Thursday, August 30, 2018

No Utopia but are Nordic countries happiness superpowers?

Top 10, World Happiness Report, Better Life Index and Social Progress Index 

Sir Thomas More (1478-1535), the English lawyer, scholar, writer, member of parliament and chancellor in the reign of Henry VIII, who died by public execution, was the first person to write of a 'utopia', a word used to describe a perfect imaginary world. According to the British Library, More's book, 'Utopia' imagines a complex, self-contained community set on an island, in which people share a common culture and way of life. He coined the word 'utopia' from the Greek ou-topos meaning 'no place' or 'nowhere.'

Nordic countries in particular, Denmark, Finland, Norway, and Sweden, are often cited for their quality of life, material standard of living, strong economies, work-life balance, high entrepreneurship, education, low inequality, transparency and high participation in politics coupled with low levels of corruption.

Friday, August 24, 2018

German import demand supports 5m jobs in European Union

Chancellor Angela Merkel met Spanish prime minister Pedro Sánchez in Andalusia, Spain, August 11, 2018
Photo: Bundesregierung/Bergmann

This week the Ifo Institute for Economic Research at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, published an estimate for Germany's current account surplus in 2018 while Ifo economists separately reported on research which shows that countries with high current account surpluses like Germany are not responsible for unemployment in other countries. Earlier this year, work by Prognos AG, a Swiss consultancy, estimated that German demand — dominated by intermediate inputs for industrial sector — sustain almost 5m jobs in the European Union (EU).

Germany had 159 country trade surpluses in 2017; EU world’s top exporter

The German current account* is expected to fall to 7.8% of annual economic output this year following a 7.9% rate in 2017. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Pessimism & Ignorance: The world of common people has never been better

The widespread ignorance about the great social and economic advances in the world coupled with misinformation on domestic trends, can trigger discontent when optimism is warranted — the question of whether the glass is seen as half-full or half-empty in deciding whether you're an optimist or pessimist, may depend on genes and William Shakespeare (1564–1616), the great English dramatist, has Hamlet, prince of Denmark, saying "there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so."

However, ignorance is not bliss whatever the view of the proverbial glass maybe.

Even in a decade in the European Union road deaths in 2016 at about 26,000 were down 40%; in the US, according to FBI data, the violent crime rate fell 48% between 1993 and 2016. Using Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) data, the rate fell 74% during that time span. In Dublin City, home ownership rose from 26% of households in 1946 compared with 61% outside the large cities, to 60% in 2016, down from over 70% in 2000, according to the Central Statistics Office.

In 1956 as the 6 founding states of what would become the European Economic Community were negotiating the terms of what they called a 'common market' (cited in Article 2 of the Treaty of Rome 1957),' Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer, two of Germany's leading philosophers, who were members of the Frankfurt School, began their own debate on producing a contemporary version of the 1848 'Communist Manifesto' which had been written by their compatriots, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Adorno commented, as his wife Gretel recorded, "We do not live in a revolutionary situation, and actually things are worse than ever. The horror is that for the first time we live in a world in which we can no longer imagine a better one." 'Towards a New Manifesto?'— 62 years later it's still possible to imagine a better world.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Global city housing crisis and costly planning restrictions

BBC report August 15, 2018: How housing has divided the young 

I have discussed the impact of planning restrictions on property prices in the past (here for example) but while some, of course, are necessary, there is seldom an estimate of the cost — in 2015 Jason Furman, President Obama's chief economic adviser, cited a cost of 50% or more on a typical house in US urban areas; London School of Economics (LSE) research has estimated “that restrictive planning policies inflate the price of office space in the West End (of London) by about 800%. A square foot there is twice as expensive as in midtown Manhattan.” This year research published by the Reserve Bank of Australia estimated that that zoning restrictions raise detached house prices by 73% of marginal costs in Sydney.

Monday, August 13, 2018

James Joyce

Sylvia Beach meets James Joyce in her Parisian English language bookshop, Shakespeare and Company, in 1922 — this was the year she published 'Ulysses.' It began to be serialised in the US from 1918, resulting in a ban that was lifted in 1933.  

Last year a friend invited me to a performance of a revival of Tom Stoppard’s (b. 1937) brilliant 1974 play, 'Travesties,' at the Appolo Theatre in London. The drama is set in Zurich in 1917, and it brings together James Joyce, Tristan Tzara, the poet and founder of Dada — the nihilistic, anti-art movement — and, Vladimir Lenin.

The play is narrated by an elderly Henry Carr, who had been a clerk at the British Consulate in Zurich during the First World War. His memory is a bit flaky and he believes that he had been the consul in 1917, and the real consul had been his butler. In real life, Carr had a legal dispute with James Joyce about the cost of a pair of trousers worn by Carr in Joyce's amateur production in the city of Oscar Wilde’s 'The Importance of Being Earnest.'

Thursday, August 09, 2018

Brexit and rickety foundations of the Irish economy

In the early heady months after the surprise June 23, 2016 vote of 33.6% of UK adults* to leave the European Union, Boris Johnson, a putative British statesman, invoked the “triumph of hope over experience” when the British army of Afghanistan was wiped out in 1842 – almost to a man. He saw the quest for ‘Global Britain’ as reflecting a country with one in eight of the people born in Britain “now living abroad – a bigger diaspora than any other rich nation, you ask yourself what impulse drives this astonishing globalism, this wanderlust of aid workers and journalists and traders and diplomats and entrepreneurs, because whatever that feeling is, it isn’t xenophobia,” Johnson said, and added to dissenters “who say we are now too small, too weak, too poor to have any influence on the world, I say in the words of Scottish poet Robert Burns: ‘O wad some Power the giftie gie us /To see oursels as ithers see us!’”

Sunday, August 05, 2018

Facts of Week: Heatwaves the new normal of climate change

Bering Sea ice at record low — April 29, 2013 - April 29, 2018

Less ice formed in the Bering Sea during the winter of 2017-18 than in any winter since the start of written records in 1850. Normally, ice covers more than 193,000 square miles (500,000 square kilometers) of the sea in late April, roughly twice the size of Texas. The ice extent at that time in 2018 was only about 10 percent of normal. Changes in when and where the sea ice melts can affect phytoplankton blooms which, in turn, can affect the entire Bering ecosystem. Further, open water absorbs more of the Sun’s energy than ice, which contributes to the planet’s warming. Read more at NASA’s Earth Observatory

It's a fair guess that many climate change deniers who seek 100% irrefutable evidence of climate change, believe in a God despite no evidence of its existence.

Germany top beer producer in EU, Netherlands top exporter

To mark World Beer Day on August 3rd, Eurostat reported that in 2017, over 41bn litres of beer containing alcohol were produced in the European Union (EU), 2.5bn litres more than in 2016. The EU’s beer production was equivalent to almost 81 litres per inhabitant.

Brexit Video Reports: Sharp shift in UK public opinion

Sky Data poll: Public turning against Brexit — British public opinion has shifted sharply against Brexit, according to a new Sky Data poll. The survey reveals the government is haemorrhaging trust over Brexit, with two-thirds thinking the outcome will be bad for Britain.

Expected road chaos leading to Port of Dover and other reports.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Average Irish housing size lowest of EU's rich countries — Part 2

The average Irish housing size is the lowest of the rich countries of the European Union despite the low population density and the fact that houses account for 92% of housing stock in Ireland — the highest ratio in the EU.