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The Economist - Leaders
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   Full-text available via subscription Subscription journal  (Not entitled to full-text)
   ISSN (Online) 1358-274X
   Published by The Economist Group Homepage  [4 journals]
  • Venezuela’s leaders ignore reality
    • Abstract: “HE WHO leads must listen even to the hardest truths,” said Simón Bolívar, who liberated much of South America from Spanish rule. The leaders of Venezuela today, who claim Bolívar as their inspiration, ignore his dictum. Venezuela’s economy shrank by nearly 19% last year, according to a leaked early estimate by the central bank (see article). That would be bad even for a nation at war, which Venezuela is not. Inflation was 800%. Shortages of food and medicine are causing hunger and looting. Infant mortality is soaring. Caracas is the capital city with the world’s highest murder rate.The leaders of Venezuela’s “Bolivarian revolution” shut their ears to such truths. The central bank has not formally published data on growth or inflation since the beginning of 2016. After the leak, Nicolás Maduro, who took over as president from the revolution’s leader, Hugo Chávez, in 2013, sacked the head of the central bank. His successor must “fight against the domestic and foreign mafias that attack...
      PubDate: Thu, 26 January 2017 15:44:13
  • How Trump can press China without resorting to a trade war
    • Abstract: WELCOME to the topsy-turvy new politics of trade. America, the creator and seven-decade-long defender of the global trading system, now has a president who seems determined to shake that system up and who may end by wrecking it. Although China is the rising power, one that has often not played by the rules, its president, Xi Jinping, has taken to defending the status quo.It is not yet clear whether Donald Trump’s belligerence is simply a ploy designed to win trade concessions from China and others, or whether he is prepared to foment economic warfare—and worse—if he is thwarted. But no relationship matters more than that between the world’s biggest and second-biggest economies. The shape of a new economic order, and much besides, will be determined largely by how Mr Trump and Mr Xi deal with each other. There is plenty to fear.Mr Trump has been known to vacillate over great swathes of policy, but on trade he has been consistent in his belief that America gets a bad deal. In the first days of his presidency, he pulled America out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), an agreement designed to knit together economies in...
      PubDate: Thu, 26 January 2017 15:44:13
  • Emerging markets should welcome low-cost private schools
    • Abstract: MORE than 250m children in developing countries are not in school. Those who do attend often fail to learn anything. According to one study of seven African countries, primary-school pupils receive less than two-and-a-half hours of teaching each day; teachers are absent from class about half of the time. Even when they show up, theirs is a Potemkin pedagogy, lecturing to nonplussed pupils. Only about a quarter of secondary-school pupils in poor countries would reach the basic level of attainment on standardised international tests.Into this void have stepped low-cost private schools. For a few dollars each month, they give parents an alternative to the public sector. Such schools are common—about 1m of them are scattered across developing countries—but until recently this has been a chaotic cottage industry of tiny, unregulated providers. Only now are private chains emerging, offering the promise of innovative education at scale. The prospect of change ought to be embraced. Instead, it is being fought.One chain in particular has attracted opposition. Since it opened its first branch in 2009, Bridge International Academies has...
      PubDate: Thu, 26 January 2017 15:44:13
  • Russia should not decriminalise wife-beating
    • Abstract: VICTORIAN England was a good place to be an abusive husband. Even “the vilest malefactor has some wretched woman tied to him, against whom he can commit any atrocity except killing her, and, if tolerably cautious, can do that without much danger of the legal penalty,” John Stuart Mill wrote in 1869. Court reports were filled with accounts of men mutilating their wives and receiving light sentences. But things were starting to change. A law specifically criminalising violence against women and children was enacted in 1853. The women’s movement of the late 19th century called for harsher punishments and sexual equality. A century later the rise of feminism in the West and elsewhere brought new legislation, more sensitive policing and belated recognition that living with someone should not be a licence to beat her up.Russia appeared to embrace this idea, too. Last June the Duma, Russia’s parliament, adopted a law criminalising the beating of household members and mandating strict penalties for offenders. This reflected a consensus, at least among liberal urban Russians, that domestic violence was not a fact to be accepted but an evil to be fought, and...
