It is surreal that we depend on a Chinese communist to persuade a US president of the merits of liberal global trade. Yet today’s desperate times require such desperate measures.
Martin Wolf, “China and the US: an odd couple doomed to co-operation“, Financial Times, 20 March 2017 (metered paywall).
Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category
Yesterday’s meeting between Donald Trump and Angela Merkel did not go well.
The summit of the world’s most powerful man and woman brought together contrasting personalities — the cautious pastor’s daughter from the former communist East Germany and the extrovert businessman from Queens who briefly referred to the US as “a very powerful company” before correcting to “country”.
Courtney Weaver and Stefan Wagstyl, “Trump and Merkel air differences in tense first meeting”, Financial Times, 18 March 2017 (gated paywall).
I will be traveling soon, with limited access to internet. Blogging will resume after March 15th.
FT contributing editor Simon Schama writes that President Donald Trump inspires people … to take to the streets in protest.
Trump’s aides are given to boasting that he has already accomplished the impossible. In one respect this is true: he has given the kiss of life to the Democratic party. Campaigning, Trump posed as the enemy of Wall Street; he now has a cabinet stuffed with billionaires, about to gift the ultra-rich with a stupendous tax cut, even as he refuses to disconnect fully from his businesses or make his tax returns public.
The next mass march has been cannily planned for April 15, the day on which Americans file their tax returns. Expect uproar.
“Why we march: Simon Schama on mass dissent in America“, Financial Times Weekend Magazine, 18 February 2017. (gated paywall)
Mr Schama’s longish essay is illustrated with photos selected by Emma Bowkett, FT Weekend Magazine‘s director of photography.
I often listen to the podcast “Ideas, with Paul Kennedy”. Last night I heard a long episode – nearly two hours – that was particularly impressive. German sociologist Wolfgang Streeck (born 1946) argues that capitalism is imploding.
In 2014 he wrote an article for the British journal New Left Review in which he discusses how and why capitalism might come to an end. He expanded on this theme in a recent book How Will Capitalism End? (Verso, 2016). Streeck is certainly not the first intellectual to predict the death of capitalism (Marx comes immediately to mind), but he is still worth listening to, particularly given the unsettled times that we are now experiencing.
The signs are troubling: the ever-widening chasm between the ultra-rich and everyone else. Mass protests. Political upheaval and social division. It looks as though the rocky marriage between capitalism and democracy is doomed, at least according to Wolfgang Streeck …. In conversation with Paul Kennedy about his book How Will Capitalism End?, he makes the unnerving case that capitalism is now at a point where it cannot survive itself.
According to Streeck, capitalist societies are entering an interregnum — a pause or suspension of normal governance — as the system of capitalism collapses in on itself. In the absence of countervailing forces to keep it afloat, capitalism has essentially devoured itself. …. Streeck points to Italy, Greece and Spain, countries where young people can’t get find jobs; where fewer people can live on their own; and where marriage and birth rates are declining. People everywhere are now trying to protect what little they have left.
Wolfgang Streeck sees day-to-day life in the interregnum in stark terms: coping, hoping, doping, and shopping. He says that when it comes to the harsh realities of the interregnum, those who cope well will wear their stress as a kind of badge of honour. Those who cope poorly will mask their inability with drugs and mindless consumerism.
Paul Kennedy, “Surviving Post-Capitalism: Coping, hoping, doping & shopping“, Ideas, a CBC Radio Podcast, 9 February 2017.
You can download or listen to the podcast at the link above, or at iTunes and other online stores, free of charge. I subscribe to the series, and recommend it very much. CBC is Canada’s answer to the BBC, funded largely by Canadian taxpayers.
A decade ago, when Biz Stone created Twitter, he assumed that the technology would bring people together. FT columnist Gillian Tett points out that the reverse has happened: “Tweets from Trump, along with those of his opponents, have caused people to fly apart, not flock together.”
So, how might we address this problem, which I agree is important? Ms Tett offers the following suggestion.
