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19 Feb 00:45

How is the world ruled?

by Branko Milanovic

It is Saturday evening and snowing in New York. I have nowhere to go, I do have things to do (my book!) but my memories take over.

Like for example, the simple question of how is the world ruled. I think that lots of misunderstanding among people in the world comes from inability to visualize how organizations and countries are managed: people either overestimate their singularity of purpose and scheming, or try to convince themselves that there is a full freedom of action and that things are decided on merit. Neither is true. The truth is complex, elusive and lies somewhere (somewhere!) in the middle: it is what Nirad Chaudhury called in a broader context of human history “Libertas in imperio”.

I can describe it, I am afraid, best using the examples that I know well, from my life and long association with the World Bank.

Proposition 1. The world is ruled by a cabal.
Around 1989 when Yugoslavia was in its death-throes (which were not obvious to the naïve types like myself) when on vacation there I wrote an article for an economics and politics weekly in Belgrade that argued that the best privatization strategy, under the last (sensible and brilliant) Yugoslav PM, Ante Markovic, should be such that vouchers  be distributed to all citizens of the country and citizens be allowed to buy shares in enterprises in whatever part of the country they wished. It was an utterly quixotic proposals because the national nomenklaturas were precisely then working on the break-up of the country and the last thing they wanted was to cooperate with each other which they would have to do if their citizens owned shares in companies in the other republics. So, the proposal was dead on arrival.

But one afternoon, in the weekly’s nice boarding room, I explained the proposal in detail to one of weekly’s main writers on social issues.  The writer was a Serbian fascist (I am using the term not in a derogatory but strictly political sense) enamored with Italian fascism. (German was I think a bit too heavy for his taste.) He was a painter, who studied and lived in Italy, was proud of his relationship with MSI leadership, admirer of Mussolini. He also looked the part: could have been on any of the bas-reliefs that adorn Euro city near Rome: tall, well-built, square-jawed, straight posture, walking always straight with head held high. A real bell’uomo. In Rome in 1934, he would have been Mussolini’s favorite barbarian painter.

But he was, when at home, a Serbian nationalist.  So after carefully listening to me and basically nodding his head during most of the conversation, a couple of days later he came with a stinging two-page attack on my proposal titled “The World Bank sends its CIA spy to sell Serbian enterprises to foreigners”.

Now, was he mad? Not at all. He was, I am convinced, a smart guy, but he saw the world and organizations in it as an immense plot within which everything was strictly hierarchical:  ordinary people had no ideas or will of their own. So if I was  then in Belgrade arguing X, it must have been not only cleared by my superiors, but ordered by them.  And by superiors’ superiors and so forth all the way to the US Secretary of the Treasury, and perhaps Wall Street and perhaps the Jews.

The truth was that I was even risking reprimand from the World Bank because I had no business doing anything with Yugoslavia, publishing articles or creating trouble while on vacation.

But what was the reverse of this view?

Proposition 2. The world is ruled on merit.
This is the view that many people hold about their own involvements and that of institutions they work for. (Academia is a bit different, so I will leave it out). But this view of moral and intellectual rectitude is widely shared in think-tanks (and I worked in one in Washington), international organizations and probably many others (like Oxfam, Medecins sans frontiėres, Open Society etc.).

But is it true? Here I could ply the readers with numerous examples, but I will choose the one that, like the Belgrade story, sticks in my mind.

I was in the Research Department, and thus fairly independent from World Bank’s hierarchy, but it was desirable that I spend a given number of weeks annually working on concrete “operational" issues. It happened that the offer that I got involved a study of how heating and transportation subsidies in a Central Asian country affected its income distribution. It was easy to do and I promptly came back with the conclusion that they were pro-poor and should be kept.

But this was not the policy of the World Bank. The year was 1994 or 1995 and everybody believed in Fukuyama and Larry Summers. So the decision or rather the diffuse feeling (because you do not need a formal decision on matters like these to know what the “correct” answer is) was made before the report was even started that the subsidies should be eliminated. The leader of the group, not the most brilliant person, was smart enough to know what the desired conclusion was and that his/her career would be helped if the empirical analysis supported it.

