Than Shwe: Not a Disaster Capitalist!

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Burma's generals won't be winning next year's Nobel Prize in economics, reports the Asia Sentinel:

As an indication of just how wrongheaded government policy can be, Japanese researchers at the Institute of Economic Research at Hitotsubashi University in a 2004 paper described a household survey conducted in 2001, covering more than 500 households in eight villages with diverse agro-ecological environments. They found that the farther they got from the center of the village, where government authority is stronger, the richer the villagers were. In other words, the farther villagers got from the government, the better off they were.

According to a 2002 study by the Land Tenure Center of the University of Wisconsin, it would be difficult to find a government that could screw up its policies much worse.

The generals have the intuitive economics of especially dumb 3-year-olds. They react to rice shortages by banning rice exports; to inflation, by declaring a bogus "official" exchange rate. Back in 1987, then-leader Ne Win issued currency in denominations of his lucky numbers. Fewer people would go hungry if some kind soul explained basic principles, like "your numerologist is not an expert" to these people. But we castigate economists who talk to bad men.

The seizure-inducing Web site of Myanmar's Ministry of Finance is here.

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  1. They found that the farther they got from the center of the village, where government authority is stronger, the richer the villagers were. In other words, the farther villagers got from the government, the better off they were.

    You don’t need to go to Burma to see that, you can go to any major US city and see it too. Well, it was more pronounced in the pre-2000s.

    If you want the really annoying version just Google-up any Albert Gore, Jr. speech containing “sprawl”.

  2. The “Functional Departments” section of the myanmar.com site is…not functioning. Must be a lot of State Secrets hidden behind that tab, like Than Shwe’s luckiest number of all! (hint, it is between 0 and 2, prime, and odd.)

  3. OMG terrible web site!
    Nothing like quickly flashing a bunch of images at your visitors

  4. Maybe this is why there is so much unrest in Burma. Usually corrupt regimes know how to bribe government supporters with jobs and projects.

    I don’t know if this is an effective way of studying government competence though, as American suburbs are richer than inner-cities, while French cities are richer than their banlieus. Could just be different demographic patterns.

  5. According to a 2002 study by the Land Tenure Center of the University of Wisconsin, it would be difficult to find a government that could screw up its policies much worse.

    Hey, how many people do I need to starve to get some f**king recognition!

  6. American suburbs are richer than inner-cities

    How are they defining wealth in these cases?

    Is a stock broker from NY, making $100k, yet spending $80k in expenses more wealthy than a farmer in Iowa making $30k but only spending $15k?

  7. Than Shwe’s luckiest number of all! (hint, it is between 0 and 2, prime, and odd.)

    Than Shwe or Lene Lovich?

  8. Than Shwe’s luckiest number of all! (hint, it is between 0 and 2, prime, and odd.)

    I generally dont consider the empty set lucky, but to each his own.

  9. (hint, it is between 0 and 2, prime, and odd.)

    Pendant alert — for definitional reasons, 1 is not prime. This is so the unique factorization theorem is true. From wikipedia — “every natural number greater than 1 can be written as a unique product of prime numbers.”

  10. I generally dont consider the empty set lucky

    Awkward question. Is the “null set” ‘less defined’ than zero? Or is it considered nebulous mostly within ‘Naive set theory’?

  11. Pendant alert

    Do you mean “pedant”?

    American suburbs are richer than inner-cities

    Not cities that are still worth living in.

  12. Awkward question. Is the “null set” ‘less defined’ than zero?

    IIRC, the null set is an ampty set and is not zero as zero is still a quantity. Something like that.

  13. IIRC, the null set is an ampty set and is not zero as zero is still a quantity. Something like that.

    I sort of understand that. I’m not a mathematician, obviously, and I ask because the null set and zero are clearly distinct from the standpoint of logic. I mean,if a set contains zero it’s not a null set, but clearly there are ‘zero’ representatives in the set. Or something.

  14. Pendant alert

    Do you mean “pedant”?

    Oh, stop being such a pendant.

  15. I sort of understand that. I’m not a mathematician, obviously, and I ask because the null set and zero are clearly distinct from the standpoint of logic. I mean,if a set contains zero it’s not a null set, but clearly there are ‘zero’ representatives in the set. Or something.

    Maybe we should call in Ron Bailey, or one of us should do some googling ­čÖé

    The times I deal will the null are in databases. In a particular field (or cell for you youngsters) it is null when there are no characters in it, whch is sometimes confused for a “blank” cell by non-database folks. Sure as the sun rises, the folks who think the field is “blank” will put a space in some of them. Now it is no longer null, it has a character in the cell. But this does not really help our discussion as the count of characters in a null cell is 0.