If you’re on Twitter, take a hard look at who you have chosen to follow; the likelihood is that they all hail from a similar social or intellectual tribe as you. If so, try copying a step that [Dick] Costolo used when he was running Twitter: replace half of those you follow with others who espouse a radically different view. If you believe in immigration and globalisation, for example, follow @BreitbartNews or @AnnCoulter or even @realDonaldTrump; if you love the US president, subscribe to @ACLU, and so on. Either way, switch it round.
Of course, this won’t in itself heal divisions. But it might help promote a healthier conversation. And the beauty of social media is that it can enable us to explore other points of view, with an ease that our geographically far-flung ancestors could never have dreamed of. Technology has fragmented us; but it still has the ability to create new connections — as Stone hoped. Or it does if we use our brains when we switch on our phones. And that applies to liberals as much as to anyone else.
Gillian Tett, “How Twitter went tribal“, Financial Times Magazine, 4 February 2017 (gated paywall).
This is a excellent idea. We should pay more attention to views that differ from our own. And this applies to all media: blogs, podcasts, radio, TV and newspapers as well as Twitter. I confess that I rarely read views that differ radically from those expressed, for example, in the Financial Times. From this time forward I will seek more forcefully to read views that differ from my own, beginning perhaps with Breitbart News. I will not follow Tweets, though, as they are much too short for my taste.
I will post excerpts from anything interesting that I read, with a link to the full article. If you agree or disagree strongly with a post, feel free to write a short comment explaining why you like or dislike it. Hopefully this will trigger a useful, civil discussion.
FT columnist Martin Wolf has written a beautiful essay in support of the liberal idea of international relations based on trade rather than isolation, co-operation rather than war.
For much of human history, war was seen as the natural relationship between societies. Victory brought plunder, power and prestige, at least for elites. ….
Another way exists to achieve prosperity: commerce. The balance between commerce and plunder is complex. Both require strong institutions supported by effective cultures. But war requires armies, underpinned by loyalty, while commerce requires security, underpinned by justice.
Perhaps the greatest contribution of economics is the idea that societies will gain more from seeking to trade with one another than trying to conquer one another. …. The wise relationship between states, therefore, is one of co-operation, not war, and trade, not isolation. This brilliant idea … is … counter-intuitive, even disturbing. It means that one might gain more from foreigners than fellow citizens. It erodes a sense of belonging to the imagined tribe. For many, this erosion of tribal loyalty is threatening. It becomes more threatening if foreigners are allowed to immigrate freely. Who, people ask, are these strangers, who reside in our home and share in its benefits?
Martin Wolf, “The economic peril of aggrieved nationalism“, Financial Times, 18 January 2017 (gated paywall).
As always, there is much more in the full column, which can be accessed at the link above.
Old-fashioned media everywhere are finding themselves pushed to the margins of financial implosion because so few people appreciate that finding things out costs money. We are well into a race against time. More and more people are unwilling to pay for proper journalism. We will only know what we have lost once it’s gone.
Jeremy Paxman, “Fake news makes old concerns redundant“, Financial Times, 16 January 2017.
The author is a contributing editor of the Financial Times. I agree with him, and support old-fashioned journalism.
A confidential document containing allegations against president-elect Donald Trump was leaked to the press yesterday. FT columnist Gideon Rachman writes that “the immediate impact … will be limited”.
Tuesday brought … the news that the US intelligence agencies have briefed both the president and the president-elect on a series of damaging allegations made against Mr Trump. ….
The two most damaging allegations are that there was illicit communication between the Trump campaign and the Russian government and that the Russians have compromising material on bizarre sexual behaviour by Mr Trump. ….
Mr Trump has already dismissed the story as fake news and a political witch-hunt. ….
There is a certain irony to the fact that Mr Trump, who spent many months peddling a false allegation that President Barack Obama was not born in the US, should now be complaining about “fake news”. [Emphasis added.]
Gideon Rachman, “Five points about the Trump/Russia allegations“, Financial Times, 11 January 2017 (gated paywall).