Weekly Selection 18 October 2019

Dion Rabouin, Mainstream economists are getting radical

(Axios, October 11, 2019)

In a world of slow growth and full of economic anomalies, some of the world’s top economists and policy-makers are proposing fringe economic ideas that would have been considered extreme until recently. Read-on to get a sense of what they might be so that you won’t get caught by surprise! Just a few: automatic stabilizers activated by data, shopping vouchers deposited directly by central banks into consumers' accounts, combining helicopter money with a central bank digital currency, and so on… (6-7 min).

Rurik Bradbury, The Twilight of the Tech Idols

(The New York Times, October 10, 2019)

A tech entrepreneur explains why technology executives like WeWork’s Adam Neumann are now regarded as the new ‘baddies’. The myth of the visionary heroic geek died in 2016 when the tide of positive press turned against the tech giants; bringing the golden age of tech worship to an end. Bradbury posits that large tech companies will soon be regulated like banks - whether through breakups, consumer protections and rights, data portability, or other approaches (reads in 5-6 min).

Shashi Tharoor, India’s Modi Slowdown

(Project Syndicate, October 16, 2019)

The renowned opinion-maker and author of “Pax Indica: India and the World of the 21st Century” has a critical view of Modi’s policies and sees bad news everywhere (he’s an MP with the Indian National Congress, which doesn’t make his views less valid…). His conclusion: “the Great Indian Growth Story is on hold. And no one should expect the Modi government to get the gravy train back on track”. Read on to understand why (reads in 5-6 min).

Ed Pilkington, Digital dystopia: how algorithms punish the poor

(The Guardian, October 14, 2019)

This is the introduction to a series of articles that lay bare the tech revolution transforming the welfare system worldwide while penalizing the most vulnerable in the process. It sometimes paints a picture of 21st-century Dickensian dystopia taking shape at breakneck speed. The American political scientist Virginia Eubanks has a phrase for it: “The digital poorhouse” (reads in 5-6 min).

Judith Shulevitz, Why You Never See Your Friends Anymore

(The Atlantic, November 2019)

The hours in which we work, rest, and socialize are becoming ever more desynchronized. In the US, for example, nearly a third of the labour force hold jobs with prolonged or variable hours. The consequences can be debilitating because “a calendar is more than the organization of days and months. It’s the blueprint for a shared life”. It may be that staggered and marathon work hours make us materially richer, but they also deprive us of what has been described as a “cultural asset of importance”: an “atmosphere of entire community repose” (reads in 8-10 min).