Archive for March, 2008

Barefoot basketball and development

March 31, 2008

Since relocating to Nicaragua, I traveled to Corn Island, located on the East coast and far away from Nicaragua’s government center. The entire coast is notoriously remote and poor. The island I was on, whose main industry is tourism, had no cars or roads, just footpaths going from one end to the other. The nearest city (Bluefields, population 50,000), is not even accessible by passable roads.

In the center of this island, there’s a small town, and I found a basketball court and pick-up games with locals every evening before dusk. One hoop was busted, so we played half-court three-on-three.

Amazingly, many players didn’t wear shoes; they were either barefoot or in sandals. Personally I don’t like to walk around hard surfaces barefoot. But running, jumping, and sliding on concrete in a 3-v-3 game without shoes? Unimaginable. These players were remarkably agile and tough given the circumstance. I landed on more than a few toes. No one got hurt.

Although there were some good players (both with and without shoes), I was one of the best on the court. Upon reflection, this is remarkably predictable. Shoes are an incredible advantage for changing direction, jumping, accelerating, etc. The shoes, however, are the tip of the iceberg, emblematic of a whole series of my basketball advantages/opportunities: organized leagues, coaches, camps, weight training, instructional drills, doctors, surgeons, food and nutrition, indoor courts, public courts, invested parents, trainers, etc. These people don’t even have shoes! It’s not surprising that my game is comparatively refined.

And my life and business skills are also refined. Computer skills–Excel, PowerPoint, word processing–are like shoes; they are powerful tools that represent the tip of the iceberg of training, learning, and cultivation on offer for me.

Given this realization, it’s not surprising that I have the opportunity to make thousands and thousands of dollars, while many in rural Nicaragua live on less than $1 per day. The earning differences are stark, but so are the qualities we bring to the table and our opportunities to grow, learn, and compete.

He with sin tosses some stones

March 25, 2008

The lion’s share of my peers are currently participating in a “PROGRAM” of some kind. The two year consulting PROGRAM The five year PhD PROGRAM. The 7 year med school PROGRAM. The 4 month fellowship PROGRAM. The paralegal –> law school –> lawyer PROGRAM.

The appeal is a well-vetted experience that is a stepping stone to the next big thing. It’s a known quantity, often leads to success, promises careful handling, and usually comes with a well-established reputation.

It also smacks of risk aversion and constrained upside.

Two implications:

1) If you are trying to hire someone / convince someone to join a cause, make the opportunity sounds PROGRAMatic. Create a web page. Constrain it to a certain time frame. Specify the type of person required. Give the offer an official sounding name.

2) When you finish with your current PROGRAM, think hard about whether you want to attach yourself to another one. It’s perfectly reasonable, rational and fine to do so — just don’t convince yourself you are swinging for the fences.

Wall Street $ for Harlem teachers

March 23, 2008

An upstart NYC charter school plans to pay $125,000 salaries for teachers, making the jobs more financially attractive than most analyst positions on Wall Street. To stay within allotted state and federal budget for charter schools, the school plans to cut corners on everything else: administrative staff, computers, electives, small class sizes, etc.

I’ve long thought that it’s a shame that teaching requires so much financial sacrifice for top college graduates. This school is trying to prove that there is value in paying big bucks. Do you think it will succeed? More importantly will education go through a coked up party phase reminiscent of the Gordon Gekko 80s? Will fired Bear Stearns analysts apply to teach MBS valuation to Harlem eighth graders?

Re trade divide: economists taking note

March 23, 2008

Just days after The invisible hand posted on the free trade divide, the conservative and influential Harvard economist Gregory Mankiw published on the subject in the New York Times, arguing essentially that:

  • All economists from Adam Smith to his own Harvard freshmen know that free trade is a no-brain win for all constituencies
  • Stupid Americans don’t understand free trade benefits because they prefer Lou Dobbs to economic literature
  • McCain is a sensible free-trade candidate while Democratic anti-trade rhetoric is pandering to aforementioned stupid Americans

The article is worth a read if you’re craving a healthy dose of:

  1. Elitism: Mankiw even refers to a caricature of working class Americans as “Joe Sixpack”
  2. Authoritative hand waving: within three paragraphs, Mankiw equates free trade with “greater overall prosperity”

It turns out that if blue collar workers did prefer economics literature, they would surely find some fuel for the anti-trade flame, although you’d never know it from glib public experts like Mankiw. Dani Rodrik, another very powerful Harvard economist has raised a flag. Rodrik argues that establishment economists’ public enthusiasm for trade ignores the nuanced economic literature and empirical evidence that show real disadvantages for some constituencies.

