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Canada and the recession

Posted in Economics by Alex L. on December 4, 2011

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My lovely girlfriend, a Canadian citizen, challenged me to write something about the more northerly part of North America. Since I’ve also wanted to write a post dealing with economics, badabing badaboom: here’s an article about the Canadian economy. I’m not a professional economist but this entry (and future ones like it) are my way of engaging with economic facts and data on my own so I don’t have to rely solely on the opinions of commentators. That’s why I’m counting these entries as part of my “Economics Sandbox”. Please feel free to correct, comment, question, and enlighten.

I was recently surprised to read that Canada was weathering the economic downturn much better than the United States. What does that mean exactly? I looked at some data to get a better idea.

Just looking at GDP growth, it looks like Canada’s economic output was affected in almost exactly the same way as the U.S. economy.

Chart of GDP growth in Canada and U.S., 1990-2010

Source: World Bank

But GDP growth is not the only (or even the best) measure of a country’s economic health.When I looked at unemployment rates, it’s clear that America’s labor market has been in worse straits than Canada’s since the recession started in 2008. (more…)

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History off the press (November ’11 edition)

Posted in American, Books, European, Russian by Alex L. on December 2, 2011

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Below is a survey of books that were published in the past month or so and look to me like interesting reads (note: I have not actually read these books, and these are previews not reviews).

Russia

Book coverMy parents’ generation grew up in the Soviet Union reading and owning volumes of classical literature. Despite my parents’ polemics, my friends and I somehow found playing “Sonic the Hedgehog” on the SEGA Genesis video game console when we were younger more compelling than reading James Fenimore Cooper. Where did this cultural gap come from? A new book by Katerina Clark examines how the Soviet fascination with world literature began in the 1930s as Soviet leaders and intellectuals tried to cast Moscow as a cosmopolitan beacon of secular culture for the world. This mindset during the Stalinist era must have, it seems to me, influenced my parents’ generation to become voracious readers.

Soviet life is still a rich field for contemporary historical study and literature. But the Western imagination is more captivated by an earlier time in Russian history: the dynasty of the Romanovs. Robert K. Massie has just published a book titled Catherine the Great: Portrait of a Woman. His previous biography of a Romanov monarch, Peter the Great, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1981. Catherine continued the project begun by Peter of making Russia one of the preeminent nations of Europe and was friends with the likes of Voltaire, Frederick the Great, and even John Paul Jones. Massie’s new work about the most influential female ruler in all of Russian history will likely remain the definitive biography on Catherine for many years. (more…)