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Weekly selection
2 September 2018

5 insightful op-eds or articles to help make sense of today’s world

  • Simon Johnson, “Saving Capitalism from Economics 101”

    (Project Syndicate - 31 August 2018)

    Markets can be a force for good, but are also highly susceptible to abusive practices, including on the part of prominent private-sector individuals. One core problem is that market incentives reward self-interested private behavior, without accounting for social benefits or costs. This is central to current policy debates, including important new US legislation that has just been put forward. According to Johnson, this Accountable Capitalism Act would greatly enhance the legitimacy of capitalism. (reads in 5-6 min).

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  • Yuval Noah Harari, “Why Technology Favors Tyranny”

    (The Atlantic - 1 October 2018)

    The famous historian and philosopher argues that AI could erase many practical advantages of democracy, and erode the ideals of liberty and equality. Also, if we don’t take steps to stop it, it will further concentrate power in the hands of a small elite. This must-read comes with the caveat that his prognosis couldn’t be darker: “Together, infotech and biotech will create unprecedented upheavals in human society, eroding human agency and, possibly, subverting human desires. Under such conditions, liberal democracy and free-market economics might become obsolete” (reads in about 10 min).

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  • Gwynn Guilford, “The global financial crisis of 1825 foreshadowed the problems of emerging markets today”

    (Quartz - 26 August 2018)

    A new book explains that the financial conditions and innovations that gave rise to the first truly global crisis, in 1825, are in many ways similar to the conditions that led Turkey and Argentina to their current precarious states. The big lesson from history is how quickly risk aversion melted away during a period of easy money, and how fear returned just as quickly when money started tightening (reads in 7-8 min).

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  • Several Authors, “How Tourists Are Destroying the Places They Love”

    (Der Spiegel - 21 August 2018)

    Over the past weeks, we’ve read dozens articles on the rising backlash against tourism. This one is a bit long (around 15 min) but particularly well researched. Mass tourism has created over-tourism, and in many beautiful spots the infrastructure and the local population are buckling under the pressure and the predatory nature of modern tourism. The travel industry is choking on its own success: "Tourism is a phenomenon that creates many private profits but also many socialized losses." 

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  • Dinsa Sachan, “Don’t worry about feeling sad: on the benefits of a blue period”

    (AEON Magazine - 23 August 2018)

    Some recent research suggests that experiencing not-so-happy feelings actually promotes psychological wellbeing and that painful times confer benefits that make us happier over the long term. The reasons are twofold: (1) it is during adversity that we connect most closely with people, (2) experiencing adversity also builds resilience (reads in 6-7 min).

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