A Bit More Detail

Assorted Personal Notations, Essays, and Other Jottings

[DM] “Does The Secular Stagnation Theory Have Any Sort of Validity?”

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Co-blogger has a post at Demography Matters examining the idea that low or even negative population growth will translate into low or negative economic growth. This is a phenomenon much more widespread in Europe or JApan than in the United States.

Strangely, while I would suggest the most obviously affected countries are those mentioned above, most of the debate has centered around the US economy. Since it is not at all clear that the US economy is actually suffering from either a liquidity trap or secular stagnation at this point, this has lead many to question whether the idea might not be ill-founded. The Economist, for example, in a revue article (Vox e-book on the topic conclude the concept “remains a baggy one”, one which is “arguably too capacious for its own good”.

Viewed in this light the concept does at times appear vague, and lacking in clear definition. In part this is because Alvin Hansen’s original idea was made up of two components, a technological and a demographic one. Naturally if there is a slowdown in the rate of impact of technological innovation then this would be felt equally across those economies which are operating near the technological frontier. But the phenomenon which is being described today as secular stagnation isn’t being witnessed equally across all those countries. Economies in both the UK and the US appear to have responded differently to those in Sweden, the Euro Area and Japan, a phenomenon which is obvious to the theory’s critics. Thus the Economist author goes on to argue, “it is hard to avoid the conclusion that many of the euro area’s difficulties result from a dysfunctional monetary union rather than a susceptibility to secular stagnation.” And it would be hard to disagree with the writer, except… except ….except that there is the awkward little case of Japan, which doesn’t actually use the Euro, as there are possible cases like the Czech Republic, Sweden or Hungary that don’t either.

Which brings us nearer to the demographic part of the argument. Is there any pattern emerging in the way symptoms which look like those which would be presented in cases suffering from secular stagnation are showing up? Well, I would argue there is. I think it is generally accepted that the first affected country was Japan. It was in Japan that a slowdown in GDP growth (not GDP per capita growth) was first noted.

[. . .]

EU working age populations started to decline in the years between 2009 and 2012. They will now continue to decline for many years to come. In the United States however, while the rate of growth in this population segment has slowed in recent years, it is about to start accelerating again. As Calculated Risk’s Bill McBride pointed out, the US Census Bureau now reports that Baby Boomers aren’t the largest US cohort anymore, and that the prime working-age force is expected to start growing again in a few years. In other words, in terms of the demographic outlook, the dynamic points to stronger, rather than weaker, economic growth. By 2020, eight of the top ten largest cohorts (five year age groups) will be under 40, and by 2030 the top 11 cohorts will be the youngest 11 cohorts. (see the marvelous animation Bill has at the end of his post).

Written by Randy McDonald

October 23, 2014 at 2:32 am

[BLOG] Some Wednesday links

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  • blogTO notes that a party celebrating the end of Rob Ford’s term as mayor is being planned for election night at City Hall.
  • Centauri Dreams notes the discovery of secondary targets for New Horizons after it passes Pluto.
  • The Dragon’s Gaze links to a paper that looks to examine the oblateness or otherwise of some exoplanets discovered by Kepler.
  • The Dragon’s Tales links to one paper examining underwater archeology and links to a series debating the question of whether or not there was a human presence 30 thousand years ago at a site in Uruguay.
  • Eastern Approaches reports on the aftermath of a failed claim by Radek Sikorski that Russia made a 2008 proposal on partitioning Ukraine.
  • Joe. My. God. notes a Costa Rican survey suggesting that up to a fifth of Costa Rican police think that harassing GLBT people is OK.
  • Language Hat notes the etymology of the Egyptian title of “khedive”, apparently obscure for a reason.
  • Language Log notes a contentious issue in Chinese translation: “rule of law” or “rule by law”?
  • The Power and the Money’s Noel Maurer looks at the aftermath of a stunt at a Serbian-Albanian football game.
  • The Russian Demographics Blog considers estimates for Russian losses in Ukrainian fighing.
  • Towleroad notes that Argentina has granted asylum to a Russian GLBT claimant.
  • Window on Eurasia suggests that Ukrainian events have awakened Belarusian nationalism.

