Sunday, August 8, 2010


Tyler Cowen’s opinion on Jimmy Carter (I largely agree.)

India’s hunger and bureaucracy problems:
Landless and illiterate, drowned by debt, Mr. Bhuria and his ailing children have staggered into the hospital ward after falling through India’s social safety net. They should receive subsidized government food and cooking fuel. They do not. The older children should be enrolled in school and receiving a free daily lunch. They are not. And they are hardly alone: India’s eight poorest states have more people in poverty — an estimated 421 million — than Africa’s 26 poorest nations, one study recently reported.

India vanquished food shortages during the 1960s with the Green Revolution, which introduced high-yield grains and fertilizers and expanded irrigation, and the country has had one of the world’s fastest-growing economies during the past decade. But its poverty and hunger indexes remain dismal, with roughly 42 percent of all Indian children under the age of 5 being underweight.

The food system has existed for more than half a century and has become riddled with corruption and inefficiency. Studies show that 70 percent of a roughly $12 billion budget is wasted, stolen or absorbed by bureaucratic and transportation costs. Ms. Gandhi’s proposal, still far from becoming law, has been scaled back, for now, so that universal eligibility would initially be introduced only in the country’s 200 poorest districts, including here in Jhabua, at the western edge of the state of Madhya Pradesh.

In a discussion about why software patents should be abolished, there’s this very scary discussion of the patent situation:
In 2009, the patent agency took an average 3.5 years to deal with a patent request—more than twice the 18-month target. What is most alarming is that the patent office automatically publishes applications on line after the 18 months—outlining each innovation in detail regardless of whether an examiner has begun considering the application. Competitors anywhere in the world can steal ideas. This effectively undermines the entire purpose of the patent system: the patent office is charging applicants serious money for giving it the privilege of giving away their commercial secrets.

To make matters worse, the patent office is rejecting applications at an unprecedented pace—with fewer than 50% being approved, compared to 70% a decade ago. One estimate is that this costs entrepreneurs at least $6.4 billion each year in is that this costs entrepreneurs at least $6.4 “forgone innovation”: legitimate technologies that cannot get licensed and start-ups that cannot get funded. So the agency charged with protecting U.S. intellectual property and aiding innovation is often doing the exact opposite.

Social security: in fine shape.

Advice to the prospective vanity media mogul.

Some footnotes to George Packer’s Senate article.

On how the Milennials are ignoring phone calls in favor of texting and e-mail.

Matthew Yglesias on the “Summer of Fear.”

Investors are putting money into “water funds”: indices that track water-related stocks. The moral of the story: finance can allow you to beat on practically anything.

Absolutely insane: Intel has issued a set of bonds at a 1% interest rate. Here are some other scary facts:
U.S. corporations have taken full advantage of low interest rates, going on a bond-issuing binge that has left them with tons of cash, which they appear to be holding largely as insurance against a new bout of financial turmoil, rather than spending on new hires. Nonfinancial companies were sitting on about $8.4 trillion in cash as of the end of March, or about 7% of all company assets, the highest level since 1963. Even before its bond issue, IBM had $12.3 billion in cash and short-term investments, which accounted for about 12% of all its assets.
Can you say deflation? Can you say, stimulate the economy?

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