Monday, October 16, 2006

and now for some good news

I spend a lot of time blogging about problems and potential problems, mostly because they're the things that stand out, but sometimes it's important to remember that good things happen in the world.

Consider, for instance, the One Laptop Per Child project. It's custom-designed laptop hardware and software, made especially for children in rural areas of developing nations. Target price is that it'll sell for $100 or so, to governments that will issue them to school children. People around the world are getting involved in creating it. The laptop has a sunlight-readable screen and some extremely innovative wireless networking capabilities that will bring communications to places that barely have electricity or nighttime illumination.

There's also an article in Scientific American, Scientific American: The Social Welfare State, beyond Ideology, summarizing empirical research that indicates you can have both a successful economy and strong anti-poverty social programs:
On average, the Nordic countries outperform the Anglo-Saxon ones on most measures of economic performance. Poverty rates are much lower there, and national income per working-age population is on average higher. Unemployment rates are roughly the same in both groups, just slightly higher in the Nordic countries. The budget situation is stronger in the Nordic group, with larger surpluses as a share of GDP.
How do these countries do it?
The Nordic countries maintain their dynamism despite high taxation in several ways. Most important, they spend lavishly on research and development and higher education. All of them, but especially Sweden and Finland, have taken to the sweeping revolution in information and communications technology and leveraged it to gain global competitiveness. Sweden now spends nearly 4 percent of GDP on R&D, the highest ratio in the world today. On average, the Nordic nations spend 3 percent of GDP on R&D, compared with around 2 percent in the English-speaking nations.

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