Professor Dean Baker’s recent trade paper provides an excellent and accessible review of existing studies. Specifically, we learn that American blue-collar workers have lost between $1,000 and $2,900 in yearly salary to free trade. Trade may be a large reason that blue collar wages have not kept pace with inflation for the past thirty years, despite high economic growth.

Of course there have also been winners from trade (note: this post treats costs and benefits in America, leaving important benefits to workers in developing countries for another discussion): specifically white collar workers and the owners of capital (rich people) have benefited. These are the “haves and the have-mores,” whom Bush famously addressed: “Some people call you the elite. I call you my base.” Mankiw has served as a top Bush adviser. As a consequence, Mankiw’s idea of “greater overall prosperity” may mean something different than it does for “Joe Sixpack.”

Ironically, this entire discussion supports a fundamental postulate of market ideologues like Mankiw: people act in their own self interest. Perhaps the majority of Americans are against free trade not because they are incapable of a lesson taught to Harvard freshman, but because it is against their self-interest. Perhaps some public economists ignore the disadvantages and nuances of empirical work on trade because of their position in society.

Personally, I tend to favor free trade, although I’m learning that there are many questions. We must challenge Mankiw and other econ 101 ideology. Most of all, economists need to speak up about mixed empirical evidence for the unfettered market fervor that has swept elite policy debate over the past twenty years.

Insecurities confirmed

March 21, 2008

 Balding

Me: Am I going bald?
My sister: Yes good luck
Me: Do girls like bald guys?
My sister: Only if they make money

Me: Am I losing my hair?
Julia: Yes; truthfully. But there are several excellent solutions to this, both chemical and stylistic, so don’t panic! We’ll discuss the issues
when I’m back in town. (Why; did the girls bring it up?)

Me: Does The Hair Club for Men have guest memberships?
Erik: Nice!  why only a guest membership?  Just remember that the underlying reason is abundant manliness.  Recently I have been using an otter feremone and ginko pollen tonic purchased at great expense from a late night television commercial— no results yet except a mild attraction to otters.

Me: Am I losing my hair?
Garland: Ouch tough question man. .. but honestly looking at your Yale-Harvard pics from this year compared to other pics it looks about the same. Jeremy on the other hand, lets just hope that Rogaine works for him.

Me: Am I losing my hair?
Jeremy: Yes. Ill teach you the handshake.

Why you shouldn’t save money

March 20, 2008

My 401k has yet to see a cent of my paycheck (well …  after that auto-enrollment thing was corrected).

I have convinced myself that long-term savings for 20-somethings is an irrational choice and want to share my internal dialog on the subject.

Two principles I want to appeal to:

1) The marginal utility of a dollar spent varies within one’s lifetime. I can get a lot more pleasure out of $100 than my parents. A 15 year-old boy can get more pleasure out of $100 than me (because he can buy video games AND play them all day). In your early 20s, a dollar is worth a whole lot because there are plenty of nefarious ways to spend it. It is worth less when you are 50.

2) The marginal utility of a dollar spent decreases as you accumulate more dollars. This one should be familiar. A dollar is a big deal to a man begging on the street, but not to Bill Gates.

Alright …. with these two principles in hand, let’s take a look at the rationality of long-term savings in your 20s.

1) Even if there is more of it, that money is going to do you less good in 30 years than now (principle 1).

2) If you are successful in life and rich when you get older, the money saved when you were in your 20s will be icing on an already ridiculously sweet cake. You would have rather enjoyed it when you were poor and 24 (principle 2).

These are pretty common arguments. Let me toss in another dimension that is often ignored

Will the money even be there in 30 years? If so, will money be worth anything to anyone then?

Scenario 1) The world is much like it is now. Money is something desirable to have, grows in value, and is available for withdrawal.
Scenario 2) The world is a wonderful place. Everyone is happy. Money means nothing. Everyone has what they want
Scenario 3) The world is a terrible place (or blown up). Economies collapse. Savings don’t grow / dissapear / money otherwise useless.

I don’t want to try to predict the future, but it would be reasonable to clock the probabilities of each scenario at greater than 10%.

Breaking out the trusty consultant 3×2 matrix to help us make our decision:

picture1.gif

As definitively shown above: Unless you think the probability of the world ending up in the green box in 30 years is pretty darn high, go liquidate your 401k and indulge your vice or take a trip. Nota bene: My birthday was fairly recently.

