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Demographic Decline and the End of Capitalism as We Know It

Posted by hkarner - 19. August 2019

Date: 16-08-2019
Source: Foreign Affairs By Zachary Karabell
Subject: The Population Bust

For most of human history, the world’s population grew so slowly that for most people alive, it would have felt static. Between the year 1 and 1700, the human population went from about 200 million to about 600 million; by 1800, it had barely hit one billion. Then, the population exploded, first in the United Kingdom and the United States, next in much of the rest of Europe, and eventually in Asia. By the late 1920s, it had hit two billion. It reached three billion around 1960 and then four billion around 1975. It has nearly doubled since then. There are now some 7.6 billion people living on the planet.

Just as much of the world has come to see rapid population growth as normal and expected, the trends are shifting again, this time into reverse. Most parts of the world are witnessing sharp and sudden contractions in either birthrates or absolute population. The only thing preventing the population in many countries from shrinking more quickly is that death rates are also falling, because people everywhere are living longer. These oscillations are not easy for any society to manage. “Rapid population acceleration and deceleration send shockwaves around the world wherever they occur and have shaped history in ways that are rarely appreciated,” the demographer Paul Morland writes in The Human Tide, his new history of demographics. Morland does not quite believe that “demography is destiny,” as the old adage mistakenly attributed to the French philosopher Auguste Comte would have it. Nor do Darrell Bricker and John Ibbitson, the authors of Empty Planet, a new book on the rapidly shifting demographics of the twenty-first century. But demographics are clearly part of destiny. If their role first in the rise of the West and now in the rise of the rest has been underappreciated, the potential consequences of plateauing and then shrinking populations in the decades ahead are almost wholly ignored.

The mismatch between expectations of a rapidly growing global population (and all the attendant effects on climate, capitalism, and geopolitics) and the reality of both slowing growth rates and absolute contraction is so great that it will pose a considerable threat in the decades ahead. Governments worldwide have evolved to meet the challenge of managing more people, not fewer and not older. Capitalism as a system is particularly vulnerable to a world of less population expansion; a significant portion of the economic growth that has driven capitalism over the past several centuries may have been simply a derivative of more people and younger people consuming more stuff. If the world ahead has fewer people, will there be any real economic growth? We are not only unprepared to answer that question; we are not even starting to ask it. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The Human Tide’ Review: The Power of Numbers

Posted by hkarner - 2. August 2019

Date: 01-08-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Jason Willick

The growth and decline of national populations can shape world events as dramatically as ideology or economics or political leadership.

Visiting an Israeli settlement in the West Bank this year, I was struck by the residents’ confidence that the territory could soon be integrated into the Jewish state. They see the number of Jewish Israelis growing rapidly—the village was brimming with children—and Europe’s Jews flocking to Israel. There are also, one man insisted, not as many Palestinians in the West Bank as official data suggests. Before long, Israel could annex biblical Judea and Samaria, make all residents full citizens, and retain a Jewish majority.

This view is probably unrealistic, yet it reflects a harsh truth: Numbers matter in politics and have a history of unsettling the expected course of events. In “The Human Tide” Paul Morland, a research fellow at the University of London, uses a series of historical examples to argue that the most powerful force shaping the modern world has been not ideology or economics or great men but demography—the growth and decline of national populations. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Boris Johnson is about to inherit a crisis his EU-bashing helped spawn

Posted by hkarner - 16. Juli 2019

Date: 15-07-2019
Source: The Guardian by Sonia Purnell

This bizarre and troubled man’s shameless inventions about Europe two decades ago have paved his way to No 10

It was not just the persistently overcast skies – a weather pattern once dubbed the “Brabant gloom” by Roy Jenkins, a former European commission president – that made working in Brussels for the Daily Telegraph in the early 1990s a joyless experience. It was my role as deputy to Boris Johnson, then “bureau chief” in name but solo performer in practice, that ensured my first job as a foreign correspondent was a trial of endurance.

There were just the two of us in the Telegraph office, and we were working long hard hours reporting on the political and economic convulsions of the Maastricht treaty negotiations. The story itself, of negotiations that played out in meeting rooms of Brussels, was full of political intrigue and drama. And whatever happened was likely to shape Europe for years to come.

How Johnson wrote about it, though, not only alarmed me at the time but helped set in stone a pervasive anti-European narrative that never really encountered serious challenge in the UK. For shamelessly painting the European commission as an insanely grandiose and imperialist body, he was rewarded by flurries of “herograms” from our editor, Max Hastings, including one that read “we all think you’re doing a wonderful job if only you’d learn to be a little more pompous”. Johnson’s trajectory to the gates of Downing Street had begun.

