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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]
  • Helicopter parents: Relax, your kids will be fine
    • Abstract: IN 1693 the philosopher John Locke warned that children should not be given too much “unwholesome fruit” to eat. Three centuries later, misguided ideas about child-rearing are still rife. Many parents fret that their offspring will die unless ceaselessly watched. In America the law can be equally paranoid. In South Carolina this month Debra Harrell was jailed for letting her nine-year-old daughter play in a park unsupervised. The child, who had a mobile phone and had not been harmed in any way, was briefly taken into custody of the social services.Ms Harrell’s draconian punishment reflects the rich world’s angst about parenting. By most objective measures, modern parents are far more conscientious than previous generations. Since 1965 labour-saving devices such as washing machines and ready meals have freed eight hours a week for the average American couple, but slightly more than all of that time has been swallowed up by childcare. Dads are far more hands-on than their fathers were, and working mothers spend more time nurturing their sprogs than the housewives of the 1960s did. This works for both sides: children need love and stimulation; and for the parents,...
      PubDate: Thu, 24 July 2014 14:58:42 GMT
  • Israel and Gaza: Stop the rockets, but lift the siege
    • Abstract: THE mounting toll of innocents in Gaza is reason enough for anyone with compassion to demand a ceasefire. Since July 8th, when Israel began its campaign to clobber Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that has run the Gaza Strip since 2007, at least 700 Palestinians have been killed, most of them civilians and many of them children, along with at least 35 Israelis, including three civilians. After Israel undertook a ground invasion of Gaza on July 18th, the casualty rate on both sides soared. Hospitals have been hit and scores of buildings flattened, often with civilians inside. A Palestinian family of 25, said to have been hosting a Hamas fighter during a supper to break the Ramadan fast, was wiped out.Yet it would be a grievous mistake to bring about a ceasefire that achieved nothing more than to revert to the status quo. In the longer run, if a more durable peace is to be built, the Israelis must seek a sovereign state for Palestinians, who, including Hamas, must in turn reiterate their support for a government that disavows violence and recognises Israel. Unless a ceasefire is couched in such terms, the poison will in time well up all over...
      PubDate: Thu, 24 July 2014 14:58:42 GMT
  • Corporate tax in America: How to stop the inversion perversion
    • Abstract: ECONOMIC refugees have traditionally lined up to get into America. Lately, they have been lining up to leave. In the past few months, half a dozen biggish companies have announced plans to merge with foreign partners and in the process move their corporate homes abroad. The motive is simple: corporate taxes are lower in Ireland, Britain and, for that matter, almost everywhere else than they are in America.In Washington, DC, policymakers have reacted with indignation. Jack Lew, the treasury secretary, has questioned the companies’ patriotism and called on Congress to outlaw such transactions. His fellow Democrats are eager to oblige, and some Republicans are willing to listen.The proposals are misguided. Tightening the rules on corporate “inversions”, as these moves are called, does nothing to deal with the reason why so many firms want to leave: America has the rich world’s most dysfunctional corporate-tax system. It needs fundamental reform, not new complications.America’s corporate tax has two horrible flaws. The first is the tax rate, which at 35% is the highest among the 34 mostly rich-country members of the OECD. Yet it raises less revenue than the OECD...
      PubDate: Thu, 24 July 2014 14:58:42 GMT
  • Indonesia’s new president: Fanfare for the common man
    • Abstract: IN A year thick with bad news, much of it about Islam, it is perhaps surprising that the world’s biggest Muslim-majority country should produce the most heartening piece of politics so far. Yet the announcement on July 22nd that Joko Widodo, universally known as Jokowi, had won Indonesia’s general election is just that.Above all, this is a triumph for democracy, albeit a somewhat messy one. In a country which was run by the Suharto dictatorship 16 years ago, the election marks the first time that one popularly elected leader, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, makes way for another. Democratic transitions in Asia do not always go smoothly—think of Burma in 1990 or Thailand’s recurring dramas. Indonesia’s is still not wholly secure. The runner-up, Prabowo Subianto, a volatile former general and son-in-law of the late dictator, has claimed large-scale fraud and is leaning on the Constitutional Court to annul the result (see article). But given the six percentage-point margin of Jokowi’s victory, Mr Prabowo is unlikely to get far.Indonesia’...
