Tag Archives: economist

Third Industrial Revolution – led by renewable energy and the internet

Jeremy Rifkin is a renowned economist on the environment, author, and advisor to the European Union. And he has a theory about the next great movement of the world – The Third Industrial Revolution.

From Omega:

The great economic revolutions in history occur when new communication technologies converge with new energy systems. New energy revolutions make possible more expansive and integrated trade. Accompanying communication revolutions manage the complex new commercial activities made possible by the new energy flows.

Ushering in the First Industrial Revolution during the 19th century, cheap steam-powered print technology and the introduction of public schools gave rise to a print-literate work force with the communication skills to manage the increased flow of commercial activity (which was made possible by coal and steam power technology).

That was followed by electrical forms of communication in the 20th century – mass media – and energy powered by oil and the combustion engine. And now we are at the beginning stages of the third step, with renewable energy and the internet as the drivers of change.

Read his full piece – Five Pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution – to learn more, or watch this short video from CNN:

 

Communist party in China facing public anger as corruption gets exposed

Even more interesting considering that both this Economist article and the Bloomberg exposé are currently blocked in China.

 

In recent years China’s leaders have become increasingly concerned that the public’s awareness of the growing wealth gap could lead to social instability. In Beijing, displays of gratuitous overcompensation are a daily reminder that some people, in keeping with a famous dictum of Deng Xiaoping’s, have indeed got rich first. Officials last year even went so far as to try suppressing ads that promote “luxury lifestyles”—lest the have-nots be inspired to rise up and storm the local Lamborghini dealership.

Perhaps even more troubling for the Party is the surge in scepticism over how such wealth seems to find its way into the hands of officials and their families, not to mention into those of their beloved Swiss bankers, English boarding schools and Australian estate agents. Particularly galling are the reports about the great number of officials who have taken to working “naked”. That is to say, many officials are working in China while their wives, children and, presumably, a chunk of the motherland’s money take residence overseas. A report released last year estimated that as much as $120 billion may have been transferred abroad by corrupt officials.

The Chinese media have been given greater freedom to report on corruption and the financial shenanigans of large companies of late. Which makes it all the more striking that reporting on the business activities of the Central Committee’s wives and offspring is still strictly forbidden.

So one can only imagine the consternation caused by yesterday’s sensational exposé by Bloomberg, which details the financial assets belonging to the family of China’s president-in-waiting, Xi Jinping…

More on this storyWealth and power: It’s a family affair

 

Continue reading

Stereotypes in Europe – hardest working, most corrupt

Among the usual questions about attitudes to the euro and the European Union, people in eight nations (Britain, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, Italy, Poland and Spain) were asked which country in the European Union is the hardest-working.

The Greeks ignored the obvious answer (Germany) and instead nominated themselves. (The other seven nations all plumped for Germany, as the table shows.) Yet Greek perception is not quite as misaligned with reality as it seems. Greece does actually work the longest hours in Europe…However, as any economist will tell you, working longer does not equate with higher productivity, and Greece’s productivity is relatively low.

via Economist Daily Chart

 

Also, very interesting to look at the “most corrupt” column where Italy dominates, but four countries consider themselves the most corrupt (even the Italians).

NFL blackout rule in dispute – serves no financial purpose but lingers on

The most significant discussion of NFL blackouts in 40 years is taking place right now. Given the fact that the NFL’s blackout rule punishes disabled, poor and elderly fans and the fact that the rule doesn’t even work, it’s long past time the rule was eliminated.

According to NFL rules, if a game is not sold out within 72 hours, the television broadcast is blacked out in the local market. The Federal Communications Commission then steps in and says that if local broadcasters can’t air a game locally, then neither can cable or satellite companies.

These blackouts happen despite the fact that the NFL is making hand over fist and will earn $6 billion per year from its television contracts starting in 2015.

In 2011, the Chargers had 2 home games blacked out, Buffalo lost three games; Tampa missed out on five games and Cincinnati was unable to watch six of its team’s eight home games.

In January, the FCC agreed to review its 36-year-old blackout rule in response to a petition filed by Sports Fans Coalition and other prominent public interest groups. On February 13, the initial deadline for public comments, formal comments were filed by Sports Fans Coalition, the NFLMLB, the National Association of Broadcastersfive U.S. Senatorsseveral top sports economists (who said “blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL”), and over4,000 individual fans around the country.

via Brian Frederick

 

In the petitions filed, the NFL still supports blackouts (“supports contractual provisions”), while the MLB petitioned to get rid of the rule.

Five Senators also petitioned in opposition, they are – Senators Stabenow (MI), Harkin (IO), Blumenthal (CT), Brown (OH), and Lautenberg (NJ).

