Eyes on Guatemala

The Economist has published an article on malnutrition in Guatemala. Hunger is not new in the country, with half of the children population not eating enough Guatemala is the six-worst country in the world, but in some Maya communities children chronic malnutrition can reach 75% (the Economist says 80%). These figures are astonishing, especially because the problem is not food scarcity.

But this as well is hardly new. It was 1981 when Amartya Sen published his Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation demonstrating that hunger is mostly caused by inequality rather than scarcity. There is no lack of food in Guatemala if you have the money to buy it. In Guatemala City is taking place, as we speak, the 14th Festival Gastronómico Internacional so it seems difficult to talk about a famine or about an emergency (according to the Longman Dictionary an emergency is “an unexpected and dangerous situation that must be dealt with immediately”). The problem is the lack of a functioning state. Because a state cannot function with tax revenues estimated at just 10% of GDP.

Democracy is highly unrepresentative in Guatemala. Who should push for a better redistribution of resources has no voice. National newspapers point constantly the finger at the government (presidency, parliament, judiciary) in a impressive campaign of delegitimation. The Rosenberg tape was just part of it. I’m not defending the government, but saying that criticising it and attempting to systematically destroy its credibility are not quite the same thing. While the headlines cover crime, corruption and hunger the real battle within the country is on the tax reform. A battle that so far every government has badly lost.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Understanding Capitalism

Nobel-winning economist Amartya Sen argues, in an article published on The New York Review of Books, that the way out from the crisis passes through a better understanding of the ideas that contributed to build the actual economic system. Adam Smith, John Maynard Keynes, Arthur Cecil Pigou, should be read, not just quoted. And I quote

Smith viewed markets and capital as doing good work within their own sphere, but first, they required support from other institutions—including public services such as schools—and values other than pure profit seeking, and second, they needed restraint and correction by still other institutions—e.g., well-devised financial regulations and state assistance to the poor—for preventing instability, inequity, and injustice. If we were to look for a new approach to the organization of economic activity that included a pragmatic choice of a variety of public services and well-considered regulations, we would be following rather than departing from the agenda of reform that Smith outlined as he both defended and criticized capitalism.

We must understand how institutions work and make them work better. But not just aiming at economic growth.

There is a critical need for paying special attention to the underdogs of society in planning a response to the current crisis, and in going beyond measures to produce general economic expansion.

A crisis not only presents an immediate challenge that has to be faced. It also provides an opportunity to address long-term problems when people are willing to reconsider established conventions. This is why the present crisis also makes it important to face the neglected long-term issues like conservation of the environment and national health care, as well as the need for public transport (…).

Sunday, 22 March 2009


Twitter: frbailo



RSS r-bloggers.com

  • easyMTS: My First R Package (Story, and Results)
    This weekend I decided to create my first R package… it’s here! https://github.com/NicoleRadziwill/easyMTS Although I’ve been using R for 15 years, developing a package has been the one thing slightly out of reach for me. Now that I’ve been through the process once, with a package that’s not completely done (but at least has a […]
  • easyMTS R Package: Quick Solver for Mahalanobis-Taguchi System (MTS)
    A new R package in development. Please cite if you use it. The post easyMTS R Package: Quick Solver for Mahalanobis-Taguchi System (MTS) appeared first on Quality and Innovation.
  • Hyper-Parameter Optimization of General Regression Neural Networks
    A major advantage of General Regression Neural Networks (GRNN) over other types of neural networks is that there is only a single hyper-parameter, namely the sigma. In the previous post (https://statcompute.wordpress.com/2019/07/06/latin-hypercube-sampling-in-hyper-parameter-optimization), I’ve shown how to use the random search strategy to find a close-to-optimal value of the sigma by using various random number generators, including […]
  • Cluster multiple time series using K-means
    I have been recently confronted to the issue of finding similarities among time-series and though about using k-means to cluster them. To illustrate the method, I’ll be using data from the Penn World Tables, readily available in R (inside the {pwt9} package): library(tidyverse) library(lubridate) library(pwt9) library(brotools) First, of all, let’s only select the needed columns: […]
  • A Shiny Intro Survey to an Open Science Course
    Last week, we started a new course titled “Statistical Programming and Open Science Methods”. It is being offered under the research program of TRR 266 “Accounting for Transparency” and enables students to conduct data-based research so that...

RSS Simply Statistics

  • You can replicate almost any plot with R
    Although R is great for quickly turning data into plots, it is not widely used for making publication ready figures. But, with enough tinkering you can make almost any plot in R. For examples check out the flowingdata blog or the Fundamentals of Data Visualization book. Here I show five charts from the lay press […]
  • So You Want to Start a Podcast
    Podcasting has gotten quite a bit easier over the past 10 years, due in part to improvements to hardware and software. I wrote about both how I edit and record both of my podcasts about 2 years ago and, while not much has changed since then, I thought it might be helpful if I organized […]
  • The data deluge means no reasonable expectation of privacy - now what?
    Today a couple of different things reminded me about something that I suppose many people are talking about but has been on my mind as well. The idea is that many of our societies social norms are based on the reasonable expectation of privacy. But the reasonable expectation of privacy is increasingly a thing of […]

RSS Statistical Modeling, Causal Inference, and Social Science

  • When presenting a new method, talk about its failure modes.
    A coauthor writes: I really like the paper [we are writing] as it is. My only criticism of it perhaps would be that we present this great new method and discuss all of its merits, but we do not really discuss when it fails / what its downsides are. Are there any cases where the […]
  • The best is the enemy of the good. It is also the enemy of the not so good.
    This post is by Phil Price, not Andrew. The Ocean Cleanup Project’s device to clean up plastic from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is back in the news because it is back at work and is successfully collecting plastic. A bunch of my friends are pretty happy about it and have said so on social […]
  • On the term “self-appointed” . . .
    I was reflecting on what bugs me so much about people using the term “self-appointed” (for example, when disparaging “self-appointed data police” or “self-appointed chess historians“). The obvious question when someone talks about “self-appointed” whatever is, Who self-appointed you to decide who is illegitimately self-appointed? But my larger concern is with the idea that being […]