[LINK] “Ottawa shooting: Cpl. Nathan Cirillo dies of wounds, gunman also shot dead”

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CBC’s Dean Beeby has a complete article up on today’s tragic events in Ottawa.

Parliament Hill came under attack today after a man with a rifle shot and fatally wounded a soldier standing guard at the National War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, before seizing a car and driving to the doors of Parliament Hill’s Centre Block nearby.

The slain soldier is Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, a reservist from Hamilton.

Moments later, MPs and other witnesses reported 30 to 50 shots fired inside the main Parliament building.

It was confirmed later the gunman was shot dead inside the building, felled by the House of Commons sergeant-at-arms and RCMP, according to MPs’ accounts.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was on the Hill at the time of the shooting, but was safely taken away. Harper is expected to make an address to the country later this evening.

CBC News has confirmed the dead shooting suspect is Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a Canadian born in 1982. CBC News has learned that Zehaf-Bibeau has a criminal record in Quebec dating back 10 years on some drug-related charges. Court documents from that time show that he lived at an address in Montreal.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2014 at 10:24 pm

Posted in Canada, Politics

Tagged with , , , ,

[LINK] “Pacific Islanders Take on Australian Coal”

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The Inter Press Service’s Suganthi Singarayar writes about Pacific islanders’ growing hostility to Australian coal exports, predicated on the belief that the carbon dioxide produced by the burning of this coal will make their islands uninhabitable thanks to sealevel rise. This has the potential to be a serious irritant in Australia’s relationship with these island states.

The recent blockade of ships entering the world’s largest coal port in Newcastle, Australia, has brought much-needed attention to the negative impacts of the fossil fuel industry on global climate patterns. But it will take more than a single action to bring the change required to prevent catastrophic levels of climate change.

This past Friday, 30 ‘climate warriors’ from 12 Pacific Island nations paddled traditional canoes into the sea, joined by scores of supporters in kayaks and on surfboards, to prevent the passage of eight of some 12 ships scheduled to move through the Newcastle port that day.

[. . .]
Coastline erosion, sea level rise, floods, storms, relocation of coastal communities, contamination of freshwater sources and destruction of crops and agricultural lands are only the tip of the iceberg of the hardships facing some 10 million Pacific Islanders, over 50 percent of whom reside within 1.5 km of the coastline.

For these populations, the fossil fuel industry poses one of the gravest threats to their very existence.

Coal production alone is responsible for 44 percent of global CO2 emissions worldwide, according to the Centre for Climate and Energy Solutions. However, none of the small island nations are responsible for this dirty industry. That responsibility lies with Australia, the fifth-largest coal producing country in the world after China, the United States, India and Indonesia.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2014 at 7:50 pm

[LINK] “People Are Looking at Your LinkedIn Profile and They’re Laughing at You”

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The New Yorker‘s Colin Stokes has a funny essay pretending to berate a LinkedIn user for not maintaining enough of a productive presence on that social networking site. (How are you supposed to do that, again?)

Dear LinkedIn Member,

People are looking at your LinkedIn profile, and they’re laughing at what you, in a public forum, have decided to present as your professional identity. Last week, five people (who chose to remain anonymous) scrolled through your hobbies and skills and broke into fits of laughter at each one. When they looked at your employment history, noting the various part-time jobs and internships you thought it would be a good idea to include, they were almost in tears. I mean, come on—you like playing racquetball and you list “social media” as a skill? What does that even mean? You know what Twitter is and you own those weird-looking goggles? Somebody give this man a job! Seriously, we hope that you have actually found a job and are not, in fact, starving to death because you are incompetent.

Maybe that was a bit harsh. We’re just trying to get you to put some thought into your profile and maybe upgrade to … Oh, my God! Have you changed your profile picture in the past decade? It looks like you cropped yourself out of a photo you took with your high-school girlfriend at prom. Was prom the last time you wore a suit? I may have to sit down for a minute and catch my breath because, here at LinkedIn, we have never laughed quite so hard. Seriously, I just sent your profile to the C.E.O., and he forwarded it to the entire staff with the caption “Someone connect this guy to the twenty-first century!”

