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Posts Tagged ‘economic development

“It has been said that arguing against globalization is like arguing against the laws of gravity”*…

 

globalization

 

The preponderance of evidence suggests that financial globalization – especially unrestricted hot money – aggravates macroeconomic instability, creates the conditions for financial crises, and dampens long-run growth by making the tradable sector less competitive. Few economists would list financial globalization as an essential prerequisite for sustained long-term development or macroeconomic stability. And arguments made in its favor presume that every country has already met highly demanding regulatory requirements. Most have not and probably cannot, except over the long run.

While the International Monetary Fund has begun to make some allowance for restrictions on capital flows, albeit only as a temporary last resort for weathering cyclical surges, the dogma of financial globalization remains intact. One reason, perhaps, is that development economics has not shed its resource/savings fundamentalism, which attributed underdevelopment to a lack of domestic savings. The implication was that developing and emerging economies should attract resources in the form of foreign aid or, after skepticism about aid became widespread, foreign private capital.

Alternatively, the orthodoxy may owe its resilience to the power of entrenched financial interests that have stood in the way of new controls on cross-border capital flows. Wealthy elites in several countries – especially in Latin America and South Africa – embraced financial globalization early on because they saw it as offering a useful escape route for their wealth. In these cases, policy inertia and possible reputational costs made it difficult suddenly to start advocating a reversal. Global financial elites had long relied on a narrative that equates capital controls with expropriation, and responsible policymakers did not want to be seen as violating property rights…

Although much of the intellectual consensus behind neoliberalism has collapsed, the idea that emerging markets should throw their borders open to foreign financial flows is still taken for granted in policymaking circles.  Until that changes, Arvind Subramanian and Dani Rodrik argue, the developing world will suffer from unnecessary volatility, periodic crises, and lost dynamism: “The Puzzling Lure of Financial Globalization.”

* Kofi Annan

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As we cache our cash, we might recall that this was a bad day for inclusiveness in Massachusetts in 1635: the General Court of the then-Colony banished Roger Williams for speaking out for the separation of church and state and against the right of civil authorities to punish religious dissension and to confiscate Indian land.  Williams moved out to edge of the Narragansett Bay, where with the assistance of the Narragansett tribe, he established a settlement at the junction of two rivers near Narragansett Bay, located in (what is now) Rhode Island. He declared the settlement open to all those seeking freedom of conscience and the removal of the church from civil matters– and many dissatisfied Puritans came. Taking the success of the venture as a sign from God, Williams named the community “Providence.”

Williams stayed close to the Narragansett Indians and continued to protect them from the land greed of European settlers. His respect for the Indians, his fair treatment of them, and his knowledge of their language enabled him to carry on peace negotiations between natives and Europeans, until the eventual outbreak of King Philip’s War in the 1670s.  And although Williams preached to the Narragansett, he practiced his principle of religious freedom by refraining from attempts to convert them.

Roger Williams statue, Roger Williams Park, Providence, R.I.

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“The exchangeable value of all commodities rises as the difficulties of their production increase”*…

 

vanilla

A vanilla flower is pollinated by hand

 

 

Though Madagascar now produces 80% of the world’s vanilla, the vine is native to Mexico. The Maya were the first to cultivate it in the jungles of the Yucatan peninsular. They flavoured their chocolate drink with the spice. When the Spanish conquistadores arrived early in the 16th century, they took both cacao and vanilla back to Europe. By the end of the 18th century, Mexico was exporting a million vanilla beans a year to Europe.

Vanilla was considered a luxury. Its delicate flavour is best expressed in the presence of fat, which is why the creams and custards of the elite’s pastry chefs became its natural milieu. One of its earliest appearances was in a recipe for “vanilla ice” in a cookery book published in Naples in the 1690s. Thomas Jefferson fell in love with French food when he served as the American ambassador to France in the 1780s. He transcribed many recipes including one for “ice cream”, using egg-yolk custard simmered with “a stick of vanilla”. When he became president in 1801, Jefferson served these dishes in the White House – his import eventually became a classic American desert.

