Weekend Reads

For the profit and pleasure of subscribers, here's a few longer reads on economic, political and social matters from around the world for the weekend.

The shock Trump victory threw up a range of reaction and analysis, just in case you were in a mood to contemplate the future of the world under The Donald.

NPR has a good primer on what Trump has said he would do in the first 100 days. He has said he would pull out of NAFTA and kill the TPP on his first day in office, while also ordering the cancellation of payments to the UN for funding climate change projects. And start planning the deportation of millions. Brace yourselves. As an aside, I will actually be in America on holiday on his Inauguration Day. Lucky eh?

ProPublica's Alex MacGillis reckons Hillary Clinton and the Democrats were playing with fire when they effectively wrote off white workers in the small towns and cities of the Rust Belt. In a piece titled 'Revenge of the Forgotten Class', she points out that many of Trump's voters were first-time voters, which invalidated a lot of the skewing and sampling techniques used by polling firms.

MacGillis spoke to a 43-year-old gas station attendant called Contessa Hammel who had not voted in 25 years of eligibility -- until now.

"Donald Trump’s stunning win Tuesday, defying all the prognosticators, suggested there were many more people like Hammel out there — people who were so disconnected from the political system that they were literally unaccounted for in the pollsters’ modeling, which relies on past voting behavior," she writes.

"But Hammel was far from the only person I met in my reporting this year who made me think that Trump had spurred something very unusual. Some of them had never voted before; some had voted for Barack Obama. None were traditional Republican voters. Some were in dire economic straits; others were just a notch up from that and looking down with resentment at the growing dependency around them. What they shared were three things. They lived in places that were in decline, and had been for some time. They lacked strong attachment to either party at a time when, even within a single metro area like Dayton, the parties had sorted themselves into ideological, geographically disparate camps that left many voters unmoored. And they had profound contempt for a dysfunctional, hyper-prosperous Washington that they saw as utterly removed from their lives."

The much-higher-than-expected vote for Trump among white women is a feature of the result.

Glenn Greenwald has a good old lash at the media and governing elites in this piece in The Intercept. Fair enough.

"The indisputable fact is that prevailing institutions of authority in the West, for decades, have relentlessly and with complete indifference stomped on the economic welfare and social security of hundreds of millions of people. While elite circles gorged themselves on globalism, free trade, Wall Street casino gambling, and endless wars (wars that enriched the perpetrators and sent the poorest and most marginalized to bear all their burdens), they completely ignored the victims of their gluttony, except when those victims piped up a bit too much — when they caused a ruckus — and were then scornfully condemned as troglodytes who were the deserved losers in the glorious, global game of meritocracy."

Andrew Sullivan, who I always enjoy reading, has a piece in New York Magazine describing how "The Republic Repeals Itself."

"We are witnessing the power of a massive populist movement that has now upended the two most stable democracies in the world — and thrown both countries into a completely unknown future. In Britain, where the polls did not pick up the latent support for withdrawal from the European Union, a new prime minister is now navigating a new social contract with the indigenous middle and working classes forged by fear of immigration and globalization. In the U.S., the movement — built on anti-political politics, economic disruption, and anti-immigration fears — had something else, far more lethal, in its bag of tricks: a supremely talented demagogue who created an authoritarian cult with unapologetically neo-fascist rhetoric. Britain is reeling toward a slow economic slide. America has now jumped off a constitutional cliff. It will never be the same country again. Like Brexit, this changes the core nature of this country permanently."

For a more sobering chill-pill, Simon Jenkins writes in the Guardian that Trump is not the worst and won't go unchallenged.

That's enough Trump fallout for one weekend. There'll be more to come...at least four years more.

This Bloomberg piece is fascinating on the corporate culture at Wells Fargo that allowed and in many cases encouraged low level employees to mislead customers and set up fake accounts. It portrays a classic case of group think and poor governance.

Martin Wolf's review of Wolfgang Streeck's collection of essays titled "How will capitalism end? Essays on a failing system" is a sobering look at the debate in the Northern Hemisphere about the future of capitalism in a post Brexit and Trump world.

Streeck doesn't muck around: "Growth is giving way to secular stagnation; inequality is leading to instability; and confidence in the capitalist money economy has all but evaporated. Capitalism’s shotgun marriage with democracy since 1945 is breaking up as the regulatory institutions restraining its advance have collapsed, and after the final victory of capitalism over its enemies no political agency capable of rebuilding them is in sight. The capitalist system is stricken with at least five worsening disorders for which no cure is at hand: declining growth, oligarchy, starvation of the public sphere, corruption and international anarchy."

I have no idea what Snapchat is or how it works, so John Gapper's explanation was useful.

"We are built to prefer entertainment to news, and emotion to information. Many social networks are designed on the opposite assumption, taking a lead from the “Dunbar number” popularised by Robin Dunbar, a UK anthropologist. He argues that our brains evolved to be big enough to interact with social circles of 150, which is why many Facebook users have this number of “friends”. But 150 is not the only Dunbar number. He notes that intimacy is confined to groups of about 30-50. It was true of prehistoric hunter-gatherers and remains so of other primates. Monkeys express intimacy through “social grooming” such as cleaning members of their troop.

Have a tremendous weekend, as Donald J Trump might say.