Friday, February 26, 2010

Friday links

See all Friday links.

1/ Women's voices needed in Lesotho's development.

2/ Book a World Cup tour to Lesotho with Kick4Life and Lesotho2010

3/ Basotho people at work: A new book.

4/ Running is miracle grow for your brain.

5/ Fighting crime with math.

6/ HIV/Aids in South Africa (HT: VL)

7/ Photos of bureaucrats at their work (HT: Chris Blattman)

8/ We pretend we are Christians. Difficult not to be Christian in some parts of Texas.

9/ The Fear Budget hypothesis. Do people have a fixed mental budget to allocate to fear?

10/ 77% of Britons want cut in immigration. I don't include myself in their number.

11/ The secret to happiness. (HT: Chartporn)

12/ The Falklands here and here. I have sympathy with the idea that we can talk about shared revenue from oil with Argentina, but no sympathy with the idea that we can talk about sovereignty unless Falkland Islanders themselves want to (either with respect to independence, or joint sovereignty with Argentina or a complete transferal to Argentina). And not following bullying by an Argentine Government. A Government has a duty to its citizens and to people who feel they belong under a particular Government. It is a cowardly Government that abandons those who feel they belong to a country for the sake of short-lived bullying of those who demand a country give up sovereignty over its own citizens for some ill-defined but apparently 'liberal' motivations.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010


... did I see a young lady lead a blind lady directly into a ditch filled with water this morning?

... do people always hoot at me *before* the traffic light has even turned green? - always at the same set of traffic lights.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why don't I want Pompey to go bust?

I am a Saints fan. Our local rivals are Pompey. It would be fair to say that their is a fair amount of historical animosity between Southampton and Portsmouth and the rivalry can be pretty bitter between the two sets of fans.

(The photo is of the three known hard-core Saints fans in Lesotho - I am in the Basotho hat, taken during Saints' 4-1 defeat to Pompey in the cup last week - a nice game despite the defeat. An American we watched the game with thought we were the Premier League side and Portsmouth the lower division side.)

Portsmouth (Pompey) are in dire risk of going out of business, but I really hope that doesn't happen. Why would I not want to see our bitter rivals disappear from the face of the earth?

I think for two reasons: firstly, I value the rivalry, and don't want to lose it. The rivalry increases my own pleasure. Secondly, despite that rivalry, I don't think any true football fan should want to see another club go out of business.

Despite the way we treat each other sometimes, football fans all belong to one big community - yes, including even our bitter rivals. Having nearly gone bankrupt ourselves a few months ago (it has been a bad year for south coast clubs), I know the pain supporters can go through. I don't think that any football fan deserves that.

I think that that might give me an altruistic streak somewhere!

Since it's always nice to have a model, my utility, u (call it 'happiness' if you will), is a positive function of the continued rivalry between Saints and Pompey, but also of the utility, v, of other football fans, including, in this case, Pompey fans:

u = u(rivalry, X, v(Pompey fans))

(X is all other things that contribute to my happiness)

I say a positive function but in fact, it is not linear. I like the rivalry, but if it becomes too much and descends into violence, I don't like that - so, we can probably say the function is concave (first derivative positive, second negative) and non-monotonic - too much rivalry brings negative utility (it is an inverted U-shape in fact).

How would Pompey fans' utility affect me? Also, not linearly. I don't like to see Pompey doing too well (few Pompey fans like to see the Saints do brilliantly either, so we're even), but I hate the idea of them going bankrupt. Thus, when they do *very* badly, my happiness (utility) is negatively affected. When they start to do a little better, I become indifferent. But when they start to do well over a certain point, my happiness declines again. Pompey fans' utility function (v) above, enters my own utility function in an inverted-U but in the negative domain and reaches its peak at zero (having no effect on my utility)*.

Below is a picture to illustrate:

I am sure that there are a few Saints fans who feel differently, but I hope not too many.

Good luck Pompey.

* And you thought it was all glamour being an economist :)

Lonely Planet: South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho - Kindle Edition

The Kindle version of the Lonely Planet guidebook to South Africa, Swaziland and Lesotho is now available.

Apparently some people still prefer actual paper versions of books:

Friday, February 19, 2010

Friday links

See all Friday links

1/ Funny summary of idiotic buy-local campaigns

"I'm walking through a local Phoenix mall and pass a kiosk for Rosetta Stone, the language-learning software. There's a sign indicating $125 off each course. I ask the woman manning the kiosk, "Is this a discount price over an internet purchase?" She responds, "Where do you live?" I indicate I live locally. She says, "Why would you want to support the Virginia economy [I gather this is where Rosetta Stone is headquartered] rather than our local Phoenix economy? It's the same price either way, but don't you want to keep the money here?"

