Archive for September 2009


What is to be done?

Lenin’s famous question sounds a bit pompous, but this post will actually be a plea for modesty.  When I started this post I intended to produce a grand survey of morality, politics and economics, plus an in depth discussion of Switzerland.  Fortunately for you guys I don’t have my Switzerland data here with me in China, so the post will be merely overly long, not absurdly long.  I’ll do a follow-up post later on Switzerland.

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How did Krugman get it so wrong?

The title is a play on Paul Krugman’s recent NYT piece “How did economists get it so wrong?”  Krugman has a lot to say, but because he dances around the two key issues his essay doesn’t add up to much. 
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The Bridges of Tianjin

Despite the total lack of interest in my Chinese arts post, I continue today under the common traveler’s illusion that the folks back home are anxiously awaiting descriptions of the most trivial incidents on my trip to China.

The official populations of Shanghai, Beijing and Tianjin are about 19 million, 17 million and 12 million.   But in China the official figures are misleading, as they include a large rural hinterland.  The metro populations of these three cities are more like 17 million, 13 million, and 8 million; which is a bit less than metro NYC, LA, and Chicago, respectively.  BTW, the most absurd example of this problem is the newly created “city” of Chongqing, which likes to brag that its official population is 30 million.  Yes, but only about 6 million actually live in the metro area; it includes a vast rural population and lots of other distant cities.
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The best prediction of the past 20 years?

Before answering this question, let’s first examine what has happened over the past 20 years.

1.  The world has gotten much more peaceful.  I recall reading that the last couple years were the most peaceful in all of human history (and pre-history for that matter.)  Perhaps someone can find the article.

2.  The world has gotten much more democratic.  The number of democratic countries has soared at the fastest rate in history, by far.

3.  The world has gotten much more market-oriented.  There has been a huge wave of privatization and deregulation of prices and market access.  And this trend extends far beyond the formerly communist countries.
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Beijing arts update

Shanghai is universally regarded as “the New York of China.”  So I had naturally assumed that its arts scene was more sophisticated than that of  “the Washington DC of China.”  Just the reverse.
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