Thursday, April 23, 2009


Can anyone give me idea what exactly a meta-commodity means, so that I can understand the following sentence?
We should remember that food constitutes a meta-commodity that cannot be treated merely according to economic calculations.
Does it mean a sacred stuff, like amulet or keris --the Javanese dagger? But even we can calculate the economic value, the market price, of keris, no?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

My Friend Highschoolers

To my friends in highschools who are attending national exam today, I sincerely hope all the best to you all. Many will make it, but some of you maybe not. And for you who do not make it, do not stop and give up. Retake it and play the game again. I am never less proud of you -- for all what you need to do is work on it harder and longer.

And no finger-pointing and blame-game necessary, like some elders seem love to do.

I hope you learn a lot from today's exams, whatever the result might be. Rock on!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Advice # 876: Take A Longer Perspective

I look at a graph showing Indonesia per capita GDP level and annual growth from 1970 to 2007 and could not stop to marvel (if it is the right word) that the depth of our 1997 crisis actually makes the US zero growth this year look like a one lazy Sunday afternoon.

It takes a mere two years from around 15 percent GDP per capita contraction to regain positive growth, as Reinhart and Rogoff (in pdf) rightly point out; but around 7 years to get back to pre-crisis income per capita level. Even more daunting, after the crisis, the average annual growth has been substantially lower than before, despite its accelerated upward trend.

And today we have global recession. I just hope that we don't take a wrong lesson by taking short-sighted economic populist policy and dramatically departing from market-based reform that has been responsible for much of the longer-run pre crisis growth and post crisis recovery.

Getting off the track is too expensive. Although the temptation is high, especially if you want to run for President/House members/funny pundit.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Non-voting does not equal Golput!

I always get irritated when anyone refers to those who do not cast their vote as 'Golput.' Even in the media it is very often we see a passage like "Golput rate reached 30%." You may not like math, but the number cited is the non-voting turnout rate. Non-voting turnout is simply non-voting turnout, which is 100%-turnout rate. Become a Golput is one reason, among many reasons, for not voting. People may have other reasons not to vote; lazy (in academic jargon, the benefit to go to the ballot is smaller than the cost), no candidates matches one's preference, unregistered to vote, unable to be present, and so forth.

The Golput original term was brought to the vocabulary by this person. Back in the 1970s, Suharto 'simplified' the political system by allowing only 10 parties to compete in 1971, then reduced to three in 1977-99. Golput was an expression that no one, including the government, can take away one's political right. So Golput was a resistance movement against an undemocratic election. Even Prof. Budiman himself admit that the current election is already democratic, hence Golput is no longer relevant. Well, you may choose not to vote because you don't like the candidates for any reasons. But the fact is your not being stripped off your rights.

Of course, no one has the patent or copy rights to the term. So anyone can basically use the word, even if it has already been distorted from the original meaning. At your own risk (of embarassment), you may also claim that all non-voting voters have one interest, which you can represent, and think that all of them will vote for you. Wanna try?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

An ugly system, but compared to what?

Many people, including some friends, tend to complain (or at least criticize) the current election system that makes individual candidates, rather than parties, are competing with each other. Well, the thing is election is the key element of democracy. The more direct the election (i.e. choosing individuals rather than parties), the better it should be. Of course, there are some caveats. Individual competition leads to distorted signals, increased searching costs, or 'supermarket effects' (where too many choices may lead to not choosing at all). But when we are to say one system is bad, we need also to ask, "compared to what?"

Here is my idea. Assuming that: 1) we still want democracy (not despotism or authoritarianism), 2) Arrow impossibility condition exists, 3) Plato's philosopher Republic is simply not attainable, then we may want to consider, I am proposing two possible alternatives:
  1. Random assignment. A lottery is assign to (s)elect leaders or representatives. All eligible citizen will have equal probability to be leaders or representatives.
  2. Take turns. Just like (1), but do a random assignment only once in the beginning. Then design a mechanism where each will take turn every a certain period. (Oh wait, who will have the authority to design the system?)
What do you think? For me, I still like the competitive election better.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

To Our Lazy Journalist/Editor

Let me spell it slowly: S, T, I, G, L, I, T, Z and W, E, I, S, S

Got that?

If not, you'd better ask the the panelist you invited, or google it and in 1 second you'll get the said paper; than have this deeply embarrassing headline.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

The Best of This Year's April's Fool

is this.

But only if you know some who's who in economics and economic policymaking in the US. And the fact that only economists could laugh out loud at it, while the rest most likely goes "huh?", is actually awkwardly funny by itself.

HT: Alex Tabarrok

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

The Bright Side of Possibly Lower Turnout

So you think that this year's election would see lower turnout. Is it a bad sign?

Imagine you find yourself on the election day, which also happens to be an official public holiday in Indonesia. You have option of either going to vote or doing something else, like spending time at the zoo, reading the Watchmen, listening to Efek Rumah Kaca, or even just a simple good lazy afternoon nap. What would you do?

The catch is here: That something-else becomes more precious as your wage rate goes up. If your wage rate is higher, you have to sacrifice more money for not working and just reading Anna Karenina.

So on April 9, when you are forced not to work and decide to have these something-else, instead of going to the voting booth like what you did five years ago; it may mean that your wage rate are actually higher than five years ago. (And political complainer literate like you, or pundits in the media, should be happy to know it)

Who would vote then? The ones who are less ignorant to politics and the ones with lower wage rate --who hope election to bring better wage. The former would devote more time and the latter have better incentive to learn relevant information on politicial party and politicians. As a result, a better election quality.