      PubDate: Thu, 24 July 2014 14:58:42 GMT
  • Russia, MH17 and the West: A web of lies
    • Abstract: IN 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the Russian people might at last have the chance to become citizens of a normal Western democracy. Vladimir Putin’s disastrous contribution to Russia’s history has been to set his country on a different path. And yet many around the world, through self-interest or self-deception, have been unwilling to see Mr Putin as he really is.The shooting down of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17, the killing of 298 innocent people and the desecration of their bodies in the sunflower fields of eastern Ukraine, is above all a tragedy of lives cut short and of those left behind to mourn. But it is also a measure of the harm Mr Putin has done. Under him Russia has again become a place in which truth and falsehood are no longer distinct and facts are put into the service of the government. Mr Putin sets himself up as a patriot, but he is a threat—to international norms, to his neighbours and to the Russians themselves, who are intoxicated by his hysterical brand of anti-Western propaganda.The world needs to face the danger Mr Putin poses. If it does not stand up to him today, worse will follow.Crucifiction and other storiesMr...
      PubDate: Thu, 24 July 2014 14:58:42 GMT
  • Afghanistan’s election: A useful crisis
    • Abstract: HOLDING a presidential election in Afghanistan only months before the withdrawal of Western combat forces was bound to be risky—even before one of the candidates, Abdullah Abdullah, reacted to preliminary results showing a suspiciously big lead for his opponent, Ashraf Ghani, by alleging “industrial-scale” fraud. The political crisis could have plunged the country into chaos and even war.Yet this dangerous moment could turn out to be oddly productive. Disaster has been averted thanks to the banging-together of heads by America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, and to the good sense of the presidential candidates, who stared into the abyss and retreated. Their deal points towards a political structure that should work better than the current one.Come on, it’s AfghanistanIn the first round of the election to replace Hamid Karzai as president, nearly 7m Afghans turned out to vote. But in the second, Dr Abdullah made no gain at all from the 45% of the vote he had secured in a crowded field; meanwhile, the share of his rival, Mr Ghani, leapt from 31% to 56%. Suspiciously, turnout increased by more than 1m votes. Mr Ghani has the backing of Mr Karzai, who stole the...
      PubDate: Thu, 17 July 2014 15:01:36 GMT
  • Europe’s future: Another fine mess
    • Abstract: THE European Union is chronically bad at filling its most senior jobs. The choice of Luxembourg’s Jean-Claude Juncker, a federalist insider, as president of the European Commission was a poor response to the many ordinary folk who are dissatisfied with the EU. It was also an unwelcome power grab by the European Parliament, which arrogated to itself the right to nominate Mr Juncker and “elected” him this week.Yet national leaders manage little better. This week they met to carve up the other top jobs, in a process dominated by political horse-trading and tokenism. The two main positions at issue were the president of the European Council, the leaders’ club, and the EU’s foreign-policy supremo. In the event, after a long squabble, the EU summit could agree on neither. It will now reconvene in late August (see article).For Europe’s leaders to fail to agree on these other jobs, so soon after the Juncker debacle, betrays a shameful negligence. As May’s European elections showed, the EU is in deep...
      PubDate: Thu, 17 July 2014 15:01:36 GMT
  • Britain and Hong Kong: No panderers, please: this issue’s black and
    • Abstract: ON JULY 15th Hong Kong’s leader, Leung Chun-ying, presented a report to China’s leaders in Beijing on how to reform the territory’s electoral system. In it he suggested that most Hong Kongers were perfectly happy with a system under which a rigged committee of worthies weeds out anyone the mainland does not like, and did not want greater political freedom. The report angered many in the former British colony, who complain that China no longer respects the unique formula of “one country, two systems” under which Hong Kong is supposed to be governed and believe its actions so far suggest it will not keep its promise to allow universal suffrage in the election of the territory’s leader by 2017. Amid the uproar, however, one voice has been notably silent: that of Britain.In 1984 Margaret Thatcher signed the Sino-British Joint Declaration with a Chinese leader, Zhao Ziyang. The document laid the groundwork for Hong Kong’s Basic Law, its post-handover constitution. For several years after Britain handed over power in 1997, China adhered scrupulously to the Basic Law. This week, amid growing concerns for Hong Kong’s autonomy, two senior Hong Kong politicians, Martin Lee...
