Category Archives: Leadership

21st-century Marx

By Terrell Carver – Both Stalin and Mao had helpfully provided ‘official’ accounts of Marx’s thought – with due acknowledgement to his very influential friend Friedrich Engels – and there were committed intellectuals on both sides who were more than fluent in the relevant arcana of ‘dialectical’ and ‘historical’ materialism.

Significantly, the ‘humanist Marx’ had raised the question of economics, though not in the way that 20th-century economists had made familiar, whether they were conventional micro- or macro-economists, or Marxist economists in Moscow or Cambridge. The former ‘mainstream’ economists overwhelmingly ignored Marx and dismissed Marxist economics as politically biased and lacking in rigor; meanwhile, scholars and apparatchiks well-versed in Marxist economics despised ‘mainstream’ economists as uncritical proponents of capitalism. But both sides shared many presumptions and concepts nonetheless in theorizing capitalism.

Refreshingly, the ‘humanist Marx’ had set the stage for an examination of capitalist society in ways that bypassed all these efforts in economics, of whichever opposing camp. ‘Alienation’ was neither economics nor Marxist, so it suited the New Left of the 1960s. more>

Brookings experts on Trump’s National Security Strategy

Brookings Institution – The United States was born of a desire for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—and a conviction that unaccountable political power is tyranny.

For these reasons, our Founders crafted and ratified the Constitution, establishing the republican form of government we enjoy today. The Constitution grants our national government not only specified powers necessary to protect our God-given rights and liberties but also safeguards them by limiting the government’s size and scope, separating Federal powers, and protecting the rights of individuals through the rule of law. All political power is ultimately delegated from, and accountable to, the people.

We protect American sovereignty by defending these institutions, traditions, and principles that have allowed us to live in freedom, to build the nation that we love. And we prize our national heritage, for the rare and fragile institutions of republican government can only endure if they are sustained by a culture that cherishes those institutions.

We are committed to protecting the rights and dignity of every citizen. And we are a nation of laws, because the rule of law is the shield that protects the individual from government corruption and abuse of power, allows families to live without fear, and permits markets to thrive.

Our founding principles have made the United States of America among the greatest forces for good in history.

The United States will respond to the growing political, economic, and military competitions we face around the world.

China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity. They are determined to make economies less free and less fair, to grow their militaries, and to control information and data to repress their societies and expand their influence.

These competitions require the United States to rethink the policies of the past two decades—policies based on the assumption that engagement with rivals and their inclusion in international institutions and global commerce would turn them into benign actors and trustworthy partners. For the most part, this premise turned out to be false. more>

How Europe became so rich

BOOK REVIEW

A Culture of Growth: Origins of the Modern Economy, Author: Joel Mokyr.
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Author: Edward Gibbon.

In a time of great powers and empires, just one region of the world experienced extraordinary economic growth. How?
By Joel Mokyr – How and why did the modern world and its unprecedented prosperity begin?

One of the oldest and most persuasive explanations is the long political fragmentation of Europe. For centuries, no ruler had ever been able to unite Europe the way the Mongols and the Mings had united China.

It should be emphasized that Europe’s success was not the result of any inherent superiority of European (much less Christian) culture.

It was rather what is known as a classical emergent property, a complex and unintended outcome of simpler interactions on the whole. The modern European economic miracle was the result of contingent institutional outcomes. It was neither designed nor planned. But it happened, and once it began, it generated a self-reinforcing dynamic of economic progress that made knowledge-driven growth both possible and sustainable.

How did this work? In brief, Europe’s political fragmentation spurred productive competition. It meant that European rulers found themselves competing for the best and most productive intellectuals and artisans. The economic historian Eric L Jones called this ‘the States system’.

