The Benefits Of Working Women

The Dish

The latest study (pdf) from the International Monetary Fund indicates that persistent gender inequality in employment “is bad news for everyone, because it translates into lower economic growth – amounting to as much as 27% of per capita GDP in some countries”:

The potential gains from a larger female workforce are striking.

In Egypt, for example, if the number of female workers were raised to the same level as that of men, the country’s GDP could grow by 34%. In the United Arab Emirates, GDP would expand by 12%, in Japan by 9%, and in the United States by 5%. According to a recent study based on data from the International Labor Organization, of the 865 million women worldwide who could contribute more fully to their economies, 812 million live in emerging and developing countries.

Raising women’s labor-market participation rate boosts economic performance in a number of ways. For…

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Iowa grants gun licenses to blind people (America week)

I initially thought this was another example of crazy US gun laws  but actually I’m not so sure about.

This Guardian article on the subject quotes this rather reasonable perspective from a blind activist:

The fact is, US law says anyone has the right to bear arms, and if that’s the case, then, in the interests of full equality, that should include blind people.”

But isn’t this dangerous? Potentially, says Macrae, pointing out that it’s dangerous for anyone to carry a gun. “I wouldn’t say it was more dangerous. I’d say we would have to be more responsible in the way in which we behaved with those weapons, discharged them and so on – the person would need to behave responsibly, rather than it being on society to say: ‘Oh, sorry guys, this is too dangerous, so we’re going to exclude you.’

The article cites cases where a blind person might be able to use a gun responsibly for example on a firing range or when hunting with a companion.

I don’t know what I think about this: should I be worried if disabled people are denied a right that able bodied people shouldn’t have either.

Hat-Tip: HB

Berlin still split into East and West


This map is from a BBC news article on the German elections which notes that:

the former route of the Berlin Wall divides the city into voting choices. In the constituencies of the East, voters chose Die Linke (The Left party), descended from the old communist party.

In the West, they voted for the Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats (CDU), both formerly West German parties.

In a few locales in the centre of Berlin, on either side of what was the Wall, the Greens came out on top – and closer examination reveals these to be areas which have been gentrified heavily, with large numbers of young, professional incomers.

The author suggests this is because:

There was no great cross-border migration in the city after 1989. People had security of tenure in their flats, and they stayed put. Berlin had a large concentration of members of the Socialist Unity Party (as the communist party in East Germany was called), as well as the civil servants and Stasi operatives who kept the communist state running, and they have remained in their areas and transferred their loyalty to Die Linke.

Though he also notes that in general the CDU performed reasonably well in the old GDR perhaps because many voters their have a personal loyalty to Ms Merkel, who also grew up in East Germany.

Coming up on Matters of Facts – America Week

ImageI first conceived of this blog while traveling in the States this summer and I’d planned to start it off with a series of posts about the States. For various reasons that didn’t happen but its remained an appealing idea. So this week is America week which will hopefully include:

  • I’ve already done a couple of posts refuting the idea that America has no history
  • The problem with American food
  • Why the constitution is not all it’s cracked up to be
  • The unlikely Confederates
  • How cars and air conditioning changed America
  • Why Asian-Americans get ignored
  • The state that gives gun licences to blind people

Also look out for a post on why a quarter of a century after the fall of the Berlin Wall the city is still divided, more on the differences between UKIP and the Greens, and a review of Blackfish.

Reforming the Greenbelt

Paul Cheshire, emeritus professor of economic geography, writes convincingly about the need for the Greenbelt to evolve to make more housing available:

As proposed by the original visionaries of town planning – most notably Ebenezer Howard – greenbelts would be an extensive ring of parkland surrounding towns in which citizens could walk their dogs, stroll with their children and exchange civilised gossip in the shade of handsome trees. What they have turned into is a combination of sacred cow and juggernaut: unstoppable in the damage they do to the housing market and beyond criticism in the popular media. They cover half again as much land as all towns and cities put together – about 15% of the surface of England – and have become a peculiarly English form of exclusionary zoning to keep unwashed urbanites corralled in their cities.