      PubDate: Thu, 17 July 2014 15:01:36 GMT
  • Assisted suicide: Easeful death
    • Abstract: AFTER suffering a stroke on a business trip Tony Nicklinson, a former rugby player and skydiver, developed locked-in syndrome, an incurable condition that leaves a patient aware but unable to move or talk. Nicklinson learned to communicate by blinking his eyes and thus was able to describe his terrible suffering. Imprisoned in his corporeal cell with no chance of escape, he wanted to die. But since Britain does not permit assisted suicide, his “living nightmare” continued.Death is a fearful thing, but it is the pain of life that leaves many ill people in despair. Like Nicklinson, some people would like to die peacefully, at a time of their choosing and with the assistance of a doctor. Their desire for a humane end should not offend liberal societies, which rest on the principle of self-determination, so long as one’s actions do not harm others. This newspaper supports making assisted suicide legal. So, according to polls, do more than two-thirds of Americans and western Europeans.You might then wonder why more governments do not guarantee the right to an easeful death. Only a handful of countries allow certain individuals to take their own lives with a doctor’s...
      PubDate: Thu, 17 July 2014 15:01:36 GMT
  • The American economy: America’s lost oomph
    • Abstract: BACK in the mid-1990s, America’s economic prospects suddenly brightened. Productivity soared. Immigrants and foreign capital flocked to take advantage of what was quickly dubbed the “New Economy”. The jobless rate fell to 4%, yet inflation remained low. All this led economists to conclude that America’s potential rate of growth—the speed at which the economy can expand while keeping unemployment steady and inflation stable—had risen sharply from its decades-long average of 3%, to 3.5% or even higher.Sadly, the New Economy is no more. The recovery from the recession of 2008-09 has been the weakest of the post-war era, and evidence is mounting that America’s potential growth rate has plummeted. Its two big determinants, the supply of workers and the rise in their productivity, have both fallen short. Performance in the past year has been particularly feeble: America’s labour force has not grown at all and output per hour worked has fallen. The IMF recently cut its estimate of the country’s potential rate of growth to 2%. Other economists put it as low as 1.75% (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 17 July 2014 15:01:36 GMT
  • Israel and Palestine: The new normal
    • Abstract: THE prime minister of Israel, Binyamin Netanyahu, has sought to make life normal. While the Middle East has gone up in flames, Israel’s economy has thrived. Cafés emptied a decade ago by Palestinian suicide-bombers are once again teeming with customers. Demonstrators in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv have protested not just about war and peace, but even more vociferously about the price of cottage cheese.This unreal normality is now under threat. After a two-year lull, rockets fired from Gaza have rained down on Israel. The Israel Defence Forces have struck hundreds of sites in Gaza. The army is ready to mobilise up to 40,000 reserves. The talk is of a ground offensive against Hamas, which governs Gaza (see article). Palestinians, 70 of whom have already been killed, are sliding towards a third uprising, or intifada.Mr Netanyahu’s mistake—compounded by the actions of Mahmoud Abbas, leader of the Palestinians on the West Bank—is to think that their versions of normality...
      PubDate: Thu, 10 July 2014 14:59:13 GMT
  • Conflict in Ukraine: The siege
    • Abstract: THANK goodness for Petro Poroshenko. That is the response of some Western observers to the advances made by the Ukrainian army in its fitful war with Russian-backed separatists. Mr Poroshenko won the presidency in May on a promise to defeat the insurgents; his forces’ victories this week have begun to fufil it. They have also persuaded some outsiders that Vladimir Putin has relinquished his bid to control or conquer eastern Ukraine—and that happily the West need harry him no further. That is a delusional and dangerous mistake.The separatists have been ousted from their erstwhile stronghold of Sloviansk; they have fallen back on Donetsk, the biggest city in the region, and are frantically appealing to Mr Putin for help (see article). Unfortunately for them, the Ukrainians have also managed largely to halt the flow of Russian “volunteers” and weaponry across the border. An optimistic reading of this situation is that, wary of incurring further economic punishment that Russia can...
