Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Entries Tagged as 'economics'

Lord of the Elvers

April 8th, 2013 · No Comments

If you want to know why elver-related crime is on the rise in Maine (and elsewhere), look no further than the chart above, which shows just how valuable those wriggly little creatures have become in the past few years. As this dissection of the political tussle over fishing licenses reveals, the Asian appetite for baby […]

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Parallel Lives

December 14th, 2012 · No Comments

Ireland’s Travellers invite a fair amount of voyeurism on account of their reputation for physical toughness and petty crime. The conventional wisdom is that this social group has decided to remain distinct from mainstream Irish society, in order to preserve their unique cultural traditions. But German photographer Birte Kaufman, who has documented life in a […]

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The Persistence of Myth

October 2nd, 2012 · No Comments

It has become an article of faith that the illicit drug business is every bit as sophisticated as its Fortune 500 counterparts. But a closer look at the industry’s transportation practices reveals some definite scientific shortcomings. As this Dutch study of drug-courier techniques demonstrates, trafficking networks continue to employ concealment practices that have long been […]

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No Half Measures

September 19th, 2012 · 1 Comment

The Ivorian government thinks it’s trying to do its cocoa farmers a solid by guaranteeing export prices, rather than leaving folks at the mercy of a capricious market. But the farmers don’t seem to appreciate the gesture, for the way the prices are apparently being calculated by bureaucrats who don’t understand the country’s on-the-ground realities: […]

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Simple Things

August 22nd, 2012 · No Comments

As I have previously explored, Bangladesh has some of the world’s most lethal roads. The nation’s motor vehicle-related fatality rate is about fifty times greater than in any Western country. As this piece makes clear, that sad fact is creating a massive drag on the Bangladeshi economy: According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), road […]

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The Perils of Going Legit

July 25th, 2012 · No Comments

I’m one of those blokes who will argue ’til the end of time that The Godfather: Part II far surpasses the original. That’s largely because of the whole Vito Corelone backstory, which includes the single greatest flawed gangster of all time. But I also dig the quiet tension created by Michael Corleone’s vacillation over his […]

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Hopping to Oblivion

July 17th, 2012 · 12 Comments

The Jenga-like nature of markets is revealed in the tale of Australia’s kangaroo-meat crisis. There was a time when steaks and chops taken from Down Under’s most celebrated marsupials seemed destined to become a staple of butcher’s shops the world over. No country developed a more ravenous appetite for kangaroo meat than Russia, which came […]

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Good Luck, Mr. Atayev

July 10th, 2012 · 1 Comment

Turkmenistan’s National Space Agency has a new chairman, who will be expected to oversee the monumental task of launching the country’s first satellite. I’m still not entirely clear on why Turkmen dictator Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov is making this such a huge priority, for the official explanation is gobbledygook: the satellite, the nation’s state news agency tells […]

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The Streets Ain’t Paved with Gold

July 3rd, 2012 · 1 Comment

There is a common and compelling narrative regarding the power of immigrant remittances: A busboy or chambermaid supports their entire native village by wiring money back home. We love these stories because they affirm the economic superiority of our circumstances, as well as the continued robustness of the American dream—through gumption and hard work, anyone […]

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The Value of a Vote

June 22nd, 2012 · 1 Comment

This weekend’s national election in Papua New Guinea is a real grudge match between bitter enemies: Sir Michael Somare, the dominant figure in the nation’s politics since independence, and Peter O’Neill, the man who replaced him as prime minister under dubious circumstances. The nastiness of this rivalry is reflected in the cost of electoral corruption, […]

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Optimal Ransom

June 20th, 2012 · 6 Comments

When Nigerian soccer star Christian Obodo was briefly kidnapped earlier this month, I was struck not only by the boldness of the crime, but also by the crooks’ obvious sensitivity to economic realities. For as this early account of the caper makes clear, the kidnappers and Obodo’s family started the negotiations on more-or-less the same […]

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The Economics of Bird Theft

May 18th, 2012 · No Comments

I must confess to an undue fascination with bird theft, a crime too-seldom explored in the annals of popular literature. Though there is no shortage of stories about purloined finches, reporters never seem to explain how much the crooks stand to earn—or, more important, the mechanics of fencing illegally obtained birds. I was thus pleased […]

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A Questionable Deterrent

April 12th, 2012 · 3 Comments

In countries where the rule of law is less-than-robust, traffic cops can often best be classified as entrepreneurs rather than law-enforcement officials. Their main concern is not keeping the streets safe, but rather extracting bribes from unfortunate drivers—a pursuit that has made some Zambian policeman rather wealthy by that nation’s standards: Home Affairs Minister Kennedy […]

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The Forces Arrayed Against Nachos

February 24th, 2012 · 3 Comments

I’m a sucker for creative metrics, such as measuring a creature’s ferocity by how quickly it can skeletonize a cow. One of my favorites is the way in which a nation’s development is assessed by how rapidly it’s being colonized by Western franchises. Take Indonesia, which is revealed here to be “opening a new convenience […]

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A Perverse Incentive

February 22nd, 2012 · 3 Comments

I’m a few pages from the end of Kevin Myers’ Watching the Door, the peak of which is an extended discussion of how The Troubles became economically advantageous for both sides. I particularly enjoyed this dissection of how Belfast’s various paramilitary organization profited off the mayhem they created: Glaziers—who, because they were associated with the […]

