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The Economist - Leaders
   [4 followers]  Follow    
   Full-text available via subscription Subscription journal
     ISSN (Online) 1358-274X
     Published by The Economist Group Homepage  [4 journals]
  • After Brazil’s election: Diehard Dilma
    • Abstract: IT WAS hardly a ringing endorsement. After a dirty and divisive campaign, Dilma Rousseff won a second term in Brazil’s presidential election on October 26th by just three percentage points against her centre-right opponent, Aécio Neves (see article). That is by far the narrowest margin in Brazil’s modern electoral history.If her second term is not to be an even bigger disappointment than her first, Ms Rousseff needs to take heed not just of her supporters but also of those who did not vote for her. They include much of the middle-class, who in 2013 took to the streets in mass protests to demand better public services and less corruption. Mr Neves won easily in much of Brazil’s south-east and south, the country’s economic powerhouse.Ms Rousseff’s victory is not what this newspaper hoped for—we backed Mr Neves—yet it is no great surprise. Brazil remains a country of searing inequality, and poorer voters are grateful to the ruling Workers’ Party (PT) for the improvement in living standards and opportunities...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 October 2014 13:39:09
  • Rule of law in China: China with legal characteristics
    • Abstract: DRAFTERS of Communist Party documents in China are masters of linguistic sleights; Deng Xiaoping invented the term “socialist market economy” to satisfy hardline ideologues while he steered the country towards capitalism. Now the party is trumpeting a new slogan: “Socialist rule of law with Chinese characteristics”. At an annual plenum that ended on October 23rd, the Central Committee promised that it would be implemented by 2020 (see article) and would lead to “extensive and profound” changes. If they are anything like as significant as those that Deng’s catchphrase heralded, then this is a welcome development.This new enthusiasm for the rule of law springs from the campaign against corruption. Xi Jinping, the party leader, aims to restrain officials and prevent their rampant corruption from causing public anger to boil over. The Central Committee has decided to make local courts more impartial and to penalise officials for telling judges what to decide. And, lest everyday laws continue to fail to have the...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 October 2014 13:39:09
  • Family companies: Relative success
    • Abstract: TODAY real power is rarely inherited. Monarchs spend their lives cutting ribbons and attending funerals. Landed aristocrats have to climb the greasy pole if they want to wield serious influence. Even in the United States great dynasties such as the Clintons and Bushes have to go to the trouble of getting themselves elected. The one exception to this lies at the heart of the capitalist system: the family firm.Leading students of capitalism have been pronouncing the death rites of family companies for decades, arguing that family firms would be marginalised by the arrival of industrial capitalism. They also insisted that the Dallas-style downsides of family ownership would become more destructive: family quarrels would tear these companies apart and the law of regression to the mean would condemn them to lousy management. Most countries have a variation of the phrase “clogs to clogs in three generations”. For a long time, they appeared to be right: in both America and Europe, family firms were in retreat for much of the 20th century.Yet that decline now seems to have been reversed. The proportion of Fortune 500 companies that can be...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 October 2014 13:39:09
  • America’s mid-term elections: The silent centre
    • Abstract: ALL political campaigns involve a certain amount of looking voters straight in the eye and lying to them. But America’s mid-term election campaign has involved more flim-flam than most. The Republicans, if you believe Democratic attack ads, oppose equal pay for women, want to ban contraception and just love it when big corporations ship American jobs overseas. The Democrats, according to Republicans, have stood idly by as Islamic State terrorists—possibly carrying Ebola—prepare to cross the southern border. And they, too, are delighted to see American jobs shipped overseas.Only a blinkered partisan would believe any of these charges. Alas, partisans are far more likely than anyone else to vote, especially in elections like this one, where the presidency is not up for grabs.A survey by the Pew Research Centre finds that 73% of “consistently conservative” Americans are likely to cast a ballot on November 4th, along with 58% of consistent liberals. Among those with “mixed” views, however, only 25% are likely to bother. That, in a nutshell, is why both parties are pandering to the extremes. Their strategy relies less on wooing swing voters than on firing up their own...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 October 2014 13:39:09
  • Iran: The revolution is over
    • Abstract:
      TALKS to curb Iran’s nuclear programme have less than a month to run. Even now, after 12 years of sporadic argument, Iran insists that it wants civilian nuclear power and not a bomb. But nobody really believes that. If the talks break down, atomic weapons could proliferate in the Middle East; or, in a bid to stop Iran, America or Israel could launch a military attack on its infrastructure. Either outcome would be a disaster.Plenty still separates Iran and, on the other side, the permanent members of the UN Security Council plus Germany (known as the P5+1). Much of the focus is on the mechanics of a deal (see article). The two sides cannot agree on how many centrifuges Iran should be able to use to enrich uranium, how long an agreement should last, or how fast to lift sanctions.The gap would be easier to close if Iran and America trusted each other. One reason why the relationship is so poisonous is that popular Western views of Iran are out of date to the point of caricature. A...
