Weekly Selection 25 October 2019

Jeffrey Sachs, Why Rich Cities Rebel

(Project Syndicate, October 23, 2019)

Why did governments fail to anticipate that a seemingly modest policy action (a fuel-tax increase, an extradition bill, and higher metro prices, respectively) would trigger in three cities that are paragons of economic success (Paris, Hong Kong, and Santiago) a massive social explosion? Each protest has its distinct local factors, but, taken together, they tell a larger story of what can happen when we focus on traditional economic measures like GDP / capital that are wholly insufficient to gauge the public’s real sentiments. Sachs’ conclusion: economic growth without fairness is a recipe for disorder (reads in 5-6 min).

Lee Wasserman, Did Exxon Deceive Its Investors on Climate Change?

(The New York Times, October 21, 2019)

This op-ed from the director of the Rockefeller Family Fund is important not for what it tells us about Exxon’s efforts to mislead its shareholders and the public by misrepresenting the risks that climate change poses to the value of its assets, but in terms of what the lawsuit may entail for the oil & gas industry as a whole. If the attorney general’s office wins the case, others will follow, making the life of the fossil-fuel industry increasingly difficult and financially precarious (reads in 6-7 min).

Ankita Mukhopadhyay and Kishore Mahbubani, Western Dominance Is a Historical Aberration

(Fair Observer, October 23, 2019)

The intellectual who’s been so successful in re-thinking global power dynamics through the lens of rising Asian economies talks in this interview about his latest book (“Has the West Lost It?”), and the need for the West to listen to the East. He also proposes a strategy the Western world should adopt to maintain its global relevance which he calls the 3M strategy: minimalist, multilateralist and Machiavellian (reads in 6-7 min).

Sean Illing, Capitalism is turning us into addicts

(Vox, October 19, 2019)

This is a conversation with the author of “The Age of Addiction” – a book that explores how companies shape our habits and desires, encouraging excessive consumption. Business now uses science and technology not only to refine our pleasures, but also to engineer addictive behaviors. Courtwright (the author) calls this “limbic capitalism,” a reference to the part of the brain that deals with pleasure and motivation. As our understanding of psychology and neurochemistry has advanced, companies have got better at exploiting our instincts for profit (reads in 6-7 min).

Chuck Thompson, Could Global Tourism Go Extinct?

(Gen Medium, October 23, 2019)

Despite its provocative title, this is an article worth reading: it highlights the way in which the combination of local backlashes caused by over-tourism and rising global climate action may affect global travel. Put simply: it will not increase in the foreseeable future at the 3-4% annual growth rate assumed by the UN World Tourism Organization (reads in 5-6 min).