A growing chorus of experts argue that they’re strangling the economy—and must be stopped.
By Frank Partnoy – Index funds have grown exponentially since John Bogle founded Vanguard in the mid-1970s.
The top three families of index funds each manage trillions of dollars, collectively holding 15 to 20 percent of all the stock of major U.S. corporations. Best of all for their investors, index funds have consistently beaten the performance of stock-pickers and actively managed funds, whose higher fees may support the Manhattan lifestyle of many bankers, but turn out not to deliver much to customers.
Concerns about the potential dangers of shareholder diversification first surfaced back in 1984, not long after index funds themselves did. Julio Rotemberg, then a newly minted economist from Princeton, posited that “firms, acting in the interest of their shareholders,” might “tend to act collusively when their shareholders have diversified portfolios.” The idea, which Rotemberg explored in a working paper, was that if investors own a slice of every firm, they will make more money if firms compete less and collectively raise prices, at the expense of consumers. Knowing this, the firms’ managers will de-emphasize competition and behave more cooperatively with one another. more> https://goo.gl/AWXivG
Posted in Banking, CONGRESS WATCH, Economy, Education, History, Media, Net
Tagged Capital, Financial crisis, Government, index funds, Industrial economy, Regulations, United States
Sea Change: GE’s French Wind Turbine Factory Will Power Germany’s Renewables Revolution
By Tomas Kellner – GE is a relative newcomer to offshore wind. The company explored the field a decade ago and returned to the industry in 2015, when it acquired the energy assets of Alstom, and built its first wind farm in Long Island Sound near Block Island, Rhode Island, last year. As the inaugural offshore wind farm in the United States, the project made a splash even though it holds just five turbines. But Merkur, which will have 66 turbines, is a much bigger beast. “This one is special,” says Pascal Girault, who runs the Saint-Nazaire plant. “Everything is big.”
Girault spent the early part of his career managing supply chains for the car industry, but ramping up production for Merkur is no Sunday drive. Workers in Saint-Nazaire make generators and assemble nacelles for the 6-megawatt GE Haliade turbine. The nacelle is the casing on top of the tower that shelters the generator and other equipment. It includes some 30,000 components.
Adding to the task’s complexity, the composite blades for the machines’ 150-meter-diameter rotors come from GE’s LM Wind Power factory in Spain. The steel segments for the tower are being made in Germany and China. U.S. and European companies supply electronics and mechanical components for the converter and generator. “The scale and the speed of the project are challenging,” Girault says. more> https://goo.gl/GSScqV
Posted in Construction, EARTH WATCH, Economic development, Economy, Energy, Nature, Product, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, GE, Industrial economy, Manufacturing, Technology, Wind turbine
By Larry Elliott – The assumption underlying the muted response is that there will be no war between the US and North Korea, nuclear or otherwise, and that the smart investment play is to buy into any dips.
The markets are part right. It still looks unlikely that Trump will sanction a pre-emptive strike. Kim knows that, which is why he would be dumb to up the ante by aiming some missiles into the sea off Guam first.
But the financial markets – and the broader global economy – could still turn nasty in an repeat of what happened 10 years ago even without a shooting war.
For a start, the world has never really recovered from the last crisis. Growth rates have been weak and have only been possible because years of low interest rates and quantitative easing have encouraged consumers and businesses to rack up large amounts of debt. As the economist Steve Keen notes in his new book Can we avoid another financial crisis (Polity), many countries have become what he calls debt junkies.
“They face the junkie’s dilemma, a choice between going ‘cold turkey’ now, or continuing to shoot up on credit and experience a bigger bust later.”
Keen says the countries to watch out for have two characteristics: they already have high levels of personal debt and have relied substantially on credit as a source of demand in the past five years. Australia, Canada, South Korea, Sweden and Norway are all on his list of candidates to be future debt zombies. But so is China. more> https://goo.gl/f7WBnq
Posted in Book review, Business, CONGRESS WATCH, EARTH WATCH, Economy, History, Leadership, Media, Technology
Tagged Congress Watch, Earth, Financial crisis, Financial markets, Nuclear threat
By Raya Bidshahri – When it comes to climate change, government leaders and politicians must begin to think beyond their term limits and lifetimes. They must ask themselves not how they can serve their voters, but rather how they can contribute to our species’ progress. They must think beyond the short term economic benefits of fossil fuels, and consider the long term costs to our planet.
