¿Cooperación Espontánea?

Excelente video de Steven Strongatz en TED explicando cómo y por qué seres vivos (y no vivos) se organizan descentralizadamente.



How physics can explain why some countries are rich and others are poor

Published in Slate
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Milton Friedman, Meet Richard Feynman How physics can explain why some countries are rich and others are poor.By Tim HarfordPosted Saturday, Aug. 18, 2007, at 7:07 AM ET
If economics can tell us something useful about crime, marriage, or carpooling—as I believe it can—then other academic disciplines should have something to tell us about economies. Last month, Science published an example that may turn out to be important. Two physicists, Cesar Hidalgo and Albert-László Barabási, and two economists, Bailey Klinger and Ricardo Hausmann, have been drawing unusual pictures of economic “space” that promise a deeper understanding of the biggest question in economics: why poor countries are poor.
There are many explanations, but some are easier to test than others. One very plausible account of why at least some poor countries are poor is that there is no smooth progression from where they are to where they would be when rich. For instance, to move from drilling oil to making silicon chips might require simultaneous investments in education, transport infrastructure, electricity, and many other things. The gap may be too far for private enterprise to bridge without some sort of coordinating effort from government—a “big push.”
That is an old and intuitive idea in economics, but as an informal argument it leaves a lot to be desired. For a start, while plausible, it might not be true. If it is true, it might be far more so for some kinds of economy than for others. And if there is to be a big push, in which direction should it go?
Testing the idea took three steps. First, economists at the National Bureau of Economic Research broke down each country’s exports into 775 distinct products. Next, Hausmann and Klinger used that data to measure how similar each product is to each other product. If every major apple exporter also exports pears, and every major pear exporter also exports apples, then the data are demonstrating apples and pears to be similar.
Presumably, both economies would have fertile soil, agronomists, refrigerated packing plants, and ports. For the third step, Hausmann and Klinger called upon Hidalgo and Barabási, who specialize in mapping and analyzing networks. The result was a map of the relationships between different products in an abstract economic space. (And look at more maps here.) Apples and pears are close together; oil production is a long way away from anything else.
The physicists’ map shows each economy in this network of products, by highlighting the products each country exported. Over time, economies move across the product map as their export mix changes. Rich countries have larger, more diversified economies, and so produce lots of products—especially products close to the densely connected heart of the network. East Asian economies look very different, with a big cluster around textiles and another around electronics manufacturing, and—contrary to the hype—not much activity in the products produced by rich countries. African countries tend to produce a few products with no great similarity to any others.
That could be a big problem. The network maps show that economies tend to develop through closely related products. A country such as Colombia makes products that are well connected on the network, and so there are plenty of opportunities for private firms to move in to, provided other parts of the business climate allow it. But many of South Africa’s current exports—diamonds, for example—are not very similar to anything.
If the country is to develop new products, it will mean making a big leap. The data show that such leaps are unusual.
None of this is proof that other development prescriptions—provide financing, fight corruption, cut red tape, and lower trade barriers—are useless. Nor is it a green light for ham-fisted industrial policy. Klinger warns: “It’s easy to take the policy implication too far and start trying to pick and choose where to settle in the product space.” But it is a big step forward. Policy-makers should take note, and economists, too.

The Trouble with Dynasties

By Pamela W. Laird

Why doesn’t George W. Bush fire Attorney General Alberto Gonzales? Like Donald Rumsfeld before him and, more recently, Paul Wolfowitz, Gonzales is causing President Bush political embarrassment and costing him political support. The President’s supporters praise his personal loyalty to subordinates. His critics charge him with arrogance and unwillingness to admit error. But both sides, while recognizing Bush’s loss of political capital, fail to recognize his protection of something he regards as more critical: his social capital.

China’s corruption crackdown enters the bedroom

The Guardian Unlimited
April 30, 2007

China’s 6.5 million civil servants were warned today they could be fired for keeping a mistress or neglecting elderly relatives, under new ethical guidelines aimed at curbing rampant corruption.

Prime minister Wen Jiabao signed the code of conduct, which will extend deep into the private lives of bureaucrats once it comes into effect in June.

Officials face possible dismissal if they are caught with a prostitute or abusing drugs, according to the People’s Daily.

Full Article

Web of friends at heart of power

By IAN JOHNSTON (01/07/2005)

KIRSTY Wark has intimate links with Scottish Labour and many of its senior supporters.
She was a close family friend of the late first minister Donald Dewar and even shared a garden with him when they were neighbours. It was Mr Dewar who appointed her to the panel to choose the design of the Scottish Parliament. She was impressed by Enric Miralles – the eventual winner – and they were said to have become close friends.

Amid mounting claims of “cronyism”, it was Ms Wark’s television company, Wark Clements – set up in 1990 with her husband Alan Clements – which was chosen to make a documentary about the building of Holyrood. There was outrage when Ms Wark and the BBC refused to hand over all the film shot during the making of the documentary, called The Gathering Place, to the Fraser inquiry into the handling of the construction. The counsel to the inquiry, John Campbell, QC, who questioned her, was a friend – she had been a bridesmaid at his wedding. Despite this, however, Mr Campbell made his displeasure at her refusal to hand over the tapes abundantly clear.

Ms Wark was backed up by her colleague, then controller of BBC Scotland, John McCormick, who insisted handing over the tapes would clash with the BBC’s policies. Mr McCormick has since left the BBC and recently took up a post as chairman of the Scottish Qualifications Authority, an appointment made by the Executive.

