Why economic thinking needs evidence too, not just logic

Not surprisingly, humans have a strong tendency to move away from punishment and towards rewards. When something is disincentivized, we tend to get less of it; when something is incentivized, we tend to get more of it. So, for example, an increased tax on cigarettes will tend to reduce consumption of cigarettes. The same goes for labor. The higher that minimum wage is increased, the less labor you can expect that an employer will be willing to pay for. Once per year, the American restaurant chain Applebee’s offers free meals to military veterans on Veterans Day. Not surprisingly, each year the restaurant has long lines of veterans waiting for a seat.

The Mises-Rothbard, praxeological (‘logic of human action’) approach is an important one for thinking about economics. We don’t have to assume that individual actors are perfectly rational in that they always make choices for best long-term outcomes, that they recall all available options when making a decision, or that they are even capable of engaging in complicated quantitative analysis. We also most certainly don’t (and shouldn’t) assume that human actors only seek to maximize economic outcomes.

What we do assume is that most humans prefer pleasure to pain, comfort to discomfort. They tend to move away from worse situations to better situations (as judged by themselves). Quoting Mises’ book Human Action:

Acting man is eager to substitute a more satisfactory state of affairs for a less satisfactory. His mind imagines conditions which suit him better, and his action aims at bringing about this desired state. The incentive that impels a man to act is always some uneasiness.

When an actor acts (in making a trade or anything else), they believe at the time of the action that they will be better off – ex-ante – somehow by doing it – otherwise the action would not occur. The “as judged by themselves” is important here because, to use just one example, some people find utility in spicy foods, while others find disutility in it. To sum it up: value is subjective, and human preferences are diverse.

A real world example

In the video interview below, Ann Coulter and John Stossel debate whether the illegality of drugs leads to a decrease or an increase in consumption. Coulter cites the importance of incentives and disincentives on behavior in economics. Sadly, Stossel ignores cultural differences as a variable between the United States and the Netherlands (where marijuana is legally tolerated) that may affect consumption levels; Coulter embraces the cultural variable. But culture aside, here is the debate regarding incentives and disincentives:

Stossel: “[In the Netherlands] despite legalization, it’s [marijuana is] less popular.”

Coulter: “You can’t be saying that if you legalize something, fewer people will do it.”

Stossel: “That’s what happened in Holland. They took the sexiness out of [it]…”

Coulter interrupts at this point, but Stossel’s point is clear: that consumption went down as a result of the legality of drugs since in the Netherlands, suggesting that illegality offers a social appeal of just being “underground.” Coulter then makes an argument consistent with a praxeological approach: “[When] you make something illegal, you get less of it. You subsidize it, you get more of it.”

Note: More accurately, marijuana use is legally tolerated in the Netherlands, but we will refer to it as “legal” for simplicity.

If value is subjective (and it is), then it is at least plausible that the “illegality” of something will, in fact increase its utility for some that are attracted to an underground lifestyle, so its consumption could actually increase despite (or because of), the illegality, even though making it illegal is intended by lawmakers to be a disincentive. Legalize it, and it loses some of the “cool” appeal. This is Stossel’s argument, and it reminds one of something that a former Dutch minister of health once said: “We have succeeded in making pot boring [by legalizing it].”

Clearly serving jail time and holding a criminal record is a disincentive for using marijuana, while socially benefiting from participation in an “underground” culture is perhaps, for some people, an incentive to use it. In the latter case, the very illegality of consumption, sale, purchase and production are what give marijuana the “underground” appeal – to the extent that it has one.

So is Coulter correct that – on the whole – consumption is lower than it would be if marijuana was legal (in all states) due to the disutility of risking jail time? Or is Stossel correct that consumption is higher than it would be otherwise due to the “sexy” appeal of illegality? Libertarians and left-leaning “progressives” alike – generally agreeing that America’s Drug War is a net bad – often repeat Stossel’s argument without offering any data. Maybe Stossel is right. Maybe Coulter is right. Maybe it depends on the culture of a particular geographical area. Praxeology, the logic of human action, can help us think about it rationally, but it wouldn’t be wise to reach a firm conclusion a priori – especially since we have states within the USA with similar cultures and demographics where marijuana is now legal for recreational use bordering other states where it is illegal. The data are there to be collected. Empirical evidence is our friend.

Concluding notes:

  1. To readers that are non-Austrians (the Austrian school of economics) who don’t know why I would write such an article: Search the web for “Austrian economics and praxeology.”

  2. I am not making the contradictory claim that a priori truths do not exist. I am making the claim that in cases such as this one, we don’t have to play a guessing game. “Pure logic” can only get us so far.

  3. It seems a bit silly that I’d have to write an article on this topic at all, but sadly, far too many Austrians, usually following Rothbard or Hoppe, are closed off to evidence entirely. As the saying goes, “Without data, you’re just another person with an opinion.” I think that in this context this statement may be overstated because a great deal can be deduced by logic (more so, I think, than mainstream economists give it credit for). But it isn’t always sufficient.

Economics of David D. Friedman’s “The Machinery of Freedom”: Some similarities and dissimilarities to the Austrian school

The Machinery of Freedom, 3rd editionI just recently finished reading the 3rd edition of David D. Friedman’s book The Machinery of Freedom: Guide to a Radical Capitalism, which was published in 2014. The 1st and 2nd editions were published in 1973 and 1989 respectively.

The book attempts to explain how an anarcho-capitalist society might work in the future and draws from historical examples to demonstrate how various societies have already provided even the most widely-accepted minimal functions of government (police, courts, military) either within the borders of nation states but without their help or entirely without their existence. Societies and legal systems I noted from the book include: Saga period (medieval) Iceland (ch. 44), Rominchal gypsies (ch. 49), Somalialand (ch. 49), traditional Jewish and Islamic law, some others based on feud law (ch. 49), and the Comanche Native American tribe (ch. 52). In the case of medieval Iceland, it lasted almost 400 years as semi-stateless (from the years 870-1263CE): privately enforced legal rules and without an executive branch of government. As if that’s not fascinating enough, an equally interesting topic covered was the economic analysis of law, which Friedman covers in further detail in another book: Law’s Order: What Economics Has to Do with Law and Why It Matters, which I also look forward to reading.

What I wish to provide in a little detail here is how Friedman’s Chicago school approach to economics (drawing only from this particular book) differs from approaches of the Austrian school of economics. I say “approaches” (plural) because there is no unanimous agreement on every point within the Austrian school of thought nor or any other – at least there shouldn’t be or people have stopped thinking for themselves.[1]

In college I took the required mainstream economics courses like any other student and did a few independent studies in economics in addition to that. But it wasn’t until after college that I began to study the Austrian school on my own. So while I read through The Machinery of Freedom, for my own reference, I recorded things I noted about how his approach to economics differed from what I’ve learned from the Austrian school. Since economist friends of mine have already asked me about Professor Friedman’s economics, I decided to publish it here in case it may be helpful to others. Back in 2010 I also read about half of his book Hidden Order: The Economics of Everyday Life, but I had not, at that time, read much Austrian economics, so I would be unqualified to use material from that book in this analysis without reading it again.

The occurrences in which Friedman’s approach shares similarities with the Austrian school is by no means intended to say that he is in full agreement with any particular Austrian economist. In fact, as I understand it, he is quite proud to be Chicago. 🙂
Similarly, regarding the occurrences in which Friedman’s approach seems to diverge from the Austrian school, I don’t point them out in order to critique them myself.

All page numbers below correspond to the 3rd edition (print) of the book. I should mention that since it was published using Amazon’s Print-on-Demand, as far as I know, the author can make changes to the book at any time without this 3rd edition becoming a 4th. Therefore the page numbers I have provided below may also change.

 

Occurrences in which David Friedman seems to share similarities with the Austrian approach to economics in The Machinery of Freedom:

  1. Pg. 44: Critique of Marx – I have not read Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk’s books myself as of yet, but from what I understand, Friedman’s critique of Marx is the same as (or very close to) the critique that Böhm-Bawerk gave. Quoting Friedman in The Machinery of Friedman: “…paying for tools today and waiting for years to get the money back is itself a productive activity and that the interest earned by capital is the corresponding payment.”
  2. Pg. 45: Time preference – Although this concept is understood well in neoclassical economics, as far as I understand, it originates with Böhm-Bawerk.[2] This concept is key in the Austrian school and is used to explain interest rates. Here I quote Friedman: “Thus ten dollars today is worth more than ten dollars tomorrow. This is why interest rates exist, why, if I borrow ten dollars from you today, I must give back a little more than ten dollars tomorrow.”
  3. Pg. 49: Subjective theory of value – This concept goes back to Carl Menger’s critiques of David Ricardo and the classical economists’ “invariable measure of value.” It has, however, made its way into neoclassical economics.[3]
  4. Pg. 102: Socialist economic calculation debate – Friedman refers to Mises’ contributions to the socialist economic calculation debate and Mises’ book Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis.
  5. Pg. 143: Rothbard quote – Friedman quotes Rothbard on limited government. He obviously does not endorse Rothbard’s economics, but Austrians might be interested to know it.[4]
  6. Pgs. 215-6: Denationalization of money – Every Austrian I am aware of supports the denationalization of money (although many strongly disagree with some of Hayek’s suggestions on the subject). Given that we live in a world of central banking and fiat money, some Austrians argue that since money is controlled by nation states it should at least be backed by gold, silver or some other “sound money” as to limit government spending, etc.

 

Occurrences in which David Friedman seems to disagree with the Austrian (or at least Misesian) approach to economics in The Machinery of Freedom:

  1. Pgs. 166-7: A priori theory of property rights – Hans-Hermann Hoppe has produced such a theory.
  2. Pgs. 212 & 277: Gross national product (GNP) – Friedman uses gross national product (GNP). Austrians don’t tend to like these macroeconomic statistics.[5] However, I’ve noticed in the past that if you go to the Mises Wiki and lookup particular countries (Albania for example), you will find GDP statistics referencing the World Bank as a source. 🙂
  3. Pgs. 256 & 263: Perfect competition – Friedman uses the concept “perfect competition.” Israel Kirzner in particular argues that the concept of perfect competition is contrary to the real meaning of competition. See one of Kirzner’s lectures on this here.
  4. Pgs. 259-60: Rationality and prediction – The rationality subject would require me to go a little more in depth than I am willing to here, but for those interested in a more in-depth analysis, see my paper with Carmelo Ferlito On Human Rationality and Government Control. Regarding prediction, Friedman states “The central assumption of economics is rationality, that individual behavior can best be predicted by assuming that each individual takes those actions that best achieve his objectives.”[6] Austrians make predictions of their own all the time (predicting an economic bubble will burst, for example), but the emphasis, when predictions do occur, is on “qualitative, theoretical pattern predictions about the discoordinating consequences of interventionism.”[7]
  5. Pgs. 281-2: Mixing labor with land as a justification for property rights – Friedman disagrees with Locke’s mixing labor with land as a sufficient justification for property rights. He revises Locke’s justification and argues that by mixing labor with land one acquires ownership of what one’s labor produced because one owns their own labor, but this does not provide justification for ownership of the land itself. Friedman admits that his revised version of Lockean appropriation “has its problems.”[8] Stephan Kinsella’s book Against Intellectual Property is also critical of Locke’s “mixing land with labor.” But Kinsella seems to disagree with Friedman on the point of owning one’s labor: “[T]here is no need to maintain the strange view that one ‘owns’ labor in order to own things one first occupies. Labor is a type of action, and action is not ownable; rather, it is the way that some tangible things (e.g., bodies) act in the world.”[9] Kinsella quotes from an article by Tom G. Palmer: “occupancy, not labor, is the act by which external things become property.”[10]
  6. Bonus: Rothbard and banking (not in the book) – In order to be fair to Professor Friedman’s work, I sent him an email with a rough draft of this blog post before publishing so that he could correct any misunderstandings I might have had about his ideas. He replied with one particular disagreement he has with Rothbard that did not make it to The Machinery of Freedom. I quote his email response to me here: “One disagreement with Rothbard… is over how a private monetary system would work. I would expect it to be fractional reserve, which Rothbard argued, I think implausibly, was necessarily fraudulent and so should be illegal. But Rothbard’s position is not, I believe, shared by all Austrians, perhaps not by most.”
    For those interested in more detail (from an anti-fractional reserve perspective), see chapter 11 (“A critical note on fractional-reserve free banking”) of Jesús Huerta de Soto’s book The Theory of Dynamic Efficiency. Huerta do Soto points out in a footnote that, “the recent interest in free banking and the development of the Fractional-Reserve Free Banking School stems from the book published by Friedrich A. Hayek in 1976 entitled… Denationalization of Money: The Argument Refined” (pg. 311).

