Weekly Selection 26 July 2019

Jerry Useem, The Stock-Buyback Swindle

(The Atlantic, August 2019)

US corporations are spending trillions of dollars to repurchase their own stock: over the past nine years, corporations have put more money into their own stocks - an astonishing $3.8 trillion - than every other type of investor (individuals, mutual funds, pension funds, foreign investors) combined. This article argues that the practice (which corporations describe as an efficient way to return money to shareholders) is not only unfair (by enriching CEOs at the expense of employees, investors, and taxpayers), but also myopic (reads in 7-8 min).

Robert Zaretsky, Max Weber Diagnosed His Time and Ours

(Foreign Affairs, July 24, 2019)

In 1919, at a time when Germany was at risk of becoming a failed state, Max Weber – author of the famous “The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism ” – gave a famous lecture in Munich on “Politics as a Vocation” that expanded the discussion of the charismatic politician, as well as his distinction between the ethics of conviction and the ethics of responsibility. 100 years later, there are few better texts to serve as a guide for the increasingly wretched (and sometimes violent) events unfolding around the world. Read on! A rich and dense must read to understand what political ethic means in a disenchanted era (15 min +).

Arek Sinanian, The World After Climate Change

(Fair Observer, July 22, 2019)

The international expert on climate change brings us the 2051 World Climate Order Committee Report on the state the planet and its recent achievements. A must-read to get a sense of what a plausible scenario can be. The underlying assumption: all nations comply with targets set by the Climate Order Committee – a radical move that followed revolt from citizens all around the world, forcing leaders to act decisively (reads in about 10 min).

Bill Priestap, The Spy Business Is Booming and We Should Be Worried

(The New York Times, July 20, 2019)

The former head of the FBI counter-intelligence division explains why the spy business is booming. It’s not just government spy agencies anymore; we are also witnessing the democratization of spy tools and techniques that used to be the sole purview of a highly select group of intelligence services. Big data, AI, quantum computing and 5G cellular networks will change our society in ways that we cannot begin to imagine, for better and for worse (reads in 6-7 min).

Olle Folke and Johanna Rickne, Top jobs lead to divorce for women, but not for men

(LSE Business Review, July 11, 2019)

Research conducted in Sweden finds that women pay a high price for their career success: being promoted to a top job in politics or business leads to a dramatic increase in the divorce rate for women, but not for men. The researchers ask in conclusion: What should women do to insulate their relationships from career-related stress? They cite in their answer the politician Birgitta Ohlsson, in her book on career advice to young women: the most important career move is to find the right husband (reads in 5-6 min).