So when it did not, he/she totally ignored it, and after several endless meetings where I was supposed to be somehow convinced that the data must surely be wrong, that part of the report was either not included or totally ignored. (I cannot remember what happened.) Because I was not brave or stubborn enough, I gave up a (hopeless) struggle after a couple of attempts and went back to my numbers and equations.

I was outside that particular hierarchy; so I was relatively free. But I then thought: let’s suppose that I was hierarchically under the project leader and that I was courageous enough to stick to my guns. What would have happened? My arguments would have been ignored; I would not have been demoted or fired. But in my next annual review, I would have been given the lowest possible grade, salary increase would be nil, my promotion prospect would be zero, and the explanation would never address the substantive issue: it would be that I was not collegial, failed to work in a team spirit etc. It could be even that I would have been asked to attend “team building” seminars like the Soviet dissidents were sent to psychiatric asylums.

The problem would never even be mentioned to have consisted in a disagreement on substance. Rather it would have been treated as some  maladjustment problem on my part; perhaps I was harassed when young or had a difficult childhood. Because, of course, the institution is not closed to different viewpoints and welcomes diverse opinions and “vibrant” or “robust” (these are the preferred terms) dialogue.

This is how the weeding out of undesirable views would have proceeded.  

So who was right: the Mussolini’s admirer or the Washington consensus believer? Or nobody. Your call.
17 Feb 18:00

Temer vence 1ª batalha da longa guerra que começou no Rio

by brandalise



O primeiro dia da operação político-militar arquitetada por Michel Temer e seus generais sem farda foi vencido pelo governo. A cobertura de telejornais lhe foi francamente favorável. Raros contrapontos, quase nada de crítica. É tudo com que o presidente sonhava desde que Joesley Batista delatou-o há nove meses. A Lava Jato, para seu alívio, sumiu do noticiário da tevê. Mas a guerra que ele declarou não se resume à primeira batalha.

Para dobrar seu dígito solitário de popularidade e ter alguma chance na eleição de seu sucessor em outubro, Temer vai precisar de muito mais do que um Jornal Nacional a seu favor. As imagens de dezenas de traficantes cariocas em fuga da Vila Cruzeiro numa ação similar coordenada pelo governo Lula em 2010 ajudaram a melhorar a imagem do então presidente e de sua candidata, Dilma Rousseff, mas foi o bolso que motivou os eleitores, como sempre.  

Desta vez, não é só o consumo que determinará o resultado das urnas. Outros temas entraram com força na agenda eleitoral.

Se a intervenção federal na segurança do Rio de Janeiro der certo, os militares, responsáveis pela operação, ganharão prestígio. Por tabela, o discurso que defende seu protagonismo em detrimento do poder civil também. Bom para Jair Bolsonaro e sua candidatura presidencial. Se der errado, melhor ainda para o militar reformado. Bolsonaro se declarou contra a intervenção nos termos decretados por Temer. Quer mais. Que o poder de fogo dos interventores não seja limitado pelo Judiciário.

Segundo o discurso do dublê de deputado e candidato, o eventual fracasso dos militares no Rio não será culpa deles, mas dos constrangimentos à sua atuação impostos pelos civis. É uma ideia que ecoa nas forças de segurança de modo geral. Chefe antinarcóticos da Polícia Federal no Rio, o delegado Carlos Eduardo Antunes Thomé disse à piauí que “será de extrema importância o apoio do Poder Judiciário na expedição de mandado de busca coletivo no interior das favelas [cariocas]“.

Percebem-se as complexas implicações que a intervenção militar na segurança do Rio acarreta. São tantas que nem o comandante do Exército, general Villas Boas, soa muito convicto sobre a operação. Ele não foi visto na entrevista coletiva que detalhou o que seria feito, nem participou das reuniões que a decidiram.

