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Cecily Cecily

Writing Worth Reading

Abe’s Long March

Japan’s government plans to “reinterpret” the postwar constitution to allow Japan to intervene militarily on behalf of allies; a momentous change without even a parliamentary vote; in keeping with prime minister Shinzo Abe’s nationalist agenda. It’s hard to say which prospect will please China less: A Japan defended by America, or a Japan with its own nuclear weapons and an independent foreign policy (900 words)

Post-Crash Economics

“Mainstream economics is a pitifully thin distillation of historical wisdom on the topics that it addresses. It should be applied to whatever practical problems it can solve; but its tools and assumptions should always be in creative tension with other beliefs concerning human wellbeing and flourishing. What students are taught today certainly does not deserve its imperial status in social thought” (900 words)

Kennan’s Revenge

Interesting dissent from the prevailing Western narrative on Ukraine. The West overplayed its hand when the Soviet Union collapsed. Now Russia is pushing back. “The Russians propose a neutral Ukraine on the model of Finland and a federal state on the model of Switzerland. The West should be urgently testing and seeking to refine such proposals instead of recoiling in moralistic horror at Russia’s actions” (900 words)

Putin’s World

Krastev is the best analyst of modern Russia bar none. Here’s his key point: “The West has no idea what Russia is willing to do, but Russia knows exactly what the West will – and, more important, will not – do. This has created a dangerous asymmetry.” Russia’s project for Ukraine is to make it like Bosnia: Technically a single country, but radically federalised, with one part owing primary allegiance to the country next door (840 words)

Japan’s Russian Dilemma

Important and interesting. Former defence minister gives Japanese perspective on Russia’s annexation of Crimea. Pre-Crimea, Japan had been hoping to charm Russia into discussing the Kuril Islands, occupied by Russia and claimed by Japan. Post-Crimea, Japan is one of Russia’s fiercest critics. It wants Russia out of Crimea, for fear that successful Russian expansionism will set a precedent for China (930 words)

Wallets Wide Shut

Industrial companies are in good shape, especially in America. But they are not investing. Why? Perhaps because the nature of investment is changing. “While companies recognise that innovation is a key comparative advantage in today’s global economy, they are also humbled by its increasingly winner-take-all nature. Successful innovation today is a lot less about financing and much more about finding the ‘killer app’” (1,000 words)

Recommended For You

The case for a more pragmatic approach to development economics. “Take massive amounts of data and ask what is likely to succeed next in a country or a city at a given point in time, given what is already present and in light of the experience there and everywhere else. It would be like Amazon’s recommendation system, proposing books you may like based on your and everybody else’s experience” (960 words)

Angela Merkel’s Pyrrhic Victory

The euro crisis is not over; it has been institutionalised, at least until Germany reverses itself on two doctrinal points. First, all outstanding eurozone government debt — except that of Greece — should be converted into eurobonds. Second, Greece should be given a debt-servicing holiday, for as long as it sticks to Troika conditions. “Everyone knows that Greece can never pay back its debt” (1,100 words)

The Risk Of European Centralisation

Founding board member of the European Central Bank skewers European Monetary Union straight through the heart. Its failures have undermined the European project. “They have involved huge financial risks for eurozone members. They have fueled tensions among member states. They have undermined the basis on which political union rests – namely, persuading European Union citizens to identify with the European idea” (1,000 words)

The Trouble Within Islam

“The problematic strain within Islam is not the province of a few extremists. It has at its heart a view of religion – and of the relationship between religion and politics – that is not compatible with pluralistic, liberal, open-minded societies. At the extreme end of the spectrum are terrorists, but the worldview goes deeper and wider than it is comfortable for us to admit. So, by and large, we don’t admit it” (1,100 words)

Darwin, The Greatest Psychologist

We don’t often think of Darwin as a psychologist. But, as Darwin himself was keenly aware, his theory of evolution applied as much to the mind as the body, and provided a scientific basis for psychology, which previously had been rooted more in philosophy. “Freud’s biographer, Ernest Jones, was mistaken in calling Freud ‘the Darwin of the mind’. Darwin himself was the Darwin of the mind. Freud was his great populariser” (850 words)

Why Pay More?

Nobody needs a $30,000 watch or a $12,000 handbag. “Such a person is saying: ‘I am either extraordinarily ignorant, or just plain selfish. If I were not ignorant, I would know that children are dying from diarrhea or malaria, and obviously what I have spent on this watch or handbag would have been enough to help several of them survive; but I care so little about them that I would rather spend my money on something that I wear for ostentation alone.’” (894 words)

DNA At 60

Crick and Watson’s discovery of DNA was expected to “revolutionize biological research”. Sixty years later it is still hailed as “one of the most important scientific discoveries of all time.” But the practical impact has been strangely muted. Most diseases don’t have simple genetic causes; genetic medicines tend to be prohibitively expensive; and if drug companies succeed in patenting genes, further research will be jeopardised (1,000 words)

The Iraq War, Ten Years On

The costs were high, the gains unclear. “Even if fortuitous events lead to a better Middle East in another ten years, future historians will criticise the way President George Bush made his decisions and distributed the risks and costs of his actions. It is one thing to guide people up a mountain; it is another to lead them to the edge of a cliff”

Will Programmers Rule?

Software is taking over the world, says Marc Andreessen. What does that imply for income distribution? Probably more inequality. Software is a winner-take-all world. “Those who are creative and competent enough to write that slightly better search engine will capture the global market”. Equality of opportunity won’t produce more equal outcomes

Should We Live To 1,000?

Should we try to combat ageing, rather than merely the diseases of ageing? If so, what are the implications? And is it better to have fewer people living longer lives or more people living shorter lives?

The Debtor Prisoner’s Dilemma

Argentina thought it had got out from under huge debts by devaluing and defaulting, but a recent US court ruling favoured holdout creditors. It’s a dramatic raising of the stakes. What happens when unpayable debts can’t be erased?

From Gaza To Where?

“The lesson of the last two decades is that attacks stop, and intifadas do not start, when there is a prospect of peace – and that, when there is no such prospect, Palestinian militancy is uncontainable”

Is Finance Too Competitive?

Many economists (among others) are calling for regulation that would make banking “boring”. Is this a good idea? Wouldn’t it be better to make banking a normal industry “susceptible to destruction in the face of creativity”

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