 

Points that did not fit neatly into the categories above:

  1. Pgs. 265-7 & 320: Intellectual property rights (IPR) – It seems to be the overwhelming consensus among Austrians to not view IP as legitimate property (due to its artificial scarcity) and therefore not support monopoly privilege by the state. I tend to agree. In the book Against Intellectual Property, author Stephan Kinsella writes that “David Friedman analyzes and appears to endorse IP on ‘law-and-economics’ grounds, a utilitarian institutional framework.” Friedman doesn’t come out in favor of or against IPR in The Machinery of Freedom. He does analyze some costs and benefits of IPR in chapter 54 and concludes that chapter by stating that the desirability of IP laws is outside the scope of the chapter. However, he refers readers to two books: Against Intellectual Monopoly by Michele Boldrin and David Levine and his own book Future Imperfect, which includes a discussion on how IP protection can be provided “in other ways, for instance by contract.” Also, in the final chapter of The Machinery of Freedom (ch. 66), Friedman gives an encryption-based market solution for identifying original authors of work.
  2. Pg. 13: Use of the term “consumer sovereignty” – This one actually has little to do with Austrian economics except for the fact that Mises used the term consumer sovereignty in Human Action,[11] so I know Austrians that have read Human Action might be interested to know that Friedman also used it in The Machinery of Freedom. Rothbard strongly disagreed with what the term implied.[12] William Harold Hutt (not an Austrian) coined it in the 1930s.

Footnotes:

[1] In his introduction to the 2nd edition, scholar’s edition of Murray Rothbard’s Man, Economy, and State, Joseph T. Salerno quotes Rothbard from the preface of the revised edition (pg. xlviii), published in 1993:

“It has indeed become evident in recent years that there are three clashing paradigms within Austrian economics: the original Misesian or praxeological paradigm, to which the present author adheres; the Hayekian paradigm, stressing ‘knowledge’ and ‘discovery’ rather than praxeological ‘action’ and ‘choice,’ and whose leading exponent now is Professor Israel Kirzner; and the nihilistic view of the late Ludwig Lachmann, an institutionalist anti-theory approach taken from the English ‘subjectivist’ Keynesian G.L.S Shackle.”

[2] See The Austrian School of Economics: A History of Its Ideas, Ambassadors, & Institutions by Eugen Maria Schulak & Herbert Unterköfler (pg. 34):

“Böhm-Bawerk… had already thoroughly considered the relationship between the present and the future by posing the question: why is a debtor prepared to pay the creditor interest for a loan on top of paying back the amount of the loan itself? He answered this by explaining that future goods have a lower value than present goods, and the result is a difference in value between the present and the future: between loan and repayment.”

[3] According to the 2nd edition of Mark Skousen’s book The Making of Modern Economics: The Lives and Ideas of the Great Thinkers (pgs.185-6), Menger refused to reprint or translate his original ideas on the law of imputation, marginal analysis and subjective theory of value. Eugen Böhm-Bawerk and Friedrich Wieser were responsible for disseminating them.

[4] Note: In Appendix II of The Machinery of Freedom Friedman lists the Ludwig von Mises Institute in the section “Organizations and Institutes.” He mentions that “They [the Mises Institute] tend to follow the views of Rothbard and, perhaps as a result, to be critical of mine” (pg. 352).

[5] See Man, Economy, and State pg. 491: “Many writers have fallen into the trap of assuming that they can, in a similar way, add up the entire capital value of the nation or world and arrive at a meaningful figure. Estimates of National Capital or World Capital, however, are completely meaningless. The world, or country, cannot sell all its capital on the market. Therefore, such statistical exercises are pointless. They are without possible reference to the very goal of capitalization: correct estimation of potential market price.”

Note: I’ve still used GDP & GNP in my own writings and know other Austrians that do too. However imperfect, it still gives us a quick number to look at and understand that the US economy is enormous when compared to North Korea.

[6] Emphasis is mine.

[7] See Jesús Huerta de Soto’s The Austrian School: Market Order and Entrepreneurial Creativity, pg. 3.

Also, I will point out that as a free market economist and anarchist, Friedman is obviously not arguing that economists should treat humans as perfectly rational so that their behavior can be predicted so that government-employed economist social engineers or legislators can intervene in the market. (To emphasize again: I am not critiquing Friedman here). But to many mainstream economists, rationality and prediction serve precisely this purpose. To quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan (2nd ed., pg. 184):

“…if you believe in free will you can’t truly believe in social science and economic projection. You cannot predict how people will act. Except, of course, if there is a trick, and that trick is the cord on which neoclassical economics is suspended. You simply assume that individuals will be rational in the future and thus act predictably. There is a strong link between rationality, predictability, and mathematical tractability. A rational individual will perform a unique set of actions in specified circumstances… Rational actors must be coherent: they cannot prefer apples to oranges, oranges to pears, then pears to apples… In orthodox economics, rationality became a straightjacket. Platonified economists ignored the fact that people might prefer to do something other than maximize their economic interests… I would not be the first to say that this optimization set back social science by reducing it from the intellectual and reflective discipline that it was becoming to an attempt at an ‘exact science.’ By ‘exact science,’ I mean a second-rate engineering problem for those who want to pretend that they are in the physics department—so-called physics envy. In other words, an intellectual fraud.”

[8] Friedman admits “Speaking as an economist, I find the rules implied by this argument to be inefficient ones. But they at least provide a justification for enforcing a form of property rights in land that is consistent with the libertarian view of rights” (pg. 282).

[9] See Stephan Kinsella’s Against Intellectual Property, pg. 38.

[10] Palmer’s article “Are Patents and Copyrights Morally Justified?” cites Georg W.F. Hegel.

[11] See Human Action, pg. 270 (scholar’s edition):

“Neither the entrepreneurs nor the farmers nor the capitalists determine what has to be produced. The consumers do that. If a businessman does not strictly obey the orders of the public as they are conveyed to him by the structure of the market prices, he suffers losses, he goes bankrupt, and is thus removed from his eminent position at the helm. Other men who did better in satisfying the demand of the consumers replace him… They make poor people rich and rich people poor. They determine precisely what should be produced, in what quality, and in what quantities. They are merciless egoistic bosses, full-of whims and fancies, changeable and unpredictable. For them nothing counts other than their own satisfaction.”

[12] See Man, Economy, and State pg. 630 (2nd edition, scholar’s edition):

“‘Sovereignty’ is the quality of ultimate political power; it is the power resting on the use of violence. In a purely free society, each individual is sovereign over his own person and property, and it is therefore this self-sovereignty which obtains on the free market. No one is ‘sovereign’ over anyone else’s actions or exchanges. Since the consumers do not have the power to coerce producers into various occupations and work, the former are not ‘sovereign’ over the latter.”

 

See also:

What psychology can teach us about evangelizing

Evangelical church in Arkansas, USA

Evangelical church in Arkansas, USA

You may be familiar with Daniel Kahneman’s work. He is a psychologist but holds a Nobel prize in economics for a lifetime of work that he did with the late Amos Tversky. One of their important contributions to the field of psychology is the demonstration that loss aversion is a much stronger human tendency than acquiring gains. To put it another way, if you want to be successful influencing somebody to do something, you have a much better chance by telling them what they lose by not doing it than by telling them what they gain by doing it. In fact, by some accounts loss aversion is said to be about twice as powerful a tendency as acquiring gains.

Framing in religion: “Have you heard the good news?”

Most of us, at least in America, have had evangelicals knock on our door to “spread the good news.” But if you notice, they usually spend a great deal more time on the consequences of not accepting some belief than they do “good news.” I think that what most people describe heaven to consist of sounds, even to most people, to be a bit boring: white robes, holding hands, singing church songs, etc., albeit with pearly gates and streets of gold. But even offering a much more desirable description of what heaven might be like instead of the way I have described it is still less likely to convert non-believers than any description of hell I am aware of (torture, fire, “gnashing of teeth,” etc). This follows the training I went through as a kid raised in church. As one man I knew used to put it: “You have to get them [non-believers] lost before you can get them saved.” We were taught to begin by explaining that they were sinners and were headed straight to hell before offering any good news.

In sum, the evangelicals appear to have learned through trial and error what Kahneman and Tversky’s research has shown about loss aversion. This way of framing the sales pitch not only seems to explain much of the spread of Christianity but, at least to some extent, maybe the spread of most religions. “If you don’t accept my religion you will burn in fire for eternity” instead of “If you do accept my religion you will get to wear a white robe, hold hands, sing songs (and see pearly gates and streets of gold too).” To give a non-evangelical example: “If you live a bad life, you will reincarnate into a less-desirable species” would likely be a much more successful marketing campaign for a religion that teaches reincarnation than would be “If you live a good life, you get to reincarnate into a human again.”

 

North Korean won and economic calculation

North Korean wonA friend of mine recently sent me this Reuters article by Daniel Tudor and James Pearson about the illegal but tolerated market economy behind North Korea’s own “iron curtain.” Among a few of the topics covered in the article (and the book by the same authors) they reveal several of the North Korean government’s attempts to restrict voluntary trade in North Korea via manipulations of the won (KPW) currency. What I found interesting was the discrepancy between the official government-set exchange rate (only 96 KPW per 1 USD as of the time the article was published) and the market exchange rate (closer to 8,000 KPW per USD, again, as of the date the article was published).

Another case, according to the authors, involved the government canceling the last two zeros of every bank note. The government did this by requiring citizens to trade their 1,000 won notes, for example, for 10 won notes. North Koreans were allowed only one week to make the trade. One of the catches was that the government would only exchange a maximum of 100,000 won (about $30-40 at the time). The result? The savings of North Korean people were destroyed instantaneously. Remaining monetary notes stored away in savings became worthless because by law, no merchants would be allowed to accept them. For a North Korean to demand that the government trade in more than the 100,000 won maximum would likely result in that individual being subjected to intense questioning about any black market activities he or she may be involved in. “Where did you get this extra money?! You must be doing something illegal! Off to the labor camps for you!”

Obviously, making any rational economic calculation with these money prices is difficult to say the least. And in an oppressive regime that does everything it can to discourage market activity, that almost seems to be the government’s intention. Under these conditions, if there is any rational economic calculation at all it is only thanks to the black market! If people cannot rely on money to not lose its value drastically overnight, they will try to sell it as soon as possible for other currencies, consumer goods, etc. It is for this reason, that North Korean people (illegally) trade US dollars and Chinese yuan on the black market. Similarly, when people notice the discrepancy between government-set exchange rates (which are only government attempts to conceal just how bad inflation is) and market exchange rates, they will choose to buy and sell at market rates — not government-set rates.

Related note: Inflation also has a strong tendency to encourage spending and consumption over saving. During hyperinflation in Brazil in the 1980s and early 1990s, Brazilians frequently ran to the markets to sell their money (by buying goods and services) as soon as they received their paychecks. Holding onto their money for even an extra day often meant that their money’s buying power decreased dramatically. The increase in demand and seller expectations that demand would continue pushed prices up even further.