The costs of European political division into multiple competing states were substantial: they included almost incessant warfare, protectionism, and other coordination failures. Many scholars now believe, however, that in the long run the benefits of competing states might have been larger than the costs. In particular, the existence of multiple competing states encouraged scientific and technological innovation. more>

Updates from GE

Building The Bitcoin For Energy: This Woman Came Up With A Promising New Idea For Trading Clean Power
By Maggie Sieger & Tomas Kellner – Talia Kohen exudes enough personal energy to light up a ballroom. But her goals are much grander. “I want electricity to be the factor that unites all of Europe, just like the euro,” she says.

That’s why earlier this year, she pulled together a mostly Israeli team to fly from Tel Aviv to a “hackathon” in Berlin, where they designed a prototype for a virtual currency called ElectroEuro. The currency could allow European utilities to price and trade clean power. “It’s like a bitcoin for energy,” she says. The Ecomagination Challenge Hackathon took place alongside GE’s Minds + Machines Europe digital summit, and team ElectroEuro was one of the winners sharing in €50,000 ($56,000) in cash prizes.

Some 100 developers took part in the event on a sightseeing boat anchored in one of Berlin’s industrial harbors. Most of the participants were men, but Kohen, 32, wasn’t intimidated.

The American native has a degree in electrical and computer engineering from Cornell University. Upon graduation, she joined Raytheon, where she worked on radar and missile technology. Still wanting to learn more, she moved to Israel’s Bar Ilan University in Tel Aviv and enrolled in a master’s program focusing on computer science, artificial intelligence and natural language processing. more>

Ignoring the Will of the People

By Susan Milligan – The $1.5 trillion tax bill, hailed with glee and relief by Republicans eager to appease donors and desperate for the year’s first major legislative win, is the most unpopular major piece of legislation to pass in decades.

“It has a lot to do with money,” says Lee Miringoff, director of the nonpartisan Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York, pointing to the “Citizens United” Supreme Court case which allowed corporations and interest groups to spend massive amounts of money to influence elections.

“We see the tremendous impact of the lobby community in the tax bill. Lobbying interests were very much dominant in drafting and creating this approach.” And that means public opinion, so painstakingly quantified by pollsters candidates themselves hire, is often disregarded.

On several major issues in the news, the views of the public at large appear to have no effect on Congress.

As for the tax bill, “the Republicans are betting that by the time people realize what a turkey this bill is, it will be somebody else’s problem,” Stan Collender says. And that problem may be dumped onto the tax bill-hating Democrats, should they succeed in wresting control of Congress. more>

If work dominated your every moment would life be worth living?

BOOK REVIEW

The Good Life and Sustaining Life, Author: Andrew Taggart.
Leisure: The Basis of Culture, Author: Josef Pieper.

By Andrew Taggart – ‘Total work’ is the process by which human beings are transformed into workers and nothing else.

By this means, work will ultimately become total, I argue, when it is the center around which all of human life turns; when everything else is put in its service; when leisure, festivity and play come to resemble and then become work; when there remains no further dimension to life beyond work; when humans fully believe that we were born only to work; and when other ways of life, existing before total work won out, disappear completely from cultural memory.

We are on the verge of total work’s realization.

What is so disturbing about total work is not just that it causes needless human suffering but also that it eradicates the forms of playful contemplation concerned with our asking, pondering and answering the most basic questions of existence. more>

The Internet of Things Is Going to Change Everything About Cybersecurity

By Yevgeny Dibrov – Despite increased spending and innovation in the cybersecurity market, there is every indication that the situation will only worsen. The number of unmanaged devices being introduced onto networks daily is increasing by orders of magnitude, with Gartner predicting there will be 20 billion in use by 2020.

Traditional security solutions will not be effective in addressing these devices or in protecting them from hackers, which should be a red flag, as attacks on IoT devices were up 280% in the first part of 2017.

In fact, Gartner anticipates a third of all attacks will target shadow IT and IoT by 2020.

This new threat landscape is changing the security game. Executives who are preparing to handle future cybersecurity challenges with the same mindset and tools that they’ve been using all along are setting themselves up for continued failure.

There is much debate over the effectiveness of security and awareness training, centered on competing beliefs that humans can either be the most effective or weakest links in security chains. It can’t be denied, however, that in the age of increased social-engineering attacks and unmanaged device usage, reliance on a human-based strategy is questionable at best.

