Sorted Turkish links

1. What’s up, and a Business Week survey.

2. Brain surgery in Turkey 5000 years ago.

3. Turkish problems with trade deficits and credit creation.

4. Why Turkey is backsliding on women’s rights.

5. What is the future of press freedom?

One possible take on the current situation is that Turkish liberties are eroding in a dangerous manner and the country will slide into some version of an Islamic state, through not-fully-democratic means yet sanctioned by the ballot box.  A second take is that the liberties were not quite ever there in the first place, and Turkish society is moving to a more coherent and more sustainable equilibrium of state, religion, and citizen.  Islam in Turkey is finding a way toward a more comfortable public space, albeit with bumps and mistakes along the way, and lasting radical secularization was never possible anyway.  The rising middle class and Turkey’s historic uniqueness, and separation from the Persian and Arab worlds, will keep it on a “good enough” track.  I incline toward the second and more optimistic view.

Central Turkey is more economically advanced than I had expected.  It is downright nice here, and standards of living are reasonably high.  Imagine the per capita income of Mexico or Brazil but with greater equality and stronger social cohesion.  Food is even better than in Istanbul, namely it is spicier and has fresher raw ingredients.

Turkey will prove to be an important test case for whether a rapid influx of foreign capital can be done in a stable manner.  It’s funny how a lot of the same economists who distrust a rapid capital influx in an international development context (“the hot money comes and goes”) are entirely happy to trust a rapid influx of capital into U.S. Treasury securities.


Too bad the early brain surgeons were displaced by today's barbaric Turks, destroyers of Byzantium. Tyler would probably enjoy eating a dirty meal in one of their neighborhoods in Berlin.

Were the early brain surgeons displaced by today's Turks? Or were they displaced by the Myceneans who were displaced by the Greeks who were displaced by the Persians, who were displaced by the Macedonians who were displaced by Romans who were displaced by the Goths who were displaced by other Romans who were displaced by the current Turks? Each group being subject to numerous raids, rapine and immigration at each stage.

To receive reparations, the original people of Turkey, now living in Finland, will have to sue the current inhabitants of New Guinea, but only according to traditional Korean tribal law.

Yes, they were displaced by today's Turks. The other issues were organic and assimilationist. But apologize for barbarism all you want.

Irony of the racist.

doctorpat's comment upset you. Let me help you, it is you who apologized for barbarism by excusing it everywhere else. Besides, reverting back to these ancient blood feuds is truly barbaric.

Let's also include the fact that Byzantium was sacked by the crusaders first.

Well this is predictably annoying.

I have found TC's and AT's general economic wisdom to be of not superlative quality over the years. (There are exceptions..., but not many).

But every once in a while TC goes on walkabout and reports back, with a series of links, in which I learn something every few hundred words.

So I'm trapped! I can't unsubscribe from the rss reader...

What does this mean?

"""not-fully-democratic means yet sanctioned by the ballot box"""

Tyler, I'm surprised by your last paragraph. Are you coming out of the closet in relation to capital flows?

Although you don't say who those economists are, many (most?) economists seem ready to denounce as evil (not just distrust) rapid capital flows into small countries (that is, all other than U.S. and perhaps Germany and Japan) because they are "speculative", "destabilizing", "volatile", and responsible for whatever tragedy happens to the recipient country (yes Greece, it's not your fault!). These same economists don't say anything about similar capital flows within small or large countries and they usually celebrate the integration of domestic financial markets as well as large, unexpected flows intermediated by central banks on behalf of their governments. Many of those economists support Tobin-type taxes to increase the cost of international capital flows but are reluctant to apply them to domestic capital flows (although, as usual, Argentina was an exception when a Harvard Ph.D. minister needed to finance a corrupted government).
BTW, not to spend time discussing the meaning of speculation: anyone that buy anything with the expectation of a reward is speculating (even when you buy an apple you're speculating about the pleasure you'll get when you eat it later). This is the reason why the word "speculation" does not appear in any micro textbook (I mean a good one).

"...entirely happy to trust a rapid influx of capital into U.S. Treasury securities."

Care to offer some actual evidence of how foreign purchases of UST's can in any way be characterized as "rapid"???

