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Weekly selection
4 August 2018

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

  • Minxin Pei, “China’s Summer of Discontent”

    (Project Syndicate - 2 August 2018)

    There is a lot of food for thought in this rather contrarian short piece. The author of “China’s Crony Capitalism” argues that Xi is now coming under attack and facing the worst summer since he came to power in November 2012. A stream of bad news has left many Chinese, particularly among the elites, feeling disappointed, anxious, angry, helpless, and dissatisfied with their increasingly powerful leader. Xi won’t be overthrown, but the road ahead could well become treacherous (reads in 6-7 min).

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  • Annie Lowrey, “Are Stock Buybacks Starving the Economy?”

    (The Atlantic - 31 July 2018)

    A growing body of research helps explain why US productivity is so low, and increases in worker compensation so piddling, even as the stock market is surging and corporate profits are at historical highs. Rather than improving their longer-term competitiveness or investing in their workers, companies are buying back their stock to make their owners richer in the short term (reads in 7-9 min).

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  • Mark Buchanan, “Too Many Jobs Feel Meaningless Because They Are”

    (Bloomberg - 1 August 2018)

    This short article (reads in less than 5 min) reviews a new book and refers to a number of economics articles arguing that work that is of no real value has proliferated. Jockeying for power and status constitutes much of today’s economic activity, with no benefits for society as a whole. As a result, there are many jobs generated out of the corporate managerial struggle for influence, status and control of resources. They serve little economic purpose, but make sense from the perspective of rent seeking and power relations. No wonder productivity is stagnant!

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  • Sarah Wilson, “How Did Wellness Become Our New Religion?”

    (Quartzy - 2 August 2018)

    In just a few years, wellness has grown from a fringe interest for a mostly female audience to a multi-trillion-dollar industry, ranging from nutritional supplements to on-demand massage. How did that happen? This article tells us how the shift towards “anything that makes us feel good about ourselves” created the perfect conditions for the “wellness industrial complex” to flourish (reads in 6-8 min).

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  • Ben Healy, “How to Make Friends, According to Science”

    (The Atlantic - 31 August 2018)

    The human desire for companionship may feel boundless, but research suggests that our social capital is finite: we can handle only so many relationships at one time. The first rule is not to dismiss the humble acquaintance because even interacting with people with whom one has weak social ties has a positive influence on wellbeing. The second rule is to revive dormant social ties: it’s easy and can be very rewarding. A simple, useful and fast read (less than 5 min).

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