Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Peculiar US presidential elections

by das monde Thu Jun 2nd, 2016 at 10:00:01 AM EST

As all political junkies know, the US president is elected not directly by a citizen vote but by the Electoral College - an archaic original compromise of the Founding Fathers and States. (Yes, we will have a powerful President, but the States will be influential in its election.) There were four presidential elections when the popular vote was different from the elected president: 1824, 1876, 1888 and 2000. Besides, the first few elections were confused by the issue of Vice-Presidency (especially in 1796 and 1800), leading to the more specific 12th Amendment.

The most bizarre elections were in 1824 and 1876, by far. They were also influential or highly educative. If you thought that the 2000 election was a steal...

Frontpaged - Frank Schnittger

Read more... (22 comments, 950 words in story)

Yap essence of money

by das monde Fri Jun 26th, 2015 at 04:10:02 AM EST

This is almost a lazy quote diary, except my primary inspired source is in Dutch. So this is a sketchy translation, with a few quotes in English from elsewhere.

Yap is a small island of just 100 km2, some 1500 km to the east of Philippines. Until the end of the 19th century, it was one of the most isolated and disregarded islands on Earth. In 1903, an American anthropologist visited the island for two months. Soon he published a lively book on Yap's social hierarchy, religion and... the most remarkable economy. What can be amazing about the economy based on fish, coconuts and sea cucumbers? Well, John Maynard Keynes was impressed in his early years.

The money system on Yap is really jaw dropping. A damn heavy, hard currency...

for centuries, the main form of currency on this tiny Micronesian island was stones. Very large stones. Looking like Claes Oldenburg sculptures of oversized bagels, the stones -- or rai, as they're called -- can stand as high as ten feet and weigh several tons each.

While these carved stones may not look like big bucks to an outsider, some have enough value to purchase a new house.

Read more... (35 comments, 627 words in story)

How old are we?

by das monde Sat Dec 27th, 2014 at 02:42:14 AM EST

As we got a little interested in the age distribution of readers of this blog, I follow the Swedish royal suggestion to bring up a poll. Please contribute in making this survey representative.

And let's discuss, whether we should take on a mission to attract a batch of younger readers, or expand all age groups.

Let's have more respondents - afew

Read more... (26 comments, 201 words in story)

How right the Keynesians are gonna be?

by das monde Mon Nov 3rd, 2014 at 11:28:53 AM EST

I was writing a comment to the diary "LQD: How Depressingly Right We Have Been", but the quotation became substantially long even abbreviated. Hence this diary.

There was another recent diary, on Krugman's argument about GDP growth and limiting carbon emissions. A couple of Krugman's posts sparked steady reaction from the Post Carbon Institute and such. I noticed an ongoing series of articles from one blog, particularly. It mixed edgy enmity towards Krugman and liberals with eventually some relevant line of thought.

Sufficient Liberal Stories -- The Krugman Function Part 4 -- Transition Milwaukee

On the face of it, Paul Krugman appears entirely confident in the future of the American way of life and the growth of a globally inclusive economy. He is similarly confident in our ability to address climate change by running that economy on renewable energy.

This needs two significant qualifications. First, it is unclear whether this is what Krugman hopes, or what he expects [...] Second, Krugman's optimism is clearly dependent on the ability of political liberals to get wrong-headed, fuzzy-thinking conservatives out of the way [...]

Read more... (59 comments, 1438 words in story)

Humans and hierarchy

by das monde Sun Jun 15th, 2014 at 09:49:41 AM EST

There was a brief incomplete discussion the other week here on macho dominance, hierarchy enforcement, power dynamics. I had lived pretty ignorant of social status games for long - but recently I realized that hierarchy interactions, instincts and emotions have to be taken seriously. Let me shake similarly your rational onlooker premises about power and human nature.

Read more... (132 comments, 1226 words in story)

LQD: French Intellectual Melancholia

by das monde Mon Dec 30th, 2013 at 05:16:35 AM EST

The Economist has a provoking article in the Christmas issue on French noir moods. It should stir some discussion here.

ONE of the most perplexing questions of the early 21st century is this: how can the French, who invented joie de vivre, the three-tier cheese trolley and Dior's jaunty New Look, be so resolutely miserable? [...] polls suggest that the French are more depressed than Ugandans or Uzbekistanis, and more pessimistic about their country's future than Albanians or Iraqis ....