I probably shouldn’t have shared that anecdote with you, now that I think about it. But if that’s what it takes to get you to fix your profile, then I think the ends justify the means.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2014 at 7:47 pm

[LINK] “Mr. Fusion? Compact Fusion Reactor Will be Available in 5 Years Says Lockheed-Martin”

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Universe Today’s Tim Reyes reports on Lockheed-Martin’s remarkable claim of imminent commercial fusion.

The Farnsworth Fusor; Pons and Fleishmann. It seems the trail to fusion energy has long gone cold — stone cold, that is, and not cold as in cold fusion. Despite the promise of fusion providing a sustainable and safe energy source, fusion reactors are not a dime a dozen and they won’t be replacing coal fired power plants any time soon. Or will they? Lockheed-Martin Skunk Works announced a prototype compact fusion reactor that could be ready within five years. This revelation has raised eyebrows and sparked moments of enthusiasm.

[. . .]

For every Skunk Works project that has made the runway such as the Stealth Fighter or SR-71 Blackbird, there are untold others that never see the light of day. This adds to the surprise and mystery of Lockheed-Martin’s willingness to release images and a detailed narrative describing a compact fusion reactor project. The impact that such a device would have on humanity can be imagined … and at the same time one imagines how much is unimaginable.

The program manager of the Skunk Works’ compact fusion reactor experiment is Tom Maguire. Maguire and his team places emphasis on the turn-around time for modifying and testing the compact fusion device. With the confidence they are expressing in their design and the ability to quickly build, test and modify, they are claiming only five years will be needed to reach a prototype.

What exactly the prototype represents was left unexplained, however. Maguire continues by saying that in 10 years, the device will be seen in military applications and in 20 years it will be delivered to the world as a replacement for the dirty energy sources that are in use today. Military apps at 10 years means that the device will be too expensive initially for civilian operations but such military use would improve performance and lower costs which could lead to the 20 year milestone moment if all goes as planned.

Their system uses magnetic confinement, the same basic principle behind the tokamak toroidal plasma confinement system that has received the greatest attention and government funding for over 50 years.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2014 at 7:45 pm

Posted in Science

Tagged with , , ,

[LINK] “Russia is conducting a massive McDonald’s purge”

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Zack Beauchamp of Vox reports on the Russian crackdown on McDonald’s restaurants. Being iconic elements of Western capitalism has hurt the chain.

The Russian government appears to be waging a stealth campaign against the world’s most famous fast food franchise, closing branches en masse, in what appears to be retaliation against the United States over its support of Ukraine’s government in the ongoing conflict there.

[. . .]

The most famous such shuttered McDonald’s is in Pushkin Square in Moscow. It was the first McDonald’s to open in Russia after the fall of the Soviet Union. According to the New York Times, it was the world’s busiest McDonald’s for many years. It was also one of the first to be shut down in the current spate of McDonald’s closings.

Ostensibly, these McDonald’s are being closed for health reasons. But analysts are skeptical.

“Russia has a tendency to ban foreign products, particularly food, for political reasons,” National Journal’s Marina Koren writes. The closures are designed, she says, “to send a message to the US and the Russians they may be trying to reach: The West is not welcome here.” Starting with the Pushkin Square Mickey D’s made that point, especially to Russians who remember the location’s symbolic importance as a mark of the Cold War’s end and of America’s victory.

In purely economic terms, the war on McDonald’s is, like so much of Russia’s recent lashing out at the West, mostly self-defeating. There are give-or-take 437 McDonald’s in Russia and they purchase about 85 percent of their supplies from Russian companies. So the anti-McDonald’s campaign is, in a way, a microcosm of Putin’s entire approach to the Ukraine crisis: damn the economic costs, full speed ahead on aggressive nationalist symbolic gestures.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 22, 2014 at 7:43 pm


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