    But wait a minute, we are speaking of sets and sets are composed of objects. If there are no objects in the null set, the count of objects would be 0 but the set would still be null, or empty.

    I think.

    Maybe.

    Kinda?

  16. If there are no objects in the null set, the count of objects would be 0 but the set would still be null, or empty.

    You’re absolutely right. The number zero has a value in some theories/contexts, but not in others.

  17. I’m going to have to stop reading Burma related stories soon. It’s so sad and tragic, I get to depressed.

  18. It’s like a whole other planet. I can’t even wrap my brain around how these people think… mind-numbing.

  19. The game Civilization always has corruption increasing as you get further from the capital. That always struck me as naive. Then again, a lot of the political mechanics of Civilization has struck me as naive. Still fun games, though.

    (Now, if by “corruption” Civilization means “tax compliance”, they should only reduce the tax percentage, not flush all that money down the toilet.)

  20. I can’t even wrap my brain around how these people think…

    I personally can’t wrap my mind easily around economics, but I think I’d at least read some books or hire Alan Greenspan if I were trying to run a country. No such luck in Burma, I guess.

  21. I personally can’t wrap my mind easily around economics, but I think I’d at least read some books or hire Alan Greenspan if I were trying to run a country. No such luck in Burma, I guess.

    Mariopn Berry should be available soon. Isn’t James Earl Carter III bumbling around looking for something to do?

  22. oops, that should be Marrion.

  23. Here’s an analogy for you: Null is like the vacuum of space, while zero is like an empty room. The room obviously exists even though nothing is in it. In space, there are no walls to define a room.

    Maybe that helps??

  24. Here’s an analogy for you

    I appreciate that analogy. I guess it’s fair to say that the null set is defined by its undefinibility whereas zero is placed clearly within a context?

  25. The game Civilization always has corruption increasing as you get further from the capital. That always struck me as naive. Then again, a lot of the political mechanics of Civilization has struck me as naive. Still fun games, though.

    Rimfax — I always interpreted the “corruption” in Civ as “local warlords stealing from the central government”. Civ is a really statist game, since it assumes that no private banks, schools, etc. ever get built — all progress is attributed to a (usually) benevolent government.

    Be interesting to have a libertarian version of Civ, where the corruption all went to private citizens and caused increased happiness, and allowed private banks, schools, etc. to be built that were way more efficient than the government-run ones. Oh, and the ability for the private citizens to do research and discover the “libertarian” government option.

  26. We can’t be certain that these stats are the results of state policy doing the most damage to those who are closest to them. These stats could be the result of the smarter people living farther away. Of course, the smarter people are likely to live farther away because they know better than to stay near the thugs which wold keep the cause and effect constant but change the method.

  27. I guess it’s fair to say that the null set is defined by its undefinability whereas zero is placed clearly within a context?

    Yes, that’s it!

  28. Be interesting to have a libertarian version of Civ, where the corruption all went to private citizens and caused increased happiness, and allowed private banks, schools, etc. to be built that were way more efficient than the government-run ones. Oh, and the ability for the private citizens to do research and discover the “libertarian” government option

    A libertarian/economically realistic version of Civ would absolutely suck. You, as the government, would basically be doing nothing, while market forces largely beyond your control would determine whether you win or lose.

  29. Does the government of Burma provide free health care?

  30. I’m going to have to stop reading Burma related stories soon. It’s so sad and tragic, I get to depressed.

    The panty one was fun, but yeah, I know what you mean.

  31. Do you mean “pedant”?

    Hey, I do math and science, not grammar and spelling.

  32. A libertarian/economically realistic version of Civ would absolutely suck. You, as the government, would basically be doing nothing, while market forces largely beyond your control would determine whether you win or lose.

    Well, sure, an anarcho-capitalist version would suck. OTOH, a very late-stage minarchist libertarian tech, where the government had to run at 90% or so luxuries, and only controlled the military, and happiness increased productivity, and the government was entirely limited to defense — with the right balancing, that superpacifistic civilization would have its hands full trying to fend off all the socialist or mixed economies sending waves of SODs (Stacks of Doom) at them.

    If you just grafted that onto the existing game without much rebalancing / total rethinking, yeah, the minarchist thing would suck, too.

    Alternatively, you could have the AI be the only one running libertarian civs, and the player would have to try to use their military edge to fend off the huge research and economic edge of the lib AI.

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