Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Monday, November 29, 2004


This is NOT to say I recommend polygamy.

But here's an interesting talk I heard on the radio this morning. An interviewee argues that polygamy should be banned. Her reasons are 1) Almost all polygamy cases are not registered in the State administration and therefore prone to abuse when it comes to raising the children and leaving them with enough bequests before the father die; 2) Polygamy contributes significantly to domestic/household violence toward women; 3) [and this one is the classic] It is not fair to the wifes.

She goes on to offer a conclusion. Ban the practice. And allow polygamy only if the first (second, so forth) wive signs a consent sealed by the court in the name of law, that she wants her husband to have a second (third, so forth) wive.

Ehm, sounds like a good solution. Only that..., it is built upon an illogical logic called nonsense!

First off, if the registration is the problem, why should you ban it all the way? That's like burning a ship to punish one naughty mouse. Why don't you just fix the administration system and enforce it? Secondly, give me statistics on domestic violance! Thirdly, hey, it takes two persons to have one marriage (well, maybe more somewhere out there, but that's not the point here). If the wive disagrees, then why should the husband proceed? After all, they should have had a pact beforehand ...

Again, I'm not arguing for or against polygamy. I'm just talking about a... funny logic.

And, it's not over yet. A listener calls in. He argues, polygamy is good. Because... -- bear with me -- the number of women is far greater than the number of men...

Wow. These two people made my day. Smiley, smiley...

Wednesday, November 24, 2004

Lincoln, Gandhi, and Kalla: What's Common?

According to Wheelan, Lincoln and Gandhi are both "great leader and bad economist". Lincoln once said, "... if we buy the rails from England, then we've got the rails and they've got the money. But if we build the rails [in America], we've got our rails and we've got our money...". While Gandhi once "...proposed that the Indian flag have a spinning wheel on it to represent economic self-sufficiency...".

Now, meet Jusuf Kalla. He's proposing Indonesian economic development based on ... self-sufficiency! (read here, in Bahasa). Kalla has yet to be seen as a great leader or not. But he seems to be a lousy economist -- in Wheelan's sense. Only, I would add, the main difference between JK and Gandhi is, the former is way richer.

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Now this is healthy

There you go. Really, all you claiming yourselves as market diehards should read Bodreaux. If every market half-cooked proponent were willing to put things into perspective like Bodreaux does, the field wouldn't have been this divided. Anybody see Dave Friedman?

Monday, November 22, 2004

No Rubba No Hubba Hubba

I am surprised that New Zealand government is sexist. The motto was launched by the Health Minister, Arnette King (a woman, I suppose?). So, men to blame? What say you, oh feminists?

Saturday, November 20, 2004

Misc about the Eid Day

(Gmail is cool. But not cool enough -- Can't do link).

Pheew, what a week (or maybe more?). Eid celebration is always a big thing in Indonesia. This year is special to me, after having the Eid Day abroad for six years. Maybe not special enough since I haven't got a chance to visit my hometown.

Nevertheless, it's good to be back in your country, where lovely people celebrate some big day in their own unique way. Among all are the following.

Mudik ("upstream" traveling). Yes, everybody knows that Indonesia has the largest muslim population. But not many foreigners know that in observing the Eid Day, majority of the Indonesian muslims go visit their hometown. And this means massive flow of people (and money!) from (and later, back to) Jakarta, or in general, from urban to rural (then rural to urban a week or so later). The rushest days are usually D-3 (and D+4). The "mudik" activities come with lots of economic implications. Despite the official range of fares announced by the Department of Transportation, you should expect an up to 100 percent increase (you don't want it, you don't see your family). Workers from all levels, maids to managers visit their family at hometowns, bringing gifts or money. Almost 25 million Indonesians go on mudik. You see them on TV, they look happy. Unfortunately, crime rate increases too. So do accidents on the road. The police reported that accident rates triple during the Eid Day celebration.

Maaf-maafan (asking for and giving forgiveness). At the end of the Ramadhan people ask each other for forgiveness. It's sweet to see people greet one another in a very friendly way. I am a little surprised, however. Back then, people sent greeting cards to their friends and families. Now, digital technology has taken over. If you have a handphone (and you really don't need to give the number to everybody -- they will know it!), expect hundreds of short messages in the Eid Day. People send Eid greetings through handphone. I shouldn't have been too surprised, as Indonesia is the most advanced cellular country (trust me, ask Nokia or others). The Jakarta Post reported: "The country's biggest cellular operator, Telkomsel, reported traffic of 87 million short messages on Idul Fitri, which fell on Nov. 14 this year. Idul Fitri eve saw 72.5 million text messages sent, and the day after Idul Fitri, 50 million messages" And that's only for Telkomsel. Indosat has huge number too ... It's funny to see that many of the SMS senders use somebody's message to send to other friends -- just change the name (yes, suddenly everybody becomes poet!). So I made this experiment: I created a very nice, unique message. Sent it to some people. Within a day, I got an SMS from a friend with a nice message in it. My message :-) God, I love Eid Day.