The Reuters article gives an example of a basketball for sale at a shop in Pyongyang for 46,000 won. At 96 KPW to 1 USD, the price of the basketball is US$479.17. Obviously, nobody pays this amount of money for basketballs under normal circumstances in any country. Now, by contrast, if the market rate is about 8,000 KPW for 1 USD, we are only talking about US$5.75. But even at this price, one would imagine that most poverty-stricken North Koreans without political connections would prefer instead to use their money to purchase goods and services that are more essential to maintaining human life. To switch from economics to psychology for a moment, I’m referring to goods and services that are able to serve functions further to the bottom of the triangle in Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (i.e. physiological needs such as water and food).

My curiosity led me to check XE.com to check the exchange rate between KPW and USD. Here below was the rate shown on 16 April, 2015. I updated the page 2 hours later, and the rate was still exactly the same. For any other currency (belonging to nation states with more formalized market economies), XE.com is able to provide updated rates as they fluctuate throughout the day. This is the relevant portion of the screenshot I took from the page on that date:

XE.com's exchange rate for North Korean wan (KPW) on 16 April, 2015

 

 

 

Today, two weeks after getting the above exchange rate, XE.com reports it to be 124.753 KPW for 1 USD. (That’s “one hundred twenty-four point seven five three” for my friends from countries that have the opposite usage for commas and periods than that of the United States — not “one hundred twenty-four thousand seven hundred fifty-three”). My guess is that XE.com is reporting North Korean government-announced exchange rates since 124 to 1 USD doesn’t seem too high relative to exchange rates with many other countries.

I also checked the rate using “Currency Converter HD” iPhone app, which is the app I rely on for all other currencies as I travel, and found this very different exchange rate. Today again, two weeks after I first checked and finally got around to writing this blog post, the app still says that 1 USD is valued at 900 KPW. I also find it difficult to believe that the going exchange rate is perfectly divisible by 100!

Currency Converter HD for iPhone's exchange rate for North Korean wan (KPW) on 16 April, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As of 1 May, 2015, Google reports the same exchange rate as my iPhone app:

Google's exchange rate for North Korean wan (KPW) on 1 May, 2015

So what is the truth? Is the going market rate in North Korea for 1 USD closer to 96 KPW? 900 KPW? 8,000 KPW? It’s not easy to know.

 

More on economic calculation:

See also:

Differences in semantics between English of the US and Malaysia

I’ve been traveling to Malaysia frequently for the past few years and have compiled a short list of some of the most common differences in words and phrases between that of non-native speakers of English (mostly ethnic Chinese) and native speakers of the United States. I recently read the list off to a Malaysian friend of mine. He and I had a good laugh about it, and he seemed to think they were accurate.

I will point out that I have noticed many (or all) of these differences in other countries of the ASEAN community (Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, for example) – also predominantly from ethnic Chinese. However, as I have spent more time in Malaysia than the others, I will say that I can’t confirm if the differences in the list below are true for all countries outside Malaysia (even among ethnic Chinese).

Lastly, the reason I mention that I’ve noticed these word differences among primarily ethnic Chinese is that had I spent the majority of my time with the ethnic Malays instead, for example, I would likely be hearing different word choices in their spoken English. In other words, the Bahasa Malaysia language is structured one way, and Chinese dialects are structured in their own respective ways. This affects how foreign languages (English, in this case) are spoken and the common mistakes that are made.

I asked Nick Cogan of The Chirco Group to provide some insight on the various Chinese dialects and how this affects how English is spoken as a foreign language. Nick is an old friend of mine. He holds an MA in linguistics, is fluent in Mandarin and has spent more than 6 years in China. This was his reply:

Some [Chinese] dialects are actually different languages; some are just dialects but different enough that each group can, in fact, have different difficulties in English language pronunciation. For example, F and H sounds are understood as interchangeable in one dialect and L and N are interchangeable in another.

Now I will explain how the first language affects which mistakes are made in foreign languages by using Spanish and Portuguese. When native speakers of Spanish are speaking English, they often say things like, “Would you like to take a coffee?”. By contrast, native speakers of English say “have” or “drink” in lieu of “take.” The reason for this common mistake is that for drinking coffee and alcohol, Spanish uses the verb “tomar” (to take) instead of “beber” (to drink). So the verb “take” is often used since the Spanish speaker is doing a literal interpretation from Spanish to English. To throw in yet another twist, Brazilian Portuguese uses tomar and beber more loosely than Spanish does. So a Brazilian would likely ask someone in Portuguese “Você bebe?” (instead of “Você toma?”) to ask someone if they drink alcohol. So when a Brazilian is speaking English and asks someone the same question, s/he might correctly say “Do you drink?” (instead of “Do you take?”) since the literal interpretation from Brazilian Portuguese is closer to English than Spanish.

Much of Peninsular Malaysia was a part of British Malaya so it can only be expected that many of the words would be closer to British than to American English. I showed the table below to Dr. Richard Rhodes, a University of California, Berkeley professor of linguistics, and he confirmed this. He pointed out that

some of these usages are straight British, like petrol, lift, car park, holiday, and, of course, napkin means something quite different, too. The rest are the kinds of things that arise in language contact situations.

I hope you enjoy the list. I enjoyed compiling them through my many conversations in Malaysia.

Malaysia United States
Petrol Gas
I need to put petrol in the car. I need to put gas in the car.
Lift Elevator
Take the lift to the second floor. Take the elevator to the second floor.
(In American English, the word “lift” is perfectly acceptable in place of elevator. The point I intend to stress here is that “elevator” doesn’t appear to be used at all, but everyone understands it).
Car park Parking lot
The car is in the car park. The car is in the parking lot.
Take Eat/drink
Did you take your breakfast?
Did you take your coffee?
Did you eat your breakfast?
Did you drink your coffee?
Is it? Oh yeah? / Really? 
(This is usually used to confirm that something that the other speaker has said is true).
Can. Yes / No problem / It’s OK. / [I/you/we, etc.] can/may. 
[In response to a request for permission, for example…]
Can.
[In response to a request for permission, for example…]
Yes, we can. No problem.
…for holiday …on/for vacation
Did you go to Japan for holiday? Did you go to Japan on/for vacation?
 Meat Beef 
(Meat in this sense refers specifically to beef. In American English, chicken can be meat; pork can be meat, etc. I have also noticed that native speakers of various languages of the Middle East refer to beef as “meat”).
Last time Before
Last time I sell you these goods, I need your signature. Before I sell you these goods, I need your signature.
Tissue Napkin 
(Even at the dinner table in Malaysia, napkins are referred to as “tissues”). (In American English, “tissues” usually refer to something you blow your nose with).
Never mind It’s alright / It’s OK / That’s OK, etc.
[In response to a “thank you,” for example…] Never mind. You’re welcome! [In response to a “thank you,” for example..] It’s alright. You’re welcome!
Name card Business card
Here is my name card. Here is my business card.
Intercom  Phone
I called you on the intercom. I called you on the phone.
Aircon Air conditioning
We can turn on the aircon if you are hot. We can turn on the air conditioning if you are hot.
Specs Glasses
You need specs to help you see.
(This borrows from the word “spectacles.”)
You need glasses to help you see.
Because why… Because… / And that’s why…
We decided not to buy because why the price is too high.
The price is too high because why we decided not to buy.
We decided not to buy because the price is too high.
The price is too high, and that’s why we decided not to buy.
I don’t think so… I don’t think…
I don’t think so the mailman came today I don’t think the mailman came today.

 

See also:

A tribute to a man I never met

Peter_O'Toole_in_Lawrence_of_ArabiaToday is a sad day indeed. Today I learned that my favorite actor – Peter O’Toole and star of my favorite movie – Lawrence of Arabia – passed away just two days ago. Lawrence of Arabia had such an impact on me when I saw it for the first time in 2000 as a high school senior. I was an 18-year old kid, ready for adventure and to see the world. I could not have been introduced to this movie at a more influential period of my life.  Lawrence believed (and O’Toole accurately enacted) that “for some men nothing is written unless they write it.”

We live in an age of mass social media, so I might as well leave you with two quick YouTube videos. I could provide here so many of the amazing scenes from the movie, but I am going to provide the one with dialog that best portrays my personal philosophy in life. The conversation is with Lawrence and his friend Sherif Ali.

The second video is not part of the movie. I share this video to demonstrate (to those that have not yet seen it) what a classy individual Peter O’Toole really was. Who else rides in on a camel on the Late Show with David Letterman while smoking cigarette with a long holder? Only Peter O’Toole.

Rest in peace, Peter O’Toole. You will be missed.

How to acquire fluency in a foreign language as an adult

I have been asked many times, “What is the best way for me to learn a foreign language?” Or sometimes the question is presented in another manner: “Will Rosetta Stone software help me become fluent in Spanish/Mandarin/Tagalog, etc.?” I’ve answered these questions so many times that I will just write my answer here. I am by no means a linguist with expertise in foreign language acquisition. My answer, therefore, is more personal and practical than it is theoretical. I also focus on adult learning in this article because children generally have the wonderful advantage of learning foreign languages by simply growing up in a home in which at least one of the parents speaks the foreign language, growing up abroad where the parents are employed, or attending an international school with classes taught in the foreign language from a very early age. Few children tell themselves “I am going to learn Language X” without parental guidance and actually go through with the necessary steps to achieve fluency.

Note: The manner in which I’ve written this article assumes that your first language is English – only because I’ve written the article in English. If your first language is something other than English, just simply replace the word “English” throughout this article for your first language, and the learning methods described here will apply to you equally.

So what’s my key recommendation for learning a foreign language? Do the best with what you have based on your goal. Simple – right? I address both aspects of this answer (1. Doing the best with what you have, and 2. Orienting your learning toward achieving your particular goal) in the next two sections.

Doing the best with what you have

There is by no means one single way to learn a foreign language, and the method you choose to learn a language is obviously limited to the resources you have. For example, you may not have $300+ for Rosetta Stone software or $20,000+ for a yearlong study abroad or $600+ for a semester of learning at a local college or university. Or maybe you have the money but are married with children that are still living in the home, and moving to another country is out of the question.

But let’s say that you do have sufficient resources. Let’s say you can take a year off from life and participate in a study abroad program recognized by your home university, or you can just move away and teach English in the country where the language you want to learn is spoken. My approach is full immersion.

Party practicing
When I determined almost a decade ago that I was going to learn Spanish I went all out. I was a 22-year old kid, fresh out of the Air Force and on my way to college. I knew I was going to study abroad somewhere in South America, but I was required by my home university to actually attend classes at the local institution before studying abroad. How to begin? I signed up for Spanish classes immediately. I asked around and found a local female salsa instructor; I began lessons right away and attended weekly. (For the record, I can impress non-Hispanics, but Hispanics quickly identify me as “just another gringo.” Dancing is not my thing, and that’s just fine with me).

I also frequented the Mexican restaurants in the area and forced myself to converse in Spanish with everyone. As my university had a large Bolivian student body, I made friends with the Bolivians. And by the way, college parties – when consisting of primarily native speakers of the language you want to learn – are the best way to practice foreign languages when you’re stuck in an English-speaking country. When you drink alcohol, you don’t mind making mistakes. When others drink, they’re even friendlier than they might be otherwise and are more tolerant of your mistakes.

If you get tired of speaking with a particular person or the person gets tired of speaking with you, you can just strike up another conversation with someone else! If you attend parties that are comprised of exclusively native speakers of the foreign language you want to learn and you are unable to converse in the beginning, stick with it! I can’t tell you how many times I stood around looking like a damn fool until I finally got my Spanish up to a working level. When they called me “gringo” I just laughed, stayed friendly and kept speaking (bad) Spanish. As a happily-married man, I don’t do college parties anymore (thank goodness), but having subjected myself to so many situations that were so far outside my element in so many countries since that time, I can do formal business dinners throughout East Asia, or negotiate a deal in the Middle East or attend a funeral in Ethiopia (all real examples), and feel at ease – whether or not I speak any of the local languages. So get out of your comfort zone! Comfort comes from either: 1. keeping yourself closed off from new experiences, or 2. constantly forcing yourself to adapt to new experiences. I find the latter to be so much more rewarding.

