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Weekly selection
7 April 2018

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

  • Donald Boudreaux, “Trade is not a job killer”

    (The New York Times - metered paywall - 28 March 2018)

    As the economist explains, assuming that trade destroys employment is a misconception. Estimates of jobs destroyed by trade sound big, but they’re actually tiny. Relative to overall routine job destruction and creation — “job churn” — the number of American jobs destroyed by trade is minuscule. By far, the major source of job destruction and creation is technological innovation (reads in 4-5 min).

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  • Edmund Phelps, “Will China Out-Innovate the West?”

    (Project Syndicate - 5 April 2018)

    Yes! The Nobel laureate offers an intriguing response to one of today’s most fundamental questions. In his view, Western governments have for decades protected incumbent firms at the expense of new market entrants. As more and more Chinese companies are realizing that they must innovate in order to get – and stay – ahead in the global economy, he argues, the West urgently needs to change course, or risk being left behind (reads in 5-6 min).

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  • Tim Wu, “Don’t Fix Facebook. Replace It”

    (The New York Times - metered paywall - 3 April 2018)

    The author of “The Attention Merchants: The Epic Struggle to Get Inside Our Heads” argues that the days of Facebook are over because “at its core, (it) is a surveillance machine, and to expect that to change is misplaced optimism”. Social media isn’t going to go away, but a proper network will have to realize that advertising and data-collection models are just incompatible. Any viable alternative will put the protection of privacy at its core (reads in 5-6 min).

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  • Dexter Filkins, “A Saudi Prince’s Quest to Remake the Middle East”

    (The New Yorker - 9 April 2018)

    This well-informed article is a long (20min+) but necessary read to understand the intricacies of KSA and get a better sense of whether Mohammed bin Salman is trying to drive out religious extremism, or merely seizing power for himself. Maybe both? The conclusion in the words of a former US official: “No one would have thought that the Saudi leader could take on the royal family, the clerical establishment, and the country’s most powerful businessmen, but he did (…) M.B.S. has always had a combination of vision, hubris, and arrogance, all of which are now playing out. What troubles me about M.B.S. is, he learns from his successes, but not his failures. That’s the danger.”

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  • Kristen Duke and Adrian Ward, “Having Your Smartphone Nearby Takes a Toll on Your Thinking”

    (Harvard Business Review - 20 March 2018)

    Plain and simple: our smartphones affect us even when we aren’t interacting with them. They influence our cognitive abilities by exerting a gravitational pull on our attention. As the authors put it: “the mere presence of our smartphones can adversely affect our ability to think and problem-solve — even when we aren’t using them. Even when we aren’t looking at them. Even when they are face-down. And even when they are powered off altogether” (reads in 5-6 min).

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