Parece ter pego o prato feito. Em sua conta no Twitter, contou: “Acabei de reunir-me com o General Braga Netto, nomeado interventor federal na segurança pública do RJ. Da análise, concluímos que a missão enlaça o general diretamente ao Sr PR (Presidente da República).“ Eximiu-se da cadeia de comando.

No tuíte seguinte, ponderou os limites da operação militar: “Os desafios enfrentados pelo estado do RJ ultrapassam o escopo de segurança pública, alcançando aspectos financeiros, psicossociais, de gestão e comportamentais. ​Verifica-se pois a necessidade de uma honesta e efetiva ação integrada dos poderes federais, estaduais e municipais.” Destaque para o “honesta”.

The post Temer vence 1ª batalha da longa guerra que começou no Rio appeared first on revista piauí.

07 Dec 11:14

How to Design a Comic Book Page

by Jason Kottke

Using a single page from Art Spiegelman’s Maus (considered by many as one of the finest graphic novels ever written), Evan Puschak considers how Spiegelman used the page (and not the individual panel) as the atomic unit of the narrative of his father surviving the Holocaust. Designing the page is the thing. In making this point, he quotes the cartoonist Seth (Gregory Gallant):

The ‘words & pictures’ that make up the comics language are often described as prose and illustration combined. A bad metaphor: poetry and graphic design seems more apt. Poetry for the rhythm and condensing; graphic design because cartooning is more about moving shapes around — designing — then it is about drawing.

Tags: Art Spiegelman   books   comics   Evan Puschak   Gregory Gallant   Holocaust   Maus   video
17 May 00:53

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal - Being an Adult


Click here to go see the bonus panel!

Actually, the worst thing is when you realize that oreos are just okay.

New comic!
Today's News:

Here's the winner of BAHFest West 2016!

If you too wish to be A Winner, please submit a proposal for our upcoming shows: BAHFest Sydney and BAHFest Houston.

01 May 17:33

Here to Help

"We TOLD you it was hard." "Yeah, but now that I'VE tried, we KNOW it's hard."
05 Feb 12:07

The Demand for Applause

by Alex Tabarrok

I was reminded today of the story recounted by Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago about how the great leader demanded applause:

At the conclusion of the conference, a tribute to Comrade Stalin was called for. Of course, everyone stood up (just as everyone had leaped to his feet during the conference at every mention of his name). … For three minutes, four minutes, five minutes, the stormy applause, rising to an ovation, continued. But palms were getting sore and raised arms were already aching. And the older people were panting from exhaustion. It was becoming insufferably silly even to those who really adored Stalin.

However, who would dare to be the first to stop? … After all, NKVD men were standing in the hall applauding and watching to see who would quit first! And in the obscure, small hall, unknown to the leader, the applause went on – six, seven, eight minutes! They were done for! Their goose was cooked! They couldn’t stop now till they collapsed with heart attacks! At the rear of the hall, which was crowded, they could of course cheat a bit, clap less frequently, less vigorously, not so eagerly – but up there with the presidium where everyone could see them?

The director of the local paper factory, an independent and strong-minded man, stood with the presidium. Aware of all the falsity and all the impossibility of the situation, he still kept on applauding! Nine minutes! Ten! In anguish he watched the secretary of the District Party Committee, but the latter dared not stop. Insanity! To the last man! With make-believe enthusiasm on their faces, looking at each other with faint hope, the district leaders were just going to go on and on applauding till they fell where they stood, till they were carried out of the hall on stretchers! And even then those who were left would not falter…

Then, after eleven minutes, the director of the paper factory assumed a businesslike expression and sat down in his seat. And, oh, a miracle took place! Where had the universal, uninhibited, indescribable enthusiasm gone? To a man, everyone else stopped dead and sat down. They had been saved!

The squirrel had been smart enough to jump off his revolving wheel. That, however, was how they discovered who the independent people were. And that was how they went about eliminating them. That same night the factory director was arrested. They easily pasted ten years on him on the pretext of something quite different. But after he had signed Form 206, the final document of the interrogation, his interrogator reminded him:

“Don’t ever be the first to stop applauding.”

