Friday, July 30, 2004

Huns are people too

Occam's tax code razor?

From the Cato Institute, Democrats' Challenge on Tax Complexity:

"After the GOP assumed power in 1995, Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer promised to 'rip the income tax out by its roots.' In a 1996 report, Bob Dole and Newt Gingrich argued: 'The current tax system is indefensible. It is overly complex, burdensome, and severely limits economic opportunity for all Americans. We made clear on the very first day of the 104th Congress that our top priority would be to change the status quo . . . there is no status quo that needs more fundamental changing than our tax system.'"

"Unfortunately, it was all talk with little action: The GOP has not moved major tax reform legislation through Congress. Republicans did enact tax cuts in 1997, 2001, and 2003 that included pro-growth reforms. However, many features of these bills increased tax code complexity. For example, the 1997 bill included 11 narrow education tax breaks including a tuition tax credit, an education IRA, and a student loan interest deduction."

"The result has been that tax complexity has spiraled upward... After a decade of GOP rule, the number of pages of federal tax rules (tax code, regulations, and IRS rulings) has increased almost 50 percent. Tax forms and instructions are longer, individuals are spending more on tax advice, and there are more social engineering provisions in the code."

"Yet there is no shortage of simplification ideas that might gain bipartisan support. In 2001, the Joint Committee on Taxation issued a 1,300-page report full of reform proposals, such as abolishing the alternative minimum tax, a complex add-on tax that will hit 30 million households by 2010. Steny Hoyer recently noted that "we need to obviously deal with the AMT." The GOP ignored the JCT report when it came out, but now they should challenge Hoyer and the Democrats to help them repeal the AMT and pursue other reforms."

"In the 1980s, tax reform was a bipartisan concern. Prominent Democrats, such as Dick Gephardt, and liberal think tanks, such as the Brookings Institution, proposed some serious reform plans. Democrats introduced flat tax legislation long before Dick Armey proposed his plan in 1994. Within months of economists Robert Hall and Alvin Rabushka unveiling the original flat tax in 1981, Senator Dennis DeConcini of Arizona and Representative Leon Panetta of California introduced versions in Congress."

You can find some of Hall and Rabushka's thoughts in their book The Flat Tax, available online. Such a tax code already exists in some of the former communist countries in Eastern Europe.

Personally, while I see the flat tax as a nice thought, it might not be such a good idea anyway. Still, there's a need for a less complicated tax code, both in the United States and in Sweden. But I'm not very optimistic, it seems like there always some problems that the politicians want to "correct" through taxation, not least notably income distribution.

The joy of being an economist

It makes you come up with new games, Peter Leeson from Common Knowledge wants us to have Fun with Average Cost.

"Chris and I went to dinner last night and discovered a new and entertaining game that's fun for the whole family. We decided to see who could drive the average cost of their soft drink closest to zero. Coke, which both of us were drinking, cost $1.50 with free refills. Of course, you know what that means. . . marginal cost is zero. This makes it especially easy to drive down average cost since total cost is not rising at all with consumption. "

I dont' know how to put this, but I've just met a nice girl and I don't want too scare her off. She already thinks that the books and articles on economics that I read are "scary".

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Is it getting better? It is getting better.

Johan Norberg reported last year that it took a Kenyan 11 procedures, 61 days and half his annual income to start a business. Now, nine months later, it takes 12 procedures, 47 days and still half his annual income. It's 10 procedures and 45 days more than in Australia, but at least the duration declines.

I support Tyler's...

...post with p = 0.96

I have a vague idea of reading something similar a while ago, but in Swedish. I shall try to find the article, but it might be me dreaming.

Update: No, didn't find it.

Anyway, Daniel Drezner answered Tyler here and here.

Eh... snipes? Another post on Lance

Via Magnifisyncopathological I found this article in Slate, Tour De Lance - The international press snipes at America's superhero by Susan Daniels. She mentions four articles, but I can only agree on two of them, perhaps the third as well.

I grant the first and the second article, even though drug abuse story shouldn't be brushed aside too easily. His connections with Michele Ferrari is "fishy". I don't agree with La Tribune de Geneve's words, "Mankind is not fond of those who gorge themselves on success without suffering and without showing compassion for their fellows" and that it's applicable to Lance Armstrong. From what I heard, he gave the stage to La Mongie to Ivan Basso, because Basso's mother is suffering in cancer. Whether or not it's true, I don't know. Secondly, it really looked like he wanted to give the stage to Le Grande Bornand to his team mate Floyd Landis who did a terrific job for Lance on that stage (and on all the other stages as well). Thirdly, I can't imagine how the Geneva-paper's words match together with Livestrong and the Lance Armstrong Foundation.

