Ars on Economic Development

Posted in Economic Development at 10:36 pm by justakim

Ars Technica doesn’t usually have much to say about economic development, but this is pretty tech-oriented::

India plans to produce a $10 laptop.

An Indian government agency says it has $10 laptops in its scopes. The country sometimes credited with the discovery of “zero” needs to add another one to the end of its price estimates.

Ouch! Harsh.

Vista too expensive for developing countries.

According to a financial analyst, Windows Vista’s higher resource requirements coupled with its high price make it an unsuitable platform for developing nations.

I can believe that. Even if Microsoft were to sell Vista for cheap, not just any old computer will be able to take advantage of it. Things are going to get pretty interesting when all of India is plugging in their laptops.


Are the Lights Out? Villainizing the Climate Change Debate

Posted in Climate Change, Economic Development, Energy, Politics at 12:36 pm by justakim

I recently watched The Great Global Warming Swindle courtesy of Google. One of the scenes that really stuck out in my mind was where they went to a clinic with a solar panel. They demonstrated that an alarm would sound if they turned on the CFL bulb and plugged in the refrigerator holding vaccines at the same time. One of the guests called environmentalists ‘anti-human’ while another said to have Africa not to touch their resources is (I assume economic) suicide. Meanwhile Greenpeace was giving out “Climate Criminal” awards in India for selling incandescent light bulbs instead of fluorescent.

Well, I guess they’re even.

Also in India, the UN is subsidizing investment in solar panels. Some solar panel vendors were having trouble selling domestically despite exporting to Germany.

“In 2003, close to 70% of people in India did not have access to electricity,” says Painuly. “Even being connected to the national grid did not ensure power because of frequent power cuts. There might be electricity when you don’t need it and then the power is not there when you do need it.”

While this plan is short-lived, there is hope that this domestic market will be sustained.

[Edit: to add more irony, Patrick Moore, the speaker who called environmentalists anti-human, turned out to be a founding member of Greenpeace.

See, I don’t even like to call it the environmental movement any more, because really it is a political activist movement, and they have become hugely influential at a global level.

Wait wait, when did the environmental movement turn into a political activist movement?]


The Informal Economy Protects Trees: Madagascar’s regenerating tropical dry forests

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Economic Development, Politics, Resources at 8:51 pm by justakim

New Scientist had this article on Madagascar forest regeneration in which cultural customs has led to the regrowth of forests in Madagascar. Satellite imagery revealed that deforestation had more of an impact in unpopulated areas, areas that were outside of the control of local communities.

While the government owns most of the land, local clans have control over its use, and permission is granted only to members. It is in areas where a local group does not have a claim that deforestation becomes a problem. These include areas that once were controlled by clans that have abandoned their territory because of a drought. The concern is that climate change will cause more migration and the loss of informal property claims, which would allow further deforestation. It would help to have more formal property claims so that ownership will be maintained if this were to occur.

In addition, there are taboo forests where no one is supposed to take anything. The punishment for breaking this rule is a cow, which is pretty expensive. It would be relatively easy to change these unspoken rules into real laws so that the forests can be protected beyond the time the locals live there.

Coincidentally, Greg at CES Blog wrote about the further meaning of my last post on the Wollemi pine and the meshing of natural and social worlds. Well, there is further enmeshment for you. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to mark my territory with a few cacti.


Biofuels vs. Forests

Posted in Climate Change, Conservation, Economic Development, Energy at 4:16 pm by justakim

Another instance of “green vs. green” in its extreme, Ugandans protest the deal to convert rainforest to sugar cane for biofuel. This is simply counterproductive. Even if they were not clearing rainforests for this activity, one must ask if the best use of this sugar cane, or the cleared land it will be grown on, is for the production of biofuel. There has to be something wrong with incentives if this is even remotely a profitable opportunity.


Globalization is Good?

Posted in Economic Development at 11:28 pm by justakim

I watched this video on globalization a couple days ago, and I have had to spend some time mulling it over.

Globalisation is Good

In this video, Norberg goes to a Taiwan and Vietnam to see how globalization has worked in their favor, and to Kenya where it has not. The difference is, the people in the first two countries owned their land and had incentive to invest in it, while in Kenya not only did they not own their own land, subsidies and tariffs in industrialized nations prevented them from competing in the world market.

The segment in the Nike factory in Vietnam was particularly interesting. Some of the workers have chosen to work there instead of in local shops or abroad because of Nike’s policies. They were showing a local businessman, a competitor, the park that they set aside just for their workers to enjoy. Because people like working for Nike, the local businesses also have to raise their working conditions and salaries to compete.

The other part that really struck me was the family in Taiwan. The grandparents worked on farms. The parents worked in factories. The children were working in software development. It was absolutely amazing to see how much these people have gained so quickly. It was as if one generation sacrificed themselves with hard work so that the next generation could have a good standard of living. I’m sure that most of the hard-working factory workers felt it was worth it to work so hard, so that their children could have desk jobs. Many people who have moved to America would agree, that it was a fair trade.

He mentions that many people from the industrialized world look upon these countries as if they were their personal museums. I don’t like the idea of westernizing other countries,and I don’t think that it should be the only answer to improving peoples’ standard of living, but I wonder what choices people would have made if they really had the opportunity. Given the right conditions, would only some cultures be willing to sacrifice one generation of hard work in order to attain a comfortable standard of living, or would all of them have made the choice?

Would you have?

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