The post The Demand for Applause appeared first on Marginal REVOLUTION.

12 Jan 11:21

Porto da Barra

by Rafael

Só agora, mais de quatro décadas depois, eu descubro que o meu amor único, ciumento, exclusivista, neurótico-psicótico, é praga de mãe.

Então eu digo que as velhinhas têm razão: praga de mãe pega, pega de verdade, e lhe condena aos seus desejos e lhe dá a régua e o compasso com o qual você vai medir o mundo nos dias bons e ruins que se seguirão depois.

Foi assim que saí do Espanhol, onde sofri a primeira das tantas derrotas na minha vida e me trouxeram a este mundo. Acho que àquela altura o Carnaval que a cidade tinha feito para me receber já tinha acabado, porque demorei para sair do hospital. No táxi que me levaria ao apartamento na 8 de Dezembro, minha mãe me ergueu e mostrou para mim aquela nesguinha de praia entre dois fortes portugueses: “Olha, Rafael, essa vai ser a sua praia”. Minha avó Celeste, assustada, mandou que ela tivesse cuidado comigo, mas minha mãe sabia com quem estava falando, e de quem estava falando, e do que estava falando. Naquele dia de fevereiro ela me deu a posse daquela praia. Ela ainda é minha.

Não importa quanto tempo eu fique longe. O Porto da Barra é um daqueles poucos lugares onde lembro quem é Rafael Galvão. É a praia que tive inteira: perto do forte de São Diogo quando eu ia com Romário — e Tony, e Mário, e Magno, e onde Romário me ensinou a nadar —, no meio quando ia com meu pai porque ali havia um bar, mas principalmente perto do forte de Santa Maria quando ia com minha mãe, e via os barcos chegando para me darem manjubinhas com as quais eu criaria brincadeiras dignas de “Tubarão” — e um dia até mesmo uma cabeça de tubarão. No quebra-mar de onde, quando a idade se fez adequada e um vislumbre de coragem apareceu, passei a mergulhar. Na areia onde catei vidros do mar e fiz os meus primeiros castelos e recebi as primeiras lições sobre a efemeridade da vida, numa das tantas ondas que me jogaram no fundo e de novo na superfície e de novo no fundo, num rocambolear que durante aquele átimo sempre parecia infinito.

O amor à praia do Porto da Barra me fez cego para as belezas eventuais de outras praias. O mar cristalino e morno de Maceió, as águas geladas de Ipanema, o azul único do Mediterrâneo e do Egeu? Tudo tão pequeno, meu Deus, tudo tão menor que aquela praia onde as ondas batem com a cadência de uma canção de Caymmi.

Talvez sejam elas, as ondas. Talvez mais que tudo, mais que a água verde e o cheiro de maresia: as ondas. O Porto tem a calma do espírito da Bahia, a certeza de que o tempo é seu, e de que ali você pode enganar a vida. A praia dos velhinhos que a amam quase tanto quanto eu, das crianças que aprendem ali a perder o medo das ondas, das moças que ali se fazem mais bonitas para os homens que amam, ou daqueles que podem vir a amar. A praia daqueles que, ao contrário de mim, a têm como amante certa, que ainda têm a certeza de que amanhã ela ainda estará lá.

Nunca pude deixar de imaginar que deve ser por isso que, no dia dois de fevereiro, as pessoas vão para uma praia tão mais feia, coitada, dar presentes que Iemanjá quase sempre recusa; porque elas sabem que o Porto da Barra lhes é interditada, é a praia de Oxum. A Oxum que, como Iemanjá, oferece o seu regaço aos seus filhos, e isso é o máximo que o Rio Vermelho pode oferecer; mas que também oferece a beleza, a cadência das suas ondas como quadris que se movem apenas para você, com você, e junto ao espelho ela traz a sua espada.

Pode reparar. Na maior parte das praias do mundo o barulho das ondas é um rimbombar incessante, bruto, um big bang sem começo nem fim que nocauteia os sentidos e se perde na vulgaridade da oferta excessiva. Nas madrugadas caladas de Aracaju escuto da minha varando o troar constante das praias da capital e da Barra dos Coqueiros — diferentes apenas no nome, porque são a mesma praia, não há diferença.

