Vietnam’s new war

Within a week of arriving in Vietnam, I’d seen two fatalities. Within a couple of months the tally was five. Vietnam has the second highest road mortality rate in South East Asia, after Thailand. Both comparable with the worst in the world.

After cycling in the country for almost three years, the reasons are clear. Vietnam’s unique road customs are not adapting well to the increased level of traffic.

Right of way has a different meaning to standards that are the norm in the rest of the world. The biggest vehicles rule. Cyclists and pedestrians have no standing. Motor cyclists have little more.

Intersections are mostly unguarded, even when they are blind. Only rumble strips act as a warning that there is an intersection ahead, and to anticipate vehicles coming into your path. Accidents are common.

Indicators are purely decorative. Movements are used to show intent. Drivers do not wait for a break in traffic to cross opposing traffic, they just slowly move into the path of oncoming vehicles. Taking one’s eyes of the road is dangerous.

But it is common to see drivers of both cars and motor cycles texting and driving. No problem.

Even vehicles traveling in the same direction are a hazard. As a matter of course, motor cycles and cars will overtake, cut in front, and then slow down. Incidents that would precipitate road rage anywhere else in the world, are the norm. It is not unusual to have a vehicle overtake, cut in front, and apply brakes to make an intersection. Like untrained dogs, motorcycles will come off the pavement into heaving traffic, the rider not even looking at the vehicle flows to assess the level of risk.

I have seen a little old lady hurled through the air by a huge Harley as the rider insisted on passing a truck in the gap between the sidewalk and the traffic. The rider did not care to stop.

The authorities have addressed the issue of Vietnam’s poor road mortality statistic. Previously the bodies were covered, and left on the road until the forensic investigation was complete. Now, they are whisked away to hospital, where they are classified as something other than a road fatality.

Living in Vietnam is an unforgettable experience. That’s if you live.

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Innovation in the corporates

The prevailing requirement that employees “fit in” promotes mediocrity. People who are innovative are by definition different and rarely, naturally, “fit in”.

Because innovators are unusual, the unbridled ambition common to the average breeds hatred, brought on by the attention that senior management shower on novel thinkers and their ideas.

The average resort to plagiarism, stealing innovations, using friendship to gain access. Like the rich, innovators are forced to question the integrity of relationships.

Until the corporates encourage the employment of people who are different, the real innovation will prosper mostly in startup companies. And shareholders of the corporates will bear the cost of eye-watering take-overs.

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Mass shootings

When it comes to mass shootings in America, Donald Trump is is very quick to diagnose the cause as mental health issues, just based on behavior.

Psychologists advise that making a psychological diagnosis without a comprehensive consultation and evaluation is meritless. Trump disagrees.

But, Trump is accused of having a number of psychological disorders including: narcissistic personality disorder (NPD), antisocial personality disorder, and paranoid personality disorder. He also displays psychopathic tendencies.

By his own standards then, Trump needs help.

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Mick Mulvaney concedes that tax is theft

While defending the Trump administrations budget proposals, Mick Mulvaney concedes that taxation is theft.

To be fair, his statement is in the context of what he considers bad expenditures, which apparently are social services for people who are too poor to pay tax. Some of whom are the people who voted for Trump, after he promised that he would bring their jobs back.

Apparently the tax breaks given to the rich will create the jobs.

Mulvaney has not explained how that will happen.

The poor can feel relieved that they will be saved from being branded as criminals. Whew.

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The Trump Trade Policy Agenda

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics.”Mark Twain

On March 1, Trump released his Administration’s trade policy. The thinking reveals why Trump has so many business failures.

The key objectives of the Trump administration’s trade policy have merit. But the way that employment statistics are used to support the strategy to dismantle the trade agreements that are crucial to the United States is disingenuous.

Key to the argument are the manufacturing jobs that have been lost in the United States since China joined the World Trade Organization (WTO). They argue that in January 2000, there were 17,284,000 manufacturing jobs in the United States, but by January 2017 there were only 12,341,000, a loss of almost 5 million jobs. In January 2000, the unemployment rate was 4%. January 2017, the unemployment rate was 4.8%. The difference for the economy as a whole is 1.75 million jobs, not the 5 million the Trump and his team claim are manufacturing alone.

During the campaign, Trump said the labor department’s figures were “phony”. Now that they’re his responsibility, he says the numbers are credible1)Unemployment numbers not ‘phony’ to Trump anymore.

The benefits of trade have been understood for centuries. In 1817, in his theory of trade, Ricardo explained the idea of comparative advantage – countries do what they do best, exporting their excess capacity, importing what they don’t produce themselves. It is efficient and is win win.

But with trade, production moves from one country to another, and that affects the people employed in those industries. That’s difficult for the people who lose their jobs. They have been ignored for too long. Policymakers failed to compensate and train the people who lost their jobs. Trump got elected, and now everyone will pay.

Now though, the figures show that the majority of the people in manufacturing have moved on.

20160813 LDC317The trade with China has not changed America’s long term trend moving away from manufacturing2)Scrimping on sense.

Not only that, worldwide less people are employed in manufacturing as automation takes hold. In a recent paper, the authors argued that 47% of jobs are at risk3)The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?, mostly in routine intensive occupations. John Maynard Keynes 1933 prediction is coming true.

Peter Navarro, Trump’s trade czar, styles himself as a China expert. Navarro has written three books on China, which according to James McGregor, a former chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in China, “have close to zero credibility with people who know the country,” and are filled with “hyperbole, inaccuracies” and a “cartoonish caricature of China that he puts out.”4)Trump’s Top China Expert Isn’t a China Expert

Navarro argues that China is undervaluing it’s currency, dumping goods, protecting it’s industries from foreign competition, and stealing Intellectual Property (IP). He wants to charge a 45% tariff on Chinese goods.

Navarro’s argument that China is undervaluing its currency is outdated.

The dumping of goods is true only for the China;s troubled industries, steel being the big one. The protection of the country’s industries is a legitimate complaint, but America is equally guilty. Ask anyone who has suffered the absurdities of the Fly America act.

The theft of IP has a degree of legitimacy. That requires that Chinese authorities to enforce American rights. Starting a trade war is not an incentive to fix that.

Navarro and Trump think that the TPP, the TTIP, and WTO are worthless. They believe that they can get better deals for America through bilateral trade agreements.

Good luck with that.

More at:
Cheap automation raises risk of ‘premature deindustrialisation’
Donald Trump’s review of trade deficits is a blast from the past
Economic Impact of Trade Agreements Implemented Under Trade Authorities Procedures, 2016 Report
The Future of Employment: How Susceptible Are Jobs to Computerisation?
KORUS of disapproval
The Mind of Donald Trump
Premature Deindustrialization
Robots and Jobs: Evidence From US Labor Markets
Scrimping on sense
Trump’s Meeting With China Is Difficult Because The Donald Is Wrong About Trade, Deficits And Jobs
Trump’s Top China Expert Isn’t a China Expert
Unemployment numbers not ‘phony’ to Trump anymore
Working for Trump is an embarrassment

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Footnotes

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