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The Exchange

February 17th, 2012 · No Comments

Tough to believe I just recently stumbled upon this treasure trove of Roma-related information, which includes a bevy of rare photos and dozens of audio-enhanced oral histories. I came across the project while trying to get a better sense of what it’s like to endure aerial bombardment—more on that soon—but I ended up most absorbed […]

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Long in the Tooth

February 14th, 2012 · 5 Comments

Based on my formative experiences with BJ and the Bear reruns, I’ve long imagined the archetypal American trucker as a picture of health. But the men and women who brings goods to market are actually a pretty grizzled lot these days (PDF): The average age of a truck driver in the United States is over […]

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Mutineers Move Markets

January 31st, 2012 · No Comments

The recent unpleasantness is Papua New Guinea provides a salient reminder that the global financial system, despite employing some very sharp minds, often acts on impulse. In response to the recent mutiny outside Port Moresby, Standard & Poor’s has slashed PNG’s credit rating. An S&P analyst explained the firms rational thusly: We have these ratings […]

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The Value of a Dolphin

January 25th, 2012 · No Comments

The loyalest of y’all may have noticed that I have a longstanding fascination with the legal system’s efforts to value the supposedly invaluable. Which is why I was struck by this recent tidbit out of the Solomon Islands: THE High Court has ordered the Solomon Islands Government and the Ministry of Fisheries to pay Marine […]

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The Purple Tin

January 20th, 2012 · 6 Comments

Though Europeans are generally drinking a great deal less these days, the Scottish are bucking the trend. Per the chart above, alcohol consumption has been steadily rising in the land north of the border established by the Treaty of York. The question that no one seems able to answer with any degree of certainty is […]

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Decimal Points

January 5th, 2012 · 2 Comments

I should have mentioned long ago that noted Microkhan ally Nathan Thornburgh has launched a new project near-and-dear to my heart: Roads & Kingdoms, a site that operates under the hard-to-resist motto “Journalism, travel, food, murder, music.” The first several weeks’ worth of posts have focused exclusively on Burma, where Nathan and his co-creator traveled […]

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Groggy

November 29th, 2011 · 2 Comments

It’s no secret that myriad small Pacific nations are having problems with First World diseases, especially those related to obesity. Fiji’s dictatorial government believes that its citizens’ expanding waistlines are due not only to food consumption, but also to overindulgence in yaqona, a mild intoxicant you may know better as kava: Fiji’s all-time favourite pastime, […]

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By Accident of Birth

October 21st, 2011 · No Comments

I am sure that hunting alligators on the Bayou is an especially tricky way to make one’s living. But according to this profile of a lady far tougher than I’ll ever be, the vocation is at least somewhat easier if you have the good fortune to belong to a favored family: Victoria Bouvier, a 41-year-old […]

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Plateau Bargaining

October 20th, 2011 · No Comments

The world economy isn’t only roiled by the machinations of Wall Streeters who are too clever by half; old-fashioned strikes can still upset the delicate equilibrium between prosperity and chaos. An excellent case in point is the ongoing fracas at the Freeport’s Grasberg mine in the restive Indonesian province of Papua. The operation is the […]

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Everything Counts in Large Amounts

October 14th, 2011 · 2 Comments

Buried in this alarming account of crooked Brooklyn cops is a brief aside about how New York City is settling up with the scandal’s victims. Dozens, if not hundreds of men were falsely imprisoned after having drugs planted on them by police striving to hit their monthly arrest quotas. How much money do those men […]

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Only the Little People Pay Taxes

September 29th, 2011 · 2 Comments

For all but dedicated observers of southern African politics, King Mswati III of Swaziland is known primarily for his polygamous lifestyle and its attendant chaos. But the absolute monarch deserves scorn not for his libertinism, but rather the absolutely atrocious way he has handled Swaziland’s public finances. Mswati’s financial recklessness is the reason his nation […]

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A Fat Lot of Good

August 29th, 2011 · 4 Comments

A recent deep-dive into the history of the dye pack got me wondering about long-term trends in bank robbery. So much brainpower has gone into devising gadgets and strategies that allegedly help financial institutions minimize the risk of getting hit. Are those security investments working? That’s a tougher question to answer than I had anticipated, […]

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Keeping It Far Too Real: The Blackjack Ward Story

July 7th, 2011 · 2 Comments

While snooping about some old Google-able papers the other day, I stumbled across this true-crime tidbit about a 1940 murder case involving a pair of Hollywood extras. The killing took place in Gower Gulch, a street corner where former cowboys would gather in hopes of being picked to appear in B-grade Westerns—much like day laborers […]

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Wishful Milking

June 6th, 2011 · No Comments

If you’re the sort who follows the more bizarre tidbits to emerge from the world of agribusiness, you’ve probably noticed that there’s been quite a stir about camel milk as of late. The United Arab Emirates, for one, has vowed to take advantage of relaxed European Union regulations regarding the import of the offbeat dairy […]

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Requiem for the Slug Kings

April 28th, 2011 · 1 Comment

A surprising number of tears were shed when the world’s last manual-typewriter factory announced its shuttering a few days back. Once again, generations of technological know-how are set to evaporate as a once state-of-the-art invention tumbles into museum mode. The manual typewriter industry’s long-anticipated demise got me thinking about engineering wizards whose skills have been […]

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