Latest teaching company course was America and the New Global Economy by the excellent Timothy Taylor. I did his general economics course too, and he's very good at explaining the subject clearly even without graphs and diagrams.
Like everything, this is slightly dated even though it was published in 2008 because of the Great Recession. A few bits are unintentionally amusing, as when he comments on the mystery of the vast financial investments from China to America, and hypothesizes that it might be because of the greater security of America's well-regulated banks. Also, the late-2000s fuss over globalization already seems a bit overshadowed by more recent problems.
On the whole though, it's a good course because it systematically goes through every part of the world and describes what's happened over the last few decades to it. It's rare to see the whole world put into such context.
A few things were particularly interesting. He goes into some detail on the ill-fated "import substitution" policies of Latin America, where they aimed for self-sufficiency and ended up stifling growth. As others have done, he's highlighted how Africa has long been economically stagnant, but did show a marked improvement over the 2000s. For India he talks about the "Licence Raj" of over-regulation up to the Nineties. He points out that India's 3% or so growth was referred to disparagingly as the "Hindu rate of growth" in this period, but while it was assumed by many to be due to cultural factors, growth accelerated rapidly when markets were opened up.
Overall, a good well-rounded look at the whole global economy in context.
What I'm Watching
Saw Rubber on DVD. Curious metafictional movie: on one level a spoof horror movie about an evil psychokinetic tyre on a desert killing spree, but with characters who on some level are aware they're in a movie of some kind.
More fun that it sounds, since we're disarmed from the start by a stern warning that there is No Reason for anything here. Well done, brisk, and funny in places: well worth watching.
What I'm Watching 2
Saw the two part BBC docudrama Planet of the Apemen, which has alternate scenes of rather forced drama, interspersed with more interesting standard documentary stuff about human evolution. In the first part homo sapiens encounters homo erectus, in the second part homo neanderthalensis.
Some of the content was interesting, like the importance of the needle and the throwing-stick. Some of it was a bit speculative. The stuff on gender roles leading to the crucial advantage of specialization is a real theory, but seems pretty weak. Adam Smith style specializations doesn't seem to me to have been very important till much later, and there isn't much archaeological evidence of gender roles. The drama is a bit teeth-clenchingly overdrawn at times.
Also seemed to be pandering a bit: population models show that competition can lead even a slightly less capable sub-species can be very rapidly competed into extinction without any direct conflict between them. But people want to see battles between them, so they concentrated on times of climate change and food scarcity to give them a chance to fight. It seems to me pretty rare for top predators to seek out fights with top predators of a different subspecies though: it's a bit of a risky way to get lunch though there's the odd scuffle.
Overall, not that great, but watchable.
Saw Mongrel Island at the Soho Theatre. Surreal comedy about a group of employees in a bureaucratic office, whose lives descend into a chaos as a deadline approaches.
Impressions a bit mixed. Starts out very well, with some acutely observed office relationships, and a brilliantly claustrophobic atmosphere. Very funny at times, especially the casually offensive sexual banter. Some good performances with some great meltdowns, and clever design at the set itself descends into chaos.
However, the surreal elements didn't really work so well for me. Got the impression they were shoehorned in for the sake of coolness rather than because they add much to the plot. The ending has some good elements of resolution, but you're still left wondering what's actually going to happen to some characters.
I think one problem is that they seem to think the play is about the character of Marie (Robyn Addison) but in some ways she's the blandest and least interesting of the characters. So while it's nice that she gets some catharsis, it's frustrating that the others just disappear.
Overall though: funny, pretty entertaining. I saw a very early performance: they might well tighten it up. If prices stay the same, it's superb value too: just a tenner for a five-hand live play in central London.
Economics. A crisis of growth. Argentina-like default wouldn't work for Greece. Nationalized water companies OK. Lending drought threatens Britain's recovery. Why US employers slow to fill jobs? "Nudge" overrated.
Random. Origin of the £ sign.
Sci/Tech In Defence of Antidepressants (NYT). Captcha fail. Dodgy neuroscience in Supreme Court decision. Japanese Military Invents Tumbling Flying Sphere . Google Plus no-pseudonyms rule, my MeFi comment on that and the Corporate Web.
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