Friday, June 30, 2006

Why did Britain want to spare the Japanese Emperor?

I've long been wondering why the Allied Forces spared the Japanese Emperor after the Second World War was over. A usual explanation is that if the Allied Forces executed the Emperor, occupying Japan would have become difficult for the Allied Forces. Well, maybe.

A novel explanation - or novel at least to me - is given by Ian Nish and Peter Lowe (2001) "From Singapore to Tokyo Bay, 1941-1945" in Ian Nish and Yoichi Kibata eds. History of Anglo-Japanese Relations Volume II: The Political-Diplomatic Dimension, 1931-2000 (Palgrave MacMillan). From the viewpoint of Britain, which lost its colonial territories in Southeast Asia to Japan during the early phase of the war - symbolizing the loss of prestige long enjoyed by the British Empire, the Japanese Emperor needed to be saved and allowed to order all Japanese soliders stationed in Southeast Asia to surrender. Otherwise, these Japanese forces would have continued fighting against the British forces. To minimize the death toll on the British side during the process of re-colonizing Southeast Asia, the authority of the Japanese Emperor was indispensable.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Why blog?

I've started wondering what is the point of blogging when being a blogger is fast becoming like watching a blockbuster movie at a cinema or on a DVD, eating cheese or chocolate, drinking pints of beer, listening to the Beatles or Morzart, or having an i-Pod?

The reason I like reading someone else's blog is this: I can get to know what life is like for the kind of people I would never meet. Even when I meet them, they usually don't talk about their life at a deep level. I always annoy someone I first met by asking questions on what their life is like. On weblogs, however, they talk about such deep stuff when they feel like doing so. So I can enjoy knowing it as well.

I rarely understand someone else's preference as it is more often than not quite different from mine (who the hell loves drum & bass?). So I cannot understand what kind of blog will please many people. The only guideline for blogging is, therefore, what kind of blog will please me. Given what I wrote in the previous paragraph, consequently, I should blog about my life.

The life of a PhD student, however, is quite boring and depressing. It's a simple life that can easily be depicted in a cartoon like Piled Higher and Deeper.

I used to be a guy who always tries to be different from anyone else. Being a PhD student for almost four years has gradually made me forget about it. I can't find a way to make this blog different.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Gary Becker at Lunch with the FT

This weekend's FT magazine features Nobel laureate economist Gary Becker in its "Lunch with the FT" section. Tim Harford, probably one of the best non-economist columnists (or the one and only?) understanding economics well, is a host.

There are several interesting episodes in this article.

... 40 years ago, when [Gary Becker] was running late to examine a doctoral student[,] [w]ith no time to find a free space, he quickly weighed the cost of paying for parking against the risks of being fined for parking illegally. By the time he arrived at the examination, the then-unfashionable idea that criminals would respond to the risks and costs of punishment was taking shape in his mind. The unfortunate student was immediately asked to discuss.

Frank Knight, a founder of the so-called Chicago school of economics, persuaded a journal editor not to publish Becker's early paper on the incentives behind how democracies reach decisions.

Becker's PhD thesis was on discrimination - how to measure it and what effects it might have on the wealth of both the discriminators and their victims. It was thought to be no fit subject for an economist, and the Chicago faculty persuaded a sociologist with little interest in Becker to oversee his work. Becker later struggled to publish his book, The Economics of Discrimination.

Before he was 30, Becker presented to the American Economic Association his then- new idea of "human capital" (that people would invest in their own education as they might invest in shares, mindful of the rate of return). He recalls that the response was "absolutely outraged".

"There was a sea change. I began to notice it in the 1970s and 1980s. A lot of the younger people coming out of Harvard, MIT and Stanford were very interested in what I was doing, even though their faculty were mainly - not entirely - opposed to the sort of stuff I was doing."

Finally, this is probably why I like Tim Harford:
... non-economists accuse him of reducing emotional decisions to monetary ones. I suggest to him that this is a straightforward misunderstanding and most people have not realised that economics is not the study of money. "You're absolutely right[," says Becker.]