Walking dictionaries
Even better still than “party practicing” is obtaining a walking dictionary. My academic advisor in college told me that when he was studying abroad in Paris during the early days of the Vietnam War, a US Army officer who had been granted leave to study in Paris referred to local girlfriends (and native French speakers) as “walking dictionaries.” So I have named this section after that. The best walking dictionaries are native speakers of the language that you want to learn. It is not enough that the person speaks the language fluently. If they are not a native speaker and the dominant common language between the two of you is not the language you want to learn, you will find yourself speaking the dominant common language almost exclusively. For example, let’s say that you want to learn Spanish. If English is your first language and you are dating a Brazilian – a native Portuguese speaker – that happens to also be fluent in Spanish and English, and the dominant common language between the two of you is English, then you both are probably going to find yourself speaking English the majority of the time – not Spanish.

Maybe you can’t control who you fall in love with, but you can at least control who you surround yourself with. So if you surround yourself with native speakers of the language you want to learn, you just might find love within that pool of people and better your foreign language ability simultaneously. Nothing wrong with that!

Watching movies
Foreign language students often have the debate: Which is better for learning? Watching foreign films (spoken in the foreign language) with English subtitles, subtitles of the same foreign language, or no subtitles at all? My answer: They’re all great for different reasons!

Here is what watching movies in each of the following ways does for your learning:

  • Spoken in the foreign language and English subtitles – Helps you practice your listening but with a little assistance. This is like starting to ride a bike in the beginning with training wheels. No problem. It’s still great learning!
  • Spoken in the foreign language and subtitles in that same foreign language – Helps you practice listening while reinforcing grammar, vocabulary and spelling.
  • Spoken in the foreign language and no subtitles at all – Helps you practice your listening. This gives you the most realistic learning environment, since obviously people don’t have subtitles when they speak in real life.

Of course there are other ways to learn foreign languages by watching movies:

  • Spoken in one foreign language and subtitles in another foreign language – As an English speaker, watching a Brazilian movies spoken in Portuguese but with Spanish subtitles can also help you learn Spanish. The practice is great, but if you want to focus on learning Portuguese, for example, it can be distracting.
  • Spoken in English and subtitles in the foreign language – This is fine! Assuming the subtitles are translated well, this reinforces grammar, vocabulary and spelling. It obviously lacks listening practice but is still good as long as you don’t ignore the subtitles.

Living abroad
Let me be perfectly clear: There is no substitute to living in the country of the language you want to learn; period. Living abroad gives you constant intense practice in all categories of learning. If you can live (or at least travel) abroad, you want to make sure that you do as many different kinds of things as possible. The wider the variety of activities you participate in, the wider variety of vocabulary you will acquire.

If you don’t accept a friend’s invitation to go fishing, necessity is unlikely to force you to learn words and phrases like: to catch a fish, bait, worm, hook, fishing pole, and codfish. Similarly, if you don’t study at a school of some sort, necessity is unlikely to force you to learn words and phrases like: to enroll in a class, to do homework, classmate, chalkboard, and notebook. And if you pass up the opportunity to watch a sports game, necessity is unlikely to force you to learn words and phrases like: to score a goal, stadium, ball, foul, and so on. You get the point. To maximize your experience, do as wide a variety of things as possible. Simply going to the foreign country without engaging in many activities will only limit your learning.

If you have the opportunity to take classes while abroad, know that taking classes helps you learn to speak on an educated level. You are forced to learn grammar rules and verb conjugations, keep up with a classroom pace, do homework and pass exams, etc. Plus a teacher corrects your mistakes. If you live in an English-speaking country and you are taking Russian classes, that’s great. But obviously, taking Russian classes in Russia is unbeatable.

Immersing yourself without living abroad
If you can’t move abroad for a season of your life (or permanently), you can do the next best thing. In addition to frequenting ethnic restaurants, obtaining a walking dictionary, participating in cultural events (like salsa lessons), you can do some of the following:

  • Set your Gmail/Yahoo!/Hotmail email and Facebook user interface to the language you want to learn. Each of these online services offers the option to change to all major languages and more.
  • Download your internet browsers (Google Chrome, MS Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, etc.) in the language.
  • Set your cellphone to the desired foreign language. If the language you wish to learn is not available, consider setting it to a similar language. For example, if Slovak isn’t available, set it to Czech. If Dutch isn’t available, set it to German, and so on.

At this point in my life, I no longer actively study Spanish, but my cellphone bill still arrives every month in Spanish – something that I arranged with my cellphone carrier when I was a college student. When I need to review my bill, I catch myself thinking in Spanish.

The point is to surround yourself with the language as much as possible so that you are forced to think in the language as much as possible. If you don’t force yourself to think in the foreign language by an exhaustive full immersion approach, you will never acquire fluency.

Orienting your learning toward achieving the goal

Obviously not every person has the goal of becoming fluent in a foreign language for a whole host of reasons. Maybe you live in an English-speaking country but travel on business to China from time to time, or maybe you work with Arabic speakers from different countries and just want to learn to be able to converse on a basic level. That’s fine indeed! In this case, moving to another country to study abroad or teach English is far too much effort than what it is worth. Consider some of the other things I suggested: take a class or two at a local university; make friends with international students; get Rosetta Stone; buy a phrasebook and dictionary. You get the point.

Taking formal foreign language classes is important for learning the rules and to speak properly. Attending social parties, dating someone that natively speaks the foreign language, etc. is important for learning the vernacular (spoken language) – including slang. Computer programs like Rosetta Stone compliment all of these.

Personal confessions
When I conducted a yearlong study abroad in São Paulo in 2007, all my university classes (since day 1) were taught in Portuguese – for Brazilians, not for gringos like me, so I was forced to study intensely. In addition to university classes I had Portuguese language classes with other American gringos. I had never studied Portuguese before moving to Brazil, but luckily, I had three years of university Spanish classes behind me, which met the requirements for the study abroad program I participated in because of the similarities between the two languages.

But my first semester was less than an ideal learning environment. I lived with a well-educated gentleman that preferred to speak English all the time. As part of my study abroad program I also had many activities with other Americans. Remember what I said earlier about defaulting back to the dominant common language? Not surprisingly, the Americans, including me, spoke almost exclusively English with one another. Since I had moved to Brazil with one primary goal – to acquire fluency in the Portuguese language – before my second semester began I requested to be moved into another home. Luckily, my study abroad organization was able to accommodate me. I quickly moved in with an elderly woman. She couldn’t speak any English; she was an amazing, kind woman, and she could cook so well! So finally I was speaking Portuguese in the home. Secondly, I also determined that when the American students from my first semester had returned to the USA and the new ones came in, I was going to attend the Portuguese classes with them but not allow myself to make friends with them. This was a hard decision! I’m social! I like people! But I didn’t go to Brazil to make friends with Americans as much as I did to learn to acquire fluency in the Portuguese language. I knew if I simply explained to them that we could be friends but would have to only speak Portuguese, I would enjoy their company, accept invitations to hang out, and would be stuck in the same English-speaking trap as I was in my first semester. At the end of the first day of Portuguese class with them I just left. No introduction. I felt like a real asshole. But I wasn’t mean to anyone; I just didn’t socialize. Every day after class for the rest of the semester I did exactly the same thing. I almost exclusively surrounded myself with Brazilians, which is exactly what my mind needed to consistently think in Portuguese. I noted a couple of times that some of my American classmates viewed me as a snob for my behavior. It was tough to not explain myself, but doing so – I believed then and still do now – would have led to normal conversations, to great conversations, to friendship, then English speaking. So I held firm.

After finishing my year abroad I spoke with one of the fellow American study abroad students from my second semester over Facebook. He also stayed one year (and finished one semester after me). I was pleased to learn from him that he did exactly the same thing as I did for his second semester; he avoided the gringos! That’s what it takes to acquire fluency in a foreign language! I’m proud of him!

Another author’s perspective
Tim Ferriss correctly points out in his book The 4-Hour Workweek that it is possible to become conversationally fluent in three months. He suggests first looking at the most commonly spoken words of a foreign language and beginning with that. Tim’s list of the most commonly spoken and written words in the English language has been cached here.

Although I have never approached foreign language learning exactly in this manner per se, his point stands. When living in Japan during my days in the US Air Force, I quickly became able to speak Japanese on an upper-basic or lower-intermediate level by always asking the Japanese nationals that I worked with “How do you say ____ in Japanese.” I didn’t work off of a list of the most commonly spoken or written words and memorize those. Instead, I asked how to say words that I needed to say in order to survive in Japanese society. My goal was never to achieve fluency but rather to be enabled to go anywhere in Japan or do anything I needed to do without having the language barrier as a personal crutch. I did take one elementary-level Japanese class at a university; bought a Katakana workbook, Japanese dictionaries and phrasebook, and surrounded myself with Japanese speakers (including a “walking dictionary”). I could have achieved fluency in the language by doing all of this plus taking more university classes, but that wasn’t my goal. At that time the Air Force was keeping me busy enough.

Concluding remarks
So to conclude, there’s nothing that says that you have to study a language for the purpose of acquiring fluency. My suggested approach for you is to do as many of these things as you can – based on your particular goal.

Learning foreign languages develops your mind in so many ways. It helps you understand your own language better. And when combined with living abroad it helps you to challenge the world around you in ways that you never would otherwise. Just for the record, each language that you learn makes learning new languages even easier. After a while, you just get good at learning languages.

As for relearning forgotten languages – that’s fairly easy. Just go through your old notes, go back to the country where the language is spoken, and it comes back to you quickly. Case in point, my father never spoke French or any other language but English. His parents, however, used to speak French to each other in his presence when he was a young child. To this day, when I ask him “How do you say ____ in French?,” he replies “I don’t know!” But a couple of minutes later he comes back and says, “I really don’t know why I remember this, but I’m pretty sure you say ____. Why do I know that?!”

If you are young enough in life to enjoy many years of benefits from all the hard work required to learn new languages, I would highly suggest becoming fluent in at least 2-3 languages and beginning as soon as possible. Don’t become one of those nerds that try to impress people by learning dying or dead languages. Old Aramaic and Latin are about as worthless as Elvish and Klingon in my opinion. The modern, spoken break off languages from Aramaic and Latin, by contrast, can be highly useful as long as you put yourself into situations in which you can actually use them. It is no use spending thousands of hours of your life learning a valuable social skill if it never helps you make new friends that you would not otherwise be able to have, travel to new places that you would not otherwise been able to go, or live a life that you would not otherwise be able to live.

 

See also:
Why audiobooks can make your whole life better

Why audiobooks can make your whole life better

“It’s not an accident that successful people read more books.”
-Seth Godin

I must begin by asking the question: If you could increase your book learning from say, 2, 3 or 10 books per year (or however many you are reading now) to 20 or 30 books per year, would you? If you could distinguish yourself among your peers and become the most well-read, while using less effort, would you do it? If you could easily breeze through books on difficult subjects rather getting frustrated and putting them down, would you do it? Could these things not better your life?

Audiobooks have made my whole life better. No exaggeration! At the age of 25, during a study abroad I began my first audiobook on Audible format. Before that time I had always been an autodidact (self-learner) for many subjects, so books were definitely a part of my life before then. However, I did not have the habit or the know-how to go through endless amounts of books like I do now. Of course, anyone that has gone through a reading-intensive degree program has had to push their reading limits. In my graduate program I had to read, on average, about one full book per week. I’ve been there! Unfortunately, the books I was required to read in graduate school were rarely available on audio, so I found myself at coffee shoppes and 24-hour restaurants (anywhere I could find caffeine) until the early hours of the morning — night after night. Needless to say, this is not a highly-efficient method of acquiring book knowledge. I must admit that despite no longer being a university student I still spend several nights per month reading at Denny’s restaurant until 2am —  and often 5am, where I have my own special table on the other side of the restaurant away from distractions from other customers. You don’t have to do all this, and even if you do, audiobooks will greatly enhance your learning.

