All entries for Wednesday 23 March 2005

March 23, 2005

Yahoo challenges Google, offering 1GB mailboxes

I.T.Vibe reports on the press release from Yahoo! here:

Yahoo! Mail, one of the leading providers of free web based mail, has announced that over the next two weeks it will be increasing the amount of mail storage space available to it's users from 250 megabytes to 1 gigabyte, free of charge. This announcement comes nearly a year after the trial of the Google Gmail service was launched, which came with a 1 GB limit as standard.

A gigabyte of space is clearly far more than 99.9% of users need for day to day use, but itís great that competition between providers has given us the option anyway. The Yahoo! Mail interface isnít bad, and looks better than Hotmailís in my view. Googleís Gmail however beats both alternatives in terms of functionality, ease of use and interface (shown below).

The Gmail service is due to go public any time soon (links have appeared periodically on, but Iíll happily send an invite to anyone yet without an account.

Politicians aren't perfect, yet won't admit it

An interesting article from BusinessWeek, (found via Michaelís econ blog) on France's labour market legislation.

Sophie Guilbaud not only holds a full-time job, she also helps run her son's nursery and treats herself to regular weekdays of shopping, movies and art shows.

The secret to her balancing act is a remarkable piece of social engineering -- France's 35-hour workweek. Introduced under the Socialists but headed for effective abolition by lawmakers Tuesday, "les 35 heures" have been a boon for some but, critics argue, a big drain on the economy.

Heated debate over dismantling the working time law has fed into wider political and literary soul-searching in France, on themes ranging from the country's economic frailty and bureaucratic office culture to whether quality of life should be measured in time or money.

For Guilbaud, a Parisian who works as a loan company manager, that last question is a no-brainer. "Work is not the only thing in my life," she said, suggesting she might quit rather than work more hours.

But with unemployment at 10 percent, politicians of all stripes acknowledge that the country's unique 35-hour law has failed in its original ambition: to force employers to hire massively. What's more, there are strong signs that it hurt living standards as employers froze salaries to make up for lost labor.

Full article here

In an ideal world, perhaps weíd be able to work 35, 30, or even fewer hours whilst having an environment appealing to businesses, lower unemployment, higher growth and a growing standard of living. However as things stand, that doesnít look likely. Thatís not to say itís impossible; only that government policy is unlikely to make it so.

Thereís a certain arrogance amongst politicians when it comes to policy making. They think they have all the information needed to interfere with a system and that their foresight into the results will be accurate. Little thought is given to possible unintended consequences, as shown by whatís happening in France. New policies are boldly put before the electorate, and later down the line, explanations as to why things went wrong are handed out with similar confidence. Of course the blame rarely lies with themselves.

Not that youíll see anyone in power saying that a given piece of legislation will achieve the intended result with a probability of 10%, 40%, or 70%. Admitting that the future isnít cut and dry is to admit that theyíre only human; and perhaps better off not interfering.

March 2005

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