It is time to relieve your people (employees, partners, customers, etc.) of the cybersecurity burden. more>

Is another debt crisis on the way?

By Kemal Derviş – Economic growth is accelerating across most of the world. Yet the world’s total gross debt-to-GDP ratio has reached nearly 250 percent, up from 210 percent before the global economic crisis nearly a decade ago, despite post-crisis efforts by regulators in many important economies to drive the banking sector to deleverage. This has raised doubts about the sustainability of the recovery, with some arguing that a rise in interest rates could trigger another global crisis. But how likely is that to happen?

To answer this question, one must recall that debt is both a liability and an asset. In a closed economy—and we don’t owe anything to non-Earthlings—overall debt and the corresponding assets necessarily cancel each other out. So what really matters is the composition of debts and liabilities—or, to put it simply, who owes what to whom.

As long as the geopolitical situation remains manageable, policymakers should have time to implement the needed structural reforms. But the window of opportunity will not stay open forever. If policymakers waste time on trickle-down sophistry, as is happening in the U.S., the world may be headed for severe economic distress. more>

Economists Are Obsessed with “Job Creation.” How About Less Work?

By Peter Gray – We have an ever-growing number of jobs that seem completely useless or even harmful.

As examples, we have administrators and assistant administrators in ever larger numbers shuffling papers that don’t need to be shuffled, corporate lawyers and their staffs helping big companies pay less than their fair share of taxes, countless people in the financial industries doing who knows what mischief, lobbyists using every means possible to further corrupt our politicians, and advertising executives and sales personnel pushing stuff that nobody needs or really wants.

The real problem, of course, is an economic one. We’ve figured out how to reduce the amount of work required to produce everything we need and realistically want, but we haven’t figured out how to distribute those resources except through wages earned from the 40-hour (or more) workweek.

In fact, technology has had the effect of concentrating more and more of the wealth in the hands of an ever-smaller percentage of the population, which compounds the distribution problem.

Moreover, as a legacy of the industrial revolution, we have a cultural ethos that says people must work for what they get, and so we shun any serious plans for sharing wealth through means other than exchanges for work.

So, I say, down with the work ethic, up with the play ethic!

We are designed to play, not to work. We are at our shining best when playing. Let’s get our economists thinking about how to create a world that maximizes play and minimizes work. more>

Most ‘Wealth’ Isn’t the Result of Hard Work. It Has Been Accumulated by Being Idle and Unproductive.

By Laurie Macfarlane – One of the basic claims of capitalism is that people are rewarded in line with their effort and productivity. Another is that the economy is not a zero sum game. The beauty of a capitalist economy, we are told, is that people who work hard can get rich without making others poorer.

But how does this stack up in modern Britain, the birthplace of capitalism and many of its early theorists?

In Britain, we have yet to confront the truth about the trillions of pounds of wealth amassed through the housing market in recent decades: this wealth has come straight out of the pockets of those who don’t own property.

When the value of a house goes up, the total productive capacity of the economy is unchanged because nothing new has been produced: it merely constitutes an increase in the value of the land underneath. We have known since the days of Adam Smith and David Ricardo that land is not a source of wealth but of economic rent — a means of extracting wealth from others. Or as Joseph Stiglitz puts it “getting a larger share of the pie rather than increasing the size of the pie”. The truth is that much of the wealth accumulated in recent decades has been gained at the expense of those who will see more of their incomes eaten up by higher rents and larger mortgage payments. This wealth hasn’t been ‘created’ – it has been stolen from future generations.

Misleading accounting and irresponsible economics have provided cover for this heist. The government’s national accounts record house price growth as new wealth, ignoring the cost it imposes on others in society – particularly young people and those yet to be born. Economists still hail house price inflation as a sign of economic strength.

Most of today’s ‘wealth’ isn’t the result of entrepreneurialism and hard work – it has been accumulated by being idle and unproductive. more>