As I have posted previously, thanks to audiobooks, I can go through about 30 books per year. A little more than two per month or so (24+ per year) of these are audio format (mostly books from Audible on my iPhone) and the other 6-10 are books in print. Personally, my reading is geared toward acquiring new skill sets and learning (not just entertainment), therefore my audiobooks and print books are almost exclusively non-fiction. (It is my opinion that life is just too short to read fiction; however, I do make very rare exceptions for books that come highly-recommended).

Here are some of the reasons why audiobooks have spawned a reading revolution in the people I know that have embraced them (myself included):

  1. You will enhance your education: Your education is everything. Hopefully I don’t have to convince you of that. Read on…
  2. You will increase your productivity: Time that was previously non-productive (driving in your car, riding your bike, walking/commuting to work, etc.) is now productive learning time. Anytime I’m in my car, I’m listening. When I’m on airplanes, I’m listening. When I’m riding my bike or running/walking 2-3 times per week around a lake nearby where I live, I’m listening. And when I’m sitting in my living room or relaxing in a coffee shoppe or airport lounge, I’m reading (the old-fashioned way) print books that have not been released yet on Audible.
  3. You will breeze through difficult subjects: For all those books that you wanted to read, but they were a bit over your head, you no longer have an excuse. You no longer have to doze off, staring at the same paragraph until you lose all interest. Listening on audio pushes you through the boring parts. If you want to go back and listen to the last few “paragraphs” again, you can just click the “Go back 30 seconds” button if you’re using the Audible app on your smartphone. Or, if you prefer, you can allow the narrator to continue speaking until the audiobook gets more interesting again.
  4. You will increase your reading speed: If you’re a slow reader or not a book reader at all, you no longer have an excuse. Get audiobooks. My father was not much of a reader until I gave him his first audiobook on Audio CDs. He was able to listen in his car (which he used for work). He became instantly hooked, and in about a year and a half he went through over 40 books on Audio CD! With audiobooks, you can listen as fast as the speaker can talk. And if you use Audible on a smartphone to listen to books, like I do, you can even adjust the narrator’s reading speed to 0.75x, 1x, 1.25x, 1.5x, 2x, 2.5x and 3x, respectively. Personally, I go through most audiobooks at 1.25x. For boring and unimportant parts of audiobooks, I sometimes speed through at 1.5x. Apparently, scientists claim that most people “can understand quickly spoken passages of natural speech” at up to 500 words per minute. But since I’m paying for my books (and thus, my education), I prefer to take time to absorb the content.
  5. You will still be able to take notes: I take detailed notes on almost every page of print books and write even more notes on the inside flap. (Example 1, Example 2). Luckily, you don’t have to sacrifice your methodology by switching to audiobooks. If you listen to audiobooks using Audible’s smartphone app, you can take notes at any reference point in the audiobook. That way, you can later scroll through all of your notes, and when you select any of them, the Audible app will resume the audiobook at the exact point in which you made the note.
  6. You will pay very little: If you use Audible, you can sign up for Gold and Platinum Memberships to save money. Personally, I pay $14.95 monthly for the Gold Membership, which gives me one credit per month (and buys me almost any audiobook on the website – no matter the price) and 30% off of all audiobooks. Furthermore, the Gold Membership gives me access to great discounts throughout the month, which I receive from Audible’s newsletter, and I use them! In the past there have been a couple of instances in which I needed to catch up on audiobooks that I had already purchased and did not wish to be billed yet for new books. I was happy to learn that Audible had an option to freeze my membership without canceling it for three months. During those three months I was not billed the $14.95 for new credits, but I still had access to the 30% discount if I wished to download any other audiobooks. 

Downsides to audiobooks:
As a believer in full-disclosure, I must mention that there are still, in my opinion, four downsides to audiobooks; so I will identify them:

  1. The first is that most people (myself included) tend to remember more when they read the traditional way. Most people tend to be visual learners. C’est la vie. Nonetheless, even if you are a fast reader, being empowered to use all those otherwise mentally non-productive hours of driving in your car, exercising, etc. to enhance your learning by listening to audiobooks makes the adjustment well worth it many times over! There is such a high opportunity cost if you continue to only read books in print. Think of all the books won’t read!
  2. The second downside to audiobooks is that the references/sources are often not given. When recording, the narrator reads the print version of the book as if no reference was even given (unless the author included the reference into wording in the paragraph). Honestly, as much as I love audiobooks, this seems like plagiarism to me, and in my opinion, books on Audio CD format should include a .docx or .pdf file with references on one of the CDs, and Audible/iTunes books should have such a file available for download as well. But even with this hurdle, I have still been able to find references when I need them by going to http://books.google.com and locating the book I am listening to on the Google Books database then searching for three or four keywords that were mentioned in the audiobook around the time of the needed reference. If I get the keywords right (spacing and everything), Google Books brings me right to the page that I was listening to right on my web browser. I find the footnote number and chapter then refer to the book’s References section in the last few pages, and there’s my reference. Similarly, Amazon.com’s Look Inside feature allows you to browse through the books in a similar way. Therefore you can also look through the book’s references using this website.
  3. The third downside to audiobooks, in my opinion, is that audiobooks do not always come with all the images containing supporting graphics, charts, etc. that traditional books do. This is annoying — no doubt. There are a few ways to find these images when you need them. If you are listening to an audiobook on Audio CDs, sometimes the first CD will contain images; just look at the CD case/box to find out. If your audiobook is on Audible, thankfully, all or most of the images are often available on the Audible.com website for download in .pdf format (but not always, unfortunately). When they are available I always download the .pdf files and save them onto my iPhone. If I want to refer to them while listening to the audiobook, I can open the .pdf from the Documents app (made by SavySoda™ and available on iTunes). And of course, alternatively, you can still refer to Google Images or Amazon’s Look Inside feature to scan through books to find the image.

Maximizing your learning experience:
I am able to maximize my learning experience by also purchasing many of the books that I listen to on audio in print. If the book covers material that is particularly important to my long-term goals, then I take notes in the print book after I’ve identified something from the audiobook that I want to highlight. This is a perfect solution to the previous four aforementioned “downsides to audiobooks.” With this technique these “downsides” are no longer downsides at all.

Next, in order to really immerse the book material into my long-term memory I almost always search YouTube for presentations by the author on the book’s topic. These days when an author goes on book tour and presents on the book topic, fortunately, those presentations usually make it YouTube. Often they appear as TED Talks. Listening to a presentation by the author is like getting all the best highlights of the book presented in a well-organized outline form. It’s beautiful.

And lastly, I search for documentaries on the book topic. As documentaries are audiovisual, watching them helps commit the content to long-term memory and provides depth since the documentaries usually present the content differently than the book, so you think about the information from different perspectives.

With listening to audiobooks, taking notes on the print versions of the book, watching presentations given by the authors and then watching documentaries on the subject you get a very well-rounded education indeed. This might possibly seem like a lot of work. But to me, this way of doing things is both easier and more efficient than trying to read cover-to-cover book after book. The traditional method of reading alone is only a crutch for most people because it limits their learning speed to their reading speed; that is, they read slowly so they learn slowly as a result. Thanks to audiobooks and the techniques I’ve mentioned here, a slow reader like me can go through about 30 books a year – and not by merely skimming books then claiming I “read” them like many people do. With audiobooks and the techniques I’ve explained in this article, I really do go through the books cover-to-cover and then some!

Conclusion:
As you see from the previous section, the pros far outweigh the cons (in my opinion), and the cons still have easy workarounds. So go to Audible.com and look for that book that you always wanted to read and never did. Get going. Become more well-read than all of your peers. Kick ass; take names. Enjoy your enlightened new life.

See also:
How to acquire fluency in a foreign language as an adult

Make your book available on Audible & iTunes!

I go through about 30 full books per year (2 or more audiobooks per month (24+ pear year) + another 6 or so books in print per year), even as a slow reader that underlines and takes notes on every page. How? Audiobooks! I have been hooked on audiobooks since 2007 when I first began. If you are reading this page right now it is likely because you are an author, an editor, or a publisher, and I contacted you requesting that you make your book(s) available on Audible (my preferred format). In the past, I have successfully helped authors, editors and publishers get audio versions of their books available. Assuming the publisher is willing to do it, it is a fairly simple process. So this page is intended to help you as an author or publisher to get setup!

How audiobook customers like me behave: When audiobook customers like me cannot find a book that we are looking for on audio format we do one of two things:

  1. We add it to our much smaller queue of print books and prioritize it according to interest level, or
  2. We disregard the book altogether. Don’t let this happen to your book!

My suggested solution for you: Making your book available for “readers” (listeners) using smartphones can be done easily through Audible (owned by Amazon) and iTunes. In order to do this for audio CD format, you can contact companies like Blackstone Audio or Random House Audio. Whether you are an author, an editor, or a publisher, you can do this in 3 easy ways:

  1. Audible’s wonderful ACX (Audiobook Creation Exchange) website allows you to listen to voice samples and choose a narrator of your liking. Once the book has been recorded, it will automatically be sold on Audible.com, Amazon.com and iTunes!!! You can get started… Authors click here. Publishers click here. Just follow the very simple directions.
  2. For audio CD format: Contact Blackstone Audio and Random House Audio. (These two publishers are among the largest for audio CD format).

Intellectual Properties: In many cases the publisher of the print book only owns the rights to the print edition. Therefore the author would, by default, own the rights to other editions (audio, for example). In this case, the author can hire a narrator using ACX or another service or narrate him/herself. According to ACX’s Authors’ page, granting Audible exclusive distribution rights allows you to earn royalties of 40%.

If the publisher owns the rights to all formats (including audio), I recommend that authors contact the publisher about releasing an audio version. There is potentially money to be made, so appeal to your publisher’s business interests. 
Regarding costs, the rights holder can either pay Audible a flat fee to produce the audiobook, or royalties can be shared. Click here for full details.

Suitability of certain books for audio format: If your book has charts, graphs, tables, photos, etc. you may believe that your book is not well-suited for audio format. But, this isn’t necessarily the case. The reason is that Audible allows you to provide an accompanying reference guide that goes with the audiobook. To give you an example, here is a link to the accompanying reference guide for Daniel Kahneman’s audiobook Thinking Fast and Slow. In the recording of the audiobook the narrator can just say “See the chart in figure one of the accompanying reference guide,” and listeners will know what to do!

What readers can do: Readers wanting to request that a book be made available on audio can submit a request to Audible by emailing content-requests@audible.com and to iTunes through Apple’s “Make Request for the iTunes Store” page.

A “Thank you” letter from an author: Here below is one letter from an author that I contacted about making his book available on Audible. The author describes his painless experience:

Emile,

I want to let you know that Audible now has [book name withheld] for sale as an audiobook, and it will be available on Amazon.com and iTunes within a few days. I really appreciate your cluing me in to Audible. The process was quick and painless; the Audible people have clearly given a lot of thought to business process engineering, and the system seems to draw a lot of interest from would-be narrators — 11 people auditioned for me by reading a short text in the space of 24 hours.

As for future books, [book name withheld] is the only one of my books to which I hold the audio rights (which explains why no audiobook was released when [book name withheld] was first published in 2006). In the other cases, the print publisher has purchased all rights, including audio, and gets to decide how to use them.

Again, thank you so much for prodding me to do this.

Best wishes,

[Author’s name withheld]

As for publishers: From time to time I email publishers of books in print and almost always receive equally-energetic responses. Publishers want to make money, and making books available on audio is one way to help them do it.

Good luck!

