Assorted links

by on February 5, 2013 at 12:15 pm in Uncategorized | Permalink

1. Norwegian diaper arbitrage.

2. What Brian Eno worries about.

3. The culture that is Sweden markets in everything (striking).

4. India-specific page for MRU.

5. Is this a solution to the UK productivity puzzle?, and comments from Karl Smith.

6. FedEx vs. the internet?, and the philosophy of data.

prior_approval February 5, 2013 at 12:24 pm

The irony is fantastic – a link from here to what Eno worries about, which actually proves his point about how politics is done by others while ‘we’re laissez-ing.’

John February 7, 2013 at 5:53 pm

Brian certainly has it right. But then that’s the expected outcome given the current structure.

Steve February 5, 2013 at 1:16 pm

Am I reading it wrong or is the actual internet traffic being compared to the theoretical capacity of the fedex fleet? Seems like an apple to oranges comparison to me.

Marie February 5, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Read some of the other What Ifs and you’ll get a feel for the series. I really enjoyed the ones about swimming in a spent nuclear fuel pool and stopping a freight train with a bb gun.

boba February 5, 2013 at 7:13 pm

Actually it’s closer to apples tomorrow, or apples in an hour or so. I worked in computer the days when 56K lines were $$$, so that Toyota pickup filled with tapes was just a competitor we could not beat, the cost for the bandwidth needed was just too high. We leveraged ourselves in the niche where small amounts of information, which was time sensitive was carried.
As much as the internet has grown, it still cannot do it all. Imagine if every user on a network needed to update a large patch, and decided to do it simultaneously. The source (the server holding the patch) would crash if everyone tried to access it, so four techs walking around a large office with a USB stick could effectively outperform a gigabit ethernet. You may think you will get the patch slower using techs with USB, but the reality is you get it sooner. And that’s how it works, Sneaker net will always outperform in capacity, and in certain instances in response time.

Douglas Knight February 6, 2013 at 8:35 pm

Imagine if every user on a network needed to update a large patch, and decided to do it simultaneously

Textbook use case for bittorrent.

Slocum February 5, 2013 at 1:24 pm

#1. You’d think that at this point, Norwegian supermarkets would be able to attract customers by simply guaranteeing to have diapers in stock. Which they would do by charging normal prices.

john personna February 5, 2013 at 1:33 pm

6) I’m not normally a Brooks (or pundit) basher. I’m fine with a low batting average, if there are occasional solid hits. But geez, that was a stinker. Big data is a new perspective. It doesn’t eliminate other perspectives. It doesn’t always trump previous perspectives. But if it succeeds ever, it is useful … no need for fainting couch.

mofo February 6, 2013 at 8:45 am

Ill be honest, i dont know why people link to Brook’s articles in the first place. This article, like most DB, offers us nothing that is new, deep, insightful, novel, its not even particularly entertaining. Are we so starved for commentary that an op-ed that says “big data will change some things, but not others” is really the only thing that is link worthy? Seriously, what did we gain by reading this?

prior_approval February 5, 2013 at 1:39 pm

Well, let me relink to some information about marriage and child raising in Nordic countries –

‘About half of my Swedish friends with children are not formally married. But these unmarried couples are all in ordinary family relationships, no better or worse than the relationships of couples I know who are married. Unmarried Dad takes turns with Mom in picking Junior up from the day-care center each afternoon. Neither Mom nor Dad wants to go to their kid’s school parent night, but they finally reach a compromise. Some of these unmarried couples decide eventually to have a wedding, if only as an excuse to have a big party.’

And some split up – making such a ring at least understandable.

‘In fact, the argument by Kurz and other researchers in the USA that marriage is dying in Scandinavia is debatable. The Nordic Statistical Yearbook 2004 comes to the opposite conclusion: “Overall, the number of marriages in the Nordic countries has increased since 1990 but with very individual patterns and fluctuations among the different countries” This statistical bible goes on to say that “the total number of divorces in the Nordic countries has been quite stable from 1990 to 2004.”


