Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

Thursday, January 12, 2006


Posted by Simon Halliday | Thursday, January 12, 2006 | Category: |

So... a couple of things have been going down as some of you may know and others may not.

Firstly, and most importantly, the name of my blog has changed. Ha, here you all thought that it would be something profound and drastic. No such thing. Amanuensis – Latin basis of a manus ensis (if I remember correctly), one who copies or writes from dictation. This is meant to be in some ways a parody of 'thought'. The reason being that thought is so often the amalgamation of much that one has discussed, read or experienced. In which case writing may be simply following the dictates of things that have already occurred, rather than actually being an original experience in and of itself. Hence, memory dictates to writing. Thus, I thought a name change could be interesting and funny. Ha ha...

Ok, secondly, now back to reality. For those of you who are unaware of it, but check this blog, I am dating Laura Armstrong. I have been for just under two months (this coming Monday it's two months actually). However, it has recently been decided that she is to return to New Zealand some time in June/July. Sad as that is, she loves that country, specifically she loves the city of Wellington and I know she will be happy there. Anyway, who knows where the wind will blow her and I up until that point, but there are so many possibilities (as is inevitably the case – truism).

For those of you who don't know, I am also currently working on my master's dissertation. Briefly, the research is focused on the role of genetic relatedness as a determinant of altruistic behaviour in the household. Yes, I understand that many of you may think that that has nothing to do with 'Economics'. However, I dissent (quite obviously else I would not be researching it). The main reason for my dissent is because of the necessity for a greater economic understanding of financial altruism in the household – as soon as we introduce money it becomes an economic problem. Moreover, altruistic behaviour has an inherent relationship with the role of incentives to act in the household. The intuitive hypothesis is that the likelihood of behaving altruistically should be positively and directly related to genetic relatedness, i.e. the closer that I am to the head of a household, the more likely I am to help that household in an emergency. However, my preliminary research shows that this isn't actually the case. For men genetic relatedness seems to have a negative effect, for women it doesn't actually do anything. All is not lost though for gene-altruism. There could be other things in the mix, which I am not going to bore you with, but which I am hopefully going to be exploring in my dissertation. Yay!

On the work front, it looks as though I may just be doing some research into the AIDS program run by the Anglican Church in South Africa. This depends on whether the tender that my supervisor has put forward is accepted by said Church. So I am holding thumbs – it pays better than tutoring, and it is one of the other major fields in which I am interested, i.e. policy effectiveness of AIDS programs. Uhuh, that's cool, you know it. Gnarly...

What else have I been thinking about... Hmm... Thabo Mbeki and succession in South Africa. Which party is it 'better' or more ethical for me to vote for in the regional elections, the ANC or ID? For those of you who were hoping, it's not about to be either the DA or the PAC, DA stands for Dodgy Assholes (not really I just don't trust Tony Leon) and the PAC is just waaay to Africanist (notwithstanding the lucidity of the writing of their secretary general). Next thing, NEPAD and the Peer Review Mechanism (PRM) can they work? I remain doubtful for several reasons, which you can ask me about whenever. Something else I have been wondering about is what I would call the hypothesis of mechanism neutrality – basically some people have argued that if there is a mechanism which people can learn and use in order to make money (i.e. capitalism) then the eventual ends of that mechanism (such as gross inequality) are justifiable and morally acceptable (don't get all nihilistic on me please). The problem for me with this is rather like the lack of neutrality of the IQ test – it is culturally biased, moreover education and ability to learn something play a role. Thus, extrapolating the argument just a bit, it is morally justifiable for someone with greater strength/intellect to do what they want as long as they are using a supposedly neutral mechanism. Dodgy! It makes big people beating up little people morally justifiable (I know that's hyperbolic, but hey, give me a break, hee hee...).

Ok, that's about it for now. If you have the time, have a look at some of my poetry below, if you'd don't then ROCK ON! Have a jol and don't get too caught up in reality.


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