Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Prize for Good African Leaders

Part of the reason why Africa continues to be in a cycle of poverty is due to corrupt leadership in many African nations. In these cases, foreign aid is not effective because that aid typically falls into the hands of corrupt leaders and helps them stay in power at the expense of their people.

As a solution to this problem of bad/corrupt governance, an African billionaire has offered a lucrative monetary prize to any African leaders that meet certain standards of governance.

The contest, launched in London, will award winning leaders $5m (£2.7m) over 10 years when they leave office, plus $200,000 (£107,000) a year for life. The award will go to African heads of state who deliver security, health, education and economic development to their constituents.

In an interview with the Financial Times newspaper, Mr Ibrahim, 60, said leaders had no life after office. "Suddenly all the mansions, cars, food, wine is withdrawn.
Some find it difficult to rent a house in the capital. That incites corruption; it incites people to cling to power. The prize will offer essentially good
people, who may be wavering, the chance to opt for the good life after office,"

What do you think of this prize? It is actually similar to the Netflix innovation prize we discussed recently. Do you think it will be effective in combatting the corruption in many African governments?

Economist Tyler Cowen thinks the prize is too small. Here is another post about it where the author is skeptical, thinking that is gives a reward for something that should be expected.

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

Possible Solutions for the US Health Care System

Here is a discussion from Stanford Medicine Magazine with different experts weighing in on how they would fix the US health care system. Here is a question from Carrie:

How should the US healthcare system be reformed?
Which of these solutions seems that it would work the best?

(Source: Carrie S.)

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Will Small Countries Be Bought and Sold in the Near Future?

Economist Tyler Cowen discusses the future of colonialism. Specifically, how future technologies or wealth might change the ability of more powerful countries to control weaker ones.

One idea he brings up is whether small countries may be simply bought by industrialized nations in the near future. In his words:
If the world's very poor countries stay in Malthusian traps, how long will it be before wealthy philanthropists can try to "adopt a country"? Measured Haitian gdp, for instance, is only a few billion dollars a year. Yes many countries have laws against foreign investment and land ownership, but at some point a correct strategy can put the money to good use. Can an entire corrupt government simply be bought out? Just how much money, and what kind of plan, would a private philanthropist need each year to turn Haiti around, or at least bring it to the standards of Martinique?
What do you guys think? Do you think this will happen in the forseeable future? Could it be a way to improve some countries or merely a power that will inevitably be abused?

(Source: Marginal Revolution)

Monday, October 23, 2006

Optimal Buffet Eating Strategy

Economist Tim Harford, who was mentioned in the last blog post, also has a column for the Financial Times called Dear Economist, where he gives advice from the perspective of an economist on questions that are not your typical economics questions. A recent question:

Dear Economist,

From time to time I find myself eating a meal with an unlimited supply of food: sometimes an all-you-can-eat buffet, sometimes a more sophisticated meal laid on by a friend or someone trying to impress: weddings, banquets, that kind of thing. I like food but there are limits to how much I can eat. So how should I pace myself for optimal enjoyment of the meal?

Mr M. Newman, Shrewsbury

Harford offers two strategies depending on how the food is presented:
  • try a little of everything to decide what you like before going back for the main eating fest
  • consider the incentives of the food supplier if the dishes are brought out sequentially to save room for the best food

Any thoughts on the best buffet strategy?

Are Kids Fat Because of Working Parents?

In this Slate article, Tim Harford argues that one of the reasons why more children are overweight these days is because there are more two-income families with moms working instead of staying home. In an earlier blog post, we discussed some of the other factors at work that Harford references, but this adds another idea into the mix. Here are questions to go along with the article:
In some ways, says Tim Hartford, author of the article, this makes sense: having two working parents leaves young children unsupervised, at daycare or with a nanny, who probably puts them in front of the TV and feeds them high-calorie processed foods that take less effort to prepare. And at the end of a long working day, exhausted, they may provide fast food for the children rather than cooking a traditional, nutritious meal. (Just look at it based on opportunity cost: if parents are too exhausted, the cost of cooking a meal would be much higher than the "small" weight gain associated with just one fast food meal...and then that just snowballs.) But on the other hand, for example, many kids at Walker have two working parents, and few of them are overweight. Is Hartford's proposal a plausible cause of the childhood obesity epidemic? Could it be a major player, or only one of many factors? If it is one of many, what other possible causes (within the family) could there be (i.e., parents' income levels, living in the suburbs vs. the city, even firstborn vs. second, third, etc child)?
(Source: Nicole O.)