      PubDate: Thu, 26 January 2017 15:44:13
  • The multinational company is in trouble
    • Abstract: AMONG the many things that Donald Trump dislikes are big global firms. Faceless and rootless, they stand accused of unleashing “carnage” on ordinary Americans by shipping jobs and factories abroad. His answer is to domesticate these marauding multinationals. Lower taxes will draw their cash home, border charges will hobble their cross-border supply chains and the trade deals that help them do business will be rewritten. To avoid punitive treatment, “all you have to do is stay,” he told American bosses this week. Mr Trump is unusual in his aggressively protectionist tone. But in many ways he is behind the times. Multinational companies, the agents behind global integration, were already in retreat well before the populist revolts of 2016. Their financial performance has slipped so that they are no longer outstripping local firms. Many seem to have exhausted their ability to cut costs and taxes and to out-think their local competitors. Mr Trump’s broadsides are aimed at companies that are surprisingly vulnerable and, in many cases, are already heading home. The impact on global commerce will be profound.The end of...
      PubDate: Thu, 26 January 2017 09:33:24
  • Africa’s top bureaucrat wants to be South Africa’s next
    • Abstract: IN MANY ways the African Union (AU) is outdoing its European counterpart. It has never presided over a continental currency crisis. No member state is threatening to quit. And you could walk from Cairo to Cape Town without meeting anyone who complains about the overweening bossiness of the African superstate. But this is largely because the AU, unlike the EU, is irrelevant to most people’s lives. That is a pity.Before 2002, when it was called the Organisation of African Unity, it was dismissed as a talking-shop for dictators. For the next decade, it was led by diplomats from small countries, picked by member states precisely because they had so little clout. But then, in 2012, a heavyweight stepped in to run the AU commission. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a veteran of the anti-apartheid struggle and a woman who had held three important cabinet posts in South Africa, was expected to inject more vigour and ambition into the AU. As she prepares to hand over to an as-yet unnamed successor this month, it is worth assessing her record (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 19 January 2017 15:42:22
  • To stop carmakers bending the rules on emissions, Europe must get much
    • Abstract: AMERICA’S system of corporate justice has many flaws. The size of the fines it slaps on firms is arbitrary. Its habitual use of deferred-prosecution agreements (a practice that is spreading to Britain; this week Rolls-Royce, an engineering firm, was fined for bribery—see article) means that too many cases are settled rather than thrashed out in court. But even crude justice can be better than none. To see why, look at Europe’s flaccid approach to the emissions scandal that engulfed Volkswagen (VW) in 2015 and now threatens others.Diesel-engined vehicles belch out poisonous nitrogen-oxide (NOx) gases. Limits have been imposed around the world on these toxic fumes. But the extra cost of making engines compliant, and the adverse impact that this has on performance and fuel efficiency, tempt carmakers to flout the rules. That is easier to get away with in Europe than in America, where the regulations are tighter and enforcement is more rigorous.American agencies were the ones to...
