Davos Newbies Home

London 2012 

As everyone expected, London is going to bid for the 2012 Olympics. I think this is a great idea, and I very much want the Olympics to come to London.

Not everyone agrees. It’s characteristic of Britain that on the day the bid is announced, the naysayers are out in force. I’ll hazard a guess that Paris, Madrid, New York and Toronto do not have the same volume of doubters questioning every penny spent on bringing the Olympics to their city.

As economist John Kay points out in the posting below, economics is of limited use in deciding these issues. Either you are pro Olympics and the excitement they will bring, or you are anti Olympics and focus on transport chaos and costly stadiums. No one really needs a slide rule to make up their mind.

Limits of economics 

You’d think the people of Britain would be agog waiting for the Treasury’s pronouncement on the euro, scheduled for 9 June. As John Kay points out in the Financial Times, you would be wrong (since it’s behind a subscriber’s only wall, I’ll spare you the link). He writes, “I have not met a single person who is genuinely waiting to read the assessment before deciding.”

As he points out, that’s not because people are rushing to judgment before knowing crucial facts (although some are undoubtedly doing so). Kay says it’s wholly right that people don’t look to economics for the answers on the euro or many other decisions.

“There is nothing shameful about emotions of liking and disliking, nothing inappropriate about basing judgments on instincts about who can be trusted. Business people as well as politicians use the language of economics to make exaggerated predictions about matters of which they can have very little knowledge. We should resist the pressure to cloak these judgments in the language of economic costs and benefits. Such analyses may be helpful in framing our thoughts and revealing inconsistencies in our arguments but they should not be the basis of our decisions. And, in reality, they never are.”

Latin America on the Hudson 

Felix Salmon provides an interesting perspective on politics in New York. He reckons its very much like a dysfunctional Latin American republic: “What this means in practice is political paralysis, lots of presidential decrees, lots of pork and backroom dealings, lots of (often corrupt) judges handing down bizarre opinions, and lots of loud fights between politicians which generate much more heat than light. Oh, one other thing: so long as anybody, anywhere, will lend them money, these countries run huge and ultimately unsustainable budget deficits. In other words, far from becoming similar to the USA, these emerging democracies seem to be doing their utmost to emulate… New York.”

News management 

The Guardian has a revealing report on one of the most dramatic episodes of the war in Iraq: the rescue of Jessica Lynch.

According to a doctor in the hospital from which Lynch was “rescued”, “We heard the noise of helicopters,” says Dr Anmar Uday. He says that they must have known there would be no resistance. “We were surprised. Why do this? There was no military, there were no soldiers in the hospital. It was like a Hollywood film. They cried, ‘Go, go, go’, with guns and blanks and the sound of explosions. They made a show — an action movie like Sylvester Stallone or Jackie Chan, with jumping and shouting, breaking down doors.”

Centcom reported that Lynch had bullet and stab wounds from her capture. According to the Iraqi doctors, “There was no [sign of] shooting, no bullet inside her body, no stab wound — only RTA, road traffic accident.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *