Category Archives: Economic development

What’s the Mystery Behind Smart Thermostats?


By Jayden Bradley – Are you embarrassed about how much you don’t know about smart thermostats?

Did you know that some people always look for smart thermostats for their homes and some are not aware of all the benefits?

Why don’t homeowners all over the world know anything about these technology-forward, time-saving little rippas?

Wake up, World!

It’s time to move into the 21st century and learn to take advantage of modern technology. more>

The virtuous circle of what’s needed to trigger Europe’s digital sovereignty

By Stefano da Empoli – Like a prism that changes according to the perspective through which it is observed, there are many possible interpretations of the concept of digital sovereignty. In the past few days, Italian Prime Minister Mario Draghi has provided some inspiration for the right way to look at it. During a joint press conference with French President Emmanuel Macron, and held after the signing of the Quirinale Treaty, Draghi referred to European sovereignty as the “ability to direct the future as we wish.”

In the digital domain, the power to be the author of one’s own destiny can be won with two tools: sound rules and technological investment. Only a balanced combination of them, however, can produce digital sovereignty to the benefit of European citizens. Much has been said in recent years about the so-called ‘Brussels effect’, the title of a successful book by Anu Bradford, the Finnish-born legal scholar based at Columbia University in New York.

Through the definition of a robust and ambitious regulatory framework, the European Union has managed to establish itself as the main global rule-maker, influencing the legislation of other countries and inducing non-European companies to take it into account not only for products and services sold in the old continent but also elsewhere.

A meaningful case study is the GDPR, the European privacy regulation, which was approved in 2016 and came into force in 2018. One of the basic principles, that of privacy by design, i.e. already built into a product or service at the time of its conception, has become the mantra of many American companies in just a few years. While it is true that the US does not yet have a federal privacy law, California, which is home to most of the large American technology companies, passed a very similar one. more>

Updates from McKinsey

Unequal America: Ten insights on the state of economic opportunity
By André Dua, Kweilin Ellingrud, Michael Lazar, Ryan Luby, Matthew Petric, Alex Ulyett, and Tucker Van Aken – As parts of the United States begin the long path to recovery from the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, we set out to understand what Americans think about their current economic standing, their views on economic opportunity, and the barriers they see standing between themselves and a more inclusive and prosperous future.

So we asked them directly.

Together with the market-research and opinion-polling firm Ipsos, we surveyed 25,000 Americans in the spring of 2021 in an effort to understand their perceptions of the current and future state of the US economy, to discern firsthand their hopes for the future, and to learn about the challenges they face. We also wanted to establish a baseline of data to better understand how outcomes and perceptions are affected by people’s access to resources, as well as by factors such as their identity, education, and level of caregiving responsibility. The breadth and depth of our sample allowed us to draw timely insights across demographic categories and geographic cuts (see sidebar “About the survey”). While the results of our inaugural survey reflect just one moment in time—a period during which the course of the COVID-19 virus and economic conditions were rapidly evolving—they serve as a useful baseline view into the economic experiences of a broad swath of Americans.

What we learned was sobering. Among the findings: Americans report that their financial situations have deteriorated over the past year, and at the time of our survey only half of all respondents reported being able to cover their living expenses for more than two months in the event of job loss. Our survey results also indicated that the pandemic has harmed the economic well-being of many groups, exacerbating inequalities that existed before the crisis. Americans reported facing numerous barriers to economic opportunity and inclusion—among them, inadequate access to health insurance and physical and mental healthcare, as well as to affordable childcare. Moreover, many respondents said that they feel their very identity limits their access to jobs and to fair recognition and reward for their work. more>

Updates from Georgia Tech

Underwater Gardens Boost Coral Diversity to Stave Off ‘Biodiversity Meltdown’
By Renay San Miguel – Corals are the foundation species of tropical reefs worldwide, but stresses ranging from overfishing to pollution to warming oceans are killing corals and degrading the critical ecosystem services they provide. Because corals build structures that make living space for many other species, scientists have known that losses of corals result in losses of other reef species. But the importance of coral species diversity for corals themselves was less understood.

A new study from two researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology provides both hope and a potentially grim future for damaged coral reefs. In their research paper, “Biodiversity has a positive but saturating effect on imperiled coral reefs,” published October 13 in Science AdvancesCody Clements and Mark Hay found that increasing coral richness by ‘outplanting’ a diverse group of coral species together improves coral growth and survivorship. This finding may be especially important in the early stages of reef recovery following large-scale coral loss — and in supporting healthy reefs that in turn support fisheries, tourism, and coastal protection from storm surges. more>

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Updates from Chicago Booth

What Is the Line Between Self-Interest and Selfishness?
The debate has raged for 300 years and counting.
By John Paul Rollert – The pursuit of self-interest. Sounds like a harmless phrase, right? And yet no matter of modern political economy is more subject to controversy than the moral status of this motive force. What should we make of it?

In my business ethics classes, I tell A Tale of the Two Shirts, an allegory of sorts for the ethics of self-interest and its evolution over the past few hundred years. To set the stage, I take my students back to the 18th century, to the dispute that most inflamed the earliest days of capitalism: whether to embrace commercial self-interest at all.

An infamous fable

Long before paeans to self-interest were a mainstay of microeconomics classes, the instinct was strictly frowned upon. To declare that a zeal for one’s personal affairs should be the spur to a thriving society was to effectively announce that one was wicked and insane. Wicked, because the notion that an individual should be guided by what is best for himself rather than the people around him smacked of the devil’s business. Insane, because the idea that a community propelled by such an instinct wouldn’t soon collapse into chaos was so entirely counterintuitive as to be ridiculous on its face. If, as the philosopher Thomas Hobbes maintained, a world ungoverned by the iron fist of some central authority soon gave way to a war of all against all, private pursuits were a luxury no society could afford. more>

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What Makes Life Meaningful? Views From 17 Advanced Economies

Family is preeminent for most publics but work, material well-being and health also play a key role
By Laura Silver, Patrick Van Kessel, Christine Huang, Laura Clancy and Sneha Gubbala – What do people value in life? How much of what gives people satisfaction in their lives is fundamental and shared across cultures, and how much is unique to a given society? To understand these and other issues, Pew Research Center posed an open-ended question about the meaning of life to nearly 19,000 adults across 17 advanced economies.

From analyzing people’s answers, it is clear that one source of meaning is predominant: family. In 14 of the 17 advanced economies surveyed, more mention their family as a source of meaning in their lives than any other factor. Highlighting their relationships with parents, siblings, children and grandchildren, people frequently mention quality time spent with their kinfolk, the pride they get from the accomplishments of their relatives and even the desire to live a life that leaves an improved world for their offspring. In Australia, New Zealand, Greece and the United States, around half or more say their family is something that makes their lives fulfilling. more>

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Can the crisis of social reproduction bring the demise of central-European illiberals?

By Weronika Grzebalska – This month, Polish protesters took to the streets after 30-year-old Izabela passed away from septicaemia in a hospital, her foetus having died in her womb. Her death came nine months after abortion in cases of foetal defects was deemed unconstitutional in Poland, under the illiberal Law and Justice (PiS) government.

Women’s rights activists fear that this cruel ruling will increasingly push medical staff to take a wait-and-see approach to women with difficult pregnancies. Population experts also predict it will further lower already falling birth rates, with surveys long reporting that Polish women are having fewer children than they would like to, due to the twin pressures of market capitalism and illiberal pronatalism.

The anti-abortion ruling exposes the cynical contradictions of illiberal family and demographic policy. This is why Polish politicians and anti-abortion advocacy groups have since tried to distance themselves from Izabela’s death, presenting it as a tragic accident unrelated to their radical agenda.

After all, the illiberal right in both Poland and Hungary came to power harnessing material anxieties related to the growing crisis of social reproduction—the declining ability of societies to create and maintain social bonds and provide care between and within generations. By promising to protect ‘family values’ amid the progressive decline of socio-economic security, and by offering families vital endowments, central-European illiberals have rallied even moderate voters behind their agenda. more>

Europe’s strategic autonomy: A good idea, but poor PR

By Kinga Brudzinska – The idea of EU strategic autonomy originated in the field of security and defence in St. Malo Declaration (1998) and later in the 2016 EU Global Strategy. But it was not until French President Emmanuel Macron’s speech at Paris’ Sorbonne University in September 2017 that the concept has started to evolve and expand to other policy fields (encompassing i.e. industrial and technological independence) and has gained ground in Brussels and the EU capitals.

