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Sunday, May 16, 2010

Global public data in reasonably user-friendly form

The World Bank has made part of its World Development Indicators data set available to anyone with a computer and a reasonably fast internet connection, at no additional cost. Clearly, an improvement on the situation before.

Google, for its part, has created a new visualisation application that makes great graphics from data obtained from the WDI and other publicly available datasets.

Although probably not exactly meeting all professional standards for quantitative research, these are definitely superb teaching tools.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


Here is a cartoon from the Indian newspaper The Hindu, summing up the situation nicely. Notice especially how the IMF seems to have done the "fixing" and the EU is standing idly by. Very fitting indeed.

The EU's economic woes (where the heart of the matter is the consistent negative growth) do look a little funny from India (where there has been significant net growth, both in per capita terms and in shares in gross world product).

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Greece Crisis Brings Elasticity of Weight under Pressure

One key strategy of the EU in global politics has been what I call (in the last chapter of the book) the elasticity of weight. The idea is that its amorphous, lightly-defined, not-quite-state-like character allows the EU to present itself to the outside world in two modalities: /1/ as a quasi-state, i.e., as a singe unit (this is useful where there is a need for a unified and heavy-weight performance) or /2/ what I call "the Westphalian" modality, involving acting as a loose conglomerate of its (currently 27) member states (this works best in venues where voting is by unit, i.e., the UN General Assembly or the Security Council, etc.)

One interesting way to interpret what is going on with respect to Greece today is that the EU seems not to have been able to maximize its advantage with respect to Greece, by "sticking" too much, or perhaps for a bit "too long" to a the Westphalian model (so that there has been talk, talk, talk, but no concerted action), to the detriment of its ability to act in unison (as a single, unified quasi-state).

Of course all this can be corrected (after all, Greece is a globally small, within Europe "mid-size" state that can be bailed out with relative ease, certainly in comparison to, say, Germany), but the fact remains that the ways in which the EU is able to utilize its unique ability to switch, at will, between the two modalities is the essence of its success in the world of global geopolitics.

Meanwhile, of course China, India and quite a few other, fairly large states are putting in more and more economic weight, while the Euro-zone is slipping, slipping, slipping...

cover page of the book

cover page of the book
image used for the cover design by Anannya Dasgupta