Finally, nine sports economist petitioned in opposition with the following reasoning:

Research on the economics of sports and broadcasting lends no support to the concerns that have been expressed by the NFL and broadcasters. There is no evidence that the current blackout practices of the NFL have a significant effect on attendance, revenues, profits and the allocation of television rights between over-the-air and MVPDS broadcasters.

Blackout rules were created in the mid 20th Century, before professional sports attained its current popularity and financial stability. Steady growth in demand for both attendance and television rights have caused dramatic increases in ticket prices, television rights fees, revenues and profits, especially in the NFL.

The NFL‟s defense of blackout rules hinges on their financial significance, yet the available evidence indicates that these rules have at best a very minor effect of the NFL‟s financial performance.

As stated by Commissioner Goodell, the NFL sees blackouts as a means for “driving people to … stadiums.” Blackouts have no significant effect on ticket sales in the NFL and increase no-shows only when the weather is bad.

The long-term unemployed make up half of those unemployed

4 important facts about unemployment from economist Lee Ohanian:

  • The economy should be creating 500,000 jobs/month, instead of 200,000.
  • Long-term unemployed makes up half of those unemployed, and they have little or no value in our economy.
  • The retirement age is certainly going to rise.
  • Those with only a high school degree or less are not competitive in the global economy.

 

More than 200,000 new jobs were created in January, 2012. What do you make of the pace of job growth?

The major puzzle about the U.S. economy has been the remarkably slow job growth. The U.S. economy should be creating about 500,000 jobs per month now, given high worker productivity, the large pool of available workers and the fairly high level of corporate profits. While 200,000 jobs sounds really positive, it is only about half of what we should be seeing.

The long-term unemployed — those who have been out of work for more than six months. It seems that new jobs are going to people who have just entered the workforce or to those who were unemployed for a short time. What’s going on here?

Long-term unemployment is at a record level of nearly 50 percent of the unemployed. The market value of these workers is very low, because many simply don’t have the specific skills required to compete in today’s economy. It becomes the problem of retraining construction workers to become health care workers. It can’t be done overnight, but this process needs to move forward. Those construction jobs aren’t coming back anytime soon. Reforming unemployment insurance to include retraining funding would be useful.

What is your view on the retirement age in the U.S.? Is it too low, too high or just right?

The retirement age is now, depending on what year you were born, between 65 and 67 for full benefits. This will almost certainly rise in response to dealing with the upcoming shortfall in Social Security associated with baby boomers [more than 70 million of them ] who are now approaching retirement. The aging of the baby boom cohort will increase the share of the population who is 65 and older from its current level of 13 percent to about 19 percent of the population. This will put enormous pressure on the underfunded Social Security system — so get ready for a gradual increase in the full retirement age.

How has unemployment differentially impacted workers?

Education level is a major differentiator. Workers with high levels of education and training — those with bachelor’s degrees and beyond — have very low unemployment rates, about 4 percent. In contrast, those with no post-high-school education and very young workers have unemployment rates of more than 20 percent. The message is very clear: A good career starts with a solid education that includes training beyond high school.

Low-skilled and unskilled workers were hit very hard by the recession and continue to suffer. Is anything going to change for them?

This again points to education. Many of these unemployed have only a high school degree or never graduated from high school. These workers are, for the most part, no longer competitive in the global economy. Many may not be competitive even at current minimum wages, and some probably wouldn’t work for minimum wages. Fundamentally, they need to retrain in order to successfully re-engage in the labor market.

Vivek Express – new train connects India over 2,600 miles in 83 hours

A fascinating new podcast for travelers/adventurers talks about the Vivek Express which starts in the far North East of India and travels all the way to the southern tip. It has 52 stops, takes 83 hours, and travels over 4,200 kilometers.

It is the 8th longest train in the world. The cost to ride is $50 and the perfect inexpensive way for Indians, and tourists, to see the huge country.

Learn more about it from The Economist podcast on iTunes (6-minutes), or via the still-shot version below.

 

AIDS is cured, here’s why

It’s the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic and the world agrees we are at a turning point.

The disease that affects 34 million people around the world (1.2 million in the US) can be cured. The drug cocktail that virtually erases the effect of HIV and allows folks to live a long life is coming down in price. What once used to be $15-30,000/year is now around $3-4,000/year.

A dramatic drop and still not low enough, but as the Economist reports, some rich African nations are starting to purchase them en masse. Especially after new studies are showing that transmission of HIV while on the drugs is reduced by 98%. Meaning that with a coordinated effort a country can stop the spread of the disease, prevent death, and begin the arduous process of removing it from society.

This puts AIDS in the same realm as TB, Measles, Tetanus, Diptheria. All diseases cured by coordinated massive efforts to remove the outbreaks from society. Yes, those use a vaccination but the process is the same and both require a mobilized, organized effort.