See also: Why audiobooks can make your whole life better

 

Speaking and Writing

SPEAKING:

  • Fungibility and Cryptocurrencies
    In June 2020, I gave a webinar presentation for Blockchain New Zealand on fungibility as a property of money and a comparative analysis of various types of money historically: from seashells, to fiat, to gold, to cigarettes, to fiat, and of course, cryptocurrencies.
  • In addition, I have given presentations to think tanks and organizations in Spain, Nigeria and the United States on work that I have done on the subject of rationality in economics.

WRITING:

Here are a few articles I have written, some with abstracts and some without. They include outlets in the United States, Brazil, Spain, Italy, New Zealand and Malaysia.

  • Economic Lockdowns Kill People–Yes Literally
    May 23, 2020 – «Foundation for Economic Education»
    As the title suggests, I explain how shutting down the planet as a reaction to COVID literally kills people – something political leaders around the world seem to be all too happy to ignore. Making a decision to not shut down an economy isn’t merely trading lives in favor of economy. In fact, in both cases (both without lockdowns and with lockdowns), the trade-offs involve the loss of human lives.

    • The above article was also published in Spanish by «FEE en Español» here, then in Italian by the «Istituto Bruno Leoni» here.
  • Politicians, immigration and the God complex
    October 19, 2018 – «National Business Review»
    Here I provide an analysis of Australia and NZ’s immigration laws through the lens of Hayek’s knowledge problem. (Content behind paywall but can be accessed for free by creating free account).
  • A few of my articles are published on The New Zealand Initiative’s blog. For example, here, here and here.
  • International Relations Glossary in Portuguese and Spanish
    July 2, 2013 – Formerly published on «MyPoliSciLab.com» and «InternationalRelations.com». Content now published here on my own website.
    For IR scholars and students who also happen to be “latinoamericanistas,” this list of translations of IR terms in all three languages (English, Portuguese and Spanish) serves as a great resource.
  • Sowell’s Visions
    December 5, 2013 – «Foundation for Economic Education»
    In this article I summarize Thomas Sowell’s book A Conflict of Visions and Steven Pinker’s The Blank Slate and explain the importance of understanding the concepts of opposing world visions when discussing often controversial topics such as economics and politics.
  • Developments in Brazil Energy Sector
    January 25, 2011 – «The Rio Times»
    This article discusses new developments in the Brazilian energy sector, including the buying of Brazilian utility company (Elektro) by Iberdrola – Spain’s largest electric company – and plans to revive construction of Angra 3, the country’s third nuclear power reactor.
  • Slow Start to PAC Development
    January 18, 2011 – «The Rio Times»
    Brazil’s Growth Acceleration Program (“the PAC”) began in 2007 with a budget of roughly US$300 billion with plans for public housing provisions, improvements in sanitation, transportation, infrastructure and more. But four years later, only about five percent of the projects have been completed, and the second PAC (PAC2) is already underway with even more ambitious goals than the first.
  • Rio Real Estate Shielded from Burst
    January 4, 2011 – «The Rio Times»
    Real estate prices have risen significantly in Rio de Janeiro since it was announced that Brazil would host the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympic Games. Prices are also driven by an emerging middle class in Brazil with access to credit for the very first time. Some spectators have rumored that a real estate boom and bust cycle is near. In this article, I explain why the boom and bust is unlikely.

Resources for Brazilianists

Organizations Dedicated to Individual Liberties and Free Markets in Brazil:

International Trade & Business:

Economics and Development:

International Relations and Politics:

Head of State:

Educational Resources:

Other:

See also:

International Relations vocabulary in Portuguese and Spanish

Updates:

  1. This resource was previously published at MyPoliSciLab.com (a paid website for political science students) and at InternationalRelations.com. However, the latter no longer appears to be owned by Professor Joshua S. Goldstein (the author of the most popular IR textbook), and consequently the URL no longer exists (21 July, 2017).
  2. I have learned that somebody took this list and improved upon it using Google’s Fusion Tables. With these Fusion Tables, the data can be manipulated in various ways using filters to suit the convenience of the user. Nice tool, and thanks to whomever did that! Here is the link. (7 July, 2015).

If you study Portuguese or Spanish and international relations (or related fields) this list could be of great use – especially if you are studying abroad and the host language is not your own. My methodology consisted of taking the glossary of terms from a slightly older version of this textbook and translating the terms one-by-one from English to Portuguese and Spanish using online dictionaries and Wiki. A huge thanks to Dr. Sergio Villalobos (native speaker from Chile) for checking/correcting the Spanish translations and to Ana Lúcia da Silva Kfouri (native speaker from Brazil) for checking/correcting the Portuguese translations and for setting them to the “reforma ortográfica” standard. And lastly, thank you to Joshua S. Goldstein and Jon C. Pevehouse for writing the book that made this list possible.