There are some unpleasant news though. A traffic accident following a sudden stop in a highway cost 6 lifes. The traffic was halted by the police (for a "VVIP procedure") as the President and his convoy would pass by. The sad thing is, the President Spokesperson immediately blamed the accident on a bus driver! Arrogance, no?

Another thing that has made news is this whole thing about gift parcel and corruption. The Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) has declared that gift-parcel-giving should be banned because it's a form of ... corruption! You can see the motivation, but can you see the logic? I have been applauding KPK's anticorruption mission so far. But this banning the gift parcel business is surely off the target. Rather than discouraging corruption, it puts end to small businesses -- those who produce the parcel baskets and the likes. Yet, the big corruptors keep feeding the state officials through ... internet banking. It's funny to hear that the governor of Jakarta has this notice on his front door "We do not receive gift parcels". OK, how about a transfer to your account, Sir? In fact, I think gift parcel is a nice thing if given from superiors to subordinates in the same office. The other way around? Now, that can lead to corruption.

Friday, November 19, 2004

Gmail to Blogger via Google

This is a test post. Last time I mailblog via Yahoo, it failed -- well
it was through, but with some Yahoo self-ads appeared at the bottom,
that's a failure. Now I use Gmail. Hope it works better, considering
that Blogger and Gmail belong to Google. Otherwise, still have to rely
on Outlook.

Monday, November 08, 2004

If even the NYT chickens out

Read this FAIR report. Why am I not surprised?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

"Inlaander" mentality

So bothered with this news. It says basically that Indonesia has sent a team to US to learn how to conduct a good election. What?? Nazaruddin Sjamsuddin, the team leader, should really learn how not to fail like US. Read the Florida reports! And by the way, you can do it from here. You don't need to use our money to get you ticket.

No harm at all?

Bodreaux is defending free trade too much. As he points out, even the "convinced free traders" admit that "some people are harmed by free trade". But Don is in denial. Says he, you can be disadvantaged by free trade, but surely your children or grandchildren will benefit from it. Oh, c'mon. I love free trade, but I'm not a utopist, and that's why I love Bhagwati's stuff. I recall (I believe I got the impression from Landsburg's "Armchair Economist") that some economists once ridicule environmentalists by saying that people maximize their own utility, not their children's. That's one. Two, who can make sure if our future grandchildren will like a particular spot to be forest as it is now or to be a huge shopping mall? By that, Steve should ask Don: who can make sure if your grandchildren perceives the gains from trade the same way as you do? (To answer that challenge, you may want to use Thaler and Sunstein's "Libertarian Paternalism" in May 2003 AEA P&P -- subscription required)

Oh no, not again

Bush wins again. Tabarrok blames it on Karl Rove the Greed. I blame it on the American stupid winner takes all system.

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Ideas and growth

I have to agree with Don Bodreaux of CafeHayek. This guy Bryan Caplan is great (though, I'm sure I am not with his ideological stand). The idea of ideas for growth is surely not new. But the way Caplan models it is a hats-off (get the complete papers from his website). Quoted: "Good ideas cause good policies. Good policies cause good growth. Good growth causes good ideas." But, as he warns, the process can go the opposite way. That is what he calls "idea trap". Now, be prepared (and this is what might have made me reconsider my admiration; had I found a flaw in his model). How to get out of the trap? You need ... luck! Who else models luck, anyway?

Hero Yes, Enemy No

Over the weekend, got some time to relax. "Hero" is superb! Zhang Yimou is the greatest. He actually ... paints his movie! "Crouching Tiger" should bow to "Hero". Tony Leung's and Maggie Cheung's top performance. As for Jet Li, he can be better. "Rashomon" resurrected?

Also saw "Enemy at the Gates". Ed Harris aside, I should have trusted my instinct. Story is interesting, ending is terrible. Joe Fiennes is cool, Jude Law is bad-bad-bad. Romance is cheesy.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Solow was wrong?

Jesus Felipe of ADB gave an interesting presentation yesterday. His paper debunks the theories of total factor productivity, and hence the well-known Solow growth model. His main objections are 1) Aggregate production function is nonexistent, 2) Solow's Cobb-Douglas' growth function is not a growth function. It's a rewriting of an accounting identity at the aggregate level -- and hence, not a behavioral model, but an identity. I agree with him on the danger of aggregation. I agree that Solow proceeded his elegant 1956 paper realizing the growth accounting. But I don't see the connection of aggregation biases to his proof on identity to behavioral equations. As I raised in the discussion session, if he has problem on Solow's Cobb-Douglas function such that to him it is simply an accounting identity, then try doing it the other way around. Go from the Cobb-Douglas function and do the math back to reach the accounting identity. You WILL get there, too. I'm sure the same thing applies to CES and other functions, given the approriate assumptions on factor shares (by the way, he never discussed the main difference between Solow's growth model and the endogenous growth model: diminishing- vs constant marginal returns). And this reverse proof should also apply to micro behavior. So, if you say Solow was wrong (at macro level), you have to say that Deaton-Muelbauer was also wrong (at micro level).