But I have doubts about the other two, it sounds more or less like shooting the messenger. I mean, you can't really blame Daily Post or Times for reporting on what the French people thinks about Lance Armstrong. But I might concede the point if the poll that the Daily Post mentions is staged in one way or the other, but then the French news paper who conducted the poll should be blamed (and I don't find it likely that it is staged).

According to cyclingnews.com, the Dutch news paper Trouw went along the same line as El Pais, questioning Armstrong's preparations. More headlines here. But I somehow feel that the claim that Europeans dislike Lance Armstrong is overexaggerated. As I pointed out a couple of days ago, the reason for the dislikening that do exist is not necessarily because he's an American. Daily Post claims that the French poll showed that the Formula 1 champion Michael Schumacher was the most disliked sportsman in France, and Schumacher is, like Lance in the TdF, a little bit too good for the other contenders. If that is one of the reasons, then I would say it's flattering. Yet, the French footballer Nicholas Anelka recieved the second place, and I would guess it was because he's rather ignorant from time to time, so one shouldn't be too sure on how they depict Armstrong.

At the same time, the "war" between Armstrong and Simeoni that I mentioned in my post the other day rages on(scroll down a bit). But I don't think that dog will bark. It's time for them, Armstrong and Simeoni, to call it a day and move on.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Ay Carumba!

The Simpsons Channel:

"One of the veteran cartoon stars of The Simpsons is coming out of the closet. The betting on who it might be would seem to favor sniveling yes-man Waylon Smithers. For years he has harbored a secret crush on his boss, the evil nuclear tycoon Mr- Burns. But the show's producers refused to tell fans at the sci-fi and comic book gathering Comic-Con International if he's the one. In the episode, Springfield legalizes gay marriage, and Homer Simpson becomes a minister by registering online. Matt Groening, the show's creator, joked that Homer is the one to come out as gay. Information leaked across the net has already told us that Patty Bouvier will be the one coming out next season."

Understanding Political Libertarianism

Nice article by Will Wilkinson at Tech Central Station dealing with this piece by Ed Feser. Julian Sanchez also had a go at it last week.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Your toy car for my rusty nail? It's trade talk.

Ben Muse has a lot on the WTO negotiations.

Ohnoo!

I find this disturbing. Even though both Yahoo ! and Google are allowed to support the Chinese government, it doesn't mean that they should. First of all, supporting a repressive government, of any sort, is morally wrong. Secondly, people uses both Yahoo ! and Google to find information. If the information is believed to be "tainted" or if it is unavailable, people will most likely use another search engine if possible. In other words, there might be a short-run profit to make, but not necessarily a long-run profit.

From Reporters sans frontières(Reporters without borders).

..."irresponsible" policies of major US Internet firms Yahoo ! and Google in bowing directly and indirectly to Chinese government demands for censorship and called for a code of conduct to be imposed.

Yahoo ! has been censoring its Chinese-language search-engine for several years and rival firm Google, which recently took a share in Baidu, a Chinese search-engine that filters a user's findings, seems ready to go the same way. In their efforts to conquer the Chinese market, the two firms are "making compromises that directly threaten freedom of expression"

...

Some combined key-word searches, such as "Free Tibet," do not display any results. For others, only official sites appear. The top results of a search for 'Falungong" produces only sites critical of the Chinese spiritual movement in line with the regime's position. The same search using a non-censored search-engine turns up material supporting Falungong and about the government's repression of its followers.

Google has so far refused to censor its search-engine and access to it was blocked for a week in September 2002 by the Chinese authorities, who are currently obliged to filter its search results by themselves, which is more difficult and less effective.

Google now seems to have changed tack. In June this year, it acquired a substantial share in one of China's biggest search-engines, Baidu, which carefully filters out all "subversive" content. When Google was blocked in 2002, Chinese Internet users were redirected to baidu.com. A search in Baidu for "Huang Qi," a cyber-dissident imprisoned for posting criticism of the government online, produced : "This document contains no data," even though hundreds of articles in Chinese have been posted about him.