Another friend of Ms Wark, James Boyle, is currently chairman of the Scottish Executive’s cultural commission. He previously worked at the BBC and was also on the board of Wark Clements, when he was paid £21,000 as a consultant, according to company documents from April 2003. He also previously chaired the Scottish Arts Council, which includes Glasgow City Council Lord Provost Elizabeth Cameron on its board.

Jack McConnell’s wife Bridget is Glasgow City Council’s director of cultural and leisure services. She is also a member of the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) board in Scotland, chairwoman of Vocal, the influential local government cultural body, a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts and a member of the board of the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

She appeared to have a very public falling out with Mr Boyle after commission “sources” said she and council officials should stop interfering in cultural issues. However, Mrs McConnell and Mr Boyle are still thought to be friends and were seen together at a one-man-show by former No 10 spin doctor Alistair Campbell in Glasgow last year.

Another Mr Boyle, John, the former Motherwell FC chairman and millionaire businessman, is another close friend of Ms Wark and Mr Clements, with strong links to the Labour Party. He has a house on Majorca not far from Ms Wark’s holiday home.

Mr Boyle, who is currently in Australia, bought a £1 million share in Wark Clements and was on the board of the company in April 2003, according to the latest accounts filed with Companies House. He has made substantial donations to the Labour Party, including one of £20,000 in 1999. Mr Boyle is close to millionaire businessman Willie Haughey, the boss of City Refrigeration Holidays, who is chairman of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow and a major donor to Labour. In 2003, the former Celtic director gave £330,000 to the party.

He sits on the board of Scottish Enterprise Glasgow with Ms Wark’s husband.

The influence of Wark Clements increased when the firm merged with Muriel Gray’s Ideal World Productions, its leading rival in Scotland, to become IWC Media.

Do Lenders Favor Politically Connected Firms? Rent Provision in an Emerging Financial Market

by Asim Ijaz Khwaja and Atif Mian
The Quarterly Journal of Economics, 2005, vol. 120, issue 4, pages 1371-1411

Abstract: Corruption by the politically connected is often blamed for economic ills, particularly in less developed economies. Using a loan-level data set of more than 90,000 firms that represents the universe of corporate lending in Pakistan between 1996 and 2002, we investigate rents to politically connected firms in banking. Classifying a firm as “political” if its director participates in an election, we examine the extent, nature, and economic costs of political rent provision. We find that political firms borrow 45 percent more and have 50 percent higher default rates. Such preferential treatment occurs exclusively in government banks-private banks provide no political favors. Using firm fixed effects and exploiting variation for the same firm across lenders or over time allows for cleaner identification of the political preference result. We also find that political rents increase with the strength of the firm’s politician and whether he or his party is in power, and fall with the degree of electoral participation in his constituency. We provide direct evidence against alternative explanations such as socially motivated lending by government banks to politicians. The economy-wide costs of the rents identified are estimated to be 0.3 to 1.9 percent of GDP every year.

Sobre la repeticion de apellidos en el aparato publico

Hace ya bastante tiempo, en 1973, Mark Granovetter mostró que los ejecutivos encontraban sus trabajos principalmente mediante contactos, no en Chile, sino en Boston, USA. Y esa práctica ha sido observada en todo tipo de escenarios, en el sector privado, público, en países desarrollados y en vías de desarrollo desde entonces. La razón es simple: las redes sociales transmiten información, muchas veces de manera más eficiente que los mercados, sobre la calidad de los postulantes y la calidad de los trabajos. No es extraño, por ende, que personas previamente ligadas a través de redes sociales terminen trabajando en los mismos equipos, no sólo en el sector público, sino también en el sector privado. Ahora bien, cuando hay competencia en los mercados, los costos en productividad son controlados porque las empresas deben responder a las exigencias de la alta competencia. En los puestos de Gobierno, en cambio, tal competencia es entre bloques políticos y por ende el impacto que tiene sobre cada individuo es aminorado, permitiendo que haya más espacio para la selección de personas de baja productividad. Por ende, tu preocupación por la repetición de apellidos en aparatos estatales amerita un estudio.

Sin embargo, no es cierto que mejores notas en la universidad necesariamente te capaciten mejor para las labores sensibles de gobierno. En el caso particular de los puestos de confianza, un valor central que se espera de los postulantes es que sean, como su nombre lo indica, de confianza. No te extrañe entonces que se repitan los apellidos, los familiares y los amigos en esos puestos porque los criterios para saber si alguien es de confianza o no son mejor transmitidos por redes sociales que por señales de mercado como títulos universitarios. Por ende cuando observamos un listado de personas en un gobierno, sea chileno o de otro país y vemos en ellas una concentración de personas conectadas socialmente a través de redes sociales ocupando puestos de confianza no podemos saber si eso es eficiente o no con ese simple dato. Mal hacemos entonces en criticarlo sin más análisis. Tampoco es necesariamente cierto que tengamos un mejor entendimiento si a ese dato agregamos otro que contenga los estudios de cada una de esas personas. Aunque, de todas maneras, esa información puede aportar cierto valor, especialmente si las pareamos con las caracteristicas tecnicas del puesto. Por ende, aunque tu intención es loable, cometes un error básico al criticar que cargos de confianza se llenen con personas de confianza y que la selección de esas personas no necesariamente se ajusten a mérito. De hecho, no es tan claro que sea correcto decir que no se ajusten a mérito, si mérito en ese caso significa ser de confianza.