Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Geography is Destiny: Religion

This fascinating images came my way via Paul Kedrosky:


I read Jared Diamond's "Guns, Germs, and Steel" a few years back, and am also familiar with Edward O. Wilson's population biology. The two have led me to believe that climate and geographic circumstance have a huge impact on social outcomes. And so when I look at that chart, I see that in the tropics, religion is common; and in the temperate zones and in the northern regions, it is far less common.

This does not have to be a direct causal relationship. There is a lot more poverty, disease, and tragically shortened lifespan in the tropics. There is more civil war in the tropics. But it can certainly be an indirect causal relationship, as people wracked by suffering brought about in part by the effects of their climate turn to the solace of the hereafter.

What a fascinating image.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Euro Update: Bond spreads widen

I just got back from a business trip to Europe, and I heard a lot of confirming evidence that the Euro is headed for serious trouble. I think that this also means that Switzerland is headed for serious trouble, because like Iceland, its finance sector is too large compared to its GDP; and without the Euro to flee to, a collapse might occur.

Here's the Bloomberg article via Clusterstock on BlackRock betting that the Euro will stay together.
Prices now reflect odds of between 10 percent and 20 percent that the euro-region will disintegrate following a series of credit downgrades from Standard & Poor’s this month, according to BlackRock. The difference in yields, or spreads, between the three nation’s 10-year bonds and those of benchmark German securities was close to the widest today since the euro’s debut in 1999.

“You have got to ask yourself at what point this becomes ridiculous,” Scott Thiel, head of European fixed income in London at BlackRock, which manages $1.3 trillion, said in an interview Jan. 23.
Actually I have to ask myself when it becomes inevitable, Scott.

That would be the BlackRock whose stock has fallen from 249 to today's 109, BTW.