Tag Archives: Government

End of a golden age

BOOK REVIEW

An Extraordinary Time: The End of the Postwar Boom and the Rise of the Ordinary Economy, Author: Marc Levinson.

By Marc Levinson – Between 1948 and 1973, Australia, Japan, Sweden and Italy had not a single year of recession. West Germany and Canada did almost as well. The good times rolled on so long that people took them for granted.

Governments and the economists who advised them happily claimed the credit. Careful economic management, they said, had put an end to cyclical ups and downs. Governments possessed more information about citizens and business than ever before, and computers could crunch the data to help policymakers determine the best course of action. In a lecture at Harvard University in 1966, Walter Heller, formerly chief economic adviser to presidents John F Kennedy and Lyndon B Johnson, trumpeted the success of what he called the ‘new economics’. ‘Conceptual advances and quantitative research in economics,’ he declared, ‘are replacing emotion with reason.’

The Golden Age was wonderful while it lasted, but it cannot be repeated. If there were a surefire method for coaxing extraordinary performance from mature economies, it likely would have been discovered a long time ago. more> https://goo.gl/oQN8FL

The European Unraveling?

By Ana Palacio – The problem for the EU is no longer the indifference that marked the worst elements of President Barack Obama’s approach to Europe. It is outright US hostility. Trump’s praise of Brexit, which emphasized the British people’s “right to self-determination,” and his belittling reference to the EU as “the Consortium” in his appearance with British Prime Minister Theresa May, underscores his hostility.

Europe is now stuck between a US and a Russia that are determined to divide it. What are we Europeans to do?

One option is to pander to Trump. That is the approach May took on her visit to Washington, DC, when she stood by silently as Trump openly declared his support for the use of torture at their joint press conference.

But, for the EU, such appeasement would be counter-productive. It is our values, not our borders, that define us. It makes little sense to abandon them, especially to ingratiate ourselves with a leader who has shown himself to be capricious and utterly untrustworthy.

The third option – and the only viable one for the EU – is self-reliance and self-determination. Only by strengthening its own international positions – increasing its leverage, in today’s jargon – can the EU cope effectively with America’s wavering fidelity to its allies and the values they share. more> https://goo.gl/FRuIrO

Crisis of capitalism? Perhaps, but don’t blame it on globalization

By Simon Tilford – Donald Trump, Brexit, serious populist pressures in other EU countries: are we entering a full-blown crisis of international liberal capitalism? There is no doubt that globalization poses policy challenges for governments.

But globalization by itself did not force governments to adopt policies that have divided their countries, exacerbated inequality and hit social mobility. Many of them did those things by choice.

The problem is not that we have allowed an increased role for markets, as many on the left (and increasingly on the populist right) argue. Open markets remain the best way of generating wealth and opportunities, of challenging vested interests and of expanding people’s freedom. We are in this mess because we’ve forgotten the lessons of the post-war period. Basically, we have a crisis of distribution and opportunity.

Globalization is a net positive, and has played a huge role in reducing poverty globally over the last 30 years. But there are winners and losers from increased trade and movements of capital, as there are from rapid technological change, and many countries, notably the US and the UK, have failed to take the necessary corrective action. more> https://goo.gl/ei52Zk

Want to Make a Lie Seem True? Say It Again. And Again. And Again

By Emily Dreyfuss – The facts don’t actually matter: People repeat them so often that you believe them. Welcome to the “illusory truth effect,” a glitch in the human psyche that equates repetition with truth.

Marketers and politicians are masters of manipulating this particular cognitive bias—which perhaps you have become more familiar with lately.

President Trump is a “great businessman,” he says over and over again. Some evidence suggests that might not be true.

So what’s going on here? “Repetition makes things seem more plausible,” says Lynn Hasher, a psychologist at the University of Toronto whose research team first noticed the effect in the 1970s. “And the effect is likely more powerful when people are tired or distracted by other information.” So … 2017, basically. more> https://goo.gl/D5eOfK

The great cryptocurrency heist

By E J Spode – We need to talk about trust and its place in the fabric of our lives. Trust seems to be in short supply these days, although we have no choice but to rely on it.

We trust schools and babysitters to look after our children. We trust banks to hold our money and to transfer it safely for us. We trust insurance companies to pay us should we meet with some disaster. When we make a large purchase – such as a house – we trust our solicitors or an escrow company to hold the funds until the transaction is complete. We trust regulators and governments to make sure these institutions are doing what they are supposed to be doing.

A good way to wrap our minds around ‘blockchain’ concept is to think of its most famous application: Bitcoin. And the best way to think about Bitcoin is not in terms of coins at all but rather as a giant ledger.

Bitcoin is just one version of the blockchain. The fundamental technology has the potential to replace a much wider range of human institutions in which we use trust to reach a consensus about a state of affairs. It could provide a definitive record for property transfers, from diamonds to Porsches to original Picassos. It could be used to record contracts, to certify the authenticity of valuable goods, or to securely store your health records (and keep track of anyone who’s ever accessed them).

But there’s a catch: what about the faithful ‘execution’ of a contract? Doesn’t that require trust as well?

What good is an agr’ement, after all, if the text is there but people don’t respect it, and don’t follow through on their obligations? more> https://goo.gl/rW7huO

Proper fiber broadband is not a waste, but you need a little socialism to do it properly

By Chris Duckett – To overcome the lust of corporations to hit the next quarterly target by squeezing the very last dollar from aging assets and instead roll out more future-proof technologies, a little government encouragement is needed in the form of monetary incentives or legislation.

