Thursday, June 29, 2006


I don't know why people find national stereotyping a problem when people fit the stereotypes so reliably. Take the Italian football team for example. Is it really a surprise that they entered the quarter finals in the way they did?

This is especially irritating because the Italians have such a high regard for truth that they attempted to sue FIFA when some refereeing decisions went against them at the same stage of the last world cup. So Italy will probably win the World Cup.

The France Spain game was almost as frustrating. I would have preferred Spain to win but my hero worship of both Zidane and Henry meant that I could have been satisfied with either side winning. So what happened? France won and neither hero played heroically. Henry especially was pathetic. He was offside about 10 times, sometimes it was because the ball he was expecting to be played through didn't arrive in time but other times he just didn't seem interested enough to jog back the 2 meters need to stay onside.

Anyway, the only hope I have now for the World Cup is for Brazil (or possibly Argentina) to prevent Italy, Germany or England from winning.


As my post below shows I was pretty excited by Ronaldo's two goals against Japan, especially the second goal which was pretty classy (I was also excited by Henry's goal). In Ronaldo's case this is mainly because of the crap he took after the world cup final in 1998. The complete shit that football "experts" spout reached an embarrassing peak then. Since I have access to DSTV now I'm being treated to hours of nonsense. It drives me crazy, but I still watch. Maybe it's the same need that causes people to watch soap operas and shout at the TV when certain characters behave in exactly the same way that you knew they would.


The other morning I was lying in bed waiting for my alarm clock to go off when I suddenly started a kind of crude count down, kinda like "It's going ooooffffff.... now!" and I was right to the nearest half second at least.

And just now I was listening to my wonderful Sufjan Stevens CD and as he sang the lyric "Abraham Lincoln was the great emancipator" I had just finished reading this quote and read the name in time with the song.

What are the odds?

Saturday, June 24, 2006

feeling better

It's been a tough couple of sporting months for me. Coupled with the press conspiracy against Roger Federer, well I've been feeling a little glum. But this and this have me feeling a bit better. Hopefully there will be more of the same in the next couple of weeks

Monday, June 19, 2006

do we want to be multiculturalists and nurture people?

Even though I discovered that the nature/nurture debate has been resolved (it's a bit of both!) I find that the issue keeps coming up. People interested in avoiding giving offence favour a nurture explanation of why people turn out the way they do. Those who favour multiculturalism I think also tend be on the nurture side. I'm not sure about this, but I also generally think it's considered a bit off colour to make generalisations about people of certain cultures (a topical example is Muslims). I see a significant tension here, if nurture is dominant, then growing up in very different cultures necessarily means growing up to be very different people. Is this really the conclusion that we want?

I actually think argument mentioned above is true to a certain extent but the extent to which it is true I don?t think it's necessarily a good thing.

not that anybody cares

but Roger Federer equaled Bjorn Borg's record for consecutive wins on grass. Not sure why the record on clay is so much more impressive but apparently it is.

All the talk about Federer failing to win the French Open again, again! Well it pisses me off. This is only the second time the French Open has been a possibility. He was just as poorly suited to clay as all those other greats who never won it but has managed to become an excellent clay court player, the only player capable of really stretching possibly the greatest clay court talent ever. I think that's pretty impressive.

I also think it's worth noting that a big part of the reason why Nadal has such a good record against Federer is that Federer is so good on clay. Federer has consistently gotten to the final of clay court tournaments to play Nadal in a way that Nadal has not on hard courts.

Naturally I am ferociously biased on the issue but I promise to be very impressed when Nadal gets two match points against Federer in the final of Wimbledon.

Update: Blogger's spell check is very impressive. Helpful hints for the nonsense word "Wimbledon" include; ambled, humbled, impelled, implode, emboldens, Winfield (just in case you were beginning to think that it didn't have proper nouns), infield's (!) and naturally, infielder. Very helpful.

what is it with the french?

First, collaborating with the Nazi's and now this...

They had a perfectly good goal disallowed though so they have something to moan about. Still, it's difficult to sympathise with a team that leaves Trezeguet and Saha on the bench and plays Wiltord. It's a wonder Henry makes the starting 11. The coach came to his senses though. He brought on Trezeguet for the last 2 minutes. Genius!

Thursday, June 15, 2006

minimum wage

I think this is an excellent discussion on minimum wage. While most economists are suspicious of a minimum wage, studies indicate that there is surprisingly little evidence of negative effects on employment. Min wage 1 capitalist pigs 0 right? Not so fast
the government can make an employer raise nominal money wages, but can't stop him from turning off the air conditioner. [A more optimistic scenario is that the employer invests in creating a higher-productivity job.] Surely just about every job out there can be made worse, one way or another, in a way that saves the employer money.
But still they're earning more, so that's good for the poor right? No
If low-skilled workers must put forth more effort just to keep their jobs and earn the higher wage, then they have actually taken a step backward. Their earnings have risen, but not by enough to make up for their increased effort. This must be true, otherwise the employer could have been "getting more out of" his workers all along simply by paying the higher wage.
The point is that employees only stay in these jobs because the minimum wage removes other options which they may have preferred.

Employers are accused of exploitation, it's true that employers are trying to maximise profits. It remains true after a min wage is introduced, they don't suddenly become "better" people, its important to keep that in mind if you're skeptical of the points made above.


The other day I borrowed a racist, evil book from the library called The Bell Curve. It's very long and from what I've read so far, quite boring, so I don't plan to read the whole thing.

So far it's pretty mild; the main thrust of the argument is that, these days being born into a good family is less likely to guarantee success that it used to be, intelligence is more important (not all important) now. If, like other things, intelligence is partly heritable and intelligent people on average marry other intelligent people, society will become divided more according to intelligence.

If this is right, then it should be clear why it?s worth studying IQ and intelligence (the very act of doing so is sometimes seen as suspicious); normally there is some obvious injustice behind the disadvantage of a particular group of people, blacks in South Africa for example. If we live in a world without discrimination but intelligence is rewarded with success, then people will be poor mainly because they are not clever in a way rewarded by the economy. I don?t see this line of reasoning as evil; I think it is an argument for continuing help for the poor, even in an ideal future where the are no unjust, artificial barriers to certain groups of people. It is an argument against Nozick?s libertarian views, not some racist supremacist theory.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Globalization and women

Here's a post over at stumbling and mumbling claiming that globalization is good for women
He estimates that a one standard deviation rise in the share of exports and imports in GDP is associated with girls spending an extra 2.6 years in school and boys an extra 1.4 years. So it reduces gender inequality in schooling by 1.2 years. It also increases female life expectancy by 9.3 years and male life expectancy by 6.8 years.
I suppose that could just be correlation rather than causation, but Chris offers some reasons to think that it could be a cause of the good news.
Openness to international trade increases the competitive pressures on companies, thus making it harder to discriminate against women.
One way an employer could discriminate against a potential female employee is by hiring a man even though the woman is more capable. It isn't discrimination if the man is hired and more capable (in this case the woman may have been discriminated against in the past which is reason she is less capable, but I'm just focusing on the employers actions). If our employer is aiming to maximise profits then he has an incentive to hire the best person for a given wage, so he has a selfish reason to hire the woman if she is best suited to the job. Other considerations may contribute to continuing discrimination in cases like these, but a free market is a force against it.

Monday, June 12, 2006

charles murray is evil

Well, maybe not but certainly the co-author of an evil, racist book according to Steven Johnson. I wonder if this kind of talk really helps debate.

Today one of my lectures said that she didn't think that anybody was below average. Maybe Johnson would agree. Well, we can certainly all feel warm and fuzzy, and virtuous.

I notice that most people think Steven Levitt is evil because of his stance on abortion but several times in Freakonomics he claims that intelligence in partly heritable. I didn't realise quite how evil he was.


The final in Rome was brilliant but extremely traumatic, yesterdays final was dull and depressing. Federer's comments don't tell the story at all, he played terribly. When it was over I was convinced that he should have attacked more, but when I think back, he did attack quite often. He just couldn't get anything in.


You may have noticed that there have been some very brief, nice comments to a few posts. I admit that I clicked on the link at the end of the first one, I closed the window before it loaded because I saw what it said in the blue bar at the top of the screen. I can't remember what was advertised and now I've put that irritating word verification thingie in the comments.

