Weekly Selection 12 July 2019

Jeffrey Stacey, Is a Tide Turning Against Populism?

(The New York Times, July 10, 2019)

Something is happening that challenges the “populist surge” theory – the idea that it is global and inevitable. The former diplomat observes that in Central Europe, people are protesting or electing as if they were sick of rule by corrupt demagogic authoritarians. Could this be contagious and portend a more fundamental trend? Could a backlash to the backlash emerge in Western Europe? It could well be that logic is on the liberals’ side. Read on! (6-8 min).

Kim Hart, The age of winner-take-all cities

(Axios, July 10, 2019)

This article is focused on US cities, but its conclusions and insights are relevant for most countries and cities around the world. In a nutshell: more and more, economic success is concentrated in a few standout metropolises while the rest either struggle to keep up or fall further behind. The take away: economic opportunity for most people increasingly hinges on one factor: where they live (reads in 5-6 min).

Arthur Brooks, Your Professional Decline Is Coming (Much) Sooner Than You Think

(The Atlantic, July 2019)

This is the story of Brooks’ academic quest to figure out how to turn an eventual professional decline from a matter of dread into an opportunity for progress. Decline starts earlier than almost anyone thinks and it is inevitable, but misery is not. Accepting the natural cadence of our abilities sets up the possibility of transcendence, because it allows the shifting of attention to higher spiritual and life priorities. As we age, advises Brooks, we should resist the conventional lures of success in order to focus on more transcendentally important things. And we should, of course, nurture relationships: happiness is tied directly to the health and plentifulness of one’s relationships (reads in 15 min+).

Leonard Sherman, ‘Blitzscaling’ Is Choking Innovation – And Wasting Money

(Wired, July 11, 2019)

Counter-intuitively, this article argues that venture capital is harming entrepreneurship. There are two problems with “blitzscaling” (i.e. VC investing unprecedented amounts of capital hoping to harvest winner-take-all (or most) competitive advantage). (1) The number of seed funding rounds has declined sharply over the past 5 years because early-stage VC funds find it more lucrative to place fewer, bigger bets, rather than spreading investments. (2) Many companies are still unprofitable at IPO because the trend toward bigger, late-stage VC investments fuels a drive for growth at all costs (reads in about 10 min).

Rory Carroll, 'We need human interaction': meet the LA man who walks people for a living

(The Guardian, September 14, 2016)

We never post articles that are more than a week old, but decided to make an exception with this one that was sitting in a lonely folder. What a brilliant idea! And close to the heart of the Monthly Barometer! As the digital age often makes people lonely, an American has created a service to stroll with strangers. He walks humans for $7 a mile around the streets, talking a bit and, above all, listening.  This has now become a digital platform (People Walker) that connects people with safe and reliable walking partners on-demand (reads in less than 5 min).