That is the turning point. The problem is no longer a disease raging out of control that will kill anyone who contracts it. Now, it is more like diabetes where life is definitely harder for those who have it but imminent death.

For more details and research, plus learn how countries are responding to this, check out the Economist Podcast (search in iTunes), listen to the audio version below, or read the feature article linked below.

The 30 Years War
Hard pounding is gradually bringing AIDS under control

AIDS is cured, here's why

It’s the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic and the world agrees we are at a turning point.

The disease that affects 34 million people around the world (1.2 million in the US) can be cured. The drug cocktail that virtually erases the effect of HIV and allows folks to live a long life is coming down in price. What once used to be $15-30,000/year is now around $3-4,000/year.

A dramatic drop and still not low enough, but as the Economist reports, some rich African nations are starting to purchase them en masse. Especially after new studies are showing that transmission of HIV while on the drugs is reduced by 98%. Meaning that with a coordinated effort a country can stop the spread of the disease, prevent death, and begin the arduous process of removing it from society.

This puts AIDS in the same realm as TB, Measles, Tetanus, Diptheria. All diseases cured by coordinated massive efforts to remove the outbreaks from society. Yes, those use a vaccination but the process is the same and both require a mobilized, organized effort.

That is the turning point. The problem is no longer a disease raging out of control that will kill anyone who contracts it. Now, it is more like diabetes where life is definitely harder for those who have it but imminent death.

For more details and research, plus learn how countries are responding to this, check out the Economist Podcast (search in iTunes), listen to the audio version below, or read the feature article linked below.

The 30 Years War
Hard pounding is gradually bringing AIDS under control

Democracy In The World

With democratic revolutions spreading from Tunisia to Egypt, I was wondering…how many democracies exist in the world?

26

According to the 2010 Democracy Index, a report published by the Economic Intelligence Unit, a division of The Economist magazine.

Seventeen of them in Europe, two in Latin America, two in Asia, one in Africa, and the last four are: US, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand.

Democracy Index 2010 from the Economic Intelligence Unit (pdf)

This is quite disheartening. As a child of a democracy I expected the number to be 200 or something. How could any country/person not want to be caught in the fire of liberty!

Then it gets me thinking that perhaps it is a cultural thing. Christianity is fiercely independent (“thou shall not kill”) and capitalism is selfishness at its very core. Hey, it could even be from the vast wealth we gained through colonization and subsequent exploitation.

East vs West

I often hear of this divide between the West and East. As if democracy is a Western value not shared by those in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa.

Is this true?

To answer I dug into what makes a democracy. The report classifies one according to five categories:

  • Functioning of government
  • Civil liberties
  • Electoral process and pluralism
  • Political participation
  • Political culture

Then every country is rated and ranked as a full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid, or authoritarian regime.

The previously mentioned 26 countries are the full democracies. Beyond that another 53 are ranked as flawed democracies. Add up both and it accounts for about half the world’s population.

Which goes a long to prove that democracy is not limited to the Western world. Among the flawed ones are several in Asia, Africa, and Latin America.

I would also say that a highly functioning government, civil liberties, and voting are universal expectations of all people. Believe me when an authoritarian regime employs the “secret police” every human being wishes for justice.

These ideals just seem extraordinarily hard to achieve. Several countries, even strong European nations like Italy, France, and Greece, have seen their ability to maintain them drop. Even the United States has recently seen its civil liberties erode and many of us definitely lack political participation.

I guess I can chalk up these reports of democracy being a Western value as propaganda. Probably the same line a dictator uses to keep people under his thumb.

What do you think, is democracy appropriate for the Middle East? Will it do well in Egypt?

Podcasts Are Saving My Life

I’m such a huge fan of podcasts that it’s insane. See I have this eye problem that prevents me from reading too much. My day job is in technology and my hobby is writing so I have no ‘good eyes’ left for everything else.

That’s where podcasts come in. I can listen to them while walking, cleaning, and building (my three other hobbies). It’s such a perfect blend that I want to share with you my favorites:

  • This Week in Tech
  • Slate Political Gabfest
  • Bloomberg Presents Lewis Lapham
  • History of Rome
  • Melvyn Bragg – In Our Time
  • The Economist (all of the shows)
  • APM: Marketplace Morning Report

The interesting thing about these shows are that none of them are from traditional TV/Radio. Half of them are writers of print media talking about their work. An interesting trend I expect to scare the beejeesus out of Hollywood.

Here are my second tier shows that I still listen to vehemently:

  • Slate Cultural Gabfest
  • Slate Hang Up And Listen
  • Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History
  • Tech News Today
  • Buzz Out Loud
  • TED Talks
  • NBC Meet The Press
  • APM: Marketplace
  • APM: The Splendid Table

Sorry for the lack of links but you can Google (or iTunes search) these titles and I guarantee you will find them.

Do you listen to any of these?