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‘Revolution Française’ Review: The March of Macron

Posted by hkarner - 14. August 2018

Date: 13-08-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

In the span of one year, Macron created his own political party, took out his rivals on the left and the right, and became president of France. Philip Delves Broughton reviews “Revolution Française” by Sophie Pedder.

French President Emmanuel Macron at Versailles.

The presidency of France’s Fifth Republic was tailored for Charles de Gaulle. Subsequent presidents have tried to alter it to their own personalities, with varying degrees of success—the jacket billows out, the pants sag around the knees. But when Emmanuel Macron burst from political obscurity and into office in 2017, he seemed to throw out de Gaulle’s old threads and replace them with his own slim-cut navy suit, the uniform of France’s young professional class.

In the span of one astonishing year, from 2016 to 2017, Mr. Macron created his own political party, La République en Marche, and took out his rivals on the left and the right. He out-campaigned and raised more money than the stagnant major parties. He canvassed voters door to door, a technique that may be standard in many countries but is an act of scandalous populism in France. And he used digital databases to identify potential voters, something Paris’s political barons considered too outrageously modern. On the night of his election, Mr. Macron was 39 years old. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Anti-immigration, like pro-immigration, is a legitimate political position

Posted by hkarner - 7. August 2018

Date: 06-08-2018
Source: The Economist by Yuval Noah Harari

A book excerpt from “21 Lessons for the 21st Century” by Yuval Noah Harari

An historian by training, Yuval Noah Harari rose to prominence with two best-selling books. Sapiens looked at humanity’s past and Homo Deus at its future. His latest book, 21 Lessons for the 21st Century, considers the here-and-now, spanning subjects from technology and terrorism to populism and religion.

In the excerpt that follows, he considers the underlying premise of immigration and what migrants and societies might “owe” each other, to conclude: “It would be wrong to tar all anti-immigrationists as ‘fascists’, just as it would be wrong to depict all pro-immigrationists as committed to ‘cultural suicide’. […] It is a discussion between two legitimate political positions, which should be decided through standard democratic procedures.”

*      *     *

The European discussion about immigration often degenerates into a shouting match in which neither side hears the other. To clarify matters, it would perhaps be helpful to view immigration as a deal with three basic conditions or terms:

Term 1: The host country allows the immigrants in.

Term 2: In return, the immigrants must embrace at least the core norms and values of the host country, even if that means giving up some of their traditional norms and values.

Term 3: If the immigrants assimilate to a sufficient degree, over time they become equal and full members of the host country. ‘They’ become ‘us’.

These three terms give rise to three distinct debates about the exact meaning of each term: Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Ten years after the financial crisis

Posted by hkarner - 3. August 2018

Date: 02-08-2018
Source: The Economist

The patient is in remission, not cured

Crashed: How a Decade of Financial Crises Changed the World. By Adam Tooze. Viking; 720 pages; $35. Allen Lane; £30.

WHEN asked how he went bankrupt, one of Ernest Hemingway’s characters replies: “Two ways. Gradually and then suddenly.” That’s rather how the crash was for the world. There was an extended build-up, with cracks in the system emerging during the course of 2007. Then there was the sudden shock, when Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008 and the global banking system teetered on the edge. The tenth anniversary of that frightening moment approaches.

There were some impressive takes from authors in the immediate aftermath of the turmoil, such as Andrew Ross Sorkin’s “Too Big to Fail” and Michael Lewis’s “The Big Short”, which was made into an Oscar-winning film. “Inside Job”, a documentary, was a scathing attack on the culpability of the finance industry for the crisis. And a new adaptation of a three-part play about the history of Lehman has just opened at the National Theatre in London.

Adam Tooze, a historian noted for his works on the interwar period, is aiming to be less entertaining than authoritative: he takes on the financial and economic history of the last decade in a monumental tome of nearly 700 pages. Yet with the events it covers so recent and so dramatic, the book is as much reportage as historical analysis.

Four big themes emerge from Mr Tooze’s account of the post-2008 era. The first was the immediate post-crisis response, in which the banks were rescued and both the monetary and fiscal taps were loosened. The second was the euro-zone crisis, which hit Greece and Ireland hardest, but also affected Portugal, Italy and Spain. The third was the shift in the developed world after 2010 to a more austere fiscal policy. The fourth was the rise of populist politics in Europe and America.