A search for "independence Taiwan" shows only sites critical of the island's government, while Google's Chinese version (www.google.com/intl/zh-CN[that page doesn't seem to exists/Dennis]), which is not censored, comes up with pro-Taiwan sites.


Monday, July 26, 2004

Is this supposed to be funny mr Putin?

Matt and Tim's journalist reunion

It's a convention.

Yet another post on Lance Armstrong

Alex Tabarrok has a post on Lance Armstrong and game theory. He refers to a Stephen Tuel, who claims that the 18th stage of the Tour de France was “an excellent example of game theory at work”. I can’t really concur with Tuel, in my opinion Armstrong acted irrationally.

Last Friday, the 18th stage went from Annemasse to Lons-le-Saunier in the east of France (if you have a map, try to find Geneva, Annemasse is situated east of the city, but on the French side of the border. Lons-le-Saunier is to the northwest, between Geneva and Dijon). The stage is fairly short, just 166 kilometres, and a breakaway manages to get some time on the peloton after 9 km.

After 32 km or so, the Italian rider Filippo Simeoni tries to reach the breakaway, the gap between group in the lead and the peloton is just under one minute so there’s a fair chance that he will succeed. The problem, though, is that Lance Armstrong, riding in the yellow jersey, follows Simeoni and when the two reaches the break, everyone knows that the break is dead. There’s no chance that Armstrong’s contenders will let him get away, and extend his lead, on this stage.

So Armstrong, and Simeoni, backs down to the Peloton. Eventually, the break extends the gap and one of the riders in front, the Spaniard Mercado, wins. Now, according to Stephen Tuel, Armstrong went away because he wanted the other teams, first and foremost T-Mobile (with Andreas Klöden and Jan Ullrich) to do some work in the peloton as well. That was the consequence of Armstrong’s breakaway, but not the intended consequence as I see it.

First of all, US Postal wasn’t in the lead of the peloton at the time Simeoni and Armstrong tried to bridge the gap. Instead, the Swiss team Phonak was riding first. Phonak’s Tour was until then more or less disastrous, their captain, the American Tyler Hamilton, had to leave the Tour early because of an injury. Hamilton was supposed to be threat to Armstrong in the struggle for the yellow jersey. This was their last chance to win a stage and their rider Nicolas Jalabert managed to get away with the others in the breakaway. Unfortunately, Jalabert got a flat tire and was caught by the peloton. Therefore, Phonak didn’t want the group in the lead to win so they started the chase. As it happened, US Postal didn’t need to do all the work until Phonak gave up, then Armstrong’s team just cruised along in the front for a while until T-Mobile got into action. 

Secondly, US Postal would want to do the work in the peloton anyway. Sure, they’ll catch the wind but at the same time they can decide the pace and make sure that none of the riders who are a real threat to Lance can get away. There is no chance that CSC (Ivan Basso’s team) or T-Mobile will help US Postal with this, it would have hurt them as well. When Armstrong and Simeoni got back to the peloton, US Postal rode in front of the peloton almost the whole stage, T-Mobile didn't have any share to work.

Thirdly, the rider that Armstrong followed, Filippo Simeoni, isn’t just any rider in the way Tuel mentions him. Sure enough, Simeoni will never win the Tour and he was well behind Armstrong this year. But it’s more to it than that.

A couple of years ago, Simeoni got suspended for using EPO to enhance his performance. He admitted his doping in connection to a hearing against the Italian physician Michele Ferrari. According to Simeoni, Ferrari had helped him when he took EPO and growth hormone. Now, Michele Ferrari is a well known doctor when it comes to cycling, a lot of riders have used him during the years.

One of those riders is none other than Lance Armstrong. After Simeoni’s allegations against Ferrari, Armstrong defended his doctor and called, in public, Simeoni a liar. Simeoni then filed a lawsuit against Armstrong, accusing him of slander, and demanded 100,000 Euros. According to the Italian, he never said anything about Armstrong in the hearing, he only told them about his experience with Ferrari.

So the reason why Armstrong chased after Simeoni seems to be personal, he didn’t want Filippo Simeoni to win that stage. There are indications along that line, also from US Postal, but Armstrong’s team manager Johan Bruyneel later changed his mind. Armstrong himself claimed that he acted on the behalf of the peloton. But there’s no reason why he should get Simeoni back to the peloton himself, he has a whole team that works for him to do that.

