Category Archives: History

Why Your Brain Hates Other People

By Robert Sapolsky – Humans universally make Us/Them dichotomies along lines of race, ethnicity, gender, language group, religion, age, socioeconomic status, and so on. And it’s not a pretty picture.

We do so with remarkable speed and neurobiological efficiency; have complex taxonomies and classifications of ways in which we denigrate Thems; do so with a versatility that ranges from the minutest of microaggression to bloodbaths of savagery; and regularly decide what is inferior about Them based on pure emotion, followed by primitive rationalizations that we mistake for rationality.

Pretty depressing.

The brain’s fault lines dividing Us from Them are also shown with the hormone oxytocin. It’s famed for its pro-social effects—oxytocin prompts people to be more trusting, cooperative, and generous. But, crucially, this is how oxytocin influences behavior toward members of your own group. When it comes to outgroup members, it does the opposite.

The brain’s fault lines dividing Us from Them are also shown with the hormone oxytocin. It’s famed for its pro-social effects—oxytocin prompts people to be more trusting, cooperative, and generous. But, crucially, this is how oxytocin influences behavior toward members of your own group. When it comes to outgroup members, it does the opposite… more> https://goo.gl/jv9WTY

A Dangerous Choice

By Kenneth T. Walsh – President Donald Trump’s decision to give the Pentagon the authority to make policy in Afghanistan is one of his most important, far-reaching and dangerous choices as commander in chief so far.

In the near term, it will almost certainly mean an escalation of the conflict with the addition of thousands of U.S. troops to the war zone. The fighting in Afghanistan has already lasted for 16 years and is America’s longest sustained war, extending over the tenure of three presidents of both major parties – George W. Bush, Barack Obama and Donald Trump. Only the U.S. commitment to Vietnam came close to this mark, and it was a very polarizing, detested venture and ended in a defeat that Americans want to avoid repeating.

Over the long term, it means more U.S. entanglements in a region that few Americans understand, that U.S. policy makers often misjudge, and that has been the graveyard for potential occupiers and conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. more> https://goo.gl/pmjecw

Supreme Court Just Ruled That Using Social Media Is a Constitutional Right

By Ephrat Livni – Public space in the digital age has no shape and no physical place. But the Supreme Court is now sorting out what that means for free-speech rights.

On June 19, the justices unanimously held that states can’t broadly limit access to social media because cyberspace “is one of the most important places to exchange views.”

“A fundamental First Amendment principle is that all persons have access to places where they can speak and listen, and then, after reflection, speak and listen once more,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote. Given the fact that social-media platforms in particular allow for this kind of free communication, and that the constitution protects the right to exchange, more> https://goo.gl/XRLDt7

This is how Big Oil will die

By Seth Miller – The Keystone XL closed thanks to a confluence of technologies that came together faster than anyone in the oil and gas industry had ever seen. It’s hard to blame them — the transformation of the transportation sector over the last several years has been the biggest, fastest change in the history of human civilization, causing the bankruptcy of blue chip companies like Exxon Mobil and General Motors, and directly impacting over $10 trillion in economic output.

And blame for it can be traced to a beguilingly simple, yet fatal problem: the internal combustion engine has too many moving parts. more> https://goo.gl/dqLJW9

Auto slowdown flashes caution lights for manufacturing employment — and Trump

By Mark Muro – After a good run, warning lights are flashing in the auto industry—and that’s not good for the broader manufacturing sector, for heartland metropolitan areas, or for President Trump.

Here’s the problem: after seven years of strong growth following the 2008 economic crisis and federal bailouts of both General Motors (GM) and Chrysler, auto sector output and employment growth have slowed markedly from record levels. Years of catch-up purchases by car buyers have finally plateaued. Likewise, automakers must economize to invest billions in developing the electric and self-driving cars of tomorrow.

And so the layoffs have begun. more> https://goo.gl/sazWoc

A Magic Wand for France?

By Anders Åslund – In the early days of his presidency, the French public is behind him; recent polling puts his approval rating at 62%. Yet goodwill can dissipate quickly, which is why Emmanuel Macron must move to capitalize on his early mandate by implementing reforms of fiscal policy, taxation, the labor market, and education, to name but a few areas where change is long overdue.

France’s most immediate problems are anemic growth and inadequate job creation. For the last 12 years, France’s GDP has increased by barely 1% a year, less than the mediocre uptick in the European Union as a whole, while unemployment currently hovers just above 10%.

Only five EU countries – Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Spain, and Greece – have higher unemployment rates.

Part of the unemployment challenge is tied to hidden costs. France has some of the highest labor costs for hourly employees in the EU, and a natural consequence is tepid hiring. With inequality also growing, many French are rightly upset that labor is taxed much more than capital gains. Indeed, France’s payroll taxes amount to 19% of GDP – far exceeding the EU average of 13%.