Mr Tooze sides with most economists in taking the view that the immediate post-crisis response was necessary, but unfortunate in that executives in the banking industry paid too low a price for their folly; that Europe was slow and narrow-minded in dealing with the peripheral countries; and that the switch to austerity was a mistake. Taken together, the backlash against bankers, frustration with EU governments and the impact of austerity led to the rise of populism, the election of Donald Trump and the Brexit vote. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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West’s Failure to Reform Threatens World Order

Posted by hkarner - 29. Juni 2018

Date: 28-06-2018
Source: YaleGlobal

A rebalancing of world power is underway, and global and regional organizations are in need of reform. China and Russia challenge the post–World War II international order developed by the United States and its allies. China’s swift economic growth and Russia’s military interventions have caught the West off guard, explains journalist and author Humphrey Hawksley: „China… is stepping into an array of vacuums created by economic crises, weak governance and unpredictable populism, yet nether Beijing nor Moscow has the wherewithal to build rival institutions of the strength that has allowed the West to hold sway in the world order for centuries.“ International organizations designed to promote cooperation have not kept pace with social and economic changes since 1945. Groups like the United Nations, the European Union and the International Monetary Fund must take voices of rising powers into account or risk losing credibility and influence. Hawksley concludes, “The West’s failure to act on modernizing the world order is becoming as much a threat to the West’s rules-based system as is Russia and China’s attempt to challenge it.” – YaleGlobal
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‘The Future of Work’ and ‘Human + Machine’ Review: Reckoning With the Robots

Posted by hkarner - 26. Juni 2018

Date: 25-06-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Automation rarely outright destroys jobs. It instead augments—taking over routine tasks while humans handle more complex ones. Oren Cass reviews “The Future of Work” by Darrell M. West and “Human + Machine” by Paul R. Daugherty and H. James Wilson.

‘The Future of Work’ and ‘Human + Machine’ Review: Reckoning With the Robots

Most Americans once survived hand to mouth, season to season. Technology (thankfully) destroyed their jobs. The result was not catastrophe but prosperity, because the dynamic lamented in modern parlance as “job destruction” is also called “productivity growth.” If farmers become 25% more productive, eight can grow a crop that previously required 10. The other two might still farm, yielding more or better food for the community. Or they might become barbers, allowing everyone to enjoy comparable food and the latest hairstyles.

The fear that superfluous workers might instead sit idle, reliant on support from their still-working neighbors, is a persistent one. Though such an outcome has never materialized, for prognosticators there is always a next time. In “The Future of Work,” Brookings Institution scholar Darrell West presents his version of a now-popular claim: that robotics and artificial intelligence really do make this time different.

Mr. West describes a future in which “older positions will be eliminated faster than new ones are created,” leaving “workers with few skills . . . unable to find jobs.” He warns of “social unrest” and the prospect of “dystopias that are chaotic, violent, and authoritarian in nature.” Accelerating technology requires us, he concludes, to “rethink the concept of work itself.” Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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A Twenty-First-Century History of Greed

Posted by hkarner - 19. Juni 2018

Date: 15-06-2018
Source: TomDispatch By Tom Engelhardt

How the Last Superpower Was Unchained
American Wars and Self-Decline

Think of it as the all-American version of the human comedy: a great power that eternally knows what the world needs and offers copious advice with a tone deafness that would be humorous, if it weren’t so grim. If you look, you can find examples of this just about anywhere. Here, for instance, is a passage in the New York Times from a piece on the topsy-turvy Trumpian negotiations that preceded the Singapore summit. „The Americans and South Koreans,“ wrote reporter Motoko Rich, „want to persuade the North that continuing to funnel most of the country’s resources into its military and nuclear programs shortchanges its citizens‘ economic well-being. But the North does not see the two as mutually exclusive.“

Think about that for a moment. The U.S. has, of course, embarked on a trillion-dollar-plus upgrade of its already massive nuclear arsenal (and that’s before the cost overruns even begin). Its Congress and president have for years proven eager to sink at least a trillion dollars annually into the budget of the national security state (a figure that’s still rising and outpaces by far that of any other power on the planet), while its own infrastructure sags and crumbles. And yet it finds the impoverished North Koreans puzzling when they, too, follow such an extreme path.

Clueless is not a word Americans ordinarily apply to themselves as a country, a people, or a government. Yet how applicable it is.

And when it comes to cluelessness, there’s another, far stranger path the United States has been following since at least the George W. Bush moment that couldn’t be more consequential and yet somehow remains the least noticed of all. On this subject, Americans don’t have a clue. In fact, if you could put the United States on a psychiatrist’s couch, this might be the place to start. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Rise of the machines: has technology evolved beyond our control?

Posted by hkarner - 18. Juni 2018

Date: 17-06-2018
Source: The Guardian by James Bridle

Technology is starting to behave in intelligent and unpredictable ways that even its creators don’t understand. As machines increasingly shape global events, how can we regain control?

Something strange has happened to our way of thinking – and as a result, even stranger things are happening to the world. We have come to believe that everything is computable and can be resolved by the application of new technologies. But these technologies are not neutral facilitators: they embody our politics and biases, they extend beyond the boundaries of nations and legal jurisdictions and increasingly exceed the understanding of even their creators. As a result, we understand less and less about the world as these powerful technologies assume more control over our everyday lives.