Mas as ondas que batem na praia do Porto da Barra falam com a delicadeza da mulher que ama sem condições, sussurram no seu ouvido, e você já não as ouve 50, 100 metros depois. Elas dizem a você que tudo podem lhe dar, mas apenas se você não se afastar; o Porto da Barra é a praia de Oxum.

Por tudo isso olho para aquelas pessoas que usam a minha praia, sem a decência de pedir a minha permissão, com a condescendência de um senhor feudal magnânimo. Eles não sabem, mas a praia é minha. Podem se deitar em seu colo de areia, podem receber o abraço confortante de suas águas verdes. Eu não ligo. Você não sabe, mas a praia é minha. E, lá no fundo, eu sei que ela sabe disso.

09 Jan 11:13

Efeito tequila à vista

by Jose Roberto de Toledo

Falências disparando, vendas caindo e empregos sumindo – mas não para todos. Três instituições prosperam e se multiplicam na crise: partidos políticos, igrejas e, agora, facções criminosas. Cada uma no seu nicho de mercado e com estratégias distintas, mas usufruindo do sucesso que escapa a governos e empresas. Em comum, mantêm uma relação especial com o estado. Embora mantenham contabilidade detalhada, nenhuma recolhe impostos.

Há 35 partidos registrados oficialmente, e outros 50 na fila para ganharem acesso a lugar na urna eletrônica, ao horário de propaganda no rádio e TV e, mais importante, ao Fundo Partidário. O Congresso está tentando diminuir a concorrência – afinal, há que repartir tempo e dinheiro com os novatos -, mas, como mostraram os repórteres Mariana Diegas e Valmar Hupsel Filho, isso não intimidou os candidatos a cacique partidário.

Todos disseram não estar nem aí para a cláusula de barreira que os grandes partidos lhes querem impor. Seguem tentando lograr seu registro e, assim, usufruir da isenção fiscal e – entre outros benefícios – acesso à listagem com nome e dados pessoais de todos os eleitores brasileiros. Sim, inclusive os seus.

Partidos vendem esperança de uma vida melhor – quando não para todos, ao menos para seus filiados. Se não der para transformar a sociedade, que transforme a vida dos caciques e viabilize algum benefício para os seus chegados – um cargo público, talvez. Acenar com a prosperidade e uma virada na vida também é o atrativo de outra instituição em alta, com ou sem crise.

Pesquisa recente do Datafolha reconfirmou que igrejas evangélicas pentecostais e neopentecostais são as mais bem sucedidas na conquista de novos fiéis. Em duas décadas, duplicaram sua participação no mercado religioso. De 10% dos brasileiros em 1994 arrebanharam 22% em 2014 – e mantêm essa fatia desde então. Assim como os partidos, uma característica fundamental das igrejas emergentes é a sua pulverização.

Embora as denominações mais populares reúnam milhões de fiéis, outras dezenas de milhões de pessoas se definem genericamente como “evangélicos” ou pertencentes a um de centenas de grupos neopentecostais que, isoladamente, são pequenos demais para aparecerem nas tabelas do IBGE – mas, em conjunto, estão cada vez mais presentes no dia-a-dia da população.

Seu crescimento denota a incapacidade do estado e do mercado de oferecerem a um segmento populacional tão expressivo oportunidades suficientes de ascensão social e econômica. O dízimo promete suprir aquilo que os impostos não cobrem.

Nos últimos anos, explorando o crescimento das franjas mais marginalizadas do sistema, o crime se organizou a partir dos presídios. Segundo o repórter Alexandre Hisayasu, são pelo menos 27 facções que orbitam e guerreiam em torno das duas principais: o PCC e o Comando Vermelho. Também cobram mensalidade dos associados (em troca de “proteção”), movimentam centenas de milhões de reais por ano e buscam monopólio, do narcotráfico.