Instead, Armstrong took a huge risk. Even though the peloton wasn’t going in the highest pace at the time, it’s not very easy to get away and you will lose energy. With an important time trial the day after, Armstrong could have, even though it’s not very likely, lost the yellow jersey. That’s why he acted irrationally.

Live feed from the 18th stage.

More on cycling, doping and Michele Ferrari.

Update: Educated Guesswork agrees.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Best ever?

The question will inevitably come up, is Lance Armstrong, with his six victories in the Tour de France, the best cyclist ever? But in my opinion, that question* is impossible to answer. Armstrong won six years in a row, struggled against and defeated cancer the years before his first victory and so on. But how do one compare his achievemens with, say Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, Bernard Hinault and Miguel Indurain who won the TdF five times plus various other important competitions? Merckx for instance, also won Giro d'Italia five times, Vuelta España once and three World Championships.

And what about Fausto Coppi who "only" won twice in the Tour de France, but five times in the Giro d'Italia. He started his career in the beginning of the second World War but then the war interrupted the competitions.

All these are great cyclists, and will (and should) be remembered and admired as such. But to say that anyone of them is better than the rest is highly dubious in my opinion.

* Rather, such questions, because there are many in the same "area". Who was the worst, Hitler, Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot is another.  

Saturday, July 24, 2004

Lance again

As I predicted last sunday, Lance Armstrong was far better than Ivan Basso in the time trials and Lance wins his sixth Tour de France in a row. And that's new records, both when it comes to wins in consecutive years and total number of wins. I know that there's a stage tomorrow, but it won't change the podium.

This years number two, Andreas Klöden, is 6 minutes and 38 seconds behind (last year 1.01 mins.), a gap that is about 2 minutes larger than the average for the last 30 years (4.46 mins., my calculation). But the gap is the third smallest that Lance have had.

Podium and time gaps:

2004:
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Andreas Klöden +6.38
3. Ivan Basso +6.59

2003:
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Jan Ullrich +1.01
3. Alexander Vinokourov +4.14

2002:
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Joseba Beloki +7.17
3. Raimondas Rumsas +8.17

2001:
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Jan Ullrich +6.44
3. Joseba Beloki +9.05

2000:
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Jan Ullrich +6.02
3. Joseba Beloki +10.04

1999:
1. Lance Armstrong
2. Alex Zülle +7.17
3. Fernando Escartin +10.36

The smallest gap ever is 8 seconds when Greg LeMond won and Laurent Fignon finished second 1989.  Fignon had 50 seconds down on LeMond when the last stage, an individual time trial from Versailles to Paris, started.

The largest gap is 2 hours 49 minutes and 35 seconds from the very first Tour de France in 1903. Maurice Garin was the winner.

(Source)

Read the whole thing

Two articles that I want to recommend:


Sins of the Mother. An interview with the journalist Bertina Röhl at the Stockholm Spectator. It was Röhl who cracked the story on Joschka Fischer and his past a couple of years ago. And by the way, Röhl is Ulrike Meinhof's daughter.

"The RAF was shrouded in myth from day one. People spoke of Baader being liberated with the help of my mother. But the wording is all wrong. He wasn’t liberated; it was a violent break-out. Out of this emerged the myth of a glossy, gun-toting group with magnificent ideas in their heads about freeing Baader in the name of a higher ideal. The horror of the whole episode was submerged. Stefan Aust [RAF-chronicler and Spiegel editor] is the one who really put a Bonnie and Clyde spin on all of this, despite his full knowledge of how awful it really was. The aims of these people were never mentioned. It finally came out that what they wanted was a sort of North Korean scenario and we can all be extremely thankful that they didn’t succeed. Baader and Meinhof had contacts with the North Korean government in their underground days and dreamed of retiring there if they were released from prison. I’m sure they didn’t know what such a dream would entail in reality."

 

Hating America. Bruce Bawer writes in the Hudson Review about the Europeans and their (our) view of the U.S. (Link via Virginia Postrel)

. . . No wonder so many smart, ambitious young Europeans look for inspiration to the United States, which has a dynamism their own countries lack, and which communicates the idea that  life can be an adventure and that there’s important, exciting work to be done. Reagan-style “morning in America” clichés may make some of us wince, but they reflect something genuine and valuable in the American air. Europeans may or may not have more of a “sense of history” than Americans do . . . but America has something else that matters—a belief in the future.

