Assorted links

by on April 28, 2012 at 3:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. From the Swiss anti-immigration movement.

2. Caplan on Cowen on government growth.

3. Interfluidity on the UK, and a response from Richard Williamson, who notes the UK has not really started deleveraging, and from him yet some more.

4. Why does the caste system continue to survive in India?

5. Observations on whether or not you should finish books.

Mark Thorson April 28, 2012 at 3:41 pm

The Gulag Archipelago broke me of the practice of finishing books. I think I was halfway through the third volume when I decided I’d had enough. Lots of people died horribly in the gulag. Okay, I got it.

Mark Thorson April 28, 2012 at 3:42 pm

How does one terminate italics mode?

Oliver B April 28, 2012 at 6:00 pm

When you start it with an italics you must end it with (that is, a tag with the same name preceded by a slash)

Oliver B April 28, 2012 at 6:05 pm

[Grr, this is why no-one commented!] Because when telling people about syntax to use in comments, the syntax you’re trying to demonstrate always gets stripped after you comment.
Put a slash after the tag name like [i]italic words[/i], but with the other kind of bracket (which might be displayed if I type ‘>’ but might be displayed if I type ‘<' but really, who knows).

Michael Heller April 28, 2012 at 3:50 pm

#1 Well why not? Fair is fair. You can’t have it both ways.

#2 That was a great paper by TC. I might not think so now if I re-read it (!) but it’s what got me to look up TC on google and dropped me into MR for the first time in June 2009. Thanks for the trip down memory lane…

#5 Another of TC’s memorable lessons in life. Don’t feel guilty if you put the book back on the shelf or give it to charity before the end. Tim Parks gives you the rational excuse — “the need for an end is just an unfortunate burden, an embarrassment”.

Ed April 28, 2012 at 4:40 pm

On #3, this blog pointed me to Pierre Bayard’s “How to Talk About Books You Haven’t Read”, which essentially makes the argument that no one really “reads” books, they skim them and/ or forget big parts of the book after they put it down. So #3 is really an argument that you shouldn’t necessarily try to read the endings of books.

With non-fiction I don’t think the ending matters that much. With fiction it depends on the extent that it presents a situation that is only resolved at the end of the book. Otherwise the ending is just more book. If you are a skimmer, there may not be a reason to read the closely and skim the middle or early parts of the book, instead of the reverse.

Joel April 28, 2012 at 5:13 pm

#5 I didn’t finish this article because it was too boring. Ironic.

dan1111 April 28, 2012 at 5:38 pm

Too bad, because it really got good at the end.

Alanis Morrisette April 28, 2012 at 6:02 pm

That’s a little too ironic, dontcha think?

Norman Pfyster April 29, 2012 at 9:31 am

Not as ironic as rain on your wedding day.

Jean April 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm

The explanation for the UK isn’t difficult. They were brought into the ‘Rheinland Model’ in 1997 through the financial services authority (EU natch). They no longer have the anglo-saxon method, even though they don’t use the euro. The debt to GDP ratio over there is astonishing. German banks to German GDP – 500% Switzerland 700% UK 1000% Luxembourg More than 2000% Whoever starts the deleveraging process brings the entire house of cards down.

Bill April 28, 2012 at 7:58 pm

Jean, you are right. The private financial systems are a big risks to these governments. If you look at the US and England, England’s private financial debt increased by 87% over the period 2000 to 2008, whereas the US increased by 16%. See the last link in #3 above. I can see why their government is exposed to a very big private financial sector, and if that goes south, then the government would have to step in under a worse case scenario. Delevaging on the private side is going to be slow and painful.

John Thacker April 28, 2012 at 5:54 pm

If I understand correctly, all the respectable parties in Switzerland and Germany were willing to go ahead with the idea of immigration restriction of non EU or of Eastern Europeans, but the idea of applying Swiss restriction to Germans as well is a bridge too far?

Seems distasteful on all sides.

Sir Lawrence Olivier April 28, 2012 at 6:13 pm

Arnhem is nowhere near Switzerland, you insensitive clod.

anonymous... April 28, 2012 at 6:32 pm

Would it be crass to mention that sometimes I don’t feel the need to even start a book, either?

Very often a book is discussed on blogs and other forums. It’s summed up and analyzed, so you get not just the gist but often a great deal more: original insights injected by reviewers and back-and-forth commentary, which couldn’t be found in the book itself.

What your mind is really consuming is a meme, and the book itself was just the nucleus around which an early version of the meme crystallized. Sometimes actually reading the book would be superfluous.

msgkings April 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm

+1, well said

Becky Hargrove April 28, 2012 at 7:25 pm

#4 – nothing like I had imagined, particularly the trust that will inevitably break down with different cleaning systems . Meanwhile back in the U.S. trust is long since broken down between the middle and lower classes. The other day a woman was tied up and robbed in her home in Houston, by a woman who had recently cleaned house for her.

Tom April 28, 2012 at 8:48 pm

I have two chapters left of An Economist Gets Lunch…what to do…what to do

CBBB April 29, 2012 at 1:33 am

Eat it

Matt April 28, 2012 at 10:51 pm

On 4- it would also be possible for Indians to realize that in fact, gathering trash doesn’t make one ‘polluted’, and that it’s stupid to think so. With that, the system would end.

Donald A. Coffin April 28, 2012 at 11:51 pm

On the “untouchables” in India. If the problem is that members of this caste have a “stranglehold” on certain jobs (including collection and removal of refuse), then what are we to make of this (quoted from the article): “Otherwise, they are regarded as polluted and every interaction with upper caste folks becomes subject to an apartheid-like code.”

In short, they cling to their position because, in the absence f that position, the higher-caste people treat them like garbage.

