Alchemist – On writing – Kosovo in six numbers – Why Kosovo needs migration

30 April 2015
They prefer clear writing They prefer clear writing

They prefer clear writing


Dear friends of ESI,

In his book The Historian’s Craft Marc Bloch, one of the great historians of the twentieth century, puts himself in the position of a father asked by his child: "What is the use of history?" Then he sets out to answer this simple question in a book while he was already part of the French resistance in 1942. (He was later arrested and shot by the Gestapo.)

When stakes are real, there is no time for any but important questions to be addressed. And to always aim, even if one always falls short, for the elegance and simplicity of masters like Bloch. As William Zinsser put it in his classic On Writing Well "writers must therefore constantly ask: what am I trying to say?" And they must remember:

"In terms of craft, there’s no excuse for losing readers through sloppy workmanship. If they doze off in the middle of your article, because you have been careless about a technical detail, the fault is yours."

See also: Rumeli Observer On Writing – The fourteen-year-old test


On writing: gibberish and economics

It is one of the most memorable words for texts that are best forgotten: Gibberish. As Glenn Seaborg explained in 1980:

"… gibberish comes from the name of the famous 8th-century Islamic alchemist Jābir ibn Hayyān, whose name was Latinized as "Geber", thus the term "gibberish" arose as a reference to the incomprehensible technical jargon often used by Jabir and other alchemists who followed."

Although there is no particular reason why texts about economic development should be gibberish, quite a lot of what was written on economic developments in the Balkans in recent years qualifies.

Take a look at the "EU Candidate & Potential Candidate Countries' Economic Quarterly." This is published regularly by the Directorate-General for Economic and Financial Affairs of the European Commission. There you find prose like this on "monetary developments in Kosovo" in early 2015:

"Consumer prices started declining in December 2014 (-0.5% y/y) and continued on a downward trajectory by February (-0.2% y/y). The decline in the price index was almost completely influenced by decreasing prices of transport and education. On the other hand, 65.7% of the CPI components have actually been increasing; most notably food 2.1% y/y, energy 7.4% y/y etc."

The reader understands that 65.7 percent of the prices of the components of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) have increased (one assumes in February). One assumes that 34.3 percent of the prices have not. One learns that there have been (monthly) decreases in the "prices of education" in January and February 2015, though what that means is unclear. There is no explanation which costs of education are included in the CPI. Or why any of this matters and to whom. Or what the etc. at the end refers to. Or who this is written for.

See also: NEW Rumeli Observer On Writing – Gibberish and Economics


A NERP – Kosovo in six numbers



Compared to other writing on Balkan economies a recent report on Kosovo stands out. It is understandable, lucid and deserves to be widely read: the

Gerald Knaus