      PubDate: Thu, 30 October 2014 08:18:07
  • Nuclear talks: Iran’s choice
    • Abstract: AFTER eight years of double crossing and frustration a deadline looms. November 24th is the cut-off for a deal to ensure that Iran’s nuclear programme is peaceful. Much work remains. Is agreement possible and what would it encompass?Iran is looking for three things from a deal. First, it wants nuclear-related sanctions to be eased. Second, because it would be a national humiliation to dismantle its programme entirely, it insists on preserving the enrichment capacity to meet what it calls its “practical needs”. Third, it wants the prospect of being treated as a “normal” signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, with the right to a decent civil nuclear programme.For the rest of the world the goal is simply to increase the time it would take for Iran to produce enough fissile material to fuel a bomb. Today that could be as little as two months; it should be at least a year, so that any attempt at “breakout” or “sneakout” (in, say, a secret uranium-enrichment plant) would be caught in good time. Only then would there be an opportunity to deter Iran through more sanctions or the credible threat of military action. A deal also needs to have a long...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 November 2014 13:38:13
  • Japanese elections: Same race, same horse
    • Abstract: WHEN Shinzo Abe made the case, in late 2012, that he was the man to save the economy and revive Japan, voters handed him a landslide general-election win. This week, just two years on, the prime minister dissolved the Diet’s lower house and declared a snap election for December 14th. “We cannot”, he thundered, “let this chance go.” Not surprisingly, many Japanese think they are being asked to buy the same horse twice.The political calculations are clear. Mr Abe’s popularity has tumbled from the gravity-defying levels he enjoyed until this autumn. Better to seek another four-year term now before fights next year over defence policy and restarting Japan’s closed nuclear plants—and before mutterings against Mr Abe grow inside his own Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). The opposition is in disarray, unable even to field enough candidates for the vote. Observers expect the ruling coalition to lose 30-40 seats but still keep a handsome majority (see article). Some of Mr Abe’s people hope that the LDP might...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 November 2014 13:38:13
  • Murders in Jerusalem: Keep God out of it
    • Abstract: THE sight of Jews lying dead in a Jerusalem synagogue, their prayer-shawls and holy books drenched in pools of blood, might be drawn from the age of pogroms in Europe. Sadly, it is an appallingly modern episode, the latest in the interminable tragedy of Jew and Arab in the promised land. The slaughter at the Kehilat Bnei Torah synagogue—four worshippers and a policeman were killed by two Palestinian men wielding knives and guns, who were in turn shot dead—is hardly the deadliest event in the annals of Israeli-Palestinian violence. And it pales in comparison to the mass slaughter taking place across the border in Syria and in other parts of the Middle East.Yet the synagogue murders matter, for several reasons. First, to judge from the scenes of some Gazans handing out celebratory sweets and cartoons on social media glorifying the bloodletting, the lust for butchery that impels jihadists elsewhere is gripping Palestinians. Second, Palestinian Jerusalemites who largely stood aside in past battles have taken up the fight. Third, the deaths in a house of prayer come at a time when Jerusalem is already astir over the status of holy sites. The conflict is thus being...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 November 2014 13:38:13
  • China’s monetary policy: The People’s Blank of China
    • Abstract: ALAN GREENSPAN was a master of abstruse language as chairman of the Federal Reserve. “If you understood what I said, I must have misspoken,” he once joked. At least Mr Greenspan spoke. In China the central bank has made a habit of silence. Policy announcements are rare and, if they are offered, come at unpredictable hours, often over the weekend. Sudden shifts in the value of the yuan always bear the central bank’s fingerprints, but are infrequently explained. The motto for the People’s Bank of China (PBOC) should be: “If you know what we did, we must have done it wrong”.This taciturn tendency has long bemused people trying to understand the direction of China’s monetary policy (see article). But recently it has reached new and dangerous extremes. Since June the central bank is widely reported to have injected as much as 1.8 trillion yuan ($294 billion) to prop up the slowing economy through a mix of targeted liquidity facilities. That is a lot of money, equivalent to more than three months of...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 November 2014 13:38:13