      PubDate: Thu, 19 January 2017 15:42:22
  • From too few girls to too many men
    • Abstract: A FEW years ago it looked like the curse that would never lift. In China, north India and other parts of Asia, ever more girls were being destroyed by their parents. Many were detected in utero by ultrasound scans and aborted; others died young as a result of neglect; some were murdered. In 2010 this newspaper put a pair of empty pink shoes on the cover and called it gendercide. In retrospect, we were too pessimistic. Today more girls are quietly being allowed to survive.Gendercide happens where families are small and the desire for sons is overwhelming. In places where women are expected to move out of their parents’ homes upon marriage and into their husbands’ households, raising a girl can seem like an act of pure charity. So many parents have avoided it that, by one careful estimate, at least 130m girls and women are missing worldwide. It is as if the entire female population of Britain, France, Germany and Spain had been wiped out.Fortunately, pro-girl evangelising and economic growth have at last begun to reverse this terrible trend (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 19 January 2017 15:42:22
  • Theresa May opts for a hard Brexit
    • Abstract: HALF a year after choosing Brexit, Britons have learned what they voted for. The single-word result of June’s referendum—“Leave”—followed a campaign boasting copious (incompatible) benefits: taking back control of immigration, ending payments into the European Union budget, rolling back foreign courts’ jurisdiction and trading with the continent as freely as ever. On January 17th Theresa May at last acknowledged that leaving the EU would involve trade-offs, and indicated some of the choices she would make. She will pursue a “hard Brexit” (rebranded “clean” by its advocates), taking Britain out of the EU’s single market in order to reclaim control of immigration and shake off the authority of the EU’s judges.Mrs May declared that this course represents no retreat, but rather that it will be the making of a “truly global Britain”. Escaping the shackles of the EU will leave the country “more outward-looking than...
      PubDate: Thu, 19 January 2017 15:42:21
  • The 45th president
    • Abstract: MUCH of the time, argues David Runciman, a British academic, politics matters little to most people. Then, suddenly, it matters all too much. Donald Trump’s term as America’s 45th president, which is due to begin with the inauguration on January 20th, stands to be one of those moments.It is extraordinary how little American voters and the world at large feel they know about what Mr Trump intends. Those who back him are awaiting the biggest shake-up in Washington, DC, in half a century—though their optimism is an act of faith. Those who oppose him are convinced there will be chaos and ruin on an epoch-changing scale—though their despair is guesswork. All that just about everyone can agree on is that Mr Trump promises to be an entirely new sort of American president. The question is, what sort?Inside the West WigYou may be tempted to conclude that it is simply too soon to tell. But there is enough information—from the campaign, the months since his victory and his life as a property developer and entertainer—to take a view of what kind of person Mr Trump is and how he means to fill the office first occupied by...
      PubDate: Thu, 19 January 2017 09:48:21
  • The right way to redo Dodd-Frank
    • Abstract: THE prospect of deregulation helps explain why, since Donald Trump’s election, no bit of the American stockmarket has done better than financial firms. On February 3rd their shares climbed again as Mr Trump signed an executive order asking the Treasury to conduct a 120-day review of America’s financial regulations, including the Dodd-Frank act put in place after the financial crisis of 2007-08, to assess whether these rules meet a set of “core principles”.To critics of Dodd-Frank, this is thrilling stuff. They see the law as a piece of statist overreach that throttles the American economy. Plenty in the Trump administration would love to gut it. The president himself has called it a “disaster”. Gary Cohn, until recently one of the leaders of Goldman Sachs, a big bank, and now Mr Trump’s chief economic adviser, promises to “attack all aspects of Dodd-Frank”.Opponents of moves to unwind regulation are as apocalyptic. Wall Street caused the crisis, they observe; undoing Dodd-Frank would lead to the next disaster by letting bankers run riot again. That would harm customers and taxpayers, as would suspending the introduction...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 February 2017 15:40:29
  • A row over money could derail Brexit talks before they have begun
