rich and poor countries, but it is especially true for poor countries. And when I say "free trade" I mean just that, not "fair trade" which is correctly seen by third world governments as being a hidden form of rich-world protectionism. The WTO should not consider environmental or humanitarian concerns when ruling on trade disputes. Those wars are better waged in supermarkets, where consumers can choose between dolphin friendly tuna or the cheaper stuff.

Again, i encourage folks to read Krugman, he puts it better than I. In future I will assume that folks have read that article.