Wednesday, May 25, 2005

More Freakonomics!

Well, not really. However, while reading this mornings issue of Slate, I came across another article by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt, the authors of Freakonomics. Turns out, they have written a few articles for Slate before. As well, there is a full section on 'The Dismal Science' as they term Economics. I think the most interesting article is the analysis behind baby name popularity over time.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

England, Ireland, France and the EU

I was in Ireland last week (photos) and happened to notice quite a few 'This project x% funded by the EU' signs which was interesting because I had been to quite a few EU countries over the last few years and not noticed similar signs throughout the country.

Of course, at the time of joining, Ireland was at the bottom end of the EU performers and quickly became the beneficiary of EU 'equalization' funds as well as taking advantage of being an English-speaking country in the now common market. As a result of the 'Celtic Tiger' economy, Ireland has the second-highest per capital income in the EU.

This trip comes at an interesting time as the UK and France are both likely set to ultimately reject the proposed EU constitution for exactly the opposite reasons. A slim majority of the French people think that the EU constitution will erode the increased protections that they currently enjoy. English bosses reject the EU constitution for exactly the opposite reason - they fear the increased worker protections will hamstring them.

A clear example is the French worry their 35-hour week will be increased and the English (particularly in the professional sectors) worry they may be forced to work less than a 48-hour week.

The reason I bring Ireland into this is because they are a clear benefactor of the EU, not simply because of the subsidies they have recieved, but because the common market meant the EU common market replaced the UK as their largest trading partner.

The question is whether the EU is meant to benefit citizens in all member countries equally - or are they meant to improve the lot of individual countries, incrementally.

Fundamentally, I feel that the EU structure does provide a mechanism for improving the second tier countries rapidly through access to complex shared legal and trade structures as well as taking advantage of EU funding to hopefully bootstrap their economies and political structures to those of the 'Western' EU nations.

However it is clear that although richer nations will benefit, they will only do so incrementally, not fundamentally. Will larger nations accept large changes to their culture for minor economic benefit, particularly if their poorer neighbours benefit greatly under the same framework?

The book Why Europe Will Run the 21st Century attempts to answer these questions. I read it before the recent French dissent over the constitution, so it will be interesting to see how the book holds up if the referendum fails. However, like Mark Leonard, I think the EU will eventually succeed as it is designed to continue to find comprimise, rather than fold in the face of failure. It's ability to do so will ultimately be the major success of the EU, and I think this continual adaptation itself will be the lasting achivement, not the success of the EU constitution.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005


I've started reading some articles and excerpts from Freakonomics, and I think this book will likely have the same appeal and influence as Malcolm Gladwell's works - the stories are anecodotal, quirky and adept at explaining the grey areas and paradoxes of ecomonics that don't fit into the standard 'the invisable hand rules all - obey the invisable hand' model of the world currently espoused by most. Also here's the Economist review and author's blog.

If you're interested in Economics, it's also worth reading an article in the latest Harpers; Let There be Markets.

Monday, May 16, 2005

More evidence of a 'Modernist Revival'?

Personally, I'm a two very distinct opinions about modernist design. While I love the minimalist nature of modernist design (and even own a Le Corbusier Chaise among other modernist trappings), there were many serious mistakes done by architects overuse of concrete, and London itself has plenty of examples of 'Brutalist' architecture.

Trellick Tower
Trellick Tower has quite the interesting and funny history via its architect as well.

However, the New York Times Magazine is featuring Modernist Architecture in all its glory that's well worth reading. I think it's a nice feature about the paradoxes to this utopian and perhaps somewhat naive period in history.

First post!

Well, I think the time has come to start Blogging in earnest again. I'm starting to come across more and more interesting stuff but haven't had the time to implement my much-delayed (but largely finished) website redesign, so here's a stop-gap measure.