But for well over a century real vanilla remained out of the reach of most Americans. Spain controlled the Mexican trade and though a number of people tried to grow vanilla elsewhere, the blooms failed to produce beans because they lacked natural pollinators. It took a young slave boy called Edmond Albius, working on a plantation in the French colony of Réunion, to discover a method for hand-pollinating vanilla flowers in the 1840s. His technique quickly spread to nearby Madagascar, where French administrators encouraged its cultivation…

How did hunger for the humble vanilla pod lead to greed, crime and riches? “Vanilla Fever.”

* David Ricardo

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As we rethink our Starbucks orders, we might recall that it was on this date in 1908 that John Albert Krohn dressed up in colonial garb and set out to win $1,000 by walking the U.S. border within 400 days – pushing a wheelbarrow.  “Colonial Jack,” as he called himself, had wagered ten of his neighbors in Newburyport, Mass., that he could circumnavigate the country in that time. agreeing that, if he lost, he would give them 2,000 copies of the book he planned to write about his adventure.  In the end, he made the trek in 357 days, having rested on Sundays.  It was the second of three such round-the-nation walks Krohn undertook.

He had to meet several conditions: He had to push the wheelbarrow to show he couldn’t get a ride. And he had to get cancellation stamps from 635 post offices along the way.

By the end of his journey, Krohn walked 9,024 miles and visited 1,209 cities. He went through 11 pairs of shoes, 112 pairs of socks and five wheels and three tires on the wheelbarrow. The trip cost an average of $3.25 per day.  [source]

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Colonial Jack

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Written by LW

June 1, 2019 at 1:01 am

“If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water”*…

 

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Aquariums are currently all the rage. Of the forty-one American aquariums accredited by the American Zoo and Aquarium Association in 2003, more than half opened since 1980, sixteen since 1990 alone.These are not traditional halls of fish tanks but huge, immersive environments with increasingly exotic fish in ever more realistic habitats: live coral reefs, artificial currents, indoor jungles, and living kelp forests. Massive public/private endeavors, the new breed of aquarium has flourished in an era of ambitious urban renewal aimed at reviving derelict inner-city waterfronts. Their prominent role in such schemes has caused the Wall Street Journal to dub the last two decades “the age of aquariums.” We are in love with looking at fish. But why?…

Ginger Strand explains: “Why look at fish?

* Loren Eiseley

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As we dive, dive, dive, we might recall that it was on this date in 1875 that the first sounding of the Mariana Trench– the deepest natural trench on Earth– was made by the British survey ship H.M.S. Challenger during its first global expedition.  Accurate measurements from the surface remain difficult; but in 2010, NOAA used sound pulses to record a 36,070-ft (10,994 m) depth in the Challenger Deep at the southern end of the Mariana.

The Challenger‘s voyage was the first expedition organized specifically to gather data on a wide range of ocean features, including ocean temperatures seawater chemistry, currents, marine life, and the geology of the seafloor– that’s to say, it was the birth of modern oceanography.

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H.M.S. Challenger

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Written by LW

March 23, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Technology is making gestures precise and brutal, and with them men”*…

 

NIST_Precision_engineering_research

 

Scientists and engineers recognize an elusive but profound difference between precision and accuracy. The two qualities often go hand in hand, of course, but precision involves an ideal of meticulousness and consistency, while accuracy implies real-world truth. When a sharpshooter fires at a target, if the bullets strike close together—clustered, rather than spread out—that is precise shooting. But the shots are only accurate if they hit the bull’s eye. A clock is precise when it marks the seconds exactly and unvaryingly but may still be inaccurate if it shows the wrong time. Perversely, we sometimes value precision at the expense of accuracy…