      PubDate: Thu, 10 July 2014 14:59:13 GMT
  • Cyber-security: The internet of things (to be hacked)
    • Abstract: CYBER-SECURITY is now part of all our lives. “Patches” and other security updates arrive for phones, tablets and PCs. Consultants remind us all not to open unknown files or plug unfamiliar memory sticks into our computers. The bosses of some Western firms throw away phones and laptops after they have been to China assuming they have been hacked. And yet, as our special report this week points out, digital walls keep on being breached. Last year more than 800m digital records, such as credit- and debit-card details, were pinched or lost, more than three times as many as in 2012. According to a recent estimate by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, a think-tank, the cost to the global economy of cybercrime and online industrial espionage stands at $445 billion a year—about as much as the GDP of Austria.Now a new phase in this contest is emerging: “the internet of things”. This involves embedding miniature computers in objects and connecting them to the internet...
      PubDate: Thu, 10 July 2014 14:59:13 GMT
  • Crime in Latin America: From cage to enlightenment
    • Abstract: LATIN AMERICA is the world’s most violent region. More than 1m people died as a result of criminal violence in the past decade, according to the UN Development Programme (UNDP). In Honduras, the most murderous country on Earth, the homicide rate in 2012 was 90.4 people for every 100,000 inhabitants—an epidemic of killing that translates to 7,500 murders a year in a city the size of London (where the actual number in the year to May was 112).Lethal crime is only part of the story. Robberies have nearly trebled over the past 25 years, in contrast to trends elsewhere. Although there are huge differences between (and within) countries in Latin America, the costs of crime are large everywhere. Some of these costs, like spending on security and health care, can be quantified. Others are more intangible. In Chile, one of the region’s safest countries, almost a third of inhabitants say their neighbourhoods are affected by gangs.Some of the causes of Latin America’s crime disease are deep-rooted: a demographic bulge of young men, for one, and stubbornly high levels of income inequality. Others emanate from outside the region: the demand for drugs flowing into...
      PubDate: Thu, 10 July 2014 14:59:13 GMT
  • Scottish independence: Don’t leave us this way
    • Abstract: BRITAIN does not feel like a nation on the verge of cracking up. Many have clutched patriotic flags and wept this summer—but most of them were fans of the England football team, distressed by its rapid exit from the World Cup, not activists demonstrating for and against the break-up of their country. Yet a 307-year-old union, which once ruled a third of humanity and still serves as a role-model to many, could be on the verge of dissolution, because the people of Scotland will vote on independence in a referendum on September 18th.Opinion polls suggest the Scots will decide against leaving, but it is the nationalists who have fire in their bellies, and Alex Salmond, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), is a strong finisher (see article). Even a narrow victory for the status quo would be the biggest blow to the United Kingdom since 1922, when the Irish Free State was born. The campaign has been a bad-tempered one, marked by growing Scottish anger at English complacency and...