[...] Le Monde ran three pages under the title "Liberté, Égalité, Morosité", in a bid to decode its fellow countrymen's "persistent melancholy". France, it turns out, has the highest suicide rate in western Europe after Belgium and Switzerland. An American psychiatric study showed that, among ten rich countries, the French were the most likely to have a "major depressive episode" at some point in their life. Even the French language seems to be particularly well stocked -- morosité, tristesse, malheur, chagrin, malaise, ennui, mélancolie, anomie, désespoir -- with negativity.

front-paged by afew

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LQD: Future like Jakarta?

by das monde Tue Jul 23rd, 2013 at 07:27:03 AM EST

From an article at Counterpunch, by Andre Cltchek:

If you take a train in Jakarta, be warned: the images that would unwind behind your windows could be too disturbing to bear for someone who is not a war correspondent or a medical doctor [...]

Jakarta, the capital city of the country hailed by the Western mainstream media as `democratic', `tolerant' and `the largest economy in Southeast Asia' is actually a place where majority of the population has absolutely no control over its future. At closer look it becomes evident that the city is stuck with the social indicators that are more common in the Sub-Saharan Africa than in East Asia. And the place is increasingly violent and intolerant towards religious and national minorities as well as those who are demanding social justice...

Read more... (4 comments, 987 words in story)

Lithuanian election 2012-II, briefly

by das monde Mon Oct 29th, 2012 at 04:43:12 AM EST

Lithuania had the second round of Seimas elections yesterday: run-off voting in individual constituencies. The Social Democrats had won 22 seats yesterday, and will be the largest party in the new parliament.

The first round voting took part and was discussed two weeks ago. The voter activity was much lower yesterday: 35.86%, down from 52.93% on October 14.

Here are the results:

List vote
(Oct 14)
in Seimas
Prior run-off
VotesShareTotal =Oct 14+Oct 28Likely+toss-up+underdog
Social Democrats 251,61018.37% 38 =15+1+22 9+13+6
The Homeland Union 206,59015.08% 33 =13+20 9+22+4
Darbo Partija 271,52019.82% 29 =17+1+11 5+18+12
Order And Justice 100,1207.31% 11 =6+5 2+4+1
The Liberal Movement 117,4768.57% 10 =7+3 2+4+0
The Polish minority party 79,8405.83% 8 =5+1+2 2+4+0
Drąsos Kelias 109,4487.99% 7 =7+0 0+4+5
The Peasants & Green Union 53,1413.88% 1 =0+1 0+2+0
The Center-Liberals 28,2632.06% 0 =0+0 0+0+2
Independents -- 3 =0+3 2+1+1

One constituency has no representative yet, because first round results there were declared invalid.

Darbo Partija was under pressure from numerous voter buy-off reports.

Read more... (12 comments, 307 words in story)

Lithuanian election 2012

by das monde Mon Oct 15th, 2012 at 04:27:24 AM EST

Lithuania [elected] a new parliament (Seimas) [yesterday]. 70 members are elected in a proportional party voting (with 5% barrier), and 71 members are elected in local constituencies (with runoff voting 2 weeks later, in districts where no one got 50% of votes).

The election 4 years ago produced a shaky-looking coalition of the serious Homeland Union (the conservatives and Christian-democrats), two liberal parties, and a new populist Rising Nation party of a TV star. The populist party disintegrated after one year; it was swallowed mostly by the Center-liberal party. The coalition survived the whole term however, despite shifts in the coalition, the economic crisis, boosted emigration, austerity measures, and such joys.

frontpaged with minor edits, results in comments - Nomad

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Whishful gallop Gangnam style

by das monde Fri Aug 24th, 2012 at 02:35:46 AM EST

A big Youtube sensation this summer has been the music video "Gangnam style" by the Korean rapper PSY.

He is not a usual K-pop act, being 34 and chubby. But he likes to entertain, and now he became the first Korean pop artist to break through in the US.

So first, enjoy:

Read more... (19 comments, 743 words in story)

Surplusses and taxation

by das monde Sat Jan 21st, 2012 at 05:43:52 AM EST

I was going to respond to a discussion on taxation in the Inequality diary - but my piece got long enough for this diary.

Rather than talk about earned versus unearned income, I suggest to think about taxation of surplus capture (or appropriation). Bear with me.