What makes precision a feature of the modern world is the transition from craftsmanship to mass production. The genius of machine tools—as opposed to mere machines—lies in their repeatability. Artisans of shoes or tables or even clocks can make things exquisite and precise, “but their precision was very much for the few… It was only when precision was created for the many that precision as a concept began to have the profound impact on society as a whole that it does today.” That was John Wilkinson’s achievement in 1776: “the first construction possessed of a degree of real and reproducible mechanical precision—precision that was measurable, recordable, repeatable.”…

Replication and standardization are so hard-wired into our world that we forget how the unstandardized world functioned. A Massachusetts inventor named Thomas Blanchard in 1817 created a lathe that made wooden lasts for shoes. Cobblers still made the shoes, but now the sizes could be systematized. “Prior to that,… shoes were offered up in barrels, at random. A customer shuffled through the barrel until finding a shoe that fit, more or less comfortably.”…

James Gleick reviews– and responds to– Simon Winchester‘s The Perfectionists: How Precision Engineers Created the Modern World:  “Masters of Tolerance.”

[Image above: precision engineering research at the National Institute for Standards and Technology]

* Theodor Adorno

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As we contemplate craft, we might send insightful birthday greetings to Lewis Mumford; he was born on this date in 1895.  A historian, sociologist, philosopher of technology, and cultural critic, Mumford is probably best remembered for his writings on cities, perhaps especially for his award-winning book The City in History.  (See also The City— the extraordinary film that Mumford made with Ralph Steiner and Wiilard Van Dyne, from an outline by the renowned documentarian Pare Lorentz, with a score by Aaron Copland.) 

Mumford’s approaches to technology, its history, and its roles in society were acknowledged influences on writers like Jacques Ellul, Witold Rybczynski, Amory Lovins, E. F. Schumacher, Herbert Marcuse, Thomas Merton, and Marshall McLuhan.  In a similar way, he was an inspiration for the organicist and environmentalist movements of today.

Unfortunately, once an economy is geared to expansion, the means rapidly turn into an end and “the going becomes the goal.” Even more unfortunately, the industries that are favored by such expansion must, to maintain their output, be devoted to goods that are readily consumable either by their nature, or because they are so shoddily fabricated that they must soon be replaced. By fashion and build-in obsolescence the economies of machine production, instead of producing leisure and durable wealth, are duly cancelled out by the mandatory consumption on an even larger scale.

– Lewis Mumford, The City in History

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Written by LW

October 19, 2018 at 1:01 am

“In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”*…

 

moving-mountains

 

In America, average income has been basically flat for five decades as economic gains increasingly go to a tiny minority at the top of the income bracket. But American wage stagnation is only a small part of a larger global story — one that is summarized in a fascinating new graph. Swedish statistics professor Michael Höhle put together a fascinating visualization of the distribution of incomes, adjusted for inflation, in Africa, the Americas, Asia and Europe between 1950 and 2015.

It’s rare to find a data visualization with so much information in it. You could watch this over and over and over again and notice a new thing every time. Two big trends, for instance, are the increase in population in Asia over time, and the huge improvements in real income for Asians since 1950. Another less obvious trend is that European incomes more or less stopped gaining ground in the 1990s. Then there’s the disturbing thickening of African incomes on the left side of the graph starting around 2000, representing so many people who’ve been left behind by global economic growth…

Höhle is visualizing date from Factfulness, the last book from the late (and dearly missed) Hans Rosling (see here, here, and here).  Read more at “A Fascinating Visualization Of How Income Has Changed Around The World Since 1950” and learn more of Höhle’s method here.

* Confucius

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As we deliberate on distribution, we might send inclusive birthday greetings to Meghnad Jagdishchandra Desai, Baron Desai; he was born on this date in 1940.  An Indian-born U.K. economist and Labour politician, he is the first non-UK born candidate to stand for the position of Lord Speaker in the British House of Lords.

220px-Official_portrait_of_Lord_Desai_crop_2 source

 

Written by LW

July 10, 2018 at 1:01 am

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