south africa

What is the rate of return on killing black rhinos? (auction markets in everything)

The Dallas Safari Club said Friday it aims to raise up to a million dollars for endangered black rhinoceroses by auctioning off a permit to kill one in Namibia. The move has raised the ire of wildlife preservation organizations, who question the move’s ethics.

Ben Carter, executive director of the Dallas Safari Club, told Agence France Presse the Namibian government “selected” his hunting club to auction a black rhino hunting permit for use in one of its national parks. Namibia has an annual quota to kill up to five black rhinos out of the southern African nation’s herd population of 1,795 animals.

“First and foremost, this is about saving the black rhino,” Carter said.

The permit is expected “to sell for at least $250,000, possibly up to $1 million,” and will be auctioned off at the Club’s annual convention from Jan. 9-12 next year. The Conservation Trust Fund for Namibia’s Black Rhino will receive 100 percent of the sale price, the Club said.

There is more here, courtesy of the excellent Mark Thorson.

Private Schools in Developing Countries

Tina Rosenberg has an excellent piece on private schooling in developing countries at the NYTimes blog:

In the United States, private school is generally a privilege of the rich. But in poorer nations, particularly in Africa and South Asia, families of all social classes send their children to private school….

BRAC used to be an acronym for Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, but now the letters stand alone. It was founded in 1972 to provide relief after Bangladesh’s war of liberation. Although you’ve probably never heard of it, BRAC is the largest nongovernmental organization in the world, with some 100,000 employees, and it services reach 110 million people.

…And since 1985, it has run schools… BRAC has more than 1.25 million children in its schools in Bangladesh and six other countries, and it is expanding.

BRAC students, in fact, do better than their public-school counterparts….BRAC students are more likely to complete fifth grade — in 2004, 94 percent did, as opposed to 67 percent of public school students. (The BRAC number is now about 99 percent.)  On government tests, BRAC students do about 10 percent better than public school students  — impressive, given that their population is the most marginalized. (emphasis added).

In my own work on private schools in India I also found suggestive evidence that private schools–mostly very small, urban slum schools–produced better outcomes than their public counterparts (paper (pdf), video).

What do barter exchanges imply about depressions and recessions?

As was the case during the Great Depression, parallel currencies and barter exchanges are springing up around Spain and some other parts of Europe.  Here is one account:

Psychologist Angels Corcoles recently taught a seminar about self-empowerment for women, and when she finished the organizers handed her a check with her fee. The amount was in hours, not euros.

But Corcoles didn’t mind. Through a citywide credit network that allows people to trade services without money, the 10 hours Corcoles earned could be used to pay for a haircut, yoga classes or even carpentry work.

At a time when the future of the euro is in doubt and millions are unemployed or underemployed with little cash to spare, a parallel economy is springing up in parts of Spain, allowing people to live outside the single currency.

In the city of Malaga, on the country’s southern Mediterranean coast just 80 miles from Africa, residents have set up an online site that allows them to earn money and buy products using a virtual currency. The Catalonian fishing town of Vilanova i la Geltru has launched a similar experiment but with a paper credit card of sorts. It implements a new currency worth slightly more than the euro when it is used at local stores.

You can find another series of accounts here.

One interesting feature of these enterprises is that they push a bit of emphasis away from sticky wage and price theories of depressions.  In essence the sellers participating in these exchanges are price discriminating, by trying to sell more of their output — for lower prices — through credit or barter mechanisms.  Getting back credits in return really is like receiving a lower price or wage.  So these exchanges show that at least some people are wildly willing to cut prices, wages, and returns, if only to sell more.

(Please, no need for a lecture here on Keynes and downward price spirals; the ECB is keeping a price floor at the very least.)

So which factors behind depressions receive marginal support from the prevalence of these practices?  First, these exchanges are a substitute for dysfunctional credit markets.  Second, these exchanges attempt to solve the buyer-seller-buyer coordination problems analyzed by Clower, Leijonhufvud, and others.

Addendum: Here is Alex’s earlier post on barter and recessions.  And Scott Sumner comments.

Assorted links

1. Why is UK employment up and output down?

2. Genetics vs. paleoanthropology?

3. Price inflation and stock returns (pdf), and here, and here, and most recently here; “There is a consistent lack of positive relation between stock returns and inflation in most of the countries.”  I am urging a) a bit of caution, and b) engagement with the literature on this topic.  I do favor a more expansionary monetary policy, but I see the balance of evidence as different from how it is frequently portrayed in the blogosphere.

4. New archery gold medal winner is legally blind, and here.

Assorted links

What do twin adoption studies show?