”Part of the confusion may be a question of definition. What exactly is a marriage? Is marriage a church wedding, a civil marriage, a legal declaration of partnership, or simply a long-term cohabitation? In any event, critics like Kurz are correct when they note that a lot of children are born to unmarried parents in this region.
The conservative pundit underplays the fact, however, that the “out of wedlock” concept, which has a decidedly negative ring to it in America, simply doesn’t exist over here in Scandinavia. There is no stigma attached to what Americans consider “out-of-wedlock” parenthood. Nor are there real legal or economic disadvantages to people in common-law marriages, or their offspring.’

Again, making such a ring perfectly understandable.

‘The fact that Scandinavia is a more secular society than America, that daycare is readily available to working parents, and that government polices actively encourage equality between the sexes all contribute to the widespread pattern here of uncertified or delayed marriage. Women don’t feel so insecure about their future, or dependant upon a male “breadwinner” for her financial security. Mom and her children enjoy a safety net provided by the state, and the woman in the family may well earn more money than the man in her life.
High quality public heath care at little or no cost contributes to the sense of freedom and security among women. Paid parental leave and subsidized daycare are also readily available. In Norway, for example, parents of infants 1 to 2 years old who do not use subsidized childcare receive a tax-free payment which last year amounted to NOK 3,657 (nearly 600 dollars) per month.
The sense of security afforded by generous social policies partly explains why birth rates are relatively high in the Nordic countries despite a very high female participation in the labor force. It is easier here for women to combine childbearing and employment, if they choose to do so. “The development from about the mid-1980s with rising fertility in all Nordic countries caught the attention of researchers and politicians far beyond the region. The reason, of course, is that this pattern was in sharp contrast to the experience of most other European countries,” according to Marit Ronson of Norway, writing in the August 2004 issue of “Demographic Research.” ‘

Basically, women with children can be as picky as they wish before accepting another man into their life – and they have no reason to hide the fact they are mothers. The only striking thing here is that anyone would think a mother has any reason at all to not make that fact obvious. Unless it be the fact that such marketing is just as artificial and odious as De Beers’.

The Anti-Gnostic February 5, 2013 at 2:13 pm

Sweden will be Muslim and patriarchal in two generations, and marriage will be back in style.

Owen February 5, 2013 at 4:15 pm


It will be two generations before the majority of children are born to moslem families at current birthrate trends.

It will be four generations before patriarchal values really dominate the society and anything could happen in the next eighty years to derail that. Lack of will to enforce the law against moslems will lead to widespread forced marriages and effectively legalized rape long before then. The process is well under way in places like the UK and Norway.

prior_approval February 6, 2013 at 5:41 am

Well, considering that according to the esteemed demographic expert Mark Steyn that Europe will be 40% Muslim by 2025, I have no idea why the Swedes are lagging so far behind. And if the below information is correct, French Muslims are more French than Muslim, and would have little problem with Swedish habits.

But why let me mock you – let’s just quote an article with actual citations and facts -

‘But all this obscures a simple fact: the rise of a Eurabia is predicated on limited and dubious evidence. A much-cited 2004 study from the U.S. National Intelligence Council outlines a number of possible scenarios. Its most aggressive is that the number of Muslims in Europe could increase from roughly 20 million today—about 5 percent of the population—to 38 million by 2025. But that projection turns out to be attributed to “diplomatic and media reporting as well as government, academic, and other sources.” In other words, it’s all speculation based on speculation—and even if it’s accurate, it would still mean the number of Muslims will represent just 8 percent of the European population, estimated by the EU to be 470 million in 2025. Indeed, if there is a surge ahead, its scale looks overstated. “There is a quite deliberate exaggeration, as has often been pointed out—but the figures are still being cited,” says Jytte Klausen, an authority on Islam in Europe at Boston’s Brandeis University.