A resposta dos governos estaduais e federal foi complacente. Crime organizado derruba taxas de homicídio – porque inibe disputas paroquiais entre bandidos -, até irromper em massacres, como os de policiais em 2006 e os de detentos em 2016. Nessas crises, a complacência vira incapacidade. Mesmo sabendo que matanças viriam, as autoridades não conseguiram evitá-las.

É esperado que, em suas trajetórias emergentes, as facções criminosas e a política partidária se cruzem – como já se cruzaram denominações religiosas e partidos. Para antever no que isso vai dar, basta olhar para outros países latino-americanos.

31 Dec 12:13

The Syrian War Condensed: A more Rigorous Way to Look at the Conflict

by Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Juxtaposition. The way to analyze the situation is to look at the factions comparatively. You do not compare Assad’s regime to the Danish or Norwegian governments, but to the alternative. The question becomes if there is anything in the left column that is worse than the right column?

Comment 1. Assad father’s operatives blew up my house in Amioun when my grandfather, then MP, voted for Bashir. In Skin in the Game I discuss this as “acting against one’s interest” (the opposite of conflict of interest). So as a scientist and a humanist, I have been setting my grudge aside in considering the far, far, far, greater cancer of Salafism or Islamofascism.

Also note that the collapse of the Syrian state was anticipated in The Black Swan owing to such overcentralization.

Comment 2. Recall that I am a statistician. When I took a look at the statistics of the conflicts, most appear to be fabrications inflated by Qatari-funded think tanks and their useful idiots — by a mechanism the Indians call “Salma told Sabrina”. For instance, we know that Hama’s toll was not the 30–40,000 people report but the only real evidence is closer to 2,000.

Comment 3. One may ask: are the “rebels” all theocratic Salafis? No, but the groups became progressively so by the minority rule: you put a single Salafi in a group of five, and the five behave as Salafis. This, aside from Wahabi funding.

Comment 4. Counter-insurgencies (Army vs insurgents/terrorists, etc.) command a much higher rate of civilian casualties regardless of whether the army belongs to a liberal democracy or an autocracy.

Comment 5. One may ask: are all people who are mourning the defeat of the rebels in Aleppo that stupid, so gullible to the think tank operators? My answer, alas, is yes. And it takes some financial and intellectual independence and a great deal of integrity to analyze matters outside the main narrative as think tankers jump on you like flies.

In the end I never imagined seeing the “left” siding with the AlQaeda of Sept 11, mourning the fighters of Aleppo and, aside from such independent journalists as Robert Fisk, spreading all manner of concoctions.

Note 1. The fragility and impending collapse of the Syrian Baathist state was anticipated in 2007 in The Black Swan p 205 and discussed further in my Foreign Affairs article The Black Swan of Cairo.

The Syrian War Condensed: A more Rigorous Way to Look at the Conflict was originally published in Opacity on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

06 Dec 11:07

Give the Poor Cash, Reduce Their Spending on Alcohol and Tobacco

by Samuel Hammond

Cash transfers are without a doubt the most efficient means of providing individuals and households with basic economic security. Cash is cost-effective, and spares us of added bureaucracy. Beyond that, it helps preserve individual choice. Yet for many, freedom of choice is a double-edge sword.

On the one hand, the fungibility and flexibility of cash lets the recipient harness their local knowledge and channel resources into the goods or services they need the most. On the other hand, freedom comes with the possibility of making choices that deviate from public policy goals, including using the cash to engage in vices like tobacco and alcohol.

The concern that the poor will misuse income support on vices like tobacco or alcohol has been a strong force in the shaping of the U.S. welfare state. Rather than simply transfer poor people cash, for instance, we provide vouchers towards groceries or rent, and then attach additional strings to ensure that the poor buy the right groceries and live in the right housing.

But what if this concern is completely unfounded? What if the poor consume tobacco and alcohol no more than their richer counterparts? And what if cash transfers, rather than enabling bad behavior, can actually help to cure it by reducing economic insecurity and the demand for so-called temptation goods?

