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Today 26/08/2010

Intrigue at the IMF: Very good post on IMF reform, how the US’ might push towards a greater role at the IMF for the “big, fast-growing emerging economies (like China, India Brazil)”. The US decided to abstain “in a routine vote” which would keep the number of executive board seats at 24 instead of the 20. If the vote does not go ahead the smaller Euro area countries like Belgium and the Netherlands will lose their seats and would have to be represented by a Euro area seat. They will not be pleased as “the likes of Greece, Belgium and so on simply do not want to countenance the idea that they will be spoken for by the Germans or the French”.

IR (realist) viewpoint:

Of course, America also gains subtly by taking the side of emerging economies. They might be less likely, for example, to make a big fuss about America’s effective veto at the fund. This is something some have been highlighting as a rule that needs to change—but perhaps now that America is using its veto to make emerging countries’ case, they might prefer to pipe down about what a terrible thing it is. Which would probably suit America just fine.

What do I think of diplomacy?: Tyler Cowen looks at the thankless task of being an ambassador.

I see diplomacy as a stressful and unrewarding profession.  A good diplomat has the responsibility of deflecting a lot of the blame onto himself, and continually crediting others, while working hard not to like his contacts too much.  And how does he or she stay so loyal to the home country when so many ill-informed or unwise instructions are coming through the pipeline?  Most of all, a good diplomat requires some kind of clout in the home country and must maintain or manufacture that from abroad.  The entire time on mission the diplomat is eating up his capital and power base, and toward what constructive end?  So someone else can take his place?  And what kind of jobs can you hope to advance into?

Diplomats are in some ways like university presidents: little hope for job advancement, serving many constituencies, and having little ability to control events.  Plus they are underpaid relative to human capital.  They must speak carefully.  They must learn how to wield power in the subtlest ways possible.

 No visa required: The Economist looks at “who has the most freedom to travel”.

Migration Index Reveals a Country’s Magnetism: Gallup’s Migration Index shows where people would live “in a borderless world”. Most developing country’s populations would fall. Nigeria’s would halve, while Singapore’s, New Zealand’s would triple. Surprisingly, but not, Saudi Arabia’s would also almost triple.

Growth in a Buddhist Economy: Jeffrey Sachs looks at Bhutan’s focus on Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as a measure of wellbeing.

Part of Bhutan’s GNH revolves, of course, around meeting basic needs – improved health care, reduced maternal and child mortality, greater educational attainment, and better infrastructure, especially electricity, water, and sanitation. This focus on material improvement aimed at meeting basic needs makes sense for a country at Bhutan’s relatively low income level.

Yet GNH goes well beyond broad-based, pro-poor growth. Bhutan is also asking how economic growth can be combined with environmental sustainability – a question that it has answered in part through a massive effort to protect the country’s vast forest cover and its unique biodiversity. It is asking how it can preserve its traditional equality and foster its unique cultural heritage. And it is asking how individuals can maintain their psychological stability in an era of rapid change, marked by urbanization and an onslaught of global communication in a society that had no televisions until a decade ago.

Why Politics is Hard: Related to this post. Summarises a study on political marketing.

Cohen’s experiment was simple. He organized two groups of subjects, one composed of liberal Democrats, the other of conservative Republicans. Then, he showed them very different proposals on the topic of welfare. One policy proposal was very liberal, and involved large expenditures of tax money. The other was harshly conservative, and proposed far lower levels of assistance and expense. As you might expect, the liberal subjects preferred the free-spending plan while the conservatives liked the restrictive plan.

Here’s the bizarre twist: when the subjects were told that the plan they didn’t like had been proposed by their own party, their attitudes changed and they favored the plan they had initially opposed. Liberals thought that cracking down on welfare was a good idea, while conservatives found they could justify opening the coffers for this important social purpose. They even wrote essays explaining why the policy they now favored was appropriate.

And, as Neuromarketing readers could anticipate, the subjects were unaware of this influence. They did think that other people were influenced by party beliefs, but considered their own decision-making to be rational and not tainted by politics.

Fade to black: Did you know that going to prison can make you black.

Being incarcerated has lasting effects for health, employment, and family, but new evidence shows it may even change one’s skin color.

Aliya Saperstein and Andrew Penner (Social Problems, February 2010) use National Longitudinal Survey of Youth data collected since the 1970s to find that over the course of their lives, people who were incarcerated were increasingly likely to self-identify as “black.” In short, people who previously saw themselves as “white” became “black” after prison or jail. In addition, the perceptions of interviewers followed a similar trend: they were more likely to label incarcerated interviewees black, regardless of how they were identified in previous surveys.

This study shows, once again, that race is a flexible characteristic—in this case, something that can be changed through our interactions with institutions like the criminal justice system. Incarceration, already marked by stark racial disparities, is actively creating new “black” identities, while stripping inmates of their previous “white” identity. Along with all its other problems, the growing American penal system may also be perpetuating racial stereotypes and producing self-fulfilling prophecies.

Welcome to Lagos is now on YouTube: Ep1 [Part 1/6].

Comedy

HUGE NEWS: Hannibal Buress- who is amazing- is leaving Saturday Night Live to write for 30 Rock which is going to be epic:

“TIME Announces New Version of Magazine Aimed at Adults” by Onion News Network:

Hillarious announcer: Horse race ends with “My Wife Knows Everything” matching up against “My Wife Doesn’t Know” to the finish line.

Magical Skill: 2010 World YoYo champion (seriously) does his amazing thing:

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