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For some reason, I seem to be rather low on time over the last couple of weeks. But there are some blog posts/articles floating around out there that I really want to write up a couple of posts on. But those posts are not going to happen tonight due to an extended power outage and the fact that I elected to use that power outage to take a nap. Since my planned posts often get overtaken by events, I thought that I would take a few minutes to at least link to some of the things that I plan to blog about. They are worth reading on their own even if I never get around to saying anything.

First up is a recent article in the Economist on the demographics of Europe. When I got this week’s issue of the Economist it was one of the first things that I read and boy did it make me mad. The article was absolutely disgraceful.

Edward Hugh discusses that article in a lengthy post here. But while I agree with most of what Mr. Hugh says, his post fails to relieve me of the need to write my own post. This is partially because I think Mr. Hugh misses several important flaws in the Economist article that I think should be pointed out. But mostly it is because Mr. Hugh is just too kind to the Economist.

This would not bother me so much if I thought that Mr. Hugh would be equally as kind to Mark Steyn (a target of the Economist article). After all, The Economist article commits all the same sins as Mr. Steyn in terms of how they handle and present data. But Mr. Hugh would never treat an argument by Mr. Steyn as respectfully as he treats the Economist’s article. He even wrote in the comments that Mr. Steyn should be ignored.

I think that this disparity of treatment between Mr. Steyn and equally faulty arguments from the likes of the Economist reflects the fact that Mr. Hugh finds Mr. Steyn’s political views so distasteful.

But this disparity in treatment is precisely why men like Mr. Steyn are so popular. If an august publication like the Economist can get away with such a sloppy and misleading piece of work, why can’t Mr. Steyn? Trashing Mr. Steyn and treating the Economist with kid gloves only makes Mr. Steyn out to be some kind of persecuted hero.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not defending Mr. Steyn. My recent comment over at the Belmont Club was in part directed at people like him. But you impose a double standard at the cost of your own credibility.

But that all should really wait until I am ready to write my own post and go over in detail what is wrong with The Economist article.

Another thing I want to blog about is this post over at Architecture and Morality called Helpless Hands: From Arts and Crafts to Blobitechture. Being in the trades, I naturally have my own opinions on the subject. Besides, I have an evil plot to influence the content of Architecture and Morality. I figure if I offer feed back on every blog post on architecture and ignore every post on politics I might be able to subtlety encourage them to stick to their brief.

If you want to help me along with my evil plot, you all should go over and read the post. Or at least pretend to. Stat counters can’t tell.

And last, but not least, there is this post from Alpha.Source on the changing behavior of Japan’s retail investors. There is nothing particularly special about this post, but Alpha.Source’s continued coverage of this issue over the last couple of months has sparked me to revisit some of my old thoughts on Japan. When I was a teenager (in the 90’s if you must know) I thought a lot about Japan’s situation. I find that the recent changes in the behavior of Japan’s retail investors help confirm (in my own mind) many of the ideas that I had back then.

I have been thinking that I ought to take the time to spell out those ideas. Particularly since those ideas lie at the heart of my differences with Mr. Hugh on demographic profiles and trade surpluses and I ought to give a more considered response to Mr. Hugh’s commentary.

If I am lucky, I will get a blog post up on at least one of these subjects before the week is out. The only question is which subject should I tackle first? The one I am most emotionally involved with (the Economist article)? Or the subject that I think will be the easiest to write on (The Architecture and Morality post)? Or the one that I think will take the most work to write out properly (my thoughts on Japan)?

6 Responses to “What I would like to be blogging about….”

  1. on 20 Jun 2007 at 3:38 amclaus vistesen

    Well, whatever you choose … we will be awaiting eaglerly :).

    Regarding the piece from the Economist I will be interested to hear what you have to say and of course on those Japanese housewives too.