YSK April 29, 2012 at 2:02 am

4. India has 1.2 billion people. One shouldn’t generalize from what happens in one locality in one city.

RR April 29, 2012 at 12:04 pm

+1 A lot of the article made sense once I read …” on a recent visit to Delhi.”

Ricardo April 29, 2012 at 2:59 am

The caste-system article seems to conflate two different things. One is that certain castes or communities in India act like unions or guilds — they regulate entry into a certain occupation, take care of their members (esp. with weddings and funerals) and might even be able to give their members some bargaining power.

The hierarchical nature of the caste system is another issue entirely, though. There still are “educated” people in India who regard any sort of physical contact with a low-caste or caste-less person to be taboo. These norms and taboos seem to be on the decline in certain parts of the country and especially in big cities but traditions like that need not have any economic rationale and will be slow to die. The article notes that many Indian homes have a separate entrance for helpers but the same was true of many houses in Europe in fairly recent times.

dearieme April 29, 2012 at 7:26 am

” Unlike slavery, under which whites actively relied on authorities to maintain their slave holdings…”: good God, does he really believe that slavery consists only of white men owning others? That’s racist, that is.

Norman Pfyster April 29, 2012 at 9:38 am

Just one more reason to have a multicultural education.

JWatts April 30, 2012 at 10:59 am

“That’s racist, that is.”

Probably just ignorant.

RR April 29, 2012 at 12:15 pm

2. “If all or most voters, circa 2009, wanted their government to be five percent of gross domestic product, some candidate would run on that platform and win. Change might prove difficult to accomplish, but we would at least observe politicians staking out that position as a rhetorical high ground. In today’s world we do not observe this. ” Das Tea Party Manifesto ?

JWatts April 30, 2012 at 11:03 am

#2. It seems to me as a society America has already decided that we want the Federal government to be roughly 20% of GDP. So I think it’s fair to say American’s don’t want the Federal government to be 5% of GDP or 35% of GDP. I’d probably even say there isn’t much support for under 15% or over 25%.

There is still a lot of vigorous debate about which end of that 10% range we’ll end up at, however.

Eric H April 29, 2012 at 8:33 pm

4. The caste system is obviously a market failure caused by hyperindividualism. A few laws and regulations should quickly clean it up. Or at least that’s what I learned about the history of anti-discrimination at CrookedTimber.

TGGP April 29, 2012 at 9:48 pm

Timur Kuran’s “Private Truths, Public Lies” has an interesting bit on the caste system.

Dave Hansen April 29, 2012 at 10:28 pm

#2. “People always had a latent demand for big government; then technology finally made it possible to satisfy them.”

I think Caplan’s summary gives to much credit to the general public (which is what I take him to mean by “People”). What matters more is that elites (politicians, organized interests, activists, etc.) had a strong preference for big government (at least in ways that benefited them, which collectively meant more government all around) and technology made it possible. I suspect that even if voters were opposed to expansion, it was less salient of an issue and too costly to intervene/stay informed with what was going on.

Anshu April 29, 2012 at 10:56 pm

#4: I’ve lived in South Delhi for over 30 years and my experience has been very different from the author’s. In our neighborhood the following tasks: cleaning the bathroom, washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the floors and cooking food were services that were offered by many women who lived in nearby slums. There was a competitive market and many many households competed for the services of many many of these women. You couldn’t low ball these women and they couldn’t hold you hostage. We had many hindu and muslim women who worked at our home and we frequently had different people doing different things. A lot of these women took a lot of days off, frequently without informing us up front but that is the norm for most Indians at all levels of society and these women in my opinion are more professional than an average Indian government employee. At least they didn’t act like they are doing you a favor. Most of these women knew that if they pushed their luck too far beyond the norm in Delhi then someone else would swoop in and pick up their job. We have lived in many parts of Delhi (North (Kingsway Camp), South (Hauz Khas) and East (Mayur Vihar)) for over 30 years and we have never encountered the cartels that the author describes. When these cleaning/cooking women were muslim, we could tell from their names and from prolonged interaction (Id holidays etc) and when they were hindu, we often had no idea about anybody’s caste because it never came up.

I have only head of the kind of dalit cartels the author describes in the context of reservations in government jobs for sweepers and I once watched a documentary about how there was a caste cartel in some small town in UP. In Delhi, I have only experienced very competitive markets with lots of short to medium term contracts and lots of churn and no mention of caste in this sector.

Ritwik April 30, 2012 at 6:49 am

#4 is about as much garbage as Maya leaves unattended on poor MS Dalmia’s mother in law’s front porch while protesting.

To convert obvious truths about
1) domestic help’s propensity to create holidays out of nothing (because we don’t grant them legitimate ones in the first place, duh)
2) the incumbent’s incentive protest when mechanisation takes over her job

into a barely disguised freewheeling rant about poor work ethic and ‘cartels’ is shoddy, shoddy writing that does not deserve to be linked at MR. Anshu above is exactly right – there is close to a competitive market, contracts are informal and short/medium termed, prices are ‘pre-fixed’ but absurdly low and there’s more than one community willing to do domestic work. ‘Cartel’ type behaviour is perhaps present in lobbying for what are known as Grade 4 government jobs.

Enrique May 2, 2012 at 2:43 am

the link to #5 was a fascinating read (from start to finish!) and raises a good point, because although it is discussing novels, I suspect it applies to Tyler’s reading habits — since he cannot possibly finish all the books he is reading

berck May 2, 2012 at 2:42 pm

Am I the only one that read #5 the first time Tyler posted it back in March? http://marginalrevolution.com/marginalrevolution/2012/03/assorted-links-397.html

Perhaps if you read something to the end you’re more likely to remember that you already read it a few weeks later…

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