In the face of the COVID-19 recovery, a rivalry between the US and China on the global stage and the EU’s ambitions to bolster its position in the world, the debate on Europe’s ‘strategic autonomy’ and its freedom to act, has been receiving even more prominence. Not always in a positive sense.

While some European leaders see the EU’s ability to act autonomously and more independently from the United States as a political imperative to enable the continent to decide its own future without overly depending on others, others look at it with more reservation and skepticism.

For example, in Eastern Europe, together with the Baltics – countries’ with a strong pro-American orientation – fear that investing in European strategic autonomy will weaken the long-standing transatlantic bond and will become a synonym for protectionism, especially without the UK in the EU. There is also an old distrust in the EU, including in Eastern Europe, about France’s real intentions. As noticed by the Economist, in short, the idea of “strategic autonomy” and “sovereignty” has exposed old cracks within the European Union over how far Europe should, or could, do more to defend itself. more>

Capitalism’s Core Problem: The Case for Universal Property

Capitalism’s most grie­vous flaws are, at root, problems of property rights and must be ad­dres­­sed at that level.
By Peter Barnes – Capitalism as we know it has two egregious flaws: it relentlessly widens inequality and destroys nature.  Its ‘invisible hand,’ which is supposed to transform individual self-seeking into widely shared well-being, too often doesn’t, and governments can’t keep up with the consequences.  For billions of people around the world, the challenge of our era is to repair or replace capitalism before its cumulative harms become irreparable.

Among those who would repair capitalism, policy ideas abound.  Typically, they involve more government regulations, taxes and spending.  Few, if any, would fundamentally alter the dynamics of markets themselves.  Among those who would replace capitalism, many would nationalize a good deal of private property and expand government’s role in regulating the rest.

This book explores the terrain midway between repairing and re­pla­cing capitalism.  It envisions a transformed market economy in which private property and businesses are complemented by universal property and fiduciary trusts whose beneficiaries are future generations and all living persons equally.

Economists wrangle over monetary, fiscal and regulatory policies but pay little attention to property rights. Their models all assume that property rights remain just as they are forever.  But this needn’t and shouldn’t be the case.  My premise is that capitalism’s most grie­vous flaws are, at root, problems of property rights and must be ad­dres­­sed at that level.

Property rights in modern economies are grants by governments of permission to use, lease, sell or bequeath specific assets — and just as importantly, to exclude others from doing those things.  The assets involved can be tangible, like land and machinery, or intangible, like shares of stock or songs. more>

The search for alien tech

There’s a new plan to find extraterrestrial civilisations by the way they live. But if we can see them, can they see us?
By Corey S Powell – Are we alone in the Universe? And if not, should we be excited – or afraid? These questions are as immediate as the latest Netflix hit and as primal as the ancient myths that associated the planets with spirits and gods. In 1686, Bernard le Bovier de Fontenelle, the long-term secretary to the French Academy of Sciences, put an Enlightenment stamp on speculations about alien life with his book Entretiens sur la pluralité des mondes (Conversations on the Plurality of Worlds). In a series of spirited philosophical conversations, he declared that ‘it would be very strange for the Earth to be so well inhabited, and the other planets perfectly solitary’, and argued that alien beings might attempt to communicate with us or even visit us using some advanced form of flight.

Ever since, each age has featured its own version yearning for contact with life from beyond, always anchored to the technological themes of the day. In 1818, the German mathematician Carl Friedrich Gauss proposed communicating with aliens using a heliotrope, a system of mirrors that he devised to send coded signals using reflected sunlight. After the development of early electric lights, the French inventor Charles Cros suggested that such lamps could be amplified to beam messages to Venus or Mars. Nikola Tesla wrote in 1900 that ‘interplanetary communication has entered the stage of probability’ using newfangled radio waves. A year later, he reported that he had detected likely signals broadcast from another world.

Then the search got stuck. Radio persisted as the alien-hunting medium of choice, even as technology continued to change faster than ever. A full century after Tesla, researchers engaged in the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (commonly shortened to SETI) were still scanning the heavens with antennas and listening for artificial radio transmissions incoming from other worlds. The efforts led to ever-tightening statistical upper limits and a handful of briefly exciting false alarms, but mostly a whole lot of nothing. more>