(on a serious note, you should divert all your 401k money to charity. I buy anti-malaria bednets, a proven cost-effective way to save lives , standards of living, and productivity. Would encourage you to do the same. Tom Lehman favors OxFam maize in the Rift Valley.  There is no future security for any of us until we get some traction in the fight against extreme poverty. Savings alone will not guarantee your future)

Jasper’s thoughts: Building a better bar

March 17, 2008

Wanted to draw everyone’s attention to Jasper’s comments on “Building a better bar

 Jasper thinks we need to do the hard work ourselves.

He rightly points out that we deserve a helping of blame for personal failures within the “traditional” bar scene.  While I do not deny our own fault in this, I am calling for a democratization of the bar scene. Current bars serve people who are extraordinary outgoing and socially gifted — those that can successfully approach Jasper’s brunette on the other end of the L-shape table. The rest of us (a little timid, but often successful in more socially-conducive situations) would be much better off with a little help. There’s an underserved majority waiting for someone to innovate. And, oh boy, is there $$$ to be made.

Costa Rica changes the world

March 16, 2008

The Costa Rican government is on a mission. But unlike the missions often associated with Latin American governments–self enrichment, appeasement of American interests, populist pro-poor policies–this mission is uncontroversially noble. The mission is to become the first carbon neutral country in the world.

At first glance, this goal is thoroughly surprising. With a GDP per capita of $12,500, Costa Rica is not poor. However the United States and other Western European powers are about four times as rich and most are not doing as much for domestic carbon emissions, despite having much higher current levels and more available resources to fight the problem. Costa Rica, meanwhile, levies taxes on gasoline, promotes renewable energy, and spends $15 million each year in subsidies for tree farms. In other words, the rhetoric and ideology are backed by action and sacrifice.

When I travelled to Costa Rica, I was struck by a big “Carbon Neutral” sticker on a small, 18-seater commercial plane. I’ve taken many Delta flights and not once seen or read any evidence of carbon consciousness. And here this tiny regional carrier is doing more.

Basic economic theory would predict the opposite result. Costa Rica, with merely 4 million people in a 7 billion person world, has no incentive to reduce emissions. Their efforts, while personally costly, will have no measurable effect on global warming.

The proclaimed reason for going neutral, according to journalists and the Costa Rican government, is to attract more eco-tourists, wealthy Americans and Europeans who like traveling to Costa Rica because of the rich wildlife and well preserved forests. However I don’t believe that tourists really care if the country is carbon neutral. It’s not something to base a vacation on.

I think a stronger interpretation is that the government wants to make a splash and influence world politics. The New York Times has reported extensively that developing countries are bearing the largest costs of global warming. This is especially true of Costa Rica, with its coveted forests. If Costa Rica can go neutral, it begs the question: why can’t we? Why did we dodge Kyoto? Why aren’t we pushing harder and setting an example? Are we being shown up by Costa Rica? If we start asking these questions and try to curb our own emissions, Costa Rica’s strategy will have paid off.

Another interpretation is that Costa Rica cares more about the environment for its own sake, rather than economic benefit. I met a 22-year old Costa Rican kid and we got to talking politics. On U.S. election candidates, he said “you just gotta figure out which one is best for the environment and vote for him.” That’s a lot of consciousness for a 22-year old kid with high school education. Makes you wonder if the U.S. is so advanced after all.

Building a better bar

March 15, 2008

Of all the components of a New York, professional life the one that has most consistently fallen short of expectations is my weekend nightlife. This smacks of confession of inner failing — something that belongs on Group Hug instead of this esteemed space. But I suspect I’m not alone here. Don’t get me wrong: I have plenty of fun on weekends. It’s simply a matter of unfair expectations consistently unmet.

Or high expectations aside: $50 spent, 7 hard-earned hours consumed, and a that freshly “hit by bus” feeling Sunday morning. Is it unreasonable to expect significant returns on that investment?

If this forum was about cool rationality, this post would be about those unfair expectations and moderation. But it’s not, so let’s find an scapegoat. Who is to blame? Grab your torches and your pitchforks and let’s go.

Bars! It’s all bars fault! These supposed factories of social lubrication more often turn out to be social sandpaper. The standard recipe of three part booze, one part striped shirt, and two parts Bon Jovi rarely bakes into 10 digits. There are a couple ingredients missing here. We can do better! Si se puede!

