Exports, Sports Cars, and the Benefits of the Euro Crisis

Many export-orientated businesses in Switzerland complain about the strong Swiss franc. Admittedly, it makes their products more expensive for foreign customers. Some even would like to see the Swiss central bank intervene in the foreign exchange markets to stabilize the Euro. On the other hand, a strong domestic currency also has its (short-term) advantages, as foreign products get (relatively) cheaper.

Since a recent post highlights that academics run the risk of “over-intellectualising”, let me use a hedonistic example: Ferrari’s F430 has a 4.3 liter V8 engine that punches out 375 kW (about 490 hp), thereby producing the kind of forward thrust that many would like to enjoy. Far less enjoyable, at least for younger academics, is its basic list price: €169,600 or about CHF 263,000 when the car was introduced in 2004.

Figure 1: Ferrari F430

Figure 2 illustrates the benefits of a weakening Euro. It shows how the F430’s basic price of €169,000 evolved since its introduction in 2004 if we convert it into Swiss francs. The price remains relatively stable until the end of 2006. Beginning in early 2007, the F430 gets more expensive (up to CHF 281,000). The gray line in Figure 2 shows the average price of an F430 in the 2004 to 2008 period, which is CHF 266,000. Since autumn 2008, the F430 gets cheaper and cheaper. If you were to buy an F430 today, you would “merely” have to spend some CHF 205,000, which is CHF 63’000 or 22% less than its 2004 to 2008 average price.

Figure 2: Ferrari F430 Foreign Base Price

Given that the Euro countries will likely continue to bail out Greece and potentially also other countries, you might think about whether now is the time to make a dream come true. Please let me know if this information triggers a purchase decision.

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FIFA corruption: correlation ≠ causation, but…

…here you have it (via Daniel Bochsler on Facebook):

Nate Silver also ponders corruption claims.

So is Sepp Blatter driven only by the basest instincts? Nope:

Some soccer officials believe Blatter is angling for a Nobel Peace Prize, having now orchestrated the awarding of the World Cup to South Africa in 2010, and soon to Russia and the Middle East, even if his chances of winning such an award might seem remote.

Gender equality and the politics of sumo

After ski jumping, sumo:

For years, promoters of sumo have been pushing for the sport’s inclusion in the Olympic Games. To get there, the International Sumo Federation has thrown its weight behind a form of the game that would offend purists and surprise most everyone else: women’s sumo.

Sumo officials have long tried to get their sport, for years identified with giant men with topknots shoving each other in a ring, into the Summer Games. But when the International Olympic Committee declared in 1994 that single-sex sports could no longer qualify as candidates for the Games, that was enough to turn tradition on its head. Since then, sumo has been coming into its own internationally as an equal opportunity sport.

But the best bit is here:

[The] biggest hurdle [for Japanese women] came from a stigma that can be traced back to the 18th century, when, as entertainment for men, topless women sumo-wrestled blind men. Though this lewd variety eventually faded away in the mid-20th century after being banned repeatedly, a ceremonial form has continued in regional festivals so far out on the fringe of society that it remains virtually unknown.

Is that on YouTube?

APSA membership and scoring efficiency at the World Cup

As soon as I learned that a bunch of World Cup statistics are readily available online I could not help checking an obvious hypothesis, namely that countries with more members of the American Political Science Association (APSA) should score goals more efficiently, if not be overall more successful. After all, American political science is decried for spreading publish-or-perish norms that lead to the proliferation of minimum publishable units, so it is only natural to expect that countries where more political scientists are affiliated with APSA tend to be less wasteful when it comes to scoring precious goals at the world’s most prestigious competition.

Well, it turns out that there can be too much of a good thing. APSA membership helps improve the goals to shots ratio but only up to a point. The French could have avoided an entertaining embarassing situation if their political scientists were more internationalized, and the Dutch would almost certainly not have reached the final without their good share of APSA members. However, the main problem of the English and Swiss teams was that their universities have too many scholars that mingle with American political science. Therefore, the advice for Fabio Capello and Ottmar Hitzfeld is straightforward: reduce the share of APSA members in England and Switzerland by about 50% and you will do much better next time.

World Cup!

The World Cup is approaching and we are all excited about it, so here’s a round-up of some football stuff that has more or less to do with social science:

Feel free to suggest more in the comments!