"A case in point is provided by the recent study of regular tobacco use among SATSA's twins (24). Heritability was estimated as 60% for men, only 20% for women. Separate analyses were then performed for three distinct age cohorts. For men, the heritability estimates were nearly identical for each cohort. But for women, heritability increased from zero for those born between 1910 and 1924, to 21% for those in the 1925-39 birth cohort, to 64% for the 1940-58 cohort. The authors suggested that the most plausible explanation for this finding was that "a reduction in the social restrictions on smoking in women in Sweden as the 20th century progressed permitted genetic factors increasing the risk for regular tobacco use to express themselves." If purportedly genetic factors can be so readily suppressed by social restrictions, one must ask the question, "For what conceivable purpose is the phenotypic variance being allocated?" This question is not addressed seriously by MISTRA or SATSA. The numbers, and the associated modeling, appear to be ends in themselves."

Greece fact of the day

I had never thought about this before, but once you ponder all of those islands, relatively close to Africa and the Middle East, it makes sense:

The vast majority of all illegal immigrants detected attempting to enter the 25-nation EU do so from Greece. The bloc's southernmost member accounted for 75 per cent of all attempted illegal border crossings in 2009 and 88 per cent in the first part of 2010…

The economic effects of disenfranchisement

Via Chris Blattman, here is a newish paper by Suresh Naidu, on how disenfranchisement translated into inferior economic outcomes for African-Americans:

This paper estimates the political and economic effects of the 19th century disenfranchisement of black citizens in the U.S. South. Using adjacent county-pairs that straddle state boundaries, I rst examine the effect of voting restrictions on political competition. I find that poll taxes and literacy tests each lowered overall electoral turnout by 10-23% and increased the Democratic vote share in national elections by 5%-10%. Second, employing newly collected data on schooling inputs, I show that disenfranchisement reduced the teacher-child and teacher-student ratio in black schools. Finally, I develop a model of suffrage restriction and redistribution in a 2-factor economy with occupational choice to generate sufficient statistics for welfare analysis of the incidence of black disenfranchisement. Consistent with the model, disenfranchised counties experienced a 7% increase in land and farm values per decade, despite a 4% fall in the black population share. The estimated factor market responses suggest that black labor bore a collective loss from disenfranchisement equivalent to at least 13% of annual income, much of which was transferred to landowners.

Here is Naidu's home page.  Where did he end up getting a job?

The origins of mutton barbecue

Here is one account:

The one truth about barbecue seems to be that people use what they've got. In Texas it's beef, in the Carolinas it's pork, and in Western Kentucky it's mutton. Thanks to the tariff of 1816, wool production in the then Western United States became profitable and suddenly people found themselves with a lot of sheep on their hands.

Any story of the origin of barbecue starts with a meat that is too tough and undesirable to be sold for a profit. Mutton barbecue is no different. Aging sheep who no longer produced good wool became a virtually unlimited resource, but the meat was too tough and too strong tasting to be worth anything so people turned to the tried and true methods of low and slow cooking. In the early days a whole sheep would be cooked for long hours over a low fire. A mixture of salt water would be mopped over it and it would be served up with a dipping sauce of vinegar and hot peppers and stuck between a couple slices of bread. In Kentucky this "sauce" is called a dip, specifically Mutton Dip or Vinegar Dip.

Call it the Protectionist Theory of Barbecue, plus or minus a bit of hysteresis.  I've seen or heard of mutton barbecue only in Kentucky and then only parts of Kentucky, the southwest and a bit in Lexington.  I wonder if they have mutton barbecue in North Africa or the Middle East.  In general it is an open question why barbecue traditions have for so long been so geographically concentrated.

From The New Yorker, here is another account:

How come this is the only area where mutton is barbecued?" I asked an Owensboro merchant who had been kind enough to give me change for a nickel parking meter.

"I expect because there are so many Catholics here," he said.

I didn't want to appear ignorant. "Yeah," I said. "I suppose that'd do it."

As I was searching my mind for some connection between the Roman rite and mutton consumption, the merchant told me that the large Catholic churches in town have always staged huge picnics that feature barbecue and burgoo–burgoo, another staple of Owensboro barbecue restaurants, being a soupy stew that I, for some reason, had always associated with southern Illinois. In the early days, the church picnics apparently served barbecued goat. In fact, Owensboro might have arrived at barbecued mutton by a process of elimination, since people in the area seem willing to barbecue just about any extant mammal. In western Kentucky, barbecue restaurants normally do "custom cooking" for patrons who have the meat but not the pit, and among the animals that Posh & Pat's offers to barbecue is raccoon. The Shady Rest, one of the most distinguished barbecue joints in Owensboro, has a sign that says "If It Will Fit on the Pit, We Will Barbecue It. It is probably fortunate that the people of the area settled on barbecued mutton as the local delicacy before they had a go at beaver or polecat

In other words, they don't know either.  What would Robin Hanson say?: Something like: "Food isn't about eating!"

