Much of Asia, particularly Southeast Asia, is a humid place. Very humid. The kind of humidity that doesn't so much hit you like a brick wall when you walk outside, but instead creeps up on you all sneaky-like. One minute you're strolling along the street and the next minute (and it literally is the very next minute) your clothes are shifting like tectonic plates on the liquid layer of sweat that is suddenly coating your entire body. It is pretty gross.
It is therefore no wonder that the wealthier parts of the region are quite fond of their air conditioning. For a visitor not accustomed to the weather it can be a life saver. But for reasons that escape my understanding this fondness for AC has reached levels that, to my eyes, seem batshit crazy. I say that because in many cities in Asia, street-side shops, retailers and large shopping malls seem determined to blast as much AC into the atmosphere as possible.
The Economist has been reporting on this all summer in the context of Japan's energy crisis, but, as they rightly point out, wasting AC is not a particularly Japanese affliction. Last summer I was in Singapore and experienced this first hand: I would be walking along the sidewalk outside of a the entrance to a shopping mall and feel a blast of cold air, even though I was 10-15 feet from the entrance. Why? Because the mall had no doors of course. This, in 30 degree celcius weather and a hundred percent humidity.
In another instance, the drug store across the street from my hotel had its automatic sliding doors locked open, their role replaced by a curtain of air conditioning that was flowing down from a 2-meter long AC unit mounted just inside the entrance. The mind boggles.
What is the reason behind this wastefulness? Is it an attempt to show off affluence? A tragically misguided attempt to correct global warming? Is it, as The Economist speculates, "culture?" I have no idea. But just know that for every energy efficient light bulb you install, every window you close, every programmable thermostat you install, there are businesses out there steadily undermining your efforts to reduce energy waste. And then some.
Wednesday, 10 August 2011
George Jonas appears to fall into the category of people who spend too much time writing and not enough time reading. I can’t find any other explanation for the absolutely gobsmacking combination of poor writing, intellectual laziness, and fear-mongering that is his op-ed piece in the National Post today.
Here’s a fun game, boys and girls: try counting the number of metaphors in this shambolic excuse for piece of writing. Go ahead! don’t be shy. I counted over ten. Check out this one paragraph:
“No one resisted it, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican. Ronald Reagan added $1.9-trillion to the national debt; George W. Bush dwarfed it by adding $6.1-trillion with his bold foray into the democracy-export business, while Barack Obama added his $2.4-trillion before finishing the first lap of his presidential run. Printing money is an addiction. Deficit is a drug, and death seemed not to impede Keynes’ abilities as a pusher. I doubt if the Tea Party’s provisions will end his long posthumous run — or ours.”
If the Muddled Metaphor Index is a guide, things are looking very bad indeed.
If that game doesn’t pose enough of a challenge, see if you can count the many examples of fallacious thinking found in this piece. Because the argument is so incoherent it is hard to say exactly, but it appears as though Mr. Jonas is attempting to blame Keynesian economics for the fall in financial markets, the euro-crisis, rioting in London, and the entire Arab Spring. That’s quite a claim, so you would expect it to be backed up by some strong arguments and clear analytical thinking.
You would expect wrong. The fact of the matter is that of Keynes’ economics ol’ Georgey-boy does not appear to have a sweet clue. He probably has not read anything written by Keynes other than the singular quote around which he pivots his article. The extent of his rigorous research is revealed in this passage:
“A Marxist-trained scholar I knew encountered Keynes for the first time when he came to Canada in the mid-1950s.... He remained unimpressed by Von Mises and Hayak [check yo’ spelling, G-money - dh], but Keynes transported him in ecstasy. “Imagine the elegant simplicity,” he told me. “Lord Keynes discovered that if we deny ourselves things we live poorly, and if we deny ourselves nothing, we live well.”
“Are you sure that’s all there is to it?” I asked.
Seriously George? You asked some random Marxist scholar to summarize Keynes in a single sentence and used that as the premise for your analysis? That is breathtaking intellectual laziness. It is no wonder this piece makes no sense.But I’m willing to bet this little anecdotal gem was included just so that Jonas could segue into a sentence that begins: “In Soviet-style Keynesian countries...” That is nonsense. Keynes was fiercely opposed to state-controlled economies and his thinking reflected that - his General Theory was precisely an attempt to find an alternative to both communism and the economic ruin of the 1930s. The same holds true for Mr. Jonas' examples of government spending over the years, many of which are not examples of Keynesian economics in any way, shape or form.
But detailing these errors by quoting Keynes’ actual writings would be a waste of time: Mr. Jonas clearly does not care whether our economic problems were caused by Keynesian economics, a perversion thereof, or a whole complex range of other factors. He clearly does not care for accuracy of any kind – this is an ideological tirade within which history, facts and logic have no part to play. Frankly, I’m surprised that he did not somehow weave in a reference to Hitler and Islamo-fascists, for good measure.
This kind of writing poisons the discourse and makes us dumber. I really hope that the next time Mr. Jonas decides to write an opinion piece on a topic about which he is completely ignorant, he would do the world a favour, step away from his e-typewriter, and go read a bloody book.
Monday, 8 August 2011
- U.S. Congress threatens to not make good on U.S. debt
- S&P downgrades U.S. debt
- Market actors respond by panicking and buying more U.S. debt
These three phrases speak volumes about our current political and economic environment, not to mention the role and relevance of institutions like legislatures, central banks, and credit rating agencies in shaping market outcomes.
Disturbing? Yes. Inconsistent? Not in the least.