I wonder if it's worth the bother of creating this kind of spam, if my experience is at all typical I really don't understand it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

abu musab al-zarqawi is dead

This is not really my type of topic but the leader of Al-Qaida in Iraq possibly the actual leader as Bin Laden is marginalised and often sick, is dead. It's never nice to take pleasure in somebody's death and I wouldn't have supported the death penalty if he had been captured but he was just about the worst human being on the planet. Good riddance.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


Simon Blackburn is one of my oldest philosophical hero's and his introduction to ethics is enjoyable and useful. After 2 years I still refer back to it from time to time. Last time I did that I skimmed through the introduction and was alarmed by what I found there, particularly
An ethic gone wrong is an essential preliminary to the sweat-shop or the concentration camp and the death march
The evil of sweat-shops I suppose is meant to be self evident and I could take a guess what he thinks we should do about them (not buy their stuff etc). You have to guess though because it's included as a throwaway comment in the introduction to a very short introduction to ethics, not economics.

I wish that sweat shops didn't exist and it's possible that they won't always exist, as countries develop sweat shops disappear. But why the hell does he feel justified comparing sweat shops with death marches? Economists take a different view of sweat shops (well, sweat shops where workers are not working at gun point or chained to machines i.e. not actual slaves). Have arguments like this been so thoroughly refuted that the refutations don't even need to be referenced? Or are economists the equivalent or Nazi apologists? That seems to be the implication.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

immigration # 385

I have linked to anti-immigration articles before but this one is written by Barry Chiswick, head of the economics department at the university of Illinois and something of an authority on immigration.

I find it slightly disconcerting how unimpressed I am by his arguments. It probably signifies my slide into dogmatism. I am not the only one baffled by the article however, so feel free to pop over to marginal revolution where Alex Tabarrok looks at it in some detail.

Just a quick example though
But if low-skilled foreign workers were not here, would lettuce not be picked, groceries not bagged, hotel sheets not changed, and lawns not mowed? Would restaurants use disposable plates and utensils?

On the face of it, this assertion seems implausible.
but he then goes to point out that many employers would simply switch to better technology
A farmer who grows winter iceberg lettuce in Yuma County, Ariz., was asked on the ABC program "Nightline" in April what he would do if it were more difficult to find the low-skilled hand harvesters who work on his farm, many of whom are undocumented workers. He replied that he would mechanize the harvest. Such technology exists, but it is not used because of the abundance of low-wage laborers. In their absence, mechanical harvesters ? and the higher skilled (and higher wage) workers to operate them ? would replace low-skilled, low-wage workers.
The idea seems to be that low-skilled workers would become the highly-skilled workers. I suppose it might work that way in some cases but this seems to benefit highly-skilled workers! Besides economists are generally agreed that technology is a far for important force than immigration in depressing the wages of low-skilled workers so why encourage the use of more technology?

It is important to remember that immigrants are not actually people. The article only make partial sense if you keep this in mind.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Israeli Prime Minister: 'One More Suicide Bombing And I'll Give Them Whatever They Want'

The Onion also give their take on office life.
When Lynn turned her anger on us, we saw callous disregard for human life... But when we found elaborate plans for her armed rampage in her cubicle, we saw her callous disregard for company policy." Consolidated's human-resources staff is working closely with the FBI to determine exactly how many man-hours were lost in the incident.

polly toynbee

I'm always slightly alarmed when the people I e-mail write back. Polly Toynbee is one of the most widely read columnists in England and she's not a blogger but she still replied to my rather blunt e-mail taking issue with her stance on immigration. If past experience is anything to go by she won't reply to my gentler follow up e-mail.

I get the feeling that this is a case of two people existing in different domains. We may use the same (english) words, but have different ways of using them. It's not like I expect to have an effect on her but it drives me crazy. She thinks that the people who live in relative poverty in England live in poverty. She doesn't seem to register that there are people who are far worse off. If she has registered then she doesn't care.

It is maddening because the information is there, right in front of her face.

I think I need to go find a bucket of cold water...