# English Português Español
1 acid rain chuva ácida lluvia ácida
2 airspace espaço aéreo espacio aéreo
3 Al-Qaeda Al-Qaeda Al-Qaeda
4 Amnesty International Anistia Internacional Amnistía Internacional
5 anarchy anarquia anarquía
6 Antarctic Treaty (1959) Tratado da Antártida Tratado Antártico
7 arms race corrida armamentista carrera armamentista
8 autarky (self-reliance) autarquia autarquía
9 authoritarian(ism) (government) autoritarismo autoritarismo
10 balance of payments balanço de pagamentos balanza de pagos
11 balance of power equilíbrio de poder equilibrio de poder
12 balance of trade balança comercial balanza comercial
13 ballistic missiles míssil balístico misil balístico
14 bargaining negociação regateo
15 basic human needs necessidades básicas do ser humano necesidades básicas del ser humano
16 bilateral aid ajuda bilateral ayuda bilateral
17 biodiversity biodiversidade biodiversidad
18 Biological Weapons Convention (1972) Convenção sobre Armas Biológicas Convención sobre Armas Biológicas (BWC)
19 bipolar system, bipolar world, bipolarity sistema bipolar, mundo bipolar, bipolaridade sistema bipolar, mundo bipolar, bipolaridad
20 blue helmets (UN peacekeeping) Forças de manutenção da paz das Nações Unidas Fuerzas de paz de las Naciones Unidas, cascos azules
21 brain drain fuga de cérebros / fluxo de talentos fuga de cerebros
22 Bretton Woods system Acordos de Bretton Woods Acuerdos de Bretton Woods
23 burden sharing repartição de encargos reparto de la carga
24 capital accumulation acúmulo de capital acumulación del capital
25 capitalism capitalismo capitalismo
26 carrying capacity capacidade de transporte capacidad de carga
27 cartel cartel cartel/cártel
28 central bank banco central banco central
29 centrally planned (command) economy economia planificada economía centralizada, economía planificada
30 chain of command cadeia de comando cadena de mando
31 Chemical Weapons Convention (1992) Convenção sobre Armas Químicas Convención sobre Armas Químicas
32 Chernobyl Chernobyl Chernóbil
33 civil war guerra civil guerra civil
34 Cold War Guerra Fria Guerra Fría
35 Commission on Sustainable Development Comissão para o Desenvolvimento Sustentável Comisión para el Desarrollo Sustentable (CSD)
36 Common Agricultural Policy Política Agrícola Comum da União Europeia Política agrícola común de la Unión Europea
37 common market mercado comum mercado común
38 Commonwealth of Independent States Comunidade dos Estados Independentes Comunidad de Estados Independientes
39 comparative advantage vantagens comparativas ventaja comparativa
40 Comprehensive (Nuclear) Test Ban Treaty (1996) Tratado de Interdição Completa de Ensaios Nucleares Tratado de Prohibición Completa de los Ensayos Nucleares
41 conditionality condicionalidade condicionalidad
42 conflict conflito conflicto
43 conflict and cooperation conflito e cooperação conflicto y cooperación
44 conflict resolution resolução de conflitos resolución de conflictos (o conflictología)
45 constructivism construtivismo constructivismo
46 consumption goods bens de consumo bienes de consumo
47 containment contenção contención
48 Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) Treaty (1990) Tratado das Forças Armadas Convencionais da Europa (FACE) Tratado de las Fuerzas Armadas Convencionales en Europa
49 convertible (currency) moeda convertível moneda convertible
50 cost-benefit analysis análise de custo-benefício análisis de costo-beneficio
51 Council of Ministers (or Council of the European Union) Conselho da União Europeia, Conselho Consejo de la Unión Europea (CUE)
52 counterinsurgency contrainsurgência contrainsurgencia
53 coup d’état golpe de estado golpe de estado
54 crimes against humanity crimes contra a humanidade crímenes contra la humanidad
55 cruise missile míssil de cruzeiro misil de cruzero
56 Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) Crise dos mísseis de Cuba Crisis de los misiles en Cuba
57 cultural imperialism imperialismo cultural imperialismo cultural
58 customs union união aduaneira unión aduanera
59 default inadimplência suspención de pagos
60 dehumanization desumanização deshumanización
61 democracy democracia democracia
62 democratic peace (theory) teoria da paz democrática teoría de la paz democrática
63 demographic transition transição demográfica transición demográfica
64 dependency theory teoria da dependência teoría de la dependencia
65 deterrence (theory) teoria da intimidação teoría de la disuasión
66 devaluation desvalorização devaluación
67 developing country País em desenvolvimento, país emergente país en desarrollo
68 Development Assistance Committee (DAC) Comitê de Ajuda ao Desenvolvimento Comité de Ayuda al Desarrollo
69 diplomatic immunity imunidade diplomática inmunidad diplomática
70 diplomatic recognition reconhecimento diplomático reconocimiento diplomático
71 direct foreign investment: See foreign direct investment investimento estrangeiro direto inversión extranjera directa
72 disaster relief auxílio em desastres administración de desastres
73 discount rate taxa de desconto tasa de descuento
74 Doha Development Round Rodada Doha Ronda de Doha
75 dumping dumping dumping
76 economic development desenvolvimento econômico desarrollo económico
77 economic surplus excedente econômico excedente económico
78 electronic warfare guerra electrônica guerra electrónica
79 empowerment (in development) empowerment, delegação de autoridade empoderamiento
80 enclosure (of the commons) encercamento cercamiento
81 ethnic cleansing limpeza étnica limpieza étnica
82 ethnic groups grupo étnicos grupo étnicos
83 ethnocentrism (in-group bias) etnocentrismo etnocentrismo
84 Euratom (European Atomic Energy Community, EAEC) Comunidade Europeia da Energia Atômica Comunidad Europea de la Energía Atómica
85 euro (currency) euro euro
86 European Commission Comissão Europeia Comisión Europea
87 European Court of Justice (ECJ) Tribunal de Justiça da União Europeia Tribunal de Justicia de las Comunidades Europeas, Tribunal de Justicia Europeo
88 European Parliament (or Europarl, EP) Parlamento Europeu Parlamento Europeo
89 European Union (EU) União Europeia Unión Europea
90 exchange rate taxa de câmbio tasa de cambio, tipo de cambio
91 (European) Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM) Exchange Rate Mechanism (same as English) / Mecanismo de Taxa de Câmbio Mecanismo de tasa de cambio, Mecanismo de Tipos de Cambio (MTC)
92 export-led growth crescimento liderado pela exportação crecimiento impulsado por exportaciones
93 fiscal policy política fiscal política fiscal
94 fixed exchange rate taxa de câmbio fixa tipo de cambio fijo
95 floating exchange rate taxa de câmbio flutuante tipos de cambio flotantes
96 foreign assistance ajuda externa ayuda extranjera, ayuda exterior
97 foreign direct investment investimento estrangeiro direto (IED) inversión extranjera directa
98 foreign policy process processo de política externa proceso de política exterior
99 fossil fuel combustível fóssil combustible fósil
100 “four [Asian] tigers”/”four dragons” quatro tigres asiáticos cuatro tigres asiáticos
101 free economic zones zona franca zona franca
102 free rider problem problema free rider (taken from English) problema del polizón
103 free trade livre cambismo librecambismo
104 free trade area área de livre comércio, zona de livre comércio área de libre comercio, tratado de libre comercio (TLC)
105 game theory teoria dos jogos teoría de juegos
106 General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) Acordo Geral de Tarifas e Comércio Acuerdo General sobre Aranceles Aduaneros y Comercio
107 Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) Sistema Geral de Preferências (SGP) Sistema Generalizado de Preferencias (SGP)
108 genocide genocídio genocidio
109 geopolitics geopolítica geopolítica
110 global culture cultura global cultura global
111 globalization globalização globalización
112 global warming aquecimento global calentamiento global
113 gold standard padrão-ouro patrón oro
114 great powers grande potências grandes potencias
115 greenhouse gases gases do efeito estufa (GEE), gases estufa gases de efecto invernadero (GEI), gases de invernadero
116 green revolution revolução verde revolución verde
117 Gross Domestic Product (GDP) produto interno bruto (PIB) producto interno bruto
118 groupthink pensamento de grupo pensamiento grupal, pensamiento de grupo
119 guerrilla war guerrilha guerra de guerrillas, guerrila, guevarismo
120 hard currency moeda forte moneda fuerte
121 hegemonic stability theory teoria da estabilidade hegemônica teoría de estabilidad hegemónica
122 hegemonic war guerra mundial/hegemônica guerra mundial
123 hegemony hegemonia hegemonía
124 high seas alto mar alta mar
125 home country país de origem país de origen
126 host country país hóspede país de acogida
127 human rights direitos humanos derechos humanos
128 humanitarian intervention intervenção humanitária injerencia humanitaria
129 hyperinflation hiperinflação hiperinflación
130 idealism idealismo idealismo
131 IMF conditionality condicionalidade do FMI condicionalidad del FMI
132 immigration law lei de imigração ley de inmigración
133 imperialism imperialismo imperialismo
134 import substitution substituição de importações sustitución de importaciones
135 industrialization industrialização industrialización
136 industrial policy política industrial política industrial
137 infant mortality rate taxa de mortalidade infantil tasa de mortalidad infantil
138 infantry infantaria infantería
139 intellectual property rights direitos de propriedade intelectual derechos de propiedad intelectual
140 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) míssil balístico intercontinental (ICBM) misil balístico intercontinental (ICBM)
141 interdependence interdependência interdependencia
142 interest groups grupos de interesse grupos de interés
143 intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) organização internacional, organização intergovernamental organismo internacional, organización intergubernamental (OIG)
144 International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Comitê Internacional da Cruz Vermelha (CICV) Comité Internacional de la Cruz Roja (CICR)
145 International Court of Justice Corte Internacional de Justiça, Tribunal Internacional de Justiça Corte Internacional de Justicia, Tribunal Internacional de Justicia
146 international integration integração internacional integración internacional
147 International Monetary Fund (IMF) Fundo Monetário Internacional (FMI) Fondo Monetario Internacional (FMI)
148 international norms normas internacionais normas internacionales
149 international organizations (IOs) organizações internacionais organizaciones internacionales
150 international political economy (IPE) economia política internacional economía política internacional
151 international regime regime internacional régimen internacional
152 international relations (IR) relações internacionais (RI) relaciones internacionales
153 international security segurança internacional seguridad internacional
154 international system sistema internacional sistema internacional
155 International Whaling Commission Comissão Internacional da Baleia (Brasil), Comissão Baleeira Internacional (Portugal) Comisión Ballenera Internacional (CBI)
156 investment investimento inversión
157 Iran-Contra scandal/affair (escândalo/caso) Irã-Contras (escándalo) Irán-Contra(s), Irangate
158 irredentism irredentismo irredentismo
159 Islam Islã (Brasil), Islão (Portugal) Islam
160 Islamic fundamentalism fundamentalismo islâmico fundamentalismo islámico
161 just war doctrine teoria da guerra justa teoría de la guerra justa
162 Keynesian economics economia keynesiana, escola keynesiana economía keynesiana, Keynesianismo
163 land mines mina terrestre mina terrestre
164 land reform reforma agrária reforma agraria
165 lateral pressure (theory of) (Teoria da) pressão lateral (teoría de la) presión lateral
166 League of Nations Sociedade das Nações, Liga das Nações Sociedad de Naciones (SDN)
167 less-developed countries países menos desenvolvidos países menos desarrollados
168 liberal feminism feminismo liberal feminismo liberal
169 liberalism (economic liberalism) liberalismo econômico liberalismo económico
170 lobby lóbi, lobby, grupo de pressão lobby, grupo de presión
171 Maastricht Treaty Tratado de Maastricht Tratado de Maastricht, Tratado de la Unión Europea
172 malnutrition, undernourishment desnutrição malnutrición, desnutrición
173 Maoism, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism maoísmo, Pensamento de Mao Tse Tung, Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoísmo (MLM) maoísmo, Pensamiento Mao Tse Tung, Marxismo-Leninismo-Maoísmo (MLM)
174 Marxism Marxismo Marxismo
175 mediation mediação mediación
176 mercantilism mercantilismo mercantilismo
177 microcredit microcrédito microcrédito
178 middle powers média potência, potência média potencia intermedia, potencia mediana, potencia media
179 migration migração migración
180 militarism militarismo militarismo
181 military governments governos militares gobiernos militares
182 military-industrial complex complexo militar-industrial complejo industrial-militar
183 Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) Regime de Controle de Tecnologia de Mísseis Régimen de Control de la Tecnología de Misiles
184 mixed economy economia mista economía mixta
185 monetary policy política monetária política monetaria
186 Montreal Protocol (1987) Protoloco Montreal Protoloco de Montreal
187 most-favored nation (MFN) nação mais favorecida nación más favorecida
188 multinational corporation (MNC) multinacional, empresa multinacional multinacional, empresa multinacional
189 multipolar system, multipolar world, multipolarity sistema multipolar, mundo multipolar, multipolaridade sistema multipolar, mundo multipolar, multipolaridad
190 Munich Agreement (1938) Acordo de Munique Acuerdo de Múnich
191 mutually assured destruction (MAD) Destruição Mútua Assegurada Destrucción Mutua Asegurada
192 Nash equilibrium Equilíbrio de Nash equilibrio de Nash
193 national debt, government debt, public debt dívida governamental, dívida pública deuda nacional, deuda pública
194 national interest interesse nacional razón de Estado, interés nacional
195 nationalism nacionalismo nacionalismo
196 nation-states Estado-nação Estado-nación
197 NATO: See North Atlantic Treaty Organization Organização do Tratado do Atlântico Norte (OTAN, NATO) Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN)
198 negotiation negociação negociación
199 neocolonialism neocolonialismo neocolonialismo
200 neofunctionalism neofuncionalismo neofuncionalismo
201 neoliberalism neoliberalismo neoliberalismo
202 neorealism neo-realismo, neorrealismo neorrealismo
203 New International Economic Order (NIEO) Nova Ordem Econômica Internacional Nuevo Orden Económico Internacional (NOEI)
204 new world order nova ordem mundial nuevo orden mundial
205 nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) organizações não governamentais (ONG), organizações não governamentais sem fins lucrativos organización no gubernamental (ONG)
206 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968) Tratado de Não-Proliferação Nuclear Tratado de No Proliferación Nuclear
207 nonstate actors atores não-estatais actores no estatales
208 nontariff barriers barreiras não-tarifárias barreras no arancelarias
209 nonviolence/pacifism não-violência/pacifismo no violencia, no-violencia/pacifismo
210 norms (of behavior) normas de comportamento normas de comportamiento
211 North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) Tratado Norte-Americano de Livre Comércio Tratado de Libre Comercio de América del Norte (TLCAN, TLC, NAFTA)
212 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Organização do Tratado do Atlântico Norte (OTAN, NATO) Organización del Tratado del Atlántico Norte (OTAN)
213 oil shock, oil crisis crise do petróleo crisis del petróleo
214 Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Organização dos Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP, OPEC) Organización de Países Exportadores de Petróleo (OPEP)
215 ozone layer ozonosfera, camada de ozônio ozonosfera, capa de ozono
216 Paris Club Clube de Paris Club de París
217 Peace Corps Corpo da Paz Cuerpo de Paz
218 peace movements movimentos pacifistas movimientos pacifistas, movimientos de paz
219 political asylum, right of asylum asilo político, direito de asilo asilo político, derecho de asilo
220 postmodernism, postmodernity pós-modernismo, pós-modernidade postmodernismo, postmodernidad
221 power poder poder
222 prisoner of war (POW) prisioneiro de guerra prisionero de guerra (PDG)
223 prisoners’ dilemma dilema do prisioneiro dilema del prisionero
224 proliferation proliferação proliferación
225 pronatalist policy política pró-natalista, política pró-natalidade políticas pronatalistas, política pro-natalidad
226 prospect theory teoria do prospecto teoría de perspectivas
227 protectionism protecionismo proteccionismo
228 proxy wars guerra proxy guerra por proxy, guerra subsidiaria
229 Qur’an, Koran Alcorão, Corão Alcorán, Corán
230 rational actor theory, rational choice theory Teoria do ator racional, teoria a escolha racional teoría de la elección racional
231 realism, political realism realismo, realismo político realismo, realismo político
232 reciprocity reciprocidade reciprocidad
233 refugee refugiado refugiado
234 reserve currency moeda de reserva moneda de reserva
235 retaliation retaliação, talião retaliación, revancha
236 risk assessment avaliação de risco evaluación de riesgo
237 secular state estado laico, estado secular estado laico
238 service sector, service industry, tertiary sector setor terciário sector de servicios, sector terciario
239 Single European Act (SEA) (1957) Ato Único Europeu (AUE) Acta Única Europea (AUE)
240 Sino-Soviet split Ruptura Sino-Soviética Ruptura Sino-Soviética
241 socialism socialismo socialismo
242 sovereignty soberania soberanía
243 Special Drawing Right (SDR) Direito de Saque Especial (DSE) Derechos Especiales de Giros (DEG)
244 state Estado Estado
245 state-sponsored terrorism terrorismo patrocinado pelo Estado terrorismo patrocinado por el Estado
246 stealth technology tecnologia stealth, tecnologia furtiva tecnología furtiva, tecnología stealth
247 Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) Iniciativa Estratégica de Defesa Iniciativa de Defensa Estratégica (IDE)
248 subsistence farming agricultura de subsistência agricultura de subsistencia
249 subtext subtexto subtexto
250 summit meeting cimeira / reunião de cúpula cumbre
251 supranationalism supranacionalidade supranacionalidad
252 Taliban Talibã Talibán
253 tariff tarifa arancel
254 technology transfer transferência de tecnologia transferencia de tecnología
255 territorial waters mar territorial mar territorial
256 third world terceiro mundo tercer mundo
257 tit for tat olho por olho, lei de talião ojo por ojo, ley del talión
258 total war guerra total guerra total
259 tragedy of the commons tragédia dos comuns tragedia de los comunes
260 Treaty/Treaties of Rome (1957) Tratado(s) de Roma Tratado(s) de Roma
261 United Nations (UN), United Nations Organization (UNO) Nações Unidas (NU), Organização das Nações Unidas (ONU) Naciones Unidas (NU), Organización de las Naciones Unidas (ONU)
262 UN Charter Carta das Nações Unidas Carta de las Naciones Unidas
263 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) Convenção das Nações Unidas sobre o Direito do Mar Convención de las Naciones Unidas sobre el Derecho del Mar (CNUDM), Convención sobre el Derecho del Mar, Convención del Mar
264 UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) Conferência das Nações Unidas sobre Comércio e Desenvolvimento (UNCTAD) Conferencia de las Naciones Unidas sobre Comercio y Desarrollo (CNUCYD, UNCTAD)
265 UN Development Programme (UNDP) Programa das Nações Unidas para o Desenvolvimento (PNUD) Programa de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo (PNUD)
266 UN Environment Program (UNEP) Programa das Nações Unidas para o Meio Ambiente (PNUMA) Programa de Naciones Unidas para el Medio Ambiente (PNUMA)
267 UN General Assembly (UNGA/GA) Assembleia Geral das Nações Unidas (AGNU) Asamblea General de las Naciones Unidas
268 UN Secretariat secretário geral/secretariado das Nações Unidas secretario general/secretaría general de Naciones Unidas
269 UN Security Council (UNSC) Conselho de Segurança das Nações Unidas Consejo de Seguridad de Naciones Unidas
270 undernourishment: See malnutrition
271 urbanization urbanização urbanización
272 Uruguay Round Rodada do Uruguai Ronda de Uruguay
273 war crime crime de guerra crimen de guerra
274 Warsaw Pact, Warsaw Treaty Pacto de Varsóvia, Tratado de Varsóvia Pacto de Varsovia
275 weapon of mass destruction (WMD) arma de destruição em massa (ADM) armas de destrucción masiva (ADM)
276 World Bank Banco Mundial Banco Mundial (BM)
277 World Court: See International Court of Justice
278 world government governo mundial gobierno mundial
279 World Health Organization (WHO) Organização Mundial da Saúde (OMS) Organización Mundial de la Salud (OMS)
280 world-system theory Teoria do Sistema-Mundo, teoria de sistemas mundiais sistemas mundiales, teoría del sistema mundial
281 World Trade Organization (WTO) Organização Mundial do Comércio (OMC) Organización Mundial del Comercio (OMC)
282 zero-sum games jogo de soma zero juego de suma cero

Resources:

1. The university Pontifícia Universidade Católica do Rio de Janeiro holds a blog in which they provide international relations terms and definitions. The site is entirely in Portuguese and no cross-language translations are given.