The basic story in the economy theory is how labour and capital (material and financial) and real estate (land and accommodation) cooperate nicely to produce more wealth. The big problem which is sometimes abused but more often vulgarly ignored is distribution of the newly produced wealth.

Classical economists broadly agreed that generally labor is at the most disadvantageous position, as its wages depend on labor market competition and bargaining power, not ion the surplus produced. We are returning to the times when labor rewards are disgustingly skimpy indeed.

Sure, some highly skilled labor is still richly rewarded, sometimes out of proportion to produced value - think of football (and other sports) star contracts that did turned out delusional. But generally, the impact of globalization was harsh on labor wages.

Read more... (7 comments, 775 words in story)

LQD: Growth, debt, and the World Bank

by das monde Mon Dec 19th, 2011 at 05:33:57 AM EST

The recent article of Archdruid Report references this article

Growth, debt, and the World Bank
by Herman Daly

It offers a straight perspective of the gears turning the world in the last decades:

When I was in graduate school in economics in the early 1960s we were taught that capital was the limiting factor in growth and development. Just inject capital into the economy and it would grow [....] Capital was magic stuff, but scarce. It all seemed convincing at the time.

Many years later when I worked for the World Bank it was evident that capital was no longer the limiting factor, if indeed it ever had been. Trillions of dollars of capital was circling the globe looking for projects in which to become invested so it could grow. The World Bank understood that the limiting factor was what they called "bankable projects" -- concrete investments that could embody abstract financial capital and make its value grow at an acceptable rate, usually ten percent per annum or more, doubling every seven years.

Right, this is well visible in recently liberated economies. Quite a few services and infrastructures are abandoned as not yielding enough for "decent" living.

Read more... (17 comments, 606 words in story)

Propaganda of the class war

by das monde Mon Aug 15th, 2011 at 09:15:37 PM EST

Without much preface, I will turn here on two articles currently top-headlined at "Asia Times". The authors are Spengler (David P. Goldman) and Chan Akya. The economic commentary of these regular contributors was timely interesting in 2008. But by now their insight and argumentation are reduced to simplistic "National Review"-lite anti-liberal chatter.

Read more... (14 comments, 1086 words in story)

Fukushima trouble headlines

by das monde Thu Mar 31st, 2011 at 04:08:42 AM EST

Disheartening developments at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants continue, as nuclear elements take on their own course. Is it getting too late for human responsibility?

IAEA Confirms Very High Levels of Contamination Far From Reactors

Today the IAEA has finally confirmed what some analysts have suspected for days: that the concentration per area of long-lived cesium-137 (Cs-137) is extremely high as far as tens of kilometers from the release site at Fukushima Dai-Ichi, and in fact would trigger compulsory evacuation under IAEA guidelines.

The IAEA is reporting that measured soil concentrations of Cs-137 as far away as Iitate Village, 40 kilometers northwest of Fukushima-Dai-Ichi, correspond to deposition levels of up to 3.7 megabecquerels per square meter (MBq/sq. m). This is far higher than previous IAEA reports of values of Cs-137 deposition, and comparable to the total beta-gamma measurements reported previously by IAEA and mentioned on this blog.

This should be compared with the deposition level that triggered compulsory relocation in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident: the level set in 1990 by the Soviet Union was 1.48 MBq/sq. m.

Read more... (348 comments, 891 words in story)

Was the Euro outright an anti-labour project?

by das monde Mon Dec 13th, 2010 at 07:23:50 PM EST

This is from a Bloomberg Businessweek article Can the Euro Survive?:

It's been known for years -- centuries, really -- that monetary unions are hard to hold together [....] As theorized by Robert A. Mundell, the Nobel Prize-winning economist at Columbia University, a monetary union can't survive without something very close to political union, including free mobility of labor to nations where jobs are more available, flexible wages, a tax system that transfers funds from the winners to the losers, and strict rules preventing members from running up big budget deficits.

Now that we know what "free mobility" and "flexible wages" mean: If these neoliberal components are indeed vital for monetary unions, what was the hope for labouring masses? It was actually "third way" Europe's labourists and socialdemocrats who did the final push for euro. Did they already think along the same theory?!

Read more... (76 comments, 390 words in story)

Why Printing Money Makes Sense

by das monde Wed Oct 13th, 2010 at 07:51:04 AM EST

Dean Baker, one of the economists that foresaw the US housing bubble and the financial crisis, wrote an article with the same title, "Why Printing Money Makes Sense", in the Guardian:

For the tens of millions of people who are unemployed, underemployed or have given up looking for work altogether, we are in a crisis. The economy is an absolute disaster, ruining their lives and also jeopardising the futures of their children and grandchildren.