    Claus

  2. […] I know, I know, I owe a post on one of the three subjects that I said I wanted to blog about. And I will have a post on The Economist article on demographics up today or tomorrow (per Mr. Vistesen’s request I decided to do that one first). But Andrew Cusack linked to three u-tube clips that I want to link to on my own site with my own commentary. […]

  3. […] _uacct = “UA-1202685-1”; urchinTracker(); Map of the Ethereal Land The Ethereal Voice Front Page – Politics – Money – Knowledge – Art – Food – Fun Masthead About Songs of Community By Ape Man | June 22, 2007 – 8:49 pm Posted in Category: Front Page, Art I know, I know, I owe a post on one of the three subjects that I said I wanted to blog about. And I will have a post on The Economist article on demographics up today or tomorrow (per Mr. Vistesen’s request I decided to do that one first). But Andrew Cusack linked to three u-tube clips that I want to link to on my own site with my own commentary. Normally I post videos over at The Ethereal Voice. But one of the u-tube clips that Cussack posted has direct relevance to a post I recently wrote on Quebec’s demographics and they are all loosely tied together so I thought I would share them here as well as at the Voice. This is a clip of the song ‘Dégénération’, by Mes Aïeux (in Québécois French, with English subtitles). According to Cusack this song is wildly popular in Quebec right now. Its relevance to my recent post on Quebec should be obvious and hopefully I don’t need to elaborate on the song for those that have read my post. But one thing I would like to note is the continued references to government jobs in the song. This is no accident. The Government commands an extremely large percentage of GDP in Quebec and it is about the only place to get “good jobs” in Quebec these days. This next clip is ‘Roots’, by Show of Hands (an English Folk group). It is an angry lament over Britain’s lost culture. The song obviously has something in common with ‘Dégénération’ and musically I actually enjoyed it more. But the primary reason that I am posting this is that I found it interesting how similar the complaint was in these two songs written by people in two different cultures. There seems to be a common despair in the face of modern culture. It is common for people to dismiss the sentiments expressed in these songs as misguided longing for a golden age that never was. I disagree. There never was such a thing as a golden age. That I will admit. But modern culture has lost something in the transition to the modern era. We have more material things, but we are losing our social fabric. I don’t see how anyone can deny that people are not as rooted in their communities as they once were. In fact, the very concept of a community is disappearing. To be a modern person is to be a rootless person. You are not tied to your brothers, cousins, or neighbors. You are free, but you are also rootless. For some, like the blogger over at Free Exchange, this is a price worth paying. But for others, like Mes Aieux and Show of Hands, this is something to be lamented. Needless to say, I have more sympathy for the likes of Mes Aieux and Show of Hands then I do for Free Exchange’s view point. But like all things human, a longing for community and the struggle to maintain it can be an ugly thing. That is what Cusack’s clip of the ‘De La Rey’, by Bok van Blerk (in Afrikaans, with English subtitles) reminds me of. Now this song skillfully plays on the sadness of what happened to the Boer woman and children and the braveness of the Boer fighters. Yet I can’t help but remember all the peoples that that the Boers destroyed and all the African villages that the Boers burnt to the ground. It is fitting that the song makes references to the Africans waiting for them to be destroyed. And I think that it is fitting that such great devotees of the Old Testament as the Boers should receive an Old Testament punishment for their crimes (and eye for an eye…). For me, the Boers are a prime example of how a people can deify their sense of community. The Boers had this conception of themselves as a holy people chosen by God which meant that they saw no difference between their desires as a community and the desires of God. For them, the two were one and the same. Like the deification of anything else human, this lead to horrible things. There is no restraint on a society that considers its desires the desires of God. The Boers are not alone in that failing, and I don’t mean to single them out. It is just that the song ‘De La Rey’ calls to my mind the dangers of venerating your own community and the messianic desires that often accompany that veneration. But in remembering this danger, we should not forget that man cannot live by bread alone. A society based solely on economic transactions will soon cease to exist. The question is: what is the proper way to fill this human need for community without creating some kind of pagan nationalistic god? […]

  4. […] In a post I that I wrote last week I said (speaking of Edward Hugh’s post on a recent article in The Economist called Suddenly, the old world looks younger)….. But while I agree with most of what Mr. Hugh says, his post fails to relieve me of the need to write my own post. This is partially because I think Mr. Hugh misses several important flaws in The Economist article that I think should be pointed out. But mostly it is because Mr. Hugh is just too kind to The Economist. […]

  5. on 27 Jun 2007 at 12:50 amEdward Hugh

    Hi Ape Man,

    “This is partially because I think Mr. Hugh misses several important flaws in the Economist article that I think should be pointed out. But mostly it is because Mr. Hugh is just too kind to the Economist.”