  • Russia: A wounded economy
    • Abstract: VLADIMIR PUTIN is not short of problems, many of his own creation. There is the carnage in eastern Ukraine, where he is continuing to stir things up. There are his fraught relations with the West, with even Germany turning against him now. There is an Islamist insurgency on his borders and at home there is grumbling among the growing numbers who doubt the wisdom of his Ukraine policy. But one problem could yet eclipse all these: Russia’s wounded economy could fall into a crisis (see article).Some of Russia’s ailments are well known. Its oil-fired economy surged upward on rising energy prices; now that oil has tumbled, from an average of almost $110 a barrel in the first half of the year to below $80, Russia is hurting. More than two-thirds of exports come from energy. The rouble has fallen by 23% in three months. Western sanctions have also caused pain, as bankers have applied the restrictions not just to Mr Putin’s cronies, but to a much longer tally of Russian businesses. More generally,...
      PubDate: Thu, 20 November 2014 10:03:11
  • Catalonia’s future: Let them vote
    • Abstract: SECESSION is a nasty business. A century and a half ago, America fought a civil war to prevent it. So it is not surprising that Spain, which has bad memories of its own civil war, should oppose independence for Catalonia. Spain’s refusal to allow a referendum on the issue is, however, matched by Catalonia’s determination to hold one—hence the vote the regional government held on November 9th, in which 80% of those who participated voted for independence (see article). The government in Madrid called the vote illegal, and a failure because turnout was only 37%; the Catalan one said that it demonstrated the case for Catalonia’s independence.Neither is right. The case for holding a referendum is strong, but if there is one, Catalonia should vote to stay part of Spain.Better togetherThe Popular Party government under Mariano Rajoy is holding firm to the position that, under the 1978 constitution, no referendum can be held at all. That line owes something to the government’s desire to win...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 November 2014 15:47:40
  • Mexico’s growing crisis: Reforms and democracy, but no rule of law
    • Abstract: DURING two years in office Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has received sharply contrasting reviews at home and abroad. Foreigners, including The Economist, have praised his structural reforms of the economy, which include an historic measure to open up energy to private investment (see article). Yet polls show that most Mexicans dislike Mr Peña. Among other things, they blame his government for a squeeze on living standards and the interlinked problems of violent crime and corruption. Sadly, recent events have lent support to Mr Peña’s domestic critics.On November 8th Mexico’s attorney-general announced what almost everyone had already concluded: that 43 students from a teacher-training college in the southern state of Guerrero, who disappeared in the town of Iguala in late September, had been murdered by drug-traffickers after being kidnapped by the local police on the orders of the town’s mayor. Guerrero has been Mexico’s most violent state for centuries. The...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 November 2014 15:47:40
  • Bank regulation: Capital punishment
    • Abstract: GIVEN how many things went wrong at banks during the financial crisis, it is not surprising that regulators have come up with several new rules to set them to rights. On November 10th the Financial Stability Board (FSB), an international body charged with avoiding future crises, unveiled yet another test banks will have to pass—the fifth so far. At the same time Mark Carney, the head of the FSB and governor of the Bank of England, declared that these measures, if taken together and implemented properly, would “substantially complete the job” of “fixing the faultlines” that led to the crash.Broadly speaking, he is right. The alphabet soup of rules devised in recent years makes it much harder for banks to be run in the risky manner that was all too common before 2007. New liquidity requirements prevent them from borrowing money on fickle overnight markets while lending it on for 30 years, the practice that felled Northern Rock, the first British bank to fail during the crisis. New rules on capital, including the one unveiled by Mr Carney this week, will force banks to have a decent safety buffer so that tiny changes in the value of their assets do not cast them...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 November 2014 15:47:40