"entirely happy to trust a rapid influx of capital into U.S. Treasury securities"

Besides wsm's valid question whether this was ever rapid, its extremely incomparable to rapid foreign inflows into developing countries. The problem with rapid inflows is that they are pulled back when things get bad. Treasuries are exactly the opposite in that people pull money out of treasuries when the economy is doing well, so there are other avenues to make up for the loss of treasury money.

BTW, not to spend time discussing the meaning of speculation: anyone that buy anything with the expectation of a reward is speculating (even when you buy an apple you’re speculating about the pleasure you’ll get when you eat it later).

True. On the other hand, if you buy ten thousand bushels of apples hoping to sell them later the same day at a nice profit, you are at best a middleman.

When large amounts of money can slosh around quickly to disrupt physical trade which is not so large, what good is it?

It reminds me of no-limit poker. Not a game you should play when the other guys have a lot more money than you do.

But if you're just trying to sell a product, and somehow to sell your product you have to play the equivalent of no-limit poker with anybody who decides they want to play with you, then it's more important for you to be good at that game than to be good at making and selling your product....

Sorry but I don't remember to have met in my adult life (the past 55 years) any person that intended to disrupt physical trade --even the many stupid economists that accepted high level positions in Argentina and then implemented terrible policies did not have such an intention (the disruption of trade was an unintended consequence of their stupidity). People trade with the expectation of a reward and it doesn't matter how long they wait to get it (if their expectations change, sooner or later they'll give up and take a loss). There is no difference between buying an apple that turned out to be rotten and buying IOUs that turned out to have been issued by a Madoff. You may buy a house with the intention of keep it for 30 years but a week later you may sell it because it's good for you. Don't mix gambling with market players --leave that for economists that don't know how to explain what happened.

If there's a profit to be made by disrupting physical trade, then surely someone will come along to make that profit.

And sure as anything, they will argue that they are in fact facilitating trade, that the world is better off because of what they do.

And if they are wealthy enough, economists will show up who will argue that they are right.

Are they right in reality? How would we find out? Not by taking a poll among voters. Not by taking a poll among economists.

If economics was a science, then it would be possible to measure the effects. Then people could choose by some unscientific standard whether the world was better off or not, based on the effects that actually happen.

Similarly with ecology. Ecologists can measure things like "productivity". Plants collect CO2 and H2O and use sunlight to collect energy. They use some of that energy for their own growth and maintenance. The productivity of a whole ecosystem is the energy that's collected beyond what's used by all the plants and animals etc. This can be measured. Is an ecosystem which produces a whole lot, like a cornfield, better or worse than an ecosystem which produces very little like a mature sequoia forest? That isn't a scientific question.

As to whether people who chase fleeting opportunities for arbitrage are gambling, how could it be otherwise?

gambles, plural

An act of gambling; an enterprise undertaken or attempted with a risk of loss and a chance of profit or success

But doing business is harder when people with more money than you have, are betting that you will fail. They may find relatively cheap ways to make you fail, and win their bets.

Your statement that, in Turkey, "lasting radical secularization was never possible anyway" is quite strange, unless you meant "in the very short run."

Evidence for trepanation (which TC's link calls "surgery") goes at least as far back as 6500 BC, in France. There is evidence that many of those survived as well.

So why is Tyler calling it "brain surgery" - ah I see, Tyler likes to promote countries that follow a certain religion. If the article were about, say India, TC would have linked to a piece that bashed the article and blamed the existence of such articles on Hindu fundamentalists.

Tyler likes to promote countries that follow a certain religion.

I don't get it. If there were people in the area that's now Turkey who were doing brain surgery 3 or 4 times before Islam, before the Turks left central asia, what does ... what does that have to do with your comment?

I didn't say here that Tyler likes to promote that "certain religion" (though that would also be true for reasons other than are contained in this post), I only said he likes to promote countries that follow that religion. That is part of building their brand value.

I agree with Sandeep.

More prejudiced blindfolds, eh?

Of the 5 links, 4 are critical, one is about archaeology (which is meant to be an amusement), not to mention that TC himself brought up criticism before sharing his well-tempered optimism.

And now, you're begging for favoritism for India?

India's a great country and is unfortunately poorer for your insufferable begging for its special treatment. I can only expect you to be even more of a toad if TC posted articles of a similar tone about India as he did here for Turkey.


I've been on the road for the past two weeks, so I apologize if I missed the announcement. Where in Central Turkey are you? And why are you there - conference, vacation, lectures, book tour?

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