Friday, July 23, 2004

Get your socks off!

Alex Tabarrok on the socks.

Sweden - "land of the sodomite damned"

A while ago I mentioned Åke Green, a Pastor who got sentenced to one month in jail and a fine for "agitation" against homosexuals. Well, the information have now reached The Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, KS, and they will protest against this.

"God is not mocked!" God Hates Fags! & Fag-Enablers! Ergo, God hates Sweden with an irreversible hatred for same-sex marriage and for criminalizing Gospel preaching!


And who's to blame for this? Apparently, our king, Carl XVI Gustaf.

Whatever of past glory Sweden could heretofore have boasted, Sweden is now and forever shall be famous for only one thing, to wit: Sweden is where the machinery of the King Karl[sic] XVI Gustaf's criminal law was cranked up and jailed a humble Gospel preacher - Pastor Ake Green - for declaring truth about faggot maggots.


That the Swedish king has no power what so ever, he's certainly not the one who decide the law in Sweden, seems to have escaped WBC. But I liked the "faggot maggots" part, very poetic.

And to finish it off:

America´s only hope is to immediately break off all diplomatic relations with Sweden, stop all flights to and from Stockholm, criminalize all trade with Sweden, freeze all Swedish bank accounts in America and use the money to support those prosecuted under the Swedish faggot law, boycott and embargo all things Swedish.


Okay, as long as you don't over-react.

(Thanks to Gudmundson for the pointer)

Ignorance is a bliss

Via PrestoPundit, I found this post at The Indepundit which I found troublesome. Not the obvious part, that spectators spat at and gave Lance Armstrong the finger, because you probably need to be drunk to see anything good in that. Being a cycling afficionado, I really think that this sort of behavior don't belong along the road.

What troubles me this time is that Greg at PrestoPundit and many of the commenters at The Indepundit blames the French people. The Reuters-article that the post links to mentions one nationality, the Germans. Other than that, it's just the neutral "fans". The picture were a spectator gives Lance the finger shows that it's not a French, but a Basque*. But still, France gets all the blame. I'm not saying that no French said stupid things or spat at him, but just blaming the French is equally stupid as I see it.

I'm not very fond of the "explanation" the Indepundit gives either, "[b]ecause, you know, Armstrong is an American, and Bush is Hitler." One of Lance's main competitor, Jan Ullrich, comes from Germany and some other from Spain, one of them the Basque Iban Mayo, who were far behind Armstrong at this stage. Cycling is huge in the Basque country and in Germany, so if their favourite gets crushed by Armstrong, they will get angry**. The "Armstrong is an American" is one explanation, but not the only one and not the most likely.

You may dislike France and the French people if you like, but don't be ignorant while you're at it.

* The reason why I know it's a Basque is because (a) he's wearing an orange t-shirt, shorts and bandana, orange is the "Basque" color, (b) just behind the man there's another man, holding a Basque flag and (c) the picture is most likely taken in the Pyrenees, just north of the Basque country. It's likely because the rider just behind Lance is the Italian Ivan Basso, and there's just those two riders. There were two stages in the Pyrenees this year, both of them ended in a similar fashion with Armstrong and Basso riding alone in the end. The picture couldn't have been taken at Alpe d'Huez since the fans couldn't get so close, there were fences in the way, when Armstrong catched and passed Basso in the time trial.
 
** That's an explanation, not an excuse.

Swedish plagiarist sacked?

A while ago I linked to this post at Media Culpa. It looks lika a Swedish journalist at Dagens Nyheter who works in New York just translated some articles from different news papers and published them as his own work. According to Stockholm Spectator, the journalist might have been sacked.

More here and here.

Thursday, July 22, 2004

Recommended readings

Henry Farrell and Daniel Drezner have written a nice little paper on blogging which I recommend. The paper is available here. More information at Crooked Timber and at Daniel Drezner's blog.

Randy Barnett have an article on libertarianism, The Moral Foundations of Modern Libertarianism, which I also enjoyed.

Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Busting another "PC" Myth

Craig Newmark points to an article in PC World, Busting the Biggest PC Myths. Perhaps it shouldn't be regarded as a PC Myth since it, I guess, involves Mac as well, but here's another story, The Fable of the Keys.

