Tag Archives: Social economy

Breaking Down Yemen’s Escalating Military Strife

By Kelly McFarland – Yemen lies on the southeastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, buffered by the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, and bordered by Saudi Arabia and Oman. About 29 million people call Yemen home, and they are the poorest in the Middle East.

Portions of the nation have a history of British and Ottoman colonial rule, it was divided into two separate countries, and two civil wars—on top of the current one—have been waged since the early 1960s.

To understand the current conflict, which began in January of 2014, it’s necessary to know something about the Huthis.

The Huthis are a Zaydi Shiite political movement. Zaydi Shiite Muslims are around a quarter of Yemen’s population. Zaydis led much of Yemen until the 1962 overthrow of the Yemeni ruler. The government has since repressed their home region economically and culturally. More recently, the government has charged that the Zaydis are proxies for Iran and an existential threat.

As a result of the popular uprisings unleashed by the Arab Spring, an internationally backed transition removed Yemen’s autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011. The transition consisted of what was called a “National Dialogue,” inclusive of all parties, that would provide recommendations for reforms, elections, and the eventual writing of a new constitution.

The Huthis initially participated, but became disillusioned.

The war has created a major humanitarian disaster with no foreseeable end. more>

You don’t have a right to believe whatever you want to

BOOK REVIEW

Understanding Ignorance: The Surprising Impact of What We Don’t Know, Author: Daniel DeNicola.

By Daniel DeNicola – Do we have the right to believe whatever we want to believe? This supposed right is often claimed as the last resort of the willfully ignorant, the person who is cornered by evidence and mounting opinion: ‘I believe climate change is a hoax whatever anyone else says, and I have a right to believe it!’ But is there such a right?

We do recognize the right to know certain things. I have a right to know the conditions of my employment, the physician’s diagnosis of my ailments, the grades I achieved at school, the name of my accuser and the nature of the charges, and so on. But belief is not knowledge.

Unfortunately, many people today seem to take great license with the right to believe, flouting their responsibility. The willful ignorance and false knowledge that are commonly defended by the assertion ‘I have a right to my belief’ do not meet William James’s requirements.

Beliefs shape attitudes and motives, guide choices and actions. Believing and knowing are formed within an epistemic community, which also bears their effects. There is an ethic of believing, of acquiring, sustaining, and relinquishing beliefs – and that ethic both generates and limits our right to believe.

Some beliefs are false, or morally repugnant, or irresponsible, and some beliefs are also dangerous. And to those, we have no right. more>

Local Solutions for Global Problems

By Sébastien Turbot – Historically, cities have played a marginal role in global debates. In the United States, for example, early cities were rife with corruption and factionalism; local politics was messy enough. But today’s urban centers are economically stronger and politically bolder. Twenty-first-century cities’ determination to act in their own interests became clear in late 2017, when more than 50 US mayors pledged to meet the commitments of the 2015 Paris climate agreement – directly challenging President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the deal.

Even without a seat at the table (G7), many of the world’s megacities – powered by strong human capital, competitive markets, and widespread appeal – are already working to build a more progressive, inclusive, and sustainable future. From Buenos Aires to Tokyo, city leaders are making their concerns known globally – often irrespective of national agendas.

Small and mid-sized cities are also raising their international profiles. By investing in “smart” and “resilient” urban planning, governments from Bordeaux in France to Curitiba in Brazil are strengthening their brand identities and luring talent, investment, and businesses from around the world.

Cities power growth through innovation, trade, and exchange. And city services are often more visible to citizens than federal aid; consider, for example, who responds during a traffic accident or a natural disaster.

To be sure, today’s cities face many challenges. more>

An Inside Look at Smart Cities

Bank of America Merrill Lynch – Countless people and technologies keep our cities safe, clean, and efficient; some we interact with in plain sight, and others operate beneath the surface, improving our lives in ways we don’t fully realize.

But for all the richness of cities, urban living can be filled with challenges, from traffic jams to taxed energy systems to overcrowded sidewalks and transit. Many of these difficulties are rooted in dated infrastructure – so as the number of people living in cities continues to rise, investing in and modernizing city infrastructure becomes critical.