But that is not the way that the people paid to contemplate economic policy in Washington see things. This gang is busy congratulating themselves because things could have been worse. They point out that if they had been even more incompetent that we could be in a second Great Depression with unemployment staying in the double digits for a decade.

Instead of worrying about the millions of unemployed workers today, they are worried about their deficit projections for the years 2018, 2020 or even 2025. This crew, which could not even see the $8tn housing bubble that was about to wreck the economy, wants the whole country to genuflect before their projections of deficits for 10-15 years into the future ....

Read more... (33 comments, 1919 words in story)

Bond markets and pythons

by das monde Tue Mar 16th, 2010 at 12:18:22 PM EST

Reading a NY Times review of Michael Lewis's new book "The Big Short: Inside the Doomsday Machine" on the few winners of the financial crisis, I was struck by the following quote from the book:

An investor who went from the stock market to the bond market was like a small, furry creature raised on an island without predators removed to a pit full of pythons.

That it one of the most picturesque descriptions of predator vs prey environments I saw. How extreme is the bond market, really? What are the global populations of bond pythons and wannabe furry animals? Aren't bond traders those investors who fatefully evaluate fiscal policies and set credit terms for all governments? I recall the following quote of Bill Clinton's top advisor:

I used to think if there was reincarnation, I wanted to come back as the President or the Pope or a .400 baseball hitter. But now I want to come back as the bond market. You can intimidate everyone.

Does anyone here have experience in that ecosystem?

Comments >> (1 comment)

The simplest money model you can buy

by das monde Mon Nov 16th, 2009 at 05:47:25 AM EST

I intended to write this diary not long after the publication of famed Paul Krugman's article "How Did Economists Get It So Wrong?", and my review of Nial Ferguson's book "The Ascent of Money". But my schedule drifted away to excitements of job related projects. So here it is at last...

There is this passage in Krugman's article:

I like to explain the essence of Keynesian economics with a true story that also serves as a parable, a small-scale version of the messes that can afflict entire economies. Consider the travails of the Capitol Hill Baby-Sitting Co-op.

This co-op, whose problems were recounted in a 1977 article in The Journal of Money, Credit and Banking, was an association of about 150 young couples who agreed to help one another by baby-sitting for one another's children when parents wanted a night out. To ensure that every couple did its fair share of baby-sitting, the co-op introduced a form of scrip: coupons made out of heavy pieces of paper, each entitling the bearer to one half-hour of sitting time. Initially, members received 20 coupons on joining and were required to return the same amount on departing the group.

Unfortunately, it turned out that the co-op's members, on average, wanted to hold a reserve of more than 20 coupons, perhaps, in case they should want to go out several times in a row. As a result, relatively few people wanted to spend their scrip and go out, while many wanted to baby-sit so they could add to their hoard. But since baby-sitting opportunities arise only when someone goes out for the night, this meant that baby-sitting jobs were hard to find, which made members of the co-op even more reluctant to go out, making baby-sitting jobs even scarcer...

In short, the co-op fell into a recession.

Read more... (48 comments, 968 words in story)

Is Dow Jones a big bubble?

by das monde Tue Sep 1st, 2009 at 06:32:46 AM EST

I did the exercise of downloading Dow Jones IA historical data from Yahoo Finance pages, and plotted the weekly closing DJIA values:

I thought that I saw these graphs, but I am struck by the overall shape. The right-hand side of the picture looks completely different from the "lethargic" middle and left parts. What kind of common parameters of economic goodness or random walk could fit the whole graph?

We can recognize that the Great Depression recovery was long, or that there was a mysterious deflation in the 1970s. But the growth rates since the 1980s do not look like anything of the previous 50 years.

Diary rescue: orginally posted August 20 - Nomad

Read more... (41 comments, 220 words in story)

Ascent of Money

by das monde Tue Sep 1st, 2009 at 05:50:28 AM EST

This is a review of Niall Ferguson's book

The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World.

The same story is put into televised series. The author is a contentious historian, known also for two volumes The House of Rothschild, and for the touch apologetic Empire study. Recently he got involved in a debate with Krugman and others over Obama's economic policies.

Read more... (54 comments, 1408 words in story)
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