I told her she made a good point and asked her where in Phoenix she lived? She told me she lived in the Biltmore area. I sighed and explained that was too bad since I lived in the Arcadia area, and wanted to help support the Arcadian economy.

She looked at me like I was crazy. Sadly, this is not an isolated incident..."

2/ The chocolate industry and Valentine’s Day

"Until the mid 20th century the global chocolate industry faced a huge problem – a lack of holidays and between Easter and Christmas meant that the never-ending circle of life, during which Santa Clause is reborn as the Easter bunny and Rudolph magically transforms into the Paschal lamb, was endangered! The time between Christmas and Easter was too long to keep chocolate and the circle of life could not be sustained! This did not only pose the industry with wildlife conservation problems, confronted it with Sweetpeace campaigns, but also raised the serious problem of how to get rid of tons of leftover stocks (and if you’re now gonna say that the time between Easter and Christmas is even longer, think about when the first Santa’s hit the shops… ).

The industry was in a desperate position: wasting chocolate is a cardinal sin and a ruthless crime! Left stranded, melting and looking for answers, the industry turned to God and he, acknowledging their prayers, shared his endless love with them and encouraged them to share it amongst each other on Valentine’s Day! This not only meant that men had to remember one more meaningless date in addition to birthdays and all sorts of anniversaries, but also gave industry another holiday which they could shamelessly exploit!"

3/ Alistair Darling rejects economists calls for spending cuts. What kind of an idiot would listen to economists on matters concerning the economy anyway?

4/ The importance of technological innovation for Small and Medium Enterprise growth. An academic study.

5/ Was Alaska a good buy?

6/ How to be British (a link especially for Amitha :) )

7/ Arguments for aid as direct cash transfers to individuals

8/ Do you laugh a lot? You’re probably not a very powerful person.

9/ Valentine’s Day in numbers (HT: Chart Porn)

10/ South Africa gives away 1% of its GDP to its neighbours. And Western countries still struggle to spend a pathetic 0.7% of GDP on Overseas Development Aid.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Whites no longer allowed to produce food (and many other things) in Zim

When will people realise that the aim of farms should be to produce food for everyone? That is their point. Full stop. If you want to piss around with stupid policies including 'righting past wrongs' with farming, you risk making the very people you seek to help starve to death.

Unless of course, you don't really give a shit about anyone in your country - black, white or whatever - and really just want to monopolise production for some pals of yours (including your wife) who have an incentive to reduce production and increase price ('cos that is what monopolies do - check out any Econ 10001 course) ensuring less food and higher prices for all. Black empowerment the Mugabe way.

Of course, you will blame the evil colonial powers of yesteryear because, of course, it is they who will have made your stupid policies fail.

When private goods become common

It’s something that I noticed quite quickly after coming to Lesotho: Coca cola in a large bottle can never be a private good.

So often I have a 2 liter bottle in the office and so often anyone who passes feels they can ask for a cup of it*. What is interesting though, is that this does not happen to any other drink. For example, fanta or fruit juices do not attract the same attention. Why should that be?

There is another interesting pair of private-common goods: chocolate on my desk is private; it belongs to me and no one will ask for it. Biscuits, on the other hand, are a common good. Anyone is allowed to ask for a biscuit.

I guess every society has similar things. In Europe, cigarettes used to be common-ish, but are now private, but that reflects a price change. Coke and fanta cost about the same amount here.

What other interesting combinations of these have people spotted?

* Interestingly, conditions apply. There must be no one else in the room and, most importantly, the coke must be cold. Warm coke appears to have about the same value here as sunblock on a rainy day. The Basotho are a people of taste :)

Monday, February 15, 2010

Lesotho Budget Speech 2010

Our Minister of Finance, Dr Tim Thahane (see also Who's Who) delivered the Lesotho 2010/11 Budget Speech on Friday. The theme was 'an aggressive domestic resource mobilisation and expenditure prioritisation is an imperative'.

HERE is an excellent summary of the speech from a Brunei website (!) and HERE is a summary by a local news website. Some of the opposition parties dislike the speech claiming it had little new in it (not sure you want much new stuff when the fiscal position is so difficult - myself I prefer caution and a conservative tone in such situations). HERE is some commentary/opinion from the same local news site.

Nice day for a burglary

My neighbour had an attempted burglary a couple of weeks ago. I heard them in my yard too. I was surprised because it was raining, and burglars don't come out in the rain, do they?

I looked to see if I could find any research done on the impact of weather on burglaries and couldn't find much. My favourite paper I found is on the effect of weather on homocide.