Over the months and years, those inventive stories, of fishermen forced to wear hairnets or snails reclassified as fish, created a deeply rooted belief that anything out of Brussels must be either loony or the result of a sinister continental plot. His most explosive story of all, published in May 1992, claimed that Jacques Delors, then commission president, was conspiring to centralise huge powers in Brussels, in effect creating a European superstate. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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If capitalism is broken, maybe it’s fixable

Posted by hkarner - 10. Juli 2019

Date: 10-07-2019
Source: The Economist

A book excerpt and interview with Joseph Stiglitz, a Nobel laureate in economics and author of “People, Power and Profits”

FOR DECADES Joseph Stiglitz has argued that globalisation only works for a few, and government needs to reassert itself in terms of redistribution and regulation. Today the sources of his ire have grown more dire. Wealth inequality has become a hot-button political issue just as populists are on the march.

In Mr Sitglitz’s latest book, “People, Power, and Profits: Progressive Capitalism for an Age of Discontent,” he expands on his left-of-centre economic prescriptions. He believes that capitalism’s excesses can be tamed by the state providing a “public option” in areas like health care or mortgages when the market flounders.

As part of The Economist’s Open Future initiative, we conducted a short, written interview with Mr Stiglitz about his ideas. It is followed by an excerpt from his book, on what he calls “the transition to a postindustrial world.”

* * *

The Economist: You argue that right-wing populists aren’t wrong—capitalism is indeed rigged. How so? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Workaholism is a recent development

Posted by hkarner - 25. Juni 2019

Date: 24-06-2019
Source: The Economist: Bartleby

The American exception

AMERICANS LIKE to work hard whereas Europeans prefer a more leisurely life. That is the widely held perception of the continental divide in business culture. But it has not always been the case; 40 years ago, there was precious little difference between the two.

In his new book, “Spending Time: The Most Valuable Resource”, Daniel Hamermesh, an economist, examines how work and leisure patterns in America differ from those in the rest of the developed world. In the first half of the 20th century the American working week fell sharply from nearly 60 hours to around 40. By 1979 the average worker in America put in around 38.2 hours a week, similar to the number in Europe.

That is where the figures started to diverge. For a while, the American workweek got longer, reaching 39.4 hours in 2000, before falling back to 38.6 in 2016. The main difference, however, is holidays. In the 1980s Europeans began to take more annual leave but Americans did not. Over the year as a whole, Americans average 34 hours a week, six more than the French and eight more than the Germans. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Democracy Demotion

Posted by hkarner - 13. Juni 2019

Date: 12-06-2019
Source: Foreign Affairs By Larry Diamond

How the Freedom Agenda Fell Apart

For three decades beginning in the mid-1970s, the world experienced a remarkable expansion of democracy—the so-called third wave—with authoritarian regimes falling or reforming across the world. By 1993, a majority of states with populations over one million had become democracies. Levels of freedom, as measured by Freedom House, were steadily rising as well. In most years between 1991 and 2005, many more countries gained freedom than lost it.

But around 2006, the forward momentum of democracy came to a halt. In every year since 2007, many more countries have seen their freedom decrease than have seen it increase, reversing the post–Cold War trend. The rule of law has taken a severe and sustained beating, particularly in Africa and the postcommunist states; civil liberties and electoral rights have also been declining.

Adding to the problem, democracies have been expiring in big and strategically important countries. Russian President Vladimir Putin, for example, has long been using the power granted to him through elections to destroy democracy in Russia. More recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has gone down a similar path. Elected executives have been the principal agents of democratic destruction in some countries; in others, the military has. The generals seized control of the government in Egypt in 2013 and in Thailand in 2014, and they continue to wield de facto power in Myanmar and Pakistan. Across Africa, the trend has been for elected autocrats, such as President Uhuru Kenyatta of Kenya and President John Magufuli of Tanzania, to manipulate elections, subvert independent institutions, and harass critics and political opponentsto ensure their continued grip on power. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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‘Socialism for the rich’: the evils of bad economics

Posted by hkarner - 9. Juni 2019

Date: 08-06-2019
Source: The Guardian By Jonathan Aldred

The economic arguments adopted by Britain and the US in the 1980s led to vastly increased inequality – and gave the false impression that this outcome was not only inevitable, but good.

