Tag Archives: Government

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

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

The end of globalisation as we know it?

By Durukal Gun , Christian Keller, Sree Kochugovindan, Tomasz Wieladek – Modern globalisation has gone well beyond the trade of goods, as technology allowed for transfer of know-how and skills.

Since glottalization began in the middle of the 1800s, it has been through several different cycles. Now it appears to have reached yet another turning point.

Only recently has globalization matched the heights it reached before World War I.

  • First wave of globalization (1850s to 1914)
  • Protectionism (1914 to 1945)
  • Second wave of glottalization (1945 to 1990)
  • Hyperglobalization (1990 to present)

Among the clear beneficiaries of hyperglobalization are the emerging economies, which have become increasingly integrated into more and more complex global value chains. Their role in processing raw materials, and in value-added manufacturing and services has grown rapidly.

The first signs of opposition to hyperglobalisation emerged amid major demonstrations at the 1999 meeting of the World Trade Organization in Seattle. Concerns mounted in the wake of the 2008-09 financial crisis and subsequent global recession, reflected more recently in public resistance to trade and investment agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership and the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

Discriminatory protectionist tariffs and trade measures are on the rise. more> https://goo.gl/K54eeK

The world is sitting on a $400 trillion financial time bomb

By Allison Schrager – Financial disaster is looming, and not because of the stock market or subprime loans. The coming crisis is more insidious, structural, and almost certain to blow up eventually.

The World Economic Forum (WEF) predicts that by 2050 the world will face a $400 trillion shortfall (pdf) in retirement savings. (Yes, that’s trillion, with a “T”.)

The US will find itself in the biggest hole, falling $137 trillion short of what’s necessary to fund adequate retirements in 2050. It is followed by China’s $119 trillion shortfall.

Much of the massive shortfall is baked into retirement systems; setups in which nobody, neither individuals nor the government, saves enough.

About three-quarters of the projected comes from underfunded promises from governments, with the rest mostly accounted for by under-saving on the part of individuals. more> https://goo.gl/UUisEk

A pioneering computer scientist wants algorithms to be regulated like cars, banks, and drugs

By Katherine Ellen Foley – It’s convenient when Facebook can tag your friends in photos for you, and it’s fun when Snapchat can apply a filter to your face. Both are examples of algorithms that have been trained to recognize eyes, noses, and mouths with consistent accuracy.

Such algorithms are already deeply embedded in many aspects of our lives. They do such things as setting prices on stock markets, flying aircraft on autopilot, calculating insurance risks, finding you an Uber, and devising routes for delivery trucks.

But algorithms make mistakes too, and when they do it can be extremely hard to figure out why—witness the flash crashes on stock markets and the autopilot failure that brought down Air France flight 447 in 2009. more> https://goo.gl/O8inEI

End-times for humanity

BOOK REVIEW

Death of the Posthuman: Essays on Extinction, Author: Claire Colebrook.
This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate, Author: Naomi Klein.
Antifragile, Author: Nicholas Taleb.
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman, Author: Mary Wollstonecraft.
The Social Contract, Author: Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

By Claire Colebrook – The panic isn’t merely about civilisational threats, but existential ones. Beyond doomsday proclamations about mass extinction, climate change, viral pandemics, global systemic collapse and resource depletion, we seem to be seized by an anxiety about losing the qualities that make us human.

Social media, we’re told, threatens our capacity for empathy and genuine connection.

How did we arrive at this moment in history, in which humanity is more technologically powerful than ever before, and yet we feel ourselves to be increasingly fragile?

What contemporary post-apocalyptic culture fears isn’t the end of ‘the world’ so much as the end of ‘a world’ – the rich, white, leisured, affluent one. Western lifestyles are reliant on what the French philosopher Bruno Latour has referred to as a ‘slowly built set of irreversibilities’, requiring the rest of the world to live in conditions that ‘humanity’ regards as unlivable.

And nothing could be more precarious than a species that contracts itself to a small portion of the Earth, draws its resources from elsewhere, transfers its waste and violence, and then declares that its mode of existence is humanity as such. more> https://goo.gl/1nriI9

Our obsession with GDP and economic growth has failed us, let’s end it

BOOK REVIEW

Wellbeing Economy: Success in a World Without Growth, Author: Lorenzo Fioramonti.