TANSTAAPLUTWS

Sweden's National Institute of Public Health is a frightening institution. If they could, they would certainly run your life for you. So every now and then they run amok with new reports, on alcohol, tobacco, HIV/AIDS, obesity, the consequences of children's TV consumption, family issues, und so weiter. All with different solution where the public can interfere.
 
It is, of course, natural. If you have a welfare state, you can't really expect the public (other citizens that is) to stay out of your life if the public is going to pay when you treat your body in a unhealthy way. That's another road to serfdom for you to go down.
 
There ain't no such thing as a private life under the welfare state.
 


 

Sunday, July 18, 2004

It's all over...

Not necessarily, but I think it is. The Tour de France that is. Lance Armstrong and Ivan Basso (not to mention Armstrong's team mate Jose Azevedo) had a superb yesterday on the stage from Lannemezan to Plataeu de Beille in the Pyrenees. Armstrong is second on the GC and Basso third, the gap is one minute and 17 seconds. Armstrong is 22 seconds behind the leader, young Thomas Voeckler but he won't keep the yellow jersey for long, he will probably lose it on Tuesday.
 
The other contenders are far behind, so the battle is between Armstrong and Basso. There are four mountain stages in the Alps (one time trial) and yet another time trial next week. Since Lance is the better of the two in time trials, Basso needs to outperform Armstrong with a couple of minutes in the Alps. At the moment, it doesn't sound very likely that that is going to happen. So, sixth TdF in six years for Lance Armstrong. Impressive, impressive in deed.
 
 

Saturday, July 17, 2004

Bring out The Gimp.

Pulp Fiction:

"I think The Gimp's asleep."

Fargo:

"'No.' First thing you've said in the last four hours. That's a, that's a fountain of conversation, man. That's a geyser. I mean, whoa, daddy, stand back, man. Shit, I'm sittin' here driving, man, doin' all the driving, whole fuckin' way from Brainerd, drivin', tryin' to, you know, tryin' to chat, keep our spirits up, fight the boredom of the road, and you can't say one fucking thing just in the way of conversation."

 


Find some more scripts here.



Don't Let Go

Don't Let Go

(From Newmark's Door)

Almost as "funny" as this.

Jacob Sullum in Reason

The Value of Values :

"Why all the talk of values? In Beaver, Kerry explained that "a president of the United States makes value judgments every single day." As opposed to the rest of us, who wouldn't know a value if it poked us in the eye."

--

"In short, Kerry is on to something when he says Bush does not truly stand for conservative values. On spending, trade, civil liberties, and federalism, the president has been a bitter disappointment to supporters of limited government. His main appeal to conservatives now is his backing for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit states from recognizing same-sex marriages - a proposal that betrays a decidedly unconservative attitude toward our founding document and the system of government it established."

Thursday, July 15, 2004

New report on Economic Freedom of the World

Fraser Institute

Cato Institute Note: the Cato site seems to be under heavy traffic at the moment, you might want to try the Fraser Institute instead.

Hong Kong Tops Economic Freedom List

From the report:
"Hong Kong retains the highest rating for economic freedom, 8.7 of 10, closely followed by Singapore at 8.6. New Zealand, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States tied for third with ratings of 8.2. The other top 10 nations are Australia, Canada, Ireland, and Luxembourg. The rankings of other large economies are Germany, 22; Japan and Italy, 36; France, 44; Mexico, 58; India, 68; Brazil, 74; China, 90; and Russia, 114."

"Most of the lowest-ranking nations are African, Latin American, or former communist states. Botswana’s ranking of 18 is by far the best among continental sub-Saharan African nations. Chile, with the best record in Latin America, was tied with four other nations at 22. The bottom five nations were Venezuela, Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, and Myanmar. However, a number of other nations for which data are not available, such as North Korea and Cuba, may have even less economic freedom."

"The major findings of this analysis were:
(1) economically free countries grow more rapidly
(2) countries with more economic freedom both attract more investment and generate a higher productivity from that investment than countries with less economic freedom
(3) increases in economic freedom during the 1980s and 1990s enhanced growth during the period from 1980 to 2000 (exhibit 2.5)
(4) long-term differences in economic freedom explain approximately two-thirds of the variation in crosscountry per-capita GDP
(5) a legal structure that provides for secure property rights, even-handed enforcement of contracts, and ruleof law is essential if a country is going to grow and achieve a high level of income."


As for Botswana, read this article(DOC-file) by Scott Beaulier.