In most rich countries, inequality is rising, and has been rising for some time. Many people believe this is a problem, but, equally, many think there’s not much we can do about it. After all, the argument goes, globalisation and new technology have created an economy in which those with highly valued skills or talents can earn huge rewards. Inequality inevitably rises. Attempting to reduce inequality via redistributive taxation is likely to fail because the global elite can easily hide their money in tax havens. Insofar as increased taxation does hit the rich, it will deter wealth creation, so we all end up poorer.

One strange thing about these arguments, whatever their merits, is how they stand in stark contrast to the economic orthodoxy that existed from roughly 1945 until 1980, which held that rising inequality was not inevitable, and that various government policies could reduce it. What’s more, these policies appear to have been successful. Inequality fell in most countries from the 1940s to the 1970s. The inequality we see today is largely due to changes since 1980. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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The trouble with economics

Posted by hkarner - 8. Juni 2019

Date: 06-06-2019
Source: The Economist

Jonathan Aldred thinks economists are too reductive. Is he right?

Licence to be Bad: How Economics Corrupted Us. By Jonathan Aldred. Allen Lane; 320 pages; £25.

In thomas gradgrind, Charles Dickens created an educator who saw his pupils as “reasoning animals”, with heads that should be filled with facts and little more. In “Licence to be Bad”, Jonathan Aldred, an academic at Cambridge University, casts economists as the modern Gradgrinds. They exercise a baleful influence on political discourse, he maintains, by taking a narrow view of humans as essentially selfish creatures, forever trying to maximise their own well-being.

As Mr Aldred points out, economists have not always thought this way. Adam Smith is a hero of free-market enthusiasts but, as well as “The Wealth of Nations”, he wrote “The Theory of Moral Sentiments”, in which he opined: “How selfish soever man may be supposed, there are evidently some principles in his nature, which interest him in the fortunes of others, and render their happiness necessary to him.” In the 20th century John Maynard Keynes wrote that “economics is essentially a moral science and not a natural science. That is to say, it employs introspection and judgments of value.” Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Ein Leitfaden für Finanzkrisenmanager

Posted by hkarner - 30. Mai 2019

Howard Davies, the first chairman of the United Kingdom’s Financial Services Authority (1997-2003), is Chairman of the Royal Bank of Scotland. He was Director of the London School of Economics (2003-11) and served as Deputy Governor of the Bank of England and Director-General of the Confederation of British Industry.

EDINBURGH – Journalisten, so heißt es, verfassen „eine erste grobe Version der Geschichte”. Es ist ein großer Anspruch, aber die Besten unter ihnen kommen dem nahe. Während der Großen Finanzkrise 2008 gelang es Andrew Ross Sorkin von der New York Times mit seinem Buch Die Unfehlbaren. Es ist noch immer eine zutreffende Beschreibung dessen, was an der Wall Street los war, als die Märkte zusammenbrachen. Sorkin hatte einen guten Zugang zu den beteiligten Schlüsselpersonen. 

Die zweite Version der Geschichte wird oft von den wichtigsten Beteiligten selbst geschrieben. Nach dem Zweiten Weltkrieg war Winston Churchill zuversichtlich, die Geschichte würde ihn freundlich behandeln, weil er beabsichtigte, „diese Geschichte selbst zu schreiben”. Als die Finanzkrise ausbrach, könnte derselbe Gedanke auch Hank Paulson, Ben Bernanke und Tim Geithner angetrieben haben, die US-Finanzminister, Vorsitzender der Federal Reserve Bank und Präsident der New York Fed waren. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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A Vulnerable U.S. Really Does Need a Space Force

Posted by hkarner - 13. Mai 2019

Date: 12-05-2019
Source: The Wall Street Journal By Jim Sciutto

China and Russia are developing new weapons that can attack crucial American satellites, and the U.S. has been slow to respond to the danger

In May 2014, a small team at the Joint Space Operations Center at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California noticed something they had never seen before. A Russian rocket had lofted a communications satellite into space, along with what appeared to be the usual collection of space junk—ranging in size from massive spent rocket stages down to chips of paint. But a few weeks later, one piece of that “junk” came to life.

The team at the space operations center watched for the next few days as that seeming piece of space debris made 11 close approaches to one of the rocket’s discarded stages. Such an elaborate space dance would be possible only if the object had thrusters and enough fuel to maneuver very precisely. These are the basic capabilities necessary for what defense experts call a “kamikaze satellite”—that is, one capable of zeroing in on other satellites to attack them. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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