  • The collapse of Ukraine’s economy: Don’t chicken out of Kiev
    • Abstract: THE economy of Ukraine is a mess. By year’s end it will have shrunk by 10%. The east of the country, where the conflict with Russian separatists has raged, has seen billions of dollars’ worth of damage. Along with his military aggression (see article), Vladimir Putin is doing his best to throttle Ukrainian commerce by imposing sanctions and cutting off gas supplies. The West, despite big promises of help, has been woeful in its response. Unless there is a change of course soon, Ukraine’s economy could collapse (see article).The West’s main tool for helping Ukraine has been the International Monetary Fund (IMF). In April the fund agreed to lend Kiev $17 billion over two years, in return for an austere budget and reforms to curb corruption. Other donors pledged smaller amounts. This money, $27 billion in total, was deemed enough...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 November 2014 15:47:40
  • The APEC summit and the Pacific rim: Bridge over troubled water
    • Abstract: IN CHINA even a handshake is an expression of power. When Xi Jinping met Barack Obama in Beijing this week at the Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) summit, Mr Xi stood on the right, his body open towards the cameras in an attitude of confident strength. The visitor was required to approach him, as if paying tribute, from the left, shoulder defensively towards the photographers. These days, from the smallest details of summit choreography to the biggest global issues, the rivalry between China and America trumps everything.On the face if it, diplomacy triumphed this week. There was an even more momentous handshake—the long-awaited, reluctant one between Mr Xi and Shinzo Abe, the Japanese prime minister, which signalled a lowering of tensions over disputed islands. Mr Xi and the president of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino, had a “meeting of minds” over a separate maritime matter. China and South Korea agreed a trade deal of their own. And America and China made real progress on climate change, visas, trade and security. Compared with the torpor and occasional ill-temper of previous APEC summits, this was visionary stuff (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 13 November 2014 09:33:12
  • Drugs policy: Marijuana milestone
    • Abstract: BESIDES choosing lawmakers, on November 4th voters in three American states and the District of Columbia considered measures to liberalise the cannabis trade. Alaska and Oregon, where it is legal to provide “medical marijuana” to registered patients, voted to go further and let the drug be sold and taken for recreational purposes, as Colorado and Washington state already allow. In DC, a measure to legalise the possession of small amounts for personal use was passed. A majority of voters in Florida opted to join the lengthening list of places where people can seek a doctor’s note that lets them take the drug. However, the measure fell just short of the 60% needed to change the state constitution. Even so, that such a big state in the conservative South came so close to liberalising shows how America’s attitude to criminalising pot has changed.After this week’s votes only 27 states outlaw all sale or possession of marijuana. In the rest, a thriving “canna-business” is emerging (see article): trade in the...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 November 2014 15:40:09
  • Japan’s economy: Big bazookas
