Jane Jacobs and other free reads from the latest Economist


This week’s sample of free reads from The Economist.

A Profile of Telstra’s new boss- Mr Trujillo, a Mexican-American
“He argues that Australia risks emulating the “parasitic competition” that prevailed in America in the mid-1990s when the Baby Bells (such as US West) were forced to open their local networks to newer carriers. The result, he argues, was that nobody invested and America lost its global lead in broadband deployment. America, however, saw its mistake, recognised the need for scale in the telecoms industry and is now allowing mergers that amount to a recreation of the old AT&T.” Related: John Quiggin has been critical of Telstra privatization and more on ‘Aussie Miracle

A discussion with Edward Lucas, central and eastern Europe correspondent of The Economist on a Survey of Poland;“For the first time in Poland's history there is really no reason why the country can't thrive and prosper”. See also his blog.

Evolutionary psychology- Women can read men like books
A GROUP of scientists has discovered that women are attracted to men who are fond of children. In years gone by, that announcement might have qualified for one of the late Senator William Proxmire's Golden Fleece awards for pointless scientific research—except that what this particular group of scientists has shown is that women can tell who is and is not fond of children just by looking at their faces…

Google- Fuzzy maths
These two interlocking “engines”—the search algorithms coupled with the advertising algorithms—are the motor that powers Google's growth in revenues ($6.1 billion last year) and profits ($1.5 billion), as well as its $117 billion market capitalisation. Its horsepower is the reason why Andy Bechtolsheim, Google's first investor (as well as a co-founder of Sun Microsystems, a big computer-maker) still holds on to all his shares in the firm. It's all about advertisers “bidding up the keywords” in Google's auctions, he says. “How far this thing could go, nobody can say.” Related; See John Batella's blog

Caste, creed and community; AMARTYA SEN is just the person to write about the politics of identity and its dangers.…When Mr Sen says that identities are rarely simple, he himself is a walking example. Hindu by background, he is secular in outlook. Though Indian, he has worked mainly at British or American universities. He was born in 1933 in Bengal, whose eastern half has since changed nationality twice: in 1947, it became part of Pakistan and in 1971 it split off as Bangladesh, both times amid terrible communal violence. Professionally Mr Sen is also hard to pigeonhole. A Nobel-prize-winning economist, he believes in the free market but also that inequality is a problem. In argument, he credits his opponents with their best next moves, like a chess player. Yet his indignation, when he wants, can be savage. A related post on the Amartya Sen’s new book.

Singapore's election; The People's Action Party shows that it remains one of the world's most successful political machines. In a letter a reader comments, “Singapore's minister mentor, Lee Kuan Yew, seemed to imply that Singaporeans are trading their freedom of expression for a stronger nation when he referred to the recent political upheavals in Thailand and the Philippines in a riposte to a suggestion (from a participant in a TV debate) that a little more such freedom might actually help the city state (“A rational choice”, April 22nd). To think that Singapore would lose any of its hard-won economic development if its citizens enjoyed more freedom of expression is fallacious.” Professor Acemoglu doesn’t think Singapore is democratic.

IKEA; Forget about the Gates Foundation. The world's biggest charity owns IKEA—and is devoted to interior design.

Economics focus column- Baby boom and bust; Will share prices crash as baby-boomers sell their assets to pay for retirement? MICHAEL MILKEN will celebrate his 60th birthday on July 4th. The former “junk-bond king” is still going strong, having seen off prostate cancer, and remains as controversial as ever. The debate over whether Mr Milken deserved his jail term for manipulating the high-yield bond market he largely created rumbles on nearly 20 years later, most recently during the Enron trial, where Mr Milken's genius was championed by none other than Kenneth Lay (as the saying goes, with friends like that...). ..Jeremy Siegel turned 60 last November. The Wharton business school economist, whose book “Stocks for the Long Run” was the bulls' bible during the last bubble, is going strong too, trim and fit, with his mind as lively as ever—despite being called “demented” at last weekend's Berkshire Hathaway annual meeting by one of the firm's bosses, Charlie Munger. (“He's a very nice guy,” retorted the other boss, Warren Buffett.). Related debate at Milken Institute.

Aid to the Palestinians; Seeking a bypass, as the money runs out

The Mississippi Delta; Renaissance deferred
"According to the Southern Growth Policies Board, a think-tank based in North Carolina, the drop-out rate in 2001 among high-school students in the Delta was 5.5%, compared with 4.4% nationally. The March of Dimes, a children's charity, reported in 2002 that infant mortality was nearly 10%, compared with 7% nationally. In 2003, income per head was $20,484; the national average was $31,472."

Anti-dumping; A country that sells its goods abroad for less than they cost to produce, or for less than they fetch at home, might expect gratitude from its trading partners. More often, it is accused of “dumping”. China faced 33 such allegations between July and December 2005, according to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), far more than any other country. Not all of these investigations will result in retaliation, but some will. WTO members slapped 22 anti-dumping duties on China's products in the second half of 2005, for example.

South America; The diminishing of Brazil
Brazil's Lula da Silva has been humiliated by Venezuela's Hugo Chávez...On taking office in January 2003, Lula proclaimed regional integration to be his top foreign-policy priority. Yet Mercosur, the putative customs union established by Brazil with Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay in 1994, has never been in greater disarray. “Brazil went for a dream of South American unity before strengthening and deepening Mercosur,” says Alfredo Valladão of Sciences-Po, a French university

Russian nationalism; Alarmist rhetoric from President Vladimir Putin; skinhead violence on Russian streets. Is there a connection?

Axis of feeble- George Bush and Tony Blair

British Politics; Gordon Brown may huff and puff, but Tony Blair will not be booted from office like Margaret Thatcher

Web 2.0; The enzyme that won

Economic forecasts; The panel has raised its forecast for America's growth this year to 3.4%, up from 3.3% predicted in April. It expects Britain to grow slightly faster this year (2.4%, up from 2.3%) and next (2.5%, compared with a forecast of 2.4% in April). The soothsayers remain divided about the prospects in Japan and Germany. The most optimistic among them think Japan might grow by as much as 3.9% next year, and Germany might grow by 2.0%. Others think growth might be as low as 1.5% in Japan and 0.3% in Germany

GENERAL MOTORS at last got some good news on May 8th. The Securities and Exchange Commission approved some accounting tweaks that turned a $323m first-quarter loss into a rare $445m profit. But GM's losses on its North American automotive operations, although halved, were still a painful $462m. And there is more bad news in the offing. A looming strike at Delphi, a bankrupt parts supplier, could have disastrous knock-on effects for GM.

Private spaceflight; Rocket renaissance.

Foreign Exchange Researves

Jane Jacobs, anatomiser of cities, died on April 24th, aged 89
“To Mrs Jacobs cities were living beings, functioning much like a body in which the streets were arteries and veins. They grew organically, as one sort of work differentiated into others, and the constant flow of innovation kept them alive and expanding. Bluntly (for she had a tart tongue, lubricated with cigarettes and beer), she dismissed “the primacy of agriculture” in human history. Cities had come first, as the natural eco-system of human beings, and only once the web of work and trade had reached a certain size was there any need for the help of the static, primitive and muddy countryside.” A related post by Boettke.


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This page contains a single entry by Paul published on May 11, 2006 5:31 PM.

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