2. Thomson Wadsworth publishing offers a list of translations of political science terms from English to Spanish. Very few of these are specifically related to international relations (IR), but they are related nonetheless.

See also:

potencia mediana

Lonely Planet “Thank You’s”

For those who enjoy using Lonely Planet travel guides from time to time when traveling internationally, you may enjoy this like I did. When I’m abroad and realize that bus routes, for example, have changed from the last print of the book I always email Lonely Planet the updates. Lonely Planet nicely mentions names of people who help in this fashion in a “Thank you” section at the end of the guidebooks. For fun, I’ve randomly shown off my name to friends while in bookstores a couple of times in the past.

So far my name has been mentioned in the following books:

I guess I’ll say a “Thank you” to Google for letting me know that my name has been mentioned in these publications.

Ordinal numerals in Portuguese and Spanish

When we typically think of numbers and counting, we think in terms of cardinal numerals (one, two, three, etc). Ordinal numerals, however, are numbers used to express a level of degree or quality (first, second third).

After searching the internet for some time time for one good list of ordinal numberals in English, Portuguese and Spanish I came up short. I was able to find numeral lists for each on many websites, but I didn’t come across an all-inclusive list that could be used for quick reference. I’ve compiled them together here for anyone that may find this useful.

English Português Español
1st / first 1º / primeiro, ra 1.º / primero, ra
2nd / second 2º / segundo, da 2.º / segundo, da
3rd / third 3º / terceiro, ra 3.º / tercero, ra
4th / fourth 4º / quarto, ta 4.º / cuarto, ta
5th / fifth 5º / quinto, ta 5.º / quinto, ta
6th / sixth 6º / sexto, ta 6.º / sexto, ta
7th / seventh 7º / sétimo, ma 7.º / séptimo, ma
8th / eighth 8º / oitavo, va 8.º / octavo, va
9th / ninth 9º / nono, na 9.º / noveno, na
10th / tenth 10º / décimo, ma 10.º / décimo, ma
11th / eleventh 11º / undécimo, ma (ou décimo primeiro, ra) 11.º / undécimo, ma (o decimoprimero, ra; onceno, na)
12th / twelth 12º / duodécimo, ma (ou décimo segundo, da) 12º / duodécimo, ma (o decimosegundo, na; doceno, na)
13th / thirteenth 13º / tredécimo, ma (ou décimo terceiro, ra) 13.º / decimotercero, ra; (decimotercio, cia)
14th / fourteenth 14º / décimo quarto, ta 14.º / decimocuarto, ta
15th / fifteenth 15º / décimo quinto, ta 15.º / decimoquinto, ta
16th / sixteenth 16º / décimo sexto, ta 16.º / decimosexto, ta
17th / seventeenth 17º / décimo sétimo, ma 17.º / decimoséptimo, ma
18th / eighteenth 18º / décimo oitavo, va 18.º / decimoctavo, va
19th / nineteenth 19º / décimo nono, na 19.º / decimonoveno, na
20th / twentieth 20º / vigésimo, ma 20.º / vigésimo, ma
21st / twenty-first 21º / vigésimo primeiro, ra 21.º / vigésimo primero, ra
22nd / twenty-second 22º / vigésimo segundo, da 22.º / vigésimo segundo, da
23rd / twenty-third 23º / vigésimo terceiro, ra 23.º / vigésimo tercero, ra
30th / thirtieth 30º / trigésimo, ma 30.º / trigésimo, ma
31st / thirty-first 31º / trigésimo primeiro, ra 31.º / trigésimo primero, ra
32nd / thirty-second 32º / trigésimo segundo, da 32.º / trigésimo segundo, da
33rd / thirty-third 33º / trigésimo terceiro, ra 33.º / trigésimo tercero, ra
40th / fortieth 40º / quadragésimo, ma 40.º / cuadragésimo, ma
41st / forty-first 41º / quadragésimo primeiro, ra 41.º / cuadragésimo primero, ra
42nd / forty-second 42º / quadragésimo segundo, da 42.º / cuadragésimo segundo, da
43rd / forty-third 43º / quadragésimo terceiro, ra 43.º / cuadragésimo tercero, ra
50th / fiftieth 50º / quinquagésimo, ma 50.º / quincuagésimo, ma
51st / fifty-first 51º / quinquagésimo primeiro, ra 51.º / quincuagésimo primero, ra
52nd / fifty-second 52º / quinquagésimo segundo, da 52.º / quincuagésimo segundo, da
53rd / fifty-third 53º / quinquagésimo terceiro, ra 53.º / quincuagésimo tercero, ra
60th / sixtieth 60º / sexagésimo, ma 60.º / sexagésimo, ma
61st / sixty-first 61º / sexagésimo primeiro, ra 61.º / sexagésimo primero, ra
62nd / sixty-second 62º / sexagésimo segundo, da 62.º / sexagésimo segundo, da
63rd / sixty-third 63º / sexagésimo terceiro, ra 63.º / sexagésimo tercero, ra
70th / seventieth 70º / septuagésimo, ma 70.º / septuagésimo, ma
71st / seventy-first 71º / septuagésimo primeiro, ra 71.º / septuagésimo primero, ra
72nd / seventy-second 72º / septuagésimo segundo, da 72.º / septuagésimo segundo, da
73rd / seventy-third 73º / septuagésimo terceiro, ra 73.º / septuagésimo tercero, ra
80th / eightieth 80º / octogésimo, ma 80.º / octogésimo, ma
81st / eighty-first 81º / octogésimo primeiro, ra 81.º / octogésimo primero, ra
82nd / eighty-second 82º / octogésimo segundo, da 82.º / octogésimo segundo, da
83th / eighty-third 83º / octogésimo terceiro, ra 83.º / octogésimo tercero, ra
90th / ninetieth 90º / nonagésimo, ma 90.º / nonagésimo, ma
91st / ninety-first 91º / nonagésimo primeiro, ra 90.º / nonagésimo primero, ra
92nd / ninety-second 92º / nonagésimo segundo, da 90.º / nonagésimo segundo, da
93rd / ninety-third 93º / nonagésimo terceiro, ra 90.º / nonagésimo tercero, ra
100th / one-hundredth 100º / centésimo, ma 100.º / centésimo, ma
200th / two-hundredth 200º / ducentésimo, ma 200.º / ducentésimo, ma
300th / three-hundredth 300º / tricentésimo, ma (ou trecentésimo) 300.º / tricentésimo, ma
400th / four-hundredth 400º / quadringentésimo, ma 400.º / cuadringentésimo, ma
500th / five-hundredth 500º / quingentésimo, ma 500.º / quingentésimo, ma
600th / six-hundredth 600º / sexcentésimo, ma (ou seiscentésimo) 600.º / sexagentésimo, ma
700th / seven-hundredth 700º /  septingentésimo, ma 700.º / septingentésimo, ma
800th / eight-hundredth 800º / octingentésimo, ma 800.º / octingentésimo, ma
900th / nine-hundredth 900º / noningentésimo, ma (ou nongentésimo) 900.º / noningentésimo, ma
1000th / (one) thousandth 1000º / milésimo, ma 1000.º / milésimo, ma
2000th / two-thousandth 2000º / dois milésimo, ma
3000th / three-thousandth 3000º / três milésimo, ma
1,000,000th / millionth 1.000.000º / milionésimo, ma 1.000.000.º / millonésimo, ma
1,000,000,000th / billionth 1.000.000.000º / bilionésimo, ma 1.000.000.000.º / bilionésimo, ma

See also:

Using Wikipedia as a foreign language dictionary for subject-specific vocabulary

When I studied at a Brazilian university in São Paulo back in 2007, I many times found myself having to lookup very subject-specific vocabulary over the Internet. Many times I had an English word that I wanted to express in Portuguese. Other times I learned a new Portuguese word at school that I wanted to translate to English. No matter the situation, I almost always found that Wikipedia could accommodate me better than a general translation dictionary.

Say for example that I would like to translate the term General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade to Portuguese. Without an English-Portuguese dictionary that was made specifically to include a large amount of business, economics, or Political Science terms, more than likely this term would not be included. Luckily, Wikipedia can usually help.

GATT (English Wiki article)

GATT (English Wiki article)

As you see in the above image, you can translate words or terms that have a Wikipedia article designated to them to a variety of languages. If your term has a version of the article in the target language, click the language on the left side of the page. When you arrive at the next page, you will see that the title of that page is the vocabulary word(s) you’re looking for in the target language.

As you see below, we’ve been able to conclude that General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade in Portuguese is Acordo Geral de Tarifas e Comércio.

GATT (Portuguese Wiki article)

GATT (Portuguese Wiki article)

Q) Is this a guaranteed technique?
A) No. On very rare occasion you will notice that Wikipedia articles in one language have been linked to a related vocab word in another language that is not the correct translation. This occurs when Wiki users who create the articles sometimes mistakenly link two articles from two different languages together thinking that they are proper translations of each other. If you have some experience in the language, then you should be able to notice when these mistakes occur.

To aid you in your quest for the ideal translation, try using Google Translation Tools. This online tool has developed a lot in recent years and thankfully is not limited to strictly literal translations of words. This is because the tool allows users to suggest better translations. After time this method of integrating the human element is guaranteed to make translations more and more precise. To test a Google translation simply copy and paste your translated text from Google’s translation tool to the Wikipedia page in the proper language (http://pt.wikipedia.org for Portuguese, http://es.wikipedia.org for Spanish, and so on). Next browse a bit in the search results for related or exact text of your search query. If you find articles in your search results are using your translated text in the proper context, it is most likely that your translation is correct.

The main thing I wish to stress is that although Wikipedia can, at times, give you an inaccurate translation of the word or term in question, it is generally much more powerful than a simple foreign language dictionary. The reason is that Wikipedia is built from a global community. Invalid information in an article gets noticed by Wiki readers and is many times replaced with the correct information and usually given a footnote to support claims, etc. Dictionaries rarely give you much context around the word you wish to translate. Wikipedia always gives you context – as long as an article exists for the vocabulary term you wish to translate. If you have a basic understanding of the target language, you should be able to read a few sentences of the definition to find out if your term has been translated correctly.

I hope this technique can be useful to those out there, like me, who have spent a large amount of time looking up very specific vocabulary in foreign languages.