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Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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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China’s Challenge to Democracy

Posted by hkarner - 28. April 2018

Date: 27-04-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Mr. Runciman is a professor of politics at Cambridge University. This essay is adapted from his new book, “How Democracy Ends,” which will be published in early June by Basic Books.

The democratic cause is on the defensive today, and China’s pragmatic authoritarianism now offers a serious rival model, based on economic progress and national dignity

In his 1992 book “The End of History and the Last Man,” Francis Fukuyama famously declared the triumph of liberal democracy as the model of governance toward which all of humankind was heading. It was a victory on two fronts. The Western democracies held the clear advantage over their ideological rivals in material terms, thanks to their proven ability to deliver general prosperity and a rising standard of living for most citizens. At the same time, to live in a modern democracy was to be given certain guarantees that you would be respected as a person. Everyone got to have a say, so democracy delivered personal dignity as well.

Results plus respect is a formidable political mix. The word “dignity” appears 118 times in “The End of History,” slightly more often than the words “peace” and “prosperity” combined. For Mr. Fukuyama, that is what made democracy unassailable: Only it could meet the basic human need for material comfort and the basic human desire for what he called “recognition” (a concept borrowed from Hegel, emphasizing the social dimension of respect and dignity). Set against the lumbering, oppressive, impoverished regimes of the Soviet era, it was no contest.

Yet today, barely two decades into the 21st century, the contest has been renewed. It is no longer a clash of ideologies, as during the Cold War. Western democracy is now confronted by a form of authoritarianism that is far more pragmatic than its communist predecessors. A new generation of autocrats, most notably in China, have sought to learn the lessons of the 20th century just like everyone else. They too are in the business of trying to offer results plus respect. It is the familiar package, only now it comes in a nondemocratic form. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Us vs. Them

Posted by hkarner - 27. April 2018

Mauldin Economics, 26/4

By Dr. Ian Bremmer

Dear John,

Last week was James Comey week here in the United States. The former FBI director came out swinging, announcing that Donald Trump isn’t morally fit to be president. Note to Comey: 1) We knew that. 2) We elected him anyway.

What does that say about the United States? That much of the electorate is morally unfit? If so, which part? The part that voted for Trump? The (larger) part that stayed home and didn’t cast a ballot in the most important election in decades? The part that continued to vote for a bunch of establishment candidates who allowed the system to progress to the point where someone like Trump could actually be elected?

Don’t get me going about the Electoral College. Trump and Hillary Clinton both campaigned given the rules in place; they would’ve campaigned differently with different rules. We know all about the Russians and Cambridge Analytica. Yes, the election could have gone differently. But let’s be clear: Trump beat a huge Republican crowd… and Ted Cruz was a close second. Bernie Sanders could have easily been the Democratic nominee.

And all this on the back of Brexit. Soft authoritarian governments popping up and gaining momentum across Eastern Europe. Historic drubbings of establishment forces in the European Union’s three most important remaining economies: Germany, France, and Italy. This isn’t coincidence.

And so back to our note to Comey: 3) Isn’t there a bigger point here? Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Apple against pie: How liberal democracy fell apart

Posted by hkarner - 27. April 2018

Date: 26-04-2018
Source: The Economist

Yascha Mounk’s diagnosis is more convincing than his cure

The People vs Democracy: Why Our Freedom is in Danger and How to Save It. By Yascha Mounk. Harvard University Press; 393 pages; $29.95 and £17.99.

DEMOCRACY is going through its worst crisis since the 1930s. The number of countries that can plausibly be described as democracies is shrinking. Strongmen are in power in several countries that once looked as if they were democratising, notably Russia, Turkey and Egypt. The United States—the engine room of democratisation for most of the post-war period—has a president who taunted his opponent with chants of “lock her up” and refused to say if he would accept the result of the election if it went against him.

But what exactly is the nature of this crisis? And what is driving it? Yascha Mounk’s “The People vs Democracy” stands out in a crowded field for the quality of its answers to these questions. Mr Mounk provides an admirable mixture of academic expertise and political sense. He teaches at Harvard University, where he has busied himself collecting opinion-poll data, but he grew up in pre-1989 West Germany, where the distinction between real and pretend democracy was more than just academic. He also takes the trouble to unpick terms that too many commentators on this subject take for granted. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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Us vs. Them’ Review: The Haves and Have-Nots

Posted by hkarner - 25. April 2018

Date: 24-04-2018
Source: The Wall Street Journal

Spurred by the backlash against globalization, a foreign-affairs commentator offers a dark prognosis for the world and the future. Howard W. French reviews “Us vs. Them” by Ian Bremmer.