This is the main takeaway from newly published research by David Evans and Anna Popova in Economic Development and Cultural Change (click here for an earlier ungated version). The authors review 19 studies quantifying the impact of cash transfers on temptation good expenditure in developing countries, along with another 11 studies surveying respondents about whether they used transfers to purchase temptation goods, and then construct a meta-analysis. Their findings are clear:

Across 44 estimates from 19 studies, we find that almost without exception, studies find either no significant impact or a significant negative impact of transfers on expenditures on alcohol and tobacco. This finding is similar whether the analysis includes experimental and quasi-experimental designs or if it is restricted to randomized trials alone. Likewise, studies that have tried to quantify the proportion of beneficiaries who spend transfers on temptation goods find negligible effects. This result is consistent across the world, supported by data from Latin America, Africa, and Asia. It is also consistent across conditional and unconditional cash transfer programs. The evidence suggests that cash transfers are not used for alcohol and tobacco at any significant levels.

While the majority (24) of the 44 estimates showed zero or insignificant effects of cash on temptation good spending, 12 showed statistically significant negative effects. Only 2 estimates indicated a significant positive effect.

cash transfers

Results of a meta-analysis on cash transfer’s impact on “temptation good” expenditure. Source: Evans and Popova, 2016.

How can this be? The authors offer a couple of potential explanations. First, products like tobacco are inferior goods, meaning the average person will expend less on tobacco as their income increases. When cash is conditional on work or schooling, it can potentially induce substitution away from temptation goods as well. Second, cash transfer programs often come with social messaging campaigns that actually work to shape the recipient’s spending decisions, a phenomena known as the flypaper effect. Lastly, the authors consider whether cash is spent more responsibly when it’s received by the female heads of households, but those results are mixed.

This is all consistent with the research I cite in my paper making the case for a Universal Child Benefit to replace the federal childcare bureaucracy. As I wrote then, when researchers looked at expenditure surveys of families receiving Canada’s Universal Child Care Benefit they found:

outcomes for children improved through two distinct channels: by increasing direct expenditures on inputs like education and health (“the resource channel”), and by helping pay for general household items that reduced stress and improved family stability—what the authors refer to as “household stability items.” For every dollar the child benefit increased, the average household spent 13 cents more on education inputs like computers and school supplies, but also 17 cents more on rent, 8 cents more on food, and 6.5 cents on transportation. Perhaps the most surprising result is that increases in the child benefit caused a significant drop in the consumption of tobacco and alcohol products. It’s hard to say why an extra dollar would lead households to spend 6 and 7 cents less on cigarettes and booze, but one obvious possibility is that reducing a household’s financial stress reduces its need for stress relief.

So why do we continue to craft public policy as if the opposite were true? It’s time to shed our cynicism about cash transfers and accept the mountain of evidence that cash works.

The post Give the Poor Cash, Reduce Their Spending on Alcohol and Tobacco appeared first on Niskanen Center.

02 Mar 13:44

Loving Vincent

by Jason Kottke

Loving Vincent is an upcoming feature-length film about Vincent van Gogh that is animated in an unusual way: using 12 oil paintings per second. They've trained dozens of painters -- and are looking for more if you're interested -- in the style of van Gogh to illustrate every instant of the film. Here are some of the painters working on the movie:

Loving Vincent

(via colossal)

Tags: art   Loving Vincent   movies   trailers   video   Vincent van Gogh
10 Nov 12:10

Ed Fairburn's map portraits

by Jason Kottke

Ed Fairburn

Ed Fairburn

Colossal notes that artist Ed Fairburn has produced a bunch of new work (previously). Love these.

Tags: art   Ed Fairburn   maps
06 Oct 12:05

MACANUDO del día

MACANUDO del día

27 Feb 10:30

Dress Color

This white-balance illusion hit so hard because it felt like someone had been playing through the Monty Hall scenario and opened their chosen door, only to find there was unexpectedly disagreement over whether the thing they'd revealed was a goat or a car.
18 Feb 17:20

What are the Coen brothers trying to say?

by Jason Kottke

From Steven Benedict, a short video essay featuring the characters from different Coen brothers' films talking to each other. According to Benedict, the dialogue reveals three main themes of their movies.