News from Central America

New newsletter from the Movimiento Libertario in Costa Rica:

"To be clear, the Central American Free Trade Treaty, or CAFTA, as it is commonly known, is not about free trade. A Libertarian free trade treaty would consist of one sentence: 'Neither party will place any barriers to any goods or services entering their respective countries.' Of course, lawyers, even Libertarian lawyers, would make it longer, but that is the idea. Really free trade."

Tuesday, July 13, 2004

Not so common knowledge about Coca-Cola

OK, so I won't go to Myanmar in the nearest future. Cuba, Iraq and Syria will have to wait as well.

Common Knowledge: Coca-Cola's World Empire

Much ado about nothing?

There is an ongoing debate in the blogosphere after this piece by Steven Landsburg on minimum wages appeared in Slate. For some reactions, look here, here and here.

Econ 101 tells you that if you set up a price floor, then the supply exceeds the demand which in the case of minimum wages means unemployment. There are some problems with this very simple text book analysis. First of all, as Tyler Cowen points out, the wages are not the expenses employers have that can be related to the employees. If you raise the minimum wage, the employers might lower other expenses at the same time which means that they don't necessarily have to lay people off.

The second problem I want to put forward is a problem that is very much related to the neoclassical analysis as such. This kind of analysis is what you will find in any standard Econ textbook. Beginning from the framework of a partial or general equilibrium, a price floor set above the equilibrium price will have the effect mentioned above. The problem is that in the real world, the market is not necessarily in equilibrium. In my view, it is even very unlikely that the market ever is in such a state (even though there are equilibrating forces).

Consider the following scenario. The related market have a equilibrium price P. The minimum wage is set at a price below P, at Pmw. Under normal circumstances there wouldn't be any problems, the market would offer a wage above the minimum wage. But the circumstances don't need to be normal. It might be the case that the minimum wage in one way or the other becomes "institutionalized". What I mean is that the wages are sticky, not just downwards, but also upwards due to an institution. An institution is in this context a rule behaviorour in society. This rule might have been created as a spontaneous order, by "human action but not by human design". The employers offer the minimum wage and the employees don't question this offer until they worked for quite a while (and if the minimum wage "spell" is short enough, they might never question it). The minimum wage thus becomes ceiling more than a floor,unforeseenseen negative effect.

This means also that the government can raise the minimum wage without creating unemployment. The tricky thing is to know the limit of the raise, and that might be "to wish impossible things". Is this scenario plausible? I don't know, but I wouldn't rule it out as entirely implausible.

Update: Some interesting thoughts from Steven Horwitz.

Monday, July 12, 2004

Some useless facts

On this day, July 12th, in 1794, Horatio Nelson lost his right eye. So if you stroll by Trafalgar Square in London, tell him to cheer up and ask him why the hell he went to Corsica in the first place.

And if that's not enough, exact 100 years ago, Pablo Neruda, who won the Nobel Prize in literature 1971, was born.

Sunday, July 11, 2004

Freedom of speech will feed my children

Nice post from Stefan Geens on a recent trial in Sweden where a pastor got sentenced to one month in jail and fined the equivalent to 3600$. All this for his "agitation against ethnic group", in this case the "ethnic" group was homosexuals. Read this post for some background information.

Tour de France

With the 8th stage today, the riders still have two weeks to go before the finish on Champs Elysee in Paris. If you're interested in what a cyclist might think, read Scott Sunderland's diary.

Friday, July 09, 2004

Good as Gold

Gerald P. O'Driscoll on the gold standard.

If you haven't read O'Driscoll's and Mario Rizzo's The Economics of Time and Ignorance, make sure you do.

Thursday, July 08, 2004

I think the world just turned a little bit weirder

Environmental porn(adult contents... warning... blah blah blah)

“Fuck for forest” are concerned youngsters, fighting to preserve the environment. We believe it is possible to use people’s need for sexuality as a way to raise money for nature. And create interest for preserving our forests. It is time to pay respect, and give something back. Fuck for forest, and give the profit to the earths threatened nature..."


And they made a little scene a couple of days ago at the Quart Festival in Kristiansand, Norway. As a friend of mine use to say, all methods works, except those who don't.