The ultimate goal? Creating a “smart city” – one that leverages technology to improve quality of life for its residents, and creates better systems and structures to support it. One that looks ahead to future generations and starts the work now to meet those needs. Investing in the “smartness” of a city not only modernizes it, but creates a stronger, more sustainable place to live and work.

The good news is that the challenge of creating a smart city presents great opportunities. In fact, the smart city market could grow from an estimated US$1 trillion in 20174 to US$3.5 trillion by the mid-2020s. This means opportunities for companies, investors and, of course, the residents themselves. How do you uncover those opportunities?

Step one is imagining what it might be like to live in a “smart city”. more>

How nations come together

By Andreas Wimmer – Why do some countries fall apart, often along their ethnic fault lines, while others have held together over decades and centuries, despite governing a diverse population as well?

Why is it, in other words, that nation-building succeeded in some places while it failed in others?

The current tragedy in Syria illustrates the possibly murderous consequences of failed nation-building.

Some old countries (such as Belgium) haven’t come together as a nation, while other more recently founded states (such as India) have done so.

There are two sides to the nation-building coin: the extension of political alliances across the terrain of a country, and the identification with and loyalty to the institutions of the state, independent of who currently governs. The former is the political-integration aspect, the latter the political-identity aspect of nation-building.

To foster both, political ties between citizens and the state should reach across ethnic divides.

A comparison between Switzerland and Belgium, two countries of similar size, with a similar linguistic composition of the population, and comparable levels of economic development, provides an example.

In Switzerland, civil society organizations – such as shooting clubs, reading circles and choral societies – developed throughout the territory during the late 18th and first half of the 19th century. They spread evenly throughout the country because modern industries emerged across all the major regions, and because Switzerland’s city-states lacked both the capacity and the motivation to suppress them.

In Belgium, by contrast, Napoleon, as well as the Dutch king who succeeded him, recognized the revolutionary potential of such voluntary associations, and suppressed them. more>

Game changing technologies: Exploring the impact on production processes and work

Eurofund – The difference between incremental innovation and disruptive innovation can be seen as the difference between improving a candle by adding a wick that burns more slowly (incremental innovation) and inventing the electric light bulb (disruption) (Christensen, 1997).

Technological innovation is permanent and ongoing, but from time to time new discoveries can pave the way for totally new uses and applications.

New technological possibilities and combinations of them can bring disruption not only at a product level, but can also involve the entire process related to its production (Arthur, 2009). This will have consequences for the working conditions of individuals employed on that process and on employment at establishment level, and thereby on the structures that regulate the relationship between the social partners in that particular sector.

Digital technology is changing manufacturing. Such changes, often placed in the heading of Industry 4.0, together describe a set of technologies that are likely to bring about deep transformations of the production process. Advanced robots, networked machines and artificial intelligence will be combined to generate new products and new ways of making products. This project focused on five possible game changing technologies over a time horizon of 10 years (that is, up to 2025).

Industry 4.0 initiatives are spreading not only in Germany but also across Europe; initiatives by EU Member States aimed at promoting advanced manufacturing techniques are being monitored by the European Commission.

IIoT is directly and explicitly an information encoding, communicating and processing technology. By attaching interconnected sensors to potentially all objects within the production process, IIoT transforms the productive process into a system that is both physical and digital (that is, cyber-physical). As well as generating a detailed virtual model of the entire production process that can be optimised with the superior processing power of digital technologies, the technology makes the objects themselves digital devices that can interact and be algorithmically controlled. more> (pdf)

Crisis Of Globalization: Restoring Social Investment Is Key

By Robert Kuttner – Why is democracy under siege throughout the West? How much of the story is cultural or racial, and how much is economic? And can the slide into authoritarianism be reversed? I think it can.

In the remarkable three decades after World War II, the economy delivered for ordinary people and there was broad support for democracy. That era was unique in two key respects.

First, the economy not only grew at record rates for peacetime, but it also became more equal. Second—and not coincidentally—this was a period when raw capitalism was tightly regulated, on both sides of the Atlantic, economically and politically.

Banking was very limited in what products it could offer, and at what prices. It was almost like a public utility. There were no exotic securities like credit derivatives to deliver exorbitant profits and put the whole economy at risk. Globally, there were fixed exchange rates and capital controls, so bankers could not make bets against currencies and entire economies.