Of course parts of the greenbelts are real environmental and amenity treasures, such as the beautiful bits of rolling Hertfordshire, the Chilterns or the North Downs. Most…Greenbelt land, however, is intensively farmed with limited rights of access and has no amenity value at all. Recent studies have shown that its value is captured only by those who own houses within it, and that intensively farmed land has a negative environmental value. Apart from its value for producing food (and much greater value for dodging inheritance tax) the UK National Ecosystem Assessment in 2011 found that intensively farmed land generates more environmental costs than benefits. Yet whenever there is some public debate about reforming the planning system or building a few desperately needed houses on Greenbelt land, the bits we see on TV belong in some romanticised English Tourist Board poster. They are not representative of the reality of most greenbelt land.

So rather than building on school playing fields (can’t be done in my borough – they’ve all been built on already) or brownfield land such as on the Hoo Peninsula, where the largest concentration of Nightingales in the British Isles survive, there should be selective building on the least attractiveand lowest amenity parts of greenbelts.

Hat Tip: Duncan Stott

Tim Harford fisks Ed Miliband’s energy policy

TBH, I don’t think the downsides would necessarily be that great but as Harford observes the benefits certainly wouldn’t be very substantial either

What exactly do you think is wrong with a freeze?

Let’s start by acknowledging that this is economically a sideshow. If he is lucky, Mr Miliband’s 20-month cap (why 20 months?) will delay a price rise of 10 per cent or so. Energy spending comprises 5 per cent of the basket of goods used to calculate the consumer price index. So Mr Miliband will, on an optimistic view, postpone (not prevent) a 0.5 per cent rise in CPI. That will help some people but is trivial compared with what he might do with the tax or benefit system.

But it’s still something – so what’s the downside?

The first downside is that it makes UK energy policy look capricious, confrontational and juvenile. That matters because this country urgently needs new electricity generating capacity. If suppliers don’t expect to get the revenue they need to cover their costs, they won’t invest. It’s alarmist to suggest that Mr Miliband will simply scare them away and the lights will go out, but it’s reasonable to expect that they will need more convincing in the wake of his little pep talk at the Labour party conference, which can be summarised simply as: “Your customers vote and you don’t, and I’ll never forget that.” He has achieved the remarkable feat of damaging the country before becoming prime minister; most party leaders wait until they win an election before they start screwing it up.

Mr Miliband isn’t really very scary. Is that the only problem?

He is also ignoring climate change. Reducing greenhouse gas emissions means conserving energy, and generating it using nuclear power and renewables, both of which are probably more uncertain and more expensive propositions than oil, gas and coal. Because of this, prices are rising as a matter of policy – policy that began under the last Labour government, in which Mr Miliband was, I seem to recall, the energy secretary.

Agents of SHIELD hits the ground strolling


There is a dissonance between the hype around this season and its pedestrian opening episode. There were some good points – mostly odd pieces of dialogue or jokes – but the overall mix was pretty unengaging.

I’m a recent convert to the Whedonverse, so it’s not very long since I watched the opening episode of Buffy. And I couldn’t help comparing Whedon’s latest outing with the one that made his name. While on paper a lot less happens on the first trip to Sunnydale; it established a sense of forward narrative momentum, gave a strong sense of the key characters and ended on a cliffhanger. By contrast, Agents of SHIELD’s opening seemed rather limp: despite various mysteries being set up it didn’t feel like it was going anywhere, only Agent Coulson felt like a real character and that’s because he’d already been established in the films, and rather than a cliffhanger we got a corny conclusion with a flying car.

A difference between the two shows I’d particularly highlight was that while the action sequences in Buffy were surprisingly impressive for something on the small screen, the various fights and chases in Agents felt disposable. This matters because if action actually deflates tension stories are going to fizzle when they are supposed to be climaxing.

Still I’ll keep watching. Many good series had poor openings, and there is definitely the components of a decent program here if they are used right.