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Cell Phone Radiation — Scientific Evidence Accumulating?

Samstag, 20. November 2010 1:54

I wouldn’t usually like to end a post title with a question mark — it does remind me of yellow press. But what else can I do writing about a book I haven’t read myself?

Judging from a NYTimes book review of „Disconnect“ by Devra Davis, though, the German radiation paranoia might turn out to be quite sensible. To put it cautiously: It is at least scientifically plausible that cell phone usage (i.e. holding it to your head while speaking) is linked to brain cancer:


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Cheesy Government — Special Interest vs Public Health

Sonntag, 7. November 2010 16:12

A NYTimes article with the fitting title „While Warning About Fat, U.S. Pushes Cheese Sales“ delivers a great (in both senses of the word) example of what special interest money does to a democratic government. It talks about how, while at the same time trying to get people to eat more healthy food, the US government is sponsoring campaigns promoting one of the single most unhealthy foods in the American diet: Cheese. And on a whole different scale.

Let’s start with the nutritional facts, hopefully old news for most people:


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

The Cost of a Vote — More Numbers on the Midterms

Sonntag, 7. November 2010 14:38

In a remarkably silent tone, a NYTimes Editorial provides some more numbers and historical context to the question of election advertisement. First to the numbers:


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Capitalism’s Parasites — Trial Lawyers in Corporate America

Sonntag, 7. November 2010 13:23

An interesting NYTimes Magazine article (quite lengthy but entertaining) takes the judicial battles brought about by BP’s gulf oil spill as a prominent example and has a look at the US practice of „trial lawyers“. They can be seen as an alternative to extensive government regulation — while most European countries regulate in advance, US corporations are regulated by the prospect of huge compensations after accidents. In the complex judicial system, this has attracted a specialized brand of lawyers, the trial lawyers, whose business model is to monitor big corporations and look for opportunities to sue them.

Interestingly, the metaphor of parasites came to my mind even before that analogy was mentioned in the article. And while it is used there with the negative implication it has in everyday language, I immediately had an evolutionary perspective on it as well, where parasites are acknowledged for regulating the growth of their hosts and contributing to a dynamic balance.

Hardly surprising, the public opinion on them is mixed:


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Cell Phones in Developing Countries

Mittwoch, 3. November 2010 11:51

As somebody who is often annoyed with the role cell phones have taken on in our lives, I have been surprised a couple times recently when reading about the role of cell phones in developing countries. A recent NYTimes article about Nokias involvement with „emerging markets“ makes me feel especially ambivalent about it.

Without much profit so far, Nokia seems to be pursuing especially farmers and small entrepreneurs, offering them low-cost subscription services about market prices, weather forecasts and other information apparently very valuable to them:


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Immer wieder spannend: Geld und die Wahlen

Dienstag, 26. Oktober 2010 12:38

Ein wiederkehrendes Thema von mir, meiner Meinung nach von Ökonomen vernachlässigt, die über optimale Regulierung von Märkten nachdenken, aber die Rückwirkung der Märkte (bzw. ihrer großen Akteure) auf die Politik übersehen: Der Einfluss von Geld in demokratischen Wahlen.

Das Thema ist in den USA entweder größer als hier, oder wird dort offener diskutiert. Jedenfalls berichtet die NYTimes in einem spannenden Artikel, dass sich gerade den Republikanern nahestehende Gruppen massiv in den Wahlkampf einschalten. Das Tollste dabei ist, dass diese als unabhängige Organisationen sehr viel mehr Freiheit haben als die Parteien selbst. Ihr Schwerpunkt liegt oft auf Angriffskampagnen gegen die Kandidaten der Demokraten und, es wird immer besser, die Spender können anonym bleiben (und tun das in der Regel auch).

Macht schon Sinn, zu vermuten, dass ein Unternehmen kein Geld auf den Tisch legt ohne einen entsprechenden Vorteil dafür zu bekommen? Die Republikaner sehen das verständlicherweise anders:


Thema: Deutsch | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

Greg Mankiw on Taxing the Rich

Mittwoch, 13. Oktober 2010 16:48

I enjoy reading Greg Mankiw’s blog, because he does a pretty good job of explaining an opinion that I usually don’t share, thus always giving me something to think about …

He does the same in a recent article in the NYTimes, contributing on the debate whether the Bush tax cuts for the rich should be extended, or whether these taxes should even be increased, as Obama’s administration seems to be planning.

Mankiw argues that taken all taxes and deductions into account, taxation on money he would be earning to pass on to his children 30 years from now is about 90%. And while nonchalantly agreeing that he can bear that burden, he claims that his incentive to work is seriously impaired by that. Which we should care about, because his (and other high earners‘) work could be very valuable to all of us (like, only twisting his own example a little bit, writing articles propagating higher income for himself and his friends…).

Seriously, as usually, he has a point. I think my reply would centre around my assumption that especially high earning people are doing something they like doing, for intrinsic reasons. Maybe I would point to research showing that Mankiw’s differing self-perception might be a result of the very theories he has been learning and teaching (e.g. this or this), thus not being representative of the population of rich people in general. He does point to research showing that rich people respond particularly strongly to incentives, but what I read there seems to be rather contradicting that claim (at least in the sense that he is implying — responding by working more or less):

For lower income groups, labor income accounts for most of their income. Since labor income tax is withheld, the only way to manipulate income is to work more, or less. For higher income groups, capital income is more important, and this is more readily manipulated for tax purposes through asset allocation decisions. The researchers show that taxpayers with itemized returns have particularly high elasticity.

Just some starting points for thoughts here :)

Thema: English | Kommentare (5) | Autor:

Obama and Wall Street

Sonntag, 19. September 2010 16:10

A NYTimes article about New York’s Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg supporting candidates of both parties across the country is worthy reading for the insights into two opposing political currents that are facing off right now. And that’s not the two parties — it’s a reconciliatory, bipartisan note versus a radical, partisan idea, incorporated most strongly by the Tea Party movement. And I think it’s outcome (partly to be decided already in the upcoming primaries and elections) will be quite influential for the American political climate of the next decade or so. But apart from recommending that read, what I wanted to share here is a quote from Bloomberg, depicting his (and assumedly many of his wealthy Wall Street friends‘) judgement of Obama’s financial politics:


Thema: English | Kommentare deaktiviert | Autor:

One Dollar, one vote? Obama on corporate sponsored ads

Dienstag, 24. August 2010 23:46

In a special post for my English-speaking friends and followers — I think my first English post ever, wohooo! — I want to point to an interesting video by Barack Obama. He is talking about a recent Supreme Court decision to allow (as far as I understand) unlimited and basically anonymous (!) ads targeting the electorate.

I already read and wrote about this more than a year ago (for something like an English version try Google Translate). Well, here is what Obama says:


Thema: English | Kommentare (6) | Autor:

Muddy Libertarianism

Donnerstag, 1. Juli 2010 0:34

In einem schönen kleinen Beitrag im Econimix-Blog der NYTimes findet man einen guten Überblick über Libertarismus als politische (und ökonomische) Philosophie. Ein Anwendungsbeispiel zur Legalisierung von Drogen zeigt, dass das keinesfalls immer mit der republikanischen Seite im amerikanischen politischen Diskurs zusammen passen muss. Der Schwerpunkt liegt aber woanders:

I always find it refreshing to take a quick, clean intellectual shower in the cold, pure waters of libertarian thought, but I find myself most interested in the murky areas on the edge of libertarianism […].

Und in wenigen Sätzen zum aktuellen Debakel im Golf von Mexico führt der Autor, ausgehend von libertären Idealen, überzeugend zu einer breiteren Staatsidee:


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