By Lorenzo Fioramonti – The idea that the economic “pie” can grow indefinitely is alluring. The “growth first” rule has dominated the world since the early 20th century. No other ideology has ever been so powerful: the obsession with growth even cut through both capitalist and socialist societies.

But what exactly is growth? Strangely enough, the notion has never been reasonably developed.

For common sense people, there is growth when—all things being equal—our overall wealth increases.

Paradoxically, our model of economic growth does exactly the opposite of what common sense suggests.

Here are some examples. If I sell my kidney for some cash, then the economy grows. But if I educate my kids, prepare and cook food for my community, improve the health conditions of my people, growth doesn’t happen.

If a country cuts and sells all its trees, it gets a boost in GDP. But nothing happens if it nurtures them. more> https://goo.gl/k6G27r

Resisting Authoritarian Populism: Lessons From/For Singapore

By Kenneth Paul Tan – Although a young, small, and multi-ethnic nation-state, Singapore is prosperous, peaceful, and surprisingly influential in the global imagination. But its international image has attracted contradictory reactions.

History presents numerous examples of fragility where liberal democracies are concerned. Political philosophy tells us that diversity—and nearly every society today is diverse—can weaken the  communitarian basis of a society, making it difficult for the state to function well and eroding the trust that binds people to one another and to their institutions.

Without a strong institutional basis, the nation-state can become vulnerable to authoritarian populism, particularly when hit by crisis. Out of a demoralized society, moral and political entrepreneurs, often skillful demagogues, emerge and compete for power by mobilizing a collective sense of victimhood directed against an allegedly corrupt establishment as well as scapegoats such as immigrants, ethnic minorities, and sexual minorities, upon whom the entire blame for all of society’s ills are placed. more> https://goo.gl/8GKyGP

Why Wall Street Went Astray: Eight Ways To Humanize Finance

BOOK REVIEW

The Wisdom of Finance: Discovering Humanity in the World of Risk and Return, Author: Mihir Desai.

By Steve Denning – Why did Wall Street go astray?

For most of the last several centuries, bankers and financiers were the pillars of society, the bastions of morality, the people in society that everyone respected.

Yet over the last few decades, Wall Street has become almost a synonym of evil. What went wrong? What can be done to restore the financial sector to the level of respect that it once enjoyed?

For people outside finance: Finance is deeply misunderstood, and we need to make it understandable to people so that they don’t demonize it. The way to do that is not through equations or graphs, but through stories. Finance is central to our lives and ignorance of it is very costly on an individual and societal level.

For people in finance: The core ideas of finance are quite life affirming and very noble — we should make people in finance aspire to them rather than expect so little of them. If finance is going to rehabilitate itself, and I do think it’s broken in many ways, the way to rehabilitate is not through regulation, or outrage, but rather returning to its basic underlying ideas, which are actually quite wonderful. In the long run, that’s how we make finance better — by getting back to the core ideas. more> https://goo.gl/Kr4Mnj

American dreaming 3.0

BOOK REVIEW

American Nietzsche: A History of an Icon and His Ideas, Author: Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen.
The Epic of America, Author: James Truslow Adams.
Dreams from My Father, Author: Barack Obama.
A Discourse on the Method, Author: René Descartes.
The Liberal Imagination, Author: Lionel Trilling.
The Third Reich of Dreams, Author: Charlotte Beradt.
Freedom Dreams, Author: Robin Kelley.

By Jennifer Ratner-Rosenhagen – Because the ‘American Dream’ is such a key phrase of the country’s self-understanding, it feels like a founding ideal of the US. However, it is not so old. It was scarcely used before the historian James Truslow Adams first popularized it in The Epic of America (1931) as both a vision that united centuries of US history, and also a universal human aspiration. It was, wrote Adams, ‘that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man, with opportunity for each according to his ability or achievement’. The ‘American Dream’ represented equality, social mobility and opportunity.

How to assess the potential political uses of dreams?

The great potential of dreams for our public life lay in their ability to help people question that which goes by the clumsy and overworked moniker of ‘reality’ in political debate. Taking dreams seriously can lead to the kind of fundamental, unobvious discussions that those who wield ‘reality’ to browbeat people into ignorant submission, or dutiful obedience to whatever status quo, use to defend it. But these are examples when ‘reality’ is on its best behavior. more> https://goo.gl/mwXNYT