Monday, June 27, 2005

Britain as a Nation

We often hear that the EU won't work, because Europeans lack a sense of common nationality. Recent squabbles over the budget might appear to confirm this view. But the more general claim that any effective state needs a robust sense of shared nationality is probably false. Doubtless, a state needs some minimum form of solidarity. Absent that, you get an Iraq: a place that can be held together only by a despot. But Britain shows that a state can survive and flourish while riven by all manner of petty national rivalries.

Anyone who still thinks that the British share a robust "we-feeling" should take a look at the discussions going on amongst Britain's exasperated rugby fans. Talk about sticking together in the face of adversity, I give you the unedited Molly Bloom-like thoughts of one Dylan Morris:

Why We Lost:

--1. we lost due to picking to many english players who have been playing poorly since the world cup. 2 wilkinson cant run or pass he is just a no go shame it was not him that got speared 3 typical english dirty play danny "hannibal" grewcock, what is the point 4 everyone knows if we play like england we are bound to loose the game has moved up a few levels since the 2003 world cup the style of game has changed someone tell stupid clive woodward. 5 all the players that are being called up for injuries should all have been there in the first place. 6 clive was not happy about not being approached to be the lions manager of 2001 in australia, im glad he never had it and i wish henry was our manager now, henry is a much better coach than woodward and henry and hansen know how they can be beaten and that is playing a WELSH game. Stuff all the english i have had a guts full of them we are in this state because of them, all the welsh , scottish and irish boys should pack their bags and leave if woody had his way he would have 45 english guys over there.

A Fellow Celt replies:

--spot on dylan, but I don't think the celts should pack up and go home. celts have never been quitters and they shouldn't be now. I'd like to see the celtic lads take it upon themselves to play expansive rugby when the opportunity arises. obviously that won't happen all that often considering how slow neil back gets the ball. but Peel can take quick tap penalties when he can and get the team going forward. this is when the quick running and passing of the celtic players can overcome the slow bovine plodding of the english.

An Englishman responds:

--didn't know they were installing internet in council houses these days.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Andrei Shleifer Defrauds the Government and Harvard Buries the News

I think Harvard needs to get a better PR dept--or someone inside its administration does not like Andrei Shleifer--author of, get this, The Grabbing Hand:

Harvard and its star economist Andrei Shleifer ’82 said on Monday they had reached a tentative settlement with the U.S. government in a five-year-old fraud suit that has spanned two continents and embarrassed both the University and the professor.

The terms of the settlement were not announced, and the parties said several details still need to be resolved. At a hearing in U.S. District Court on Monday, Judge Douglas P. Woodlock gave the parties 60 days to ink the deal.

The agreement came nearly a year after Woodlock found Shleifer, who is the Jones professor of economics, and Jonathan Hay, a former Harvard employee, liable for conspiring to defraud the government. The two men made personal investments in Russia while advising a U.S.-funded program to privatize the economy there in the 1990s.....

Yesterday’s hearing, originally scheduled for March, was postponed four times, most recently on the first of this month. That delay, according to a Harvard official who has been briefed on the case, was a public-relations move intended to push the settlement announcement until after Commencement, when the news would receive less attention.
This story has, rather mysteriously drawn very little coverage from the mainstream press. The best coverage is David Warsh's economicprincipals blog--especially here.

Friday, June 03, 2005

A Tale of Two Bus Drivers: A Note on Comparative Economic Well-Being

David Brooks' latest column in the NYT has sparked a blogospheric debate about the relative economic well-being of Americans and Europeans. People are flinging around lots of statistics. But the underlying issues are these (i) what metric best measures well-being? and (ii) whose well-being do we measure? I don't have the answers to these difficult questions. I offer instead Tom Friedman's best friend--an anecdote.

Travelling on the Heathrow to Oxford Express Bus last month, I overheard a conversation between the bus driver and a friend (also a bus driver), who had just returned from a visit to New Hampshire, USA. The British based Oxford bus drivers were commenting that they earned the same in pounds sterling (25,000 p.a.) as a bus driver in New Hampshire earned in dollars (also 25,000 p.a.). They were further led to comment that the New Hampshire bus driver appeared to have a much higher standard of living. Let's say they were right about the numbers, then 25,000 dollars--which is slightly less than half of median family income in New Hampshire--buys bus drivers a higher standard of living in New Hampshire than 25,000 pounds sterling--which is roughly the median family income in the UK--buys bus drivers in Oxford. Both the Oxford bus drivers said they'd move to New Hampshire in a heartbeat.

I draw no conclusions from this anecdote. I note only that neither in Oxford nor in New Hampshire could you raise a family on a bus driver's salary.

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