Saturday, September 30, 2006

Favourite Songs

Strong list - but not an all time greatest list :) :)

This is a better list - almost 2 years of data compared to 6 months...

My Favourite Groups -- Amarok

Amarok tells me these are my favourites artists - the list is a bit mixed up - but who am I to disagree with the almighty Amarok!

Again LastFM has more data on me. But have to say the Amarok top groups is more interesting :)

My Desktop!

My Desktop (Kubuntu / KDE / Linux).

"Concept of counterfeiting revisited"

(In response to:

Von: John Orford
Datum: Heute 14:38:30
Dear Sir / Madam,

The "Concept of counterfeiting revisited" (30th Sept.) article entirely missed the point.

Indonesia has higher priorities than protecting the intellectual property rights and revenue streams of Messrs. Schwarzenegger and Chan, and rightly so.

The point however, is that the counterfeit goods industry breeds industrial scale corruption and organised crime.

Every Rupiah spent on pirated goods is an economic vote /for/ corrupt governance practices and organised crime, and a vote /for/ the status quo.

Those who rage against Indonesia's kleptocrats but purchase illegal goods (e.g. pirated DVDs, drugs) and services (e.g. prostitution) are insulting hypocrites.  They should shut up or put up!


John Orford

Monday, September 25, 2006

Genocides in Affluent Societies

Have there ever been genocides within affluent societies? (there must have been...)

I'm reading Collapse by Jared Diamond at the moment, and it seems blindingly obvious, but I never realised how mass killing generally only happens in poor societies.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Economics and Democracy

Democracy (in the European sense of the word at least) is good for an economy, because:

1) It's fucking hard to run a country. Autocracies can do very well in the short and maybe medium term, but they all become unstuck sooner or later. (Even if they are benevolent dictators, they can pursue wrongminded policies). Democracies do better over the longer term, because more people can input and debate problems.

2) People can't revolt against themselves. Zero chance of coup d'etats, coloured revolutions etc. - helps when you're running a business.

3) Politicians are accountable. Press can root about and uncover wrongdoings, which help ensure good governance and less corruption.

However autocracies (genuinely) aren't unpopular in many countries, as long as:

1) Enough people feel wealthy. I.e. the middle classes are too ensconced in the next holiday they're booking, or toyota model they are going to buy, to worry about a discontented minority (who they are not completely ignorant of... but that package holiday to Phuket looks so dreamy!).

But economics is fickle, because:

1) it's /the/ hard science (forget physics etc.) meaning that even the best macroeconomists don't really have much of a clue about what's going to happen next, let alone how best to guide an economy.

When autocracies come up against bear markets, they find it hard to survive - because:

1) There isn't enough money for package holidays (not to mention decent food) and therefore a majority becomes discontented, and blame their leader's mismanagement.


I don't think China is all that far away from doing an Indonesia in the coming decade if it continues its strong growth. There won't be a monetary crisis, but so much capital investment means that a large amount should have been misallocated (either due to shear over-exuberance, diseconomies of scale, or corruption/fraud).

Many of these misallocations will have been dutifully covered up, but they will eventually tell sooner or later, as happened with Indonesia. And when they do, there will be a huge fallout. The standard of living will stay relatively high historically because it's hard to physically destroy capital (human or otherwise). Nevertheless, there will be increased political pressure for reform in China and economic instability.

Monday, September 11, 2006

The Cons and Cons of Lots of Exports

Just read two interesting posts, basically what I should have written for the Jakarta Post (cos they asked) but I ended up not...

When people think of countries they sometimes liken them to firms. If your revenues are higher than your costs, you are doing well, you are obviously earning profits.

But international trade is a more subtle game.

You could liken it to cups, where there's a ball under one of three cups, and your opponent tries to use slight of hand to ensure you can't find the ball.

Or maybe it's like pass the parcel, but the parcel is a booby prize.

In trade you have to look at who ends up with the cash.

Whoever has massive piles of cash is a clear loser, cos they have swapped all their goods and services for pieces of paper.

Not only that, but in the two blog posts below, many govts of poor countries seem to be holding onto pieces of paper which don't offer much return at all. In fact they are giving (generously) as much as 5% of the gains from their hoard to developed countries.

Indonesia for example has $50bn hoarded away for a rainy day which earns near nothing year on year. As 'Sarapan points out, $50bn * 5% = 2007's budget deficit.

But that's nothing, China has almost $1000bn hidden away for a rainy day when it will have to defend its currency peg. Something like 20% of the income the whole of China generates a year. The peg is kinda nice, because we outside China can exchange less paper to get more fun electronics and cool clothes etc. The Chinese end up being the with the paper! - suckers!!

Of course China is doing well, but they are doing well because of their huge labour force and general stability, not because of their hoard of US dollar and TBills. Non economists worry too much about money, money is just an illusion, don't hoard it, get rid of it!