    On the first point I await with interest, on the second I am sure you are right.

    “by Mr. Steyn as respectfully as he treats the Economist’s article. He even wrote in the comments that Mr. Steyn should be ignored.”

    Again, I am sure you are right. This is not because I make a special habit of being kind to the Economist. Claus and I have deep differences with the general story about economic imbalances, the German and Japanese economies and the Indian economy which the Economist is telling these days.

    Basically I agree with those who suggest that the Economist goes in for a lot of “spin” these days. This is especially true, I think, in the case of their dismissal of the demographic components in economic growth. This leads them – in true neo-classical steady state style – to continually hope for a “normal” recovery in domestic demand in the German and Japanese domestic demand patiently waiting around every next corner (you already know my views on this). At the other extreme they consistently underestimate the growth potential of the Indian economy. I regularly post on the Indian economy blog on this, but perhaps the best example of a critique here is this post from Nandan Desai, with which I substantially agree.

    If I have some excuse for the Economist on these issues, in that they are only really economic journalists at the end of the day, and not theoretical macreconomists. So really they have to choose between the various economic metadiscourses they find floating around (obviously they are not up to inventing their own one), and this they do.

    I make something of an exception with the Economist in the present case, not because I think they are any better on the demography topic, but because I am frustrated by the way what should be a more or less scientific debate (which scrutinizes and informs) has become the ground for a sort of ideological football match.

    And this is why I avoid locking horns with Mark Steyn, since I think what he peddles is ill-informed ideology. I think you can waste hours and hours of precious time on this type of thing, when there really are pressing things (in the research sense) to be getting on with.

    Basically Claus and I are pretty frustrated by the apparent inability of most people to see what the hell we are getting at here. A good recent example is this post by Brad Setser on the Japanese Yen. I have been debating all this with Brad for some time now, and I fully accept that he is an excellent economist of good will, and I find his basic inability to see what the hell we are on about rather frustrating (see the exchange in comments).

    Basically I think that it is just as important to be able to communicate what you are talking about as it is to be right (we may, after all, always be wrong). That is why I wanted to have your export post up on Demography Matters, since even though it is a critique of what we think, it IS also a serious attempt to address the issues arising, and this is what I would also expect from Steyn and Co. if they want what they say to be really taken seriously as part of a debate.

    Basically I hate the ongoing war of words between Europe and the US. I think this leads nowhere. So I have as little time for those in Europe who accept the “dollars inevitable decline” story (as currently presented) simply because it fits in with their worldview that Europe is “better” than the US. Serious economic debate deserves more.

    Really Steyn seems to have been successful since he was able to put some kind of “meme” or other in circulation at more or less the right moment. Claus and I would really like to do something similar, but are still struggling to find a way through the bout of “congenital deafness” which seems to be afflicting people.

    At heart I am a big admirer of the late Karl Popper. I think debate without a testable object can go round and round forever. To try and break the gridlock Claus and I are trying to find testable details in all this, and in particular to make falsifiable predictions. The structural dependence on exports in “elderly” societies would be one of these. After all it would clearly be falsified if the Economist’s long hoped for “balanced” recovery were to occur.

    Another example is the “no sustained housing boom in a society with median age over 41” gambit I make in the Brad Setser comments. Again, easily falsifiable I think.

    “When I was a teenager (in the 90’s if you must know) I thought a lot about Japan’s situation.”