The problem is a stunning lack of innovation in the bar scene. It is the one institution that somehow remains aloof to changes in technology and social norms. A bar is 1) a room, 2) a bartender and 3) some booze and that hasn’t changed since Middle Age taverns. Bars that are commonly considered “different” frankly are really not. The most extreme examples you hear are “it plays 80s music” or “it has a secret entrance” or “it has a giant ice sculpture.” I want to throw out some random ideas for what could truly make a bar both stand out and better serve its purpose (social lubricant). A few different categories:

Design

Currently at the forefront: Communal seating.

As mis Nuevoyorquinos know, people love Zum Sneider on Avenue C and Spitzer’s Corner on Rivington. Don’t let anyone convince you it’s the hefeweizen that’s bringing people in. It’s definitely those long wooden tables that force you to rub shoulders with strangers.

Sake Bar Satsko is my personal favorite for design-coerced socialization. Small individual tables laid side-by-side with bench seating on an elevated platform and a small L-shaped bar that is always friendly. Plus the bartender Jesse always wants in on the action. Sake bomb?

The next level: Privacy-averse design.

Still I would define communal seating in bars at best as “privacy-neutral.”Can we take the idea a bit farther? Make it something more coercive? One way is table curvature. Large round tables force conversation. But they have to be large enough to be inhabited by multiple groups. Three-walled enclosures (“nooks”) have a similar effect. While the configuration can help, the key is forcing people to sit with strangers

Step change: Dislocation

A bar doesn’t have to be a storefront. It can move. Same people, same bartenders, same attitude, but different scenery every week. Michael points out that laundromats should get into the bar business. Maybe bars can get into the laundry business on Sunday afternoon. A bar can convene at a baseball game, in the park with some brown bags, even in someone’s apartment! All it takes is an email to its patrons…

Crowd control:

Currently at the forefront: Limiting ingress

At Death & Co and the Bourgeoisie Pig, there’s often a wait but always a seat for me. These places are destinations and not pit stops on a barhop. They are comfortable and cool and make people want to linger. We have the asshole doorman to thank for that.

The next level: Limit egress

Sounds like a firecode violation, but hear me out.

First the advantages of limiting egress: A relatively static room of individuals leads to greater opportunities for socialization. The constant coming and going common to bar-heavy neighborhoods in New York leaves patrons disoriented and without the ability to “stalk their prey.” The ability to scope a scene and interact with the same set of people in different configurations eases socialization

There is exactly one practical way I can think of to this. Have people pay admission for multiple hours (with open-bar or drink tickets to have it all make sense). Individuals react irrationally to sunk costs. They will suppress their Friday-night wanderlust due to the initial monetary outlay. This phenomenon is beneficial to the bar scene as a whole, possibly justifying the policy.

Step change: Customer recruiting

When I want to throw a small get together, I send out a 20 person email. When I want to throw a rager, I send out a Facebook invite and evite. Sometimes I invite work friends. Sometimes school friends. Sometimes both. My recruiting choices give me a degree of control over the tone of the party. This is why house parties are usually better than bar parties — someone took the care to recruit.

Fancy clubs play the same game with promotors. There is no reason mainstream bars and lounges can’t play as well. Recruit some people who you think might get along. Invite people with the same profession or same interests. Invite only beatiful people. Invite only fat people. Invite only weird people. Everyone will have a better time. Invite some people 9PM-11PM and others 11PM-2AM and others 2AM-4AM. So many permutations. And someone’s job should be to organize this stuff.

Social engineering

Currently on the forefront: The neighborhood bar

Everyone loves a bar where they recognize a few folks and know the bartender. This is unintentional and informal social enginering at work. We can do better though …

The next level: The internets!

If all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail. Social networking lately has been that hammer. Fortunately, we’ve got the perfect nail. In the end, the business of a bar is in-person social networking. They need expand their capabilities online. Why can’t I Facebook the people who were at my bar last night even without knowing their names? Better yet, why can’t I Facebook the people who WILL be at my bar tonight? Bars need to get in on the social networking game that is increasingly being played on the internet. Pretty soon it will be played on handhelds with GPS. Is the girl in the corner single? Let me check my iPhone. Yes … and she likes the same type of movies as me.

Step change: Behavioral bars

Friends are usually pretty good at setting people up with others they think might hit it off. Bars don’t even try. In the same way that Google can serve me a relevant advertisement, bars should be able to serve me a relevant person. The mechanism is a bit tricky but not out of reach. Could Facebook or Google send me to a relevant bar algorithmically? Or even simpler — how about a behavioral bar directory where you can self-allocate based on the type of people you want to meet?

Providing common ground

At the forefront: Board games and Buck Hunter.

