Friday, June 18, 2010

Some Thoughts from The Economist

Between 30k and 75k tons of food were stolen or wasted in Venezuela as Chavez aims to make Venezuela more food self-sufficient while simultaneously attacking the private enterprises - farmers and retailers - who make the system work. Food price inflation is up 21% in the first five months of the year, goods are becoming scarcer, food imports are up as productivity is declining, and nationalized businesses are suffering heavily.

Scientists are combining DNA from the Belgian blue cow (extra muscle, low fat) into trout to make them either much meatier with low fat or grow to marketable size at double speed. After ten years' petitioning, the FDA has finally given a clue how they will regulate the new transgenic fish, which The Economist unhelpfully labels Frankenfish.

11% of Kenya's GDP is transferred annually over cell phones. This is made possible by networks of agents that exchange currency for e-float and who then head to the bank as needed to exchange them and restore their balances.

Britain is looking to reduce aid to China and Russia while increasing flows to poorer countries. Mitchell, the new aid minister, is also looking to take on the "cash on delivery" model from the Centre for Global Development.

Buttonwood channels Hayek in explaining the 1997 Asian financial crisis to argue that "Without the boom, there would have been no need for a bust." "If governments keep punishing short-sellers during busts ... there will be fewer shorts around to temper the next boom."

And a fascinating comment from Charlemagne who compares Belgian politics to EU politics. In both cases there is a serious North/South split in attitudes about fiscal restraint and wealth transfer policies. But "this is not just a fight about money... For voters to consent to transfers of wealth, they must feel that the recipients are democratically accountable to them. ... Germany's focus on discipline is arguably an attempt to fix a democratic deficit." Intriguing.

All from last week's copy, subscription required.

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