Coming up with a reasonable estimate for the percentage of Muslims now living in Europe, let alone making projections for the future, is a virtually impossible task. The number of illegal immigrants is unknown and, in a sign of the sensitivity of the issue, many countries including France and Germany do not even tally census data on the religion of legal residents. It is true that the Muslim minority is destined to grow steadily in Europe, especially given the youthful profile of today’s immigrants. Fertility rates remain higher among Muslim immigrants than among other Europeans, and Muslims may continue to arrive in Europe in large numbers. But the alarmists assume that past patterns are sure to hold. “The worst of the scaremongering is based on the assumption that current behavior will continue,” says Grace Davie, an expert on Europe and Islam at the University of Exeter in Britain.

For the number of Muslims to outnumber non-Muslims by midcentury, it would require either breeding on a scale rarely seen in history or for immigration to continue at a pace that’s now politically unacceptable. More likely, new controls will slow Muslim immigration. The birthrate for Muslim immigrants is also likely to continue to decline, as it has tended to do, with greater affluence and better health care. There is no Europewide data available, but one study says fertility rates among Turkish-born women in the Netherlands fell from 3.2 in 1990 to 1.9 in 2005, barely above the figure for native-born Dutch. Over the same period, the equivalent figure for Moroccan-born women in the Netherlands dropped from 4.9 to 2.9. Also, fertility rates are edging upward in some Northern European countries, which would offset some of the Muslim growth. Bottom line: given the number of variables, demographers are loath to make predictions about the number of Muslims in Europe in the years to come. “You would almost have to make it up,” says Carl Haub, the senior demographer at the Population Reference Bureau in Washington. And the idea of a Muslim majority any time soon? “Absolutely absurd.”

Moreover, the myth of Eurabia implies the existence of a united Islam, a bloc capable of collective and potentially dangerous action. The truth is that there are no powerful Muslim political movements in Europe, either continentwide or at the national level, and the divisions that separate Muslims worldwide, most obviously between Sunnis and Shiites, are apparent in Europe as well. Each major nation in Europe has drawn Muslim immigrants from distinct regions of the Islamic world, often former colonies, with different traditions and outlooks. A British Muslim from Pakistan would struggle to communicate with a French Muslim from Algeria. A second-generation Muslim from Turkey living in Germany will have little in common with a newly arrived Moroccan across the border in Belgium. Sharp differences exist even within national frontiers. In Germany, more than one in 10 Muslims are Alawites, who aren’t even recognized as coreligionists by the more orthodox.

In areas of personal morality, attitudes vary markedly, too. One recent Gallup poll found that more than 30 percent of French Muslims were ready to accept homosexuality, compared with zero in Britain. Almost half of French Muslims believed sex between unmarried people was morally acceptable, compared with 27 percent of German Muslims. And violent zealotry is for the tiny minority: polls repeatedly reaffirm that Muslims overwhelmingly disapprove of terrorism. In some countries, the mood is broadly secular. “The majority of Muslims in France are, in fact, decoupled from their religion. They just blend into an amorphous mass of brown or black people,” says Ali Allawi, the former Iraqi defense minister and author of the The Crisis of Islamic Civilization. Jochen Hippler, a German political scientist at the University of Duisburg-Essen, says he has had young Turks come up to him to ask what Islam is all about. “They have lost any connection with the religion of their parents and grandparents,” he says. A recent government survey showed that 40 percent of Iranians living in Germany identified themselves as having no religion, as did 23 percent of North Africans. In the Netherlands, the proportion of Muslims who regularly attend the mosque—27 percent—is lower than the proportion of Protestants who go to church.’

prior_approval February 6, 2013 at 5:42 am
Joe Torben February 6, 2013 at 2:28 pm

What on earth does facts have to do with anything? When the racists are rambling on incoherently, who are you to bring up actual statistics and reasonable analysis? Shame on you!