    Oh, that’s interesting. Perhaps it would interest you to know that I started getting interested in all of this in the late 90s when I got interested in the deflation phenomenon there. It struck me as something completely new, and woke me from my slumbers, which were rather boredom than dogma induced.

    Actually Japan gave me back a problem to think about, after years of wandering round doing very little, except, oh yes, cutting a lot of wood in the mountains to keep me warm :).

    cu

    Edward

  6. on 27 Jun 2007 at 12:56 amEdward Hugh

    Hi Ape Man,

    “This is partially because I think Mr. Hugh misses several important flaws in the Economist article that I think should be pointed out. But mostly it is because Mr. Hugh is just too kind to the Economist.”

    On the first point I await with interest, on the second I am sure you are right.

    “by Mr. Steyn as respectfully as he treats the Economist’s article. He even wrote in the comments that Mr. Steyn should be ignored.”

    Again, I am sure you are right. This is not because I make a special habit of being kind to the Economist. Claus and I have deep differences with the general story about economic imbalances, the German and Japanese economies and the Indian economy which the Economist is telling these days.

    Basically I agree with those who suggest that the Economist goes in for a lot of “spin” these days. This is especially true, I think, in the case of their dismissal of the demographic components in economic growth. This leads them – in true neo-classical steady state style – to continually hope for a “normal” recovery in domestic demand in the German and Japanese domestic demand patiently waiting around every next corner (you already know my views on this). At the other extreme they consistently underestimate the growth potential of the Indian economy.

    If I have some excuse for the Economist on these issues, in that they are only really economic journalists at the end of the day, and not theoretical macreconomists. So really they have to choose between the various economic metadiscourses they find floating around (obviously they are not up to inventing their own one), and this they do.

    I make something of an exception with the Economist in the present case, not because I think they are any better on the demography topic, but because I am frustrated by the way what should be a more or less scientific debate (which scrutinizes and informs) has become the ground for a sort of ideological football match.

    And this is why I avoid locking horns with Mark Steyn, since I think what he peddles is ill-informed ideology. I think you can waste hours and hours of precious time on this type of thing, when there really are pressing things (in the research sense) to be getting on with.

    Basically Claus and I are pretty frustrated by the apparent inability of most people to see what the hell we are getting at here.

    Basically I think that it is just as important to be able to communicate what you are talking about as it is to be right (we may, after all, always be wrong). That is why I wanted to have your export post up on Demography Matters, since even though it is a critique of what we think, it IS also a serious attempt to address the issues arising, and this is what I would also expect from Steyn and Co. if they want what they say to be really taken seriously as part of a debate.

    Basically I hate the ongoing war of words between Europe and the US. I think this leads nowhere. So I have as little time for those in Europe who accept the “dollars inevitable decline” story (as currently presented) simply because it fits in with their worldview that Europe is “better” than the US. Serious economic debate deserves more.

    Really Steyn seems to have been successful since he was able to put some kind of “meme” or other in circulation at more or less the right moment. Claus and I would really like to do something similar, but are still struggling to find a way through the bout of “congenital deafness” which seems to be afflicting people.

    At heart I am a big admirer of the late Karl Popper. I think debate without a testable object can go round and round forever. To try and break the gridlock Claus and I are trying to find testable details in all this, and in particular to make falsifiable predictions. The structural dependence on exports in “elderly” societies would be one of these. After all it would clearly be falsified if the Economist’s long hoped for “balanced” recovery were to occur.

    Another example is the “no sustained housing boom in a society with median age over 41” gambit I am currently making. Again, easily falsifiable I think.

    “When I was a teenager (in the 90’s if you must know) I thought a lot about Japan’s situation.”

    Oh, that’s interesting. Perhaps it would interest you to know that I started getting interested in all of this in the late 90s when I got interested in the deflation phenomenon there. It struck me as something completely new, and woke me from my slumbers, which were rather boredom than dogma induced.

    Actually Japan gave me back a problem to think about, after years of wandering round doing very little, except, oh yes, cutting a lot of wood in the mountains to keep me warm :).

    cu

    Edward

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