August 1st, 2004

Illuminati

Kinda good news from the WTO

In that they've (broadly) accepted that (at an unset future date) they will eliminate (export) subsidies.

Oh, and lower other subsidies and limit tarrifs.

I can only hope that the Brazillian foreign minister was right when he said "This is the beginning of the end for [farm] subsidies."

More details here.
Illuminati

Meta Poll

How much is it possible to rate anything at all on a sliding scale?

Mean: 7.16 Median: 8 Std. Dev 2.41
1
0(0.0%)
2
1(5.3%)
3
1(5.3%)
4
0(0.0%)
5
4(21.1%)
6
1(5.3%)
7
2(10.5%)
8
4(21.1%)
9
1(5.3%)
10
5(26.3%)

But does this cause problems?

Yes
14(73.7%)
No
5(26.3%)

I mean, how many possibilities do you want?

1
2(10.5%)
2
1(5.3%)
4
1(5.3%)
8
6(31.6%)
16
3(15.8%)

And can you think of any other variations? (yes/no only)

My final verdict is

Ticky Box
18(100.0%)
Illuminati

Why China is going to kick your butt

If you have a cigarette lighter in your pocket or your handbag the chances are it comes from Wenzhou, and there's a fair chance it comes from Mr Feng's factory.

Mr Feng's formula for success is simple.

Learn how to make something, then make it cheaper than anyone else.

The first part was easy, he bought samples of the best lighters from Japan, took them apart and copied them.

But it's cheap that Mr Feng really excels at.

He took a sleek red lighter from his pocket and gave it to me.

"In Japan this costs about $25," he told me. "I can make it for $1!"

The world's first magnetic levitation train for commercial use in Shanghai
Mr Feng's secret is his work force. In a large hanger I found 600 of them sitting behind rows of desks assembling lighters.

Most were young women.

"They're better at the fiddly work" Mr Feng told me.

But men or women, they all have one thing in common, they are all migrants from China's countryside.

And they'll all work for virtually nothing. Mr Feng pays his workers about $90 a month.

China today is like 18th century Manchester, only much, much bigger.

There are now thousands of Mr Fengs all over southern China, setting up factories and churning out goods.

And there are 900 million poor farmers in China's countryside, all just waiting to up sticks and move to a factory.

The implications for the rest of the world are troubling.

"Just think of it this way," one Chinese economist told me recently.

"If all the industrial jobs in Europe and America moved to China tomorrow, we'd still have plenty of people left over!"


More here.

Personally, I think it's a good thing - it takes millions of chinese people out of poverty. Well, via a generation or two of crippling work. But the solution is to deal with the business practices, not to complain about them taking your jobs.
Illuminati

Stross-torow

When I was at PloktaCon a journalist from Popular Science was interviewing Charlie Stross and Cory Doctorow. This is the result. Rather fascinating it is too (and I recommend Accelerando when it appears).