Terri February 5, 2013 at 2:16 pm

Speaking of the “very secular” –

I found it quite amusing to discover that my local church has started an evangelization campaign … in Norway. I guess there’s more to the missionary world than the 10/40 window.

Cliff February 5, 2013 at 5:09 pm

Thank you for your essay on why this ring should not be a novelty for Americans.

prior_approval February 6, 2013 at 5:48 am

Americans are much more into serial monogamy/children from multiple marriages than Scandinavians.

I sense a jewelry marketing opportunity – as soon as American society starts to adopt less hypocritical and piously patriarchal attitudes toward women and sex.

Oh wait – another Arkansas lawmaker has proposed a law forcing a woman to have a foreign object professionally stuck inside her before she can decide what to do with her body. That jewelry market opportunity, big as it is, will probably have to wait for a while.

anon February 5, 2013 at 2:10 pm

so divorce with children is more pleasant in Sweden (3) but potty training is more high stakes in Norway (1) … good it cancels out, no need for Scandinavian envy.

John Mansfield February 5, 2013 at 2:11 pm

What problem do stores in Norway running half-price promotional sales have with “Limit 10 per customer”?

RM February 5, 2013 at 2:39 pm

Maybe I missed it, but where are the diapers made: Norway or China?

Why wouldn’t a Norwegian online seller–that does not need to get parents in the door–sell the diapers? Wouldn’t the others buy online?

dearieme February 5, 2013 at 4:47 pm

We used to get our diapers free, in return for refrigerating them after use and handing them over for scientific study. We used to refer to the chap who came to pick them up as the night soil collector.

Thor February 5, 2013 at 9:19 pm

You are one of my favourite posters, but we’re not coming for dinner to YOUR house, now that I know about your fridge.

Jbj February 5, 2013 at 4:53 pm

Dont forget norwegian garlic arbitrage. And they say Norway is expensive…

Merijn Knibbe February 5, 2013 at 5:46 pm

On # 5 – this is hopelessly confused.

First: a mayor mistake. The article quoted by Isabella Kaminska states: “The same is true with economic growth; GDP if estimated accurately would be a measure of value added, i.e. profit. But as a result of the estimation bias towards gross output…there is a widespread belief that economic growth means increased gross output.”. The point is – GDP is a measure of value added, i.e. profit PLUS WAGES PLUS INTEREST PLUS RENTS. It is ridiculous to leave wages and rents and interest out of the equation – the system of national accounts defines economic growth as an increase in (wages plus profits plus interest plus rents), i.e. as an increase in income of labour and the owners of capital and land (land is a separate factor of production).

Second. We have to distinguish between net and gross domestic product. Net domestic product is gross domestic product minus depreciation of capital. When we count more expenses as investments in stead of intermediate production, final expenditure on investments will rise and so will the stock of capital. At the same time, intermediate production, which is subtracted from gross production to calculate value added from the production side, will decline as parts of it are now assumed to be investments and gross value added will, therefore, rise. Total depreciation of capital will however also rise and after a few years net value added will be the same as before. Total wages will not change, gross profits in the national accounts, including depreciation, will rise but net profits will be the same.

An slightly different example: suppose that we define cars bought by families as investments instead of consumption. Total sales won’t change. The investment rate and savings as defined by the national accounts and the stock of capital will increase. Depreciation will however also increase, albeit somewhat slowly, and when the stock of cars becomes stable new consumption plus depreciation of cars will after some years be equal to the old consumption.

Tom February 6, 2013 at 1:55 am

Thank you for the Karl Smith link. The debate on the UK Productivity puzzle highlights all that has gone wrong in economics in that no one ever seems to look at the detailed sectoral and company data. It has been clear to anyone who has bothered to look at the data that the reason behind the puzzle is the financial services sector as it generates about one third of the UK’s gross value added. Doing a weighted average calculation is surely not beyond the wit of macro economists?

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