Likewise, government spending, at 57% of GDP – is the highest in the EU, where the average is 47%. This burden is excessive, and significantly hinders economic growth. more> https://goo.gl/jxchXt

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The Left And Science In LaLaLand?

By Wolfgang Kowalsky – How did we get into that situation?

First, a fading consensus, not only on Europe but also on the liberal form of representative democracy, is not a totally new trend. It is an incremental, not an underground movement with some disruptive events above the surface.

It started half a century ago when some so-called New Philosophers – and in parallel a so-called New Right – saw the light of day and developed a hegemonic strategy based on the ideas of Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci. Together, the New Philosophers and the New Right had much more impact than expected.

The struggle between different political concepts which is the foundation of liberal democracies is superposed by the trend to use the political battle to push for limiting democracy, which is presented as too bureaucratic, too dominated by compromises and endless discussions. The justification behind this trend is to simplify complex issues, to avoid long discussions and to facilitate recourse to immediate action along the line of ‘Promises made, promises kept’ – tactic to cement hegemony over one’s own clientèle.

The question is why the oversimplification and the denial of complex correlations gets more and more support. more> https://goo.gl/nFQFZw

Sending a strong signal on global internet freedom

By Stuart N. Brotman – The growing restrictions on internet freedom around the world are easy to document; less so any visible American strategy that would reverse the ominous trends at hand.

According to its most recent annual report in this area, Freedom on the Net 2016, two-thirds of the world’s internet users live under government censorship. Internet freedom around the world declined in 2016 for the sixth consecutive year.

The types of blocked content include political communication aimed at promoting democratic values, such as online petitions and calls for public protests. Even satire can be punished severely: a 22-year old in Egypt was imprisoned for three years after photo-shopping Mickey Mouse ears on President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Unfortunately, this type of criminal penalty is hardly unique.

Overall, Freedom House deemed only 17 surveyed countries to have real internet freedom; 28 were partly free and 20 were characterized as not free. The leading bad state actors should not be surprising: China, Syria, Iran, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan and Cuba (North Korea was not included in the survey, alas).

The U.S. would be hurt if the marketplace of ideas and the online commercial marketplace that thrive here are diminished overseas.

However, there has been radio silence to date about this issue from the White House and the Department of State. more> https://goo.gl/msTcLz

Updates from Chicago Booth

Identify and rise above load-bearing assumptions
By Linda E. Ginzel – How could you build a really, really tall building without building really, really thick walls?

A man named William Le Baron Jenney came up with the answer. Jenney is widely recognized as the father of the American skyscraper, and according to Chicago lore, he had a breakthrough idea when he observed his wife placing a very heavy book on top of a tall metal birdcage. The cage not only supported the weight of the book, Jenney could see that it could have easily supported a whole stack of books. A stack of books piled high and balancing on a birdcage—what an image.

Jenney introduced the idea of a complete, steel skeleton, and he built the first fully metal-framed skyscraper in Chicago in 1884. Just as his wife used a birdcage to support the weight of a very big book, Jenney used metal columns and beams to support his building from the inside.

This story demonstrates the combined power of shedding a default assumption that weighed people down with making a major conceptual shift, which, in this case, provided architects the strength they needed to build higher.

Many of us face load-bearing assumptions, perhaps about management, strategy, finance, or leadership. For example, you may assume that the economic world is a zero-sum game.

Shedding assumptions is not an easy task because many have served you well in the past, and there is risk in abandoning them. Yet one of the most important skills that you can acquire is a willingness to question your load-bearing assumptions and make a different choice, when necessary. more> https://goo.gl/zR2hFR

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Make Congress Great Again

By Matthew Spalding – Today, the primary function of government is to regulate.

When Congress writes legislation, it uses very broad language that turns extensive power over to agencies, which are also given the authority of executing and often adjudicating violations of their regulations in particular cases. The result is that most of the actual decisions of lawmaking and public policy – decisions previously the constitutional responsibility of elected legislators – are delegated to bureaucrats whose “rules” have the full force and effect of laws passed by Congress.

The modern Congress is almost exclusively a supervisory body exercising limited oversight over administrative lawmakers.

If the development of the rule of law and constitutional government is the most significant accomplishment of the long history of human liberty, the greatest political revolution in the United States since the establishment of the Constitution has been the shift of power away from the lawmaking institutions of republican government to an oligarchy of experts who rule by regulation over virtually every aspect of our lives.

The result is an increasingly unbalanced structural relationship between what amounts to an executive–bureaucratic branch that can act with or without Congress to pursue common goals, and an ever-weakening legislative branch unable or unwilling to exercise its powers to check the executive or rein in a metastasizing bureaucracy. more> https://goo.gl/Jp3xRz