There is no point in running down the path of smart infrastructure and digital interactions with authorities if the rural section of the community is stuck on outmoded systems, and governments can also enforce another important aspect to dealing with broadband on a societal level: Universality.

Broadband is a paradoxical beast once baseline speeds in double digits are attained as the benefits it can provide to society become proportional to the difficulty in reaching them, and this inversely impacts profitability.

Consequently, users end up in a situation where those who need it most often have to go without, or live with poor connections because it doesn’t make economic sense to service them. Private companies will not willingly enter regional areas, because even if there is a very slim profit margin, it could take decades before the investment paid for itself. more> https://goo.gl/wZTkjB

Updates from GE

By Samantha Shaddock – GE’s Slide Rule Sisters — Loren Ingraham, Betty Lou Bailey, Eleanor Semple and Janet Neely — worked closely with jet engine pioneer Gerhard Neumann and used their mathematics and physics expertise to advance jet-engine design in the aftermath of World War II.

“When I started going to technical engineering meetings … men just stared — a woman engineer!” Loren Ingraham told the Post in 1956. “Now when I walk in, they just sort of glance over their shoulders.”

The second world war was pivotal for the women who took the place of male engineers who’d been called to the armed forces. In 1940, fewer than 800 female engineers were working in the U.S., according to the Post’s profile. By the time the story ran 16 years later, their ranks had grown to 4,000.

Today’s numbers are better, but they’re nowhere near what they could be. Women account for 14 percent of all engineers in the U.S. and only 25 percent of information technology professionals, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the aerospace and mechanical engineering fields, women make up less than 10 percent of the workforce.

GE currently employs 14,700 women in engineering, manufacturing, IT and product management, which represents 18 percent of the company’s technical workforce. GE is aggressively pursuing a plan to grow their numbers even further by setting goals of having 20,000 women fill STEM roles at GE by 2020 and obtaining 50:50 representation for all its technical entry-level programs. more> https://goo.gl/DQWP5K

A New Reason for Foreigners to Avoid Google and Facebook

By Leonid Bershidsky – A Philadelphia court has made the unfortunate decision to reopen the legal debate on whether the U.S. has the right to access e-mails stored on foreign servers if they belong to U.S. companies.

That’s a dangerous approach that hurts the international expansion of U.S. tech companies. Privacy-minded customers in Europe are already suspicious of the U.S. government’s cooperation with the tech giants, revealed by National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden. Nationalist politicians in some countries — for example, Marine Le Pen of the French National Front — want to ban cross-border personal data transfers, arguing that such data must be stored on servers inside the internet user’s country. That, however, does not appear to guarantee that the U.S. won’t get at it, either.

Those who are uneasy about the degree of the U.S. government’s reach into their private files and communications need to start thinking about alternatives, no matter how hard it may be to replace Google, Microsoft or Facebook. more> https://goo.gl/a1hqfP

Europe Must Defend Itself Against A Dangerous President

By Klaus Brinkbäumer – There are times in life that really do count. Times when a person’s character is revealed, when the important is separated from the unimportant. Soon decisions are taken that will determine the further path a person takes.

Germany must stand up in opposition to the 45th president of the United States and his government. That’s difficult enough already for two reasons: Because it is from the Americans that we obtained our liberal democracy in the first place; and because it is unclear how the brute and choleric man on the other side will react to diplomatic pressure. The fact that opposition to the American government can only succeed when mounted together with Asian and African partners — and no doubt with our partners in Europe, with the EU — doesn’t make the situation any easier.

Under President Trump, both the justified and the contemptible will be melded. Injustice is a major issue of our times, as are fears of digitalization and globalization — and rightfully so given that the division of society and the speed of modern life is, in fact, extreme. Trump fuses these worries of his voters with nationalism and xenophobia. That’s how demagogues work and it is how they become effective.

The fact that the United States, a nuclear superpower that has dominated the world economically, militarily and culturally for decades, is now presenting itself as the victim, calling in all seriousness for “America first” and trying to force the rest of the world into humiliating concessions is absurd. But precisely because this nonsense is coming from the world’s most powerful man, it is getting trapped by him. more> https://goo.gl/PwClWJ

Liberals Will Not Like How This Revenge Plot Ends

By Megan McArdle – I thought Republicans should have confirmed Garland, and I’ve written before that the arms race to procedurally hack the U.S. government — via controlling the Supreme Court, or dreaming up ever-more-arcane uses of the parliamentary rules — is bad for the country and needs to stop. That doesn’t mean I think it’s going to.

The escalating tit-for-tat game over the Supreme Court has been going on at least since the 1980s, and arguably long before that, in the post-New-Deal era when courts began tilting noticeably leftwards.

Under Reagan, conservatives sought to reverse that by grooming conservative justices for all levels of the courts. Democrats tried to keep them from doing so, culminating in the disgraceful treatment of Robert Bork. Ever since, we’ve been locked in a spiraling cycle of payback.

Everyone understands that this is destructive; everyone wishes it to stop. The catch is, they also believe that it needs to stop after they themselves get last licks in. And so it continues. more> https://goo.gl/ZY6FYW