Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Why a Japanese DJ hugely popular in Europe doesn't want to live in Europe

Yoji Biomehanika, a Japanese DJ, is hugely popular in Europe, and therefore travel to Europe many, many times a year, taking more than 10 hours to fly from Japan each time. His friends wonder why he doesn't live in Europe. An European promoter even offered him a house in Europe.

But he still lives in Japan. Why? He says,

"No matter how many times I stay there, I still don't understand the way of life in Europe. Especially, I can't stand horrible foods. I want to say this out loud. There's no country like Japan where you can eat great foods. I won't be able to compose good music if I eat bad foods."

I agree with him.

Political Economy of Reform

There is a small theoretical literature on the political economy of reform. Here's an attempt to relate each paper to each other.

The seminal paper by Fernandez and Rodrik (1991) considers two kinds of reform. First, welfare-improving reform. Second, majority-benefiting reform. Both types of reform can be stalled due to individual-level uncertainty (whether or not each citizen benefits from reform is unknown to themselves).

Jain and Mukand (2003) show that welfare-improving reform can be implemented even with individual-level uncertainty if voters can vote on whether to compensate the losers from reform after reform is enacted. However, majority-benefiting reform still cannot.

Dewatripont and Roland (1995) instead analyze the case where citizens do not know whether each reform improves welfare.

All the above papers analyze the political feasibility of reforms in terms of conflicts of interest among citizens. Majumdar and Mukand (2004) instead look at it in the political agency framework (conflict of interest between government and citizens), showing why policy-makers often resist scrapping their failing policies and adopt high-risk policy experiments.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Who must pay bribes and how much?

Development economists interested in bribery should read Svensson (2003) before designing their research. I've seen a couple of papers on corruption which completely ignore the contribution made by this piece of research.

He takes great care of designing the firm survey to solicit reliable information on bribe-paying behavior, which should be followed by anyone who wants to collect bribe data by surveys.

His empirical findings include:

(1) Firms are more likely to pay bribes if they are required to deal with the public sector officials (using public infrastructure, engaging in international trade, and paying taxes). In other words, formal sector firms are more likely to pay bribes than informal sector ones. A theoretical reason is that such firms lose a lot by refusing to pay bribes.
(2) More profitable firms are as likely to pay bribes as less profitable firms. But more profitable firms pay a larger amount of bribes than less profitable ones, conditional on bribe payments. This is an interesting fact. Barely profitable firms still need to pay bribes, if a very small amount, so that they can keep operating.
Any theory on bribery contradicting to these findings is hard to appreciate (unless counter-evidence is provided). If your empirical finding is different from these findings, you need to explain why.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hotel Review: Hotel Commonwealth in Boston

I stayed in room 515 (with a king-sized bed) for 3 nights from 7 November 2008.

The Good:
1. Location. Just within a minute from Kenmore subway station on the Green Line.
2. Friendly staff.
3. Pleasant antique furniture. The pale turquoise color is pretty.
4. Very comfy bed. I got very good sleep.
5. Tasty room service breakfast.
6. Very tasty puddings in the lobby for breakfast.
7. Wireless internet in bed rooms for free of charge

The Bad:
1. Elevators. You need to insert the room key card before pushing the floor button. (Except when you go down to the lobby floor.) Otherwise, the elevator won't take you to the floor of your room. And you need to insert the card several times until it works.
2. Sockets (for electricity and for internet) on the desk. It's hidden behind a wooden panel that looks like a drawer. As the distance between the sockets and the wooden panel is very short, the panel cannot be closed if you use a socket converter.
3. No coffee maker, let alone a kettle. Unless you use room service or take away from a coffee shop nearby, therefore, you can't drink coffee or tea in your room.
4. Although wireless internet is available, the room directory instructs you to use an ethernet cable hidden inside the desk drawer for access to the internet. And this cable doesn't work.

The Ugly
1. Shower. The shower head is fixed on the wall. The ugliest thing is its water pressure, which goes up with water temperature. When the warmth of water becomes just right, water pressure is so strong that my skin hurts. I couldn't rinse my body.

If you don't take shower, this hotel is recommended.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Nigeria (continued)

A while ago, I featured some articles on Nigeria that show the country's potential both in a good way and in an ugly way. Here's another installment (for the ugly way).

Sunday, November 02, 2008

From The Economist this week

"A biased market" - Media bias results not from its owner's political slant but from the demand of news consumers, according to studies by economists.

"Another country" - A dictator stepped down after his electoral defeat in the Maldives.

"Keep'em guessing" - Prime minister of Japan won't call a snap election because he might barely win it.

"Cross straits" - Taiwanese hate mainland China.

"Spine" by Suilen (2007)

One of my recent favorite music pieces.

Ill Flava

For the first time since I moved to Stockholm, I go to a nightclub featuring drum & bass. Since last September, Bysis (Hornsgatan 82, 5 min walk from Mariatorget tube station) has been hosting the drum & bass party Ill Flava every Saturday. I finally manage to have an opportunity to check it out.

Arriving at the venue shortly after 11 pm, there are only 3 English-looking guys sitting at a table at the back. The music is not drum & bass but lounge-ish breakbeat. A couple arrive just before 11:30 after which the entrance fee of 60 krona is imposed. The 3 guys leave the venue. The DJ starts spinning drum & bass beats. Several more punters (half male half female) come to the venue, sit at the table, and leave without dancing ever by midnight. The couple starts dancing. By the time I leave the venue around 1 am, no one else comes to the venue.

Horrible. Is it because tonight is too cold (below zero degree)? Is it because everyone is tired of celebrating Halloween last night? (Young Swedes do celebrate Halloween, perhaps as a pretext for drinking.)

Compared to London nightclubs, the quality of sound systems is not excellent, probably not ideal for bass-intensive drum & bass music. But it's reasonably decent for this size of a nightclub. The illumination system is quite good. The DJ is actually good at mixing different tunes in a smooth way. The venue interior is cozy.

I guess what's lacking in this party is advertisement. The venue is not located in a happening area during the night. Unless you aim for this particular party, people won't show up. Perhaps it needs an additional attraction. Fabric, London's nightclub that has been supporting drum & bass after its demise in the late 1990s, attracts punters by its maze-like structure and an incredibly good sound system. It certainly contributes to the survival of drum & bass by exposing to drum & bass those people who otherwise would not even know what it is.

Anyway, during the past one year or so, I have been appallingly demotivated about work and life. A nightclub atmosphere with my favorite drum & bass music playing makes me feel down to earth, probably for the first time ever since I came to Stockholm, and allows me to think hard about what motivated me in the past and what makes my life happy.

And I find it tonight.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

How to buy foreign currency in cash if you live in Sweden

Buy foreign currency in cash at Forex in Sweden: No fees but a 4 percent commission against the interbank exchange rate.

Withdraw cash at an ATM in a foreign country with your Swedish bank card: a fee of 35 krona plus a 2.5 percent commission against the interbank exchange rate.

KREJCI's bags

(This photo is taken from Excite Ism Concierge "Tokyo Designers Week 2008 Report" 31 October 2008)

Bags made of recycled bicycle tires produced by Krejci from the Netherland.

Recycling is one major trend among designers these days, but design usually suffers. Krejci manages to achieve both good design and environmental friendliness. What impresses me is that good design of these bags is achieved by the recycled material itself, rather than by coating them with something else that's good-looking.