In other words, the “forefront” here is pretty lame. How can you give people more to talk about than the weather and what drinks they’re holding? And it doesn’t have to be kitschy or ironic.

The next level: Activities

Beer pong, flip cup, looking at art, contests, dice, debates, karaoke, 7 minutes in heaven, square dancing lessons, never-have-I-ever. Give me something to do besides sit around nursing a gin and tonic. Activities provide common ground and force interaction. Already done to some degree but would like to see more.

Step change:Introductions

A couple times I’ve convinced my friends to wear nametags out to bars. (not real names) The theory is a nametag will create common ground and make your more approachable. The most effective nametag: Dr. Zizmor. People will come up to you: “Hey, I saw you on the subway. Can you make my skin beautiful?”The nametag offered a small way for each of us to promote an aspect of our personality and create common ground. While not a game-changer, it does work.

How can a bar force people to let out more of themselves and create common ground? Their ability to fight anonymity will better serve their purpose. I have a couple ideas, but send me your thoughts.

Finally — painfully obvious but often ignored:

Unless there’s a dance floor, turn down the fucking music. Thanks.

______________________________________________________–

Readers? Other nudges to encourage socialization at bars? Throw them in the comments.

WordPress instant messanger Vol.1

March 9, 2008

Sam, how is Nicaragua? Perhaps your experience there would make a good blog post or something…

Free trade divide

March 7, 2008

Phil’s blog re: China and India are poor links to some really interesting public opinion polls. One poll showed that only 27% of Americans believe that international trade has helped the economy, while 44% believe it has hurt the economy (results are backed by several different polls).

Economists, meanwhile, tend to be overwhelmingly favorable to free trade. Economists’ views on free trade range from luke warm to steaming hot. The prevailing mantra is: free trade is efficient and facilitates growth, and anyone who thinks otherwise is crazy!

The disconnect on free trade between the people and the experts surfaced recently when an Obama adviser allegedly assured a Canadian diplomat that Obama’s anti-NAFTA posturing was empty rhetoric. In an effort to become President, both Clinton and Obama have been strong NAFTA critics, even though Clinton has been a proponent of free trade and Obama would likely become one if called upon to make serious trade policy decisions.

So how can there be such a disconnect? Are the economists out of touch? Should we blame the media for scare-mongering? Are Americans just afraid of change? Yes, yes, and yes. 

Some economists have been overwhelmingly zealous, without recognizing that there can be large groups of people within a country that can lose because of free trade. Paul Krugman, an economist from the “luke warm” camp, writes eloquently about the negative consequences of free trade for large numbers of American workers. Too many economists ignore these distributive effects and “subtleties,” which can increase inequality and poverty.

Then there’s the media. Lou Dobbs is full of lies, most of which derive their power from xenophobic fears and knee-jerk patriotism. Shame on you, Lou Dobbs.

And lastly people are afraid of change. While many will win in a globalized world, many have also lost, and that’s scary. The politicians and economists must be sensitive to public concerns to build consensus and bridge the ideological gap on free trade.

Recent random thoughts

March 7, 2008

1) I’ve always wanted to start an epidemic. In college I tried (and failed) to start a trend of people quitting Facebook. Not just quitting, but giving their profile over as a stark testimonial to their quitting by using the image below as their picture and emptying their profile. It didn’t exactly reach the tipping point, but it might have with a more convincing leader.

i-quit.jpg

The latest idea is this. What if a group of us started high-fiving strangers on the street and encouraged the recipients to pass on the love? I wonder if we could spread a high-fiving epidemic through the streets on Manhattan? Wouldn’t that liven the morning commute?

2) The best bachelor party idea I’ve ever come across, at least in the past month: Take a common bachelor party ingredient (strippers) and mix with another common bachelor party ingredient (skydiving) to form something much greater than the sum of the parts — tandem stripper skydiving. Thanks to anonymous with the funky glasses for the tip.

3) Let’s get a bunch of people and do the Times Square shuffle. 5 restaurants. 5 hours. 5 appetizers. 5 drinks. Thinking TGI Fridays, Bubba Gump, Dallas BBQ, Applebees, Ruby Tuesdays and of course Chevy’s. Think of the margaritas! Think of the potato skins! Think of the unbearable irony! I’ll bring the skinny jeans.

4) We have roofs. We have extension cords. What are we doing watching movies inside on starry, cool evenings?

Pack it in — Encouraging city living

March 7, 2008

An incomplete but sometimes serviceable definition of the role of government sounds something like this: Governments exist to encourage activities with positive externalties and discourage activities with negative externalities.