    • Abstract: JAPAN prizes caution and consensus. So it was remarkable when the Bank of Japan (BoJ) suddenly promised to buy ¥80 trillion ($705 billion) of government bonds a year until the economy is clear of deflation—and the government’s huge pension fund joined it, saying that it would double its holdings of Japanese and foreign equities. With annual purchases equivalent to over 15% of GDP, the BoJ is venturing into new territory. Relative to the economy, its balance-sheet will dwarf those of the Fed, the Bank of England or the European Central Bank.The move was prompted by what the BoJ’s governor, Haruhiko Kuroda, described as a “critical” moment in Japan’s attempts to escape from deflation. Getting inflation up is central to the economic programme of the prime minister, Shinzo Abe. Mr Kuroda recently promised that core inflation would never again fall below 1%. But after a rise in the consumption tax in April, the economy slowed and in September core inflation dipped to Mr Kuroda’s threshold.The BoJ was right to move boldly. The past two decades have been a story of too little, too late, for Japan. But not everybody is comfortable with the move. Four of the...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 November 2014 15:40:09
  • Performance indicators: How to lie with indices
    • Abstract: “CROOKS already know these tricks. Honest men must learn them in self-defence,” wrote Darrell Huff in 1954 in “How to Lie With Statistics”, a guide to getting figures to say whatever you want them to. Sadly, Huff needs updating.The latest way to bamboozle with numbers is the “performance index”, which weaves data on lots of measures into a single easy-to-understand international ranking. From human suffering to perceptions of corruption, from freedom to children’s happiness, nowadays no social problem or public policy lacks one (see article). Governments, think-tanks and campaigners love an index’s simplicity and clarity; when well done, it can illuminate failures, suggest solutions and goad the complacent into action. But there are problems. Competing indices jostle in the intellectual marketplace: the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap ranking, published last week, goes head to head with the UN’s Gender Inequality Index, the Index of Women’s Power from Big Think...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 November 2014 15:40:09
  • Jerusalem’s holy sites: Temple madness
    • Abstract: THE destruction of the temple in Jerusalem by the Romans in 70AD is seared in Jewish memory and carved in marble on the Arch of Titus in Rome, which depicts legionnaires carrying off the temple menorah. Every day since then, Jews have prayed that the temple may soon be rebuilt.For most, this has been an abstract longing for a future perfection, to be realised when the Messiah appears. Until then, they have been content to pray at their traditional holy place, the Western (formerly Wailing) Wall, at the foot of the mount where the temple once stood. For a growing band of zealots, however, this is not enough. Rabbis and activists have been preparing for the restoration of the temple and challenging the ban on Jews praying on the esplanade on top of the mount, the Haram al-Sharif, site of two venerable Muslim shrines, the golden Dome of the Rock and the al-Aqsa mosque.This would be esoteric if it were not so dangerous. A minority obsession with the temple is entering the mainstream and creating a vicious cycle. More temple activists, among them politicians and ministers, are visiting the Haram to demand the right to pray. To some, this is the first step to sweeping...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 November 2014 15:40:09
  • America after the mid-terms: Welcome back to Washington
    • Abstract: OPINION polls before the mid-term elections on November 4th suggested Barack Obama’s party would be beaten, but this was a thrashing. Republicans captured the Senate easily (see article) and their majority in the House of Representatives is now the biggest it has been in most Americans’ lifetimes. A Republican candidate in New York was indicted for 20 counts of fraud, but won anyway.Close-up, the results are even worse for Democrats. They thought they could bin a bunch of tax-cutting, union-bashing Republican governors, but nearly all survived. Instead, Republicans captured governorships in solidly Democratic states like Maryland and Massachusetts.Mr Obama cannot escape the humiliating verdict on his presidency. He campaigned in his home state of Illinois, for a Democratic governor running against a Republican who belongs to a wine club that costs over $100,000 to join. The oenophile won by five points.Yet as Republicans toast their triumph, they should be careful not to over-interpret it. Their campaign did not offer voters much of a positive...
      PubDate: Thu, 06 November 2014 09:18:08
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