    • Abstract: THESE are exhilarating times for the 52% of British voters who last summer opted to leave the European Union. After months of rumours that an anti-Brexit counter-revolution was being plotted by the Europhile establishment (who even won a Supreme Court case forbidding the government from triggering Brexit without Parliament’s permission), it at last looks as if independence beckons. This week the House of Commons voted to approve the process of withdrawal. The prime minister, Theresa May, will invoke Article 50 of the EU treaty next month, beginning a two-year countdown to freedom.But the triumphant mood is about to sour, for a reason few people have grasped. The first item on the agenda in Brussels, where divorce terms are to be thrashed out, will be a large demand for cash. To Britons who voted to leave the EU because they were told it would save them £350m ($440m) a week, this will come as a shock. The mooted bill is huge—some in Brussels talk of €60bn ($64bn), enough to host the London Olympics five times over—and its calculations open to endless argument. Until now the Brexit debate has focused on grander matters, such as the future of the €...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 February 2017 15:40:29
  • Why Israel’s new law makes peace harder
    • Abstract: ON FEBRUARY 6th Israel aimed a nasty blow at what remains of its peace process with the nearly 5m Palestinians who live in the territories it seized 50 years ago. Its coalition government, led by Binyamin Netanyahu, voted a bill through the Knesset which allows, in certain circumstances, for the legalisation of Jewish construction on privately owned Palestinian land. One effect could be that around 50 “outposts”, scattered around the West Bank and illegal under Israeli law, will now be safe from the threat of demolition.Condemnation quickly flowed in from around the world—not just from among the 138 countries that recognise Palestine as a state, but from many that do not, including Britain, France and Germany, Israel’s most reliable friends outside America (which stayed silent). Germany’s government said that the move “disappointed many in Germany who have deep ties to Israel and who have stood by it”.The new law may yet be struck down as unconstitutional by Israel’s fiercely independent courts. Even if it is not, the number of housing units likely to be affected is relatively small (around 4,000). Proper compensation must be paid...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 February 2017 15:40:29
  • The modern entertainment industry is a nirvana for consumers
    • Abstract: FOR couch potatoes and bookworms, filmgoers and music-lovers, this is a golden age. The internet provides an almost endlessly long menu of options to meet the almost infinitely quirky tastes of humanity. Smartphones have put all kinds of entertainment—from classic rock to prestige television to silly YouTube clips—at the fingertips of billions across the planet.Yet, as our special report this week describes, these same technologies have a paradoxical effect. Although they expand choice, they concentrate attention on the most popular hits and the biggest platforms. Perhaps because entertainment is a social activity, perhaps because consumers are baffled by the range of choices, they depend on the rankings and recommendation algorithms of platforms like Netflix, YouTube and Spotify to guide them to their next dose of content. And they are drawn to familiar titles that stand out from the clutter.So big brands continue to thrive. Of the thousands of films released worldwide...
      PubDate: Thu, 09 February 2017 15:40:29
  • Donald Trump seeks a grand bargain with Vladimir Putin
    • Abstract: GEORGE W. BUSH looked into Vladimir Putin’s eyes and thought he saw his soul. He was wrong. Barack Obama attempted to “reset” relations with Russia, but by the end of his term in office Russia had annexed Crimea, stirred up conflict elsewhere in Ukraine and filled the power vacuum that Mr Obama had left in Syria. Donald Trump appears to want to go much further and forge an entirely new strategic alignment with Russia. Can he succeed, or will he be the third American president in a row to be outfoxed by Mr Putin?The details of Mr Trump’s realignment are still vague and changeable. That is partly because of disagreements in his inner circle. Even as his ambassador to the UN offered “clear and strong condemnation” of “Russia’s aggressive actions” in Ukraine, the president’s bromance with Mr Putin was still smouldering. When an interviewer on Fox News put it to Mr Trump this week that Mr Putin is “a killer”, he retorted: “There are a lot of killers. What, you think our country’s so innocent?”For an American president to suggest that his own country is as murderous as Russia is unprecedented, wrong and a gift to Moscow’s propagandists....