Climate change is considered one of the greatest threats to our species. If current trends continue, we can expect an increase in frequency of extreme weather events like floods, droughts and heat waves. All of these pose a threat to crops, biodiversity, freshwater supplies and above all, human life.
Here are examples of a few countries leading the way.
Denmark: Considered the most climate-friendly country in the world, Denmark is on the path to be completely independent of fossil fuels by 2050.
China: Home to the world’s biggest solar farm, China is the world’s biggest investor in domestic solar energy and is also expanding its investments in renewable energies overseas.
France: Thanks to the production of nuclear energy, representing 80 percent of nationwide energy production, France has already reduced its greenhouse gas emissions.
India: The nation is on the path to becoming the third-largest solar market in the world. Solar power has become cheaper than coal in India.
Sweden: Sweden has passed a law that obliges the government to cut all greenhouse emissions by 2045. With more than half of its energy coming from renewable sources and a very successful recycling program, the country leads many initiatives on climate change. more> https://goo.gl/PPrn3b
Posted in Economic development, Economy, Energy & emissions, Leadership, Nature, Science, Technology
Tagged Business improvement, Climate change, Ecology, extreme weather, Renewable energy
Autodesk Highlights Next-Gen Storytelling & Collaboration Tools at SIGGRAPH 2017
Autodesk – Leading up to SIGGRAPH 2017, Autodesk released a series of updates for its media and entertainment tools, including Autodesk Media & Entertainment Collection, Autodesk Maya, Shotgun, Arnold, Autodesk 3ds Max, and Autodesk Flame. Engineered to streamline and accelerate production on films, TV shows, games and immersive experiences, the new releases include improvements and user-requested enhancements that connect creative workflows and teams, helping them bring engaging stories to life for a worldwide audience.
“The continued growth of AR and VR and steady flow of new productions from Netflix, Amazon and others, mean animation and VFX houses are in more demand than ever. We’re focused on helping our customers create, connect and compute faster and more efficiently so they can balance their increasing project loads with tighter schedules and budgets,” Chris Bradshaw, Senior Vice President, Media & Entertainment, Autodesk, stated. “Everything we’re showing at SIGGRAPH streamlines production and equips artists with the tools to handle nearly any creative scenario.” more> cadinnovation.com
Posted in Broadband, Business, Economic development, Economy, Education, How to, Media, Net, Technology
Tagged Autodesk, Broadband, Industrial economy, Internet, Jobs, Skills
By Tom Jacobs – The “nuclear taboo” has held for 70 years for two reasons, according to Jacques Hymans: “the enormity of the decision of use nuclear weapons,” and the unpredictability of the consequences of doing so. Nevertheless, he warns, these are dangerous times.
New nuclear states have always been highly interested in trying to use their weapons as means of compellence, i.e. threats to get some benefit. New leaders have also had such tendencies. This is understandable, because it takes time and experience to accept the counterintuitive reality that the biggest bomb in the world is mostly useless as a military weapon, and therefore also useless as a means of compellence. So, history teaches us that both the U.S. and North Korea at present are liable to try to push their nuclear luck. That makes for a dangerous situation.
The chances are higher that the U.S. will launch first. But this would be a terrible humanitarian catastrophe and the U.S. would lose Asia politically for a hundred years. more> https://goo.gl/CtHxCU
Posted in Book review, CONGRESS WATCH, EARTH WATCH, Economy, Energy, History, Leadership, Media, Technology
Tagged Congress Watch, Earth, Government, Nuclear threat, War
By Derek Thompson – Before getting to the future, let’s start with the present of television. Pay TV—that is, the bundle of channels one can buy from Comcast or DirecTV—is in a ratings free fall among all viewers born since the Nixon administration.
This has created a business crisis for entertainment companies like Disney. Old Disney’s television strategy was: Focus on making great content and then sell it to distribution companies, like Comcast and DirecTV. This worked brilliantly when practically the entire country subscribed to the same television product.
Thanks to virtuous cycle of bundling, separating content and distribution used to be the obvious play for Disney
But New Disney is looking for a fresh play. Now that young households are cutting the cord, it wants to own both content and distribution.
There aren’t many great examples of legacy media empires successfully transitioning to the digital age without a few disasters along the way, or at least a long period of readjustment. Just look at American newspapers, or the music labels at the beginning of the 2000s. more> https://goo.gl/jfcC64
Posted in Broadband, Business, Economy, History, Media, Net, Technology
Tagged Broadband, Digital transformation, Entertainment, Internet, Pay television, Technology