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« Michelangelo and Rodin | Main | Guest Posting -- Salingaros on Tschumi »

February 27, 2004

Facts from The Economist

Dear Friedrich --

Buried in among The Economist's good writing and smartypants attitudinizing are many fascinating and illuminating facts. Here are a few I've collected from recent issues.

  • The ten-year-old Channel Tunnel between England and France has been a flop. Even the most pessimistic forecasts predicted that 10 million people would use the Chunnel each year; last year, only 6.4 million actually did. Business suffered at first because channel ferry firms quickly upgraded their ferries, and is suffering today because of low-cost airlines. Management is now asking the governments of Britain and France for a bail-out.

  • It's thought that several million people around the world currently live as slaves.

  • The exact rate of unemployment in South Africa is hard to determine, but the best guess places it at 42%. Yet it's estimated that there are between 300,000 and 500,000 positions available for skilled workers in the country. South Africa doesn't have the skilled workers to fill them.

  • Things are looking up in Algeria, though it'd be hard for them to look worse, given that civil strife in recent years has killed 150,000 people, and that living standards have declined for two decades straight.

  • Haiti, with a population of 7.5 million, has only 5,000 police, most of whom are poorly armed. 80% of Haitians live in poverty.

  • Despite headlines about its economic prospects, India -- which has 17% of the world's population -- still accounts for only 2% of global GDP. 20% of Indian children receive no formal education at all, and 35% of the population is illiterate.

  • More than two million people have died in Sudan's long-lasting civil war.

  • Those rows of road-flanking plane trees in France? The ones that show up in innumerable picturesque paintings, photographs and movies? Well, the French government, concerned about road deaths -- drunken drivers crash into plane trees regularly -- is cutting them down. 90% have already been removed.

  • As the Ugandan army dispersed a recent protest march, four people somehow wound up being lynched.

  • France has lost its stranglehold on high-end food -- even in its own mind. Many Parisian brasseries are now widely recognized as lousy, and many young Frenchpeople have never learned how to cook. Biggest blow to French national food pride: the star of a hot new cooking show on French TV is Jamie ("the Naked Chef") Oliver -- an Englishman.

  • Robert ("Bowling Alone") Putnam's latest research isn't encouraging for partisans of diversity. According to Putnam, levels of trust and co-operation are highest in the least diverse neighbhorhoods, while people living in diverse neighborhoods aren't just suspicious of people who don't look like them; they're more suspicious as well of their own kind.

  • On May 1, ten mostly-struggling countries will join the EU, and Western Europe is nervous. Will poor people, released to leave their home countries, rush into Western Europe hoping to take advantage of its prosperity and generous benefits systems? David Goodhard, editor of the lefty Prospect magazine, has caused a storm by arguing that it's time progressives recognized that Britain can have either mass immigration or a generous welfare system, but not both.

  • Since the creation of a special Department of Justice task force in 2002 to tackle corporate fraud, prosecutors have charged 642 defendants with white-collar crimes and have won 250 convictions or guilty pleas. The usual rate would be around 50 convictions a year.

  • In 1980, home schooling was illegal in most American states. Today, it's legal in all of them, and around two million children are now being home schooled. One of the movement's first advocates was John Holt, a radical suspicious of "the bureaucratic-industrial complex." But the oomph behind the movement dates back to the 1970s, when evangelical Christians began to revolt against what they saw as a secular lurch to the left in public schooling. 76% of home-schooled youngsters aged 18-24 vote in elections, vs. 29% in that age-group generally.

The Economist's website is here.



posted by Michael at February 27, 2004


Isn't India where we are exporting a lot of jobs to? 20% of their children receive no formal education at all? No wonder people will work for Dell for $1.17 an hour.

Your comment about the channel tunnel is funny---let's face it, it's official. The French and British just really don't like each other!

Posted by: annette on February 28, 2004 5:30 PM

I grew up on a street lined with plane trees. Beautiful things.
A damn shame that in the name of safety the French government is denuding the country of one of its great attributes.
There are times, and this is one of them, when aesthetics trumps caring, or compassion, or whatever the hell they're calling it these days!

