What I found interesting last week:
1. The Copenhagen Zoo killed a giraffe and fed him to the lions.
This doesn’t really seem to be an economics news item at all; but economics is everywhere, even in the decision to put a bullet through the skull of an 18 month old giraffe called Marius. And publicly conduct an autopsy in front of a crowd of children. And then dissect the carcass into chunks and distribute his meat amongst the big cats.
Of course, that story could be reframed as: there is a giraffe that will not be used in any future breeding programs; it’s taking up space that could be used for a genetically useful giraffe; so it would be more efficient in the long-term to use its meat.
Much like the Melissa Bachman story, there was mass public outcry. And a very confused scientist director (Bengt Holst), who did a great Sheldon Cooper impression:
“We have been very steadfast because we know we’ve made this decision on a factual and proper basis. We can’t all of a sudden change to something we know is worse because of some emotional events happening around us.”
People have been particularly upset by the fact that Mr Holst ignored an offer from a zoo in Yorkshire to house Marius. His justification: if they have room for another giraffe, then they should use it for one that is genetically valuable.
The point is: mass opinion is short-sighted. It sees adorable eyes and shocking images of haunch being hacked off. But if there are to be long-term breeding programs, then these decisions are necessary. And as for the “fed to the lions” part – what exactly do the morally-outraged expect lions to eat?
Lions aren’t exactly vegetarian.
The Swiss have decided to implement immigration bans. The drive came from the right-wing Swiss People’s Party, who made some noise about losing their national identity. Doesn’t that seem like such an antiquated argument though? National identity is always in a state of flux. Most of Europe was once Roman, and you don’t see to many countries clinging to those roots.
In many ways, this just seems like a poor reaction to concerns about over-burdening the social welfare system. Simpler solution: just vote to restrict social welfare to Swiss nationals. And then let the Swiss profit off all the cheap immigrant labour.
As a case in point, I give you: Qatar. Where 94% of the labour force is foreign, and where the Qataris themselves pay no tax and really just work for fun. My understanding is that their monthly government stipend is embarrassingly easy to live off.
3. A Twitter and General Motors Fail
Twitter has not managed to make a profit yet. Its shares dropped 22% as the markets opened after their earnings announcement.
In a stroke of Universal coincidence, General Motors made 22% less profit than last year.
I appreciate numerical uniformity.
4. Ghana’s Currency Intervention
The Ghanaian cedi has lost 23% of its value in the last 12 months. Which is not that surprising – almost all emerging market currencies have suffered of late.
My favourite part of this story: last week’s proclamation by the self-titled Archbishop Duncan Williams from his pulpit in Accra:
“I command the resurrection of the cedi”
In the real world, the Ghanaian government has imposed limits of foreign exchange withdrawals; and on Thursday, Ghana’s central bank increased the benchmark interest rate to 18%.