I thank Brandon Sheridan for the pointers.

Measuring Economic Growth from Outer Space

Here is a clever new idea from Henderson, Storeygard, and Weil:

GDP growth is often measured poorly for countries and rarely measured at all for cities. We propose a readily available proxy: satellite data on lights at night. Our statistical framework uses light growth to supplement existing income growth measures. The framework is applied to countries with the lowest quality income data, resulting in estimates of growth that differ substantially from established estimates. We then consider a longstanding debate: do increases in local agricultural productivity increase city incomes? For African cities, we find that exogenous agricultural productivity shocks (high rainfall years) have substantial effects on local urban economic activity.

Here is the paper. WSJ blogs added:

They also noted how data from night lights can be focused to provide
data on a local level. In Southern Madagascar large deposits of rubies
and sapphires were discovered in late 1998 near the towns of Ilakaka
and Sakaraha, leading to an economic boom. But the data from the
satellites tell the story of where the benefits were felt most deeply.
“Over the next five years there was a sharp growth in the number of
pixels for which light is visible at all, and in the intensity of light
per pixel,” the economists said. “The other town visible in the figure,
Ihosy, shows no such growth. If anything, Ihosy’s light gets smaller
and weaker, as it suffers in the competition across local cities for

Why is Asia doing so badly?

Here is more bad economic news from Asia.  Yet those countries don't have banking crises as many other nations do.  So what exactly is up?

The usual story is that these nations are "heavily dependent upon exports."  But if I may wear my Don Boudreaux hat for a moment (or more), is not the state of Kentucky also heavily dependent upon exports?  Is not the Cowen household heavily dependent upon exports?  Why is being dependent on exports so especially bad for parts of Asia?

One answer is that Asian exports, which travel great distances, are often consumer durables and such purchases are especially easy to postpone. Services are often more robust.

Another answer is that many Asian producers have chosen high fixed costs in a way that requires steady or rising revenue over time.  That is their version of being highly leveraged without taking on much explicit debt.  Again a central lesson of this depression will be how many different ways there are to leverage.

Last week I was surprised to read this:

“For a long time, Harvard had a negative 5 position,” she said. “That
means that 105 percent of the assets are invested at most times.”

So far it seems that the least leveraged parts of the world — all things considered — are South America and sub-Saharan Africa.  Brazil, Chile, and Peru are a few of the countries which, in relative terms, are suffering least.  If you wish to understand the course of events, keep your eye on those locales. 

Markets in everything: reverse prostitution edition

Thousands of people in Africa will be paid to avoid unsafe sex, under a groundbreaking World Bank-backed experiment aimed at halting the spread of Aids.

The $1.8m trial – to be launched this year – will counsel 3,000 men and women aged 15-30 in southern rural Tanzania over three years, paying them on condition that periodic laboratory test results prove they have not contracted sexually transmitted infections.

The proposed payments of $45 equate to a quarter of annual income for some participants.

Here is the full story.  It is a joint private sector, public sector initiative, in case you were wondering.  I thank Johannes for the pointer.

The Horse the Wheel and Language

The tribes Europeans encountered in their colonial ventures in Africa, South Asia, the Pacific, and the Americas were at first assumed to have existed for a long time.  They often claimed antiquity for themselves.  But many tribes are now believed to have been transient political communities of the historical moment.  Like the Ojibwa, some might have crystallized only after contact with European agents who wanted to deal with bounded groups to facilitate the negotiation of territorial treaties.  And the same critical attitude toward bounded tribal territories is applied to European history.  Ancient European tribal identities — Celt, Scythians, Cimbri, Teoton, and Pict — are now frequently seen as convenient names for chamelon-like political alliances that had no true ethnic identity, or as brief ethnic phenomena that were unable to persist for any length of time, or even as entirely imaginary later inventions.

That is from David W. Anthony’s The Horse The Wheel and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppe Shaped the Modern World.  In particular this book focuses on the origin of the Indo-European language group and the relationship between archeology and linguistics.  He is also skeptical of Jared Diamond’s well-known thesis that early Europe had much diffusion of innovation in the East-West direction.  Recommended.