‘Us vs. Them’ Review: The Haves and Have-Nots

As anyone who has seen him on television as a global-affairs commentator is aware, Ian Bremmer is a confident man. His interview topics flit from one far-flung part of the world to another as he dispenses smart-sounding nuggets of geopolitical analysis with the rapidity of a chess grandmaster playing against amateurs. And he does this with a likeable mien and little hint of the arrogance one might expect from a person who, by the age of 30, had already built his own thriving political-risk consulting firm.

Early in “Us vs. Them: The Failure of Globalism,” readers learn a bit about where Mr. Bremmer’s self-assuredness comes from. Raised in a working-class neighborhood in the Boston area by a single mother who believed in him, he quickly came to believe in himself as well, winning a scholarship to college and later earning a Ph.D. at Stanford. “As a young adult,” Mr. Bremmer writes, “the American dream came wrapped in a package of ‘globalism,’ a belief in universal interdependence and international exchange that seemed to provide paths to prosperity for both the poor boy I was and the successful man I hoped to become.”

Those were the days. Mr. Bremmer has since grown increasingly pessimistic about globalization, not because he no longer approves of it but because of the mounting backlash against it. Now his outlook has become almost unreservedly dark. Everywhere he looks, the divide between the haves and have-nots is sharpening. He foresees a near future increasingly made up of societies at war with themselves, riven by tensions between prosperous elites and everyone else. Not only will the poor and middle classes fail to keep up, he argues, they will no longer believe that the elites have their interests at heart. Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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„Donut-Ökonomie“: Vom Mut, eine neue Ökonomie zu denken

Posted by hkarner - 23. April 2018

Nicht schlecht: Hätte sie allerdings die Föhrenbergkreis-Arbeit „Auf der Spurensuche nach einer Neuen  Wirtschaftsordnung“ aus dem Jahr 2001 gelesen, dann wäre sie schon 17 Jahre früher so klug gewesen (hfk)

Christian Felber, 21. April 2018, 12:00 derstandard.at

Die britische Ökonomin Kate Raworth stellt mit einem überraschenden Donut-Diagramm die Wirtschaftswissenschaft auf den Kopf

Gäbe es den Ökonomienobelpreis – Kate Raworth würde ihn verdienen. Sie wäre nach 75 Männern die zweite Frau, die den sogenannten „Preis der Schwedischen Reichsbank in Wirtschaftswissenschaft zur Erinnerung an Alfred Nobel“ erhielte. In ihrem Buch Donut-Ökonomie dekonstruiert sie das vorherrschende neoklassische Paradigma der Wirtschaftswissenschaft – vom „Marktmechanismus“ über den „Homo oeconomicus“ bis zum Glauben an das BIP – und setzt sieben neue Denkansätze für die ÖkonomIn des 21. Jahrhunderts an dessen Stelle, beginnend mit einem neuen Ziel für die Disziplin.

Damit liefert sie der weltweit wachsenden Studentenprotestbewegung – von der angelsächsischen Rethinking Economics bis zur deutschen Gesellschaft für plurale Ökonomik – eine allgemein verständliche und von mathematischem Ballast befreite Theoriegrundlage. Raworth, die sich als „frustriert“ von ihrem Studium der Ökonomie deklariert, „weil diese eigenartige Annahmen darüber traf, wie die Welt funktionierte, während sie die meisten Dinge beschönigte, über die ich mir Sorgen machte“, beginnt ihr Buch mit dem Auszug von Studierenden aus der Vorlesung von Gregory Mankiw in Harvard, als dieser ein zu einseitiges Bild der Ökonomie zeichnete. Mankiw folgt als weltweit führender Lehrbuchautor Paul Samuelson, dessen Standardwerke sich in 60 Jahren weltweit vier Millionen Mal verkauft haben. Berühmt wurde Samuelson für seinen Ausspruch: „Es ist mir egal, wer die Gesetze eines Landes schreibt, solange ich die Lehrbücher für Wirtschaftswissenschaft schreiben kann.“

Leben im Donut als neues Ziel

Den Rest des Beitrags lesen »

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