Posted by: ricpic on February 28, 2004 5:44 PM

Well I hear that French children also fall down and skin their knees and bonk their heads on the pavement at times, so maybe they should all be decked out with protective gear head to foot. Then they'd also be protected should they collide with the dreaded plane tree, or a hedge!

Ye gods, why doesn't the Nanny State just wrap everyone in cotton head to toe and be done with it?

Yet another reason to avoid France, and damn, all those years learning French!

Posted by: David Mercer on February 29, 2004 2:57 AM

I wonder if Michael's factoid about the Ugandan army made other readers think the same thing I did: Only four?

Posted by: Tim Hulsey on February 29, 2004 6:28 AM

It's funny how the bit about the plane trees hits you (hits one) in the midst of this, isn't it? Death, collapse -- well, y'know, life's tough. But cutting down scenic plane trees? Why, it's an outrage!

Posted by: Michael Blowhard on February 29, 2004 9:14 AM

The homeschooling factoid was interesting tho I am not sure where the figures are coming from. How do they know 76% of homeschooled kids vote? And the 2 million number is low from what I've read--I've heard more like 6-8 million. It may have started as a fundamentalist reaction, but the oomph behind the movement these days is better quality, especially in the lower grades. It's also more efficient from a teaching standpoint. You can cover the exact same material at a high school level in about 5 hours a day. And The Teaching Company is often mentioned on the homeschool forums I read.

Posted by: Deb on February 29, 2004 5:10 PM

> The ten-year-old Channel Tunnel between England and France has been a flop

I can coment on this, based on my experience of living in Germany and visiting friends and family in England. In five years I have been through the tunnel twice (once in each direction). After which I realised that for me, the problem with the tunnel is that it's in the wrong place. If you're one of the 80% of the population of the UK who don't live in London, the tunnel lands you in Kent where you have to drive through or round London to get to where you actually want to go. Driving through or round London is a nightmare. Better to take a ferry from Hoek, near Rotterdam, to Harwich on the east cost north of London, from where it's guaranteed to be quicker and easier to get to where you want to go.

Or, if you don't need to take a car, just get a cheap flight.

A large proportion of the traffic through the tunnel is people buying booze and cigarettes in Belgium, where taxes on those things are much, much lower than in Britain.

Posted by: Alan Little on March 1, 2004 11:09 AM

From what I've heard, it's more like 20 million slaves, not 2 million.

Posted by: Nancy Lebovitz on March 1, 2004 11:32 AM

The Economist says there are between 300,000 and 500,000 positions available for skilled workers in South Africa, which doesn't have the skilled workers to fill them.

The latter part of the statement is partly true. But there is another factor at work in the large number of skilled vacancies: equity laws which require companies to meet specific targets on race quotas, and not only in unskilled positions. There is an inspectorate and a mandatory audit reporting system. For this reason, many posts are simply left unfilled when companies cannot f ind suitably qualified black candidates, thus meeting or approaching required racial equity targets and avoiding heavy fines and image problems in the post-apartheid era.

Likewise this means there are large numbers of underemployed (unpromotable) or unemployed professionals who are not black.This in turn results in the growing brain drain to the UK, Australia, the US, Canada, Taiwan, the Gulf states ... where well-qualified pros are gratefully snapped up. Thus the enormous number of skilled vacancies will, in the medium term, continue to grow.

Posted by: Dave F on March 5, 2004 5:27 AM

Despite the occasional over-the-edge article, there's no place like the Economist to get a perspective on world news.

Of course, the Seattle P-I keeps about three full-time employees reading it so they can identify and eagerly quote the outrageous articles most biased toward their leftie point of view.

Posted by: Insufficiently Sensitive on March 6, 2004 1:05 PM

It is likely true that diversity correlates with reduction of trust and cooperation; if diversity means also diversity of values and of behavior. The question might better be : how could one believe that diversity of values is capable of being held as a value without contradiction. More generally, diversity-increasing qualities which take away from the value of something are also said to add to its value, at the same time and in the same aspect. That is a contradiction-in-terms, and it shows the diversity-value to be a false one. More thoughts on this subject are at the name below...

Posted by: johnsbolton on March 28, 2004 3:27 AM

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