Across the sciences and society, in politics and education, in warfare and commerce, new technologies are not merely augmenting our abilities, they are actively shaping and directing them, for better and for worse. If we do not understand how complex technologies function then their potential is more easily captured by selfish elites and corporations. The results of this can be seen all around us. There is a causal relationship between the complex opacity of the systems we encounter every day and global issues of inequality, violence, populism and fundamentalism. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Don’t shrink the role of markets—expand it

Posted by hkarner - 13. Mai 2018

Date: 12-05-2018
Source: The Economist

So argues an arresting if eccentric manifesto for rebooting liberalism

Radical Markets: Uprooting Capitalism and Democracy for a Just Society. By Eric Posner and E. Glen Weyl. Princeton University Press; 368 pages; $29.95 and £24.95.

ACCORDING to its detractors, and even some of its acolytes, the philosophy of liberalism has run its course. Populist critics of capitalism and democracy have been emboldened by the financial crisis and amplified by social media. Liberals have struggled to respond. Many are insecure about their intellectual—or geographical— blind spots, apparently exposed by Donald Trump’s election victory and the Brexit referendum. They feel like conductors of a train that has veered off the tracks. Amid this disorientation, an important possibility may have been overlooked: that the rich world’s problems do not stem from an overdose of liberal principles, but from their insufficiently bold application.

In “Radical Markets” Glen Weyl, an economist at Microsoft, and Eric Posner, a law professor at the University of Chicago, argue that the ideals of thinkers such as Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill and Henry George can still inspire radical change. Such luminaries were unafraid of challenging the status quo. Following suit, Mr Posner and Mr Weyl want to expand and refine markets, putting them to work for society as a whole. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Why replacing politicians with experts is a reckless idea

Posted by hkarner - 6. Mai 2018

Date: 05-05-2018
Source: The Guardian

In the age of Trump and Brexit, some people say that democracy is fatally flawed and we should be ruled by ‘those who know best’. Here’s why that’s not very clever. By David Runciman

Democracy is tired, vindictive, self-deceiving, paranoid, clumsy and frequently ineffectual. Much of the time it is living on past glories. This sorry state of affairs reflects what we have become. But current democracy is not who we are. It is just a system of government, which we built, and which we could replace. So why don’t we replace it with something better?

This line of argument has grown louder in recent years, as democratic politics has become more unpredictable and, to many, deeply alarming in its outcomes. First Brexit, then Donald Trump, plus the rise of populism and the spread of division, has started a tentative search for plausible alternatives. But the rival systems we see around us have a very limited appeal. The unlovely forms of 21st-century authoritarianism can at best provide only a partial, pragmatic alternative to democracy. The world’s strongmen still pander to public opinion, and in the case of competitive authoritarian regimes such as the ones in Hungary and Turkey, they persist with the rigmarole of elections. From Trump to Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not much of a leap into a brighter future.

There is a far more dogmatic alternative, which has its roots in the 19th century. Why not ditch the charade of voting altogether? Stop pretending to respect the views of ordinary people – it’s not worth it, since the people keep getting it wrong. Respect the experts instead! This is the truly radical option. So should we try it? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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‘Edge of Chaos’ Review: A System in Need of an Overhaul

Posted by hkarner - 30. April 2018

Date: 29-04-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Democratic capitalism is a peerless engine of economic growth, but it threatens to break down if current trends continue. George Melloan reviews “Edge of Chaos” by Dambisa Moyo.

Economist Dambisa Moyo

Dambisa Moyo, a Zambian-born economist, made a name for herself in 2009 with “Dead Aid,” arguing persuasively that foreign aid has preserved poverty in Africa instead of relieving it. Now she is embarked on an even larger project, proposing reforms in democracy itself in the developed world.

Ms. Moyo is a dedicated democratic capitalist. After earning a master’s degree at Harvard in public administration and a Ph.D. in economics at St. Antony’s College, Oxford, she did a turn at Goldman Sachs before becoming a full-time author. She serves on several corporate boards.

She writes that economic “growth matters—powerfully—to ordinary people” and that democratic capitalism has “proven itself, historically, to be a peerless tool for growth. . . . Nevertheless, the system urgently needs an overhaul if we are to jump-start the global economy.” She is concerned about the world’s rising debt level and about threats to international trade: “Established measurements suggest that globalization is now slowing, or worse, receding.” The diminution of global trade, the collapse of cross-border capital flows and the mounting constraints on the movement of labor—separately or together, she believes, these developments will result in deteriorating living standards and geopolitical unrest. There is even the danger, she adds, of “a global economic death spiral.”

If you overlook the hyperbole, Ms. Moyo’s diagnosis is worth pondering. The anti-immigration backlash in Europe and the United States, not to mention Donald Trump’s trade sparring and protectionist leanings, are unsettling. But what she offers up as a solution—she calls it her Blueprint for a New Democracy—sounds a little dodgy as well. To her credit, she offers the arguments both for and against her 10 reform proposals. Most of the proposals focus on shoring up America’s democratic functions, but they could easily apply, in broad principle, elsewhere. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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