This is usually a good place to start when evaluating the appropriate role of government regulation or taxation.  It helps explain why the government should care about climate change (the costs of my emitting carbon are borne by the everyone but the benefits are internal to me), but maybe focus less on drug enforcement (most costs are borne by the individual party partaking).

This post is not about a carbon pigovian tax (don’t worry, it’s coming) or our drug laws . It’s about a seeming mismatch in how we tax urban versus suburban/rural residents and they externatlities created by our choices of where to live.

Urban residents on average pay more federal taxes than federal social services received (saw the numbers a few months back but can’t find them again. Anyone know?) Suburban and rural residents receive more federal social services than taxes paid out. In our country, urban dwellers subsidize the suburbs and rural areas.

As Santiago Suarez (of Suarez and Colmes fame) pointed out, this is an artifact of the progressive income tax. The super wealthy tend to live in cities. They pay out taxes at a far greater rate than social services received. This is a perfectly reasonable empirical (positive) analysis on why this is. I want to focus on the normative: Which way should it be?

Let’s look at the externalities:

Point one:  Cities are the world’s economic engines. High densities of creativity, culture and knowledge  spur more creativity, culture and knowledge than the individual contributing factors would on their own. In other words, human-density is Viagra for human capital.The real learning in college happens in the crowded dorms and dining halls. The real economic and social progress happens in the crowded cities. There are a lot of factors at play here, but we can probably all agree on the general point.

Point two: Carbon emissions. Surburban households in Greater Boston buy 85% more gas than households within 5 miles of the city.  They also consume 20% more electricity. Cities on a per capita basis are better than surburban/rural areas for the environment

Point three: I would also guess cities are more efficient in their consumption of social services, but don’t have any data to support that at my fingertips.

So … in my normative judgment, suburban and rural areas should subsidize cities. Not the other way around. Fortunately, despite our tax policies it looks the trend worldwide is in the right direction.

If Neil Strauss is The Game, I’m Milton Bradley

March 3, 2008

Four pick-up lines I’m currently using with mixed success

1)

Phil: “Si se puede?”

Girl: “No, no puedo”

2)

Phil: (Caresses quarter, sweep hair to right, grabs oxygen canister, turns to nervous girl at bar) “What’s the most you’ve ever lost on a coin toss?”

Girl: “I need to know what I stand to gain.”

Phil: “Coffee with me”

3)

At an art gallery or Gugenheim First Friday Meat Market

Phil: (Slides in next to hipster art hottie looking at painting) “You know what this piece is called, right?”

Hipster art hottie: “What?”

Phil: “Conversation piece.”

4)

Phil: “I know Sam T. We write a blog together”

China and India: Growing fast but still dirt poor

March 3, 2008

Gallop just published a poll of adult Americans that made me gasp.

“Which one of the following do you think is the leading economic power in the world today?”

China: 40 percent
The United States: 33 percent
Japan: 13 percent
The European Union: 7 percent
India: 2 percent
Russia: 2 percent

People believe China is a larger economic power than America or Europe! If we assume “economic power” means 2007 nominal GDP the real answer is below: 

European Union: $16.4 trillion
United States: $13.8 trillion
Japan: $4.3 trillion
….
China $3.2 trillion
….
India $1.1 trillion

How does people’s perception differ so far from reality? Maybe it has something to do with this:

 http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/china/
http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/05_34/b3948439.htm
http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2007/08/26/world/asia/choking_on_growth.html
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1561214,00.html
http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/11571348/site/newsweek/print/1/displaymode/1098
http://blog.washingtonpost.com/worldopinionroundup/2006/03/india_we_have_arrived.html

 This uneven media treatment is deeply problematic. Not only does it add fuel to that protectionist fear-mongering that continues to thwart our better attempts to move into this century, but it whitewashes the plight of over half a billion in extreme poverty in those two countries.

300 million in China make under a dollar a day PPP

320 million in India make under a dollar a day PPP

Both of those figures are more than the extreme poor in African countries combined.

Ben Siegel wrote for Newsweek in Delhi last summer and shared with me his frustrations in being forced to write about India’s economic miracle when all he could see around him was begging children, filthy slums and sick cattle roaming the street. To him that was the real story. I couldn’t agree more.

For every one article on the China/India economic boom, we should mandate that two be written with the following title: “China and India: Growing fast but still dirt poor.” 

(Thanks to my boy Greg Mankiw for the link. Love the textbook, dawg)