Veil of ignorance

by Henry on January 25, 2008

“The Monkey Cage”:http://www.themonkeycage.org writes about an experiment on people’s perceptions of photos of a young woman wearing a headscarf and without one. I don’t see any information on how careful the surveyors were to ensure randomness, whether they carried out statistical tests of significance etc etc (this appears to have been put together by a general social research firm, rather than academics). Still, if the results don’t have major problems, then they make for interesting reading. Not all the inferences that people make about the veiled, as opposed to the unveiled woman, seem unreasonable. Unsurprisingly, more people consider the woman to be more conservative when they see the headscarf photo (this seems to me to be not an unreasonable inference; people who display overt symbols of religiosity often are more conservative). But there are some other judgements that are a little bit less pleasant.

Subjects displayed considerably more aversion to the covered woman. Specifically, they were less likely to want to live near her. While 89% said that they would like the uncovered woman as their next-door neighbor or in their neighborhood, only 62% said that about the covered woman. One-fifth (19%) actually said they wanted her to live “outside of the US.”

More “here”:http://www.themonkeycage.org/2008/01/headscarves.html.

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Look and Learn

by Harry on January 25, 2008

My dad rather cleverly put a condition on me getting a regular delivery of Thunder (home of Adam Eterno, the man who couldn’t die, and quickly gobbled up into Lion and Thunder, and, eventually, Valiant): it was that I also get regular delivery of the distinctly old-fashioned Look and Learn. A clever move: I loved it. You still can’t see much of Thunder on the web, but Look and Learn has it’s own wonderful website now. Incorporating the magnificent Arthur Mee‘s Children’s Newspaper. Hours of fun to be had by all boys and girls (as long as they have firmly entered middle age). (First three months of Adam Eterno, here, by the way).

Of Development and Debt

by Daniel on January 25, 2008

note: I originally wrote this for the Dani Rodrik seminar. As it grew, though, it became apparent that it didn’t really have much to do with “One Economics, Many Recipes” and that it was thus a bit unfair to ask Dani to comment on it. On the other hand, I liked it too much to kill it altogether – dd

“One Economics, Many Recipes” makes a lot of useful and constructive suggestions about how to attack the central problems of economic development. However I don’t think it gives enough emphasis (fundamentally because I don’t think it’s possible to give enough emphasis) to international debt as a constraint on development. Nearly all of the success stories in the book relate to countries which started their periods of development without a large debt burden, and the presence or absence of large net external debt is certainly one characteristic which matches up well to the motivating stylised fact in the book – the distinction between those countries like Argentina which followed all the standard policy recommendations but didn’t develop and those like China which ignored them and did. In this essay, I’ll try and flesh out a few provocative views on the financial aspects of development policy, which in my view are just as important real-world constraints as the institutional real-economy factors that are the main subject matter of the book.

Actually, just as I don’t think it’s sensible to carry out international comparisons of crime rates without taking demographics and urbanisation into account, I don’t think that any kind of comparative analysis of developing economies can be carried out at all without conditioning on the debt burden. It’s that important. When you have a situation in which a country’s capital account is dominated by contractual flows payable in foreign exchange, that is far and away the most important fact about that country’s economy. This is because as long as the debt service constraint is binding (and I discuss what happens when it isn’t, below), then unless the country is receiving massive net transfers from abroad, the entire economic development program is going to end up being twisted toward a capital account constraint which almost certainly has nothing to do with a sensible locally-based development plan of the kind that Dani advocates.
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We have seen the enemy and it isn’t us

by John Quiggin on January 25, 2008

I’m really, truly, not going to talk about Jonah Goldberg. Instead, I’m going to talk about Cass Sunstein and his idea, reprised in Republic 2.0 that the Internet poses a threat to democracy by virtue of it’s capacity to allow us to

avoid information we don’t like. Conservatives are increasingly seeking only conservative views, liberals are seeking only liberal views, and never the twain shall meet.

Sunstein argues that the echo chamber effect tends to reinforce existing views and produce a poisonous partisan divide.

It seems to me that exactly the opposite is true. The partisan divide in the US is being reinforced because people are more exposed to the other side than before.

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