      PubDate: Thu, 10 July 2014 08:33:09 GMT
  • BNP Paribas in the dock: No way to treat a criminal
    • Abstract: WHAT is the appropriate penalty for a firm that abets genocide? Roughly a year’s profit and the sacking of a dozen employees, the American authorities concluded this week. At any rate, that is the punishment meted out to BNP Paribas, a French bank that pleaded guilty to helping the Sudanese government sell oil, clearing proceeds through New York in violation of American sanctions. At the time government-backed militias in the region of Darfur were massacring civilians by the tens of thousands.In spite of French politicians’ predictable squeals, it is hard to feel any sympathy for BNP. The bank played a pivotal role in fostering a monstrous regime. Most of the money it helped channel to Sudan went to the army, which in turn used the cash to finance rape and pillage. In the immediate aftermath of the crisis in Darfur, in 2006, BNP’s Swiss branch held around half of Sudan’s foreign-currency assets. Sudan’s president later became the first sitting national leader to be charged with war crimes by the International Criminal Court.BNP argues that it broke no European laws while serving as the groom to the horsemen of Darfur’s apocalypse. That is true enough...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 July 2014 15:05:19 GMT
  • The Bretton Woods agreements: The 70-year itch
    • Abstract: AMERICA learned the benefits of economic co-operation the hard way. Its failure to create institutions to help steer the world economy after the first world war exacerbated the Great Depression and paved the way for the next conflagration. That is why, at a small resort in New Hampshire as the second world war was drawing to a close, America and its allies sketched out a rough management plan for the world economy and created some institutions to safeguard it (see Buttonwood). Despite some flaws, the Bretton Woods agreements, signed 70 years ago this month, helped usher in a long and relatively peaceful period of economic growth.Yet today’s pre-eminent powers seem to have forgotten this lesson. America and Europe have failed to strengthen and reform the offspring of Bretton Woods, the IMF and the World Bank; they have been sluggish in providing a bigger role for China in these institutions (it still has less voting power than the Benelux countries). Meanwhile, China, like America a century ago, flexes its muscles close to home but...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 July 2014 15:05:19 GMT
  • America’s licence Raj: Unshackle the entrepreneurs
    • Abstract: MIRACLES sometimes happen. A few weeks ago The Economist mocked a rule in Washington, DC, that forced tour guides to pay $200, pass an exam and obtain a licence before being allowed to show visitors around America’s capital. Bill Main, a businessman who runs illicit Segway tours, was suing to have the licensing system overturned on free-speech grounds. On June 27th a judge ruled in his favour. One pointless job-throttling rule struck down; only a gazillion more to go.Red tape is a mounting problem for American business. The Competitive Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank, estimates that the total cost of complying with America’s federal regulations was $1.86 trillion in 2013—about $15,000 per household. Of course some of those regulations yield benefits, from clean air to toasters that don’t catch fire. But neither Congress nor the rule-writers in federal agencies make much effort to weigh costs against benefits. And businesses must also obey a confusing tangle of state and local edicts (see...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 July 2014 15:05:19 GMT
  • The Middle East: The tragedy of the Arabs
    • Abstract: A THOUSAND years ago, the great cities of Baghdad, Damascus and Cairo took turns to race ahead of the Western world. Islam and innovation were twins. The various Arab caliphates were dynamic superpowers—beacons of learning, tolerance and trade. Yet today the Arabs are in a wretched state. Even as Asia, Latin America and Africa advance, the Middle East is held back by despotism and convulsed by war.Hopes soared three years ago, when a wave of unrest across the region led to the overthrow of four dictators—in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen—and to a clamour for change elsewhere, notably in Syria. But the Arab spring’s fruit has rotted into renewed autocracy and war. Both engender misery and fanaticism that today threaten the wider world.Why Arab countries have so miserably failed to create democracy, happiness or (aside from the windfall of oil) wealth for their 350m people is one of the great questions of our time. What makes Arab society susceptible to vile regimes and fanatics bent on destroying them (and their perceived allies in the West)? No one suggests that the Arabs as a people lack talent or suffer from some pathological antipathy to democracy. But for the...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 July 2014 15:05:19 GMT
  • Indonesia’s presidential election: Competing visions
    • Abstract: IT IS impressive progress. Less than two decades ago Indonesia was a dictatorship under the late Suharto; on July 9th voters in this island archipelago of 240m will go enthusiastically to the polls to choose a new president. Turnout promises to be high. The election campaign has been free of violence. And, although religion is never entirely absent from Islam’s foremost democracy, this has been a contest fought overwhelmingly over secular issues.Yet the country’s democracy is still young. This will be the first time that one popularly elected leader—Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, who must step down after two (lacklustre) terms as president—will hand over power to another. And the election is even more significant because one of the two presidential contenders is unlike any leader Indonesia has had.Joko Widodo (pictured, left), who is universally known as Jokowi, started out as a humble furniture seller and became a pragmatic, uncorrupt mayor. He is not from the usual clutch of political and business dynasties and their sleazy cronies. Until recently Jokowi appeared to have an unassailable lead. But now the establishment’s candidate, Prabowo Subianto (pictured, right),...
      PubDate: Thu, 03 July 2014 15:05:19 GMT
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