Organized labor was empowered. Unions were accepted as legitimate social partners and had substantial influence. This was true in both Europe and America.

In the years since then, political and financial elites have redefined trade agreements to mean not just reciprocal cuts in tariffs but broader changes in global rules to make it easier for banks and corporations to evade national regulation.

Laissez-faire, discredited and marginalized after 1929, got another turn at bat(ting). Hyper-globalization was a key instrument. And that reversion had economic and ultimately political consequences. more>

How to Save the Human Race

BOOK REVIEW

World Population and Human Values: A New Reality, Authors: Jonas Salk and Jonathan Salk.

By Gabrielle Levy – Until only recently, the whole of human history has been marked by population growth, first gradual and then, in the past two hundred years, a sudden explosion. But in the last decades of the 20th century, population growth began to slow, and eventually, it will plateau or even decline.

The moment at which growth goes from accelerating to decelerating, according to a theory posited by Dr. Salk is called an inflection point – and would be filled with turmoil and conflict, but also opportunity.

Salk characterizes the time before the inflection point as Epoch A, and in that period, people were focused on their own betterment and achievement as necessary to capitalize on the potential for great growth. But going forward, after the inflection point in Epoch B, people will need to be more collaborative and sustainability-oriented. This plays out now in issues like climate change, where the world must work together to combat the issue.

The book has a particular kind of resonance and a particular kind of relevance at this moment in time, because we’re really seeing the pull between two differing value systems, and making decisions as a species about how we’re going to deal with the future. It’s always been a meaningful book, but I think it’s particularly poignant at this moment in time. more>

Capitalism Redefined

BOOK REVIEW

Theory of Value, Author: Gerard Debreu.
The Origin of Wealth, Author: Eric Beinhocker.

By Nick Hanauer and Eric Beinhocker – For everyone but the top 1 percent of earners, the American economy is broken.

Since the 1980s, there has been a widening disconnect between the lives lived by ordinary Americans and the statistics that say our prosperity is growing. Despite the setback of the Great Recession, the U.S. economy more than doubled in size during the last three decades while middle-class incomes and buying power have stagnated. Great fortunes were made while many baby boomers lost their retirement savings. Corporate profits reached record highs while social mobility reached record lows, lagging behind other developed countries.

These facts don’t just highlight the issues of inequality and the growing power of a plutocracy. They should also force us to ask a deeper set of questions about how our economy works—and, crucially, about how we assess and measure the very idea of economic progress.

How can it be that great wealth is created on Wall Street with products like credit-default swaps that destroyed the wealth of ordinary Americans—and yet we count this activity as growth?

Likewise, fortunes are made manufacturing food products that make Americans fatter, sicker, and shorter-lived. And yet we count this as growth too—including the massive extra costs of health care.

Global warming creates more frequent hurricanes, which destroy cities and lives. Yet the economic activity to repair the damage ends up getting counted as growth as well.

Great debates rage about whether to raise or lower interest rates, or increase or decrease regulation, and our political system has been paralyzed by a bitter ideological struggle over the budget. But there is too little debate about what it is all for.

Hardly anyone ever asks: What kind of growth do we want? What does “wealth” mean? And what will it do for our lives? more>

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

BOOK REVIEW

The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Author: Peter Temin.

By Lynn Parramore – America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates.

In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good jobs, and sleep soundly knowing that they have not only enough money to meet life’s challenges, but also social networks to bolster their success.

They grow up with parents who read books to them, tutors to help with homework, and plenty of stimulating things to do and places to go. They travel in planes and drive new cars. The citizens of this country see economic growth all around them and exciting possibilities for the future. They make plans, influence policies, and count themselves as lucky to be Americans.

The FTE citizens rarely visit the country where the other 80 percent of Americans live: the low-wage sector.

Here, the world of possibility is shrinking, often dramatically. People are burdened with debt and anxious about their insecure jobs if they have a job at all.

Many of them are getting sicker and dying younger than they used to. They get around by crumbling public transport and cars they have trouble paying for. Family life is uncertain here; people often don’t partner for the long-term even when they have children. If they go to college, they finance it by going heavily into debt. They are not thinking about the future; they are focused on surviving the present. The world in which they reside is very different from the one they were taught to believe in.

While members of the first country act, these people are acted upon.

Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing. more>