While other essays have assembled several recurring visual tropes: elevators, dogs, dream sequences, bathrooms etc., this essay has the characters talk to one another across the films so we can more clearly hear the Coens' dominant concerns: identity, miscommunication and morality. Taken as a trinity, these elements indicate that the Coens' true subject is the search for value in a random and amoral universe.

(via @khoi)

Tags: Coen brothers   movies   remix   Steven Benedict   video
11 Feb 00:18

The reimprisonment of homosexuals in Germany after WWII

by Jason Kottke

After the end of World War II in Europe, homosexual prisoners of liberated concentration camps were refused reparations and some were even thrown into jail without credit for their time served in the camps. From the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:

After the war, homosexual concentration camp prisoners were not acknowledged as victims of Nazi persecution, and reparations were refused. Under the Allied Military Government of Germany, some homosexuals were forced to serve out their terms of imprisonment, regardless of the time spent in concentration camps. The 1935 version of Paragraph 175 remained in effect in the Federal Republic (West Germany) until 1969, so that well after liberation, homosexuals continued to fear arrest and incarceration.

After 1945, it was no longer a crime to be Jewish in Germany, but homosexuality was another matter. Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code had been on the books since 1871. An English translation of the earliest version read simply:

Unnatural fornication, whether between persons of the male sex or of humans with beasts, is to be punished by imprisonment; a sentence of loss of civil rights may also be passed.

In Germany, homosexuality was considered a crime worthy of up to five years of imprisonment until Paragraph 175 was voided in 1994.

Update: I missed this while writing the post: Paragraph 175 was amended in 1969 to limit enforcement to engaging in homosexual acts with minors (under 21 years). (thx, eric)

Tags: crime   Germany   Holocaust   legal   LGBT   Nazis   war   World War II
09 Feb 09:50

Apollo Speeches

While our commitment to recycling initiatives has been unwavering, this is not a cost any of us should be expected to pay.
27 Oct 22:42


by Agatha Brandão

Vivemos fragmentos de realidade. Do local onde vivemos, das pessoas que conhecemos, do mundo que nos limitamos a descobrir. Existem vários universos ao nosso redor - e cada pessoa é uma complexidade (e um paradoxo) a parte. Ao mesmo tempo, não nos damos conta da dimensão das nossas próprias aspirações e vamos levando - vidas cubistas. E quando queremos sair dos nossos quadrados?

Certas partes são inexplicáveis. Nem tudo precisa ser entendido, afinal, "there are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy". E às vezes só fazemos de conta que entendemos para acalentar nosso coração.

A busca pelo sentido é o que move a humanidade. A inquietude. O inconformismo. Pedaços da realidade que não conseguimos juntar. Como uma música que, enquanto treinamos, não conseguimos ouvir o todo. Tempo ao tempo. Continuamos sem entender, mas...

Tempo vai, tempo vem, a música começa a tomar forma e quando mal percebemos o conjunto de sons se torna uma obra musical de verdade. Fragmentos incompreensíveis se unem em uma história, se conseguimos olhar de fora. É tão bom se dar conta que esses fragmentos, antes desconexos, até parecem fazer sentido. A sensação de olhar a luz no horizonte - e ver trilhas do passado preenchendo um caminho. É aquele alívio de que a busca não foi em vão.

Mas alguns quebra-cabeças nunca vão se completar; outros nunca poderiam ser completados; talvez alguns sejam até tridimensionais, ao passo que sem certas peças não se sustentam. Mas a graça está em correr atrás dessa peça misteriosa, sonhando com a completude, não?

Escrevi esse texto ontem de madrugada e hoje assisti um filme argentino incrível, chamado Medianeras. Perfeito para descrever um pouquinho disso e o acaso de certas peças aparecerem nas nossas vidas.

30 Jan 10:18

MACANUDO del 2014-01-31

MACANUDO del 2014-01-31: (