WeChat, Swifts, Italian Politics, Anarchists, Macroeconomics

Hic sunt camelopardus: this historical edition of The Browser is presented for archaeological purposes; links and formatting may be broken.

The People’s Republic Of WeChat

Dune Lawrence | Bloomberg Businessweek | 9th June 2016

The mobile phone app called WeChat is “basically how people in China communicate now”. It does everything from ecommerce and banking to dating and car-hire. Not to use WeChat is “socially weird, like refusing to wear shoes”. The effect on everyday life has been dramatic: “There’s so much less standing in line and waiting, particularly at the bank. There’s also a lot less getting lost. WeChat has given life in China a smoothness, a quality of efficiency I never could have imagined” (2,400 words)

In Which I Try To Become A Swift

Charles Foster | Nautilus | 9th June 2016

English naturalist and serial animal impersonator Charles Foster tries to understand how a swift experiences the world. The average swift breeds and travels prodigiously in a 21-year lifespan. The human equivalent would be to have 128 children and walk one-third of the way to the sun. “That’s what they do with their time. But what about their perception of what they’re doing? If they’re watching a film of their own lives, how fast is it moving? How frantic are those snapping heads?” (3,200 words)


Francesco Pacifico | n+1 | 10th June 2016

Italy’s many political parties consolidated into a two-party system during the Berlusconi era; now the system is fragmenting again. A protest party called Movimento Cinque Stelle looks set to provide the next mayor of Rome, though it has a comedian for a leader and no clear policies. “Italians hate the left, they hate the two-party system, and they find this new-old system, where anyone can come up and reclaim power, very puzzling. Also, it’s June, and we’d prefer to go the beach” (3,100 words)

A Hello To Arms: Anarchists Head For Syria

John Knefel | Village Voice | 8th June 2016

In which we share the adventures of Guy and Hristo, young New York radicals heading hopefully to Syria to join the Kurdish militia YPG, attracted by its “Marxist and feminist principles”. Most Americans who make the journey are military vets or “Christian crusaders” itching to fight against ISIS but disconcerted to find on arrival that the YPG are “a bunch of damn reds”. For Guy and Hristo, the redder the better. “They’re our anarchist comrades. I feel it’s my obligation to go aid them” (5,500 words)

Economics Versus Reality

Noah Smith | Bloomberg View | 10th June 2016

Four different activities go by the name of macroeconomics, while having little to do with one another. Coffee-house macro “revolves around the ideas of dead sages”. Finance macro consists largely of attempting to predict bond prices. Academic macro involves building elaborate models of the economy containing so many unrealistic assumptoions that “they’re kind of a joke”. Which leaves the Federal Reserve — Fed macro — to “go it alone when studying how the macroeconomy really works” (900 words)

Video of the day: By The River

What to expect:

Short animated film designed to help children identify common birds (1’54”)

Thought for the day

Custom is the union of the pleasant and the useful
Friedrich Nietzsche

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