      PubDate: Thu, 09 February 2017 09:33:14
  • India debates the case for a universal basic income
    • Abstract: ONE of the many indignities associated with being poor in India is navigating the country’s thicket of welfare programmes. The central government alone runs 950 of them; the states operate many more on top. Some are big, like those doling out subsidised food and fertiliser. Many are little more than an excuse for government ministers to stage a photo-op.The Indian government this week floated the idea of replacing most of these schemes with a “universal basic income” (UBI), an unconditional cash payment that could be disbursed not just to the poor but to everyone (see article). In rich countries, the UBI is raised as a possible response to a world where artificial intelligence and automation put large numbers of people out of a job. But unless technology destroys jobs on an unprecedented scale and creates none in their place, the case for such a scheme is premature. Functional social-safety nets and instruments such as tax credits make it possible to direct money to the needy in these...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 February 2017 15:47:23
  • Why augmented reality will be big in business first
    • Abstract: THE history of computers is one of increasing intimacy. At first users rented time on mainframe machines they did not own. Next came the “personal computer”. Although PCs were confined to desks, ordinary people could afford to buy them, and filled them with all manner of personal information. These days smartphones go everywhere in their owners’ pockets, serving as everything from a diary to a camera to a voice-activated personal assistant.The next step, according to many technologists, is to move the computer from the pocket to the body itself. The idea is to build a pair of “smart glasses” that do everything a smartphone can, and more. A technology called “augmented reality” (AR) would paint computerised information directly on top of the wearers’ view of the world. Early versions of the technology already exist (see article). If it can be made to work as its advocates hope, AR could bring about a new and even more intimate way to interact with machines. In effect, it would turn reality itself into...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 February 2017 15:47:23
  • Investing in emerging markets
    • Abstract: WISE investors know that winning bets shine more brightly if they are not overshadowed by big loss-making trades. The way in which capital flowed to and from emerging markets in recent years meant that such discrimination went out of the window. Now, however, change is coming.Two influences in particular are behind this. The first is the retreat by America’s Federal Reserve from ultra-loose monetary policy. Cheap credit gave good and bad economies alike a boost; as its effect fades, capital allocation will become more disciplined. The peculiar traits of each emerging market, from macroeconomic management to productivity growth, will have a greater say in how its economy performs as well as how investors view it. The second shift is in America’s trade policy, which is taking a worrying turn towards economic nationalism—a course whose effects on emerging economies will differ depending on their location and trade patterns. As a result, the reasons for success or failure among emerging markets may be quite different from the recent past.Begin with macroeconomic management, in which there is already a growing divergence....
      PubDate: Thu, 02 February 2017 15:47:23
  • Why the voting age should be lowered to 16
    • Abstract: HOW young is too young? Rich democracies give different answers, depending on the context: in New Jersey you can buy alcohol at 21 and cigarettes at 19, join the army at 17, have sex at 16 and be tried in court as an adult at 14. Such thresholds vary wildly from place to place. Belgian youngsters can get sozzled legally at 16. But on one thing most agree: only when you have turned 18 can you vote. When campaigners suggest lowering the voting age, the riposte is that 16- and 17-year-olds are too immature. This misses the real danger: that growing numbers of young people may not vote at all.The trend across the West is disturbing (see article). Turnout of American voters under 25 at presidential elections fell from 50% in 1972 to 38% in 2012; among over-65s it rose from 64% to 70% (data for the 2016 election are not yet available). For congressional races, the under-25 vote was a dire 17% in 2014. A similar pattern is repeated across the rich world.Young people’s...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 February 2017 15:47:23
  • An insurgent in the White House
    • Abstract: WASHINGTON is in the grip of a revolution. The bleak cadence of last month’s inauguration was still in the air when Donald Trump lobbed the first Molotov cocktail of policies and executive orders against the capital’s brilliant-white porticos. He has not stopped. Quitting the Trans-Pacific Partnership, demanding a renegotiation of NAFTA and a wall with Mexico, overhauling immigration, warming to Brexit-bound Britain and Russia, cooling to the European Union, defending torture, attacking the press: onward he and his people charged, leaving the wreckage of received opinion smouldering in their wake.To his critics, Mr Trump is reckless and chaotic. Nowhere more so than in last week’s temporary ban on entry for citizens from seven Middle Eastern countries—drafted in secret, enacted in haste and unlikely to fulfil its declared aim of sparing America from terrorism. Even his Republican allies lamented that a fine, popular policy was marred by its execution.In politics chaos normally leads to failure. With Mr Trump, chaos seems to be part of the plan. Promises that sounded like hyperbole in the campaign now amount to a deadly serious...
      PubDate: Thu, 02 February 2017 09:18:19
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