Wednesday, July 22, 2015

#Greece to pay any price, bear any burden?

According to an article in the Pacific Standard, a couple of studies have found a crisis-related uptick in suicides in Greece. The authors of one even allege that at least 10,000 additional economic suicides between 2008 and 2010” can be attributed to the country’s economic slump. The title of the PS article is meant to be a bit disturbing (“When Economic Instability Turns Deadly”), so it got me thinking. Has anyone tried to assess the human cost of economic transitions – for example, with the methodology used to calculate war casualties? And not just in a country like Greece where the economy has contracted so much. How about, say, Bulgaria – which Bulgarian political commentator and social entrepreneur Ivan Krastev recently included among the East European countries that had possessed the social preconditions for successful reforms (“A Greek Farce, Then Gloom,” NYT, 16 July 2015)? Or Ghana, which (with the help of a major debt write-off) has enjoyed a prolonged period of political stability and entered the club of middle-income countries – to recently face new financial and social woes? This, by the way, would be a fun topic for a quantitative Ph.D. dissertation.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

#Anomie? #Ennui? Problem fixed!

So it turns out the Brave New World of tomorrow may need not some mushy tranquilizer or opiate, but good old stimulants (to everyone according to his/her need):

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Der #Zeitgeist bites

Yesterday, I was sitting in a small city park. A few benches away, a young woman seemed to be drawing – intensely focused – something in a sketch notebook. Then she lifted the piece of paper to which she had applied her effort to take a closer look at it. It was a large scratch card.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The truth is in…

Two studies of the role of stress hormones in financial trading. One concluded that “the hormones testosterone and cortisol may destabilize financial markets by making traders take more risks, according to a study.” The other – that “high levels of the stress hormone cortisol may contribute to the risk aversion and 'irrational pessimism' found among bankers and fund managers during financial crises.”  What are we to make of such contrasting findings in “behavioral finance”? Perhaps, one way or another, allostatic overload will wreck financial speculation – which has become the lifeblood of Western civilization? Unless most trading is handed over to female recruits – since the second study also confirmed that women make slightly better decisions under conditions of chronic stress? As we were once told as teenage military conscripts, this is a prospect you can see only through a crooked tubino (its Bulgarian version, that is). 

Friday, July 3, 2015

Don’t #deepdream!

So a football/soccer player scores an own goal in the second minute of injury time – quashing dreams of world cup glory. And what is the immediate reaction of most teammates? Half of the team, including the hapless goalie, gather around the crying player, hug and try to comfort her: My own reaction on seeing this? If only the world of business, politics, education, science, etc. could be run by losers with such stereotypical female characteristics – regardless of the chromosomes they carry! Of course, I don’t even need to pinch myself...

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Germany’s #Grimm predicament?

Marina Warner describes in the NYRB how Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm once stripped German folk tales of much graphic detail (“Rescuing Wonderful Shivery Tales”). Which makes me think – could the insensitivity that the original versions betrayed have anything to do with problematic German theories and behaviors in the past? And help understand current German indifference in the face of so much austerity-related hardship elsewhere – and impending economic collapse in Greece?