Cathy Young on Michael Moore and demagoguery

Reason:

"Meanwhile, some conservatives will no doubt use Moore's movie as a justification for nastiness and demagoguery on the right. Is Michael Moore the counter-Ann Coulter? Is Ann Coulter the counter-Michael Moore? Either way, the vicious cycle keeps getting more vicious. Just recently, the Bush-Cheney reelection campaign contributed to the Moorification (or Coulterization) of public discourse with a television ad that juxtaposed Hitler images with ones of Al Gore and John Kerry. Their excuse? The Hitler images were taken from two ads comparing Bush to Hitler, briefly hosted by the democratic fund-raising group MoveOn.org earlier this year among some 1,500 entries in a contest. In other words, they started it. (At least MoveOn.org removed the spots and expressed regret over their appearance.)

Maybe Michael Moore is a man for our time. That's a pretty damning indictment of our time."

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

If only the politicians would listen for once

Then maybe they could lower the taxes. According to a survey made by the Swedish Tax Payers Association(Swedish only) and the survey company Demoskop, the Swedish average tax on income should be 36 percent. Compared with the actual average tax, that's 27 percentage points lower than todays 63 percent. Of course, if the public believes that the average tax are much lower than they really are, such comparisons would be quite flawed. But when asked, their opinion was that todays average tax is 59 percent, not so far from the truth.

One interesting point is that you could note some differences between left/right-voters, such as that voters to the right wanted lower taxes compared with voters from the left which is not very surprising. But the differences were not that large, the range went from 35 percent at the low end to 41 percent at the high end.

Surveys like this are troublesome and should not be taken too serious. For instance, if those who answer the survey don't make the connection between a tax reduction and cuts in the welfare system, they will probably overestimate the reduction they want. At the same time, the Swedish welfare system is flawed so they might as well want a reduction so that the taxes equals what you actually receive in return.

Summary and link to the survey(Swedish only).

What a scoop

Swedish media reports today that competition lowers food prices. It is based on a study made by a pensioner organization where they compare the prices of food baskets from various parts of the country. I can't imagine what they will report on tomorrow, perhaps that apples fall to the ground because of gravity.

Monday, July 05, 2004

Portugal - Greece 0 - 1

I would've laughed three weeks ago if someone said to me then that Greece would win Euro 2004. But here we are now, the day after the final and Greece are the winners. Not, in my opinion, due to an outstanding attacking play but to an excellent defense.

The first half of the final against Portugal ended without any goals, a result that must be regarded as fair. Portugal started the second half in higher speed but it was the Greeks who scored the first, and only, goal of the match. Portugal tried to equalize but lacked in concentration.

My Man of the Match: Theodoros Zagorakis.

I would have prefered another country to win, the Czechs played the best football in the tournament but a moment of bad defending decided that the Greeks should win that semi-final.

Friday, July 02, 2004

Marlon Brando dead at 80

Everything you always wanted to know about...

...Tour de France... but were afraid to ask. You can find it at cyclingnews.com.

My prediction is that Lance Armstrong's sixth victory might not come this year. I think he'll have to watch the Spaniards Roberto Heras (a former team mate) and Iban Mayo. But he needs to worry about Jan Ullrich too, as well as nasty allegations from other people.

It all begins tomorrow. Since Euro 2004 ends on sunday, the Tour will be a nice recovery.

Plagiarism in Swedish newspaper

Euro 2004 update

Portugal - Netherlands 2 - 1

Portugal started Euro 2004 with a poor performance against Greece. But their game have improved remarkably since then and the first hour against Netherlands where their best so far.

Portugal got into the lead after a header by Ronaldo in the 26th minute and in the 58th, Maniche extended to 2-0 after a beautiful strike. The Dutch's regained some strength after a Portuguese own goal five minutes later and Netherland pushed forward, trying to get the second goal. They had some opportunities but didn't reach far enough.

My Man of the Match: Luis Figo

Greece - Czech Republic 1 - 0 (silver goal)

The Czechs started out completly different compared to their match against Denmark. This time they attacked immediately after kick off. They hade some really good chances but after their playmaker Pavel Nedved got forced off due to an injury, Greece got higher up on the pitch. Both teams had a fair amounts of chances but the Czechs where a little bit closer to get the first. Never the less, after 90 minutes the match were still tied at 0-0 and silver goal started.

Greece started SG in an attacking style, creating good opportunities and were eventually awarded a corner which Dellas could head into the net. At that point were there only seconds remaining of the first SG half and the Czechs didn't have the time to equalize.

My Man of the Match: Jan Koller.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Thousands in HK protest march