Archive for June, 2011

Recently, the BBC featured an interesting documentation on China’s growing global influence.

The first episode focuses on Africa where Chinese more and more exploit natural resources. Locals regard China’s impact with very mixed feelings.

In a second episode, Justin Rowlatt travels to Brazil and the United States to further examine the spread of Chinese influence around the planet. Again, local people worry about growing competition with China.

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Talking about utter nonsense, here is another one. Why do doctors, pilots, lawyers, and a great many of other people need licenses in order to be allowed offering their work?

You might argue that they have important jobs and someone ought to check their qualifications before they start working. Well, you are pretty much fooled.

The simple reason why so many occupations require having a license is that licensing reduces competition and thus raises insiders’ salaries. That is why nowadays you find licensing for pretty much everything, from hair dressing to flower arranging. A couple of moths ago, The Economist presented the insane scope of licensing these days in the United States.

From my point of view, Milton Friedman was best to explain both the underlying idea of licensing (how it reduces competition) as well as why licenses -even for doctors and airplane pilots- are completely unnecessary. Read ‘Free to Choose‘ for that matter.

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Studying economics you will come to wonder more and more what people take for granted. The other day, I saw another great clip of John Stossel. He made a case for private roads that you should not miss.

Quoting Mitch Daniels:

Government is a monopoly and we know how monopolies tend to mistreat their customers, having no incentive, no competition to do better.

The main insurance policy we have that the toll roads stay better is the fact that if they [the private road companies] run a lousy road, people will find a reason not to use it and they lose money.

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How many of you would like to be among the top five percent of the population?

It might surprise you but most of you are already part of this lucky and wealthy minority. Don’t believe me? Well, let’s do the math.

There are some seven billion people living on this planet. Among them, only one billion enjoys living in prosperous Western countries. Thus, if you happen to be a European or North American citizen, welcome to the top 20 percent of the world. Admittedly, there are also many happy and wealthy people in developing and emerging economies. But given that breadlines in most Western countries exceed average per capita incomes in most poor nations, it is reasonable to assume that living in a rich country more or less automatically leads you to the top 20 percent. Even long-term unemployed in Germany for instance get some $13,000 per year in welfare benefits. That is more than three times China’s per capita income. Even when using purchasing power parities, things do not change much. How many Chinese suffer from lacking health care, insufficient nutrition, rudimentary accommodation, and so on? All people in Western countries regard this as subsistence level, which is guaranteed by the state.

So we can focus on the top twenty percent that live in rich Western nations.

Now, if you are more or less healthy, you are already ahead of those roughly 30 percent suffering from various health issues. Furthermore, having attentive parents, friends, and colleagues, enjoying good education and being freed of violence, fear, as well as major social and financial problems, it is truly reasonable to regard you as part of the top quarter in Western nations. This implies you being a member of the top five percent worldwide.

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instapaper

If you happen to be one of people that frequently see interesting articles on the web, but usually don’t have time to read them immediately, check out Instapaper:

The website just asks you to provide any of your email addresses with a password. So, there’s no real registration and everything is for free. Second step is to add a new bookmark to your browser. Instapaper provides you with a simple description how to handle this.

Afterwards, whenever you see an interesting online article, just hit the bookmark icon and Instapaper will save a plain-text version of the article. You can access all your saved articles via the website from any computer. Or, preferably, you have the respective iPhone-/iPad-/iPod-App and enjoy reading with them.

Another great feature of Instapaper is that you can assort your saved articles and share them easily with your friends. Thus, if you like a certain article, your friends will see this in their Instapaper account.

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final remarks

So, what is left after a dozen postings on New York and Washington?

The simple answer is, a lot. There have been so many weird people, cars, buildings, people – it is impossible to capture all of them. Thus I just like to leave you with another bunch of photos that will shape the end of my second US trip. As I said before, it’s been an amazing experience and in case you’re looking for a memorable holiday – go for NYC and Washington!

Funny NY police car

And you wonder why NYC stinks abominably...?

NYC Subway - highlighting US infrastructure issues

No restorations, no electronic displays, just crap

In Manhattan and using a car

Some random road close to New Jersey

Sky Bar

Empire State at night

 

And finally, my absolute favorite sign in NYC.

Don't even think...

 

Hope you enjoyed reading texts and watching all the pictures. If so or if not, leave a comment, donate some money, or just enjoy your weekend!

 

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Definitely one of the most impressive places I’ve ever seen.

On the one hand, Arlington National Cemetery is a beautiful place with nice paths, trees, and a fantastic lawn. But on the other hand…well, it is a cemetery. One that is reminiscent of more than 300,000 dead US veterans. How can you like that?

Entrance

Incredible number of tombstones

Small US flag with yet another row of tombstones

Reminiscent

Tomb Of The Unknown Soldier

Some bird sitting on a tombstone

Patriotism and Obelisk

Grassroot view

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Brief and to the point, Washington seems to be quite the opposite of New York City. Whether you like this or not depends on your individual urban preferences. If you prefer skyscrapers, noise, an infinite number of restaurants and shops, etc., then you ought to go for NYC. If a rather relaxed, green, clean, and historic city is what you are looking for, check out the capital.

A bunch of pictures basically tells the story. Except for the hideously hot and humid weather.

White House

1600 Pennsylvania Ave

White House backside

Capitol Hill

Green city of Washington with its tallest "building"

Washington Monument on closer examination

Federal Reserve Bank - Eccles Building

Federal Reserve Board

F.B.I. - Edgar Hoover Building

Lincoln Memorial

World Bank

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If possible you should take your time traveling from New York City to Washington. Using local roads instead of highways saves toll fees, doesn’t take that much longer, and offers you some insights into smaller towns and villages.

You will cross five states: New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia, Delaware, and the District of Columbia. And remember, this is the United States. So, expect to see many weird signs, people, buildings, cars.

 

Interstate 95

Speed limit 65 mph - okay for shaking hands

Switching to more local roads

Get rid of bed bugs

Beautiful country road

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wall street

Wall Street. Financial District of New York City. Home of the New York Stock Exchange. Metonym for the financial markets of the United States.

Much to say about. But everything pretty well summarized by Wikipedia.

For the record, it is not that exciting to be there.

Wall Street

 

Wall Street

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